Posts

[WIP] Summary Review of ITN Critiques 2019-10-09T08:27:49.403Z · score: 33 (13 votes)
Competition is a sign of neglect in important causes with long time horizons for impact. 2019-08-31T01:42:46.531Z · score: 12 (9 votes)
Call for beta testers for the EA Pen Pals project. 2019-08-12T05:17:58.658Z · score: 1 (7 votes)
Peer Support/Study/Networking group for EA math-centric students 2019-07-28T21:47:47.301Z · score: 6 (4 votes)
Math advising interview notes + project ideas (for math-inclined EA career changers) 2019-07-26T19:40:20.406Z · score: 2 (3 votes)
Call for beta-testers for the EA Pen Pals Project! 2019-07-26T19:02:03.422Z · score: 23 (12 votes)
Seeking EAs to Interview on Career Change Resources 2019-07-12T00:57:26.471Z · score: 12 (8 votes)
Open for comment: EA career changer worksheet 2019-07-03T20:05:18.890Z · score: 3 (3 votes)
For older EA-oriented career changers: discussion and community formation 2019-07-01T20:46:00.021Z · score: 47 (20 votes)

Comments

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on [WIP] Summary Review of ITN Critiques · 2019-10-09T20:47:58.233Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I also hoped to imply that ITN is more than a heuristic. It also serves a rhetorical purpose.

I worry that its seeming simplicity can belie the complexity of cause prioritization. Calculating an ITN rank or score can be treated as the end, rather than the beginning, of such an effort. The numbers can tug the mind in the direction of arguing with the scores, rather than evaluating the argument used to generate them.

My hope is to encourage people to treat ITN scores just as you say - taking them lightly and setting them aside once they've developed a deeper understanding of an issue.

Thanks for reading.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on [WIP] Summary Review of ITN Critiques · 2019-10-09T18:00:37.663Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Agreed. However, one of the subcritiques in that point is the divide-by-zero issue that makes issues that have received zero investment "theoretically unsolvable." This is because a % increase in resources from a starting point of 0 will always yield zero. The critic seems to feel it's a result of dividing up the issue in this way.

I leave it to the forum to judge!

Comment by AllAmericanBreakfast on [deleted post] 2019-10-07T01:47:11.965Z

Can you give a few examples? Having options and avoiding risk are both good things, all else being equal.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on The ITN framework, cost-effectiveness, and cause prioritisation · 2019-10-06T07:41:03.700Z · score: 3 (8 votes) · EA · GW

There’s a range of posts critiquing ITN from different angles, including many of the ones you specify. I was working on a literature review of these critiques, but stopped in the middle. It seemed to me that organizations that use ITN do so in part because it’s an easy to read communication framework. It boils down an intuitive synthesis of a lot of personal research into something that feels like a metric.

When GiveWell analyzes a charity, they have a carefully specified framework they use to derive a precise cost effectiveness estimate. By contrast, I don’t believe that 80k or OpenPhil have anything comparable for the ITN rankings they assign. Instead, I believe that their scores reflect a deeply researched and well-considered, but essentially intuitive personal opinion.

Comment by AllAmericanBreakfast on [deleted post] 2019-10-06T00:30:11.796Z

I want to give more context for the MacAskill quote.

The most obvious implication [of the Hinge of History hypothesis], however, is regarding what proportion of resources longtermist EAs should be spending on near-term existential risk mitigation versus what I call ‘buck-passing’ strategies like saving or movement-building. If you think that some future time will be much more influential than today, then a natural strategy is to ensure that future decision-makers, who you are happy to defer to, have as many resources as possible when some future, more influential, time comes.

Here, he is talking about strategies for solving specific problems, X-risks in this case. This is not relevant to the cluelessness argument advanced by Mogensen and that I am addressing. Later in his article, though, he does touch on the topic.

Perhaps we’re at a really transformative moment now, and we can, in principle, do something about it, but we’re so bad at predicting the consequences of our actions, or so clueless about what the right values are, that it would be better for us to save our resources and give them to future longtermists who have greater knowledge and are better able to use their resources, even at that less pivotal moment.

Buck-passing, or punting, is compatible with the "debugging" concept, but not with Mogensen's "cluelessness." With debugging, you deliberate as long as is possible or productive, and then act as wisely as possible. Once you've made a decision, you fix side effect problems as they arise, which might include finding ways to reverse the decision where possible. Although some decisions will result in genuine enormous moral disasters, such as slavery or Nazism, this approach appears to me to be both net good and our only choice.

With Mogensen's cluelessness argument, it doesn't matter how long you deliberate, because you have to be able to predict the ripple effects and their moral weights into the far future first. Since that's impossible, you can never know the moral value of an action. We therefore can't morally prefer one action over another. I'm not strawmanning this argument. It really is that extreme.

Buck-passing/punting also not identical to "debugging." In buck-passing or punting, we're deferring a decision on a specific issue to a wiser future. A current ban on genetically engineered human embryos is an example. In debugging, we're making a decision, and trusting the future to resolve the unexpected difficulties. Climate change is an example: our ancestors created fossil fuel-based industry, and we are dealing with the unexpected consequences.

The reason I don't feel the need to engage with the cluelessness literature is because, when sensible, it's simply providing another approach to describing basic problems from economic theory and common sense, which I understand reasonably well and expect I can learn better from those sources. When done badly, it's a salad of sophistry with a thick and unnecessary dressing of formal logic. I can't read everything and I think I'll learn a lot more of value from studying, oh, almost anything else. These writers need to convince me that they've produced insights of value if they want me to engage. I'm just describing why they haven't succeeded in that project so far.

By the way, I appreciate you responding to my post. Although I'm sure you can see I've got little patience for Mogensen and the cluelessness literature I've seen more generally, I think it's important to have conversations about it. And it's always nice to have someone take an interest.

Comment by AllAmericanBreakfast on [deleted post] 2019-10-05T21:07:03.589Z

Her first example of "complex cluelessness" is the same population size argument made by Morgensen, which I dealt with in section 2a. I think both simple and complex cluelessness are dealt with nicely by the debugging model I am proposing. But I'm not sure it's a valid distinction. I suspect all cluelessness is complex.

Debugging is a form of capacity building, but the distinction I drew is necessary. Sometimes we try to build advance capacity to solve an as-yet-intractable problem, as in AI safety research. This is vulnerable to the cluelessness argument. Even if we are successful in those efforts and manage to solve the problem, we still cannot predict all the precise long-term consequences. Too much moral dark matter remains. This form of capacity-building cannot stand up to Morgensen and Greaves' critique, because it doesn't address the problem they raise.

This debugging model does. Beyond our ability to build capacity to solve specific and known intractable problems, we already and likely always will have capacity to solve problems in general. Unknown unknowns become known, and then we solve them. We keep the good, fix the bad, and develop more wisdom to deal with the ugly.

I'm not planning on engaging further with the cluelessness literature because what I've seen makes me think GPI is off track. It strikes me as a combination of sophistry and obscurantism that I find hard to take seriously. This writing was an attempt to get my own thoughts in order. I invite others who find their ideas more compelling to explain why "debugging," in conjunction with a frank acknowledgement that the future is risky, can't account for cluelessness.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on An update on Operations Camp 2019 · 2019-09-20T22:26:32.880Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Same. Keep up the good work. I'm looking forward to hearing more.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Competition is a sign of neglect in important causes with long time horizons for impact. · 2019-09-16T17:55:50.049Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

In my OP, I just meant that if the applicant gets in, they can teach. Too many applicants doesn't necessarily indicate that the field is oversubscribed, it just means that there's a mentorship bottleneck. One possible reason is that senior people in the field simply enjoy direct work more than teaching and choose not to focus on it. Insofar as that's the case, candidates are especially suitable if they're willing to focus more on providing mentorship if they get in and a bottleneck remains by the time they become senior.


Thanks for the feedback, it helps me understand that my original post may not have been as clear as I thought.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Competition is a sign of neglect in important causes with long time horizons for impact. · 2019-09-14T02:55:25.518Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

in the absence of other empirical information, I think it's a safe assumption that present bottlenecks correlate with future bottlenecks, though your first point is well taken.

I'm not quite following your second argument. It seems to say that the same level of applicant pool growth produces fewer mentors in mentorship-bottlenecked fields than in less mentorship-bottlenecked fields, but I don't understand why. Enlighten me?

Your third point is also correct. Stated generally, finding ways to increase the availability of the primary bottlenecked resource, or accomplish the same goal while using less of it, is how we can get the most leverage.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on How to Make Billions of Dollars Reducing Loneliness · 2019-08-30T22:29:56.199Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

There are already at least three companies in this space: RoomieMatch, Roomi, and Roomster. I wonder why nobody I know uses them, but dating apps are very popular?

It seems to me that the triangulation, trust, and transfer problems in roommate matching that go beyond what OKCupid has to deal with:

  • There are more than two people involved, and the difficulty of finding communal compatibility complexifies geometrically with the number of roommates.
  • By the same token, people moving in and out happens more frequently with larger numbers of room mates, often with short notice, making it hard to keep a stable equilibrium of preferences.
  • Imagine if it was easy to "date your future housemates," perhaps by living together for a month. It's already emotionally painful for people to deal with or inflict rejection in one-on-one dating. Imagine being the "odd man out" in this situation. That sounds like a recipe for really uncomfortable social dynamics.
  • People who rent because they can't afford their own place probably can't afford a high-touch service. People who have more money could buy their own place and interview enough room mates to make sure everyone is a good fit with them personally.
  • Land lords often influence or even entirely control the process of finding new room mates. There are also laws around evictions that make it very difficult to kick somebody out if its not working for others, whereas there are no legal barriers to breaking up with someone you're dating if there's no marriage and no kids.
  • There's a much higher effort and commitment barrier required to move than to go on a date.
  • This is speculative, but OKCupid's success may stem from capitalizing on a cultural institution that makes romantic love feel of vast importance. By contrast, finding an ideal group of room mates doesn't have the same cultural importance: we still dream of having our own place by ourselves or with our own biological family. To have comparable success, such a service would need to create a new dream. Even if that's your dream, is it the dream of your housemates?
  • Similarly, the service OKCupid provides may be less in matching people with compatible characteristics, and more in identifying an abundance of single people and getting them hyped to go on a date. The purpose of the "matching" is to trick you into building up anticipation, not to ensure a really good fit (after all, if it did that too well, people wouldn't come back for more!). Instinct, hormones, and love do most of the work of making people stick together in the end.
  • When people do try and start intentional group houses, they're often organized around a shared social movement, which already have word-of-mouth and social media channels where people can learn about these opportunities for free.

I think a company would do better to work on solving one or more of these problems.


Crossposted from the LW forum

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Call for beta testers for the EA Pen Pals project. · 2019-08-12T14:48:05.789Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Good point, fixed.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free Necklace · 2019-07-30T15:35:17.951Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

It’s just that your first comment sounded a bit like you’re implying that 10% of the population suffers from excruciating kidney stones. With your estimated numbers (10% of population affected at some point in their lives, 2% of cases at 9/10 on the pain scale), it would be more like 0.2%.

That’s probably still a lot if you multiply by the world population and total pain episode lengths. I don’t know how long such a case typically lasts with modern medical care, but plenty of people don’t have access to it.

Of course, this all depends on whether the 2% number is a reasonable estimate, and whether the pain scale is exponential.

But my guess is that a better strategy will probe better medical prevention and treatment of underlying causes in most cases. After all, flooding the USA with powerful painkillers hasn’t exactly been a boon to the nation (see opioids).

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free Necklace · 2019-07-26T00:17:44.061Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'll give that some thought, but I'm no expert on this. Just pulling together some memories of things I've read and experiences I've had. But my impression is that chronic extreme pain is something that we never adapt to.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Extinguishing or preventing coal seam fires is a potential cause area · 2019-07-21T16:43:45.731Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

A top Google hit for “extinguish coal seam fires” says the gov paid $42 million to relocate Centralians when their early attempts to put it out failed. That suggests to me that they had a much higher estimate than you about the cost of putting it out.

https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/fires/embers-under-the-earth-the-surprising-world-of-coal-seam-fires

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Extinguishing or preventing coal seam fires is a potential cause area · 2019-07-21T16:33:09.657Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Centralia is in Washington State, where Jay Inslee is the governor. He’s billed himself as the climate change candidate, and has pushed for leading-edge anti-CC policy here. Might we worth really digging into the politics and budget of the state to look for explanations. It might be that he’s informed by environmental lobbying groups like the Sierra Club. If coal seam fires are off their radar, then it might never get seen by state government.

Overall, I’d recommend thinking about cause of neglect both from the standpoint of public bias and institutional chain of transmission.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free Necklace · 2019-07-20T15:37:46.321Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I looked up CRPS and kidney stones, and it looks like both of them have relatively mild symptoms in most cases. Are you sure that this isn’t a case of conflating the pain of the most extreme cases and the prevalence of all cases?

You’re right about the 8% figure for chronic severe pain, though.

https://www.acsh.org/news/2018/09/14/who-hurting-prevalence-chronic-pain-america-13407

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free Necklace · 2019-07-20T15:07:06.898Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I wonder if we sufficiently understand the psychological dynamics of chronic or extreme pain. The existence of the bullet ant glove ritual makes me wonder to what extent the cultural context of pain influences our remembered perception of its quality, intensity, and meaning.

It seems helpful to distinguish between meaningless, “I would’t wish this on my worst enemy” pain, which probably accounts for the vast majority of extreme pains, “a little pain is necessary to toughen you up” pain, and “this is a sacred extreme-pain ritual.”

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Seeking EAs to Interview on Career Change Resources · 2019-07-12T15:55:15.268Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I came into the movement already sharing the basic philosophy and in the midst of exploring career change, and I’ve been involved for perhaps 6 months both through my local meetup and exploring online resources. I believe that two of the ways this project will help our communities by validating individual struggles and through creation of new online resources. My writing, conversation, tech, and project management skills will all be helpful in that effort.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on For older EA-oriented career changers: discussion and community formation · 2019-07-12T01:02:39.704Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW


Seeking EAs to Interview on Career Change Resources

Hi everyone! Vaidehi Agarwalla and I (Benjamin Skubi), are collaborating on a project to develop career resources for the EA movement. We believe that a pressing issue is enhancing the resources for people newer to the movement and in the earlier stages of a career change. Existing EA resources focus on job placement for already-qualified individuals, and on broadcasting the results of cause prioritization research. While these are extremely useful projects, the movement as a whole struggles in some regards with coordination of other efforts, providing user-friendly and up-to-date resources, and integrating interested people into pre-existing communities. For many people whose involvement with EA might be mutually beneficial to them, the movement, and the world, the challenge of making sense of all the information (if there are relevant resources) may be a significant barrier to taking the next step.

Our plan is to conduct exploratory (video) interviews, lasting perhaps 30-40 minutes, with EAs who are in the early stages of exploring a career change. We hope that we can benefit interviewees by helping connect them with relevant people and resources, and better understand the challenges they face.

If you would like to be interviewed, please fill out our contact form. We hope to interview as many people as possible, although we will begin with only a few interviews for the initial round. We will also be providing updates as the project advances. We look forward to hearing from you!

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Open for comment: EA career changer worksheet · 2019-07-12T01:02:13.916Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW


Seeking EAs to Interview on Career Change Resources

Hi everyone! Vaidehi Agarwalla and I (Benjamin Skubi), are collaborating on a project to develop career resources for the EA movement. We believe that a pressing issue is enhancing the resources for people newer to the movement and in the earlier stages of a career change. Existing EA resources focus on job placement for already-qualified individuals, and on broadcasting the results of cause prioritization research. While these are extremely useful projects, the movement as a whole struggles in some regards with coordination of other efforts, providing user-friendly and up-to-date resources, and integrating interested people into pre-existing communities. For many people whose involvement with EA might be mutually beneficial to them, the movement, and the world, the challenge of making sense of all the information (if there are relevant resources) may be a significant barrier to taking the next step.

Our plan is to conduct exploratory (video) interviews, lasting perhaps 30-40 minutes, with EAs who are in the early stages of exploring a career change. We hope that we can benefit interviewees by helping connect them with relevant people and resources, and better understand the challenges they face.

If you would like to be interviewed, please fill out our contact form. We hope to interview as many people as possible, although we will begin with only a few interviews for the initial round. We will also be providing updates as the project advances. We look forward to hearing from you!

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Open for comment: EA career changer worksheet · 2019-07-04T01:36:07.195Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Also, just read through your extensive and thoughtful comments - thank you for that. As you noted, this was more a worksheet than a survey, and I'll try to keep a clearer distinction between those two projects.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Open for comment: EA career changer worksheet · 2019-07-04T01:31:59.811Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, good insights. I was imagining a way to help individuals think through their personal situation in a more in-depth way (the worksheet linked here), and a set of interview questions to spark conversation (my last post). I'll give that some thought.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on For older EA-oriented career changers: discussion and community formation · 2019-07-03T20:06:27.038Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Followup post: Open for comment: EA career changer questionnaire

Link to Google Docs questionnaire (open for comments)

As per title, I'm working on a questionnaire for EA career changers. The goals are to help individuals better manage their deliberation process, and to provide structure for productive community networking among career changers. Right now, I have a number of concerns:

Is it too complicated?

Missing important questions?

It's untested.

Is it an inferior version of another questionnaire?

It's meant to stimulate public discussion yet asks about private information.

It may result in a giant text blob that becomes hard for the user to process.

Could it be more specific to EA?

I originally meant to create a checklist, but don't see a way to do that right now in a way that preserves the general applicability of the device. If you have thoughts on any of these questions, please comment below or in the doc!

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on For older EA-oriented career changers: discussion and community formation · 2019-07-03T17:45:17.460Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

My post here and on the Facebook Effective Altruism Career forum attracted a lot of "likes" and, on FB, quite a few responses from interested people. I'll be thinking about next steps and updating next week both here and in a separate post.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on For older EA-oriented career changers: discussion and community formation · 2019-07-02T06:38:22.092Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the idea, and for reading. Are you imagining me using some independent survey service and linking to it in this post, or does this forum have its own survey feature?

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Not getting carried away with reducing extinction risk? · 2019-06-13T14:02:43.167Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This argument is called moral cluelessness.

https://80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/hilary-greaves-global-priorities-institute/

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on EA Forum Prize: Winners for April 2019 · 2019-06-10T21:59:59.205Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Added, thank you! I did already search for terms like that in order to assemble the initial list.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on EA Forum Prize: Winners for April 2019 · 2019-06-04T16:16:03.154Z · score: 27 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Here is an editable archive of all EA Forum and LessWrong cash-prize essay contest links, with some measures of their web impact. Please feel free to expand, edit, and share - I've got it backed up.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Cash prizes for the best arguments against psychedelics being an EA cause area · 2019-05-31T17:44:41.124Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I want to note that mental health as a general EA cause area was the subject of another EA forum contest in December 2018.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Cash prizes for the best arguments against psychedelics being an EA cause area · 2019-05-31T17:30:04.019Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

That's a good catch - I was thinking of EAs pursuing positions as psychedelic therapy researchers/practitioners, but clearly you could advocate for more research funding or donate toward it as an EA project.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Cash prizes for the best arguments against psychedelics being an EA cause area · 2019-05-12T17:36:34.769Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · EA · GW
  1. The best way to increase long term aggregate wisdom in our time is probably to push for better governance. If the gov had better policies, voting methods, and higher research funding, that would likely lead not only to more psychedelic and other pharma research, but also numerous other benefits.

  2. From a longtermist perspective, other technologies and trends might promise a better cure for mental health problems. Genetic engineering, AI based therapy, nanotechnology, declining levels of global trauma as war and material hardship diminish.

  3. This contest itself is evidence that global priorities research is neglected. Why devote yourself to one particular trendy medication when we have such a limited wisdom base for making such decisions? Better to focus on running contests like this, or finding ways to build a career in developing better frameworks or technologies for evaluating impact generally.

  4. Psychedelic therapy isn’t that neglected - it’s in a stage 3 clinical trial and has had a major book published on it already, and plenty of mental health professionals have been covertly working on it as underground psychedelic therapists. There are so many biology PhDs already that the bigger bottleneck appears to be general research funding and FDA regulations. Working on these problems is broader scale, and will still support psychedelic research without being limited to it.

  5. In general, pharmaceuticals are only one tool in the box for working on mental health issues, so even if they are a majorly impactful drug, it’s never going to be more than a partial solution to a specific and still hazily defined problem.

As a side note, I wonder whether the winner of contests decided by upvotes will be determined not by the strongest argument but by who posts first. In the future, perhaps a panel of judges casting votes after the deadline would be a better method?