Posts

[New org] Canning What We Give 2021-04-01T06:32:07.207Z
My job is available: Finance and Data Lead at CEA! 2021-02-05T17:23:55.186Z
Paris-compliant offsets - a high leverage climate intervention? 2020-10-05T16:55:32.163Z
Does using the mortality cost of carbon make reducing emissions comparable with health interventions? 2020-09-21T19:47:42.434Z
A few really quick ideas about personal finance 2020-09-03T10:29:16.427Z
[Linkpost] Global death rate from rising temperatures to exceed all infectious diseases combined in 2100 2020-08-15T17:04:26.959Z
Covid offsets and carbon offsets 2020-07-23T21:19:08.929Z
Scrutinizing AI Risk (80K, #81) - v. quick summary 2020-07-23T19:02:55.558Z
Dominic Cummings - An 'Odyssean' Education [review] 2020-05-29T16:52:28.504Z
"Music we lack the ears to hear" 2020-04-19T14:23:07.346Z
[Notes] Climate Shock by Wagner and Weitzman 2020-04-13T09:41:11.459Z
[Review and notes] How Democracy Ends - David Runciman 2020-02-13T22:30:49.548Z
[Notes] Steven Pinker and Yuval Noah Harari in conversation 2020-02-09T12:49:14.466Z
[Notes] Could climate change make Earth uninhabitable for humans? 2020-01-14T22:13:41.919Z
What should EAs interested in climate change do? 2020-01-10T17:34:59.650Z
What are good options for giving later? 2019-12-25T11:53:04.846Z
How meditation helps me be a more effective altruist 2019-09-23T15:09:51.756Z
Does climate change deserve more attention within EA? 2019-04-17T06:50:12.308Z

Comments

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Mundane trouble with EV / utility · 2021-04-08T11:06:31.338Z · EA · GW

Thanks for posting this Ben, and great to see the discussions. Wishing you all the best!

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on New Top EA Causes for 2021? · 2021-04-01T12:09:33.487Z · EA · GW

Strongly upvoted for the link to the Castle. Btw in one podcast I'm pretty sure I heard Wiblin say "the general vibe of the thing"

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on European Master's Programs in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and related fields · 2021-03-31T12:51:31.747Z · EA · GW

Ah ok, no worries. I'm considering the course - do you know anyone who's currently on it?

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on A ranked list of all EA-relevant (audio)books I've read · 2021-03-09T11:50:39.801Z · EA · GW

Thanks Aaron. Sure - "perhaps you're not aware" was not intended to be condescending at all. And yes, the later sentence you wrote was the tone I was hoping for. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on European Master's Programs in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and related fields · 2021-03-07T15:55:20.544Z · EA · GW

Thanks for putting this together. I'd be interested in the UCL write-up - is there an estimate on when that might be out please? 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on A ranked list of all EA-relevant (audio)books I've read · 2021-02-17T16:48:49.057Z · EA · GW

This is a nice idea,  but I agree with Hauke that this risks increasing the extent to which EA is an echo chamber.  Perhaps you're not aware of the (over)hype around some of these books in EA.  

 I think  Rationally Speaking is particularly good at engaging with a range of people and perspectives.  

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Books on authoritarianism, Russia, China, NK, democratic backsliding, etc.? · 2021-02-03T09:03:36.446Z · EA · GW

Yeah I haven't read any of his stuff, just mentioning that he works on totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Not having read The Road to Unfreedom, it looks like he identifies trends in several geographies which could be useful for the questions you're looking at. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Books on authoritarianism, Russia, China, NK, democratic backsliding, etc.? · 2021-02-03T00:00:35.809Z · EA · GW

There's also a chapter in Global Catastrophic Risks on the topic, though I forget who wrote it

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Books on authoritarianism, Russia, China, NK, democratic backsliding, etc.? · 2021-02-02T23:59:39.406Z · EA · GW

Timothy Snyder is an academic looking at this question who has written several books on the topic, e.g. this and this

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Investing to Give Beginner Advice? · 2021-01-07T14:07:49.145Z · EA · GW

Someone shared this link with me which supports your view  that lump-sum is generally better, especially if you don't have diminishing utility.  

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Donating to EA funds from Germany · 2021-01-06T22:08:03.982Z · EA · GW

Hey - I'm the finance lead at CEA, of which EA funds is one part. Anyone can donate to EA Funds, and you should be able to do this from Germany. Are you concerned that doing so means you're not donating tax-efficiently since the funds aren't registered charities in Germany? 

If so, my colleague Sam wrote this post arguing that donating effectively might mean ignoring tax efficiency, and I agree, depending on your alternative. 

For example, if you were planning to donate only to AMF, and if there was a German AMF you were planning to donate to (I don't know if there is) which would you give tax deductibility, then I think it's better to donate to the German AMF and get the tax deductibility. 

But if you were comparing a general charity that would give you tax deductibility in Germany, and if you thought the EA Funds option (e.g. the Founders Pledge climate fund, the Long-Term Future Fund) was >50% better value for money than your alternative in Germany, then my view is that it'd be better to just lose the tax efficiency and donate directly. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-24T23:06:19.142Z · EA · GW

No idea - I think it most depends on the specifics of your situation. On average I think people who start organisations later in their life using their experience and contacts are likely to be more successful.  

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-16T22:54:26.304Z · EA · GW

I think staying where you are seems like a good option. There seems to be an assumption that just because you stay in the same job for the next few years you'll automatically be there for the next 15 - is that really true? Also maybe you could make a public commitment to leave after X years, or donate your income above a certain level to avoid getting lured in by the money side of it. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on fiction about AI risk · 2020-12-16T21:13:05.067Z · EA · GW

Interesting, thanks for posting about it! 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T18:27:04.896Z · EA · GW

It sounds like if you've been rejected from studying masters courses then that's useful feedback. Even for people who have done well on those courses, I think there are many more applicants than places to work in philosophy. 

And if you're already trying to overcome really steep odds, by working in academia with eight years working independently, then this might not be the area you're best suited to. 

I don't know about it but there could be work in neuroscience or psychology that you might find interesting. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T18:00:35.630Z · EA · GW

Also have you seen this

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:57:16.825Z · EA · GW

Some jobs here

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:56:52.281Z · EA · GW

I don't think anyone can give you a direct answer - it'll depend on your own personal circumstances, but if you've got savings then I can vouch that option 2 could be good. Have you tried applying for any jobs in that space? 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:53:30.706Z · EA · GW

Hi Daniel, 

Great to hear from you. Here are some of my own thoughts (not official in any way at all, and people in the community have all sorts of different views). I share your interest in AI safety and climate change. Is there an AI safety community in Germany? If not people thinking about AGI, there's probably some big universities working on near-term control problems that could be interesting. It might be good to meet some other people working in the area. 

Also if you're interested in climate and AI, this a huge field of people working on everything from forecasting to flood prediction to increasing crop yields - have you tried applying for any jobs in that space?

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:50:35.287Z · EA · GW

Hi Jack! I worked in consulting at EY for four years before joining CEA in operations, and you might find a role in management/leadership/operations interesting. You might find a direct role that's more fun than ETG (I think I did!)

I don't really know anything about the best ETG routes, but one that strikes me that could be big business at the moment is insolvency and restructuring - lots of organisations will be unfortunately going through that so there could be quite  a few roles. 

Also a few friends of mine who were at PwC worked in deals/valuations and then left to get high-paying jobs doing (I think) the same thing at smaller  places where the partners took less of the margin. Maybe that could be an option.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:47:23.172Z · EA · GW

That's a tricky one, sorry to hear it. It could just be random chance - plenty of jobs have churn, and I think a surprising amount of doing well in jobs is getting along with other people. I wonder if you had any managers, colleagues, or friends who you think might have any specific feedback? On the other hand, this could just be chance. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:45:45.080Z · EA · GW

I think this is an interesting area of research - I'm not aware of much writing by EAs, but bear in mind the EA community is pretty small compared to the total number of people researching this and related fields across the world - you might find some other organisations or researchers who've looked into this more.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:43:12.022Z · EA · GW

That sounds like a  huge range of options. With an MPP-MBA you might do well in policy. Are there any government or related roles you think you'd be interested in? And is there a particular area you'd like to work in? E.g. if you were more passionate about animal welfare than nuclear security, that would suggest some pretty different career routes. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:40:02.470Z · EA · GW

Different people in the community will have different views, but my own take is that the capitalism and markets can be great for growth and improving productive capacity but you want to make sure that the benefits are spread throughout society (see the book Why Nations Fail). 

I'm sorry to hear that you're feeling overwhelmed by things. I've felt the same way at time. It's important to look after yourself, take time off, and connect with other people. For me, I love watching the Simpsons, going for runs with my friends, and drinking coffee!

My own take on this is that the world is big and messy, and there are lot of bad things we each as individuals have to accept we can't control. But if you can find a niche doing something which hits the sweet spot of being both enjoyable and improving the world, then you can have a pretty good time! 

I suspect you might be able to find lots of ways to use AI to make things better - I've seen some great work in improving agricultural production using machine learning which seems pretty good. And I'm sure there are lots of businesses and charities that would be interested in someone with your skillset. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:35:12.446Z · EA · GW

Have you tried applying for any roles in clean energy? It's an absolutely booming sector, especially if Biden gets the US to rejoin and more things start happening in the US. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:33:57.000Z · EA · GW

Sounds interesting! I'd say it's worth doing the easy and reversible things first (e.g. trying out stuff within your company), and maybe put in a few applications to jobs like these. You could study international development, but you might get some job offers without needing the masters course. You can always apply to some masters' courses anyway and see what happens. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T17:30:48.770Z · EA · GW

They seem like fairly different job offers - are there any other things you might prefer to do? This should depend on how much runway you have and how much income you think you need, but of those two roles it sounds like you're more interested in the health care one ("I'm just not passionate about being in a consumerism industry") and you might learn a lot there. Also if after two years you get bored, then you could always move on, and your role might be quite different if they go through an IPO. 

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-10T10:23:30.334Z · EA · GW

My rough guess is that option 2 would be more fun and since a lot of these areas have quite a lot of funding, maybe it'd be more your comparative advantage. You mention general management and operations, but I wonder if you have any health/lab-specific knowledge that could be used to work in these areas. I guess Covid has changed this a bit but my guess is that pandemic preparedness, especially in the developing world, is still terribly neglected.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-10T10:17:52.645Z · EA · GW

Yep - Lucius Caviola and Stefan Schubert, and also Joshua Greene at Harvard. Lucius and Stefan have a bunch of their videos on YouTube. Also have you considered applying to GPI?

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-10T10:13:20.715Z · EA · GW

I would say don't get an MBA unless you are really really sure, as they are mega-expensive and I think marketed very broadly to people who often don't benefit from them

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-10T10:12:18.235Z · EA · GW

Hey Jeremy! Myself and Joan Gass at CEA, and Markus Anderljung at FHI,  all use skills like the ones you mention above, from our consulting backgrounds, at non-profits. 

I sometimes look at this filter on the 80K job board and one example of a role you might like is this one. I also think that working in government is often a good thing to do, and so maybe there could be some US trade/aid organisations which you might find interesting, and also this talk. If you think that consulting means you can boost the productivity of companies and lead to economic growth overall, then that could be interesting.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-10T10:04:17.708Z · EA · GW

It's great that you've been so persistent! It seems like you're fairly set on politics - what is it that motivates you to work on that, and are there any other routes to do something similar?

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-10T10:02:34.689Z · EA · GW

On a) I think it depends on how well suited you are to the role and on b) Have you tried applying for roles in emerging technologies or security? This could be a cheap test to see if you might like working there, and whether you'd actually need to do further study.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on AMA: Jason Crawford, The Roots of Progress · 2020-12-07T12:44:42.974Z · EA · GW

R&D is a public good, and so we'd expect it to be systemically underfunded by the private sector and provided in some part at least by governments. Some economists, such as Mariana Mazzucato argue that government plays a key role in both funding R&D and in applying it for public benefit. Lant Pritchett argues that development comes through interlocking transformations, including the build-up of state capability.   

But in your comments below, and from having read through your blog, it seems like you're not such a fan of government or even alliances between the public and private sectors. 

A root-cause analysis on most human suffering, if it went deep enough, would blame government and cultures that don't foster science, invention, industry, and business. It seems that the most high-leverage long-term plan to reduce human suffering would be to spread global rationality and capitalism. 

Do you think governments have a role to play in improving human progress? And if not, why not?

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Introducing High Impact Athletes · 2020-11-30T15:45:57.149Z · EA · GW

By the way EA Funds now includes the Founders Pledge climate fund which I think is a bit more straightforward than the animal welfare argument

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on If someone identifies as a longtermist, should they donate to Founders Pledge's top climate charities than to GiveWell's top charities? · 2020-11-26T22:29:25.244Z · EA · GW

In my view yes, for the reasons Ben Todd gives below. I also did some brief back of the envelope calculations using Danny's Bressler's mortality cost of carbon here. This is also something Will MacAskill has been talking about a lot more recently, and he talks about the long-term importance of climate change here. And also as Ben Todd and Max say below - I also agree that it's possible there's longtermist work, e.g. on GCBRs and maybe AI, that has a higher expected impact. But I think climate change is a fairly straightforward longtermist bet. We've recently added the Founders Pledge climate fund to EA Funds here.  

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Progress Open Thread: October // Student Summit 2020 · 2020-10-21T13:42:26.007Z · EA · GW

I've been learning to code with Python and I did my first tiny bit of machine learning - I figured out how to do a polynomial regression to look at global average sea surface temperatures!

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Is there a positive impact company ranking for job searches? · 2020-10-15T15:41:39.695Z · EA · GW

What jobs are you thinking about? You could always post some of your thoughts in a forum post and people might be keen offer suggestions.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Paris-compliant offsets - a high leverage climate intervention? · 2020-10-05T18:55:53.008Z · EA · GW

Oops meant to add that - it's now in the first paragraph!

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Factors other than ITN? · 2020-09-26T15:27:57.715Z · EA · GW

I personally don't find the ITN framework useful and agree with most of John Halstead's criticism of the framework here. Cost-effectiveness seems better if you want to make something numerical, within a particular cause area.

In fact, for me, I think both cost-effectiveness and ITN as intellectual frameworks fall down because they mask what I see as a fundamentally philosophical set of questions, if you're trying to do something like compare mental health with health interventions with animal welfare with more longtermist interventions.

If there's an underlying question: how does one prioritise causes? From my own perspective, I just gravitated towards a more longtermist cause prioritisation over time as I found the arguments quite convincing, but I agree that many other areas are extremely worthwhile.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on [Linkpost] Global death rate from rising temperatures to exceed all infectious diseases combined in 2100 · 2020-08-15T22:00:26.970Z · EA · GW

Very interesting, thanks!

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Center for Global Development: The UK as an Effective Altruist · 2020-08-14T19:08:08.821Z · EA · GW

I think this piece gets a number of things wrong.

1a. The title of your original article is misleading, as you're only looking at foreign policy, and also only looking at the current government, rather than the other 60M+ people living in the UK.

1b. The UK is currently presiding over the highest mortality rates in Europe from Covid-19, which many people are blaming on the government's policy.

2. Dominic Cummings is not a vocal advocate of effective altruism, he's mentioned LW/Yudkowsky but to my knowledge I've never seen him use the terms 'effective altruism'.

3. The DFID and FCO merger has left many civil servants unhappy, and has had the explicit objective of linking up British business objectives with aid, rather than targeting the most deprived places where donations would go the furthest.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Where the QALY's at in political science? · 2020-08-05T12:30:07.048Z · EA · GW

I think that the complexity of political systems mean that you can't work out a dinky formula for the best expected utility. You might enjoy this post on global development, and also this list which includes some important topics.

I'm currently particularly interested in authoritarianism and safeguarding democracy.

And also, if you're a young political scientist, with these skills, then you don't need to defer to others - what do you think they are yourself?

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on A portfolio approach towards effective environmentalism? · 2020-07-27T11:13:58.212Z · EA · GW

I believe Founders Pledge is working on a climate change fund with similar objectives to be launched later this year. Their current recommendations are here. There's also ClimateWorks.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Future deaths due to climate change · 2020-07-23T20:40:34.762Z · EA · GW

You might also find this paper by John Broome useful.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Future deaths due to climate change · 2020-07-23T15:48:08.352Z · EA · GW

Have you tried contacting him to discuss? https://rdanielbressler.com/

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Is there a subfield of economics devoted to "fragility vs resilience"? · 2020-07-21T13:20:33.033Z · EA · GW

CSER does research on civilisational collapse, and one of their researchers, Luke Kemp, has an article on the topic here. I'd love to see more work in this space - collapse and recovery seems like an important cause area.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Climate change donation recommendations · 2020-07-19T15:05:03.571Z · EA · GW

I sympathise with your interests, but one reason it might not be useful to do this calculation is that the causal chain of GFI to CO2-equiv GHG emissions is quite long, and so there are more points of uncertainty. This means your potential impact range could be many orders of magnitude wrong, and so making a claim of their impact within 1-2 orders of magnitude might be misleading.

I think that splitting donations across causes and areas is a good idea - philanthropy is morally and empirically uncertain (maybe even clueless), so I'd suggest splitting your donations between CATF and GFI. I've been thinking about EA for years and I'm still uncertain about the most important causes, and a diverse portfolio is my solution.

Alternatively, you could contact the GFI people, but I think even if you got their numbers, you'd end up with a chain of impact that is very long and uncertain.

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on AMA or discuss my 80K podcast episode: Ben Garfinkel, FHI researcher · 2020-07-13T19:16:00.839Z · EA · GW

Great interview, thanks for some really thought-provoking ideas. For the brain in the box section, it seemed like you were saying that we'd expect future worlds to have fairly uniform distributions of capabilities of AI systems, and so we'd learn from other similar cases. How uniform do you think the spread of capabilities of AI systems is now, and how wide do you think the gaps have to be in the future for the 'brain in a box' scenario to be possible?

Comment by Louis_Dixon (bdixon) on Investing to Give Beginner Advice? · 2020-06-23T21:39:47.663Z · EA · GW

Interesting, thanks. For point 2 - is there some trade-off from the instalments being spread over time against the time they're in the market for? On one hand, you have investing £10K in one payment and leaving it for 5 years, and on the other hand investing £2k each year for 5 years. But could there be a middle-ground, some function of the variability and average returns, e.g. spreading the £10k in monthly payments in the first year, then leaving it for the next four, that does better than both extremes?

For point 1 - from very quickly skimming these papers (and as an amateur) it looks like the pound-cost averaging approach is beaten by other more complex approaches, but it still seems to be better than lump-sum. Is that your understanding?

Is there a timing approach you'd recommend?