Comment by bluefalcon on Judgement as a key need in EA · 2020-09-15T07:45:12.831Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Good judgment is obviously broader than the narrow "forecasting" Tetlock is studying. But it seems to me that, other than high-level values questions (e.g. average vs aggregate utilitarianism) it all comes down to prediction skill in some sense, as a necessary consequence of consequentialism. If you can think of something that's part of jood judgment and not either part of core values or of prediction in a broad sense I'd like to hear what specifically it is, because I can't think of anything.

"Ultimately actions are good or based solely based on their consequences" necessarily implies your chosen actions will be better if you can predict outcomes better (all else being equal of course, especially your degree of adherence to the plan).

All this description of skills that are supposedly separate from forecasting , e.g."picking the right questions", "deciding which kinds of forecasting errors are more acceptable than others", etc. sounds like a failure to rigorously think through what it means to be good at forecasting. Picking the right questions is just Fermi-izing applied at a higher level than the Superforecasters are doing it. "Picking the right kinds of errors" really seems to be about planning for robustness in the face of catastrophe, arguing against this sort of straw man expected value calculation that I don't think an actually good forecaster would be naive enough to make.

Judgment is more about forecasting the consequences of your own actions/the actions you recommend to others, vs. the counterfactual where you/they don't take the action, than computing a single probability for an event you're not influencing. And you will never be able to calibrate it as well as you can calibrate Tetlockian forecasting because the thing you're really interested in is the marginal change between the choice you made and the best other one you could have made, rather than a yes/no outcome. But it's still forecasting.

Comment by bluefalcon on What is the best way to earn money outside your career? · 2020-09-06T04:02:12.095Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

You may have higher returns from investing in career advancement. I don't have solid answers on any of this, but my best guess is my highest-value career investments have an annualized return of 60% (all numbers after inflation), while being an angel investor has a return of 35% (and unless you're already rich/high income or work in finance, you're limited to investing $2200/year in America), owning an AirBnB and paying someone else to do the work has a return of 22% (but this is wayyyyy higher than regular landlording, so I may not have properly priced in risks such as the pandemic), and investing broadly in the highest-risk, highest-reward sections of the stock market has an 11.4% return.

Figuring out how to invest money into your career may be tricky. The obvious example is education. But anything that provides skill-building or networking opportunities is potentially worth spending money on. And networking in particular I tend to think about more broadly than most people. Real networking comes mostly from working on shared projects, not going to conferences or whatever. So create those opportunities, and be willing to spend money to do it.

Edit: Returns on the stock market overall average 6.96%. I will consider any of the investments I have listed as circumstances warrant. Main thing to keep in mind is you get higher return, on average, by taking higher risk. But not stupid risks.

Comment by bluefalcon on A curriculum for Effective Altruists · 2020-09-05T04:28:46.340Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I remember commenting to an economist friend a few months ago that economists have generally much better ethics than philosophers, precisely because of their consistent application of utilitarianism followed by moving on to the interesting questions, as opposed to philosophers wanting to debate ethics to death. So I concur with the decision to include economics over philosophy.

Comment by bluefalcon on Where the QALY's at in political science? · 2020-08-08T03:25:03.111Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Well, I think you could if you could 1) do really high quality research, and 2) find ideas that don't require policymakers' buy-in to be implemented, or convince policymakers to be less skeptical of political science than they are. So I guess my original comment is partially incorrect; I think perhaps you could do something useful as a scholar if you talk to policymakers in an issue area you're interested in before starting your research, and ask them what gaps in their knowledge they can't find good information to fill.

Comment by bluefalcon on Where the QALY's at in political science? · 2020-08-07T06:27:23.738Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

If you were this person, I think you would go into politics rather than political science. Policymakers mostly don't listen to political scientists, and the replication crisis is reason enough that this is mostly the right choice on their part. Even if your work is good, finding it among the trash would require more work than studying the issue in house. So this creates a feedback loop--competent poli sci graduates go into practical politics, lowering the quality of academic political scientists, giving politicians less reason to listen to them, further pushing competent graduates into practical politics...

See, e.g.

Comment by bluefalcon on Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths? · 2020-06-05T08:35:29.226Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Look at other superspreader events, like large church choirs. Those are indoors, so probably worse than protests, but you can adjust for that.

Comment by bluefalcon on Dying for a day at the beach · 2020-04-16T00:05:35.291Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Never heard of Layard, but the Guardian hates him despite him being Labour Party, so I take that as a strong signal that he's credible.

Comment by bluefalcon on Dying for a day at the beach · 2020-04-15T17:14:59.671Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Do you have data or expert analyses to back up that loss of utility? I agree that people might fill out surveys saying their happiness has halved, but I think that's because they lack perspective on how much worse life could be. This is something that calls for some hard analysis of the factors that contribute to quality of life, from experts (economists, psychologists, public health people, I'd accept anyone in the general vicinity).

Comment by bluefalcon on Dying for a day at the beach · 2020-04-15T06:05:15.301Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

A 1/2 drop in quality of life sounds wildly implausible for what this caller is describing, or for any of the hardships of social distancing unless basically everything that could go wrong does. I could plausibly see it looking like that big a drop if you've never experienced anything really bad, and maybe it's halfway between a normal day and the worst day in a pretty easy life. But it's not halfway to zero.

If you lose your job, don't have any savings, and it forces you to be long-term separated from your spouse/your significant other, on top of losing your favorite recreational activities, mayyyybe that's a loss of 1/2 of your quality of life for that timeframe. But being healthy and the people you care about not dying is a pretty big part of total quality of life in itself. Unless you specifically enjoy the crowds, you can find ways to relax outdoors without being exposed to crowds. And maybe it's only 1/2 as fun as the crowded beach, but that's not a 1/2 drop in your total quality of life, only a 1/2 drop in enjoyment of that one activity.

Comment by bluefalcon on Cortés, Pizarro, and Afonso as Precedents for Takeover · 2020-03-08T08:04:11.967Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

If you really want to know I suggest this book. But it's pretty dry reading so let me sum up what I got out of it. Logistics of war have changed a lot and it changes the economics of conquest. Before guns, everything you needed could be supplied from your enemy's countryside. Conquest was economically useful to the conqueror because you could take your surplus population of single men and feed them and maybe otherwise enrich them at the enemy's expense instead of your own. But the more stuff you need that can't be taken directly from nature or from a farm, the more of a supply chain you have to establish. Gunpowder was the first issue. But then guns evolved, and you went from re-using bullets that were just little metal balls that could be picked up from the battlefield and re-used to bullets that had to precision-manufactured to fit a rifled barrel. And on and on. Now you need oil, and modern standards of living mean you have to give the troops better food and housing and medical care, and none of your vehicles or weapons or fancy communication equipment can be replaced by pillaging the countryside. Whatever you get from the damaged country you conquer isn't going to be as valuable as what you spent to get it.

So if the economics of conquest were to change back in some fundamental way, or the non-economic goals of the actors changed enough to make them able and willing to pay the economic price, then there probably would be more conquest.

Comment by bluefalcon on Research on developing management and leadership expertise · 2020-03-08T02:58:02.269Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Most of these approaches all sound the same to me. At least in practice, as applied by a busy boss trying to make real day-to-day decisions. Transformational vs. transactional makes sense intuitively as involving different things, but transformational vs. servant vs. ethical leadership, I'd never be able to keep straight. I think good research on leadership would be a lot smaller than what's been done. Less Grand Theory of Leadership, more individualized testing of specific behaviors. Successful leaders would probably not agree to be subjected to RCTs because you'd risk making their performance worse. But if you could take e.g. leaders who've just received a bad performance review, or people with no prior leadership experience, experimenting offers a lot of upside for them. And if you can turn bad or inexperienced leaders into good ones, or at least better than a control group, then you're really onto something.

Comment by bluefalcon on Harsanyi's simple “proof” of utilitarianism · 2020-02-27T19:25:57.120Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

As a fan of Nickelback, I really appreciate fn2.

Comment by bluefalcon on Update on civilizational collapse research · 2020-02-13T05:22:30.072Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I don't think WWII presents a case for state planning capacity being all that disconnected from population. Looks like Germany lost roughly 10% of its population and Japan 5%. Big by normal standards but I wouldn't expect that to be civilizational collapse levels and I think their quick economic recoveries are in line with the timeframe you'd expect for replacing that population. Plague killed more like 30-60%.

Comment by bluefalcon on Responding to the Progressive Platform of “Foreign Policy Generation” · 2020-01-28T20:27:19.230Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

FP Gen's, but the "as far as they go" was a compact method of expressing agreement with you that they leave out a lot of important stuff.

Comment by bluefalcon on Concrete Foreign Policy Recommendations for America · 2020-01-28T20:26:01.773Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I think you'd need to structure it somewhat differently. More like a permanent version of what the National Guard was a few years into Iraq and Afghanistan, where everyone knew they would eventually do a rotation, maybe a few, and they happened on reasonably predictable schedules. Less of the all-or-nothing model that you'd have if it's meant to be used solely as a massive reserve for WWIII.

Considering that military veterans are overrepresented in Congress by a factor of 2 compared to the general adult population, and most of those are not people who have primarily spent their careers in the military, I don't think the National Guard system does scare off high achievers, at least not public service-oriented ones. The bad reputation that the National Guard earned during and immediately after Vietnam may have had that effect, but I think that's specific to that era.

Comment by bluefalcon on Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak · 2020-01-27T07:12:03.405Z · score: 16 (11 votes) · EA · GW

Incubation period and Chinese government coverup efforts are relevant to this question, but roughly speaking if the actual number of infections is ~35x the reported number, and there's no uptick in mysterious deaths in hospitals, then the actual mortality rate is ~1/35 the reported number, more in line with normal flu than 1918 Spanish flu.

Comment by bluefalcon on Responding to the Progressive Platform of “Foreign Policy Generation” · 2020-01-24T22:17:12.431Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I am an immigration lawyer and I have trouble taking anyone seriously when they propose "decriminalizing the border", because it's so irrelevant to the actual legal issues most immigrants face. People usually don't get prosecuted for crossing the border illegally, and when they do the consequences are pretty minor. The government does it once in a while to make a point but the really inhumane stuff happens on the civil side of immigration enforcement, where you can still be detained indefinitely and the procedural protections of criminal law don't apply. If it were a choice, I'd MUCH rather be prosecuted for illegal entry than have a deportation case brought against me.

The other things are fine as far as they go. I'm pro-open borders but since I don't see it happening anytime soon I'd prefer to see a more serious attempt at reforms that could actually go somewhere.

Re: climate refugees your point about refugee quotas is right, but the standards for asylum are exactly the same as the standards to be a refugee; it's just about whether you're in the US or out at the time you apply. And there are no quotas for asylees so revising the eligibility standards there is meaningfully helpful. I would prefer to see a broader "economic refugee/asylee" category but I think accepting climate refugees/asylees is a good practical step in that direction. Someone like me can probably twist the hell out of that in court to basically create a broader "economic asylee" category but I need that crack in the door so I can pry it open.

Comment by bluefalcon on Concrete Foreign Policy Recommendations for America · 2020-01-21T05:50:39.801Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

There is something to be said for the civil service. But she picks the wrong military program to emulate. The National Guard would be a better source of inspiration than ROTC, as it allows people to have other careers, but receive the basics of military training and progress appropriately in rank, and then be called into active service when needed.

Comment by bluefalcon on Concrete Foreign Policy Recommendations for America · 2020-01-21T05:47:33.722Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · EA · GW

My sense is that the Warren plan actually reduces the State Department's ability to get fresh perspectives and fill the (current or expanded) ranks. As unfortunate as it is, donor-Ambassadors are currently the only senior people who haven't spent their whole careers at State, absorbing its prejudices, its paranoias, etc. There is no other route in from the outside. And while she does propose recruiting more outside of Ivy League colleges, she doesn't address the more fundamental problem that if you want to be a foreign service officer, your two choices are to either look the part at age 22 or come in at the entry level later in life, so it ends up being a very unattractive career choice for anyone who was undistinguished in college (or uninterested in foreign service at that time) but successful in their career later.

Comment by bluefalcon on Tentative Thoughts on Speech Policing · 2020-01-08T09:29:46.241Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I think too many people ignore the "parents" part of singer's argument. If a parent is willing to kill their child, then either 1. That's a super f-ed up parent, or 2. it probably is the compassionate thing to do. Anyone who jumps to comparisons to racist euthanasia programs is missing the point entirely, because the kid's own parents are not going to act the same as some random Old South judge who's headed to the Klan rally after court gets out.

Comment by bluefalcon on New and improved Candidate Scoring System · 2019-11-15T15:55:33.567Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

What do prediction markets add that polls don’t? Is there any history of them being more accurate than polling-based models such as 538’s? To the extent they are relevant my intuition is that it would be as to the lesser-known candidates, where the type of person participating in prediction markets has priced in info the average voter doesn’t have. But where average voters do have more complete information, I would rely exclusively or at least more heavily on polls.

Comment by bluefalcon on Some personal thoughts on EA and systemic change · 2019-11-03T16:21:27.293Z · score: -7 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I donated the legal max to Cory Booker and am now donating what I can afford to the DNC, in case you're wondering where I personally come out on this.

Comment by bluefalcon on Some personal thoughts on EA and systemic change · 2019-11-03T16:15:09.944Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · EA · GW

As an EA with political organizing experience I think EA has plenty to say to your friend. Money is useful as a unit of analysis because it's quantifiable and fungible, but the same analytical framework can easily apply to donations of time, with the caveats that 1) Donating time will vary a lot more in its value depending on the specific service one performs and it becomes a lot more important to pick the right volunteer activity in addition to the right cause, 2) there will be some causes or organizations where it is not possible to donate time effectively, so the highest-value intervention might be different.

Being politically experienced, I would think your friend already has an idea of the highest-value services they would perform for a candidate or organization, although in some cases the highest-value candidates/organizations may have no need for those specific skills, so there could be a tradeoff between doing a more useful activity for a less impactful candidate/org vs. a less useful activity for a higher-impact candidate/org. But if you have a sense of the marginal values of different activities that should be easy to quantify, and then you can assess how high-impact the candidate/org is. For the latter as applied to the Presidential race, see the Candidate Scoring system at For a better example of the former analysis than most political people seem to have done, I recommend Graber and Green's Get Out The Vote, with 2 caveats: 1) it focuses only on turnout, and persuasion may be different; 2) the effects that seem to be the strongest are under-studied because political scientists seem to have a fetish for grassroot-y stuff over mass media. If your friend needs help with the quantitative analysis of these tradeoffs I'm happy to help.

Comment by bluefalcon on Candidate Scoring System, Second Release · 2019-03-21T17:58:57.271Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Delaney's hitting 2% on Predictit for the first time AFAIK. Did your quasi-endorsement move the markets?

Comment by bluefalcon on A system for scoring political candidates. RFC (request for comments) on methodology and positions · 2019-02-14T04:36:18.937Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

This is awesome and I've been wanting something like it but am too lazy to create it myself. So I'm really glad kbog did.

I vote for continuing to include weightings for e.g. candidate health. The interesting question is who is actually likely to do the most good, not who believes the best things. So to model that well you need to capture any personal factors that significantly affect their probability of carrying out their agenda.

I think AI safety and biorisk deserve some weighting here even if candidates aren't addressing them directly. You could use proxy issues that the candidates are more likely to have records on and that relevant experts have a consensus are helpful or unhelpful (e.g. actions likely to lead to an arms race with China). And then adjust for uncertainty by giving them a somewhat lower weight than you would give a direct vote on something like creating an unfriendly AI.

Comment by bluefalcon on The Global Priorities of the Copenhagen Consensus · 2019-01-13T04:46:12.452Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW


Comment by bluefalcon on The Global Priorities of the Copenhagen Consensus · 2019-01-11T06:55:26.705Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'd be interested in seeing why they rate malaria so much lower, at least in relative terms, than most of the EA community does. That's probably a good clue to the differences in methodology, and a shortcut to figuring out whose methods yield more accurate priorities.

P.S. I'm not surprised that measuring the UN development goals is unproductive; a lot of them are obviously distractions. Priorities research only adds value when it's non-obvious whether something should be a priority. Once it's clear that the goal is garbage, move on.

Comment by bluefalcon on Response to a Dylan Matthews article on Vox about bipartisanship · 2018-12-21T02:09:36.396Z · score: 17 (12 votes) · EA · GW

Even if your policy views are correct, having friends on the other side of the aisle will do wonders for your predictive abilities, which should influence how you vote in party primaries where electability is at issue. I'm a staunch Democrat currently living in a similarly liberal area but born and raised in a much more conservative area. I was always more bullish on Trump's odds than my friends here, and every time I hear them say they can't understand how he got elected or how he's still popular with the base, I wonder what other easily avoidable mistakes they're currently making. And there's no special magic in my improved predictive ability; I just talk to my grandma regularly.

Comment by bluefalcon on College and Earning to Give · 2018-12-18T19:45:44.102Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Or let them pay for their own college. The rates they'll get charged will take your income into account, so they'll have to get a lot of loans. But the loans are pretty manageable and essentially risk-free as long as income-based repayment remains an option. Now, if they are committed EAs and will be earning to give, this doesn't accomplish as much since this comes out of their future earnings. But even if there's a 95% probability that they turn out to be earning to give as EAs, that's still better than the ~100% odds with respect to you. And the interest rates on those loans are lower than average stock market returns, so the smart financial move is always to get the loans and pay them off as slowly as possible rather than pay higher up front costs (assuming they're reasonably risk tolerant, as young people should be but especially when the goal is to maximize good done rather than maximize their own comfort) (this is a little more complicated to see when we're talking about earning to give. but you must be assuming a larger discount rate for the value of donations than what you could earn by investing and giving later; otherwise you'd be doing that instead of giving now. So if giving the money away now is worth sacrificing the ~10% annual gains you could make on it, then it's even more worth sacrificing ~7%/year in interest payments).

Comment by bluefalcon on Giving more won't make you happier · 2018-12-11T18:44:10.138Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I don't think life evaluation is the right measurement of happiness for this though. I'm pretty egotistical and more income would definitely make me happier, well beyond the threshold here. I make about 100k/year and would definitely be more satisfied with my life if I made 200k. But, that's purely from a "feeling like a success"/social status standpoint. I have no realistic lifestyle use for 200k. I can't even figure out how to use 100k on lifestyle because the things people typically buy are really boring. So even though making more money would make me happier, spending more of it on myself wouldn't. Positive affect is better but may still be affected too much by life evaluation. So negative affect is probably the best measure, since it's more related to the possibility of suffering due to insufficient money.

Comment by bluefalcon on [Link] Vox Article on Engineered Pathogens/ Global Catastrophic Biorisks · 2018-12-09T10:23:19.340Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Maybe I should've asked you the question I just asked on another post instead: as someone interested in minimizing x-risk, who should I support for President? Or better yet, who has a good compilation of candidates' records on x-risk-related issues, so I can make my own decision?

Comment by bluefalcon on Existential risk as common cause · 2018-12-09T10:00:30.140Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

As someone with an interest in government and relatively new to the concept of x-risk, I have a semi-urgent question: who should I support for President? I will probably have to get involved with a campaign in some way or another in the next few months to maximize my odds of getting a decent appointment after the election. There's plenty of interest group ratings, position statements etc. out there on environmental issues but I can't find much that would be of practical use on the other types, which seem to be more serious at least in aggregate and perhaps individually too. I could try compiling my own ratings but I know far less than a lot of the people in this community, so if someone has already figured out or is in the process of figuring out where the candidates stand on the risks they have expertise in, I would greatly appreciate it. Doesn't have to be like standard interest group ratings and maybe shouldn't be. E.g. the fact that someone has a hawkish temperament toward China and that would make them more prone to starting an arms race is probably more important to AI safety than the specifics of any technology-related votes they've taken.