Posts

Ideology and Performance in Public Organizations 2021-04-12T18:26:18.502Z
Research suggests BLM protests increase murder overall 2021-04-09T20:48:02.729Z
Dutch anti-trust regulator bans pro-animal welfare chicken cartel 2021-02-24T15:44:47.768Z
The Electoral Consequences of Pandemic Failure Project 2021-01-07T20:57:26.914Z
Center for Global Development: The UK as an Effective Altruist 2020-08-10T19:29:22.607Z
Link: Longtermist Institutional Reform 2020-07-30T20:36:31.235Z
Why Don’t We Use Chemical Weapons Anymore? 2020-04-23T01:25:34.706Z
Does Bail Reform Increase Crime? 2020-02-22T20:58:34.294Z
The Triumph of Humanity Chart 2015-10-27T01:57:38.784Z
The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data 2015-04-18T00:05:26.744Z
Blind Spots: Compartmentalizing 2014-12-31T22:25:38.721Z
Happy Birthday, Giving What We Can! 2014-11-15T23:39:28.899Z

Comments

Comment by Dale on Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior · 2021-04-17T17:46:53.963Z · EA · GW

This seems pretty worrying! Have you spoken to the CEA community health team about this? I guess they will probably read this blog post.

Comment by Dale on Research suggests BLM protests increase murder overall · 2021-04-12T18:43:02.246Z · EA · GW

I disagree - the point estimate for the increase in murders is well above 0 for the entire time period [figure 6]. The effect possibly fades away a little over time, so the confidence interval extends slightly over zero, but that doesn't mean you can assume it is zero! If you did a statistical test for 'did the increase in killings reduce over time' you would not get a significant result.

Comment by Dale on Research suggests BLM protests increase murder overall · 2021-04-12T18:39:21.238Z · EA · GW

I agree it is highly politicized. I feel like this is an asymmetric demand for rigor however. I do not recall many people anyone making this objection last summer when everyone, including EA organizations, was super-keen on BLM. 

Comment by Dale on Responses and Testimonies on EA Growth · 2021-03-31T15:00:49.298Z · EA · GW

My mental model is that in the early years, a disproportionately large portion of the EA community consisted of the community’s founders and their friends (and friends of friends, etc.) This cohort is likely to be very tolerant of the early members’ idiosyncrasies- it’s even possible some of those friendships were built around those idiosyncrasies. 

That's true, and those friendships also probably reduced conflict as well - much harder to take a very negative view of someone you know well socially.

Comment by Dale on Progress Open Thread: March 2021 · 2021-03-27T01:14:40.376Z · EA · GW

The version of "kind" I'm thinking of doesn't just encompass "not insulting people", but covers other everyday aspects of the word. The relevant one here is: "Don't insinuate that a given member of a certain group is likely to be dangerous, to the point that you don't recommend people interact closely with them.

This seems like quite a strange policy. You're clearly diverging from Scott's policy in a big way: he is talking about being nice to other commenters (form), but you have some major  content-based assumptions baked in. 

Indeed, your approach is in some cases the exact opposite of Scott's approach!

Consider a scenario where you are a native of a third world country, and a fellow EA is going to come visit. This person, while well intentioned, is generally quite naive, so you are keen to look out for their welfare. Alas! Shortly before they arrive, you find out they have booked accommodation in an extremely dangerous part of town, where murder, rape and kidnapping are common, and the police fear the gangs. Your country doesn't have good statistics for this area (as no-one reports crimes to the police), so you can't prove this to her, yet it is surely the kind thing to warn her of this, and encourage her to rent in a different part of the city. In doing so you are indeed insinuating that a certain group is likely to be dangerous, and encouraging ther hem to avoid contact - but this is the kind thing to do! Staying silent is the socially easy way out, but it does nothing to help your friend. Sacrificing your social standing and reputation to speak uncomfortable truths for the sake of a welfare of someone you have never met is surely the height of kindness.

 

A couple of times in your comment you discuss the danger of stereotypes. Unfortunately I think this shows a very prejudiced (if you will forgive the pun) view of stereotypes. Actually, research suggests that stereotypes are generally very accurate:

Stereotype accuracy is one of the largest and most replicable effects in all of social psychology.  Richard et al (2003) found that fewer than 5% of all effects in social psychology exceeded r’s of .50. In contrast, nearly all consensual stereotype accuracy correlations and about half of all personal stereotype accuracy correlations exceed .50.[1]

Finally, you suggested this:

For example, under the standard you seem to be suggesting, you could have gone on in your comment to speculate about the safest gender, race, national origin, and IQ of child to adopt. Even if these were all just "inferences", I can't imagine them improving the quality of discussion, because I've never seen the internet work that way.

Actually, this is a great point, and one that I think more supports my argument. One thing that it is very important for adoptive families in the US to be aware of are the issues around adopting Native American children. Because of special laws, you run the risk of the child being taken away from you long after you have taken them into your home, in a way that would not be legally possible for a non-native-american child. As a result of this I would indeed recommend parents take race into account when adopting inside the US, insomuchas they should be extra careful with native children. It is important to be able to discuss this; it's a significant risk and one we shouldn't cover up, even if some people might find the topic politically uncomfortable. 

Comment by Dale on Please stand with the Asian diaspora · 2021-03-26T15:45:36.398Z · EA · GW

The document is written in legalese, and by a judge who ultimately decided in Harvard's favor, so you have to piece it together from different sections unfortunately:

The personal rating reflects the admissions officer’s assessment of what kind of contribution the applicant would make to the Harvard community based on their personal qualities. [Oct. 17 Tr. 213:22–216:1; Oct. 18 Tr. 39:1–25]. Although the reading procedures have not historically provided detailed guidance on what qualities should be considered in assigning a personal rating, relevant qualities might include integrity, helpfulness, courage, kindness, fortitude, empathy, self-confidence, leadership ability, maturity, or grit. 

 

Mr. Hansen’s less complete models, which did not include variables for racial identities, projected admitted classes with far more Asian students than Harvard’s actual admitted classes, suggesting either that racial tips resulted in fewer Asian students being admitted or that factors correlated with Asian identity that were not included in Mr. Hansen’s models were significantly affecting which applicants Harvard chose to admit. 

 

These statistics on the use of “standard strong” are consistent with the profile ratings Harvard admissions officers assigned to Asian American applicants and white applicants, which show that Asian American applicants excelled, on average, on academic and extracurricular ratings, but were weaker when evaluated on personal and athletic criteria. 

 

Professor Card [The Harvard defence expert] creates an independent model for each admissions cycle, includes the personal rating because he concludes that it does not reflect race and, in any event, includes information that is important to the admissions process such that omitting it skews the outcome, includes the other variables that Professor Arcidiacono omits, and does not interact variables. Using this approach, he comes out with a very slight, and not statistically significant, negative coefficient for Asian American identity and concludes, based on that data and approach, that Asian Americans are not discriminated against in Harvard’s admissions process. 

 

Asian Americans would likely be admitted at a higher rate than white applicants if admissions decisions were made based solely on the academic and extracurricular ratings. Among Expanded Dataset applicants, more than 60% of Asian American applicants received academic ratings of 1 or 2, compared to 46% of white applicants, 9% of African American applicants, and 17% of Hispanic applicants. [Oct. 25 Tr. 49:17–50:5; PX623]. Overall, strong academic applicants are particularly abundant, with a higher percentage of applicants (42%) scoring a 1 or 2 on the academic rating as compared to the percent that score a 1 or 2 on any other rating. [DD10 at 4].46 Asian American applicants’ stronger academic ratings broadly align with their stronger performance across a range of qualitative indicators of academic strength. [Oct. 25 Tr. 41:18–46:9; PD38 at 4–7]. Asian American applicants also average relatively high extracurricular ratings. More than 28% of Expanded Dataset Asian American applicants receive an extracurricular rating of 1 or 2, compared to 25% of white applicants, 16% of African American applicants, and 17% of Hispanic applicants. [Oct. 25 Tr. 52:12–22; PX623]. Although Harvard admissions officers do not believe that Asian American applicants, as a group, have worse personal qualities than other applicants and Harvard alumni interviewers assign personal ratings of 1 or 2 to Expanded Dataset Asian American and white applicants with a similar frequency, [Oct. 23 Tr. 204:1–9; Oct. 24 Tr. 138:11–16; Oct. 25 Tr. 55:7–12], Harvard admissions officers assign Asian American applicants personal ratings that are, on average, slightly weaker than those assigned to applicants from other racial groups, [PX623]. Among Expanded Dataset applicants, 22.6% of white applicants receive a personal rating of 1 or 2, compared to 18% of Asian Americans, 19.4% of African Americans, and 19.1% of Hispanics. 

 

The model implies that when holding constant nearly all of the available observable variables, Asian American identity is associated with a lower probability of being assigned a strong personal Case 1:14-cv-14176-ADB Document 672 Filed 09/30/19 Page 68 of 130 69 rating by an admission officer. More precisely, his model suggests that an average Baseline Dataset Asian American applicant has a 17.8% probability of receiving a 2 or higher on the personal rating, which is lower than the 21.6% chance that the model suggests the applicant would have in the absence of any racial preference. [Oct. 25 Tr. 96:24–97:24; PD38 at 31]. Harvard did not offer a competing regression model to show that no statistically significant relationship between Asian American identity and the personal rating exists, and the Court therefore concludes that the data demonstrates a statistically significant and negative relationship between Asian American identity and the personal rating assigned by Harvard admissions officers, holding constant any reasonable set of observable characteristics.

 

Third, as discussed supra at Section V.C, E, teacher and guidance counselor recommendations seemingly presented Asian Americans as having less favorable personal characteristics than similarly situated non-Asian American applicants, and the school support ratings do not fully reflect more subtle racial disparities. As the experts’ analyses demonstrate, some race-correlated variation in teacher and guidance counselor recommendations is likely a cause of at least part of the disparity in the personal ratings. See supra at Sections V.C, E. Professor Card’s analysis shows that the school support ratings for Asian American applicants are generally weaker than the ratings for white students when comparing white and Asian American students who receive the same academic rating.

 

Overall, the disparity between white and Asian American applicants’ personal ratings has not been fully and satisfactorily explained. Because some of the disparity in personal ratings is due to teacher and guidance counselor recommendations, the issue becomes whether the remaining disparity reflects discrimination. The disparity in personal ratings between Asian American and other minority groups is considerably larger than between Asian American and white applicants and suggests that at least some admissions officers might have subconsciously provided tips in the personal rating, particularly to African American and Hispanic applicants, to create an alignment between the profile ratings and the race-conscious overall ratings that they were assigning.

Comment by Dale on Responses and Testimonies on EA Growth · 2021-03-24T04:00:34.160Z · EA · GW

For this to be the explanation presumably intra-EA conflict would not merely need to be driving people away, but driving people away at higher rates than it used to. It's not clear to me why this would be the case.

It's also worth noting that highly engaged EAs are quite close socially. It's possible that many of those 178 people might be thinking of the same people!

Comment by Dale on Progress Open Thread: March 2021 · 2021-03-22T17:23:39.224Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the feedback. While you are a moderator and can of course moderate as you wish, I must admit I found it confusing. I tried looking through the rules to find anything related to this:

The current comment makes unkind assumptions about a group of people without accurate data to back them — so despite the good intentions, it falls afoul of our rules.

The closest I could find was this section:

   Unnecessary rudeness or offensiveness

But this is of course quite different. My comment's tone was not particularly rude (e.g. no swearing, personal attacks), and nor was the content 'unnecessary' - or at least no more so than many other comments on the forum. In a situation whether there is a logical reason why a course of action is bad, but no hard empirical data, what alternative is there but to share our best attempt at reasoning?

Furthermore, I am not sure it is true that I made unkind assumptions; I assume you are refering to this section, but it is clearly an inference, not an assumption, that older adopted children present an elevated risk, and one that is couched in measured language like 'consider' and 'might':

Finally, it is a well established fact that one of the biggest threats to children comes from their mothers getting new boyfriends who are not genetically related to the child; this results in a something like a 10x increase in child abuse risk vs traditional families. I have never seen similar statistics around older adopted children but I would consider whether they might present a similar risk to your son given the 12 year age gap.

Indeed, arguably my comment was actually encouraged by the rules:

Polish: We'd rather see an idea presented imperfectly than not see it at all.

Worse, I think your objection is an isolated demand for rigor. It is very common for people to express arguments in the absence of hard statistical data; such data-heavy comments are a minority of those on the forum. Even among top-level articles such sources are often omitted - for example this highly upvoted post from the frontpage contains almost no statistics at all, yet I don't think this is a major problem.

So what is different here? My guess is the true crux of your objection is that my comment expresses a negative view of a group who it is not socially acceptable to criticize (you will note that Denise's comment also implies negative things, about a different group, but she has received no pushback because her target is considered socially acceptable to criticize)

But I encourage you to reconsider this, because as Effective Altruists we need to ensure our beliefs are as accurate as possible. This is not a topic of idle speculation: my comment was written to be specifically action guiding, and the negative facts about adopted children, especially older adopted children, are a crucial component of any fair evaluation of the risks and benefits of this decision. We should not be straw rationalists who are unable to act in the absence of RCTs; we can and should use evidence from other domains to make logical inferences when we have to make decisions under uncertainty. If we punish such comments, while allowing relatively statistic-light 'positive' comments we create a persistent bias which will lead us to social desirability bias. It is well known that the EA movement has a bias against conservatives; we should not let this bias morph into a moderation policy.


Less importantly, I also think you may not have properly understood my argument, because you raise this as a challenge:

I think it's very likely that adopted teenagers report higher life satisfaction than teenagers who don't get adopted. I'll gladly donate $50 to the charity of someone's choice if they find solid data showing otherwise, since my first few minutes of research didn't get me anywhere.

Yet better outcomes for adopted teenagers over non-adopted teenagers is actually a logical consequence of the  considerations I mentioned, because never-adopted children will have even worse adverse selection problems than late-adopted children!

Comment by Dale on Please stand with the Asian diaspora · 2021-03-21T02:59:19.802Z · EA · GW

There is a lot of discrimination that isn't violence. 

This is a good point, and definitely true. One example is the massive discrimination that asians face in college admissions. During the Harvard admissions trial, both sides agreed that asian applicants had generally superior academic and extracurricular credentials to white applicants, and much higher than black applicants, and yet were admitted at significantly lower rates. The university's defence was that on average asians had inferior personalities, a finding which to my knowledge not supported by academic research, and seems potentially somewhat offensive to asian people.

Comment by Dale on Please stand with the Asian diaspora · 2021-03-20T17:14:13.174Z · EA · GW

I am wondering whether you are talking about the US only?

Yes - the US is the country whose data I am most familiar with, and the article is written by someone at Cornell (in America) about an event that took place in America and contains a link to a list of resources by Americans providing advice for Americans. The US also has an unusually high asian population for a non asian majority country, which makes this issue more significant than in e.g. Switzerland  or Japan.

It's possible that this is also happening in other countries. Certainly Americans often wrongly ignore the rest of the world so I may be guilty of this!  If you have data that there has been a similar surge in anti-asian violence in other countries that would be valuable to know and somewhat contradict my hypothesis, as BLM is obviously a primarily US phenomena.

Comment by Dale on Please stand with the Asian diaspora · 2021-03-20T05:21:33.857Z · EA · GW

I'm not sure it is clear that the Atlanta shooting was an incidence of anti-asian prejudice. The shooter himself said this was not a significant part of his motivation, and given that he seems willing to confess to killing people for a crazy reason I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt:

Long said his actions were not racially motivated, but claims instead to be driven by sex addiction at odds with his religious beliefs.[9][23][24] According to Sheriff Reynolds, Long wanted to "eliminate the temptation" by targeting day spas.[24][25] Long said he wanted to "help" others dealing with sex addictions by targeting the spas.

It is true that many people in the media have suggested this was about the ethnicity of many (but not all) of his victims. But they do not have very strong evidence for this, and I think the lesson from many past tragedies like this is that often people's first impressions are shown to be mistaken as more facts come to light. To the extent that this story causes an emotional toll on readers, we should partly blame the media here for trying to fit a racial narrative to an event where it is not at all clear it fits.

Despite the lack of good data, I suspect that it is indeed the case that anti-asian crimes have risen significantly this year. We known that violent crime in general has increased significantly since the BLM protests/riots of last summer, and that attacks on asians are disproportionately caused by blacks (28% for 2018, the last year we have data, vs just 15% for white and hispanic victims). So my guess is that reductions in policing as a result of the protests have left many asians exposed. Most races are primarily victimised by others of the same race (62% for whites, 70% for blacks), but this is far less true for asians (24%). Presumably it is these inter-racial crimes that asians disproportionately suffer from which either are, or at least are reported as, hate crimes.

However, I'm not sure in practice there is very much we can directly do about the issue. Trying to reduce crime in the US seems like a very difficult task.

Comment by Dale on Progress Open Thread: March 2021 · 2021-03-04T19:28:40.201Z · EA · GW

I realize this is a sensitive topic, but as it sounds like you have not yet firmly committed I will go ahead and encourage you to strongly consider not adopting an older child, for several reasons.

Firstly, people significantly over-estimate their ability to change the outcomes for adopted children. This has been well studied with twin adoption studies, which generally find that adopted children's outcomes are closely linked to their biological parents - and not very linked to their adaptive parents. A good (if slightly dated now) introduction to this is Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, reviewed and excerpted here

Secondly, by adopting an older child you put yourself in a much worse position. To the (limited) extent that good parenting can improve things, at 15 years a lot of that opportunity has been missed. 

Worse, you are suffering from severe adverse selection. By adopting a much older child, you are choosing a child than has been repeated not adopted by other people. This suggests that, even relative to the general class of kids up for adoption, this child is likely to have significant behavioural issues.

Finally, it is a well established fact that one of the biggest threats to children comes from their mothers getting new boyfriends who are not genetically related to the child; this results in a something like a 10x increase in child abuse risk vs traditional families. I have never seen similar statistics around older adopted children but I would consider whether they might present a similar risk to your son given the 12 year age gap.

As a result I would encourage you to consider having another biological child instead. This is also potentially much bigger upside: instead of (hopefully) someone improving someone's life a bit, you give an entire life to someone who would not have otherwise had one. 

Comment by Dale on Blameworthiness for Avoidable Psychological Harms · 2021-02-20T19:37:06.101Z · EA · GW

Reminded me of this paper, on a somewhat related topic:

We investigate the consequences and predictors of emitting signals of victimhood and virtue. In our first three studies, we show that the virtuous victim signal can facilitate nonreciprocal resource transfer from others to the signaler. Next, we develop and validate a victim signaling scale that we combine with an established measure of virtue signaling to operationalize the virtuous victim construct. We show that individuals with Dark Triad traits—Machiavellianism, Narcissism, Psychopathy—more frequently signal virtuous victimhood, controlling for demographic and socioeconomic variables that are commonly associated with victimization in Western societies. In Study 5, we show that a specific dimension of Machiavellianism—amoral manipulation—and a form of narcissism that reflects a person’s belief in their superior prosociality predict more frequent virtuous victim signaling. Studies 3, 4, and 6 test our hypothesis that the frequency of emitting virtuous victim signal predicts a person’s willingness to engage in and endorse ethically questionable behaviors, such as lying to earn a bonus, intention to purchase counterfeit products and moral judgments of counterfeiters, and making exaggerated claims about being harmed in an organizational context.

Comment by Dale on Two Inadequate Arguments against Moral Vegetarianism · 2021-01-31T03:41:47.396Z · EA · GW

And then, having not quite forgotten this state of affairs, when they happen to be used by someone, they complain of having being treated like an animal, which of course suggests that animals are treated in a way that we find utterly unacceptable (if they are in fact the sorts of creatures that can be mistreated).

I realize this is not the focus of your argument, but I don't think this holds true:

  •  People subject to paternalism complain about being treated 'like a child', but might still think this behavior is appropriate in the case of children.
  • Those viewed suspiciously sometimes complain about being treated 'like a criminal', but probably believe it is right for criminals to be treated in this way.

This is true even though most people think that both children and criminals are the sort of creature that could be mistreated - it's just that what counts as mistreatment differs between groups.

Comment by Dale on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-26T20:29:41.910Z · EA · GW

Thank you for saying this.

Comment by Dale on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-26T20:27:35.200Z · EA · GW

In general on this forum we seek to encourage people to adopt a 'Scout Mindset':

"The drive not to make one idea win or another lose, but to see what's there as honestly and accurately as you can."

Clarity about what you believe, your reasons for believing it, and what would cause you to change your mind.

Note that this does not require you to have 'definitive' proof of something. This would be an unreasonable standard in general, but especially so here, because even if these individuals had been diagnosed (which many autists are not), there is no particular reason to expect them to have shared the diagnosis publicly!

Instead, calling them autistic represents a reasonable summary of Guzey's views, and is I think a pretty reasonable position. I think if you showed the average person some videos of early Musk or Page (before they got coaching) they would agree the behavior was pretty autistic. This has been often remarked upon - e.g. here.

What's more, this is important to Guzey's point. He is not claiming that all visionaries are poor leaders, so your suggested edit would be inaccurate. He is specifically claiming that one type of visionary makes a poor leader, so the qualification is important.

Comment by Dale on Why I'm concerned about Giving Green · 2021-01-26T19:27:23.155Z · EA · GW

I think you have missed one clear downside: that increasing partisanship will make any action that is passed worse. There have been some clear examples historically of where the association of climate change with left  wing politics has been a negative:

  • The demonisation of nuclear, which has lead to an increase in coal usage in Germany.
  • The rejection of a carbon tax in Washington State because it was not 'progressive' enough, and similar moves in many other states.
  • The inclusion of terrible policies in the 'Green New Deal', like banning air travel (which was eventually removed after criticism from conservatives).
  • Inability to reduce emissions when this conflicted with the interests of unions.

Including more conservatives and moderates in policy design, and marginalizing extreme left-wing groups, could help both improve the prospects for passing policy and result in better policy. We have strong evidence this is the case - look at the example of the UK, where the conservative-led coalition and then conservative majority government has made climate change a significant focus, partly because they were able to 'reclaim' the issue.

Comment by Dale on The Electoral Consequences of Pandemic Failure Project · 2021-01-12T18:07:00.703Z · EA · GW

I agree that 1. is a problem. I think you want to keep things fairly simple for the sake of transparency, which would mean you end up being e.g. unfairly positive towards leaders of asian countries with conscientious populations and strong hygiene norms. One thing you could do would be to add "which is better than other similar countries like X, Y and Z" - but then there is still some subjectivity about which peer countries to include.

I'm less concerned about 2. Even if the majority of voters are impossible to persuade, the marginal voter theorem suggests that you only need to influence a few people. And even in a state where one party has basically no chance, there is often competition at other levels. For example, if Cuomo is the Democrat nominee for New York State Governor, he will almost definitely win - but this might help a rival Democrat challenge him for that nomination. 

Your project sounds like a good one... but I agree it would be very hard. Focusing on covid only seemed like a tractable smaller version. 

Comment by Dale on Guerrilla Foundation Response to EA Forum Discussion · 2020-12-16T05:04:37.884Z · EA · GW

Secondly, we would want them to more precisely calculate the negative externalities caused by their wealth accumulation and engage in direct reparations where possible, or at least commit to contribute a significant amount to prevent further harm in the specific sector where wealth was generated. 

I think you dramatically over-estimate how often it will be possible to identify and make amends to the victims. There are a few cases, e.g.

  • A burglar who keeps detailed records of which houses he broke into.
  • A lawyer who took fees from her client despite knowing their case was doomed.
  • A hacker who knows exactly which bitcoin wallets he hacked.

I agree it is plausible that in these cases people might have some specific duty to the victims that takes precedence over a generalized obligation of benevolence.

But far more commonly the victims are very diffuse and cannot be individually identified:

  • A manager at Norilsk, whose decisions caused pollution that has hurt many people... but he can't tell exactly who or how much.
  • A lobbyist whose work lead to the passing of a law that benefited her firm or union, but lead to slightly higher prices for millions of ordinary people... but has little idea who specifically, or how much for each person.
  • The head of a human trafficking organization, which doesn't keep records on his victims to reduce the risk of detection.
  • An saleswoman who is less than 100% honest about her products, but can't tell who would have purchased them anyway even if she had been perfectly truthful.

Or the victims might have died, either as a result of the immoral behavior or just due to the passage of time:

  • A mercenary who kills people in an immoral war.
  • An abortionist.
  • Someone who mis-sold financial products to the very elderly decades ago.
  • Someone whose ancestors sold members of rival tribes into slavery, giving their tribe and descendants wealth and power through to the present day.

In these cases it is impossible to make amends in the way you seem to want to. You could try to help people who are similar to those you helped, but I'm not sure why that is relevant. If I burgle a house on Washington Avenue, but then I lose track of the victims after they leave town, I don't see any reason why I owe other residents of Washington Avenue any specific debt - maybe some other street has poorer people who can be helped more efficiently. Helping merely similar people doesn't do anything for the actual victims! At this point I think I should just consider this a debt I can never repay, and focus on helping the world in general.

Comment by Dale on Taking Self-Determination Seriously · 2020-11-28T02:55:59.163Z · EA · GW

I think you are under-estimating the practical difficulties involved in self-determination. A good example is Brexit. On paper, it seems like it should be an ideal case:

  • The UK has experience being a successful independent country for hundreds of years.
  • The UK held a referendum on the subject where everyone could vote, rather than just a few secessionist leaders, proving widespread buy-in.
  • The UK gets relatively little benefit from the EU - it organizes defense, education, police, healthcare etc. all by itself, and is a net payer of funds towards the rest of the EU.
  • The UK speaks a different language from the rest of the EU.
  • There are essentially no territorial disputes between the UK and EU.
  • The UK is leaving in accordance with the EU rules, rather than via a civil war / war of independence.

... but despite this, Brexit has been very costly! The mere threat of (temporarily?) losing access to some EU markets has cost them several points of GDP, and it is not clear this will be regained.

I'm also not really sure why this would be an EA topic.

Comment by Dale on Please Take the 2020 EA Survey · 2020-11-20T19:45:03.886Z · EA · GW

I was curious about the formatting of some of your demographic questions. For example this question;

28. Your gender:

provides only a free text box, with no standard options. This is often considered poor survey technique, because it can lead to a very broad range of responses, which require a lot of manual work on the backend. You will need to manually determine whether 'woman', 'Female', 'Lady', 'f' etc. are the same thing, and what you want to do with someone who says 'Dude'. Not only is this time consuming but it adds subjectivity to your analysis. It also increases the amount of work required from your respondents - if they are on their iPhone they will have to manipulate the keypad, rather than just pressing once.

Since you are using SurveyMonkey, you have access to their SurveyMonkey Certified Questions:

This certified question was added from our Question Bank. It was written by our methodologists to minimize bias and get the most accurate responses. 

If you edit the wording of this question, it'll no longer be certified, which means it might be subject to bias and accuracy issues.

Most of their accredited gender questions avoid these problems by giving you simple options to click. This will likely be optimal for the vast majority of your respondents, and if you wanted to be politically correct you could always include an 'Other' box!

Strangely, it seems like for the race/ethnicity option you go in the opposite direction, by providing the full list of standard US options for people to select from. This includes 'Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander', even though I think less than 0.1% of the global population fall into this composite category. If you are concerned about space limitations I would have considered removing this category, as well as the Alaskan Native one, implicitly folding them into the 'other' box.

Comment by Dale on Please Take the 2020 EA Survey · 2020-11-20T19:02:34.948Z · EA · GW

I was disappointed to see this. I think there is a strong 'What gets measured gets done" effect, so the fact that some demographic questions (race, sexual preference) are recorded while others (politics, diet, religion) are not is significant. In particular, I think it tends to lead to efforts to reach out to groups which the data shows to be under-represented, while those without data are neglected.

Comment by Dale on Questions for Peter Singer's fireside chat in EAGxAPAC this weekend · 2020-11-20T18:39:07.084Z · EA · GW

Has he given any more thought to the argument Tyler gave here that eating wild-caught fish is ethically acceptable, because the alternative to our catching them is a similarly unpleasant natural death?

 

Comment by Dale on A brief look at reducing the efficiency of genocides · 2020-11-13T02:06:15.812Z · EA · GW

Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest the US shouldn't have intervened - I think quite possibly we should have! I just meant the costs would likely have been higher than you estimated, because it's not just the per-hour cost of the radio jamming plane. Political capital with neighbors is costly, and protecting the plane could have been quite expensive. Wikipedia suggests Rwanda had some (old) Russian fighter jets, so they might have needed to be shot down, and they may also have had SAMs which would require neutralization. 

 

 

Yeah, I was thinking about things like the role of civilian firearms as a defence against lynching in the US south, where they seem to have been somewhat effective:

We assess firearm access in the U.S. South by measuring the fraction of suicides committed with firearms. Black residents of the Jim Crow South were disarmed, before re-arming themselves during the Civil-Rights Era. We find that lynchings decrease with greater Black firearm access. During the Civil-Rights Movement, both the relative Black homicide and Black “accidental death by firearm” rates decrease with Black firearm access, indicating frequent misclassification of homicides as accidents. In the contemporary era, greater firearm access correlates with higher Black death rates. We find that firearms offered an effective means of Black self-defense in the Jim Crow South.

But it's not exactly the same case because lynching is quite different from genocide, and the total number killed was quite small - probably under 5,000 over many decades. 

Perhaps a more similar case was the decision by the Albanian government to arm the northern civilian population to help protect them from the south:

The Opening of the depots (Albanian: Hapja e depove) was the opening of weapons depots in the north, for protection against the violence of the south. The decision was taken by President Berisha. When southern Albanian bases were looted, it was estimated that, on average, every male from the age of ten upwards had at least one firearm and ample ammunition.[20] To protect the civilians in north and central Albania, the government allowed civilians to arm themselves from government arms depots. During the rebellion 656,000 weapons of various types, and 1.5 billion rounds of ammunition, 3.5 million hand grenades and one million land mines, were looted from army depots.

Again, this is not a perfect example, because we don't know what would have happened if they had not been armed. 

We do know that many historical genocides were preceded by the disarming of the victims. For example, prior to the Armenian Genocide:

As anti-Armenian mobs were being armed, the government attempted to convince Armenians to surrender their guns. [4] A 1903 law banned the manufacture or import of gunpowder without government permission. [5] In 1910, manufacturing or importing weapons without government permission, as well as carrying weapons or ammunition without permission was forbidden. [6] During World War I, in February 1915, local officials in each Armenian district were ordered to surrender quotas of firearms. When officials surrendered the required number, they were executed for conspiracy against the government. When officials could not surrender enough weapons from their community, the officials were executed for stockpiling weapons. Armenian homes were also searched, and firearms confiscated. Many of these mountain dwellers had kept arms despite prior government efforts to disarm them. [7] 

Similarly, prior to the Soviet genocides:

The December decree of the CPC of 1918, "On the surrender of weapons", ordered people to surrender any firearms, swords, bayonets and bombs, regardless of the degree of serviceability. The penalty for not doing so was ten years' imprisonment.

Similarly, Weimar Germany had relatively strict regulation of firearms, and the Nazis banned Jewish firearm ownership prior to the holocaust.

Of course, once a government has decided to disarm a population, presumably they would not be willing to allow outsiders to re-arm that population. So it might be more effective to educate at-risk groups about how to conceal firearms and avoid confiscation.

 

I think you raise a good point about governments arming groups that they later go on to fight - the US arming the mujahideen in Afghanistan is a classic example.  But my impression is that these cases generally involve the supply of anti-tank weapons, anti-air weapons, and other pieces of relatively heavy-duty equipment. If you aim is to simply make genocide more difficult, small arms are likely sufficient. The Rwandan genocide, for example, made widespread use of machetes to murder victims - ownership of even relatively small caliber weapons, common among ordinary civilians in the US, could have likely prevented much of this.

Comment by Dale on A brief look at reducing the efficiency of genocides · 2020-11-12T04:13:30.871Z · EA · GW

Interesting work on a very important topic, good job. I was especially surprised to see that it took two weeks for the US to learn about the genocide; surely the US ambassador should have noticed?

I think you are a little harsh on the US decision not to use the radio blocking technology. It sounds like money wasn't their only (main?) objection: it was also logistically difficult to use the radio blocking plane, and require a substantial escort. Perhaps keeping it safe might even have required destroying Rwandan SAMs:

It costs approximately $8500 per flight hour and requires a semi-secure area of operations due to its vulnerability and limited self-protection.

Then we had to get it from where it was already and be sure it could be moved. Then we would have needed flight clearance from all the countries nearby. And then we would need the political go-ahead. By the time we got all this, weeks would have passed.

Looking at your spreadsheet, it seems the Rwandan genocide in some ways represents a best case scenario for intervention, as it was implemented in a somewhat decentralized way with civilians in a third world country. Many of the other genocides occurred under the direct orders of more powerful states, which would prevent such interventions from working - even if the US could have blocked German radio in 1943, for example, the holocaust would have continued. 

Some other techniques that might be useful:

  • Try to prevent the causes of genocides.
  • Working on genocide forecasting, so that vulnerable populations can prepare.
  • Promote emigration rights (it doesn't matter how many countries will let you in if your current country won't let you out).
  • Promote firearm ownership in vulnerable populations.
Comment by Dale on What are some EA-aligned statements that almost everyone agrees with? · 2020-11-12T03:48:44.783Z · EA · GW

Yes, and I would also highlight this one:

People are of equal moral value (all people matter: everyone has an equal claim to be happy, healthy, fulfilled and free)

I think many people might disagree, perhaps thinking that actually:

  • Good people have more value than bad people
  • Children matter more than old people
  • Smokers have less of a claim to be healthy than non-smokers
  • Criminals have less of a claim on being free than law-abiding citizens
  • People who work hard have more right to be happy than those who are lazy
  • We have a right to the pursuit of happiness, but not a guarantee we will succeed.

Some possible new ones for you:

  • It is bad to put other people at risk of death
  • We should think about the future when making decisions
  • New technologies can cause big changes
  • Nuclear war would be bad
  • It is bad for children to die
  • Hurting animals unnecessarily is bad
  • If a charity is just wasting all its money you shouldn't donate

and perhaps the most unifying view of them all:

  • I hate Mosquitoes 
Comment by Dale on 4 Years Later: President Trump and Global Catastrophic Risk · 2020-10-27T02:28:03.864Z · EA · GW

I like that you went back and reviewed your predictions. However, this piece could have been better if you had also reviewed the ways in which Trump has been better than you expected. 

For example, under 'Authoritarianism' you list the election of some authoritarian and anti-globalist leaders. But equally there are positive cases - in France Macron, a highly globalist and neoliberal candidate, won the election. Similarly in the UK, the relatively authoritarian May was replaced with the much more libertarian Johnson. This is a far cry from your worries about France exiting the EU and breaking up NATO:

Le Pen wants France to leave the EU, the euro and NATO. Were that to happen I doubt whether the euro or EU would survive in anything like its current form, and NATO would be put further at risk.

Similarly, you listed worries about social progress:

Third, social progress is important. One of the reasons to prevent global catastrophes, aside from saving lives, is to ensure that the future is better than the past. Under the liberal global order the world has had unusually positive scientific, technological, and social progress since WWII. Improvements include the spread of democracy; the rise of tolerance for religious, ideological, and philosophical diversity; the civil rights movement; the rise of women’s equality and feminism; the increase in per capita incomes; and the lowest levels of per capita violence in human history. We should want these trends to continue. We should want the world to move in an anti-authoritarian direction not just because it is safer, but because that is a better future.

Many of these things have improved under Trump. For example, a Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice wrote a decision extending anti-discrimination rights to transsexuals. The US murder rate fell from 5.4 under Obama in 2016 to 5.0 in 2019 (source). The Trump administration is (trying to) promote religious freedom. Per capita income has risen (at least pre-covid).

You spend a lot of time text worrying that Trump might use nuclear weapons:

There are three risks associated with nuclear weapons.

First is simply that Trump uses nuclear weapons – either in a Cuban Missile Crisis situation or in a ‘limited’ way.

...

But he has not done so. In fact, he has generally been quite pacifistic: the Wikipedia list of US Wars does not list a single one starting during his administration, unlike most (all?) previous presidents.

Despite this and your worries about the decline of Pax Americana, in some ways the situation seems better than before. For example, Russia invaded Ukraine during the Obama Administration, despite a US commitment to protect Ukraine. Under Trump I do not think Russia has invaded anywhere.

Similarly, you worried that he might cause other countries might try to get nukes:

Trump has made statements that have been interpreted as encouraging Saudi Arabia to do so. ... Trump has made statements that have been interpreted as encouraging Japan and South Korea to do so.

Again I am not aware of any of these countries acquiring any nuclear weapons, or even making significant progress.

You worried that he might start a public bioweapon program that could undermine the international stigma against their use:

I also think Trump would be less hesitant to use or develop biological weapons. Were he to start developing them – let alone use them – it would strongly undermine norms against them.

To my knowledge he has not done this.

In some cases Trump has been bad, but for the opposite reason than you were worried about! For example you criticized him for supporting travel bans during Ebola:

He reacted poorly to the Ebola outbreak – exaggerating fears and proposing populist solutions.

Given that covid has turned out to be much more dangerous than the WHO initially said, if he had exaggerated fears this time it would have been much more accurate. Similarly travel bans have been extremely effective with regard covid: they have kept New Zealand and Taiwan basically safe, and the lockdowns that have been employed by virtually all governments are basically internal travel bans. To the extent that Trump responded poorly to covid, it was largely by making the same mistakes he criticized obama for.

Comment by Dale on What is the increase in expected value of effective altruist Wayne Hsiung being mayor of Berkeley instead of its current incumbent? · 2020-10-08T01:28:34.816Z · EA · GW

Here is a recent newspaper article describing Wayne as using cult-like techniques and abuse with DxE, and also here.

Comment by Dale on How much does it cost to save a life in the mediterranean sea? · 2020-09-15T13:38:58.789Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the hyperlink! I'm a bit surprised at the argument that these countries are not safe. Obviously all places have some risk, but both Tunisia and Libya have much lower murder rates than the US does, and I wouldn't accept 'it is too dangerous here' as a reason for why the US shouldn't take refugees.

Comment by Dale on How much does it cost to save a life in the mediterranean sea? · 2020-09-11T17:49:04.549Z · EA · GW

Interesting idea. Are you trying to evaluate how cost-effective they have been historically, or how cost-effective they might be in the future with additional funding? Presumably they latter will be lower, due to mean reversion. Additionally, the easiest to save people will probably already have been saved, leaving people who are more difficult to access.

I thought the two other comments about downsides were interesting (incentivising a larger number and more risky crossings, and negative reactions from people in Europe), but it seems that there is an easy solution - they could return the rescued people to Africa, instead of taking them to Europe. This would mean the incentives to attempt the journey were not increased, and European voters should also be happier.

Comment by Dale on Some thoughts on the EA Munich // Robin Hanson incident · 2020-09-09T01:42:02.381Z · EA · GW

I didn't downvote it, though probably I should have. But it seems a stretch to say 'one guy who works for a weird organization that is supposedly EA' implies 'congregation'. I think that would have to imply a large number of people. I would be very disappointed if I had a congregation of less than ten people.

JoshYou also ignores important hedging in the linked comment:

Bennett denies this connection; he says he was trying to make friends with these white nationalists in order to get information on them and white nationalism. I think it's plausible that this is somewhat true.

So instead of saying

We've already seen white nationalists congregate in some EA-adjacent spaces.

It would be more fair to say

We've already seen one guy with some evidence he is a white nationalist (though he somewhat plausibly denies it) work for a weird organization that has some EA links.

Which is clearly much less worrying. There are lots of weird ideologies and a lot of weird people in California, who believe a lot of very incorrect things. I would be surprised if 'white nationalists' were really high up on the list of threats to EA, especially given how extremely left wing EA is and how low status they are. We probably have a lot more communists! Rather, I think the highlighting of 'White Nationalists' is being done for ideological reasons - i.e. to cast shade on more moderate right wing people by using a term that is practically a slur. I think the grandparent would not have made such a sloppy comment had it not been about the hated outgroup.

Comment by Dale on How have you become more (or less) engaged with EA in the last year? · 2020-09-09T00:30:04.351Z · EA · GW
I've seen a few cases where EAs online say things that are pretty racist or sexist. They'll be defended with comments like "we need to be free to break be intellectual ground and find the truth", but I don't understand how telling me I'm less likely to be a genius because I'm a woman at a social event makes anyone any better at improving the world. It certainly doesn't make me better at improving the world.

I realize this is probably not what you were looking for, but I think I can think of what they might have been thinking of, or at least times when it would be relevant (though obviously the actual conversation you were is was probably different!). Specifically I can imagine a conversation going something like this:

  • Alice: Economic growth is very important because it is exponential and helps people all over the world and in the future.
  • Bob: That's true. We should discuss ways to help speed up economic growth.
  • Carol: One thing that might help is promoting free trade with the developing world.
  • David: Economic growth is strongly driven by a small number of geniuses, who do things like invent electricity or semiconductors. We should try to help identify more geniuses and give them the right opportunities.
  • Eve: Interesting idea. Maybe we could look at the list of science nobel prize winners to get some ideas.
  • Frank: It seems that women are very under-represented on this list, probably because of the patriarchy. We could focus specifically on things like Women in STEM to help address this and find the 'missing' geniuses. That could almost double the total number.
  • Grace: I don't think that's true. The male variability hypothesis states that men tend to be more extreme than women - both more dysfunctional criminals and more super geniuses. This is a pretty well established theory, and it predicts we'd see more male geniuses even if there was no discrimination. We should focus on other ideas, like looking for potential in very poor parts of India and China.

You're right that telling you personally about your probabilities of being a genius isn't super helpful, because you already have a lot of other pieces of evidence (like your SAT scores) that mean the base rate isn't very useful. And I can certainly imagine people introducing this subject in an awkward way! But when we are considering a potential policy to improve the world, it's important to consider all the evidence. I don't know if you'd consider the male variability hypothesis to be sexist - I think it's best to taboo the term personally - but whether or not it is sexist it is probably true, and relevant to this EA discussion about improving the world.

Comment by Dale on Some thoughts on the EA Munich // Robin Hanson incident · 2020-09-08T19:28:51.574Z · EA · GW
Surely there exists a line at which we agree on principle. Imagine that, for example, our EA spaces were littered with people making cogent arguments that steel manned holocaust denial, and we were approached by a group of Jewish people saying “We want to become effective altruists because we believe in the stated ideals, but we don’t feel safe participating in a space where so many people commonly and openly argue that the holocaust did not happen.”
In this scenario, I hope that we’d both agree that it would be appropriate for us to tell our fellow EAs to cut it out.

I agree with your conclusion about this instance, but for very different reasons, and I don't think it supports your wider point of view. It would be bad if EAs spent all the time discussing the holocaust, because the holocaust happened in the past, and so there is nothing we can possible do to prevent it. As such the discussion is likely to be a purely academic exercise that does not help improve the world.

It would be very different to discuss a currently occurring genocide. If EAs were considering investing resources in fighting the Uighur genocide, for example, it would be very valuable to hear contrary evidence. If, for example, we learnt that far fewer people were being killed than we thought, or that the CCP's explanations about terrorism were correct, this would be useful information that would help us prioritize our work. Equally, it would be valuable to hear if we had actually under-estimated the death toll, for exactly the same reasons.

Similarly, Animal Rights EAs consider our use of factory farming to be a modern holocaust, far larger than any prior. But debate about this is a perfectly acceptable EA topic - even on debate around subjects like 'but do the victims (animals) have moral value?'

Or again, pro-life activists consider our use of abortion to be a modern holocaust, far larger than any prior. But debate about this is a perfectly acceptable EA topic - even on debate around subjects like 'but do the victims (fetuses) have moral value?'

It might be the case that people make a dedicated 'Effective Liberation for Xinjiang' group, and intend to discuss only methods there, not the fundamental premise. But if they started posting about the Uighurs in other EA groups, criticism of their project, including its fundamental premises, would be entirely legitimate.

I think this is true even if it made some hypothetical Uighur diaspora members of the group feel 'unsafe'. People have a right to actual safety - clearly no-one should be beating each other up at EA events. But an unlimited right to 'feel safe', even when this can only be achieved by imposing strict (and contrary to EA) restrictions on others is clearly tyrannical. If you feel literally unsafe when someone makes an argument on the internet you have a serious problem and it is not our responsibility (or even within our power) to accommodate this. You should feel unsafe while near cliff edges, or around strange men in dark allys - not in a debate. Indeed, if feeling 'unsafe' is a trump card then I will simply claim that I feel unsafe when people discuss BLM positively, due to the (from my perspective) implied threat of riots.

The analogy here I think is clear. I think it is legitimate to say we will not discuss the Uighur genocide (or animal rights, or racism) in a given group because they are off-topic. What is not at all legitimate is to say that one side, but not the other, is forbidden.

Finally, I also think your strategy is potentially a bit dishonest. We should not hide the true nature of EA, whatever that is, from newcomers in an attempt to seduce them into the movement.

Comment by Dale on EricHerboso's Shortform · 2020-09-03T14:53:04.743Z · EA · GW
I have friends who I have watched first hand having to read through a racist Facebook thread who were subsequently unable to focus for hours afterward.

Wow, that's a shocking thread. This will definitely put off newcomers! I can understand why you might want to ban discussion of woke topics from introductory spaces if that sort of thing will be the result!

To be honest I'm surprised the moderators didn't block Blasian Diezo for being such a bully. It seems like he is clearly violating the group rules:

1) Be civil (e.g. don't insult other advocates, especially other group members)

for responding to perfectly reasonable advocacy for a colorblind society from Joachim with this sort of nasty vitriol:

you're a part of the problem if this is your mentality
you love white supremacy like that?
that's a white supremacist goal
if the only black person you know about who worked for anti-racism movements is mlk, you're worthless. ... if what you gathered from a snippet of his quotes is that he was trying to achieve a "color blind" society, you're worthless.
if you don't like being called a white supremacist, stop saying/doing white supremacist shit.
so fuck you and stop trying to police how oppressed ppl address the shit we have to deal with from you

However, while I understand your view, I don't think I agree with it. I think it is best to tolerate Blasian-style opinions and let them be discussed rationally; we should just make sure that people are civil and reasonable, without unnecessarily insulting other people. Just because he is behaving badly doesn't mean the same conversation couldn't be beneficial otherwise.

Comment by Dale on Some thoughts on the EA Munich // Robin Hanson incident · 2020-08-30T13:34:58.932Z · EA · GW
That said, my impression is that, over time, the EA movement has become more attentive to various kinds of diversity, and more cautious about avoiding public discussion of ideas likely to cause offense. This involves trade-offs with other values.

I am skeptical of this. The EA survey shows that one of the most under-represented group in EA is conservatives, and I have seen little sign that EAs in general, and CEA in particular, have become more cautious about public discussion that will offend conservatives.

Similarly, I don't think there is much evidence of people suppressing ideas offensive to older people, or religious people, even though these are also dramatically under-represented groups.

I think a more accurate summary would be that as EA has grown, it has become subject to Conquest's Second Law, and this has made it less tolerant of various views and people currently judged to be unacceptable by SJWs. Specifically, I would be surprised if there was much evidence of EAs/CEA being more cautious about publicly discussing 'woke' views out of fear of offending liberals or conservatives.

Comment by Dale on Should we think more about EA dating? · 2020-08-17T20:11:34.971Z · EA · GW
you implicitly assume that the average effective altruist is a heterosexual man

Over 70% of EAs are men (according to the 2019 survey), and probably most of those are heterosexual (though I don't have the statistics to hand), so that would be an accurate assumption.

More importantly, I think the meaning would likely be altered by changing the sex. The gender imbalance probably means that men have a much harder time finding a girlfriend at EAG than women would finding a boyfriend. Also, my impression is that male EAs have, on average, worse social skills than female EAs.

Rather than sacrificing accuracy, I think a better approach would be to include an explicit note about the different issues facing women. But as this is a casual, spitballing type of post, I think that even this suggestion might be over the top.

Comment by Dale on EA Meta Fund Grants – July 2020 · 2020-08-17T20:04:37.779Z · EA · GW
I think at least some women would still prefer female mentors.

That makes perfect sense to me. But a co-ed mentoring group would presumably be able to offer female mentors to those who wanted them, leaving it equally good for those who preferred women and superior for those who were open-minded or preferred men. I guess some women might be too shy to specify "and I would like a women" in a mixed group, so having WANBAM allows them to satisfy their preference more discretely.

Comment by Dale on Center for Global Development: The UK as an Effective Altruist · 2020-08-16T02:41:16.139Z · EA · GW

I made the requested change.

Comment by Dale on EA Meta Fund Grants – July 2020 · 2020-08-16T02:38:25.756Z · EA · GW
What I would be hesitant to do - but not because I'm afraid but because I think it's a bad idea - is to pitch a mentoring scheme that explicitly emphasizes or discusses at length that it's open to men, or any other audience which is normally included and would be odd to single out.)

In general, the default for most things is that they're open to men.


It is true that most things are open to men, in the sense that (at least in the west) most careers, associations and organisations are open to both men and women. But it seems definitely the case that it is much more common to exclude men from something than to exclude women. So if your principle opposing emphasizing the acceptance of widely-accepted groups was commonly held, it would actually oppose the existance of an EA mentoring group specifically for women.

Consider some examples from high status organizations:

* At Harvard there are 21 non-sport clubs dedicated for women - they get a special section on the website. In contrast, the only such club I can think of for men was the Black Man Forum.

* Goldman has a woman's network, but no men's network.

* Mckinsey has a women's network, but no men's network

* The Democratic Party Platform has multiple sections dedicated to women, but none to men. The Republican Party Platform is not really organized into sections, but a similar principle applies at the content level, to a lesser degree.

* The Department of Labor has a women's bureau, but no men's bureau.

* Girls are allowed to join Scouts now, but boys are not allowed to join Guides.

This is I think basically because advocating for men in general is viewed as very low status, whereas advocating for women in general is high status. Consider the differing levels of respect that Mens Rights Advocates are held in vs Feminists. Indeed, Robin Hanson, who has been very influential on many EA topics, was recently deplatformed from an EA group, after consultation with CEA, because of a smear campaign resulting from his advocacy with regard male-effecting suffering. Even if this was the right decision, I think it is clear that he would not have been treated so had he instead been raising awareness of female suffering.

In light of this I think the grandparent's caution makes perfect sense: given there is already a women's group, pitching a group that was open to men would only benefit men, and this sort of advocacy is at best viewed as cringe-worthy and low status, to at worst a cancelable offense.

It is also quite possible that a more inclusive mentoring group might undermine the women's mentoring one. Consider the case of the female-only universities. In the old days Bryn Mawr had extremely high quality students, because the top women had few alternatives; but since they gained the option to go to Harvard, Bryn Mawr has declined dramatically. A similar thing might happen here: if there was a universal mentoring group that gave women access to both male and female mentors, why would they choose the segregated group that restricted them to a subset of mentors?

Comment by Dale on What is the increase in expected value of effective altruist Wayne Hsiung being mayor of Berkeley instead of its current incumbent? · 2020-08-07T19:00:08.723Z · EA · GW

Allowing such a post would totally neuter the rule. All one would have to do is take your draft "Trump is actually the best candidate from an EA perspective" and re-title it "Is Trump actually the best candidate from an EA perspective?" Scatter in a few question marks in the text and you are fully compliant.

Comment by Dale on avacyn's Shortform · 2020-08-07T18:53:51.337Z · EA · GW

I think Gregory_Lewis is referencing the same poor behavior here if you are looking for more sources. Please let me know what the organizers say if you ended up asking them.

Comment by Dale on avacyn's Shortform · 2020-07-22T18:29:15.720Z · EA · GW
Do you have a source for this claim?

Yes. You are welcome to ask the other people who helped organize the previous EAGs about it. If you like I can try to work out the dates.

Also, I would note that if you allow unsourced positive claims, but not negative claims, this isolated demand for rigor creates a bias and make us vulnerable to hostile actors whose behavior cannot be called out. Though of course you can moderate your forum however you like!

Comment by Dale on Systemic change, global poverty eradication, and a career plan rethink: am I right? · 2020-07-17T16:44:29.871Z · EA · GW
I doubt it will be a fringe view on this forum that Western colonialism tended to cripple poor countries' economies, or that certain European and US interventions (like the Iraq War) led to huge devastation.

You're right that this is not a fringe view, and it is probably one of the more mainstream views Hickel has. However, I do not think that it is obviously true. Poor countries suffered many disadvantages from colonialism, but also gained many advantages, like education, infrastructure, and more advanced legal systems. The earliest western colonialism seemed quite brutal and destructive, like the Spanish in South America, but the later kinds were much more benign, ultimately culminating in extremely beneficial British rule over Hong Kong. There are clearly some parts of the world that have ended up very rich as a direct result of colonial rule, like the US, Canada, Australia or Hong Kong. Within sub-Saharan Africa, the area that was colonized the longest (South Africa) is also the richest, and the only part of Africa that wasn't colonized (Ethiopia) is no richer than most other sub-Saharan African countries. Whether this colonization was beneficial on net is an empirical question; the only paper I have seen with an even vaguely credible methodology is this one on shipping islands:

Using a new database of islands throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans we examine whether colonial origins affect modern economic outcomes. We argue that the nature of discovery and colonization of islands provides random variation in the length and type of colonial experience. We instrument for length of colonization using wind direction and wind speed. Wind patterns which mattered a great deal during the age of sail do not have a direct effect on GDP today, but do affect GDP via their historical impact on colonization. The number of years spent as a European colony is strongly positively related to the island's GDP per capita and negatively related to infant mortality. This basic relationship is also found to hold for a standard dataset of developing countries. ... The timing of the colonial experience seems to matter. Time spent as a colony after 1700 is more beneficial to modern income than years before 1700, consistent with a change in the nature of colonial relationships over time.

You're definitely right that condemning the Iraq war is far from a fringe view, but honesty compels again me to object. While I think the Iraq war was a mistake, it must be noted that as late as 2006 it seems the majority of Iraqis actually thought the war was a good idea, even after seeing 3 years of poorly-administered aftermath:

A majority of Iraqis (61%) still believe that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth the hardships they might have suffered, but this is down from the 77 percent who said this in January.

I haven't checked this, but it seems quite plausible to me that in 2006 the war was actually more popular in Iraq than it was in the west!

Additionally, it's also important to note that Iraq's GDP has grown dramatically since the war. In 2002 it was around $19bn; by 2012 it was apparently almost 10x higher at around $218 (and has remained around this level since). They benefited from a rise in the oil price, of course, but I don't think that can explain everything, and oil prices have fallen again now anyway. Their unemployment rate also apparently fell from around 9-10% pre-war to around 8% now.

More pertinently from your case, the invasion of Iraq was clearly quite an unusual situation. In the 17 years since we have not seen another similar invasion by western powers, partly because western governments have little desire to repeat the expensive war + subsequent nation-building process. Most poor countries have not seen a conflict similar to the Iraq war, and probably will not (if nothing else they rarely pretend to have WMDs!); civil wars are much more common. As such I don't think the Iraq war experience has much read-through to your ultimate question how how effective farm equipment rental programs in sub-Saharan Africa will be.

A different scenario to contrast the Iraq experience with would be the English invasion of Sierra Leone in 2000. Unlike Iraq, Sierre Leone is the sort of extremely poor country that EAs typically consider health and poverty interventions in, and the military intervention was extremely successful:

The rebel forces were scared away from the city, the UN got off its knees and the government army was revitalised. Eighteen months later, Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war was brought to an end. In the streets of Freetown at the time the graffiti read: "Queen Elizabeth for king!" and "Return to us our colonial mother!" Tony Blair remains more popular here than anywhere else on the planet. He still visits the country every couple of years, and officials from his office are seconded into the finance and health ministries. Several Sierra Leoneans said they would personally campaign for Blair to be the country's president. A young Freetown documentary-maker, Arthur Pratt, told me: "We think we are to him as a favourite child."

Now, the intervention in Sierra Leone was unusual in how well it went. But I don't think you can consider unusually bad interventions like Iraq without also considering unusually good interventions as well.

Comment by Dale on Systemic change, global poverty eradication, and a career plan rethink: am I right? · 2020-07-16T16:22:21.007Z · EA · GW

The 'freedom to trade internationally' composite, which is basically not-being-protectionist, saw one of the largest improvements of any of their scores over this time. They are still protectionist relative to many richer countries, like the JV requirements. But they are dramatically less protectionist than they used to be, and this change coincided with / preceded their dramatic growth.

Comment by Dale on Systemic change, global poverty eradication, and a career plan rethink: am I right? · 2020-07-16T15:51:12.528Z · EA · GW
Hickel claims that China's very non-neoliberal policy enriched its people

China's post-1979 reforms are one of the textbook examples of neoliberalism! They privatized many businesses, allowed the creation of markets for many goods and services, opened up to international trade and reduced capital controls. While there is still a great deal of central control, the level is dramatically lower than it was in the 1970s. Their economic freedom ranking improved from a terrible 3.59 in 1980 to a respectable (though still not great) 6 in 2002, a very rapid rise. This is a similar increase to other countries undergoing neoliberal reforms at the same time, like the UK, Chile and Sweden, though many of these started from a higher base.

EDIT: Unless you are talking about the One Child Policy, which I would agree is very non-neoliberal, and is a major policy.

Comment by Dale on Objections to Value-Alignment between Effective Altruists · 2020-07-16T14:20:54.239Z · EA · GW

Interesting article. I would like to raise one quabble:

Advocates for traditional diversity metrics such as race, gender and class do so precisely because they track different ways of thinking.

I agree this is the stated reason for many corporate diversity advocates, but I think it is not their true reason. In practice many companies recruit using basically a combination of filters whose purpose is to select people with a certain way of thinking (e.g. resumes, interviews, psychological screens) combined with various quotas for desired racial groups. If getting cognitive diversity was the goal they would try testing and selecting for that directly, or at least stop actively selecting against it. The status quo is likely to mean McKinsey get people from a variety of races, all of whom went to Harvard Business School, which I presume is basically what we want. After all, while cognitive diversity in some regards is useful, we want everyone to have the same (high) level of the cluster of skills that make up being a good consultant, like diligence, intelligence and sociability.

In particular, that even if hypothetically research showed that traditional racial/sexual diversity inhibited useful cognitive diversity (perhaps by making people less comfortable about sharing their views), advocates would be unlikely to change their mind.

I think their true motivations are more like some combination of:

  • Desire to appeal to a variety of audiences who would be less likely to buy from an outsider (e.g. hiring black sales guys to sell in black areas).
  • Wanting to avoid being criticized as racist by hostile outsiders.
  • Left wing conceptions of fairness on behalf of HR staff and other management, unrelated to firm objectives.
  • Intellectual conformism with others who believe for the previous three reasons.
A non-exhaustive subset of admired individuals I believe includes: ... As far as I perceive it, all revered individuals are male.

It seems a little rude to make public lists of perceived intelligence. Imagine how it would feel to be a prominent EA and to be excluded from the list? :-( In this case, I think you have excluded some people who are definitely higher in community estimation that some on your list, including some prominent women.

Members write articles about him in apparent awe and possibly jest

The linked article is from over eleven years ago. I think GWWC hadn't even launched at that point, let alone the rest of the EA community. This is like attacking democrats because Obama thought gay marriage was immoral and was trying to build a border wall with Mexico, both of which were the case in 2009.

Comment by Dale on Is it possible, and if so how, to arrive at ‘strong’ EA conclusions without the use of utilitarian principles? · 2020-07-13T14:04:41.044Z · EA · GW

Maybe a deontological version would consist of not merely doing enough to avoid violating moral law, but using evidence to absolutely minimize the risk of violating any such duties. For example, the Center for Effective Deontology might research contracts people commonly sign (like cell phones or insurance) and provide advice on how to avoid accidentally violating them to reduce promise-breaking.

Comment by Dale on avacyn's Shortform · 2020-07-13T13:18:34.347Z · EA · GW
DxE has been fairly controversial in the animal advocacy world

For anyone who hasn't been following closely, this is quite the understatement! Wayne once threatened to "start a big fight" at EAG in order to generate media attention.

Comment by Dale on EA considerations regarding increasing political polarization · 2020-07-01T04:55:40.462Z · EA · GW
For context, Facebook is the social media company that has been most reluctant to be political, and apparently this is really making them bleed financially.

I added up the numbers in the first article and got around $634m of total 2018 ad spend, vs 2019 facebook revenue of 70700bn - less than 1%. Many of those companies only say they are 'pausing' or 'for July', rather than stopping. Finally, a company that was re-considering its facebook ad spend for unrelated reasons might want to frame it as a moral stance.

Perhaps principle-agent problems are at play; individual ideologues put SJ ahead of corporate profitability, and the much larger number of ordinary people are afraid of being bullied so do not speak out. But this is obviously not a full explanation.

Comment by Dale on Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths? · 2020-06-10T15:42:10.798Z · EA · GW
Who is the 'we' here and by whose yardstick the benefit measured?

Investigations into police brutality that follow viral footage have historically been quite harmful for all involved. The upside is a small reduction in police brutality. The downside is a massive increase in non-police brutality, as found in this recent paper:

all investigations that were preceded by "viral" incidents of deadly force have led to a large and statistically significant increase in homicides and total crime. We estimate that these investigations caused almost 900 excess homicides and almost 34,000 excess felonies. The leading hypothesis for why these investigations increase homicides and total crime is an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity. In Chicago, the number of police-civilian interactions decreased by almost 90% in the month after the investigation was announced. In Riverside CA, interactions decreased 54%. In St. Louis, self-initiated police activities declined by 46%. Other theories we test such as changes in community trust or the aggressiveness of consent decrees associated with investigations -- all contradict the data in important ways.

Indeed the harm done by one day of reduced policing in Chicago may have already rendered the protests a net negative, even ignoring spreading Coronavirus:

From 7 p.m. Friday, May 29, through 11 p.m. Sunday, May 31, 25 people were killed in the city, with another 85 wounded by gunfire, according to data maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
In a city with an international reputation for crime — where 900 murders per year were common in the early 1990s — it was the most violent weekend in Chicago’s modern history, stretching police resources that were already thin because of protests and looting.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a longtime crusader against gun violence who leads St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, said it was “open season” last weekend in his neighborhood and others on the South and West sides.

I also think you misunderstand your fellow EAs:

Animal rights activists are not turning out in large numbers to get tear gassed and beaten for the cause. This is pretty good evidence that they are not in the set of 'everyone else who thinks their reason is as good as I think this one is'.

Many animal rights activists believe that the status quo is far far worse than the holocaust. There are billions of animals being farmed for meat today, generally treated very cruelly. Whatever you think of the state of US race relations, it is clear that, if animals matter, they are much worse off - both much more numerous and treated much much worse!

I think what you are missing is that there are factors other than believed importance of cause that determine one's actions. For example, animal rights activists might care about suppressing the pandemic! Or they might think getting tear gassed was counter-productive!


You suggest that concessions will help reduce the scale of the protests, but my impression is that the literature suggests that actually repression is effective. For example, this study on the 2011 London Riots, where first-time looters were punished relatively harshly, found it was successful in reducing crime:

The criminal justice response was to make sentencing for rioters much more severe. We show a significant drop in riot crimes across London in the six months after the riots, consistent with a deterrence effect from the tougher sentencing. Moreover, we find that non-riot crimes actually went in the opposite direction, suggesting a response from criminals who look to have substituted away from the types of crimes that received tougher sentences. We find little evidence that spatial displacement or extra police presence on the streets of London in the wake of the riots accounts for these patterns of change. More evidence of general deterrence comes from the observation that crime also fell in the post-riot aftermath in areas where rioting did not take place.

Similarly, this study on Israeli counter-terrorism police:

An increase in repressive actions leads to a reduction in terrorist attacks. ... An increase in conciliatory actions has no effect on terrorism.

Finally my guess is that this is sort of irrelevant anyway because OP is probably not a senior government official; she may be able to persuade some friends not to go protest, but probably can't change US policy.