Posts

US Policy Careers Speaker Series - Summer 2022 2022-06-19T18:07:01.887Z
Notes on "The Myth of the Nuclear Revolution" (Lieber & Press, 2020) 2022-05-24T15:02:19.959Z
Working in US policy as a foreign national: Immigration pathways and types of impact 2022-04-25T12:55:11.399Z
Notes on "The Politics of Crisis Management" (Boin et al., 2016) 2022-01-30T22:51:44.692Z
Wikipedia editing is important, tractable, and neglected 2021-11-28T15:47:21.058Z
New Articles on Utilitarianism.net: Population Ethics and Theories of Well-Being 2021-08-20T14:38:01.287Z
[Linkpost] How Humanity Gave Itself an Extra Life - NYT 2021-05-01T07:34:27.397Z
Launching Utilitarianism.net: An Introductory Online Textbook on Utilitarianism 2020-03-09T17:13:04.555Z
Application Process for the 2019 Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program 2019-09-17T07:32:36.941Z
Framing Effective Altruism as Overcoming Indifference 2019-05-25T12:10:19.474Z
Concrete Ways to Reduce Risks of Value Drift and Lifestyle Drift 2018-05-08T09:50:14.302Z

Comments

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Affectable universe? · 2022-05-25T19:46:44.932Z · EA · GW

Toby Ord explains several related distinctions very clearly in his paper 'The Edges of Our Universe'. Highly recommended: https://arxiv.org/abs/2104.01191

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Books / book reviews on nuclear risk, WMDs, great power war? · 2022-05-24T15:06:29.944Z · EA · GW

Copied from my post: Notes on "The Myth of the Nuclear Revolution" (Lieber & Press, 2020)

I recently completed a graduate school class on nuclear weapons policy, where we read the 2020 book “The Myth of the Nuclear Revolution: Power Politics in the Atomic Age” by Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press. It is the most insightful nuclear security book I have read to date and while I disagree with some of the book’s outlook and conclusions, it is interesting and well written. The book is also very accessible and fairly short (180 pages). In sum, I believe more people interested in nuclear security would benefit from reading the book.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on What moral philosophies besides utilitarianism are compatible with effective altruism? · 2022-04-16T21:33:00.993Z · EA · GW

In "The Definition of Effective Altruism", William MacAskill writes that 

"Effective altruism is often considered to simply be a rebranding of utilitarianism, or to merely refer to applied utilitarianism...It is true that effective altruism has some similarities with utilitarianism: it is maximizing, it is primarily focused on improving wellbeing, many members of the community make significant sacrifices in order to do more good, and many members of the community self-describe as utilitarians.

But this is very different from effective altruism being the same as utilitarianism. Unlike utilitarianism, effective altruism does not claim that one must always sacrifice one’s own interests if one can benefit others to a greater extent. Indeed, on the above definition effective altruism makes no claims about what obligations of benevolence one has.

Unlike utilitarianism, effective altruism does not claim that one ought always to do the good, no matter what the means; indeed...there is a strong community norm against ‘ends justify the means’ reasoning.

Finally, unlike utilitarianism, effective altruism does not claim that the good equals the sum total of wellbeing. As noted above, it is compatible with egalitarianism, prioritarianism, and, because it does not claim that wellbeing is the only thing of value, with views on which non-welfarist goods are of value.

In general, very many plausible moral views entail that there is a pro tanto reason to promote the good, and that improving wellbeing is of moral value. If a moral view endorses those two ideas, then effective altruism is part of the morally good life." (emphasis added)

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on What moral philosophies besides utilitarianism are compatible with effective altruism? · 2022-04-16T20:58:50.967Z · EA · GW

The following paper is relevant: Pummer & Crisp (2020). Effective Justice, Journal of Moral Philosophy, 17(4):398-415.

From the abstract: 
"Effective Justice, a possible social movement that would encourage promoting justice most effectively, given limited resources. The latter minimal view reflects an insight about justice, and our non-diminishing moral reason to promote more of it, that surprisingly has gone largely unnoticed and undiscussed. The Effective Altruism movement has led many to reconsider how best to help others, but relatively little attention has been paid to the differences in degrees of cost-effectiveness of activities designed to [in]crease injustice." 
 

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on [Linkpost] Kurzgesagt Video on the good news case on climate · 2022-04-08T19:03:25.572Z · EA · GW

Great video, I was very happy seeing Kurzgesagt promote this frame! Also relevant: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ckPSrWeghc4gNsShK/good-news-on-climate-change

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Effectiveness is a Conjunction of Multipliers · 2022-03-25T22:12:02.617Z · EA · GW

Great post! While I agree with your main claims, I believe the numbers for the multipliers (especially in aggregate and for ex ante impact evaluations) are nowhere near as extreme in reality as your article suggests for the reasons that Brian Tomasik elaborates on in these two articles:

(i) Charity Cost-Effectiveness in an Uncertain World 

(ii) Why Charities Usually Don't Differ Astronomically in Expected Cost-Effectiveness  

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on New Nuclear Security Grantmaking Programme at Longview Philanthropy · 2022-03-15T16:41:25.830Z · EA · GW

I'm very excited about this development!

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on EA Projects I'd Like to See · 2022-03-13T22:56:35.240Z · EA · GW

Excellent post! I really appreciate your proposal and framing for a book on utilitarianism. In line with your point, William MacAskill, Richard Yetter Chappell and I also perceived a lack of accessible, modern, and high-quality resources on utilitarianism (and related ideas). This is what motivated us to create utilitarianism.net, an online textbook on utilitarianism. The website has been getting a lot of traction over the past year, and we are still expanding and improving its content (including plans to experiment with non-text media and translations into other languages). We encourage anyone to reach out to us with ideas for additional content we could create or any other ways to improve the website.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on What psychological traits predict interest in effective altruism? · 2022-02-26T01:41:14.454Z · EA · GW

Strong upvote! I found reading this very interesting and the results seem potentially quite useful to inform EA community building efforts.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Open Thread: Spring 2022 · 2022-02-21T22:40:08.575Z · EA · GW

Hi Timothy, it's great that you found your way here! I am also from Germany and am happy to report that there is a vibrant German EA community (including an upcoming conference in Berlin in September/October that you may want to join). 

Regarding your university studies, I essentially agree with Ryan's comment. However, while studying in the UK and US can be great (I've done both!), I appreciate that doing so may be daunting and financially infeasible for many young Germans. If you decide to study in Germany and are more interested in the social sciences than in the natural sciences, I would encourage you (like Ryan) to consider undergraduate programs that combine economics with politics and/or philosophy. Based on my own experience, I can particularly recommend the BA Philosophy & Economics at the University of Bayreuth, though you should also consider the BSc Economics at the University of Mannheim (which you can combine with a minor in philosophy or political science).

In case you are interested in talking through all this sometime, feel free to reach out to me and we'll schedule a call. :)

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Open Thread: Spring 2022 · 2022-02-17T16:25:39.726Z · EA · GW

Time to up your game, Linch! 😉

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Would you like to run the EARadio podcast? · 2022-01-29T14:46:46.566Z · EA · GW

I want to express my deep gratitude to you, Patrick, for running EA Radio for all these years! 🙏 Early in my EA involvement (2015-16), I listened to all the EA Radio talks available at the time and found them very valuable. 

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on The Toba Supervolcanic Eruption · 2021-12-27T00:22:23.765Z · EA · GW

Excellent! A well-deserved second prize in the Creative Writing Contest.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Is EA compatible with technopessimism? · 2021-12-25T13:09:08.085Z · EA · GW

In my experience, many EAs have a fairly nuanced perspective on technological progress and aren't unambiguous techno-optimists. 

For instance, a substantial fraction of the community is very concerned about the potential negative impacts of advanced technologies (AI, biotech, solar geoengineering, cyber, etc.) and actively works to reduce the associated risks. 

Moreover, some people in the community have promoted the idea of "differential (technological) progress" to suggest that we should work to (i) accelerate risk-reducing, welfare-enhancing technologies (or ideas generally) and (ii) decelerate technologies (or ideas) with the opposite effects. That said, studying the concrete implications of differential progress seems fairly neglected and deserves to be explored in much greater depth. In line with the above idea, it seems common for EAs to argue that technological progress has been very beneficial in some regards—improving human welfare, especially over the last hundreds of years (e.g. here)—while it has been harmful in other regards, such as factory farming having led to greater animal suffering.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Arguing for utilitarianism · 2021-12-15T03:33:07.873Z · EA · GW

Utilitarianism.net has also recently published an article on Arguments for Utilitarianism, written by Richard Yetter Chappell. (I'm sharing this article since it may interest readers of this post)

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Wikipedia editing is important, tractable, and neglected · 2021-12-01T14:57:09.792Z · EA · GW

Thanks, it's valuable to hear your more skeptical view on this point! I've included it after several reviewers of my post brought it up and still think it was probably worth including as one of several potential self-interested benefits of Wikipedia editing. 

I was mainly trying to draw attention to the fact that it is possible to link a Wikipedia user account to a real person and that it is worth considering whether to include it in certain applications (something I've done in previous applications). I still think Wikipedia editing is a decent signal of pro-social motivation, experience engaging with specific topics, and of some writing practice. Thus, it seems comparable to me to a personal blog, which you may also include, where relevant, in certain applications as evidence for these things.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Wikipedia editing is important, tractable, and neglected · 2021-12-01T14:41:33.115Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this comment, Michael! I agree with all the points you make and should have been more careful to compare Wikipedia editing against the alternatives (I began doing this in an earlier draft of this post and then cut it because it became unwieldy). 

In my experience, few EAs I've talked to have ever seriously considered Wikipedia editing. Therefore, my main objective with this post was to get more people to recognize it as one option of something valuable they might do with a part of their time; I wasn't trying to argue that Wikipedia editing is the best use of their time, which depends a lot on individual circumstances and preferences. 

In fact, I'd expect the opportunity costs for many people in the community to be too high to make Wikipedia editing worth their while, but I'd leave that judgment up to them. That said, some people (like me) will find Wikipedia editing sufficiently enjoyable that it becomes more of a fun hobby and doesn't compete much with other productive uses of their time. 

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Wikipedia editing is important, tractable, and neglected · 2021-12-01T14:21:37.988Z · EA · GW

I strongly agree that we should learn our lessons from this incident and seriously try to avoid any repetition of something similar. In my view, the key lessons are something like:

  1. It's probably best to avoid paid Wikipedia editing
  2. It's crucial to respect the Wikipedia community's rules and norms (I've really tried to emphasize this heavily in this post)
  3. It's best to really approach Wikipedia editing with a mindset of "let's look for actual gaps in quality and coverage of important articles" and avoid anything that looks like promotional editing

I think it would be a big mistake for one's takeaway from this episode to be something like "the EA community should not engage with Wikipedia".

Two more general lessons that I would add, which have nothing to do with the Vipul incident:

  1. Avoid controversial and highly political topics (editing any such topics makes you much more likely to have your edits reverted, get into "edit wars", and have bad experiences)
  2. Avoid being drawn into "edit wars".  If another editor is hostile to your edits on a specific page, it's often better to simply move on than to engage.
Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Wikipedia editing is important, tractable, and neglected · 2021-12-01T14:05:26.192Z · EA · GW

As an example, look at this overview of the Wikipedia pages that Brian Tomasik has created and their associated pageview numbers (screenshot of the top 10 pages below). The pages created by Brian mostly cover very important (though fringe) topics and attract ~ 100,000 pageviews every year.  (Note that this overview ignores all the pages that Brian has edited but didn't create himself.)

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Wikipedia editing is important, tractable, and neglected · 2021-12-01T13:16:45.880Z · EA · GW

Someone (who is not me) just started a proposal for a WikiProject on Effective Altruism! To be accepted, this proposal will need to be supported by at least 6-12 active Wikipedia editors. If you're interested in contributing to such a WikiProject, please express "support" for the proposal on the proposal page.  

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Wikipedia editing is important, tractable, and neglected · 2021-11-30T13:24:04.990Z · EA · GW

This is the best tool I know of to get an overview of Wikipedia article pageview counts (as mentioned in the post); the only limitation with it is that pageview data "only" goes back to 2015.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on How can we make Our World in Data more useful to the EA community? · 2021-11-04T17:19:29.750Z · EA · GW

Create a page on biological weapons. This could include, for instance,

  1. An overview of offensive BW programs over time (when they were started, stopped, funding, staffing, etc.; perhaps with a separate section on the Soviet BW program)
  2. An overview of different international treaties relating to BW, including timelines and membership over time (i.e., the Geneva Protocol, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), Australia Group, UN Security Council Resolution 1540)
  3. Submissions of Confidence-Building Measures in the BWC over time (including as a percentage of the # of BWC States Parties and split in publicly-accessible and restricted-access) 
  4. A graph that visually compares the funding and # of staff in international organizations for the bioweapons regime compared to chemical and nuclear weapons (e.g., the BWC Implentation Support Unit compared to OPCW for chemical and the IAEA and CTBTO PrepCom for nuclear)
  5. (Perhaps include an overview on the global proliferation of high-biosafety labs, e.g. see Global Biolabs)
  6. (Perhaps include a section on how technological advancements may affect the BW threat, e.g., include a graph on the Carlson curve (Moore's law but for DNA sequencing))
Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on One-year masters degrees related to biosecurity? · 2021-10-29T14:59:51.397Z · EA · GW

For many people interested in but not yet fully committed to biosecurity, it may make more sense to choose a more general master's program in international affairs/security and then concentrate on biosecurity/biodefense to the extent possible within their program.

Some of the best master's programs to consider to this end:

  1. Georgetown University: MA in Security Studies (Washington, DC; 2 years) 
  2. Johns Hopkins University: MA in International Relations (Washington, DC; 2 years)
  3. Stanford University: Master's in International Policy (2 years)
  4. King's College London: variety of master's programs in the War Studies Department (London) (1 year)
  5. Sciences Po: Master in International Security (Paris; 2 years; can  be combined with the KCL degree as a dual degree)
  6. ETH Zurich: MSc program in Science, Technology and Policy (Zurich)

(Note that some of these may offer little room to focus on biosecurity specifically, though they may offer other useful courses, e.g. on AI, other emerging technologies, and great power conflict)

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on One-year masters degrees related to biosecurity? · 2021-10-29T14:44:18.090Z · EA · GW

The GMU Biodefense Master's is also offered as an online-only degree

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on One-year masters degrees related to biosecurity? · 2021-10-29T14:43:11.274Z · EA · GW

Georgetown University offers a 2-semester MSc in "Biohazardous Threat Agents & Emerging Infectious Diseases". Course description from the website: "a one year program designed to provide students with a solid foundation in the concepts of biological risk, disease threat, and mitigation strategies. The curriculum covers classic biological threats agents, global health security, emerging diseases, technologies, CBRN risk mitigation, and CBRN security."

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on New Articles on Utilitarianism.net: Population Ethics and Theories of Well-Being · 2021-08-20T21:14:46.274Z · EA · GW

Website traffic was initially low (i.e. 21k pageviews by 9k unique visitors from March to December 2020) but has since been gaining steam (i.e. 40k pageviews by 20k unique visitors in 2021 to date) as the website's search performance has improved. We expect traffic to continue growing significantly as we add more content, gather more backlinks and rise up the search  rank. For comparison, the Wikipedia article on utilitarianism has received ~ 480k pageviews in 2021 to date, which suggests substantial room for growth for utilitarianism.net.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Towards a Weaker Longtermism · 2021-08-09T16:54:01.966Z · EA · GW

I'm not sure what counts as 'astronomically' more cost effective, but if it means ~1000x more important/cost-effective I might agree with (ii).

This may be the crux - I would not count a ~ 1000x multiplier as anywhere near "astronomical" and should probably have made this clearer in my original comment. 

Claim (i), that the value of the long-term (in terms of lives, experiences, etc.) is astronomically larger than the value of the near-term,  refers to differences in value of something like 1030 x.

All my comment was meant to say is that it seems highly implausible that something like such a 1030x multiplier also applies to claim (ii), regarding the expected cost-effectiveness differences of long-term targeted versus near-term targeted interventions.

It may cause significant confusion if the term "astronomical" is used in one context to refer to a 1030x multiplier and in another context to a 1000x multiplier.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Towards a Weaker Longtermism · 2021-08-09T16:41:27.767Z · EA · GW

I'd like to point to the essay Multiplicative Factors in Games and Cause Prioritization as a relevant resource for the question of how we should apportion the community's resources across (longtermist and neartermist) causes:

TL;DR: If the impacts of two causes add together, it might make sense to heavily prioritize the one with the higher expected value per dollar.  If they multiply, on the other hand, it makes sense to more evenly distribute effort across the causes.  I think that many causes in the effective altruism sphere interact more multiplicatively than additive, implying that it's important to heavily support multiple causes, not just to focus on the most appealing one.
 

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Towards a Weaker Longtermism · 2021-08-09T16:20:04.105Z · EA · GW

Please see my above response to jackmalde's comment. While I understand and respect your argument, I don't think we are justified in placing high confidence in this  model of the long-term flowthrough effects of near-term targeted interventions. There are many similar more-or-less plausible models of such long-term flowthrough effects, some of which would suggest a positive net effect of near-term targeted interventions on the long-term future, while others would suggest a negative net effect. Lacking strong evidence that would allow us to accurately assess the plausibility of these models, we simply shouldn't place extreme weight on one specific model (and its practical implications) while ignoring other models (which may arrive at the opposite conclusion). 

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Towards a Weaker Longtermism · 2021-08-09T16:08:38.869Z · EA · GW

No, we probably don’t. All of our actions plausibly affect the long-term future in some way, and it is difficult to (be justified to) achieve very high levels of confidence about the expected long-term impacts of specific actions. We would require an exceptional  degree of confidence to claim that the long-term effects of our specific longtermist intervention are astronomically (i.e. by many orders of magnitude) larger than the long-term effects of some random neartermist interventions (or even doing nothing at all). Of course, this claim is perfectly compatible with longtermist interventions being a few orders of magnitude more impactful in expectation than neartermist interventions (but the difference is most likely not astronomical).

Brian Tomasik eloquently discusses this specific question in the above-linked essay. Note that while his essay focuses on charities, the same points likely apply to interventions and causes:

Occasionally there are even claims [among effective altruists] to the effect that "shaping the far future is 1030 times more important than working on present-day issues," based on a naive comparison of the number of lives that exist now to the number that might exist in the future.

I think charities do differ a lot in expected effectiveness. Some might be 5, 10, maybe even 100 times more valuable than others. Some are negative in value by similar amounts. But when we start getting into claimed differences of thousands of times, especially within a given charitable cause area, I become more skeptical. And differences of 1030 are almost impossible, because everything we do now may affect the whole far future and therefore has nontrivial expected impact on vast numbers of lives.

It would require razor-thin exactness to keep the expected impact on the future of one set of actions 1030 times lower than the expected impact of some other set of actions. (…) Note that these are arguments about ex ante expected value, not necessarily actual impact. (…) Suggesting that one charity is astronomically more important than another assumes a model in which cross-pollination effects are negligible.

Brian Tomasik further elaborates on similar points in a second essay, Charity Cost-Effectiveness in an Uncertain World. A relevant quote:

When we consider flow-through effects of our actions, the seemingly vast gaps in cost-effectiveness among charities are humbled to more modest differences, and we begin to find more worth in the diversity of activities that different people are pursuing.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on [PR FAQ] Sharing readership data with Forum authors · 2021-08-09T13:28:05.792Z · EA · GW

Agreed, I'd love this feature! I also frequently rely on pageview statistics to prioritize which Wikipedia articles to improve.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Towards a Weaker Longtermism · 2021-08-08T18:51:01.571Z · EA · GW

There is a big difference between (i) the very plausible claim that the value of the long-term (in terms of lives, experiences, etc.) is astronomically larger than the value of the near-term, and (ii) the rather implausible claim that interventions targeted at improving the long-term are astronomically more important/cost-effective than those targeted at improving the near-term. It seems to me that many longtermists believe (i) but that almost no-one believes (ii).

Basically, in this context the same points apply that Brian Tomasik made in his essay "Why Charities Usually Don't Differ Astronomically in Expected Cost-Effectiveness" (https://reducing-suffering.org/why-charities-dont-differ-astronomically-in-cost-effectiveness/)

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Writing about my job: Research Fellow, FHI · 2021-08-01T17:00:45.465Z · EA · GW

I really appreciated the many useful links you included in this post and would like to encourage others to strive to do the same when writing EA Forum articles.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on How to reach out to orgs en masse? · 2021-07-28T08:58:26.747Z · EA · GW

Happy to have you here, Linda! It sounds like you have some really important skills to offer and I wish you will find great opportunities to apply them.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on AMA: The new Open Philanthropy Technology Policy Fellowship · 2021-07-27T12:26:43.155Z · EA · GW

The listed application documents include a "Short essay (≤500 words)" without further details. Can you say more about what this entails and what you are looking for?

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on AMA: The new Open Philanthropy Technology Policy Fellowship · 2021-07-27T12:23:35.578Z · EA · GW

Are non-US citizens who hold a US work authorization disadvantaged in the application process even if they seek to enter a US policy career (and perhaps aim to become naturalized eventually)?

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on What novels, poetry, comics have EA themes, plots or characters? · 2021-07-25T09:38:49.965Z · EA · GW

There is Eliezer Yudkowsky's Harry Potter fan fiction "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" (HPMOR), which conveys many ideas and concepts that are relevant to EA: http://www.hpmor.com/

Please note that there is also a fan-produced audio version of HPMOR: https://hpmorpodcast.com/

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on The EA Forum Podcast is up and running · 2021-07-05T10:21:08.746Z · EA · GW

Great initiative! Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find the podcast on either of my two podcast apps (BeyondPod and Podcast Addict). Do you plan to make the podcast available across all major platforms?

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on You are allowed to edit Wikipedia · 2021-07-05T10:16:11.014Z · EA · GW

Strongly agree! I'm currently writing an EA Forum post making the case for Wikipedia editing.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on The most successful EA podcast of all time: Sam Harris and Will MacAskill (2020) · 2021-07-04T07:11:33.849Z · EA · GW

Awesome episode! I really enjoyed listening to it when it came out and was excited for Sam's large audiences across Waking Up and Making Sense to learn about EA in this way.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Open Thread: June 2021 · 2021-06-19T10:53:10.549Z · EA · GW

Welcome Naghma! It is great to have you here and learn about your background and interests.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Know anyone interested in litigation? · 2021-06-18T12:20:37.239Z · EA · GW

Hi Alene! I suspect you already know Jay Shooster (https://www.richmanlawpolicy.com/team/jay-shooster)? In case you don't, he might be a great contact for you.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on New? Start here! (Useful links) · 2021-06-15T18:46:01.851Z · EA · GW

Mine too!

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on What are some high-impact paths for a young person in the developing world? · 2021-06-14T16:21:55.038Z · EA · GW

Here is an old, informal 80,000 Hours document on this topic: https://wiki.80000hours.org/index.php/Potentially_promising_career_paths_in_poorer_countries

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Help me find the crux between EA/XR and Progress Studies · 2021-06-03T07:33:11.056Z · EA · GW

Regarding your question:

What would moral/social progress actually look like?

This is a big and difficult question, but here are some pointers to relevant concepts and resources:

  • Moral circle expansion (MCE) - MCE is "the attempt to expand the perceived boundaries of the category of moral patients." For instance, this could involve increasing the moral concern in the wider public (or, more  targeted, among societal decision-makers) for non-human animals or future people. Arguably,  MCE could help reduce the risk of societies committing further atrocities like factory farming and also increase the resources spent on existential risk mitigation (as there is a greater concern for the welfare of future people).
  • Improving institutional decision-making - this covers a very broad range of interventions, including, for instance, voting reform. The case for it is that "Improving the quality of decision-making in important institutions could improve our ability to solve almost all other problems. It could also help society’s ability to identify “unknown unknowns” – problems we haven’t even thought of yet – and to mitigate all global catastrophic risks".
  • See also this list of resources on differential progress (and in particular, Differential Intellectual Progress as a Positive-Sum Project)
  • Global priorities research (GPR) - arguably, a key priority for GPR is to provide answers to the above question.  For instance, this might involve rigorously investigating the plausibility of longtermism in the light of objections (such as the epistemic objection).
  • The Possibility of an Ongoing Moral Catastrophe - a very interesting paper arguing "for believing that our society is unknowingly guilty of serious, large-scale wrongdoing.". The paper ends by making two suggestions relevant to the above question: "The article then discusses what our society should do in light of the likelihood that we are doing something seriously wrong: we should regard intellectual progress, of the sort that will allow us to find and correct our moral mistakes as soon as possible, as an urgent moral priority rather than as a mere luxury; and we should also consider it important to save resources and cultivate flexibility, so that when the time comes to change our policies we will be able to do so quickly and smoothly."
Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on Help me find the crux between EA/XR and Progress Studies · 2021-06-03T07:06:05.676Z · EA · GW

Regarding your question:

Does XR consider tech progress default-good or default-bad?

Leopold Aschenbrenner's paper Existential risk and growth provides one interesting perspective on this question (note that while I find the paper informative, I don't think it settles the question).

A key question the paper seeks to address is this:

Does faster economic growth accelerate the development of dangerous newtechnologies, thereby increasing the probability of an existential catastrophe?

The paper's (preliminary) conclusion is 

we could be living in a unique “time of perils,” having developed technologies advanced enough to threaten our permanent destruction, but not having grown wealthy enough yet to be willing to spend sufficiently on safety. Accelerating growth during this “time of perils” initially increases risk, but improves the chances of humanity’s survival in the long run. Conversely, even short-term stagnation could substantially curtail the future of humanity.

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism · 2021-05-24T06:59:42.221Z · EA · GW

My impression is that as an organisation CEA has undergone substantial change over time. How might working at CEA today be different compared to working there, say, 3/5/7 years ago?

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism · 2021-05-24T06:56:35.875Z · EA · GW

Do you believe the EA community's overall level of investment in community building is adequate/too low/too high?

(While this question isn't strictly about CEA itself, I'd imagine a key motivating belief for many CEA staff members would be that community building work is neglected relative to other high impact opportunities.)

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism · 2021-05-24T06:53:06.374Z · EA · GW

What are the most positive and/or negative aspects of your work at CEA?

Comment by Darius_M (Darius_Meissner) on How much do you (actually) work? · 2021-05-20T20:56:05.891Z · EA · GW

This is an interesting question, though I am somewhat concerned that the responses will be biased towards high numbers because people who work relatively fewer hours may be less likely to respond. I would give much more weight to an anonymous survey.

On a different note, I have personally found it useful to track my working hours using Toggl Track (https://toggl.com/track/). This has given me a much more accurate sense of how many hours I usually work per week and how long I should expect projects to take.