Posts

David Denkenberger: Loss of Industrial Civilization and Recovery (Workshop) 2019-02-19T15:58:01.214Z · score: 17 (7 votes)
Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED) Progress Report & Giving Tuesday Appeal 2018-11-21T05:20:37.922Z · score: 13 (9 votes)
Cost-Effectiveness of Foods for Global Catastrophes: Even Better than Before? 2018-11-19T21:57:05.518Z · score: 14 (17 votes)
[Paper] Interventions that May Prevent or Mollify Supervolcanic Eruptions 2018-01-15T21:46:27.407Z · score: 20 (20 votes)
How you can save expected lives for $0.20-$400 each and reduce X risk 2017-11-27T02:23:44.742Z · score: 24 (28 votes)
Should we be spending no less on alternate foods than AI now? 2017-10-29T23:28:39.440Z · score: 31 (33 votes)
Futures of altruism special issue? 2016-12-18T19:16:02.114Z · score: 1 (3 votes)
Saving expected lives at $10 apiece? 2016-12-14T15:38:38.561Z · score: 15 (15 votes)
Advice Wanted on Expanding an EA Project 2016-04-23T23:20:02.455Z · score: 4 (4 votes)
Essay Competition on Preparation for Global Food Catastrophes 2016-03-17T01:49:12.131Z · score: 6 (6 votes)
Investment opportunity for the risk neutral 2016-01-25T15:29:48.579Z · score: -1 (11 votes)
My Cause Selection: Dave Denkenberger 2015-08-16T15:06:25.456Z · score: 6 (6 votes)

Comments

Comment by denkenberger on Ask Me Anything! · 2019-08-23T03:34:03.453Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Well, there is "eucatastrophe" in existential hope.

Comment by denkenberger on Impact Report for Effective Altruism Coaching · 2019-08-08T02:57:30.350Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I’m very impressed both with how you have built this operation in terms of clients and the positive impact they report. It’s great that you appear to be partially addressing the 80,000 Hours bottleneck for coaching.

Could you give us an idea how many hours a week a typical client of yours works?

For people not familiar with how consulting works, they might naïvely multiply the $125 per hour (because I’m understanding that grants top off the sliding scale) by 40 hours per week, 50 weeks a year and get $250,000 per year “salary.” So it might be useful for them to see roughly how many billable hours a week you get and have a feel for how big expenses are.

Comment by denkenberger on Age-Weighted Voting · 2019-08-01T02:01:35.778Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Interesting - have you considering age-weighted voting in the context of quadratic voting?

Comment by denkenberger on 'Longtermism' · 2019-07-28T17:50:13.319Z · score: 33 (11 votes) · EA · GW

I second weakening the definition. As someone who cares deeply about future generations, I think it is infeasible to value them equally to people today in terms of actual actions. I sketched out an optimal mitigation path for asteroid/comet impact. Just valuing the present generation in one country, we should do alternate foods. Valuing the present world, we should do asteroid detection/deflection. Once you value hundreds of future generations, we should add in food storage and comet detection/deflection, costing many trillions of dollars. But if you value even further in the future, we should take even more extreme measures, like many redundancies. And this is for a very small risk compared to things like nuclear winter and AGI. Furthermore, even if one does discount future generations, if you think we could have many computer consciousnesses in only a century or so, again we should be donating huge amount of resources for reducing even small risks. I guess one way of valuing future generations equally to the present generation is to value each generation an infinitesimal amount, but that doesn't seem right.

Comment by denkenberger on How many people would be killed as a direct result of a US-Russia nuclear exchange? · 2019-07-23T02:22:26.139Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I have not read it, but that is an interesting conclusion from "Why Civil Defense Failed." Some of the interventions for preventing firestorming were natural gas shut off, electrical shutoff, enhanced sprinklers, and automatically closing shades. One proposed in 1967 was intentionally exploding nuclear weapons beneath the city to create a fire break to stop the spread of a mass fire-talk about fighting fire with fire! That is interesting that the political incentive might actually be greater now to prevent fire storming. Still, preparing for alternate foods would be lower cost than preventing fire storming given nuclear winter or storing more food. So that's why I think alternate foods have a better chance of actually getting implemented. Yes, the industry that could be used for alternate foods may be targeted, but some alternate foods do not depend on industry still functioning. Furthermore, if the world were prepared for alternate foods, it could potentially provide these foods to the target countries.


Comment by denkenberger on How many people would be killed as a direct result of a US-Russia nuclear exchange? · 2019-07-20T03:37:15.624Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I looked into a dozen or so interventions for preventing firestorm given nuclear war. I estimated that some of them could be cost effective only looking at saving lives of US citizens. However, I abandoned the project once I realized that some of the ideas were around in the Cold War, and they were still not implemented, so it was very unlikely we would implement them now.

If one side believes they are being attacked and launches weapons, there would not be a period of tension before the attack. Even if there is a period of tension like the Cuban missile crisis, I don’t believe that caused people to evacuate cities, though of course the attack could not have occurred as quickly as it could now.

I’m not sure if your proposed diet has the required essential oils. These tend to go rancid, though they might still be safe to eat.

Comment by denkenberger on How many people would be killed as a direct result of a US-Russia nuclear exchange? · 2019-07-15T01:52:57.093Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Those videos were helpful. You mentioned that secondary fires can start because of natural gas supply-there is a book I’ve read discussing this in detail called Fire After Earthquake. I think secondary fires remain a large risk even with building codes because the valves to shut off the supply could be damaged by the blast.

Sprinklers only have the capacity to put out a fire in one limited location of the building-since the thermal radiation from the fireball would set multiple fires, sprinklers would be overwhelmed.

A big problem with food storage is that it would be trillions of dollars for the whole world to do it – very unlikely to get funded and it would exacerbate current malnutrition.

Comment by denkenberger on New study in Science implies that tree planting is the cheapest climate change solution · 2019-07-07T07:01:21.253Z · score: 18 (9 votes) · EA · GW

I did not look at the details, but it appears that neither of these estimates take into account opportunity costs. Typical farming profit is around $200 per hectare per year, so if instead you sequester 5 tCO2e per hectare per year, that would cost ~$40 per tCO2e, ~2 orders of magnitude more expensive. By the way, I believe $300 billion divided by 205 billion tons carbon = 750 billion tons CO2 would be $0.40 per ton CO2.

Comment by denkenberger on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-04T19:27:10.063Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I think it is good to keep vigilant and make sure we are not missing good cause areas. However, I think that your examples are not actually neglected. Using this scale, ~$10 billion per year or more is not neglected.

The point is that there is a difference between working in a general area and working on the specific subset of that area that is highest impact and most neglected. In much the same way as AI safety research is neglected even if AI research more generally is not, likewise in the parallel cases I present, I argue that serious evidence-based research into the specific questions I present is highly neglected, even if the broader areas are not.

Below I try to look at actual effort to resolving the problem effectively, so it is not analogous to the total amount of money put into artificial intelligence. For resource depletion, the total amount of money put in could include all the money spent on extracting resources. So I’m just looking at efforts towards resource sustainability, which would be analogous to artificial intelligence safety.

One flaw with the 80,000 hours scale is that it does not take into account historic work. Historically, there has been a tremendous amount of effort devising and implementing practical alternatives to capitalism. So averaged over the last century, it would be far more than $10 billion per year.

Before climate change reached prominence in the environmental movement, much effort was directed at recycling and renewable energy to address the resource depletion issue. Even now some effort in these areas is directed at resource depletion. In previous decades, there was a large amount of effort on family planning, partly because of resource depletion issues, and even now billions of dollars are being spent per year on this. So I am quite sure more than $10 billion per year is being spent on addressing resource depletion.

I’m not easily finding the number of philosophers of religion. However, I know that many people who are disillusioned with the religion they grew up with do not just jump to atheism, and instead try to find the true religion (at least for certain period of time). So if you add up all the effort hours with some reasonable wage, I’m pretty sure it would average more than $10 billion per year over the last century.

So the neglectedness of these cause areas just cannot compare to that of artificial intelligence safety, which is only tens of millions of dollars per year (and very small more than a decade ago). Of course it is still possible that there are good opportunities within these cause areas, but it is just much less likely than in more neglected cause areas.

Comment by denkenberger on Corporate Global Catastrophic Risks (C-GCRs) · 2019-07-04T18:14:43.816Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I don't think your comparison between corporations and governments is quite fair. Governments can influence a larger amount of revenue than just their own through regulation of companies. So some people have compared the GDP of countries to the revenue of corporations. But then the problem is that GDP is calculated by value add, and the value add of a corporation is significantly lower than their revenue (because they are paying for other companies' products and services).

Comment by denkenberger on What is the effect of relationship status on EA impact? · 2019-07-04T06:03:30.285Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Lots of analysis on this here.

Comment by denkenberger on Raemon's EA Shortform Feed · 2019-07-03T04:22:02.766Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that EA does not have 1000 volunteer jobs. However, here is a list of some possibilities. I know ALLFED could still effectively utilize more volunteers.

Comment by denkenberger on Information security careers for GCR reduction · 2019-07-02T07:37:52.504Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Good points. Presumably infosec to prevent nuclear weapons from being hacked would also be valuable direct work?

Comment by denkenberger on How bad would nuclear winter caused by a US-Russia nuclear exchange be? · 2019-06-30T18:04:17.678Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

With just stored food, trade, and no conflict, I have estimated around 10% of people would survive. However, if the food is not well protected, migrants could go around the world and everyone would starve.

Comment by denkenberger on Raemon's EA Shortform Feed · 2019-06-30T07:23:14.798Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

How about volunteering for an EA org?

Comment by denkenberger on How likely is a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia? · 2019-06-30T06:21:50.580Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Another estimate of ~1%/year US-Russia nuclear war is:

M.E. Hellman, Risk Analysis of Nuclear Deterrence, The Bent of Tau Beta Pi, 2008.

Comment by denkenberger on How bad would nuclear winter caused by a US-Russia nuclear exchange be? · 2019-06-30T06:15:29.309Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

More feedback:

The label on the burning house should probably say urban rather than wildland.

With a mean of 2.7°C drop, your graph indicates more like 17% loss in precipitation, not 7%.

Though the growing season of a crop is usually expressed in days, more accurate is growing degree days, where you add up the temperature above some base temperature, typically around 4°C. Because nuclear winter would not only shorten the growing season but also reduce average temperatures, it would doubly reduce the growing degree days. Did you take this into account?

Comment by denkenberger on How bad would nuclear winter caused by a US-Russia nuclear exchange be? · 2019-06-30T03:39:23.288Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Nice work on the Guesstimate model. I don't think the limited or moderate countervalue scenarios are very likely. I saw study a long time ago that I believe was two people inflicting pain on each other thinking they were just getting tit for tat revenge, but actually there was escalation of something like a factor of three in each exchange. It seems like escalation is a very large factor in most wars. So I think full-scale countervalue is quite likely, even if it starts out as counterforce or limited countervalue.

Comment by denkenberger on How many people would be killed as a direct result of a US-Russia nuclear exchange? · 2019-06-30T03:00:56.055Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for all your work on this!

The US arsenal is large, accurate, flexible, and relatively low-yield — all characteristics associated with counterforce targeting.

The large could just be left over from the arms race. Accurate and flexible could be because the US has a big defense budget and likes using advanced technology. Low yield means more people killed for the same amount of total explosive energy in a countervalue scenario. So I don't think this should be a large update towards counterforce. However, I think it does make sense to have some probability mass on counterforce as I did on my risk analysis.

Comment by denkenberger on How many people would be killed as a direct result of a US-Russia nuclear exchange? · 2019-06-29T22:47:15.166Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that assuming only one nuclear weapon per metropolitan area is a severe underestimate. Luisa finds mortality of 36 million in the US of full-scale counter value. Most analysts find most people in metro areas to die, so it is more like 150 million dead.

But I don't think I agree that multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs) will mean less firestorming. First we need to distinguish a mass fire with a moving combustion front and a firestorm which is the entire city burning simultaneously. It is the firestorm that would most likely inject smoke directly into the stratosphere because the plume is so wide that it does not get diluted. So having multiple nuclear weapons hit a city at once means a firestorm is more likely and therefore worse nuclear winter. In either case, with concrete buildings, there may very well be some combustible material that is trapped that does not burn. I account for this in my model here. However, at least in the US, a minority of buildings are concrete. Nagasaki still had a mass fire, though it did not firestorm.

Comment by denkenberger on How likely is a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia? · 2019-06-29T06:25:04.037Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW
Based on this reasoning, Barrett et al. (2013) concluded that the median annual probability of inadvertent nuclear war between the US and Russia is about 0.9% (90% CI: 0.02% — 7%).

Note that when I plug this distribution into Guesstimate, I get ~0.4% median and ~1.7% mean.

Comment by denkenberger on Which nuclear wars should worry us most? · 2019-06-20T01:35:08.648Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Are you only worried about extinction, or existential risk more broadly? I talk about a number of ways that a catastrophe the size of a regional nuclear war could lead to long-term impact, including instability leading to full-scale nuclear war.

Comment by denkenberger on Which nuclear wars should worry us most? · 2019-06-18T07:10:59.636Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I hope that the risk of nuclear war between China the US remains low. However, 12 out 16 times that there has been a switch in which is the most militarily powerful country in the world, there has been war (Destined for War by Graham Allison) (though we should not take that literally for the current situation).

Comment by denkenberger on Framing Effective Altruism as Overcoming Indifference · 2019-06-18T00:59:01.841Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

+6 on "warm and calculating"

Comment by denkenberger on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-06-13T03:29:14.102Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for you recent post and your ALLFED feedback.

I have made my request for such publicly so also responding publicly, as such openness can only be beneficial to the investigation and advancing of the causes we are passionate about.

We appreciate your view of ALLFED’s work being of “decent quality, helpful to many and made with well-aligned intention”.

We also appreciate many good points raised in your feedback, and would like to comment on them as follows.

As I mentioned in the response linked above, I currently feel relatively hesitant about civilizational collapse scenarios and so find the general cause area of most of ALLFED's work to be of comparatively lower importance than the other areas I tend to recommend grants in

People’s intuition on the long-term future impact of these type of catastrophes and the tractability of reducing that impact with money varies tremendously.

One possible mechanism for extinction from nuclear winter is as follows. It is tempting to think that if there is enough stored food to keep the population alive for five years until agriculture recovers, that 10% of people will survive. However, if the food is distributed evenly, then everyone will die after six months. It is not clear to me that the food will be so well protected from the masses that many people will survive. Similarly, there could be some continuous food production in these scenarios if managed sustainably such as fish that could relocate to the tropics. However, again, if there are many desperate people, they might eat all the fish, so everyone would starve. Similarly, hunter gatherers generally don’t have stored food and could starve. Even if agrarian societies managed to have some people survive on stored food, if there were collapse of anthropological civilization, the people might not be able to figure out how to become hunter gatherers again. Even if there is not extinction, it is not clear we would recover civilization, because we have had a stable climate the last 10,000 years and we would not have easily recoverable fossil fuels for industrial civilization. And even if we did not lose civilization, worse values from the nastiness of the die off could result in totalitarianism or end up in AGI (though you point out that it is possible we could be more careful with dangerous technologies the second time around).

As for the tractability, people have pointed out that many of the interventions we talk about have already been done at small scale. So it is possible that they would be adopted without further ALLFED funding (and we have a parameter for this in the Guesstimate models). However, there is some research that takes calendar time and cannot be parallelized (such as animal research). Furthermore, if there is panic before people find out that we could actually feed everyone, then the chaos that results probably means the interventions won't get adopted.

Given the large variation in intuitions, we have tried to do surveys to get a variety of opinions. For the agricultural catastrophes (nuclear winter, abrupt climate change, etc.) we got eight GCR researcher opinions. The result varied nearly four orders of magnitude. The most pessimistic found marginal funding of ALLFED now the same order of magnitude cost effectiveness as AI at the margin, the most optimistic four orders of magnitude higher cost effectiveness than AI (considering future work that will likely be done). I know you in particular are short on time, but I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to put their own values into the blank model (to avoid anchoring) and see what they produce for agricultural catastrophes. Of course even if it does not turn out to be more cost-effective than AI, it still could be competitive with engineered pandemic.

This particular EA Long Term Future Fund application was focusing on a different class of catastrophes, those that could disrupt electricity/industry (including solar storm, high-altitude electromagnetic pulses, or narrow AI computer virus). In this case, a poll was taken at EAG San Francisco 2018, so the data are less detailed. There appears to be fewer orders of magnitude variation in this case. Since the mean cost-effectiveness ratio to AI is similar, this likely would yield the most pessimistic person judging preparations for losing electricity/industry at the margin to be more cost-effective than AI. Again, here is a blank model for this cause area.

Most of ALLFED's work does not seem to help me resolve the confusions I listed in the response linked above, or provide much additional evidence for any of my cruxes, but instead seems to assume that the intersection of civilizational collapse and food shortages is the key path to optimize for. At this point, I would be much more excited about work that tries to analyze civilizational collapse much more broadly, instead of assuming such a specific path.

As for the specific path to optimize for improving the long-term future, in the book Feeding Everyone No Matter What, we did go through a number of problems associated with nuclear winter and food shortage was clearly the most important (and this has been recognized by others, including Alan Robock). However, for catastrophes that disable electricity/industry, it is true that issues such as water, shelter, communications and transportation are very important, which is why we have developed interventions for those as well.

I have some hesitations about the structure of ALLFED as an organization. I've had relatively bad experiences interacting with some parts of your team and heard similar concerns from others. The team also appears to be partially remote, which I think is a major cost for research teams, and have its primary location be in Alaska where I expect it will be hard for you to attract talent and also engage with other researchers on this topic (some of these models are based on conversations I've had with Finan who used to work at ALLFED, but left because of it being located in Alaska).

This has been an interesting one for both myself and the team to consider.

One of the unique features of ALLFED is our structure which does correspond to our work on *both* research and preparedness. As such, we have opted for a small, flexible multi-location organization, which allows us to get to places and collaborate globally.

While I am myself indeed based in Alaska, we also have a strong UK team based in London and Oxford, busy developing collaborations with academia (e.g. UCL), finance and industry and attending European events (just back from Geneva and the United Nations Global Platform for DRR and heading to Combined Dealing with Disasters International Conference next month). As for attracting talent, we have built alliances with researchers at Michigan Technological University, Penn State, Tennessee State University, and the International Food Policy Research Institute who are ready to do ALLFED projects once we get funding. This is why our room for more funding in the next 12 months is more than $1 million. We have also co-authored papers with people at CSER, GCRI, and Rutgers University.

Overall, we feel the geographical spread has been beneficial to us and has certainly contributed to a greater diversity within the team and allowed access to a greater body of knowledge, contacts, connections. As a sideline, we feel all individuals with passion for the GCR work and with relevant talents should be able to contribute to it, regardless of their location, family/personal demands or physical abilities. Facilitating and enabling this via remote working has seemed an obvious benefit to the organization and the right thing to do.

We have read this EA forum post on local/remote teams with great interest and find its conclusions and recommendations consistent with our experience. Working across continents has certainly contributed to the development of robust internal organizational structures, clarity in goals, objectives, accountability, communications and such.

As for my personal experience of being based in Alaska, I don’t feel that my interaction with the team here has been significantly different than with remote team members (referring back to this: the people in Alaska are not in the same hallway, though we do have in-person meetings). So basically we can recruit students for projects that are routed through the University, but then other researchers can be remote.

The exceptions of course are if an experiment requires significant facilities and is not done by a student (as was the case with Finan) or if one’s personal preferences are for more social interactions.

We are of course concerned and have noted your comment on “relatively bad experiences interacting with some parts of (our) team”. We would very much like to learn more about this (if you don’t mind perhaps in private this time, to ensure people’s privacy/confidentiality).

We cannot help but wonder whether our commitment to diversity - including neurodiversity - may have had some unintended consequences… We do have individuals on the team whose communications needs and style may at times present something of a challenge, particularly to those unaware of such considerations. Thank you for alerting us of possible impacts of this; we will certainly look at this, and any other “team interactions” matters, and see how they can be managed better. We are hopeful that, overall, there have been many more positive interactions than dubious ones and would like to take this opportunity to thank you (and anybody else who may have experienced issues around this) for your patience and understanding.

Going forward - and this relates as much to this particular response and any future ALLFED team interaction at all, with anyone reading this - if any such interaction does not quite work out, please let me know (so we may either make good or provide context).

All in all, we are grateful for your feedback and pleased with our decision to engage in this publicly. Hopefully this will be of use not only to ALLFED as an organization but to the broader EA community.

Comment by denkenberger on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-06-12T04:24:15.783Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This is very helpful to see your reasoning and cruxes. I reply to the ALLFED related issues above, but I thought I would reply to the pandemic issue here. Here is one mechanism that could result in greater than 90% mortality from a pandemic: multiple diseases at the same time: multipandemic.

Comment by denkenberger on Insect herbivores, life history and wild animal welfare · 2019-06-11T07:17:03.640Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Very interesting! Is the dung beetle fecundity two per female? How can the population ever grow?

Comment by denkenberger on Public Spreadsheet of Effective Altruism Resources by Career Type · 2019-06-09T02:43:34.819Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Great to hear the Facebook group is inclusive!

Comment by denkenberger on Summary of x-risks? · 2019-06-07T07:15:55.213Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

That's right - you can see more discussion here. That's why nuclear war and extreme climate change can be considered existential risks.

Comment by denkenberger on Public Spreadsheet of Effective Altruism Resources by Career Type · 2019-06-07T06:57:15.763Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the list. I was excited to see engineering as a category, but then I found out it actually means software engineering. It would be very helpful to other types of engineers if EAs would specify software engineering if that's what they mean. There are opportunities for the other types of engineering within EA, including plant-based and clean meat, climate change and food for catastrophes, with a number of effective theses here.

Comment by denkenberger on EA Meta Fund Grants - March 2019 · 2019-06-07T06:42:00.686Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Very interesting! This highlights a number of issues. They mention 2% of GDP is charity. But I believe not all GDP shows up as gross household income. And typically EAs use pretax income (adjusted gross income in the United States), which is lower than gross household income. Some surveys use "disposable income", which is probably even lower than pretax income. So there could easily be a factor of two difference here, and indeed this study found 3.6% average giving (though it was only of people with household income greater than $80,000 per year). There is also the question of whether mean % donations should be person-weighted or donation-weighted (the latter would agree with the GDP number better). But in other studies, I think I've seen that even in low income groups, average giving is still over 1%. Some have even claimed that higher income people give a lower percent of their money, but I am skeptical of this. So I'm not sure what's going on here.

Comment by denkenberger on RC Forward 2018 Year in Review · 2019-06-07T02:02:40.387Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for adding ALLFED! Nitpick, but if you want to sound impressive, you can say that a steep learning curve actually means much learning over a short period of time.

Comment by denkenberger on Not getting carried away with reducing extinction risk? · 2019-06-07T01:30:20.777Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW
I find it unlikely that we would export wild-animal suffering beyond our solar system. It takes a lot of time to move to different solar systems, and I don't think future civilizations will require a lot of wilderness: it's a very inefficient use of resources. So I believe the amount of suffering is relatively small from that source. However, I think some competitive dynamics between digital beings could create astronomical amounts of suffering, and this could come about if we focus only on reducing extinction risk.

Agreed, but the other possibility is that there will be simulations of wild animals in the future. So I think spreading the meme that wild animals can suffer to the AI community could be valuable.

Comment by denkenberger on Latest EA Updates for May 2019 · 2019-06-05T07:03:21.596Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Comment by denkenberger on Latest EA Updates for May 2019 · 2019-06-05T07:01:17.396Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this great list! It seems like the 80,000 Hours annual review and the how big of a tent EA should be should be separate posts, because I think they would spark significant discussion. However, it seems like the people who contributed to/discovered these should get the karma.

Comment by denkenberger on Most effective way to recycle electronics? · 2019-06-03T06:05:44.073Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Welcome to the EA forum. I'm guessing you are confused because you asked an innocuous question and got a bunch of downvotes. I did not downvote, but I can say that my initial reaction is that in the US, one typically needs to pay to recycle electronics, and I've always thought there would be better uses for that money. But donating electronics to a charity that could perhaps distribute them to people in less-developed countries seems like it could be positive.

Comment by denkenberger on Which scientific discovery was most ahead of its time? · 2019-06-02T07:02:16.216Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW

The safety bicycle (two gears and a chain) came in only 1885, long after trains. But the roller power chain was invented by da Vinci hundreds of years earlier and not adopted.

Comment by denkenberger on Please use art to convey EA! · 2019-05-27T07:04:16.788Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I am not an artist, but it seems like visual art could illustrate scope insensitivity and neglectedness. For instance, represent a relatively small amount of current lives and a huge amount of money going towards them, and then a huge number of future lives in a very small amount of money going towards them. Similarly with pets versus livestock (like ACE's graphs posted about recently on the forum). Poverty would be a little more difficult, but maybe one could use the number of people in developed countries making under $10 a day and the amount of money that flows towards them, versus the number of people in less-developed countries making under $10 a day and the amount of money that flows towards them.

Comment by denkenberger on Overview of Capitalism and Socialism for Effective Altruism · 2019-05-19T21:53:04.238Z · score: 7 (6 votes) · EA · GW
We might point out that given the reality of climate change, the choice is suicidal—it’s not possible for everyone to live like Americans

This is not only possible with future technology, but it is feasible with present technology without taking more land from nature. Renewable energy/nuclear, agricultural productivity already realized in Europe, growing seaweed (for food, feed, and carbon sequestration), not building buildings out of wood, recycling, etc.

Comment by denkenberger on What caused EA movement growth to slow down? · 2019-05-17T05:15:01.764Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks! I was thinking environmentalism in the 1960s might have grown 100% per year from very niche to broad support. Of course the bar for considering oneself as an environmentalist is much lower than EA, basically consisting of recycling and saying one supports clean air and water.

Comment by denkenberger on Does climate change deserve more attention within EA? · 2019-05-17T05:05:41.902Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I argued in my 80,000 Hours podcast that there might be something to a separate component of urgency. We generally say cost-effectiveness is something like total increase in utility per dollar, not time discounted. This can be worked out for AI and alternate foods, which we have done here. Let's say they were the same cost-effectiveness, so we should be putting money into both of them. However, because there is a higher probability that agricultural catastrophes would happen in the next 10 years than AI, the optimal course of action is to spend more of the optimal amount of money on alternate foods in the next 10 years than AI. A way of thinking about this is that the return on investment of alternate foods is significantly higher. And we might even be able to monetize that return on investment by making a deal with a goverment and then have more money to spend on AI.
This logic applies for climate disasters that could happen soon, like coincident extreme weather causing floods or droughts on multiple continents. However, I don't think it applies to tail risk of climate change (greater than 5°C global warming) because that could not happen soon. Of course one could argue that we should act now to reduce climate tail risk. However, if there are many other things we can do to increase welfare with a higher return on investment, we should do those things first. And then we will have more money to deal with the problem, such as paying for expensive air removal of CO2.

Comment by denkenberger on What caused EA movement growth to slow down? · 2019-05-15T07:13:13.532Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I hope that the slowdown is due to the high fidelity model. But I am concerned that it might be that we are getting closer to saturation, and following a sigmoidal curve. If you count all the media impressions for EA, I think it would be more like tens of millions (and many predisposed people have sought it out online already). Various people have posited the 1% of developed countries becoming EA. At points I have been even more optimistic by recognizing that more than 10% of people take 10% salary cut working for nonprofits or the government. However, for most people, there is a big psychological difference between taking a 10% pay cut and donating 10% (and there are other factors comparing jobs). Furthermore, you need not just effort or sacrifice, but to actually prioritize effectiveness. I am concerned that the coincidence of these two characteristics is relatively low. I think that we can continue to get growth by continually exposing new college students, hopefully in more colleges, and also by recruiting better in groups underrepresented in EA. But that probably won't produce the strong exponential growth of the past of EA. Has anyone done comparisons with say environmentalism or feminism? Because it seems like for them to have achieved such high penetration, they would have done something like doubling every year for decades.

Comment by denkenberger on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2019-05-11T01:01:49.836Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Perhaps I've been fortunate with not having a lot of crashes over my 19 years of using it. As for software compatibility, sometimes I have to open a dictation box (which is what I'm doing right now). As for the learning curve, if you want to do everything with voice, there is a lot to learn. But if you are just using it for sentences like I am, you only need to learn a few commands (and remember to dictate punctuation). If one is not a touch typist, I would think that one could be faster with voice in a few hours, and if someone is a typical touch typist, then maybe faster than voice in a few days?

Comment by denkenberger on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2019-05-10T07:02:44.802Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the useful post. Occupational therapy (U.S.) is what solved my wrist problem. But I still use Dragon NaturallySpeaking because it is over 100 words per minute even with correction time for at least a sentence (assuming you don't have an accent it does not support).

Comment by denkenberger on The most cost-efficient way to convert money into personal health · 2019-05-02T06:08:37.931Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Even lower barrier for exercise is a treadmill desk or recumbent stationary bike, both of which allow reading and computer work.

Comment by denkenberger on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-04-26T04:59:30.512Z · score: 33 (19 votes) · EA · GW

I applaud the explanations of the decisions for the grants and also the responses to the questions. Now that things have calmed down, since the EA Long Term Future Fund team suggested that requests for feedback on unsuccessful grants be made publicly, I am doing that.

My proposal was to further investigate a new cause area, namely resilience to catastrophes that could disable electricity regionally or globally, including extreme solar storm, high-altitude electromagnetic pulses (caused by nuclear detonations), or a narrow AI computer virus. Since nearly everything is dependent on electricity, including pulling fossil fuels out of the ground, industrial civilization could grind to a halt. Many people have suggested hardening the grid to these catastrophes, but this would cost tens of billions of dollars. However, getting prepared for quickly providing food, energy, and communications needs in a catastrophe would cost much less money and provide much of the present generation (lifesaving) and far future (preservation of anthropological civilization) benefits. I have made a Guesstimate model assessing the cost-effectiveness of work to improve long-term future outcomes given one of these catastrophes. Both my inputs and Anders Sandberg’s inputs yield >95% confidence that work now on losing electricity/industry is more cost-effective than marginal work on AI safety (Oxford Prioritisation Project/ Owen Cotton-Barratt and Daniel Dewey did the AI section, except I truncated distributions and made AI more cost effective). There is also a blank (to avoid anchoring) Guesstimate model.

The specific proposal was to buy out of my teaching and/or fund a graduate student to research particularly high value of information relevant projects and submit papers. I think that feedback would be particularly helpful because it is not just about the particular proposal, but also whether the new cause area is worth investigating further.

For more background, see the three papers involving losing electricity/industry: feeding everyone with the loss of industry, providing nonfood needs with the loss of industry, and feeding everyone losing industry and half of sun. We are still working on the paper for the cost-effectiveness from the long-term future perspective of preparing for these catastrophes funded by an EA grant, so input can influence that paper.

Comment by denkenberger on Solution to Housing Crisis · 2019-04-25T06:54:00.765Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

There has been a lot of previous discussion within EA about systemic change; see here for an example. Many people think that the reason that places like San Francisco are so expensive is that they are desirable places to live. But actually it is this and that there are restrictions on building. There are lots of cities that are growing rapidly but do not have many restrictions on building, like Nashville (where I used to live), Houston, Denver, etc. that have relatively moderate long-term real estate inflation. There have been Open Philanthropy Project grants looking at land use reform, which would be the sort of systemic change that could reduce cost for both renters and buyers.

As for why EAs have deprioritized helping people in developed country poverty, it is generally because they are an order of magnitude richer than the global poor.

Comment by denkenberger on [Question] Pros/Cons of Donor-Advised Fund · 2019-04-23T16:32:33.884Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

If you are an advanced investor or getting advice from one, a big problem with DAFs is that they generally have limited investment options. When I evaluated them in ~2010, I found that the lower expected return in the DAF would consume the tax advantage in a few years. However, then we found the Community Foundation in Boulder (you don't have to be in Boulder, but you probably have to be in the US), which actually gives investment freedom. Though there are fees, they are significantly less than the initial tax advantage plus the advantage of being able to grow tax-free. I have been using this DAF since 2015 and it has worked well.

Comment by denkenberger on Solution to Housing Crisis · 2019-04-22T06:27:01.045Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'm talking about the same side - I'm saying that if you can invest well, you can be better off overall putting the money for a down payment into the stock market and renting instead of buying a house. I know less about renting to own, but I would be surprised if it were better (you are still putting money into something with a marginal ROI of the interest rate on the mortgage, which is significantly lower than long term stock returns). Now if one were the type of person to spend the money if it were not going into a home, then the forced savings of owning a home could be better.

Comment by denkenberger on Solution to Housing Crisis · 2019-04-21T06:40:57.032Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Renting is not throwing away money. Though markets vary, rent approximately equals the interest on the mortgage plus taxes plus insurance plus maintenance. The reason you could make money buying (or renting to own) is because of appreciation. US average appreciation for the same house (not new houses!) is around 2%, but since you only have to put 20% down, that could be a 10% ROI, at least initially. Markets with restrictions on building have been a lot higher appreciation than this, but there is the risk that there will be reform or autonomous vehicles, and then you could not just lose the money invested, but actually have negative value (as happened to many people around 2009).