Posts

Possible way of reducing great power war probability? 2019-11-28T04:27:19.768Z · score: 26 (15 votes)
Americans give ~4%, not 2% 2019-11-03T19:10:13.012Z · score: 34 (13 votes)
Remote local group leaders? 2019-10-13T21:43:20.814Z · score: 22 (11 votes)
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: 16 (12 votes)
Cost-Effectiveness of Foods for Global Catastrophes: Even Better than Before? 2018-11-19T21:57:05.518Z · score: 20 (22 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 Doing good is as good as it ever was · 2020-01-26T22:12:18.641Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that absolute impact is the better way of looking at this. You talk about the original pitch of EA of donating 10% of your salary and saving quite a few lives. But now that same person can donate the same amount of money to the long-term future and potentially save orders of magnitude more lives in expectation. So I think EA has gotten more exciting. I could see if someone has inflexible career capital in the global poverty or animal space and little ability to donate and became convinced of the value and tractability of the long-term future, that this could decrease one's relative impact. But I think this is less common than the case of being able to pivot (at least somewhat) towards higher impact. So I think a change in enthusiasm is more related to general trends with age and movements, rather than a change in perception of relative impact.

Comment by denkenberger on Financial Planning Advice for Charitable Giving · 2020-01-25T03:58:54.479Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Welcome to the EA Forum! Kudos to you for your generosity! You’ve probably already joined Giving What We Can, but you may also be interested in Bolder Giving (giving high percentages, but not focused on effective giving).

Since you can deduct state taxes and interest on a mortgage, I would guess you are already exceeding the $14,000 standard deduction. So then I think it would be important to donate every year to make sure you are saving taxes on the money you make in the top bracket. Here is a post that might be helpful. There are also quite a few posts (e.g. this recent one) on investing with an EA mindset.

Comment by denkenberger on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-01-19T18:05:01.593Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
Rural to urban migration: Unskilled (subsistence) farmers migrate to cities and start working in factories. Over night, this increases their productivity many times over.

Perhaps tangential, but unless the urban workers are fed by imports, in order to allow rural to urban migration, the country needs agricultural improvements so that people can feed a lot more than themselves. So I think the green revolution technologies of fertilizer, pesticides, and improved crop varieties (mentioned by the OP) are quite important beyond the direct food supply improvement, and the penetration of these is much lower in Africa.

Comment by denkenberger on Dataset of Trillion Dollar figures · 2020-01-18T05:24:54.304Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Wealth is accumulated money, while GDP is per year. Debt is also accumulated, while deficit is per year.

Comment by denkenberger on Physical Exercise for EAs – Why and How · 2020-01-18T01:30:15.540Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

The fun bucket is a good one, and I think another good bucket for many EAs is the multitasking bucket, e.g. treadmill desk, stationary bicycle (desk or video gaming), resistance exercising while on the phone, etc.

Comment by denkenberger on The ‘far future’ is not just the far future · 2020-01-18T01:08:27.654Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
I think the case for it under a symmetric person-affecting view (like presentism or necessitarianism) is much weaker compared to, say, global health and poverty work, for which we have far more robustly cost-effective interventions.

Two analyses here indicate expected cost per life saved in the present generation from both AGI safety and alternative foods for nuclear winter, abrupt climate change, etc to be lower than global health. There are orders of magnitude of uncertainty in the X risk interventions, but still little overlap with the global health cost effectiveness distributions, so I think it is fairly robust.

Comment by denkenberger on [Notes] Could climate change make Earth uninhabitable for humans? · 2020-01-15T07:47:58.946Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW
Humans thrive in climates as diverse as Bahrain and St. Petersburg — climates that vary in average over 16 degrees centigrade.

Or go up to Fairbanks, Alaska where I live, and add another ~8 C to the range!

Comment by denkenberger on Long-term investment fund at Founders Pledge · 2020-01-14T17:24:08.087Z · score: 11 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I really like your idea of a GCR response fund-I was thinking about something similar (though did you mean it was in category b) not a)?). It seems that there could be quite a few EAs who think that contributing to AI is the highest priority, but if there were a global catastrophe, they might recognize that it could jeopardize all the work on AI and there are things we could do to make it go better.

Comment by denkenberger on More info on EA Global admissions · 2019-12-26T19:54:56.817Z · score: 20 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks to everyone who helps make these events possible. I assume UC Berkeley in the summer that accommodated ~1000 people in 2016 was not more expensive, so you would describe it as less suited to the event? Why is that? It had the large advantage of very inexpensive housing in the dorms. That is understandable if CEA only wants to subsidize a certain number of tickets, but I would think there are significant number of additional people who would pay the full cost. I'm interested in the estimate of the percent reduction in value to the first ~600 participants associated with a larger conference and how that was weighed against the value that additional participants could get. With fewer EAGx events, I expect the value of the latter would be larger this year than other years.

Comment by denkenberger on Taking advantage of climate change concerns to channel donations to EA-recommended organizations at low marginal cost (proposal and call for more research) · 2019-12-25T00:22:40.789Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I generally agree, and as I mentioned in the comments to the article you refer to, we might also be able to redirect some of this enthusiasm to actual EA organizations that do some work relevant to climate change, such as FLI, CSER, and ALLFED. Disclosure: I direct ALLFED.

Comment by denkenberger on "Altruism-driven research" (EA meets... plant pathology?) · 2019-12-20T18:16:13.968Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Since ALLFED was mentioned… Yes, it is good to see more fields using the EA framework. The paper mentioned the green revolution, which many EAs have noted as being highly effective. There was not quantitative analysis about further interventions related to plant pathology to see if they might be competitive with GiveWell interventions for the present generation. As for the longterm future, they mentioned extreme risks, such as those that could affect the entire grass family (much of grazing fodder, wheat, rice, corn (maize), sugarcane, etc.) and we at ALLFED are concerned about that, especially if it were a coordinated global attack. But in terms of preventing a catastrophe like that (as opposed to the resilience work that ALLFED does), I have not seen any quantitative cost-effectiveness analyses.

Comment by denkenberger on Community vs Network · 2019-12-19T03:02:56.701Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This is very helpful to understand where you are coming from. Local groups have 2124 regular attendees (more than an event every 2 months or more than 25% of events, which appears to be more selective than your criterion, and not all groups would have filled out the survey). Then there are ~18,000 main EA Facebook group members (and there would be some non-overlaps in other EA-themed Facebook groups), but many of them would not actually be contributing to online discussions. Of course there would be overlap with the active local group members, but there could be people in neither of these groups who are still in the community. Giving What We Can members are now up to 4,400, who I would count as being part of the EA community (though some of those have gone silent). 843 out of the 2576 people who took the 2018 EA survey had taken the GWWC pledge (33%). Not all of the EA survey takers identified as EA, and not all would meet your criterion for being in the community, but if this were representative, that would indicate about 13,000 EAs. Still, in 2017, there were about 23,000 donors to GiveWell. And there would be many other EA-inspired donations and a lot of people making career decisions based on EA who are not engaged directly with the community. So that would be evidence that the number of people making EA-informed donations and career decisions is a lot bigger than the community, as you say. The 80k newsletter has >200,000 subscribers do you have a different term for that level of engagement? I would love to hear others’ perspectives as well.

Comment by denkenberger on Community vs Network · 2019-12-16T23:22:44.275Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the feedback-now I have broken it into two paragraphs. It's not clear to me whether to use the reference class of average person in the developed country versus reference class of EA community. I was not envisioning someone who has read 5+ years of EA content and is making career and donation decisions as the "EA network." Then I would agree that the EA community would be a better reference class for EA network. I was envisioning for the EA network more people who have heard about EA through an EA community contact, and might've had a one hour conversation. How would you define the EA community and how large do you think it is?

Comment by denkenberger on Community vs Network · 2019-12-16T05:50:40.541Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for writing this-it is important to think about. However, I have very different impressions of the ratio of impact of people in the EA community versus the EA network. Comparisons have been made before about the impact of an EA and, e.g., the average developed country person. If we use a relatively simple example of charity for the present generation, if we say the impact to a typical developed country charity is one, and a typical less developed country charity is 100, and 1% of the charity goes to less developed countries, that would have an impact per dollar of 1.99 (false precision for clarity). However, if the EA donates to the most effective less developed country charity, that could have a ratio of 1000 (perhaps saving a life for $5000 vs $5 million), or about 500 times as effective as the average US money going to charity (in the average, very little would go to GiveWell recommended charities). Then there could be a factor of several more in terms of the percentage of income given to charity (though it appears not yet), so I think the poverty EA being three orders of magnitude more effective than the mean developed country giver is reasonable. If you switch to the longterm future, then an extremely tiny amount of conventional money goes to high impact ways of improving the long-term future, so the ratio of the EA to mean would be much higher.

I'm not sure how to quantify the impact of the EA network. It very well could be significantly higher impact than the mean developed country person, because the EA community members will generally have chosen high-impact fields and therefore have connections with EA network people in those fields. However, many people's connections would not be in their field, and the field as a whole might not be very effective. Also, the EA community tends to be especially capable. So depending on the cause area, I would be surprised if the typical EA community member is less than one order of magnitude more effective than the typical EA network member. So then the impact of the EA community would be larger than the EA network (which I believe you are saying is 9x as many people and I think this is the right order of magnitude). Then there is the question of how much influence the EA community could have on the EA network. I would guess it would be significantly lower than the influence the EA community could have on itself. I still think it is useful to think about what influence we could have on the EA network because it is relatively neglected, but I don't think it should be as large a change in priorities as you are suggesting. If we could bring more professionals into the EA community through your suggested groups, I think that could be high impact.

Comment by denkenberger on Managing risk in the EA policy space · 2019-12-13T04:24:34.809Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks - very helpful. I'm curious if you think the U.S. allowing lots of immigration to stay more powerful than China to possibly reduce the chance of great power war is a terrible idea.

Comment by denkenberger on Eight high-level uncertainties about global catastrophic and existential risk · 2019-12-05T06:30:53.086Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

The results of a small survey on the longterm future potential reduction of agricultural catastrophes are in here, and results of a small poll on the longterm future potential reduction of catastrophes that disrupt electricity/industry are in here. I agree - lots of uncertainty.

Comment by denkenberger on How to Survive the End of the Universe · 2019-12-04T07:36:52.264Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I like how comprehensive this is.

Comment by denkenberger on A corrected model suggests climate change interventions may be within a factor of two of direct cash transfers · 2019-12-04T04:44:02.891Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I guess I'm concerned that if the scenario continues of less-developed countries catching up with developed countries that an adjustment based on differing present day incomes would be too strong. Have you tried contacting the authors to find out what they actually did?

Comment by denkenberger on A corrected model suggests climate change interventions may be within a factor of two of direct cash transfers · 2019-12-03T22:40:01.167Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for making everything explicit. I see that the original paper uses 1% and 2% pure time preference, which means that roughly it has a time horizon of 100 and 50 years, respectively. If India continues to grow at the roughly 1.8%/yr GDP per capita real of the last decade, it will become as rich per capita as the US is now in about 130 years. Are you adjusting for this with your income adjustment?

Comment by denkenberger on Possible way of reducing great power war probability? · 2019-12-01T07:17:35.687Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks - fixed the link.

Comment by denkenberger on Managed Honey Bee Welfare: Problems and Potential Interventions · 2019-11-28T16:47:06.746Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Great report!

An intervention that reduced overwinter colony mortality in the United States by just 5% would prevent at least 400 million premature bee deaths.

I assume that is per year. It sounds like it might not be too hard to become an animal millionaire (saving a million animals’ lives).

Comment by denkenberger on ALLFED 2019 Annual Report and Fundraising Appeal · 2019-11-28T03:55:55.681Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, Greg! Peanuts (groundnuts) are cheap, but generally the cheapest are the grains including wheat, maize (corn), and rice. However, if we're talking about growing outside in a nuclear winter, it would be so cool that plants might not be able to flower. So we looked at crops that can produce food without flowering, such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage, etc., and potatoes were the cheapest per calorie. However, we recognize that the wealthy of the world will still want to eat a greater variety of food. We are very concerned that they will use a tremendous amount of energy to grow just a little bit of food with artificial light. Then there may not be much energy left to feed the masses, say with natural gas single cell protein. That's why we have the greenhouse project where we have found that we can grow pretty much any crop in the tropics in nuclear winter. I think that will include a sizable amount of peanuts.

Comment by denkenberger on ALLFED 2019 Annual Report and Fundraising Appeal · 2019-11-26T05:21:03.307Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

That's right.

Comment by denkenberger on ALLFED 2019 Annual Report and Fundraising Appeal · 2019-11-26T00:12:59.239Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Sure - we wrote a script to analyze this database for frequency of X-risk authors. We had to use some judgment on combining authors with slightly different entries (like the inclusion of a middle initial or not). So there is some uncertainty, and this database is a combination of human and machine learning algorithms, so there will be some debate about which papers to include in the existential risk field.

Comment by denkenberger on Next Steps in Invertebrate Welfare, Part 2: Possible Interventions · 2019-11-25T19:16:41.407Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'm really impressed by all these writeups!

However, repelled insects will probably move off to another plant. Therefore, the use of these substances does not appear to be an effective solution.

But wouldn't this reduce the total insect population if food were the limiting factor?

Comment by denkenberger on AGI safety and losing electricity/industry resilience cost-effectiveness · 2019-11-17T18:56:45.511Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the feedback. We are working on the figures. I struggled with how to phrase this. Of course we can never believe anything with 100% confidence, but the software rounds to 100%. So maybe phrasing it as "99-99+%" confidence? Also, it sounds like we should phrase it as "the model result", rather than "it can be said"?

Comment by denkenberger on Assumptions about the far future and cause priority · 2019-11-13T05:33:33.585Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Also, my wild guess is that if the existential risk intervention came out as cost effective for the present generation, then it may pass your test even with continued exponential growth in utility.

Comment by denkenberger on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-11-12T17:16:55.710Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry - was writing too late at night for me - I got confused.

Comment by denkenberger on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-11-12T17:16:40.637Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry - was writing too late at night for me - I got confused.

Comment by denkenberger on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-11-12T07:56:57.684Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the update. I was not aware that people could apply for EA funds. The FAQ seems to be just for donors, and I hadn't seen anything on the EA forum about applying.

Comment by denkenberger on Assumptions about the far future and cause priority · 2019-11-12T05:20:32.292Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Very interesting!

Again I want to stress that the point here is not to debate these numbers (I was told that a decrease of the extinction risk of 0.1 percentage point for an investment of 0.1% of the world GDP was reasonable, but found it difficult to find references; I would appreciate comments pointing to relevant references).

If I understand you correctly, this is a one time expenditure, so we are talking about ~$80 billion. This is a model that considered $3 billion being spent on AGI safety. It was a marginal analysis, but I think many would agree that it would address a large fraction of the AGI risk, which is a large fraction of the total existential risk. So if it reduced existential risk overall by one percentage point, that would be 2.5 orders of magnitude more cost-effective than you have assumed, which is much better than your growth assumption. Investment into nuclear winter resilience has similar or even better returns. So I think we could be spending a lot more money on existential risk mitigation that would still be no regrets even with continued exponential growth of utility.

But, to give some substance to it, if we very crudely conflate our utility function with world GDP, then I think it is reasonable to place a return of at least a factor of 10 on some of the better growth investments.

If I understand you correctly, this one-time investment of 0.1% of GDP increases the GDP by 1% above the business as usual for all time. So if you look over one century without discounting, that looks like you have gotten a benefit to cost ratio of 1000. I think there has been discussion about how we have increased our R&D dramatically over the past few decades, but GDP growth has not increased. So maybe someone can jump in with the marginal returns for R&D. Or maybe you had something else in mind?

Incidentally, this would go some way into mitigating Fermi’s paradox: maybe other advanced civilizations have not come to visit us because they are mostly busy optimizing their surrounding environment, and don’t care all that much about colonizing space.

This sounds like an argument in the Age of Em, that once we accelerate our thought processes, expanding into space would be too painfully slow.

Comment by denkenberger on Review of Climate Cost-Effectiveness Analyses · 2019-11-08T19:41:09.233Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
As per my comment on HaukeHillebrandt's comment below - The trouble with these estimates is that I'm not convinced they do a good job of considering how costs change as a technology is scaled. For example, we've seen this with solar - http://solarsouthwest.co.uk/solar-panel-cost/. Do you have a recommended source which does somehow take account of these effects? If not, we're not really comparing costs properly.
Also, I want to specifically comment on this. Unless you believe that very large scale CO2 air-capture is going to be economically/technologically/land-use viable, we don't have time to wait for people to get richer. The CO2 being emitted today, is committing humanity to a particular temperature rise for centuries to come. The cheapest time to deal with that is right now, to avoid putting the CO2 in the atmosphere in the first place.

It is true we generally see reduction in costs as cumulative production increases (this is called learning in economics). But then this means it might be cheaper to reduce CO2 emissions in the future (at least at the margin for EA, and even for the world as a whole if some of the learning occurs in related fields that does not require spending money on CO2 mitigation now). It is possible that renewable energy will become less expensive than fossil fuels in the near future, though usually the comparison is made with fossil fuel electricity. It is much more difficult for renewable energy to be lower cost than fuels used directly. Furthermore, if we want to go back to 350 PPM, we would need to do some form of air capture, which I think will be expensive for quite a while. So overall, with learning, it would reduce the cost of solving the problem, but I think it is harder to imagine it being less than $1 trillion present value with low discounting.
You are right that there is a trade off. If we spend money on saving lives at $3000 per life now with health interventions instead of reducing CO2 emissions, that means more CO2 in the atmosphere in 100 years. So the question is whether that harm to the relatively richer people in 100 years is greater than the harm you avert by spending money on global health now if your time horizon only extends about 100 years.

The final thing which makes this all more complex, is that climate change is something which we are on a very well defined trajectory towards - where inaction results in terrible consequences. However, things like nuclear war are risks which may never materialize. If we invest effort into averting credible but potential risks, we'll never be sure whether that investment actually mattered. If we invest effort in averting climate change, we'll be much more sure that the effort was worthwhile.

Full-scale nuclear war may very well not happen this century. However, when you include additional catastrophes such as extreme weather on multiple continents (which a UK government study estimated had an ~80% likelihood this century), regional nuclear war, etc., it appears to be more likely than not that we will have one of these catastrophes this century. But it is possible that we will not have one of these catastrophes. As I said in my 80,000 Hours interview, if you are someone who has paid for insurance where they have gotten no payout from it whether they have wasted their money, they say "no" because it makes sense to insure things we can't afford. So I think of this as an insurance policy for the world. And actually in terms of probabilities, I would say one of these agricultural catastrophes is actually more likely than median or worse slow climate change, so the probability of the investment paying off is actually higher for alternate food preparedness.

Comment by denkenberger on Americans give ~4%, not 2% · 2019-11-04T05:46:50.502Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks - I wasn't sure it was OK to reproduce it.

Comment by denkenberger on Review of Climate Cost-Effectiveness Analyses · 2019-11-04T05:44:07.187Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks very much for the thoughtful engagement.

I don't actually see a detailed calculation of human impacts in that paper. I agree that full extinction seems unlikely, but hugely catastrophic impacts seem very plausible.

Correct - the estimate of long term future impact was from the survey cited here.

Also, a temperature decrease is definitely not guaranteed to have a symmetric impact with a temperature increase, so the comparison doesn't seem entirely valid.

I agree that it is not necessarily symmetric-cooling is generally worse for plants than warming. Also, we would have roughly 50% reduction in solar radiation in the nuclear winter case, which further makes it worse. Furthermore, I believe more people die from the cold than from the heat.

This is a statement which quickly points out a difference in our ethics. 10C of warming would likely require the evacuation of huge areas of land around the equator. That's not the same as extinction, but I still consider it to be a deeply unacceptable outcome. Survival alone isn't good enough for me. I'm not sure how to formalize this viewpoint within utilitarian calculations.

I agree that 10°C warming over a century would be bad. But would you agree that 8°C cooling and 50% reduction in solar radiation in one year would be worse?

It is important to note that 10°C global warming would have less than 10°C warming near the equator. This says that plants were doing pretty well near the equator when the Earth was about 12°C warmer. But as I note below, evolution takes a long time, so species would need to be relocated. As for humans, I’m not sure that a lot of relocation would be required. It is true that humans would not be able to go outside very long without technology. But I would say that is true at 40° latitude in the winter now. It is true that the technology of an insulating coat is fairly simple. But if it is hot, we could use the fairly simple technology of an ice vest like this. More complicated technology could involve a system which burns fuel and then uses absorption chilling to cool the body if one needed to stay cool for many hours. Of course this technology would not be affordable by many people in the tropics now, but 100 years out, I think the situation will be different.

Also, less abstractly, I'm not confident that the natural ecosystem which we rely on would be able to adapt to 10C in warming over a century. This suggests to me that we would see a huge amount of species being pushed into extinction, and again I consider this to be an extremely negative consequence, even if we are able to figure out ways to feed ourselves from a limited number of crops that we still manage to cultivate.

Though life was doing well when the earth was 10°C warmer than now, it is true that a change over 100 years is very short considering evolutionary timescales. In order to avoid a mass extinction, I think humans would need to help relocate plants (and indeed people are working on this now) (animals can generally move quickly enough, though still might need help in some circumstances). Also, relocation would not save all species, because some would no longer have a habitat cool enough, and could only be saved with captivity. I personally think it is unlikely that humans would allow the climate to warm 10°C, and instead would do solar radiation management. However, solar radiation management has its own risks, such as a double catastrophe where some other catastrophe hits us and then we are not able to maintain solar radiation management, and then we have two problems. I think it is possible to have a more robust solar radiation management to avoid this problem. But it is possible we do not use solar radiation management. Overall, I agree that there is intrinsic value in biodiversity, but that would require another discussion to find the most cost-effective ways of preserving it.

It seems to me like a huge leap of faith is required to believe that the global impact of 10C of warming (over a century) is on the same order of magnitude as an abrupt 10% agricultural shortfall. You'd need to lay out much more of an argument for me to believe that. As it stands, I think you are either predicting a much lower impact from climate change than I am, or putting more faith in technological/economic growth to mitigate the impacts. In either case, it's clear we disagree.

I am focusing my analysis on the impact on the long term future, which means the reduction in the long term potential of humanity (out thousands or millions of years). But I think it is a reasonable proxy to look at the mortality. In this paper, I estimated the expected mortality of an abrupt 10% food shortfall from something like India Pakistan nuclear war was about 500 million. Technically speaking, adaptation and relocation in response to a century long 10°C rise should involve the loss of many fewer lives, but it could go very badly, even up to including full-scale nuclear war, which could kill billions of people. So I think it is in the same order of magnitude in expectation as an abrupt 10% food shortfall. What would your estimate be of the expected mortality a century long 10°C rise?

This only considers the impact of 10C of warming. If we don't have 10C of warming, we are still going to have an amount less than that. There's a currently a >25% of >4C of warming, without fully accounting for climate tipping points. 4C of warming is already expected to have serious consequences. However, these haven't yet been well quantified because even 4C of warming has impacts on so many aspects of the world society, economy, and ecology, that it's incredibly difficult to model.

It is true that this analysis is not taking into account the smaller warmings, but these are less likely to have an impact on the long-term future, so I think they are unlikely to change the order of magnitude of the result. I am concerned about a possible tipping point that would be a runaway greenhouse effect. But since the earth was about 14°C warmer about 50 million years ago, and the sun’s radiation is not that much higher than it was then, I think we only have to start worrying about this at over ~10°C warming.

This presumes that mitigating climate change through alternative foods is a morally acceptable outcome. As per my statement above, for me, it isn't.

I agree it would be better to prevent climate change rather than just mitigate some of the impacts if we had unlimited resources. But EA is about prioritizing-we have limited resources and we want to make the largest impact possible. We have other competing demands I have not talked about, such as reducing the risk from natural and engineered pandemics. I do hope that we can bring many more resources to EA and then we can work our way further down the existential risk mitigation curve to climate emissions mitigation.

This statement actually very neatly encapsulates my main objection to long-termism. It feels very much like a case of Pascal's Mugging. Over a long enough view of the potential future of humanity (e.g. 10s of millions of years), none of today's problems really matter.

I don’t think the comparison I am making is Pascal’s Mugging. I think Pascal’s Mugging could be considering the immense potential value of the long-term future and then demanding some sacrifice now. However, since I am looking at the reduction in the long-term future due to climate change and due to nuclear winter, they are on equal footing and do not depend on the precise value of the long-term future.

As for prioritizing the present generation, my analysis indicates that prioritizing current global poverty is a couple orders of magnitude more effective than reducing emissions at carbon costs required to solve the whole problem (largely because the current poor will likely be richer when the main climate change impacts hit). However, if you believe the Cool Earth numbers (not counting opportunity costs of the value of the land for farming) and if you don’t think they will be taken by someone else, then it could be competitive. However, I think alternative foods are even better from the present generation perspective.

Can you clarify what exactly you mean by "from the perspective of the long-term future"? What time-horizon do you have in mind, and what kind of discount rate are you applying, if any?

I think the only discount rate I would apply would be that due to existential risk. So it is something like maximizing the total expected utility of sentient beings as long as we can keep them going. But other long-termists would say it differently (different ethical theories than consequentialism could still result in highly valuing the longterm future). Also note that even if one has a few percent discount rate, if one puts a non-negligible probability mass on some sort of technological singularity within a century or two with the potential for a huge number of computer consciousnesses, that is another way of getting at the overwhelming importance of making it through to the longterm.

Comment by denkenberger on Will 'Team Trees' be Effective? · 2019-11-03T06:38:04.841Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I think my comment here applies to this charity as well: generally where trees grow, you can farm, and the opportunity cost of not farming makes the total $/ton much higher than the obvious cost of planting trees.

Comment by denkenberger on EA Hotel Fundraiser 5: Out of runway! · 2019-10-28T22:25:20.848Z · score: 16 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Would CEA be willing to accept donations and route them to EA hotel so the donors in the US or UK can get the tax advantage?

Comment by denkenberger on Schubert, Caviola & Faber, 'The Psychology of Existential Risk' · 2019-10-24T06:22:31.341Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This appears to be very a different conclusion from the survey where most people said that future generations matter just as much as the present (no requirement for utopia).

Comment by denkenberger on Review of Climate Cost-Effectiveness Analyses · 2019-10-23T21:37:02.495Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Nuclear winter would be approximately 8°C change in only one year, and this is unlikely to cause extinction. 10°C climate warming over a century would be much lower impact, because there is time to relocate infrastructure and people (and nuclear winter also reduces solar radiation). So I have put it in the intensity category of an abrupt 10% agricultural shortfall. Based on a survey of GCR researchers, this has a mean long-term reduction in far future potential of approximately 5%. This combined with a probability of about 2% gives about a 0.1% reduction in the far future potential. Full scale nuclear war is estimated to have a 17% reduction in long term future potential. There is great uncertainty in the probability of full-scale nuclear war, but I think 0.1% per year or 10% in the next 100 years is reasonably conservative.* Therefore, full scale nuclear war is more likely than extreme climate change and also significantly greater consequences if it were to happen. But then the question is how much would it cost to significantly mitigate the problems. Since solar radiation management is risky, the present value of the cost of largely solving the climate change problem by reducing emissions is around $10 trillion (there was an EA forum post on value of information of this, but I can’t seem to find it). I have researched both energy efficiency and renewable energy for years, and I do think there is still some low hanging fruit of energy efficiency that pays for itself. However, to actually solve the problem will cost a lot of money. On the other hand, reducing the far future impact of nuclear winter by about 17% would cost around $100 million by investing in response plans and research and development of alternative foods. Therefore, since alternative foods address a roughly 15 times bigger problem, at 100,000 times lower cost and with 1/5 the threat reduction (if we assume the $10 trillion on emissions reductions completely solves the problem), this works out to approximately 300,000 times higher cost effectiveness for alternative foods versus emissions reductions.

Fortunately, alternative foods also mitigates climate related catastrophes such as abrupt regional climate change, coincident extreme weather on multiple continents, and slow 10°C change (which makes the cost effectiveness of alternative foods even higher than the numbers calculated above). There may be other low hanging fruit that address climate change such as Cool Earth (though see this criticism) and energy efficiency (though even if energy efficiency pays for itself, it still costs donor money to advocate for it). But even at a cost of $0.38 per ton CO2, it is still a few orders of magnitude lower cost effectiveness than alternative foods or artificial general intelligence safety from the perspective of the long-term future. Of course it is better to do this probabilistically, which is why I have encouraged you to add climate change to an existing cost-effectiveness model of alternative foods and artificial intelligence.

Hopefully we can direct tens of billions of dollars more to EA, and then we can work our way further down the marginal cost effectiveness curves of existential risk mitigation, but I don’t think that reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be a priority for EA at this point.

*For the alternative food analysis, we only used at few decades effective time horizon but higher probability of nuclear war from here.


Comment by denkenberger on Some personal thoughts on EA and systemic change · 2019-10-22T05:55:23.648Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
I think the EA community currently has a limited amount to say to anyone with power.

More broadly, CSER has these recommendations for governments for global catastrophic risks.

Comment by denkenberger on Some personal thoughts on EA and systemic change · 2019-10-21T02:55:28.738Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · EA · GW
I think the EA community currently has a limited amount to say to anyone with power.

I think it would be useful for governments to have response plans for agricultural catastrophes such as nuclear and volcanic winter, and also for electricity/industry disrupting catastrophes including solar storms and high-altitude electromagnetic pulses (HEMPs). Governments could also fund research related resilience including alternative foods and backup communications systems.

Comment by denkenberger on Effective Altruism and International Trade · 2019-10-18T17:22:50.635Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Unfortunately I'm not familiar with that literature, but others feel free to jump in!

Comment by denkenberger on Resource Generation: Inheriting-to-give, for systemic change · 2019-10-17T19:10:41.206Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Very interesting. It sounds similar to Bolder Giving but more organized and focused and you don't actually have to give 50%.

Comment by denkenberger on Effective Altruism and International Trade · 2019-10-17T15:54:59.524Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Another advantage of increased trade is greater economic interdependence, which I think reduces the probability of conflict. If that conflict were to manifest itself as nuclear war, this could have catastrophic consequences, plausibly reducing the long-term potential of humanity.

Comment by denkenberger on Updated Climate Change Problem Profile · 2019-10-17T02:43:21.456Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

In addition to direct cost-effectiveness calculations for the present generation as StevenKaas recommends, I would recommend direct cost-effectiveness calculations for the long-term future. Here is an example where I compare AI and alternative foods to address agricultural catastrophes. It would not take very much work to use that framework for conventional emissions reductions for climate change. However, as others have pointed out, because emissions reductions are so expensive, they are unlikely to be competitive cost-effectiveness. Solar radiation management (SRM) (as opposed to non SRM geoengineering techniques such as CO2 air capture) has the potential of being much more cost effective, but it has its own risks, such as double catastrophe.

Comment by denkenberger on The Future of Earning to Give · 2019-10-17T02:30:09.591Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I like the big thinking! I agree that there are many tens of billions of dollars we could spend as we work our way down the marginal cost effectiveness curve of existential risk mitigation. Some other things to include are biosecurity interventions, preventing supervolcanic eruptions, comet detection and deflection (much more expensive than asteroid detection and deflection).

Comment by denkenberger on [Link] "How feasible is long-range forecasting?" (Open Phil) · 2019-10-16T02:10:37.234Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'm not sure what you mean by resolution. But if you mean accuracy, perhaps a counter example is the reversion of stock values to the long-term mean appreciation curve creating value forecasts that actually become more accurate five or 10 years out than in the near term?

Comment by denkenberger on 'Longtermism' · 2019-10-15T03:25:49.625Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for your comment. I think my concern is basically addressed by Will's comment below. That is it is good to value everyone equally. However, it is not required in our daily actions to value a random person alive today is much as ourselves or a random person in the future as much as ourselves. That is, it is permissible to have some special relationships and have some personal prerogatives.

Comment by denkenberger on Remote local group leaders? · 2019-10-15T03:12:12.260Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that feedback would be critical, which is why there would likely need to be some leadership locally, what I was referring to as "officers."
I like your idea of someone with flexible location moving to lead a local EA group in need of leadership!

Comment by denkenberger on Merging with AI would be suicide for the human mind - Susan Schneider · 2019-10-10T06:45:50.829Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Well, this is Robin Hanson's vision of the future (ems).

Comment by denkenberger on EA Meta Fund and Long-Term Future Fund are looking for applications again until October 11th · 2019-10-02T17:58:02.171Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

That would be very helpful - could you please link to that post?