Posts

Evaluating Life Extension Advocacy Foundation 2020-09-30T17:46:55.297Z · score: 20 (9 votes)
Interview with Aubrey de Grey, chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation 2020-05-01T09:02:19.584Z · score: 43 (22 votes)
Why SENS makes sense 2020-02-22T16:28:27.576Z · score: 41 (28 votes)
How to evaluate neglectedness and tractability of aging research 2019-08-02T10:29:20.003Z · score: 11 (6 votes)
Impact of aging research besides LEV 2019-06-06T10:42:07.734Z · score: 25 (13 votes)
Aging research and population ethics 2019-04-28T07:20:56.419Z · score: 25 (16 votes)
A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity 2019-01-17T16:33:20.753Z · score: 20 (17 votes)
Expected cost per life saved of the TAME trial 2018-05-26T09:34:36.046Z · score: 14 (13 votes)

Comments

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Propose and vote on potential tags · 2020-10-02T10:42:30.039Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'm surprised that "cost-effectiveness evaluation" doesn't exist yet.

Some others that it's weird enough that they don't exist yet: "meta-charities", "advocacy", "pandemic preparedness".

A couple of tags that would apply to all of my posts: "aging research", "scientific research".

Comment by emanuele_ascani on I'm Linch Zhang, an amateur COVID-19 forecaster and generalist EA. AMA · 2020-07-01T10:23:56.221Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

How much time do you spend on forecasting, including researching the topics?

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Influencing pivotal Individuals · 2020-05-22T12:32:47.009Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Also 80k Hours, which is all about multiplying the impact of their effort by influencing the direction of other people's careers.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on How bad is coronavirus really? · 2020-05-08T23:21:57.093Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I will only write a comment and not an answer because I think other people will probably give better answers. The thinking probably includes that 1) the world was unprepared, therefore even if there is a massive effort going on, cheap opportunities to do good might arise. 2) This situation might somewhat change the equilibriums between cause-areas and within EA, also changing how the world responds to risk, which may influence what is neglected and what is not, for example. Here a good post by Peter Hurford.

About the lockdown: I find it difficult to evaluate the short term effects, but thinking about the very long term effects is also probably interesting. On the one hand, under the longtermist view, slowing down technological progress has enormous negative consequences for the far future if the slope of progress continues to be positive. On the other, a lockdown means that the world will take pandemic preparedness more seriously, which in turn diminishes the probability of existential risk, which should lead to a greater positive impact... so, maybe the answer should be "enough lockdown for this situation to improve our chances to face greater threats"? I recognize this is not exactly what you asked though.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Reducing long-term risks from malevolent actors · 2020-05-01T15:39:10.162Z · score: 15 (16 votes) · EA · GW

This is one of the best posts I've read here, wow.

One of the main things that concern me is that malevolent people could appropriate the concept of malevolence itself and start a witch hunt for people who have nothing to do with malevolence. This was passingly mentioned when acknowledging that political leaders could brand their opponents as malevolent. Overall I think this post makes a good job of outlining the pros and cons, but I just wanted to write this consideration in a comment because it has been somewhat prominent in my mind.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Why SENS makes sense · 2020-03-18T11:17:10.974Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

You are correct. I will also add a question about how much time he estimates will need to pass between one treatment and its repetition. This could be fairly calculable from the informations the scientific community already has (the rate of damage in the elderly). I will get back to you with another reply in case I come up with other questions in light of your comment and if I modify or add something to your questions.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Why SENS makes sense · 2020-03-16T18:48:32.278Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Gavin, there are some great questions in here.

I'm only able to answer two of them pretty conclusively:

For instance, if we treat an 80 year olds telomere attrition, are we going to need to treat them again in the future? Are consecutive treatments going to need to occur at more regular intervals?

The answer is simply: absolutely, yes.

If you condense the most crucial questions I will add them in the interview, and we will see what Aubrey de Grey has to say.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Why SENS makes sense · 2020-02-28T20:53:11.142Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Edited my comment slightly before yours appeared. Wanted to specify the reasons more but resolved to delete them since I was going to modify the post anyway. The rationale was that 7-KC, even if not a protein, is still an aggregate that overwhelms lysosomes and actively causes their dysfunction (loss of function of lysosomes and other degradation mechanisms being accounted for in the loss of proteostasis paragraphs in the Hallmarks).

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Why SENS makes sense · 2020-02-28T13:34:38.277Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yep, seems like for some reason I, err... aggregated extracellular matrix stiffening and extracellular aggregates together. Mistake corrected.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Effects of anti-aging research on the long-term future · 2020-02-28T12:01:40.356Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this post, strongly upvoted. The amount of attention (and funding) aging research gets within EA is unbelievably low. That's why I wrote an entire series of posts on this cause-area. A couple of comments:

1) Remember: if a charity finances aging research, it has the effect of hastening it, not enabling it. Aging will be brought under medical control at some point, we are only able to influence when. This translates into the main impact factor of hastening the arrival of Longevity Escape Velocity.

2) Now look again at your bulleted list of "big" indirect effects, and remember that you can only hasten them, not enable them. To me, this consideration make the impact we can have on them seem no more than a rounding error if compared to the impact we can have due to LEV (each year you bring LEV closer by saves 36,500,000 lives of 1000QALYS. This is a conservative estimate I made here.)

Small correction: Aubrey de Grey only estimates a 50/50 chance of LEV within 17 years. This is also conditional on funding, because before the private money started to pour in five years ago, his estimate had been stuck for many years at 50/50 chance of LEV within 20-22 years.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Why SENS makes sense · 2020-02-27T09:23:12.525Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW
SENS doesn't consider telomere attrition as a significant type of damage, and in fact, SENS advocates removing the ability of all cells to extend their telomeres as a strategy to prevent cancer.

I think SENS doesn't consider telomere attrition because the solution would be the same as the one for cell loss (and telomere attrition is a direct cause of cell loss). Also note that at SRF they consider the strategy against cancer less and less likely to be necessary (and I hope so, since it is the most far fetched and difficult).

Edit: categorization mistakes corrected :)

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Why SENS makes sense · 2020-02-25T11:26:28.104Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

3) If you point out what categories I got wrong and why, I can correct if needed.

4) It seems to me that the biggest point of difference is the genomic instability hallmark, which is not present in SENS because de Grey believes it acts more slowly and probably belongs to a "SENS 2" panel of therapies. The others either mostly overlap or they are closely causally related. Do you agree?

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Why you should NOT support Aubrey de Grey's work on ageing. (maybe) · 2020-02-22T17:54:48.931Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · EA · GW
From hearing de Grey speak, you might get the impression that the scientific community has deftly avoided studying ageing. This is not the case; it has been studied for some time.

It's weird that you got this impression, because in many TED Talks de Grey explicitly mentions that biogerontology has more than a century of history. It's his approach to be new, together with the attitude of aging research as translational research instead of just basic non-translational biology research. When, for example, The Buck Institute was founded 20 years ago, it was frowned upon to think about aging research as a translational field, and the whole discipline was much smaller.

Regarding antagonistic pleiotropy: be careful not to mix theories explaining different causal levels of aging. Antagonistic pleiotropy explains some of the processes that lead to damage, but doesn't say anything about damage itself. Aubrey de Grey's categorization of damage is actually more accepted than ever. The scientific consensus is settled on something very close to it, described in the landmark paper "The Hallmarks of Aging", from 2013.

I don't know who you heard criticizing de Grey so harshly, but that's very uncommon now. It happened in the early 2000s but not now. SENS Research Foundation, in fact, works with many universities and established institutions.

I highly suggest to read my new post about SENS Research Foundation that I just published here. I delve deep in these topics and more. I also plan to interview Dr. de Grey, and you will find some potential interview questions.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Love seems like a high priority · 2020-01-21T08:41:40.707Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, I addressed everything you wrote over and over in multiple comments and in my posts. You should read part 1 carefully and also Aging Research and Population Ethics.


Comment by emanuele_ascani on Love seems like a high priority · 2020-01-20T10:01:21.258Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Well... I disagree with the claim that aging is on par with love or malaria prevention. This is the beginning of your post:

Making it possible for people to deliberately fall in love seems like a high priority, competitive with good short- and medium-term causes such as malaria prevention and anti-aging.

I thought you were going to mention LEV in the "Scope and direct impact" section, or at least in "Direct chage in average quality of life" section. Instead, in the first, you proceed to say:

Overall, nearly everyone will be affected by these interventions, so scope doesn’t give much reason to favor either one.

In making this claim you completely overlook the fundamental quantitative reasoning you need to make to tackle the question of impact. Ending malaria and "solving" love will give everyone a better life for at best 80 years, solving aging for... 1000 years as a lower bound. Moreover you need to keep in mind that it's not giving people extra 1000 years of healthy life the source of impact. The source of impact is changing the date in which this will happen. Sorry if this seems nitpicking, but it changes everything.

In "Direct chage in average quality of life", instead, you say:

Stopping aging would make the actual experience of dying rare; natural deaths could theoretically be made indefinitely rare or nonexistent. Morbidities associated with aging could be greatly reduced or ended. See this post for details.

You almost arrived at my conclusion with the first phrase:

Stopping aging would make the actual experience of dying rare; natural deaths could theoretically be made indefinitely rare or nonexistent.

But then you proceed to talk about reduction of morbidity at the end of life and you link my post titled "Impact of aging research besides LEV". (Thank you for quoting me though, I think you are the first one to do that here, and it made me happy to know that at least someone digested something that I wrote.)

To wrap up:

You didn't mention LEV, you didn't mention 1000 years lifespans, and you didn't mention that shifting the date of LEV is what counts. You made the case that aging research was on par with short and medium term causes in terms of impact, which can be credible only if you account for all the other measures of impact besides LEV, but not for shifting the date of LEV.



Comment by emanuele_ascani on Love seems like a high priority · 2020-01-19T12:52:02.038Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Could be, or could be the usual causation=/=correlation problem, or the usual study that doesn't replicate. What study are you referring to?

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Love seems like a high priority · 2020-01-19T12:19:18.560Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Interesting overall, but I'll never be tired of repeating that the majority of impact of aging research comes from making Longevity Escape Velocity come faster. This puts aging research in a much better position as a cause area than short or medium term causes. Not sure why literally everyone in the EA movement continues to ignore this metric completely. It just doesn't make sense.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on [Link] We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-23T11:54:59.400Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Would it be possible and cost-effective to release video courses at a much lower cost?

EDIT: Going to ask on LW, since the AMA is there.

EDIT 2: Oh no, I'm late

Comment by emanuele_ascani on The Future of Earning to Give · 2019-10-21T18:09:10.919Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hey, regarding aging: you might be interested to know I'm writing a series of articles to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of any project related to aging research. I've found that the cost-effectiveness of aging research might be much higher, in certain cases, than what Sarah Constantin found. That's mostly because I'm also accounting for the fact that new aging research brings the date of Longevity Escape Velocity closer in time, and this increses the scope by many orders of magnitude. Each single year "buyed" means averting 36,500,000,000QALYs, using a conservative estimate (36,500,000 deaths by aging per year multiplied by 1000 estimated years free of disability after LEV). Check out my profile for all the articles I've written.

Regarding your proposal of prizes: I think prizes for a general-purpose cure for aging should involve prizes for intermediate steps, that may look... less than incredible. All of the intermediary steps, even inside "paradigm-shift-like" plans like Aubrey de Grey's will look similar on the outside: they will delay aging. Unless you are measuring if tissues are actually rejuvenated and you have a robust theoretical framework you won't recognize what will be necessary in the long-term. For cancer, the picture looks much better, but the incremental steps, even for a general-purpose cure, will probably belong to many different groups.

You will probably be pleased to know that recently Peter Diamandis' XPrize Foundation started a similar project: to give prizes for specific innovations identified as important in aging research and adjacent areas.


Comment by emanuele_ascani on A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity · 2019-10-19T13:25:56.828Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, looking back at this, I should have just said that on average, if someone dies with a probability of 1/1000, then he will live 999 years and die in the 1000th. And then I should have linked him the "Expectation" section of the Wikipedia page of the negative binomial distribution.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Expected cost per life saved of the TAME trial · 2019-09-16T12:48:00.473Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, great info. This post is officially outdated :)

Comment by emanuele_ascani on English as a dominant language in the movement: challenges and solutions · 2019-09-08T13:42:37.124Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Great post, I really appreciate the solutions you propose. I often fear some english mistakes could harm how my arguments are perceived. I think keeping personal written notes with solutions could help people in putting the conscious effort of evaluating arguments in virtue of their content. It could even help the comprehension of arguments made by natives speakers...

I have a fear that, even knowing all this, if the conscious effort is lacking, the effect remains the same. I don't feel very optimistic given what I've seen in similar contexts, but I hope I'm wrong. Note that there are many areas in which knowledge doesn't really help without conscious effort. Rationality as a whole may qualify as one of these areas.


Comment by emanuele_ascani on English as a dominant language in the movement: challenges and solutions · 2019-09-08T13:27:59.770Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

It's not a matter of fairness. It's a matter of reducing the probability of not hearing good ideas because of stupid reasons.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Aging research and population ethics · 2019-09-05T08:04:25.301Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I agree.

I used "Counterintuitive", because people tend to think the person-affecting view generates more cost-effectiveness than the impersonal view (see comments under my first post), regardless of how the views affect the comparison with other causes. But yes, adopting the person-affective view seems to make aging research look better in comparison to the other causes you mention, since it negates a lot of their impact. Instead, adopting the impersonal view makes the comparison favour prevention of x-risks that could wipe out literally all of humanity (otherwise aging research looks far better), and probably some interventions regarding non-human animals, also depending on how much you value animals.

Note that this doesn't make aging research worthless to evaluate from an EA perspective. Many people and orgs (eg. Open Philanthropy) donate to more than just two top causes... and aging research seems to be second or third place, probably depending on how much you value non-human animals. Mathematically, it makes sense to differentiate between various top causes in order to reduce risk. Differentiating also makes sense when there are single specific interventions, in a seemingly worse causa area, that may nonetheless be more cost-effective than available interventions in a cause-area that overall looks better, which includes cases in which the more cost-effective interventions in the top cause-areas are funded, or if there are particularly cost-effective interventions in the seemingly worse cause-area.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on How do you decide between upvoting and strong upvoting? · 2019-08-27T11:17:53.801Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I think I upvote mostly like this (I'll edit this answer if I remember more reasons):

Strong upvote: correct (if applicable) and important.

Upvote: correct (if applicable) and slightly important, or not completely correct but interesting/potentially important (In this case I usually also reply). I also tend to upvote comments under my own posts much more because I feel the need to thank the person who took the time to write the comment somehow.

I don't always follow these rules exactly, but mostly. For example, sometimes I upvote to close the gap between two comments I consider equally important under a post.


Comment by emanuele_ascani on Who would you like to see do an AMA on this forum? · 2019-08-26T11:09:09.062Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Relevant people involved in potential top cause areas.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on How do you, personally, experience "EA motivation"? · 2019-08-16T13:03:47.373Z · score: 10 (8 votes) · EA · GW

For me there is a strong "what the world could be if I did this, so it would be a huge waste if I didn't do this" sense that motivates me, although in the past I used to overestimate the potential good effects of my actions. I think it is probably similar to the need for efficiency you mention, but it also generates an unpleasant but correct sense of urgency, because usually if I don't do things fast, the effect could not be the same. There's also wanting to have a good impact in the world, which is more core and generates meaning.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Do Long-Lived Scientists Hold Back Their Disciplines? · 2019-08-13T13:21:57.637Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'm not sure if these considerations would change how aging research looks from an EA perspective. It's one of the many "rounding errors" that could be considered as side effects, besides the main purpose of buying QALYs and freedom. Moreover, all of these additional considerations, both positive and negative, might be made irrelevant by new disrupting tech and societal/political/organisational change. Examples: cognitive enhancements, AI, research funding management.

I'm not sure if there's a definite answer about how much cognitive decline influences this kind of stuff, but I wouldn't be surprised if "being stuck in old ways" or not being able to understand new developments and innovate are symptoms of neurological old age more than accumulated bias.

There are also other factors that are less related to aging (but which could still benefit from rejuvenation) that play into how superstar researchers hinder the careers of younger scientists (see Gavintaylor's comment). These problems, though, don't need people to die in order to be solved. Organisational improvements would be sufficient.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity · 2019-08-04T10:37:01.493Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Population capacity gets larger as technology improves, so it's not obvious we'll reach maximum capacity in the near future (next centuries). Regardless of this, even if we reached it, the impact of aging research wouldn't be impacted, because impact comes from making LEV closer, not from guaranteeing LEV's existence. You will find answers in the second post of the framework: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/uR4mEzMR7fiQzb2c7/aging-research-and-population-ethics

Notice that the post you are commenting under is just the first in a series. I already published four of them! Here the second, third and fourth. There are more to come, and I also plan to do some interviews with organizations. I suggest you read what I wrote so far and get back if you have more doubts and still want more pieces of information or a primer on the field. It will be probably useful for you to subscribe to my posts through the "Subscribe to this user's posts" option in my profile.


Comment by emanuele_ascani on Impact of aging research besides LEV · 2019-07-09T09:32:06.642Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

The fact that no new hallmark has been discovered in decades is probably telling. But I think it is reasonable to believe that there are different hallmarks that will be visible in longer-than-human lifespans.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Impact of aging research besides LEV · 2019-07-08T15:08:13.751Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yes! What Hallmarks to prioritise is an extremely important thing to figure out. The next post is coming out soon, and this topic is a central part of it. In short, I think we should keep an eye on two things when trying to prioritise in this area: if a given research is necessary for achieving LEV, and how neglected it is. Neglectedness seems to be particularly important because the hardest research is often the most neglected (too long term for private investment, too risky for public funding). The hardest hallmarks will be cracked later, so they will more or less constitute the lat "bastions" before LEV. If we speed up progress on them, then we should impact the date of LEV the most. A way to measure neglectedness could be to browse papers by keyword and see what hallmarks have the least number of entries. Another useful preliminary tool could be this roadmap, by lifespan.io. The most neglected/hardest hallmarks are probably the ones currently in the earliest stages of research.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Impact of aging research besides LEV · 2019-06-07T18:28:00.532Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I think in general It would make most sense to prioritise research that would impact the date of LEV the most, because LEV results in both living healthier and longer. Also, it would be probably easier to do, since it's difficult to know what hallmark/aspect of aging impacts healthspan the most, and they impact each other a lot. Instead, we probably can estimate the relative impact on the date of LEV using neglectedness (more on this in the next post). As a strategy, prioritising the short-term to have a bigger immediate effect I suspect would be less cost-effective.

Also note: therapies improving age-related diseases the most would also be the ones extending life the most. Curing aging and age-related diseases is the same thing. If aging is not cured some disease will always remain, because otherwise why would you die?

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Impact of aging research besides LEV · 2019-06-07T13:51:08.254Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the comments :) I basically agree with everything. The only thing I would add is this:

Getting a life satisfaction curve from 20 to 90 year old that don't have age related-disabilities could be a step in the right direction for understanding how to extrapolate life satisfaction to life spans that are only possible through LEV. It has to be kept into account, though, that a healthy old person (or a healthy middle aged person) is still in worse health than a healthy young person. In fact, yesterday, it was suggested to me to add to the post the subtler effects of aging that aren't counted as diseases. Things like, for example, loss of neuroplasticity and fluid intelligence. Another person reminded me of the fact that physical appearance also degrades very fast with age. Maybe it would turn out to be correct to extrapolate the life satisfaction curve you get from healthy old people, but I'm not sure how much. I think it's at least very probable that doing that would fail for lives longer than a couple of centuries, although maybe we could still try to do a rough estimate while accounting for uncertainty. There are a lot of things to take into consideration that would complicate such an extrapolation. Examples: A possible different relationship with death and risk, higher possibility to try new things and take financial risks, more time for doing everything, being able to choose different life paths and careers, being able to experience new transformative technologies and human progress, experiencing the death of other people much more rarely and generally never seeing them lose their qualities. These things probably count as subtler possible benefits of aging research, although I didn't list them in the post. There are probably many others.


Comment by emanuele_ascani on Which scientific discovery was most ahead of its time? · 2019-05-25T09:32:28.614Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Charles Babbage designed The Analytical Engine, that was a mechanical general purpose (Turing complete) computer, in 1837. This is remarkable, because it came a century before all the theory that was put in place by Turing, which inspired, and is at the heart of, today's computers. You can find a description of The Analytical Engine in Babbage's biography: "Passages from the Life of a Philosopher". His apprentice Ada Lovelace wrote some programs for it, becoming the first programmer in history.

This fact inspired a lot of Steampunk fiction, reasoning along the lines of: "What if the Analytical Engine was actually built and improved upon at that time? What if other non general purpose mechanical calculators like The Difference Engine followed the same development of the ones based on circuits we saw during the twentieth century?"

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Aging research and population ethics · 2019-04-30T09:07:00.224Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This is true, but the carrying capacity increases as technology improves. This plus the fact that birthrates are under the replacement rate in the developed world and going down pretty much everywhere should make us think we will not be in a malthusian situation when LEV arrives.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Aging research and population ethics · 2019-04-28T17:16:44.795Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW
It depends how you interpret PA. I don't think there is a standard view - it could be 'maximise the aggregate lifetime utility of everyone currently existing', in which case what you say would be true, or 'maximise the happiness of everyone currently existing while they continue to do so', which I think would turn out to be a form of averaging utilitarianism, and on which what you say would be false.

Good points, although I'm not sure who would hold averaging utilitarianism. But yes, in this case prolonging life wouldn't matter.

Yes, but this was a comment about the desirability of public advocacy of longevity therapies rather than the desirability of longevity therapies themselves. It's quite plausible that the latter is desirable and the former undesirable - perhaps enough so to outweigh the latter.

I doubt that the damages of public advocacy would outweigh the good. Only if advocacy is really good at convincing people of the possibility of bringing aging under medical control, the large-scale distress you mention could happen. But then aging would become an issue under the eyes of everyone and funding would immediately spike up, along with policies to accelerate the process. If this happens, the supposed psychological distress would be a rounding error if compared even only with additional DALYs prevented at the end of life. Otherwise, if advocacy manages to convince people of the possibility of putting aging under medical but doesn't bring additional money and talent in research, then yes the psychological damage would probably outweigh the positive impact. But is this a possibility? I don't think it's possible to convince a large fraction of the population and at the same time not cause resources to pour in the field. Then you could argue that research could be so ineffective that pouring resources into it wouldn't accelerate anything. But I think this has a very low probability. Note also that in expectation even a very small hastening of the field would outweigh psychological distress.

Your argument was that it's bigger subject to its not reducing the birthrate and adding net population in the near future is good in the long run. Both are claims for which I think there's a reasonable case, neither are claims that seem to have .75 probability (I would go lower for at least the second one, but YMMV). With a .44+ probability that one assumption is false, I think it matters a lot.

At worst the PA view and the impersonal view have the same effect, so "it matters a lot" seems exaggerated to me. A totally unrelated idea would be introducing a discounting of impact because of these considerations, but it still wouldn't be advisable using expected value.

Again this is totally wrong. Technologies don't just come along and make some predetermined set of changes then leave the world otherwise unchanged - they have hugely divergent effects based on the culture of the time and countless other factors. You might as well argue that if humanity hadn't developed the atomic bomb until last year, the world would look identical to today's except that Japan would have two fewer cities (and that in a few years, after they'd been rebuilt, it would look identical again).

I think you are right here, but I still don't think most of the impact would come from the ripple effects that hastening aging research would have on the far future. We don't even know if the effects will be good or bad. In my view they would be probably just cultural and neutral cost-effectiveness wise.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Aging research and population ethics · 2019-04-28T10:39:18.253Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW
The person-affecting (PA) view doesn't make this a slam-dunk. PAness doesn't signify that death in itself has negative value, so given your assumption 'that there isn't suffering at the end of life and people get replaced immediately', on the base PA view, increasing lifespans wouldn't in itself generate value. No doubt there are flavours of PA that would claim death *does* have disvalue, but those would need to be argued for separately.

The PA view doesn't need to assign disvalue to death to make increasing lifespans valuable. It just needs to assign to death a smaller value than being alive. Unless you literally don't care if people live or die or you think that dying is better than living, my argument holds.

Obviously there often *is* profound suffering at the end of life, which IMO is a much stronger argument for longevity research - on both PA and totalising views. Though I would also be very wary of writing articles arguing on those grounds, since most people very sensibly try to come to terms with the process of ageing to reduce its subjective harm to them, and undoing that for the sake of moving LEV forward a few years might cause more psychological harm than it prevented.

If we make LEV nearer we don't increase the distress anti-aging therapies will cause to people at first. We just anticipate the distress.

My impression is that the PA view is held by a fairly small minority of EAs and consequentialist moral philosophers (for advocates of nonconsequentialist moral views, I'm not sure the question would even make sense - and it would make a lot less sense to argue for longevity research based on its consequences), and if so, treating it as having equal evidential weight as totalising views is misleading.

I guess so. I used the same style being used in the introductory articles to EA, which are pretty neutral, although they recognise the neutral view as probably superior. This doesn't matter though, since, as I wrote, impact under the neutral view is actually bigger.

3) 'Reminder: most of the impact of aging research comes from making the date of LEV come closer and saving the people who wouldn't otherwise have hit LEV.'
This is almost entirely wrong. Unless we a) wipe ourselves out shortly after hitting it (which would be an odd notion of longevity), or b) reach it within the lifespans of most existing people *and* take a death-averse-PA view, the vast majority of LEV's impact of it will come on the ripple effect on the far future, and the vast majority of its expected impact will be our best guess as to that

Financing aging research has only the effect of hastening it, so moving the date of LEV closer. The ripple effect that defeating aging would cause on the far future would remain the same. People living 5000 years from now wouldn't care if we hit LEV now or in 2040. So this isn't even a measure of impact.

EAs tend to give near-term poverty/animal welfare causes a pass on that estimation, perhaps due to some PA intuitions, perhaps because they're doing good and (almost) immediate work, which if nothing else gives them a good baseline for comparison, perhaps because the immediate measurable value might be as good a proxy as any for far-future expectation in the absence of good alternative ways to think about the latter (and plenty of people would argue that these are all wrong, and hence that we should focus more directly on the far future. But I doubt many of the people who disagree with *them* would claim on reflection that 'most of the impact of poverty reduction comes from the individuals you've pulled out of poverty').
Longevity research doesn't really share these properties, though, and certainly doesn't have them to the same degree, so it's unlikely to have the same intuitive appeal, in which case it's hard to argue that it *should*. Figuring out the short-term effects is probably the best first step towards doing this, but we shouldn't confuse it with the end goal.

If you are curious, Sarah Constantin recently wrote an analysis using the shorter term effects of aging research as a measure of impact. This one. Also, my next post is exactly on the shorter term impact. I think it'll be published in a couple of weeks. It will cover DALYs averted at the end of life, impact on life satisfaction, the economic and societal benefits, impact on non-human animals.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity · 2019-04-28T08:40:10.591Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hey, I just published the second post of the framework, which answers your comment pretty well. I even mentioned you inside it. Here it is: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/uR4mEzMR7fiQzb2c7/aging-research-and-population-ethics

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Who is working on finding "Cause X"? · 2019-04-14T21:07:24.152Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Open Philanthropy, Give Well, Rethink Priorities probably qualify. To clarify: my phrase didn't mean "devoted exclusively to finding new potential cause areas".

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Who is working on finding "Cause X"? · 2019-04-14T08:52:19.768Z · score: 15 (8 votes) · EA · GW

In my understanding "Cause X" is something we almost take for granted today, but that people in the future will see as a moral catastrophe (similarly as to how we see slavery today, versus how people in the past saw it). So it has a bit more nuance than just being a "new cause area that is competitive with the existing EA cause areas in terms of impact-per-dollar".

I think there are many candidates seeming to be overlooked by the majority of society. You could also argue that no one of these is a real Cause X due to the fact that they are still recognised as problems by a large number of people. But this could be just the baseline of "recognition"a neglected moral problem will start from in a very interconnected world like ours. Here what comes to my mind:

  • Wild animal suffering (probably not recognised as a moral problem by the majority of the population)
  • Aging (many people probably ascribe it a neutral moral value, maybe because it is rightly regarded as a "natural part of life". Right consideration but it doesn't imply its moral value or how many resources we should devote to the problem)
  • "Resurrection" or, in practice, right now, cryonics. (Probably neutral value/not even remotely in the radar of the general population, with many people possibly even ascribing it a negative moral value)
  • Something related to subjective experience? (stuff related to subjective experience that people don't deem worthy to assign moral value to because "times are still too rough to notice them", or stuff related to subjective experience that we are missing out but could achieve today with the right interventions).

Cause areas that I think don't fit the definition above:

  • Mental Health, since it is recognised as a moral problem by a large enough fraction of the population (but still probably not large enough?). Although it is still too neglected.
  • X-risk. Recognised as a moral problem (who wants the apocalypse?) but too neglected for reasons probably not related to ethics.

But who is working on finding Cause X? I believe you could argue that every organisation devoted to finding new potential cause areas is. You could probably argue that moral philosophers, or even just thoughtful people, have a chance of recognising it. I'm not sure if there is a project or organisation devoted specifically to this task, but judging from the other answers here, probably not.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity · 2019-02-01T22:55:33.366Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I just answered your other comment, but I saw this one only now. Apparently both notifications didn't arrive. Thanks a lot for taking the time to read and answer both.

Some of my replies in the other comment apply here too. I'll go in order.

Regarding your first paragraph: Yes, I'm preparing a post about potential age discounting that could be applied. I included it among the moral considerations that would correct impact. But you made a good point, and I may need to modify it in the light of it.

Regarding AI and other technology: For the very specific case of AI potentially automating R&D I think the timeline is longer than for LEV achieved through biomedical research (I'm taking the view that arises from the probability distribution given by AI researchers), but, as you said, it's not the only technology that would make some of the efforts made now less useful.

Regarding your third paragraph: Yes, probably the only non-human animals benefitting from LEV would be pets, although I don't know how many. I should try to do an estimate.

Regarding comparisons with other cause areas: I think there are some interventions in aging research that could reap massive benefits which are neglected and somewhat tractable. Copying from the other comment: The foundational research is not very neglected, while there are wide areas of translational research that could use much more funding and that are necessary to reach the final goal. From the lifespan.io's Rejuvenation Roadmap you should get a preliminary idea.

Your example using the SENS approach is correct: areas like stem cell research and cancer research don't seem to be underfunded. But they are only two pieces of the puzzle. Some others are being much more neglected. That's why SENS itself gives higher priority to the most neglected areas, like mitochondrial dysfunction and crosslinks, which should be also more tractable (an interesting fact is that Aubrey de Grey often emphasises neglectedness, tractability and scope in his conferences, but I haven't heard anyone within EA pointing this out). If stem cells research, cancer and other difficult and highly funded areas were all there is to aging research, it wouldn't look like a very good candidate EA cause. In fact, not only de Grey but many researchers in the area are pursuing projects they believe are very much funding constrained (example: Steve Horvath).

About the comparison with x-risk reduction: Yes, I broadly agree that x-risk reduction looks overall more promising as a cause area. However I think that many x-risk focused interventions have a higher level of uncertainty. It also seems that within Effective Altruism little to no effort has been made to evaluate aging research, while, to me, it looks highly competitive with many of the other focuses of EAs (some specific interventions inside aging research should be very recognisably better). So it should be analysed further, especially because we may be missing out on especially important opportunities.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Expected cost per life saved of the TAME trial · 2019-02-01T22:09:37.420Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hey! Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it. For some reason I'm only seeing it now and by chance. I don't know if I didn't get the notification or if I missed it.

I'm not sure if this is the post I was asking feedback for though. This analysis is from nine months ago, and my views on it changed. On Facebook I was probably referring to this other post I made recently: A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity. [EDIT: I just saw you made a comment under that post too, so never mind].

Regarding the content of your comment: I agree with most of it. In fact 3.6 years is probably a big overestimation. However, I still think, in general, that bringing LEV forward could be a big contributor to the cost-effectiveness of aging research in general. In my newer post I lay your same arguments about improving technology that may subsume the effect of today's research, making it less cost-effective. This factor also influences variable E in the TAME analysis, which I also probably vastly overestimated. For the very specific case of AI potentially automating R&D I think the timeline is longer than for LEV achieved through biomedical research (I'm taking the view that arises from the probability distribution given by AI researchers), but, as you said, it's not the only technology that would make some of the efforts made now less useful.

Maybe I'm still less "pessimistic" than you in the sense that I think that an ice-breaking effect could enable more research on what are neglected facets of aging for which treatments could be devised much more quickly. The foundational research is not very neglected, while there are wide areas of translational research that could use much more funding and that are necessary to reach the final goal. From the lifespan.io's Rejuvenation Roadmap you should get a preliminary idea.

Your example using the SENS approach is correct: areas like stem cell research and cancer research don't seem to be underfunded. But they are only two pieces of the puzzle. Some others are being much more neglected. That's why SENS itself gives higher priority to the most neglected areas, like mitochondrial dysfunction and crosslinks, which should be also more tractable (an interesting fact is that Aubrey de Grey often emphasises neglectedness, tractability and scope in his conferences, but I haven't heard anyone within EA pointing this out). If stem cells research, cancer and other difficult and highly funded areas were all there is to aging research, it wouldn't look like a very good candidate EA cause. In fact, not only de Grey but many researchers in the area are pursuing projects they believe are very much funding constrained (example: Steve Horvath).

About the comparison with x-risk reduction: Yes, I broadly agree that x-risk reduction looks overall more promising as a cause area. However I think that many x-risk focused interventions have a higher level of uncertainty. It also seems that within Effective Altruism little to no effort has been made to evaluate aging research, while, to me, it looks highly competitive with many of the other focuses of EAs (some specific interventions inside aging research should be very recognisably better). So it should be analysed further, especially because we may be missing out on especially important opportunities.

Regarding the expected number of years added by metformin: I think "one year" is a very conservative number given the evidence I've presented, and you'll often hear researchers estimating more.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on EA Forum Prize: Winners for December 2018 · 2019-02-01T11:20:04.397Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I want to remind that in January some posts may not be browsable by day anymore. This happened to my post, but I don't know if other people had this same problem. You may want to keep this in mind in order not to miss potential candidates.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on You Should Write a Forum Bio · 2019-02-01T08:24:39.138Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this post! I didn't realise a description could be important. I added one :)

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Cost-Effectiveness of Aging Research · 2019-01-31T17:23:43.837Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Hey, this is a great post! I'm really happy to see it, and it was a really nice and unexpected surprise.

I don't know if you have seen it, but I recently published the first post of a (will be) series in which I'm trying to build a framework for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of any given aging research/project: this one.

In your model you only account for DALYs prevented for measuring impact, while I would like to account for many more things: all the considerations arising from the concept of Longevity Escape Velocity (e.g. bringing its date closer by one year could save roughly 36,500,000 lives of 1000QALYs each, using a conservative estimate), DALYs prevented, the economic and societal benefits of increased healthspan (the longevity dividend), the value of information.

I would also like to explore moral considerations that could potentially influence impact, such as if age discounting has to be applied and how population ethics influence the estimates, since at a first glance an impersonal view seems to imply that a sharp downward correction is necessary (although upon further analysis it turns out that this is not the case).

Another difference is that I'm trying to build the tools for evaluating specific interventions inside this cause area, and not strictly the cause area as a whole. I'm taking this approach since I believe there are some interventions that would be very ineffective to fund and others that would be extraordinarily cost-effective.

One implication of this is how I will measure tractability and neglectedness: to estimate neglectedness I will probably use the arguments OpenPhilanthropy's made on the topic but with an important addition: it would be informational to list the organisations working on facets of aging that are the least further along in the pipeline that goes from in vitro research to clinical application. We can probably start from the lifespan.io's Rejuvenation Roadmap to build a list of this kind. For evaluating tractability there will be probably some scientific arguments to make.

At the end I will also analyse specific non-profits and interview some people.

In case you want to take a glance on what I'm currently writing, I gave you access to my current drafts (which are not polished at all, but may give you an idea of how I'm proceeding): this, this and this.

P.s: Nine months ago I also made this estimate of the expected cost per life saved of the TAME trial. It's not great, but it may be of interest. It was made before I begun thinking about the framework.

Edit: Are you planning on doing other cost-effectiveness estimates on this topic? Should we unite forces?

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity · 2019-01-15T14:15:03.455Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

It's not necessarily obvious that this is the case.

Premise: In probability theory the chance of two independent events (which are events that don't affect each other) happening together, like six coming up after you toss a dice and head coming up after you toss a coin, is calculated by multiplying the probability of the two events. In the case of the dice and the coin .

In the case of calculating expected future lifetime you need to sum all the additional number of years you could possibly live, each multiplied by their probability. This is how an expected value is calculated, and if you think about it it's basically a weighted average: you want to know the "average" year you will live to, but in making the average each year can weight more or less depending on its probability.

It turns out, though, that in this case you can simplify the expected value formula, by only adding the probabilities of being alive at any given future year. This works, intuitively, because you are basically adding up all expected values that are made like this: . But what is the probability of surviving one more year? It is the probability of not dying all of the previous years! And so to find the probability you need to multiply all the independent events of not dying in a particular year between your current age and the year you are measuring the probability of arriving to. If the chance of dying any given year is constant at then the probability of not dying is , and the multiplication is like this the number of factors is the number of years between now and the year you are calculating the probability to arrive to. Let's call this number . The the multiplication becomes

So you are basically adding up probabilities made like this: but with k growing till infinite, since you want to account the probability of surviving to any arbitrary future year when calculating the expected value.

Why those probabilities add up exactly to 1/chance of death? I would think about it this way: when is small, the term is large, but still smaller than . The subsequent terms of the addition will be subsequently each time a little smaller. So you are basically adding up terms a little smaller than but each time smaller and smaller. So what happens when you will have added terms? You will not quite reach in your sum. But this is compensated by all the subsequent super small terms you add till the infinite addition is complete.

Regarding population ethics: I finished to write the first draft of the second post in the series, and it is exactly about this topic. Can I send the Google Doc to you so you can comment in advance on it? It's around 2k words. I know you are a moral philosopher (I remember you writing so in your post about Hippo), so it would be great to have feedback.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity · 2019-01-14T00:21:26.045Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'm thinking about writing a post just for the proofs, so I can generalise to every technology. I could try to explain the maths in there for who has less background. It should be feasible making pictures of examples of graphs.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity · 2019-01-13T19:30:25.704Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the points made, it's nice to hear from a biologist :)

I think your first point is a possibility, but almost only theoretical. Most medical technology drops in price over time. The possibility that some technology won't ever drop in price has a place in the analysis, as people may want to correct their measure of impact if they think a situation of such extreme inequality has a non negligible probability of happening. I think, though, that it's very improbable. Aging is such a burden on a state's economy that it would make sense very soon to distribute therapies for free. I think this is similar to why basic education gets distributed for free. This may seem very utopian given the current state of healthcare accessibility in the US, but not so much for the rest of the world. I would also be very surprised if such inequality existed and policies against it wouldn't been made. I think it's safe to say that the population would be extremely outraged about it, and politicians proposing policies to make treatments accessible for everyone would be voted immediately.

Regarding the second observation: You make a good point. In the analysis this is probably not clear, but I'm also pretty sure that putting all the hallmarks described in "The Hallmarks of Aging" under medical control will not eradicate aging. Even for some parts of the hallmarks there is not complete consensus if they are dangerous in a normal human lifespan. This is mostly fine but it influences the probability. Here how I reason about this: since LEV is about how fast medical technologies and treatments are invented, If "post-hallmarks" therapies get on the market fast enough, then the people who benefitted from the first ones could further increase their lifespan, and so on. At that point I would expect that funding for aging research would have skyrocketed, due to the fact that society will be well aware of what's happening, and the problems making my analysis necessary will not exist. So I think there's at least a decent probability that the subsequent therapies will come fast enough. Regarding if the next problems will be more difficult or not: this is difficult to predict, but at least we know that we will probably benefit from better technology, so even if they will be somewhat more difficult we could be able to solve them faster.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity · 2019-01-12T13:48:44.845Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, if the chance of death each year is constant it turns out that remaining life expectancy is around 1/chance of death. In fact in a previous draft of the post I just used this fact and called it a day. I had to use more formalism though, because chance of death is not constant. After LEV hits there will be a period in which it will fall down, and that needs to be taken into account in order to find a true lower bound for life expectancy. The question that is still open is what is the minimum initial decrease of risk of death that ensures LEV.

Regarding the point about population ethics: Yes, impact depends on population ethics, in the sense that it is for sure as large as it can be under person-affecting deprivationism. Even on totalism though (which seems a more reasonable view of ethics to me), I expect the considerations made to really change the view on the impact of this cause area. This because, for example, a Malthusian outcome in which the disposable resources are always all employed is not necessarily the default outcome, and also not necessarily the most desirable one if well being is took into consideration. It's also not clear if, under a non Malthusian condition, old people would take resources that would be also useful for young people. There could be vast amount of not used resources. Then added years to life expectancy could be "for free", without negating the new younger people that would be born anyway. I think you could argue both ways, so the impact evaluation needs a downward correction but it is not invalidated. Another important thing to consider on totalism are moral weights: in general I don't think that it would be better ethically to have generations and generations of people with a 5 years life span. At least if we don't only account for how much time a person lives in our ethics, but how valuable that time is. The same argument could apply for much longer lifespans. Maybe a 1000 years life span is much more preferable than a 100 year one. Or maybe not, and time discounting is needed. Again, I think you could argue both ways, because the answer largely depends on informations we currently don't have: how a 1000 years old mind looks like and how it is different from the one of a current adult.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A general framework for evaluating aging research. Part 1: reasoning with Longevity Escape Velocity · 2019-01-12T10:53:45.862Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Mati_Roy and aarongertler for the suggestion of adding a summary. Now there is one!

Maty_Roy, thank you for the points made! I would like to correct what I think are a couple of misunderstandings and I would like to elaborate on your idea about using Death Escape Velocity, instead of Longevity Escape Velocity:

Misunderstandings:

1) 36,500,000 are the people dying of aging in a year, so bringing LEV closer by one year (and not by one day) would save this number of lives.

2) If Longevity Escape Velocity doesn't happen, bringing the date in which aging is cured completely closer could simply do nothing. This because people living at that time could have already a really low risk of death, that can't go much further down with an additional improvement on treatments for aging. This because if Longevity Escape Velocity doesn't happen, then I would expect the "very slow scenario" or the "dire roadblocks" scenario to be true, and aging would be eradicated really slowly, possibly in centuries.

The points about why my estimate is conservative are summarised well, thanks for doing that :)

Regarding the idea of using "death escape velocity": I didn't use it because technologies that would decrease the risk of death by other causes other than aging are substantially different from the ones brought about by aging research. So it would be another cause area completely! I also would expect them to become more relevant in the future. I think there is not much use of thinking about them now and they wouldn't make potential EA interventions to fund, since our ideas will be probably be made useless by potentially much better technology existing after aging gets eradicated (that is the first step). "Death escape velocity"could be brought about, for example, by friendly AGI, if that ever comes about. I think this input is valuable though, since it's an existing related concept that is not talked about much.