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: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

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

Premise: In probability theory the chance of two independent events happening together, which are events that don't affect each other, 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.

I hope I have been clear. I don't know if there is an easier way of thinking about it, but there probably is. In that case I apologise, since I may be overlooking some really obvious piece of intuition.

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:


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.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on What's Changing With the New Forum? · 2018-11-12T08:54:34.900Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

No, I mean that you can upvote your own posts with the same account you used to post them. You can even upvote your own comments with the same account you used to comment.

Edit: it seems like that now there is a pre-casted vote when you post something, but you can still turn it in a strong vote.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on What's Changing With the New Forum? · 2018-11-11T08:35:54.094Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · EA · GW

It seems that now it is possible to upvote my own posts anonymously. The eternal question naturally rises: should I? In theory I think my post is useful, otherwise I wouldn't have posted it, but at the same time if I upvote it, it feels like giving a high-five to myself. On a more serious note: is this a bug or a feature?

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Expected cost per life saved of the TAME trial · 2018-05-29T16:09:31.824Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you, I applied your suggestion by modifying the text. I just noticed that Guesstimate gives you the standard deviation. I guess I had to familiarise with the tool.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Expected cost per life saved of the TAME trial · 2018-05-29T11:13:54.177Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Here how I would reason about moral weights in this case:

In this case the definition of a "life saved" is pretty different than what normally means. Normally a life saved means 30 to 80 DALYs averted, depending if the intervention is on adults or children. In this case we are talking about potentially thousands of DALYs averted, so a life saved should count more. On the other hand there's also to take into consideration that when saving, for example, children who would have died of malaria, you are also giving them a chance of reaching LEV. It's not a full chance as in the present evaluation, but something probably ranging from 30% to 70%.

Additional consideration: some people may want to consider children more important to save than adults. Introducing age weighting and time discounting could seem reasonable in this case, since even if you save 5000 DALYs you are only saving one person, so you might want to discount DALYs saved later in life. On the other hand there are reasons to disagree with this approach: Saving an old person and guaranteeing him/her to reach LEV means also "saving a library". A vast amount of knowledge and experience, especially future experience would have been otherwise completely destroyed. In fact I am not so sure I would apply time discounting myself for this reason.

Regarding bayesian discounting:

I just read how GiveWell would go about this ( To account for it I would need a prior distribution (or more than one?). I also have difficulty making the calculation, since Guesstimate doesn't let me calculate the variance of the random variables. I will try with other means... maybe with smaller data sets and proceeding by hand or using online calculators.

I would also like to introduce probability distributions in the whole analysis and turn some arguments made in the explanations of some variables in variables in their own right, and I would like to add some more informations (for example the safety profile and history of metformin and the value of information of the trial) based on feedback I'm receiving. This would mean rewriting many sections though, and this will require time.

For now I put an "Edit" at the beginning in order to warn readers not to take the numbers reached too seriously, but I invited them to delve in some more broadly applicable ideas I presented in the analysis that could be useful for evaluating many interventions in the cause area of aging.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Expected cost per life saved of the TAME trial · 2018-05-28T22:03:05.502Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for the feedback!

I'm still learning and comments really help me to be more accurate and they steepen my learning curve. I set up a Guesstimate model ( I didn't know about this tool, it is really helpful!

Tomorrow I will improve the guesstimate and get back to you with another comment regarding the bayesian discounting you proposed and the moral weights. I also might make other changes to the evaluation together with the ones you suggested, especially considering that Guesstimate lets me toy with probability distributions.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Three levels of cause prioritisation · 2018-05-28T20:41:48.764Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, maybe I exaggerated saying "almost always" or at least I have been too vague. If you haven't any idea of specific interventions to evaluate, then a good way to go is to do superficial high level analyses first and then proceed with lower level ones. Sometimes the contrary could happen though, when a particular promising intervention is found without first investigating its cause area.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Three levels of cause prioritisation · 2018-05-28T07:49:55.337Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I want to add something: It probably has been discussed before, but it occurs to me that when thinking about prioritisation in general it's almost always better to think at the lowest level possible. That's because the impact per dollar is only evaluable for specific interventions, and because causes that at first don't appear particularly cost effective can hide particular interventions that are. And those particular interventions could be in principle even more cost effective than other interventions in causes that do appear cost effective overall. I think high-level cause prioritisation is mostly good for gaining a first superficial understanding of the promise of a particular class of altruistic interventions.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Triple counting impact in EA · 2018-05-27T08:54:57.262Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

If I understood the problem well enough, a possible solution could be setting up a database of donations that is shared between many EA charities, in which donors are obviously anonymous. In this way donors can't be counted twice. In reality the database wouldn't even need to keep track of single donors but only of dollars donated, since we want to estimate if the dollars devoted to advocacy and movement building are less than new donations. Do you think this is viable? Does this offer a solution or at least improve the situation?

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A case for developing Aldehyde Stabilized Cryopreservation into a medical procedure (1/4) · 2018-05-14T16:05:02.870Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Interesting! How did you arrive at the $1,000/yr figure?

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Giving Later in Life: Giving More · 2018-05-13T10:31:26.848Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Good point. Have you also saved/invested in order to grow the capital you devoted to donations? I plan to do just that, coupled with strategies to avoid value drift.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on Concrete Ways to Reduce Risks of Value Drift · 2018-05-13T10:26:39.966Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

One thing I find really helpful to remain consistent in my values is introspection followed by writing the results down in a note, both a physical one and in a text file in my pc. I observed that this strategy really works for me, both for figuring out who I am and for making my actions consistent with it for however long periods of time. I still have 70% of the notes I wrote 5 years ago, and 100% of the most important ones that are the core of all my values.

Comment by emanuele_ascani on A case for developing Aldehyde Stabilized Cryopreservation into a medical procedure (1/4) · 2018-05-13T10:15:24.963Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I second this. Research in the area of cryonics could be an effective intervention, but proposing it in this way achieves nothing, since it doesn't do the actual work of assessing its impact per dollar. It doesn't even try.