Posts

Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time 2021-04-07T07:49:29.359Z
FJehn's Shortform 2021-04-07T07:23:14.502Z
Making a collection of freely available mental health resources 2021-03-03T13:34:43.074Z
In diversity lies epistemic strength 2021-02-06T15:54:11.853Z
Lotteries for everything? 2020-11-27T09:40:06.326Z
The end of the Bronze Age as an example of a sudden collapse of civilization 2020-10-28T12:55:51.262Z
Which properties does the EA movement share with deep-time organisations? 2020-08-26T10:59:18.354Z
EA in Germany: Insights about local groups 2020-08-01T10:34:43.912Z
Keeping everyone motivated: a case for effective careers outside of the highest impact EA organizations 2019-08-22T06:43:06.142Z

Comments

Comment by FJehn on Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time · 2021-04-08T12:32:27.804Z · EA · GW

That's a valid point. Here's the controversy graph if you exclude all posts that don't have any downvotes:

Overall trend seems to be similar though. And it makes me even more interested what happened in 2018 that sparked so much controversy^^

Comment by FJehn on Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time · 2021-04-08T08:06:35.422Z · EA · GW

You can ask the API for "viewCount". However, it seems to always return "null". Not sure if this means that you aren't allowed to query for this or if the problem is just me not getting the queries right^^

Comment by FJehn on Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time · 2021-04-07T12:43:36.019Z · EA · GW

Great. Thanks :)

Comment by FJehn on Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time · 2021-04-07T12:39:50.131Z · EA · GW

That seems to have been the case. Sorry about that. Does it work now?

Comment by FJehn on FJehn's Shortform · 2021-04-07T07:23:16.103Z · EA · GW

Test predictions 

https://forecast.elicit.org/binary/questions/3LtxhQ5kZ

Comment by FJehn on Making a collection of freely available mental health resources · 2021-03-03T13:35:58.041Z · EA · GW
  • Name: Replacing Guilt Series
  • What is it? 
    • This is a collection of blog articles by Nate Soares that tackle the problem of using guilt as your main motivator. 
  • Why do you like it? 
    • Motivating yourself can be hard and the default motivator is often guilt and the feeling that you “should” be doing something. These posts try to show that guilt is not a good (and especially not a sustainable) way to motivate yourself and explore more long term approaches to keep your motivation running.  
  • Where to start? 
Comment by FJehn on Making a collection of freely available mental health resources · 2021-03-03T13:35:42.744Z · EA · GW
  • Name: Woebot
  • What is it? 
    • Woebot is a chatbot that does cognitive behavioural therapy with you. 
  • Why do you like it? 
    • While a chatbot is obviously not the same as having a therapist, it is easily available and for some cognitive behavioural therapy exercises you basically only need someone to talk you through it. Woebot is more on the cute side, which I guess could be annoying for some people, but I think it sets a friendly atmosphere. It also helps you to track your mood and has a vast collection of exercises to help with sleep problems, stress and other mental health problems. 
  • Where to start?  
    • You can just download the app (e.g. via Google Play) and start talking to it immediately. 
Comment by FJehn on Making a collection of freely available mental health resources · 2021-03-03T13:35:21.719Z · EA · GW
  • Name: The Happiness Lab 
  • What is it? 
    • The Happiness Lab is a podcast by Dr. Laurie Santos which discusses new scientific insights about happiness research.
  • Why do you like it? 
    • I enjoy listening to this podcast because it is basically a self-help guide, but deeply grounded in scientific research. Also, it has a cheerful tone to it, which makes me more likely to tune in. I think it has helped me to build a more optimistic view on life.
  • Where to start? 
    • In march 2020 The Happiness Lab started a mini series  to help with the mental problems that arose due to the global pandemic. For example, loneliness or struggling to keep relationships intact. As Coronavirus is still around those episodes might be a good starting point, but even after the pandemic they can provide valuable tips on how to cope with more extreme situations.
Comment by FJehn on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-12T16:58:14.632Z · EA · GW

It seems like my post created more of a buzz than I anticipated. Many people seem to get the message from it: “we should only care about demographic diversity and nothing else”. I’m sorry that my wording was apparently so vague, as this is not really what I meant. 

To create a fruitful discussion you not only need diversity, but also at least some value alignment and some knowledge about the topic that is being discussed. Given that some value alignment and some knowledge about the topic are present, diversity of perspectives is a powerful way to make sure that the knowledge and insight gained from such a discussion increases. It allows the participants in the discussion to detect each other’s blind spots and challenge their assumptions. And this is where demographic diversity comes into play. I think that you cannot easily (or even at all) measure your subconscious assumptions and biases, but I think that those assumptions and biases originate from the experiences that you have in your life. Those experiences are strongly shaped by demographic markers like age, gender, race, etc.. Therefore, we should make sure to have enough people from different subgroups to not miss out on perspectives that would challenge erroneous assumptions in our thinking. 

Another post from the EA Forum which might have done a better job at highlighting a similar idea is “EA Diversity: Unpacking Pandora's Box”, as it unpacks the different facets of diversity explicitly. Unfortunately, I only came across it after I had published my post. 

Comment by FJehn on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-08T07:46:24.644Z · EA · GW

You seem to assume that diversity of perspectives is easy to measure, because you only link it to the professional background of a person. However, I would argue that while profession is important, so is how I grew up and what experiences I had in my life due to sex, gender, race and other markers. Those things you cannot easily measure directly, but they improve discussions, as they lead to more assumptions being challenged. 

Comment by FJehn on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-08T07:43:39.331Z · EA · GW

Simply asking someone about their beliefs works if you have something conrete to ask for and know that kind of perspective you want to include. However, how would you know which questions to ask for? Aren't the questions you are asking not based on your own perspectives? What this post aims for is highlighting the importance of perspectives you cannot easily predict. For example, if you would you are doing a Hamming Circle you might have a hunch beforehand which people you would like to include, but during the circle the best feedback and help comes from a person and perspective you never even would have considered to be important. 

And to your second point: Why not both? My post aims to highlight the importance of diverse perspectives. Therefore, I would assume that I would get the most valuable consensus from a group consisting of economist, a biologist, a nurse, a poet, a cop and a prostitute, which are also diverse on race, age and sex. 

Comment by FJehn on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-07T11:17:24.978Z · EA · GW

That is true. To participate in any discussion you must know something about the topic at hand. Still, I don't think this is at odds with my post. To stay with your example in philosophy, my post does not intend to argue that basically everyone in the world should partake in philosophy discussions, but merely that the philosophy community should make sure that important perspectives are not overlooked, by a diverse set of people. Your idea of having to have a claim of expertise to meaningfully contribute to a discussion is also highlighted in "Why trust Science?" and I probably should have it highlighted more in my post. We should acknowledge that knowledge about a topic can also stem from lived experience. In addition, even if I have little knowledge about a topic I might be able to challenge an assumption that was overlooked by a homogenous group.

Comment by FJehn on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-07T07:24:06.271Z · EA · GW

Thank you for your comment. Could you tell me which part of my post led you to the conclusion that we should leave out perspectives of privileged people? I saw my argument as "include as many perspectives as you can to challenge more assumptions". Or are you making a general comment on your view of feminism?

Comment by FJehn on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2021-01-12T21:00:45.847Z · EA · GW

Did you have time to look at the evidence? If so, what is your impression? 

Comment by FJehn on The funnel or the individual: Two approaches to understanding EA engagement · 2021-01-11T11:19:18.808Z · EA · GW

Thank you for this article. I really like the idea of your model and how you highlight how it compares to the funnel model. I think it is a good idea for the EA community to focus more on the "middle" and how to keep people motivated who are not the most highly engaged. This is especially important as it is unclear what causes might be the most important in the future. Right now highest engagement is only really possible for people who are working in the currently most valued causes areas. However, those might change in the future and we might need people with different skills and perspectives and retaining those people is only possible if we offer everyone ways of participation and growth. 

Comment by FJehn on What are some potential coordination failures in our community? · 2020-12-16T08:49:39.361Z · EA · GW

That is indeed a problem, I also saw signs of this several times. Thank you for that comment. At least for initial funding lotteries might be a good idea, as they would allow much quicker grant applications and would remove bias. I recently asked a questions about this here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/XtxnLERQfampY7dhh/lotteries-for-everything

While I do think that lotteries have some flaws, they still seem pretty good to me when it comes to initial funding. 

Comment by FJehn on Lotteries for everything? · 2020-12-06T21:37:21.465Z · EA · GW

That's a great resource. Thanks!

Comment by FJehn on Lotteries for everything? · 2020-12-04T16:33:40.279Z · EA · GW

I think the problem that it is really, really hard to come up with better systems. As mentioned above research grants have quite a few problems. Those problems are founded in human bias and a lack of knowledge. I cannot really evaluate the value of a grant if I have not seen all the other grants and I might be influenced by my biases so give it to a scientist I like or trust. In addition, if there would be an easy and obvious system people would probably already have implemented it.  

So, lotteries solve this problem. There might be better approaches, but many of them probably need an allknowing and unbiased arbiter and I have the impression that we lack those. 

Basically it boils down to the question: Am I better in evaluting this than chance? And I think people often are not due to their unconcious bias and knowledge gaps. 

Comment by FJehn on Lotteries for everything? · 2020-11-27T18:03:16.467Z · EA · GW

Its true that this is probably most suited to a funding scheme aimed at early researchers due to the limitations mentioned by you. However, I might think that the grant success might go up if you use a model were you sort out all bad research first, because your 20 % is probably relate to the overall number of applications. Or maybe you could give people more tickets in the lottery if they have proven they can produce good research. However, this might introduce new biases.  

In addition, it might still be a good approach for intermediate researchers because the overall time for the whole grant process gets reduced dramatically if you can cut out most of the peer review, which might lead to more calls for research proposals. 

Concerning the Nature article and the modified lottery system: I read conflicting opinions on this. While the Nature article states that very good research can be identified easily, there are also others that state that researchers can only reliably identify bad research, but have a hard time to sort good research in any reproducible way.  

Comment by FJehn on The end of the Bronze Age as an example of a sudden collapse of civilization · 2020-10-29T12:06:25.793Z · EA · GW

Thank you for your notes. Really quite interesting. I was not aware that the dating of the Hekla eruption was so disputed. The reason I focussed on it was that droughts seemed to me like they played a crucial role. The research by Drake et al. argued (relying on isotope data) that this drought was caused by a cooling of the sea, which in turn needs an explanation. And the most likely explanation seemed to be a volcanic eruption.

But I agree that it is overall very hard to understand the timing of all those events. Especially as it played out differently in different parts of the region. In some regions maybe the pandemic struck first, while it was migration or drought in others. I had hoped to highlight  this complex web in my second figure. 

Comment by FJehn on The end of the Bronze Age as an example of a sudden collapse of civilization · 2020-10-28T14:22:53.279Z · EA · GW

Thank you. Yeah when I wrote this down I was a bit shocked myself on how many bad things can happen at the same time. 

You're are right that the argument about the comparison with the other eruption is a bit flaky. The problem is that this is so long ago and most written sources were destroyed. So, we have to rely on climatic reconstructions and those are hard. Therefore, I found accounts that both eruptions were of similar strength, but also some which argued that one of them was stronger than the other.  However, the earlier eruption happened smack in the middle of the Bronze Age empires, while the one during the collapse happened in Iceland. So, I would also be very interested in the opinion of someone about this who spend a career on it. 

To your second argument: I agree that we have vastly more ressources and knowledge now. The problem is that it seems to me that our power to destroy ourselves increased as well and the society seems much more unlikely to recover when a really bad disaster would strike. So, my feeling is that stabilizing and destabilizing factors increased in a similar magnitude. 

Thank you for the article from Cowen. I see this danger as well. Such topics always remind of this article. It is mainly a rant about programmers, but it also touches on the problem that much of our infrastructure will be very difficult to restart once its stopped, because so much of it are just improvised stopgap solutions. 

Comment by FJehn on The end of the Bronze Age as an example of a sudden collapse of civilization · 2020-10-28T12:57:17.939Z · EA · GW

I could not really fit this neatly in the text, but the destruction of Ugarit was the scene for a grim, yet fascinating bit of history that I do not want to withhold from you. During some archeological excavations clay tablets were found with the following text:

“My father, behold, the enemy’s ships came (here); my cities(?) were burned, and they did evil things in my country. Does not my father know that all my troops and chariots(?) are in the Land of Hatti, and all my ships are in the Land of Lukka?… Thus, the country is abandoned to itself. May my father know it: the seven ships of the enemy that came here inflicted much damage upon us.“

This was a desperate call for help, but we were only able to dig up those clay tablets, because the clay was baked by the city burning down around them and the tablets were buried beneath the rubble of the destroyed city. I think this is a stark reminder of what can happen when civilization collapses.

Comment by FJehn on Which properties does the EA movement share with deep-time organisations? · 2020-08-30T19:19:24.069Z · EA · GW

Thank you. Glad it was of interest!

Comment by FJehn on Which properties does the EA movement share with deep-time organisations? · 2020-08-28T12:12:10.549Z · EA · GW

Thank you for your comment. I am not aware of any organizations that supply those goods. At least in an EA like fashion. If you you make your net a bit wider you might find things that are at least somewhat related. But I agree it would be helpful if there would be somebody else also doing this, as it would bring in new perspectives that EA might miss.

Could you elaborate a bit on your last point a bit? Do you mean with your comment that it would be ok (or even good) if EA ceases to exist if the reason would be that EA ideas were widespread?

Comment by FJehn on Keeping everyone motivated: a case for effective careers outside of the highest impact EA organizations · 2019-08-23T10:30:58.824Z · EA · GW

Thank you for the feedback.

When I was talking about academia I wasn't imaging a student that is almost sure to steer a field, but more of a "regular" PhD student. For example I will be finishing a PhD in environmental science soonish. I think I am doing a good job there, but when I see who is applying for EA orgs it seems somewhat unlikely that I will get into one of the main EA orgs anytime soon (or ever^^). Therefore, trying to infuse EA ideas into the general discourse in my field might be one of the few things I can do while in academia.

Regarding what local groups could do, I am still a bit unsure what is the best approach (which is why I did not include it in the post). But a few ideas floating in my head are:

  • Creating more opportunities for people in local group become friends, as this ensures long time engagement:
    • Create additional events that are only meant for people to connect with each other
    • Push for more 1 on 1 talks in the group, so all people in the group know each other well
  • Using local groups as a support network:
    • Help each other finding meaningful jobs
    • Maybe even create something like a local group fund. So everyone in the group gives some money every month and when a member of the group needs financial leeway to create something EA related he/she can get money from that fund.
  • Creating a tighter network in your country:
    • Have more and longer coutry wide networking events
    • Basically all the things GEAN is trying to implement

Probably some of those ideas (or all?) are already included in the bigger EA groups. However, the smaller groups that I have met so far (in Germany) are not yet so sophisticated.




Comment by FJehn on Keeping everyone motivated: a case for effective careers outside of the highest impact EA organizations · 2019-08-22T12:57:18.639Z · EA · GW

Hard question, as it depends on a lot of parameters. For example:

  • What is the marginal value of the person getting into EA org in comparison to the person who would get the job otherwise? I can imagine it is not that big in some cases, as quite a lot of very professional people apply to EA orgs.
  • What is the marginal value of the person leading the group in the comparison to the person who would do it otherwise. Here I would argue that it might be much bigger, as I have the impression that local groups rise and fall with the person(s) who organize them. Often you have one (or a few) very active person(s), who do most of the work. Without them the group slowly dissolves.

It also depends on how big the possible impact of the group or the EA org is. However, if in doubt I would say that often the local group might a very good option, as it can easily act as a multiplier by enhancing the impact of other people in the local group.