Posts

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 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.