Comment by Holly_Elmore on [deleted post] 2019-05-13T17:33:34.106Z

I'd like to propose another group that shouldn't donate: people with a pre-disposition to conditions that require treatment with medication that is hard on the kidneys.

I'm really glad I didn't try to donate my kidney a few years ago before I knew I would need to be taking a med (probably for the rest of my life) that can cause serious renal damage. In fact, kidney damage is a major reason people have to go off this drug and often they don't find an equivalent cocktail for dealing with the disease symptoms.

I imagine getting treated with any brutal medication is harder with one kidney. I hope this is something discussed with altruistic donors, but I never hear about it. I only hear about how you'd be higher up on the transplant list if you had kidney disease, and that that's an advantage because most kidney disease would have hit both kidneys (were they there) anyway. But that makes me imagine disease arising within the kidney or the body, not kidney damage due to treating other conditions.

Comment by Holly_Elmore on [deleted post] 2019-05-13T17:25:26.263Z
People who are doing direct work, if they expect three weeks of their work to produce more QALYs than donating.
It may be worth considering whether the enforced rest from donating a kidney would have some of the benefits of taking a vacation for you.

This could be turned into a searing satire of EA. "Earn a rest from the work that's too marginally impactful to pause for a few weeks by donating a kidney. To you, post-surgical recovery will seem like a vacation!"

The Turing Test podcast #8: Spencer Greenberg

2019-05-13T15:30:23.246Z · score: 22 (9 votes)
Comment by holly_elmore on Cash prizes for the best arguments against psychedelics being an EA cause area · 2019-05-11T13:18:17.126Z · score: 23 (12 votes) · EA · GW

The real goal you seem to be advancing, Milan, is spirituality, not psychedelics per se. Based on testimony from people I trust and some slightly dubious research, I think psychedelics can likely be helpful in that, but they shouldn't be our frontline tool. I think meditation is a much better candidate for that.

Sam Harris and Michael Pollan argue that psychedelics are useful for convincing people there's a there there, and that makes sense to me. You have to put a lot of time and blind effort into meditation to get that same assurance. But the struggle, and particularly "asking" for deeper wisdom through your faithful efforts, is a really important part of spiritual realization according to most traditions (and in my personal experience). Based on what I've read (haven't taken them), I don't think taking psychedelics often does the trick on its own.

And there are many downsides to psychedelics. People who don't know how mentally unstable they are may take them and be thrown badly off-kilter. Bad trips are harrowing and can reach unimaginable heights of terror. I don't think most people have the slightest clue how deeply and completely their minds could torture them. Even if people one day are grateful for what they've been through (as I am now with my mental illness), I would not knowingly inflict that risk on people when there are gentler ways. Even intense meditation can have these destabilizing effects, but psychedelics are much more potent, can't be stopped on demand, and can be wielded by totally unskilled people. My guess is that the the most common harm comes from tripping habitually out of sensation-seeking rather than humbly to gain self-insight or wisdom. Again, this can happen in meditation, too, but it's a lot less likely. When you add in all the infrastructure necessary to mitigate these risks, like comprehensive mental health screenings and guides and practice sessions, doing psychedelics right doesn't seem that much easier than a meditation retreat and it doesn't teach you any skills. The advantage of psychedelics at that point is speed and the guarantee that some experience of altered consciousness will take place, which is not nothing, but all this safety equipment undercuts the elegance of taking a little pill proponents have harped on.

Psychedelics could be a more EA-style intervention than meditation (if either of them qualify) because pills are scalable, but creating a safe environment with skilled guides is a lot less so. Meditation can be taught by one teacher to many people in parallel with much less equipment. It can even be taught pretty well through apps. Meditation takes longer to reach the experiences/insights psychedelics throw up in your face, but they are more digestible through meditation and insight alone is insufficient for most people to transform their lives-- the vast majority also need skills like equanimity acquired through practice.

Psychedelics probably have a role to play, but I do not think they are the magic bullet proponents claim they are. They come with serious dangers, and mitigating those dangers undercuts their scalability, which was imo their biggest EA selling point. Safer alternatives, the vast array of meditative schools and techniques, exist. Psychedelics have some advantages over traditional meditation-- speed and guaranteed action-- but they are no panacea. My best guess is that they should be a targeted prescription for certain roadblocks on the spiritual path.

Comment by holly_elmore on I want an ethnography of EA · 2019-05-09T16:40:04.960Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Haven't had a chance to read much but it's already gold

Comment by holly_elmore on Complex value & situational awareness · 2019-05-09T00:05:43.359Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

But they have project projects as well as what you're describing.

Comment by holly_elmore on Complex value & situational awareness · 2019-05-08T23:04:31.406Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I think this is your strongest point, but the question remains whether you can specialize in situational awareness and adding complex value. Personally, I think you need to have a main hustle to really apply these abilities.

Comment by holly_elmore on Complex value & situational awareness · 2019-05-08T22:53:18.134Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Not to be mean, but how much value has Alex actually generated? The size of his network is very impressive, but do we know that making it has had substantial positive outcomes?

(This is mostly a rhetorical question because I know Alex and his activities very well. I know my opinion but perhaps you will disagree. Also, he knows about my skepticism.)

Comment by holly_elmore on My positive experience taking the antidepressant Wellbutrin / Bupropion, & why maybe you should try it too · 2019-05-08T02:43:35.545Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I appreciate this!

Comment by holly_elmore on Should we consider the sleep loss epidemic an urgent global issue? · 2019-05-07T21:00:14.120Z · score: 14 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Although I don't think it's a likely EA cause area, I definitely think it's good for the world to raise awareness about the costs of sleep deprivation among EAs! I'd love to see norms in our community of respecting sleep, like not having events too late, not making them too overstimulating, not relying on alcohol to make something a social event, rejecting startup-y "always on" culture on by doing business mostly by daylight, etc.

Comment by holly_elmore on How do we check for flaws in Effective Altruism? · 2019-05-07T19:57:12.081Z · score: 21 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I think I know very well where Nathan is coming from, and I don't think it's invalid, for the reasons you state among others. But after much wrangling with the same issues, my comment is the only summary statement I've ever really been able to make on the matter. He's just left religion and I feel him on not knowing what to trust-- I don't think there's any othe place he could be right now.

I suppose what I really wanted to say is that you can never surrender those doubts to anyone else or some external system. You just have to accept that you will make mistakes, stay alert to new information, and stay in touch with what changes in you over time.

Comment by holly_elmore on If this forum/EA has ethnographic biases, here are some suggestions · 2019-05-07T19:48:29.065Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW
First of all, youch, people did not like this post. That's okay.

Aww, I'm sorry-- I didn't mean to sound harsh. I get very sensitive on this forum so I hate that I made you feel that way. I guess I was just really eager to clarify that diversity was not why I wanted an ethnography done and not considerate enough of the position you laid out.

I have a strong reaction against weighted voting on the basis of demographics, but it would definitely be interesting to see how it changed things.

Comment by holly_elmore on How do we check for flaws in Effective Altruism? · 2019-05-06T20:08:38.502Z · score: 15 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Just person to person, I don't think there's any substitute for staying awake and alert around your beliefs. I don't mean be tense or reflexively skeptical-- I mean accept that there is always uncertainty, so you have to trust that, if you are being honest with yourself and doing your best, you will notice when discomfort with your professed beliefs arises. You can set up external standards and fact checking, but can't expect some external system to do the job for you of knowing whether you really think this stuff is true. People who don't trust themselves on the latter over-rely on the former.

Comment by holly_elmore on Should we consider the sleep loss epidemic an urgent global issue? · 2019-05-06T19:10:02.298Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'm biased in favor of this. I started sleeping enough when I got very ill (proper sleep on a routine schedule is the most important thing I can do besides medication to manage my disease) and it has made such a difference to my experience of life. I'm beginning to suspect overstimulation in general is a hugely underappreciated cause of pysical and psychological dysfunction.

My only hesitation is that the solutions that are forthcoming aren't exactly in EA's wheelhouse, but that could be because I'm not thinking creatively enough. Sleep deprivation is important and neglected, but might not be very tractable and effective solutions may or may not be scalable. There's not some cheap supplement that everyone needs that we could just hand out. You have to be dedicated to making an against-the-grain personal behavior change to sleep more, and that's complicated and hard. (As I say, only severe illness was able to move the needle for me.) My first thoughts are all policy solutions: later school start times, more mandatory sleep breaks for hospital workers, shift workers, etc., some way of regulating smartphones to cut into sleep less? One of those might rise to EA criteria.

Comment by holly_elmore on If this forum/EA has ethnographic biases, here are some suggestions · 2019-05-06T18:53:25.983Z · score: 30 (12 votes) · EA · GW

As the author of the original piece on ethnography, I just want to clarify that what I want out of it is an understanding of the social function of our beliefs, which can help us weigh whether or not they are true. It wouldn't be a diagnostic of what's wrong with EA. Even if it did indicate we are very homogeneous (big surprise), that wouldn't necessarily mean we should change.

Ethnographic study could well reveal that many of the beliefs that bind EAs together are alienating to non-whites or lots of women. We already know it's not super-welcoming/appealing to older people. But that doesn't necessarily mean EA should change. We may see easy ways to change to increase diversity and we may see that the things we'd have to change to get better diversity numbers are really core to the movement. Also, if we did try to change, I'd keep an open mind about the ways in which we change. These 80k recommendations are ways to make the workplace more equal, and generally a good idea, but they can't really be applied to the community itself.

An ethnography would just be more information about EA-- any changes we make would be motivated by our beliefs about what EA should be. I don't ever see EA being all things to all people, and it shouldn't try. It should try to do the most good. Increasing diversity could be part of doing the most good (imo for epistemic reasons), but I think we need to be careful not to get swept up in the diversity moment of popular culture or think that imperfect representation is an automatic condemnation.

Comment by holly_elmore on If this forum/EA has ethnographic biases, here are some suggestions · 2019-05-06T18:26:09.044Z · score: 20 (9 votes) · EA · GW
an ethnography (which I guess is like a census)

It's not, and it's not like a survey, either. It's when a skilled anthropologist, who understands many general principles of human culture, becomes immersed in a culture for the purposes of detailed observation and writes down their findings. The written account is an ethnogrpahy and the entire practice comprises the field of ethnography. The wikipedia article is accurate.

Comment by holly_elmore on I want an ethnography of EA · 2019-05-04T20:33:12.195Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

What is this bear/bull distinction?

Comment by holly_elmore on I want an ethnography of EA · 2019-05-04T01:16:27.882Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Good point. I originally interpreted the comment to mean just an independent take on 80k topics, and I'm super-supportive of that, but I agree with you that it shouldn't be adversarial.

Comment by holly_elmore on I want an ethnography of EA · 2019-05-04T01:12:15.482Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I was imagining it as more of a population study than case studies or biographies. More of a study of EA the movement than the stories of individuals involved in EA.

Comment by holly_elmore on Scrupulosity: my EAGxBoston 2019 lightning talk · 2019-05-03T18:22:48.774Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Kelsey's bit on sovereignty is great! I've been realizing the importance of that concept recently but I hadn't put a name to it. Lack of sovereignty is a pretty good description of the "crippling moral doubt and confusion --> loss of agency, total conformity to ideology" symptom as well.

Comment by holly_elmore on I want an ethnography of EA · 2019-05-03T18:07:47.093Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I see this as something of a different question, i.e. "What portion of this disagreement is due to factors we can access through self-reflection and rationally discuss?" I would want the ethnography to get at things we're too embedded in to see.

Comment by holly_elmore on I want an ethnography of EA · 2019-05-03T17:59:32.970Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I feel like growing up religious (and especially having lots of different Protestant sects in the family) gives me insight that a lot of people in EA who were raised secular don't have. I think it's because we think of those failure modes as having to do with irrational religion (like believing in the supernatural) and not the rational approach we're taking. Short of getting a specific study of EA, I think most EAs would benefit from learning about the history of social and especially religious movements to see how much we are like them.

Comment by holly_elmore on I want an ethnography of EA · 2019-05-03T17:48:27.971Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Cool! I've never heard of these so thank you very much.

Scrupulosity: my EAGxBoston 2019 lightning talk

2019-05-02T23:08:25.894Z · score: 52 (22 votes)

I want an ethnography of EA

2019-05-02T20:33:38.915Z · score: 65 (39 votes)
Comment by holly_elmore on Reasons to eat meat · 2019-04-29T02:09:15.090Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I think reducetarianism is really important and not satireworthy. I am vegan because I don't want to consume slaughtered animals period. Although I think changing norms is the most important effect of veganism, my (small) donations arguably do more to directly combat factory farming. I couldn't eat meat knowing what it is, and it would require me to numb my morality to try, but if someone can and has to try really hard to reduce meat consumption, I think they should do as much as they can and not feel too bad.

Ultimately, as much as this goes against my instincts, eating meat is a sin that's comparable to all the other sins that a person can't fully eliminate from their life. It's a priority issue for me, but I believe that a person could do as much or more good than me by working on different issues and still eating meat.

The Turing Test podcast is back with Bryan Caplan!

2019-04-15T20:35:51.995Z · score: 25 (11 votes)
Comment by holly_elmore on Severe Depression and Effective Altruism · 2019-03-30T15:42:32.027Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

But the most important reason not to kill yourself is that you matter. You are a light of sentience in this world and you are suffering. This is also the most important reason to focus on your own health and happiness right now, even if it feels selfish.

Comment by holly_elmore on Should EA Groups Run Organ Donor Registration Drives? · 2019-03-28T13:42:33.883Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I think you're ignoring how much easier, more discrete, and more scalable an organ donation registration drive is than any of these examples.

Also, how many people have to learn CPR through a 4-hour certification for one of them to actually use it? I don't know how favorably it actually compares to the lifesaving potential of spending a few minutes per person registering them to donate their organs.

Comment by holly_elmore on Should EA Groups Run Organ Donor Registration Drives? · 2019-03-27T21:54:41.297Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW
More specifically, I think there's high community-building value in doing activities that:
1. Do a significant, easily quantifiable amount of good;
2. Address important problems;
3. Have some EA motivation; and
4. Give people a chance to talk about their EA worldview with non-EAs

Strong upvote. I wrote something similar before seeing you had written this.

Comment by holly_elmore on Should EA Groups Run Organ Donor Registration Drives? · 2019-03-27T21:53:12.891Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW
6. For signaling and credibility reasons, I think it's generally good for EA groups to run activities that have very concrete, public, measurable impacts. This scores well on all of those (e.g., # of donors registered).
[7] ...especially if groups have underutilized volunteer capacity.

I would say it's worth doing for this reason alone. One reason group volunteer activities are often so ineffective is that the real point is social bonding over a shared altruistic project. EA groups could use more of that feeling of camaraderie and discrete accomplishment that doesn't generally follow work on the most effective causes. Since I think it's worth finding more activities that new people or low-commitment people could do to get started or that would boost morale, I don't think it's necessary to justify something like this solely in terms of direct effectiveness. Activities like this can really strengthen ties in the group, which are a huge multiplier the group's and the individuals' effectiveness.

Also, this is just my observation, but I think getting people to do easy things like giving up their organs after death creates a sense of altruistic buy-in that leaves them more favorably disposed toward greater altruism later.

I second concerns about making organ donor registration drives an EA "thing," but I think it would probably be a nice idea for individual groups to do of their own iniative, especially if they think it would be good for them socially.

Comment by holly_elmore on Severe Depression and Effective Altruism · 2019-03-26T14:31:08.253Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Something I wrote about my experience of being addicted to self-hatred and why:

Comment by holly_elmore on Severe Depression and Effective Altruism · 2019-03-26T14:24:49.066Z · score: 11 (8 votes) · EA · GW

"If I gave away all this money I've just got and really angered my parents, who I love so much, and completely broke their trust, then committed suicide, I would still make more of a positive difference to the world than selfishly getting "better" and spending it on myself"

This is not true. You obviously matter to your parents and probably to many more people than you realize. But the biggest loss would be to you, and that's the most important thing.

I also think it's untrue that you'll do more for the world depressed. I've been through similar states and I know how compelling and obvious that idea can feel. But when I emerge and my mood is higher, I see how deluded I was. I was living in constant excruciating pain hating myself. It was all I thought about. My productivity was low and my work of low quality. The only altruistic edge I possibly had was feeling undeserving of my resources. Most importantly, when my mood improves, I no longer feel the need to justify my existence by being self-sacrificing enough. I still want to do good, but it's less about what it means for me and more about the effect for others. I may have less lofty ambitions when I'm healthier, as you seem to observe in yourself, but I think my chances of real impact are much greater.

You sound like you would benefit from self-compassion. As I said, I suffer from really similar issues and it has changed my life. You're obviously very sensitive to the world's suffering-- why not listen to and be compassionate for your own? The best thing is it doesn't matter why you're suffering, whether you think you deserve it or not; you can always offer compassion just for the experience of suffering. I'd recommend Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff and Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.

Part of letting go of depression and self-loathing for me did involve accepting that I was a more mediocre person than the standard I used to whip myself to achieve. I don't think you can avoid mourning that ideal of yourself. But when I did, I pretty quickly saw that it was never me and that it came out of fear that my real self wasn't good enough. Turns out being mediocre isn't so bad when you don't think it makes you unlovable.

I don't think we have to justify our own mental health by how effective or altruistic it makes us. We're each just one person, but we have more control over our own well-being than we do over anyone else's. Imagine if you could lift someone else out of depression, how huge that would feel, what a difference you would see. The pain of self-hatred may be one of the most significant sources of suffering in the world, but it doesn't lend itself to SNT interventions as of yet. That doesn't mean it's not important! You're well-placed to help one person. Isn't it worth it to give that gift to yourself?

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T21:19:59.690Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · EA · GW

By "not entirely separate," I meant something more like "the Brown accusations have put him under a level of scrutiny that makes future allegations more likely/more likely to be refelexively believed/make smaller incidents more damning, even if he weren't doing anything to provoke them." So I was referring more to whether the judges in the recent events were affected by knowledge of the Brown events, that kind of "not entirely separate." The events themselves, you're right, would have to be different instances.

What I thought was grasping at straws was your attempt at gotcha syllogistic reasoning.

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T20:30:58.471Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

(I thought maybe Oli thought I knew him or something and that's why he said I was "better placed to continue the discussion.")

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T18:32:05.776Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · EA · GW

I think you're really grasping at straws here. Is the point to depose Oli, or what? Surely you can't think you're going to get more information about what did or did not happen this way. There are many conceivable ways that the Brown allegations could color CEA's perception of more recent allegation, making the different events not entirely separate.

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T18:20:35.057Z · score: 7 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Just to be clear, I barely know Jacy. I've seen him many times at events, including when he came to Harvard on his book tour, but I don't believe I've ever had a private conversation with him. (Fwiw he never came close to being inappropriate with me or giving me a bad vibe.)

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T17:18:15.559Z · score: 11 (10 votes) · EA · GW

I'm not sure what you mean by A, B, and C. Just to be clear, all I'm saying is that the only thing that this apology has ruled out is "Jacy vehemently denies any possibility of wrongdoing and would not cooperate with CEA's decision regarding him." Other than that, I feel it is compatible with most scenarios of his guilt/innocence and of his reaction to being accused.

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T13:22:34.073Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · EA · GW

"I'm merely pointing out that this gives you zero Bayesian evidence to distinguish two very different kinds of situations."

This is all I was trying to point out, too. We know he's cooperating with CEA and accepting a reprimand. I think that's all this apology tells us.

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T13:19:23.829Z · score: 19 (10 votes) · EA · GW

I think this apology sounds a lot like the template of a dignified apology that a lot of us have in our heads. Take as much responsibility as you can, don't shrink from the accusations or blame anyone else. He speaks several times of the restorative process, and part of that is offering apologies along these lines. There are many classes you can take and books you can read (I've read some), popular in Jacy's communities, on how to give these apologies. He may well have composed it alongside CEA. Why would you think it should sound emotional, like he wrote it the moment he learned of the reprimand?

It doesn't mean much, but my first reaction was that it seemed like he was overreacting and trying to rise above by taking a lot of responsibility. I really don't know, though. I think all of our speculation on the basis of a formal apology is unlikely to clarify anything.

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T13:15:23.850Z · score: 4 (9 votes) · EA · GW

"Consider the implications for criminal law - does this imply that all people accused should submit guilty pleas merely because they have been accused?"

Good example, actually, because false confessions are a thing. The fact that someone would confess or apologize alone does not entail guilt. You may not do it (or think you would), but false confessions happen because it's easy to imagine you did something wrong when people you trust/fear are telling you you did. I'm sure being a scrupulous and ethical person steeped in social justice ideas about being naturally ignorant of the impact of your actions doesn't help.

I believe we should respect what responsibility he takes above. I'm not trying to say he didn't do something wrong (seems very possible as well) but I think trying to discern that from this formal apology is not really possible. Saying that you would never apologize like this if you were innocent just isn't real evidence, since many people have.

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T12:42:35.622Z · score: 12 (11 votes) · EA · GW

I think we just don't know and we're probably not going to get any more blood out of this turnip.

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T00:28:28.931Z · score: 15 (18 votes) · EA · GW

^That said, I think we should take Jacy at his word and not argue with any responsibility he takes. I'm not trying to exonerate him. I'm just saying expressing remorse at the possibility of unintentional wrongdoing is not evidence of guilt imo. You don't know until it happens, but I can see myself reacting this way if someone came at me with a serious accusation that made me feel like a bad person. [Edit: If I was unsure whether I'd done any wrongdoing,] I'd probably instantly want to betray myself rather than face people thinking I was guilty and unremorseful.

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T00:20:37.636Z · score: 24 (21 votes) · EA · GW

I can see how a person accused might reflexively take responsibility and do what it takes to express willingness to change. I mean, that's what we're taught to do in enlightened communities (animal rights is among the most intense, especially after #ARmetoo). I don't see Jacy stepping back and soul-searching when told of accusations as clear evidence of his guilt. Especially since the belief that powerful people can unknowingly do immense harm to vulnerable individuals is so common in lefty culture (especially AR) these days. I think it's easy to gaslight yourself and think you actually might have done something seriously wrong without knowing.

Comment by holly_elmore on Apology · 2019-03-25T00:06:23.027Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Kathy Forth mentioned getting someone banned from EAG.

Comment by holly_elmore on Suggestions for EA wedding vows? · 2019-03-22T16:02:05.708Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Not exactly EA, but part of a scientific worldview: I had the end of the last paragraph of Origin read at my wedding.

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

In fact, it's pretty un-EA to say that "higher" animals are "the most exalted object we are capable of conceiving," haha.


There's a lot of Zen stuff about using your intimate relationships as a supportive place to learn altruism which can then be applied to wider and wider circles. That seems pretty appropriate for a wedding. I don't have any links off the top of my head because I usually hear this kind of thing at dharma talks, but it's usually along the lines of someone asking a Zen master how to be a better person and getting the answer, "Every day when you wake up, think 'only for my wife, only for my wife.' When your wife's welfare is like your own, think 'only for my family'" and so on through the neighborhood, the community, the city, the country, the world. The localist hierarchy isn't EA, but the idea that you have to level up your compassion with the support and commitment of those you are close to brings EA themes together with marriage.

Comment by holly_elmore on EA jobs provide scarce non-monetary goods · 2019-03-21T02:44:44.355Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Strong upvote. I think this is exactly it.

Comment by holly_elmore on Justice, meritocracy, and triage · 2019-03-20T18:59:54.871Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the cite :)

You're right, I generally think of Level 2 thinking as fighting the hypothetical. For the purposes of our philosophical games, it's really annoying when people can't answer the question and deal with fundamental tradeoffs. It's like fighting the setup to a math problem-- "Does Jane really have to divide up her apples?" They are refusing to engage with their values, which is the point. BUT, irl, it is pretty important not to get locked into a falsely narrow idea of what the situation is and leap to bite bullets. You aren't given the ironclad certainty of the hypo. If you're not sure this is a triage situation, then devote time to figuring that out.

The fear I was addressing in my Triage essay was that people get locked onto "finding another way" as their Level 1 answer. Because there are situations where a creative solution eliminates a hard choice, there must not be any hard choices! They won't take decisive triage action, because that's sub-theoretically-optimal, but they will let the worst outcomes come about (i.e., waiting too long so everyone dies) so long as they didn't have to get their hands dirty. I think the fear that people will rush to drastic action when there were alternatives is just as valid.

I do get a bit annoyed by the fear that we'll get so good at triage that reasoning developed under conditions of emergency and scarcity will get locked in. It's not just you. People seem really afraid of giving in to the logic of triage even if they understand it, like they'll lose some important moral or intellectual faculty if they do so. They especially fear that they shouldn't adopt triage ideas if they won't always have to think that way. It's like they are worried about taking the utilitarianism red pill and not being able to unsee that way of thinking even if they know it's unnecessary. It would be interesting to study why this is. Be that as it may, though, triage thinking is the best thing we have in emergency medical situations under conditions of scarcity, which still exists. Acknowledging tradeoffs and scarcity more broadly still seems pretty important to maximizing utility today as well. I don't think "we may have abundance one day, and then we wouldn't have to think about tradeoffs" is a reason not to employ triage and lose all those QALYs in the meantime. I also think it's very unlikely that triage/tradeoffs, if they were embraced where applicable today, would be much harder to unlearn in conditions of abundance than the deeper, instinctive scarcity thinking we'd have to deal with anyway.

Comment by holly_elmore on Effective Altruism and Meaning in Life · 2019-03-20T00:02:52.367Z · score: 18 (9 votes) · EA · GW

I really love this! The style makes it clear you are practicing what you preach about letting yourself play and take aesthetic delight :) I really relate to your journey thus far and it means a lot to have other people talk about it.

Comment by holly_elmore on [Link] A Modest Proposal: Eliminate Email · 2019-03-19T22:51:27.135Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Autoreplies get out of hand really quick. When the autoreply bug goes through a work environment, pretty soon autoreplies are 60% of your inbox. Out of courtesy for others, I only use them for vacations.

I used to have my urgent email address in my signature so truly urgent emails could get my attention (push notification to phone). My advisor found the instructions and the implication that all emails are not important to be condescending, so I removed it. But I might reinstate it if my next position increases my email burden.

Comment by holly_elmore on [Link] A Modest Proposal: Eliminate Email · 2019-03-18T22:08:55.699Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

It doesn't solve all the problems of email, but as a first step, but why not simply have email checking hours instead of office hours? Almost all the shittiness of email for me isn't about the medium but the "always on" expectation. In my current job (ABD Phd student), I can restrict email checking to 2 or 3 times a day, and I'm pretty happy with that.

Hell, if people just had the expectation that emails will take at least 24 hours to answer, I think we'd be way better off. People don't prepare their initial inquiries well because sending an email is so cheap. If they weren't expecting a back-and-forth to get at the real issue for the next day, then they might do a better job figuring out their actual question in the first place.

Comment by holly_elmore on The Evolution of Sentience as a Factor in the Cambrian Explosion: Setting up the Question · 2019-03-11T22:30:50.996Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Nice job :) Studying evolutionary history to understand the possibilties for minds is probably my favorite EA genre.

One criticism: We don't know if sentience really imbues or is necessary for any of the traits you listed as associated with it. You sort of addressed the hard problem after the list, but if you're not positing some benefit to awareness itself then I think you might as well say the Cambrian Explosion was due to a predator-prey arms race that elaborated the nervous system of many animal taxa and promoted fossilizable protected exteriors. Might be more accurate to say that sentience was a byproduct of the Cambrian Explosion if it's those factors you see as beneficial and you're just noting their seeming association with sentience.

If you expand this, I think it would really help to clarify what it would mean for sentience to play an active role in spurring the diversification (i.e. if sentience somehow gives the ability to learn and sense) versus the diversification promoting the things required for sentience.

Comment by holly_elmore on Three Biases That Made Me Believe in AI Risk · 2019-02-14T21:22:40.846Z · score: 13 (12 votes) · EA · GW
[...]I noticed that most of my belief in AI risk was caused by biased thinking: self-aggrandizing motivated reasoning, misleading language, and anchoring on unjustified probability estimates.

Thank you so much for your reflection and honesty on this. Although I think concerns about the safe development of AI are very legitimate, I have long been concerned that the speculative, sci-fi nature of AI x-risks gives cover to a lot of bias. More cynically, I think grasping AI risk and thinking about it from a longtermist perspective is a great way to show off how smart and abstract you are while (theoretically) also having the most moral impact possible.

I just think identifying with x-risk and hyperastronomical estimates of utility/disutility is meeting a suspicious number of emotional and intellectual needs. If we could see the impact of our actions to mitigate AI risk today, motivated reasoning might not be such a problem. But longtermist issues are those where we really can't afford self-serving biases, because it won't necessarily show. I'm really glad to see someone speaking up about this, particularly from their own experience.

Comment by holly_elmore on [blog cross-post] The remembering self needs to get real about the experiencing self. · 2019-02-10T04:07:01.240Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I guess it depends on how narrowly you define EA. I think of evaluating states of pleasure/suffering, affective forecasting, and decision-making as common EA topics. My argument is related to a hedonistic utilitarian argument against preference utilitarianism, but I don't often hear people taking on shortcomings of the remembering self the way they do preferences. Usually the remembering self is held out as a superior perspective on life because it's out of the moment, when I argue it's just as selfish as the experiencing self. In fact, it's just another kind of experiencing self that wants different things.

[blog cross-post] The remembering self needs to get real about the experiencing self.

2019-02-08T18:21:18.746Z · score: 16 (8 votes)

Who sets the read time estimates?

2018-12-28T16:41:26.014Z · score: 9 (4 votes)

[blog cross-post] On privacy

2018-12-28T15:41:29.448Z · score: 31 (27 votes)

[blog cross-post] We are in triage every second of every day

2018-12-12T21:20:21.300Z · score: 37 (22 votes)

[blog cross-post] potential lost; substance gained

2018-12-12T21:13:20.689Z · score: 1 (1 votes)

[blog cross-post] Charity hacks

2018-12-12T20:56:43.697Z · score: 4 (2 votes)

[blog cross-post] More on narcissism

2018-12-12T20:42:17.656Z · score: 1 (1 votes)

[blog cross-post] So-called communal narcissists

2018-12-12T20:37:24.046Z · score: 9 (7 votes)