Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct 2019-07-30T05:48:57.665Z · score: 52 (57 votes)
Extinguishing or preventing coal seam fires is a potential cause area 2019-07-07T18:42:22.548Z · score: 54 (27 votes)
Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice? 2019-07-03T00:20:40.213Z · score: 21 (18 votes)
Consequences of animal product consumption (combined model) 2019-06-15T14:46:19.564Z · score: 18 (12 votes)
A vision for anthropocentrism to supplant wild animal suffering 2019-06-06T00:01:43.953Z · score: 28 (14 votes)
Candidate Scoring System, Fifth Release 2019-06-05T08:10:38.845Z · score: 11 (10 votes)
An Effective Altruist Course for Capitalism 2019-05-24T00:34:21.858Z · score: -1 (8 votes)
An Effective Altruist Plan for Socialism 2019-05-24T00:30:19.653Z · score: 3 (8 votes)
Overview of Capitalism and Socialism for Effective Altruism 2019-05-16T06:12:39.522Z · score: 36 (17 votes)
Structure EA organizations as WSDNs? 2019-05-10T20:36:19.032Z · score: 8 (7 votes)
Reasons to eat meat 2019-04-21T20:37:51.671Z · score: 45 (54 votes)
Political culture at the edges of Effective Altruism 2019-04-12T06:03:45.822Z · score: 8 (22 votes)
Candidate Scoring System, Third Release 2019-04-02T06:33:55.802Z · score: 11 (8 votes)
The Political Prioritization Process 2019-04-02T00:29:43.742Z · score: 9 (3 votes)
Impact of US Strategic Power on Global Well-Being (quick take) 2019-03-23T06:19:33.900Z · score: 13 (9 votes)
Candidate Scoring System, Second Release 2019-03-19T05:41:20.022Z · score: 30 (15 votes)
Candidate Scoring System, First Release 2019-03-05T15:15:30.265Z · score: 11 (6 votes)
Candidate scoring system for 2020 (second draft) 2019-02-26T04:14:06.804Z · score: 11 (5 votes)
kbog did an oopsie! (new meat eater problem numbers) 2019-02-15T15:17:35.607Z · score: 31 (19 votes)
A system for scoring political candidates. RFC (request for comments) on methodology and positions 2019-02-13T10:35:46.063Z · score: 24 (11 votes)
Vocational Career Guide for Effective Altruists 2019-01-26T11:16:20.674Z · score: 29 (20 votes)
Vox's "Future Perfect" column frequently has flawed journalism 2019-01-26T08:09:23.277Z · score: 33 (30 votes)
A spreadsheet for comparing donations in different careers 2019-01-12T07:32:51.218Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
An integrated model to evaluate the impact of animal products 2019-01-09T11:04:57.048Z · score: 36 (20 votes)
Response to a Dylan Matthews article on Vox about bipartisanship 2018-12-20T15:53:33.177Z · score: 56 (35 votes)
Quality of life of farm animals 2018-12-14T19:21:37.724Z · score: 3 (5 votes)
EA needs a cause prioritization journal 2018-09-12T22:40:52.153Z · score: 3 (13 votes)
The Ethics of Giving Part Four: Elizabeth Ashford on Justice and Effective Altruism 2018-09-05T04:10:26.243Z · score: 6 (6 votes)
The Ethics of Giving Part Three: Jeff McMahan on Whether One May Donate to an Ineffective Charity 2018-08-10T14:01:25.819Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
The Ethics of Giving part two: Christine Swanton on the Virtues of Giving 2018-08-06T11:53:49.744Z · score: 4 (4 votes)
The Ethics of Giving part one: Thomas Hill on the Kantian perspective on giving 2018-07-20T20:06:30.020Z · score: 7 (7 votes)
Nothing Wrong With AI Weapons 2017-08-28T02:52:29.953Z · score: 17 (21 votes)
Selecting investments based on covariance with the value of charities 2017-02-04T04:33:04.769Z · score: 5 (7 votes)
Taking Systemic Change Seriously 2016-10-24T23:18:58.122Z · score: 7 (11 votes)
Effective Altruism subreddit 2016-09-25T06:03:27.079Z · score: 9 (9 votes)
Finance Careers for Earning to Give 2016-03-06T05:15:02.628Z · score: 9 (11 votes)
Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption 2015-12-22T11:30:42.615Z · score: 22 (30 votes)


Comment by kbog on Extinguishing or preventing coal seam fires is a potential cause area · 2019-08-01T23:54:28.970Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This is too ad hoc, dividing three or four cause areas into two or three categories, to be a reliable explanation.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-08-01T09:28:13.216Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

OK, sounds like the biggest issue is not the recognition algorithm itself (can be replicated or bought quickly) but the acquisition of databases of people's identities (takes time and maybe consent earlier on). They can definitely come together, but otherwise, consider the possibilities (a) a city only uses face recognition for narrow cases like comparing video footage to a known suspect while not being able to do face-rec for the general population, and (b) a city has profiles and the ability to identify all its citizens for some other purpose but just doesn't have the recognition algorithms (yet).

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-08-01T09:20:23.987Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Well, I'm not trying to convince everyone that society needs a looser approach to AI. Just that this activism is dubious, unclear, plausibly harmful etc.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-08-01T09:18:02.169Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW
  • This need not be about ruthlessness directed right at your interlocutor, but rather towards a distant or ill-specified other.
  • I think it would be uncontroversial that a better approach is not to present yourself as authoritative, but instead present a conception of general authority in EA scholarship and consensus, and demand that it be recognized, engaged with, cited and so on.
  • Ruthless content drives higher exposure and awareness in the very first place.
  • There seems like an inadequate sticking rate of people who are just exposed to EA, consider for instance the high school awareness project.
  • Also, there seems like a shortage of new people who will gather other new people. When you just present the nice message, you just get a wave of people who may follow EA in their own right but don't go out of their way to continue pushing it further. Because it was presented to them merely as part of their worldview rather than as part of their identity. (Consider whether the occasionally popular phrase "aspiring Effective Altruist" obstructs one from having an real EA identity.) How much movement growth is being done by people who joined in the recent few years compared to the early core?
Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-08-01T08:53:14.390Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I am also thinking of how there has been more back-and-forth about the optimizer's curse, people saying it needs to be taken more seriously etc.

I don't think that the prescriptive vs descriptive nature really changes things, descriptive philosophizing about methodology is arguably not as good as just telling EAs what to do differently and why.

I grant that #3 on this list is the rarest out of the 4. The established EA groups are generally doing fine here AFAIK. There is a CSER writeup on methodology here which is perfectly good: it's about a specific domain that they know, rather than EA stuff in general.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-08-01T08:42:46.165Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I've long preferred expressing EA as a moral obligation and support the main idea of that article.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-07-31T06:24:12.399Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Here's some support for that claim which I didn't write out.

There was a hypothesis called "risk homeostasis" where people always accept the same level of risk. E.g. it doesn't matter that you give people seatbelts, because they will drive faster and faster until the probability of an accident is the same. This turned out to be wrong; for instance people did drive faster, but not so much faster as to meet or exceed the safety benefits. The idea of moral hazard from victory leading to too many extra wars strikes me as very similar to this. It's a superficially attractive story that allows one to simplify the world and not have to think about complex tradeoffs as much. In both cases you are taking another agent and oversimplifying their motivations. The driver - just has a fixed risk constraint, and beyond that wants nothing but speed. The state - just wants to avoid bleeding too much, and beyond that threshold it wants nothing but foreign influence. But the driver has a complex utility function or maybe a more inconsistent set of goals about the relative value of more safety vs less safety, more speed vs less speed; therefore, when you give her some new capacities, she isn't going to spend all of it on going faster. She'll spend some on going faster, then some on being safer.

Likewise the state does not want to spend too much money, does not want to lose its allies and influence, does not want to face internal political turmoil, etc. When you give the state more capacities, it spends some of it on increasing bad conquests, but also spends some of it on winning good wars, on saving money, on stabilizing its domestic politics, and so on. The benefits of improved weaponry for the state are fungible, as it can e.g. spend less on the military while obtaining a comparable level of security.

Security dilemmas throw a wrench into this picture, because what improves security for one state harms the security of another. However in the ultimate theoretical case I feel that this just means that improvements in weaponry have neutral impact. Then in the real world, where some US goals are more positive sum in nature, the impacts of better weapons will be better than neutral.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-07-31T04:23:29.389Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, the "slaughterbots" video produced by Stuart Russell and FLI presented a dystopian scenario about drones that could be swatted down with tennis rackets. Because the idea is that they would plaster to your head with an explosive.

Not like banning drones stops someone flying a drone from somewhere else.

Yes, but it means that on the rare occasion that you see a drone, you know it's up to no good and then you will readily evade or shoot it down.

And political leaders sure you can speak behind the glass, but are you going to spend your whole life behind a screen?

No... but so what? I don't travel in an armored limousine either. If someone really wants to kill me, they can.

More donations for movement growth: I would tentatively agree.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-07-30T23:21:28.889Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Okay, very well then. But if a polity wanted to do something really bad like ethnic cleansing, they would just allow facial recognition again, and get it easily from elsewhere. If a polity is liberal and free enough to keep facial recognition banned then they will not tolerate ethnic cleansing in the first place.

It's like the Weimar Republic passing a law forbidding the use of Jewish Star armbands. Could provide a bit of beneficial inertia and norms, but not much besides that.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-07-30T23:10:49.278Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I've recently started experimenting with that, I think it's good. And Twitter really is not as bad a website as people often think.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-07-30T17:59:17.945Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

But who is talking about banning facial recognition itself? It is already too widespread and easy to replicate.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-07-30T17:56:04.185Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · EA · GW

To be sure it is better than unfortified cereal (ceteris paribus), but they usually have a lot of refined grains + added sugar.

Comment by kbog on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-07-30T17:55:27.580Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry. This is it:

Comment by kbog on Extinguishing or preventing coal seam fires is a potential cause area · 2019-07-30T06:16:36.458Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

If we had a cap-and-trade system then presumably it could allow for that (no idea if they actually do, in the few countries where cap-and-trade is implemented).

Comment by kbog on Extinguishing or preventing coal seam fires is a potential cause area · 2019-07-30T06:14:37.666Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Reducing global poverty, and improving farming practices, lack philosophically attractive problems (for a consequentialist, at least) - yet EAs work heavily on them all the same. And climate change does have some philosophical issues with model parameters like discount rates. Admittedly, they are a little more messy and applied in nature than talking about formal agent behavior.

Comment by kbog on Consequences of animal product consumption (combined model) · 2019-07-30T01:09:49.674Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
One reason might be because you’re only accounting for one year of the meat eater problem when I’ve accounted for a lifetime’s worth of impact (which I believe is the more complete counterfactual comparison).

I did that because I was only looking at one year of welfare improvement. One year for one year is simpler and more robust than comparing lifetimes. If you want to look at lifetimes, you have to scale up the welfare impacts as well.

Comment by kbog on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-28T22:08:38.275Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I've met a great number of people in EA who disagree with utilitarianism and many people who aren't particularly statistically minded. Of course it is not equal to the base rates of the population, but I don't really see philosophically dissecting moderate differences as productive for the goal of increasing movement growth.

If you're interested in ethnologies, sociology, case studies, etc - then consider how other movements have effectively overcome similar issues. For instance, the contemporary American progressive political movement is heavily driven by middle and upper class whites, and faces dissent from substantial portions of the racial minority and female identities. Yet it has been very effective in seizing institutions and public discourse surrounding race and gender issues. Have they accomplished this by critically interrogating themselves about their social appeal? No, they hid such doubts as they focused on hammering home their core message as strongly as possible.

If we want to assist movement growth, we need to take off our philosopher hats, and put on our marketer and politician hats. But you didn't write this essay with the framing of "how to increase the uptake of EA among non-mathematical (etc) people" (which would have been very helpful); eschewing that in favor of normative philosophy was your implicit, subjective judgment of which questions are most worth asking and answering.

Comment by kbog on Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice? · 2019-07-07T11:42:06.446Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
Why should I assume that this time is different?

The foundation of free trade is that it is mutually beneficial, since both parties agree to it.

With slavery, the slaves did not agree to be enslaved and transported. The enslavers used force and this allowed them to make other people worse off. Today, traded goods don't include forced laborers, though you could include livestock in this category and I would actually be in favor of restricting that.

With opium, the story was more complicated. Users wanted opium, but it's an addictive drug that damaged them and Chinese society in the long run. So the Chinese tried to restrict its import, but the British forcibly compelled them to lift the restrictions. Today, we don't try to use military force to get other countries to accept harmful goods. We do exercise some leverage where we offer trade and finance deals to developing countries in exchange for them changing some of their economic policies; there is debate over this practice with some people arguing that we shouldn't have these strings attached, but the countries are still willingly taking these deals so they are better than nothing.

I think you may find pro-free-trade people in favor of IP reform, these are rather separate issues. However I kind of doubt that many people of any stripe would want to remove IP rights entirely - that would eliminate the incentive to pursue research and development.

Comment by kbog on Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice? · 2019-07-05T08:27:55.052Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW
None of give well top charities focus on women or girls, given that women and girls are valued less in poor countries, from a strictly utilitarian perspective, this is a miss for the EA movement

But maybe the best interventions aren't easy or efficient to target towards women only - if you give out bed nets, best to give them to everyone. If we extend this logic, we're going to ask "why do none of our charities focus on ugly girls in poor countries?" and it never ends because you can always find a sub-group of people that is in still more dire straits on average (but it gets unlikely that that will lead to the best charity).

Generally speaking I don't think you can easily empirically confirm or disprove that EA is 'on the right track', either position is going to boil down to a lot of subjective assumptions. Instead I just trust that we're ultimately competent and encourage constant debate and reconsideration of specific charities and causes. That's the most productive route. If thinking about justice helps you make your argument - more power to you. No need for us to worry about how each other thinks.

You may be interested in Founders' Pledge report: Women's Empowerment

Comment by kbog on Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice? · 2019-07-05T08:16:14.641Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi, you're definitely right about Obama and most other Democrats but they are not leftist (more like center-left, American liberals), and not operating on this revisionary sense of justice and fairness.

I am thinking of people like:


As of today I see the "left" position or justice position is to treat asylum seekers and illegal immigrants humanely.

That's definitely a huge part of it, however my worry is that the realities of how they push these politics could have a bad effect of increasing right-wing hostility to legal immigration and preventing policymakers from compromising on comprehensive immigration reform. Let's be clear - altruistic minded people want to treat them humanely too, we are comparing them to each other not comparing them to what America has actually been doing.

An "altruistic" position might be to pass a quick bill, no political strings attached, giving funding to CBP to just improve the conditions at the camps and expedite processing, leaving bigger decisions for later. The "justice" position could be to fight tooth and nail to abolish CBP/ICE instead. Which is better? Eh, I have some personal sympathies, but at the end of the day I don't have the confidence to declare it.

Comment by kbog on Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice? · 2019-07-05T08:09:56.814Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

(warning: longpost)

Not asking how and why we have so much power is a blindness that I see in the EA movement. This also leads to assumptions that "Free Trade" is good.

OK, so let's talk about how and why we have so much power. I'll speak for myself.

The teachings of Jesus of Nazareth were used to establish the religion of Christianity, which was subsequently spread to Armenia via the apostles Jude and Bartholomew and later Gregory the Illuminator. This opened the door to persecution by Armenia's Zoroastrian suzerains in Sassanid Persia, but the right to practice Christianity would be won (for a time) with the Nvarsak Treaty in 484.

At a similar time Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and subsequently the European tribes to the north. These tribes became the foundation of modern Europe, inheriting Roman Christian traditions but occupying a more fragmented existence in a geographically divided continent. The competitive pressures of this regional order led to advanced shipbuilding and other technologies, then expeditions to find new trade routes, which then established Western Europe as the center of global wealth and power able to conquer numerous indigenous nations (aided by diseases) and produce a comparably powerful offshoot called the United States. Throughout this time, Europe remained divided, a situation entrenched by the Catholic-Protestant split in Christianity which forced the pluralist Peace of Westphalia.

This divided Europe relied on a carefully managed balance of power, but German reunification and industrialization threatened to overturn it. European pluralism also laid the seeds for nationalism in Austria-Hungary. These pressures collided to create World War One.

By this time, Armenia was still under foreign religiously-motivated oppression, now by the Muslim Ottomans. The situation of WWI stirred Armenian aspirations towards independence, provoked fear among the Ottomans, and sapped Russia's will to intervene. The result was a genocide of the Armenians and diaspora of the survivors. Some of the survivors made it to Romania, one of the poorest countries of Europe, which was forced into the Soviet bloc as an indirect consequence of the failure of the Western Allies to satisfactorily handle Germany after the conclusion of WWI. Communist policies in Romania sustained a high level of poverty and oppression compared to America, which had profited immensely off its natural resource endowment, geographical location, and sociopolitical heritage (which in turn allowed it to successively defeat the Native Americans, Mexicans, Spanish, Germans and Japanese and then establish its preferred international political and economic order).

A combination of bribes and luck enabled a few of the Armenian Romanians to emigrate to Beirut and then on to 1970s urban America, where men could obtain high salaries in engineering and women could obtain gainful employment in administration and teaching, so that I could then be raised in a stable, upper middle class household with access to a variety of business, political and educational institutions, as the American economy continuously boomed. Also, I won out a bit on the genetic lottery.

Now it's strange to me that anyone would presume that I wouldn't be interested in knowing or talking about this history, because it (like most histories) is a fascinating history and of course I love to talk and read all its brutal and inspiring truths.

But I really don't see its place in Effective Altruism, because for all its ups and downs, it doesn't tell me what to do now. I'm not going to give money to the Native Americans just as I'm not going to demand money from Turkey. I'm going to give money to Malaria Consortium or the Sentience Institute or MIRI, and I'd ask Turks to do the same, because that's what works best. So what if our situation was caused by injustice? And I don't support free trade because I think it worked with slaves or opium, I support it because I think it works now, according to the best economic evidence that we have.

Comment by kbog on Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice? · 2019-07-04T16:54:55.929Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA · GW

When you're talking about decisions made in the EA community itself, it's best to focus on concrete issues of effectiveness and not worry so much about discourse and rhetoric. We're equipped to make right decisions regardless of these subtle things.

EAs mostly haven't started doing justice framed policy work. Justice isn't equivalent to institutions and policies per se.

Comment by kbog on Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice? · 2019-07-04T02:08:03.943Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I can't really tell; x-risks as a monolithic area of study and activism is new.

Society pretty much agrees that extinction is bad so I don't think these ethical and rhetorical ideas matter as much, you can just make good technical arguments about risks and let other people figure out the rest.

Comment by kbog on X-risks of SETI and METI? · 2019-07-03T03:15:04.114Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Alexey Turchin has said something about downloading an invasive ASI:

Seems pretty implausible but not totally out of the question

Comment by kbog on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-02T09:01:27.531Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

If you understand economic and political history well enough to know what's really gotten you where you are today, then you already have the tools to make those judgments about a much larger class of people. Actually I think that if you were to make the arguments for exactly how D-Day or women's rights for instance helped you then you would be relying on a broader generalization about how they helped large classes of people.

Comment by kbog on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-02T04:55:22.475Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW
It's important to listen to people outside the community in case people are self-selecting in or out based on incidental factors.

Yet anything which is framed as an attack or critique on EA is itself something that causes people to self-select in or out of the community. If someone says "EAs have statistics ideology" then people who don't like statistics won't join. It becomes an entrenched problem from founder effects. Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What is helpful is to showcase people who actual work on things like ethnography. That's something that makes EA more methodologically diverse.

But stuff like this is just as apt to make anyone who isn't cool with utilitarianism / statistics / etc say they want to go elsewhere.

Comment by kbog on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-02T04:32:03.416Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Normative commitments aren't sufficient to show that something is an ideology. See my comment. Arguably 'science-aligned' is methodological instead but it's very vague and personally I would not include it as part of the definition of EA.

Comment by kbog on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-02T04:25:32.702Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA · GW

It's better to look at impacts on the broad human population rather than just one person.

Comment by kbog on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-02T04:21:16.931Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Another example contradicting your claims about EA: in Candidate Scoring System I went to extensive detail about methodological pluralism. It nails all of the armchair philosophy-of-science stuff about how we need to be open minded about sociological theory and so on. I have a little bit of ethnography in it (my personal observations). It is where I delved into capitalism and socialism as well. It's written very carefully to dodge the all-too-predictable critique that you're making here. And what I have done to make it this way has taken up an extensive amount of time, adding no clear amount of accuracy to the results. So you can see it's a little annoying when someone criticizes the EA movement yet again, without knowledge of this recent work.

Yet, at the end of the day, most of the papers I actually cite are standard economics, criminological studies, political science, and so on. Not ethnographies or sociological theories. Know why? Because when I see ethnographies and sociological theory papers, and I read the abstract and/or the conclusion or skim the contents, I don't see them giving any information that matters. I can spend all day reading about how veganism apparently green-washes Israel, for instance, but that's not useful for deciding what policy stance to take towards Israel or farming. It's just commentary. You are making an incorrect assumption that every line of scholarship that vaguely addresses a topic is going to be useful for EAs who want to actually make progress on it. This is not a question of research rigor, it's simple facts about what these papers are actually aiming at.

You know what it would look like, if I were determined to include all this stuff? "Butler argues that gender is a social construct. However, just because gender is a social construct doesn't tell us how quality of life will change if the government bans transgender workplace discrimination. Yeates argues that migration transforms domestic caring into global labor chains. However, just because migration creates global care chains doesn't tell us how quality of life will change if the government increases low-skill immigration." And on and on and on. Of course it would be a little more nuanced and complex but you get the idea. Are you interested in sifting through pages of that sort of prose? Does it get us closer to understanding how to improve the world?

Comment by kbog on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-02T04:09:49.860Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Now I took a look at your claims about things we're "ignoring" like sociological theory and case studies. First, you ought to follow the two-paper rule, a field needs to show relevance. Not every line of work is valuable. Just because they have peer review and the author has a PhD doesn't mean they've accomplished something that is useful for our particular purposes. We have limited time to read stuff.

Second, some of that research really is irrelevant for our purposes. There are a lot of reasons why. Sometimes the research is just poor quality or not replicable or generalizeable; social theory can be vulnerable to this. Another issue is that here in EA we are worried about one movement and just a few high priority causes. We don't need a sweeping theory of social change, we need to know what works right here and now. This means that domain knowledge (e.g. surveys, experiments, data collection) for our local context is more important than obtaining a generic theory of history and society. Finally, if you think phenomenology and existentialism are relevant, I think you just don't understand utilitarianism. You want to look at theories of well-being, not these other subfields of philosophy. But even when it comes to theories of well-being, the philosophy is mostly irrelevant because happiness/preferences/etc match up pretty well for all practical intents and purposes (especially given measurement difficulties - we are forced to rely on proxy measures like GDP and happiness surveys anyway).

Third, your claim that these approaches are generally ignored is incorrect.

For sociological theory - see ACE's concepts of social change.

Historical case studies - See the work on history of philanthropy and field growth done by Open Phil. See the work of ACE on case studies for social movements. And I'm currently working on a project for case studies assessing the risk of catastrophic risks, an evaluation of historical societies to see what they knew and might have done to prevent GCRs if they had thought about it at the time.

Regression analysis - Just... what? This one is bizarre. No one here is ideologically biased against any particular kind of statistical model, we have cited plenty of papers which use regressions.

Overall, I'm pretty disappointed that the EA community has upvoted this post so much, when its arguments are heavily flawed. I think we are overly enthusiastic about anyone who criticizes us, rather than judging them with the same rigor that we judge anyone else.

Comment by kbog on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-02T03:39:00.202Z · score: 1 (6 votes) · EA · GW

So the argument seems wrong right off the bat, but let's go through the rest.

What moral duties do we have towards people in absolute poverty, animals in factory farms, or future generations?
What would a virtuous person do to help those in absolute poverty, animals in factory farms, or future generations?
What oppressive social systems are responsible for the most suffering in the world, and what can be done to dismantle them?
How should our social and political institutions be structured so as to properly represent the interests of all persons, or all sentient creatures?

None of these are plausible as questions that would define EA. The question that defines EA will be something like "how can we maximize welfare with our spare time and money?" Questions 3 and 4 are just pieces of answering this question, just like asking "when will AGI be developed" and other more narrow technical questions. Questions 1 and 2 are misstatements as "moral duties" is too broad for EA and "virtue" is just off the mark. The correct answer to Q1 and Q2, leaving aside the issues with your assumption of 3 specific cause areas, is to "go to EA, and ask the question that they ask, and accept the answer."

While some readers may phrase these questions somewhat differently, my point is simply to emphasise that the question you ask depends upon your ideology.

It's certainly true that, for instance, negative utilitarians will ask about reducing suffering, and regular utilitarians will ask about maximizing overall welfare, so yes people with different moral theories will ask different questions.

And empirical claims are not relevant here. Instead, moral claims (utilitarianism, etc) beget different questions (suffering, etc).

You can definitely point out that ideologies, also, beget different questions. But saying that EAs have an ideology because they produce certain questions is affirming the consequent.

effective altruists tend to have a very particular approach to answering these questions.

Climate scientists do not go to sociology or ethnography or phenomenology (and so on) to figure out why the world is warming. That's because these disciplines aren't as helpful for answering their questions. So here we see how your definition of ideology is off the mark: having a particular approach can be a normal part of a system of inquiry.

Note that I am not taking a position on whether it is correct to privilege the types of evidence or methodologies that EA typically does. Rather, my point is simply that effective altruists seem to have very strong norms about what sorts of analysis is worthwhile doing,

Very strong norms? I have never seen anything indicating that we have very strong norms. You have not given any evidence of that - you've merely observed that we tend to do things in certain ways.

despite the fact that relatively little time is spent in the community discussing these issues.

That's because we're open for people to do whatever they think can work. If you want to use ethnography, go ahead.

I therefore content that these methodological choices are primarily the result of ideological preconceptions about how to go about answering questions

First, just because EAs have ideological preconceptions doesn't mean that EA as a movement and concept are ideological in character. Every group of people has many people with ideological preconceptions. If this is how you define ideologies then again you have a definition which is both vacuous and inconsistent with the common usage.

Second, there are a variety of reasons to adopt a certain methodological approach other than an ideological preconception. It could be the case that I simply don't have the qualifications or cognitive skills to take advantage of a certain sort of research. It could be the case that I've learned about the superiority of a particular approach somewhere outside EA and am merely porting knowledge from there. Or it could be the case that I think that selecting a methodology is actually a pretty easy task that doesn't require "extensive analysis of pros and cons."

My point is rather that these reasons are not generally discussed by EAs.

For one thing, again, we could know things from valid inquiry which happened outside of EA. You keep hiding behind a shield of "sure, I know all you EAs have lots of reasons to explain why these are inferior causes" but that neglects the fact that many of these reasons are circulated outside of EA as well. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. That's not to say that there's no point discussing them; of course there is. But the point is that you don't have grounds to say that this is anything 'ideological.'

And we do discuss these topics. Your claim "They have not even been on the radar" is false. I have dealt with the capitalism debate in an extensive post here; turns out that not only does economic revolution fail to be a top cause, but it is likely to do more harm than good. Many other EAs have discussed capitalism and socialism, just not with the same depth as I did. Amanda Askell has discussed the issue of Pascal's Wager, and with a far more open-minded attitude than any of the atheist-skeptic crowd have. I have personally thought carefully about the issue of religion as well; my conclusion is that theological ideas are too dubious and conflicting to provide good guidance and mostly reduce to a general imperative to make the world more stable and healthy (for one thing, to empower our future descendants to better answer questions about phil. religion and theology). Then there is David Denkenberger's work on backup food sources, primarily to survive nuclear winter but also applicable for other catastrophes. Then there is our work on climate change which indirectly contributes to keeping the biosphere robust. Instead of merely searching the EA forum, you could have asked people for examples.

Finally, I find it a little obnoxious to expect people to preemptively address every possible idea. If someone thinks that a cause is valuable, let them give some reasons why, and we'll discuss it. If you think that an idea's been neglected, go ahead and post about it. Do your part to move EA forward.

Yet the GPI research agenda focuses almost entirely on technical issues in philosophy and economics pertaining to the long-termism paradigm

They didn't assume that ex nihilo. They have reasons for doing so.

Strangely, it also pursues some work on highly obscure topics such as the aestivation solution to the Fermi paradox

The Fermi Paradox is directly relevant to estimating the probability of human extinction and therefore quite relevant for judging our approach to growth and x-risk.

or even substantially reforming global economic institutions

They recommend an economics PhD track and recently discussed the importance of charter cities. More on charter cities:

Hence, even though it seems that in principle socialists, Buddhists, and ecological activists (among others) are highly concerned about reducing the suffering of humans and animals, FRI ignores the topics that these groups would tend to focus on,

Huh? Tomasik's writings have extensively debunked naive ecological assumptions about reducing suffering, this has been a primary target from the beginning. It seems like you're only looking at FRI and not all of Tomasik's essays which form the background.

Anything which just affects humans, whether it's a matter of socialism or Buddhism or anything else, is not going to be remotely as important as AI and wildlife issues under FRI's approach. Tomasik has quantified the numbers of animals and estimated sentience; so have I and others.

As in the case of FHI, they also seem to find room for some topics of highly dubious relevance to any of EAs goals, such as this paper about the potential for correlated actions with civilizations located elsewhere in the multiverse

You don't see how cooperation across universes is relevant for reducing suffering?

I'll spell it out in basic terms. Agents have preferences. When agents work together, more of their preferences are satisfied. Conscious agents generally suffer less when their preferences are satisfied. Lastly, the multiverse could have lots of agents in it.

That said, on the basis of my research and experiences in the movement, I would suggest the following core tenets of EA ideology

Except we're all happy to revise them while remaining EAs, if good arguments and evidence appear. Except maybe some kind of utilitarianism, but as I said moral theories are not sufficient for ideology.

In fact, my view is that we can’t really get anywhere in rational investigation without certain starting assumptions, and these starting assumptions constitute our ideology

No, they constitute our priors.

We should critically analyse this ideology, understand its strengths and weaknesses

Except we are constantly dealing with analysis and argument of the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism, of atheism, and so on. This not anything new to us. Just because your search on the EA forum didn't turn anything up doesn't mean we're not familiar with them.

This is essentially what all other ideologies do – it is how the exchange of ideas works

No, all other ideologies do not critically analyze themselves and understand their strengths and weaknesses. They present their own strengths, and attack others' weaknesses. It is up to other people - like EAs - to judge the ideologies from the outside.

and not pretend they are aloof from it by resorting to the refrain that ‘EA is a question, not an ideology

This is just a silly comment. When we say that EA is a question, we're inviting you to tell us why utilitarianism is wrong, why Bayesianism is wrong, etc. This is exactly what you are advocating for.

Comment by kbog on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-07-02T02:01:11.755Z · score: 11 (9 votes) · EA · GW
Some questions are privileged over others.
There are particular theoretical frameworks for answering questions and analysing situations.
As a result of 1 and 2, certain viewpoints and answers to questions are privileged, while others are neglected as being uninteresting or implausible.

Bad definition. The study of global warming is an "ideology" by these lights.

Questions about the climate are privileged over questions about metallurgy. There are particular theoretical frameworks. Certain viewpoints and answers (like "CO2 emissions cause global warming") are privileged, while others are neglected as being uninteresting ("temperature increase will reduce the value of my house") or implausible ("global warming is a Marxist conspiracy").

You've defined 'ideology' in a way that encompasses basically any system of rational inquiry. This is very far from the common usage of the term "ideology".

If we're going to worry about what is or isn't an 'ideology' at all (which I think is a bad line of inquiry, but here we are) then we should define it as a mix of normative and empirical claims. Feminism wouldn't be an ideology if feminists simply said "let's do whatever it takes to increase the status of women." Libertarianism wouldn't be an ideology if libertarians simply said "let's do whatever it takes to maximize individual liberty." Some people like that definitely exist, but they're not being ideological about it. It's ideological when the mass of the movement takes empirical claims for granted, mixing them in with the normative.

Comment by kbog on Candidate Scoring System, Fifth Release · 2019-07-01T03:05:18.714Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you. Just forgot to delete the 2nd line. The Excel file had the updated 1-point score so the scores were correct. Fixing the report now for next edition.

Comment by kbog on Consequences of animal product consumption (combined model) · 2019-06-22T20:58:30.180Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry I have little time and I'm just going to respond to the logic of offsetting right now. In utilitarianism ordinarily we maximize expected utility, so there's no need to hedge. If two actions have the same expected utility but one has a higher % chance of having a negative outcome, they're still equally good. Companies and investors need to protect certain interests so $2 million is less than twice as good as $1 million, but in utility terms 2 million utils is exactly twice as good as 1 million utils.

Of course you could deny expected utility maximization and be morally loss averse/risk averse, and then this would be a conversation to have. There are good arguments against doing that, however, it's a minority view

Comment by kbog on Candidate Scoring System, Fifth Release · 2019-06-20T03:58:15.998Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Here is CSS6:!At2KcPiXB5rkvg3MH6izzguUYpuR

Comment by kbog on Consequences of animal product consumption (combined model) · 2019-06-16T05:24:50.530Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

In the long run it seems like the meat eater problem will drop off quite a bit. First because of improving welfare standards, second because of pressures to switch to more efficient plant-based calories, and third because people stop eating more meat or even eat less meat beyond a certain income. So making the US wealthier for instance is most likely good for farm animals in the long run.

For global development in the short run, we can see that $1000 in Africa cuts animal welfare by -800 (best estimate) to -4000 (high estimate) points. And I conservatively estimated that $1 to an ACE charity improves animal welfare by 10,000 points. So $1,100 donated to GiveDirectly (=~$1,000 received) should require between $0.08 and $0.40 if you want to offset to an effective animal charity. But it's rather arbitrary depending on just how conservative you want to be. I sort of assumed that the real effectiveness of ACE charities is 5x lower than their estimate.

Note that I don't think that offsetting as a practice actually makes sense, it doesn't make sense under utilitarianism, it's more of a methodological tool to put the impacts of different things in perspective with one another.

Comment by kbog on Candidate Scoring System, Fifth Release · 2019-06-13T00:07:43.796Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I made a significant mistake in this. I calculated the sensitivity analysis for Buttigieg's electability incorrectly and this underestimated the amount by which his position in the nomination scoring can climb. With recent boosts in his popularity and prediction market expectations since CSS5 was published, Buttigieg could be a viable recommendation. I will review this stuff and put out CSS6 fairly quickly.

Comment by kbog on Overview of Capitalism and Socialism for Effective Altruism · 2019-06-12T22:53:26.116Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

As stated in the report, the academic establishment is not universally pro-capitalist now nor was it universally pro-capitalist in the past. Academia is broadly left wing compared to the rest of America. Another thing to note is how consistently climate scientists have investigated global warming despite the presence of fossil fuel interests. So the idea that everything is being controlled is just implausible on its face.

There is a lot of money to be made in defending free markets.

Humans seek prestige as much as money, and can get both of these things from attacking free markets as well.

Note how many reviews authors get for writing about the economy of Cuba, compared to how many reviews authors get for writing about billionaires funding the radical right. Who's the one making money now?

See Dark Money by Jane Mayer for a detailed investigation into how a handful of billionaires built alternative ideological infrastructure that became mainstream and established,

I just ctrl-F'd for every mention of "university" and find that most of the time the author is citing the views of university faculty or talking about times when they contradicted what the Koch brothers or Republican Party wanted. Haven't yet seen anything about a conspiracy to control their ideological infrastructure.

For a quick example of the Cato Institute misrepresenting data in its writing see:

Robinson says that the studies are only talking about getting pay of some kind rather than full leave, but that's apparent to anyone reading Calder's report. Straightforward and correct citation.

Robinson objects that Calder only cites the part of a study that pertains to wages, but that section of her paper was about wages. It would have just been out of place to talk about the other effects in that section of her paper.

Robinson objects that another study doesn't contemplate eliminating paid leave, but that's a normative question separate from what was really studied; there's no reason to be shackled to interests of the authors of the paper.

Robinson objects that there are exceptions to the general trend of OECD countries, but this is silly - of course the overall trend matters most. You can find counterexamples to the trend, but then you can also find super-examples which emphasize the trend even more starkly. (Note: just three days ago Robinson took National Review to task because they were using individual examples of government failures and ignoring the general trends.)

The one strong takeaway is that Calder didn't include a fair amount of evidence that presented mandatory paid leave in a better light. Not misrepresentation, more like being one-sided. And that's all that Robinson could find wrong with this >20 page document. There are 52 footnotes, and Robinson finds that countervailing evidence was excluded from 2-3 of them, and finds 3-4 more good sources that should have been included, after saying he spent "a long time" on it. It's not very jarring. Calder's report does seem flawed, but this falls short of the standard required to "never trust" the author (let alone CATO).

In any case, the CATO institute does not produce the economic freedom rankings.

And finally there is a big difference between a report that was released by a person at a think tank, and a dataset that was released by the think tank that has now been used in hundreds of papers of published academic research.

Not trusting the establishment creates a lot of problems,

Yes, the main one being that it doesn't lead anywhere.

Everything you've said about problems with universities or think tanks applies equally well to the microcosm of leftist bloggers and philosophers and journalists. Much more so, honestly. Of course there is less billionaire money, but lots of other crap instead. I've previously found reasons to "never trust" Nathan Robinson, flaws that are worse than those in Calder's report. So we need to be very clear that the conclusion of this sort of narrative, no matter how sound it is, is not that socialism is better. The conclusion, if this narrative is true, is just that everything is super vulnerable to bias or deceit and there is no useful expert guidance.

Now you could preserve the idea of expert consensus, but redefine 'experts' to mean the associated collection of freethinkers and heterodox bloggers and crackpots with no institutional ties. If you do this, then you're still not going to get a consensus for socialism either. You'll get a fair number of capitalists/libertarians, plus an assortment of anarchists (both right-wing and left-wing), socialists/communists and then a few people with really weird ideas like monarchism or fascism or whatever. Also lots of conspiracy theories. And many people (like me) will say that the idea of relying on such an ecosystem to create a kind of expert consensus is rather bonkers in the first place.

Then our only way to come to any substantial conclusion is to just read through the sources and arguments in detail to see who is actually right about socialism. But insofar as we've seen no good arguments that leftists are actually right about this, you can see that it's rather pointless to keep talking about The Establishment. Instead of trying to argue that it's just turtles all the way down, it would be a lot more productive to present arguments that leftists are actually right in the first place, and then investigate them, and in the process of investigating them some truths about the reliability of 'the establishment' can be uncovered.

To put simple numbers on the whole thing, let's say that P(socialism>capitalism) = 0.1 if the establishment is good and P(socialism>capitalism) = 0.5 if the establishment is corrupt. If we currently think the establishment is 90% likely to be good, then P(socialism>capitalism) = 0.14. If we see some strong evidence and arguments against the establishment then maybe we'll change our trust in it down to 70%. Then P(socialism>capitalism) = 0.22. Well that's not a very big change.

OTOH, if we saw a good argument that socialism is actually good, then we would now say that P(socialism>capitalism) = 0.2 if the establishment is good and P(socialism>capitalism) = 0.7 if the establishment is corrupt, and then we'd also change our trust in the establishment from 90% to 80% because we've presumably caught something that they weren't able to answer. Now P(socialism>capitalism) = 0.30. Well that's still a low probability, but you've gone further.

Comment by kbog on Overview of Capitalism and Socialism for Effective Altruism · 2019-06-12T11:24:09.990Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

So I went and looked deeper.

Re: Chomsky, there's nothing but quotes from back then? I was expecting a chapter with arguments. These quotes from back then are nothing new. As stated in the OP the Soviet Union did indeed industrialize rapidly in the 1930s/1940s period (Allen says that things went bad in the 1970s, though others talk about the Khrushchev era; I didn't bother citing Red Plenty) and also there was this kind of exaggeration from Westerners during the Cold War who didn't know much about the USSR. Partially due to ignorance and exaggeration/fear, but partially due to misleading or false Soviet data. I've heard that the same thing is going on again with China today - Westerners think the Chinese government is efficient compared to democracy but really it isn't. I find nothing here to add to the report.

Re: Cuba. So I mostly read the book, skimmed some of it.

One of the authors was a child in Cuba, went to America, got a BS in econ, did investment banking and private equity, as well as some political activism about Cuba. But the other is a prolific published economist. Parts of the book didn't have many citations, I wasn't sure where they were getting the info from. However the book was pretty strongly focused on economics, as well as going back to the island's colonial roots. It only barely mentioned things like political repression, no mention of gay persecution, and so on, which reassured me that they are writing to answer the economic question rather than making political propaganda. Generally it seemed informed and serious as far as I could tell.

I checked one part for misleading info. The authors use Cuba's GDP per capita in 1950 and 1957 to emphasize their wealth pre-Castro. So I checked if they cherrypicked the years for this. I looked at 1946-1949 and found that Cuba was similarly wealthy at that time. Then I checked 1955-1958 and found that Cuba's economy did peak in 1957, but the whole world's economy was rising in 1955-1957 as well, and Cuba faced some revolutionary violence and US embargoes in 1957-1958, so it seems alright. I also checked for non-economic indicators of quality of life but found that I was getting ahead of myself and the authors were looking at the exact same statistics in the next chapter anyway.

The authors didn't go over the embargo in detail but they point out some issues which are not affected by it. First, inefficient farming and food shortages arose quickly after the revolution, before the main embargo came into effect. Tobacco export quantity and quality to the US also fell before it was embargoed. The efficiency of the food and sugar farms themselves was poor. Meanwhile the USSR gave large amounts of aid and trade subsidies to Cuba. When this ended circa 1990, Cuba's economy collapsed, which shows that the USSR support was very important (possibly more important than the US embargo). Additionally, what trade and finance Cuba did have in the 1990s/2000s suffered major retractions caused by government actions, so we know they could be doing noticeably better even with the US embargo. And Cuba gets a very big amount of remittance money, $5 billion per year. The remittances and USSR aid together might easily outweigh the impacts of the US embargo. And the problems for Cuba just seem too great to be explained by any embargo: in some ways Cuba's standard of living is actually worse than it was before the revolution!

Authors also point out that the non-economic quality of life indicators for Cuba are really not impressive, and the official statistics (like their GDP) are inflated. Not just their opinion: the UN agrees that there is a lack of reliable information about Cuba's economy and development. Plus, the idea that Cuba would post false/misleading statistics is expected by the research on autocracies that I included in the OP.

Overall, I'm reasonably satisfied by the book, it's not a slam dunk but it makes a good argument. I think it would be good to spend more time on the standards of living in 1989 before the loss of Soviet support - it still seems like Cuba made a poor showing over 1960-1989, but maybe it wasn't as bad as it has been since then.

But I also found other studies on the topic. Three of them take a general look at Cuba's economy/development and find that the revolution hurt it:

I also found this article which looks at Cuba's famous healthcare and finds that it's overrated. Also it further underscores the idea of Cuban government statistics not being reliable.

Finally, I think if the embargo were really so severe as to be mainly responsible for Cuba's problems, Cuba would do more to try to undo it. I don't know the details of the diplomacy here and of course there limits to how well Cuba can reform without risking a coup or revolution, but it still seems like there are small ways they could have tried to improve relations with the US - token liberalization, apologize for shooting down planes in 1996, offer compensation for frozen/confiscated US property, or other things. If there really were so many billions of dollars at stake then I would think they'd have taken some earlier, bigger steps forward. Low confidence on this.

But in summary: it seems well substantiated that Cuba's economic model has failed. I will add these new studies into the report.

Comment by kbog on Overview of Capitalism and Socialism for Effective Altruism · 2019-06-12T09:59:45.683Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
I don't suspect it is very true for modern socialist parties/ govt's.

It's at the forefront of socialists in the USA who are categorically opposed to 'sweatshop labor'. Take it from Chomsky whose criticism of Mondragon is "it’s in a market system and they still exploit workers in South America."

Something like Yanis Varoufakis's Diem25 project for example.

Socialist? It looks like they are just a political movement. Reform the EU to be more democratic. That's not socialism. Granted I am not familiar with this.

I will also point out that restricting trade to poor nations is not unique to socialists. Under Trump, the US has reinstated sanctions on Cuba on pretty dubious grounds. It does also preferentially trades with countries with govt's in line with US's broader national ambitions (for e.g. Saudi Arabia because they listed aramco)

Some of that is political moves which happen under any kind of government and are not about anyone being rich or poor. USSR put an embargo on West Berlin. Cuba used to refuse to buy food from the US because they didn't want to legitimize the embargo.

Otherwise, capitalist countries also engage in protectionism per se. That hits wealthier countries too. Notice how Trump's main focus is China which is a middle income country. And there have been trade scuffles with the EU recently. I'm not sure because I haven't seen anyone really investigate this, but I don't think it hits the poorest countries very hard, because most industries in these countries are not competitors to US industries.

The anti-globalization thing is an additional phenomenon on top of these things.

This sort of socialism with international aims was abandoned quite early on in the Russian Revolution with Stalin in favour of socialism in one country, marking a significant break with orthodox socialist thought. I say that as a sort of defence against comparisons of international socialist movement to individual socialist states past and present. But it is also a scathing criticism of the international socialist movement that one section of it in Russia (the most successful section) did go the way of nationalism - and inspired a whole swathe of countries like China and Cuba to adopt its nationalistic model.

In this context, it looks like 'international socialism' means spreading socialism throughout the entire world. Which is very different from openness to trade.

Socialist states have traded with each other. E.g. the Soviets bought lots of sugar from Cuba and exported energy. They're not going to think it's exploitation if the other country is socialist. But if the other state is capitalist then it's not going to happen. It all depends on the context. Here I'm mainly talking about the US or UK going socialist while the developing world presumably doesn't change very much.

Co-ordination within a socialist system will be difficult in having to accommodate different perspectives and interests in much the way it is difficult under the current system. But... by definition an international socialist movement is about minimising and compromising on conflicting national/ individual/religious interests/perspectives to a act in the international interest, so I think it would be better at co-ordination. But the point I make is semantics.

It's one thing to talk about theoretical comparisons but a key issue for the short and medium term (and possibly long term) future is the existence of stable, credible institutions. Liberal capitalist states have a decent framework for international trade and monetary agreements, we have G7 and G20 and so on. If you sweep these norms and institutions aside to build something better, you can face a lot of new problems from the power vacuum. It would take time and work to build things up again.

Comment by kbog on A vision for anthropocentrism to supplant wild animal suffering · 2019-06-07T01:39:45.264Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yes I've heard a number of people say it. I think it came from here:

Comment by kbog on Candidate Scoring System, Fifth Release · 2019-06-05T17:52:37.567Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

^ This, will clear up the language for the next version.

Comment by kbog on Should we Resist Taxes? · 2019-06-05T01:48:46.260Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Probably people just don't like the idea of combating the democratic government. It's one of those norms that lots of people think is important.

Comment by kbog on Should we Resist Taxes? · 2019-06-05T01:37:27.735Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
3. What if certain wars are utilitarian? Officially many interventions have humanitarian justifications. Is this true? And how would we know?

Yes, here is a survey of me and 6 other EAs on the consequences of recent US military engagements:

If you want to get into the relevant rationales and data that is another story. But until someone can show that they are really harmful, we don't have a good enough reason to justify trying to weaken the government.

Comment by kbog on Overview of Capitalism and Socialism for Effective Altruism · 2019-06-05T01:13:43.809Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
For example, the book you cite on Cuba makes no mention of the US embargo on Cuba in the summary, and very little reference to it in the index. One of the authors worked at Goldman Sachs and KKR.

Alright, I will try to see if there is more published literature on Cuba, and look harder for reviews. I did this before, but only on a shallow level. There actually don't seem to be many publications about Cuba. If I can't find a more trustworthy answer then I'll have to go down to the level of blogs, social media comments, personal evaluations, etc.

A UN study estimated that the embargo has cost Cuba $130B ( Cuba's GDP per capita in PPP terms is $22.2K, more than the neighboring Dominican Republic ($19.3k) and Haiti ($1.8K) (taken from each country's wiki page). I'm far from an expert on this and don't know what Cuba's GDP per capita "should" be, but based on this list, Cuba would be the 8th wealthiest country in Latin America and the Caribbean by GDP PPP per capita (out of 32).

So, it looks like the UN person is straight-up quoting the estimate from the Cuban report. I don't see any report from the UN on it. Cuba's reporting has potential bias - not that I would dismiss it out of hand, of course. But I searched around a bit, and apparently they've also claimed that it cost $750B total which is >$10B/year (!) and alternately that it costs them merely $685M per year. I didn't see the original sources so I don't know what the differences are with underlying methodology, if these reports are even sourced correctly, etc.

Cuba's annual GDP (in US$) is $87B, so going naively off the numbers it doesn't seem like this would make a big difference, unless the $750B figure is accurate but that seems very unlikely.

I think this is what you want to look at for Cuba's overall performance (the revolution was in the 1950s): They went from 1st place to 2nd place among those 6 countries. Which yes doesn't look very bad, especially given their performance on some non-economic measures, but of course this is not a very robust way of evaluating them.

The author of the book on Soviet agriculture, D Gale Johnson, chaired the U Chicago Econ dept, which has been the hub of libertarian Austrian economics.

U Chicago wasn't Austrian, it was the center of Freshwater Economics which was mainstream, neoclassical economics.

From his wiki "Among other notable contributions to economics, Johnson concluded that the strength of an industry depends on how the market works and not so much on government actions."

Well, yes. But that's... what he contributed! It's their job to research this stuff and report whatever the results are. Would you doubt climate scientists just because they made contributions showing that global warming is a big problem?

What would trigger alarms in my head is if they said things like "it's a violation of our rights when the government intervenes in the economy", because then they have a non-economic motivation that may interfere with their conduct of economics.

For an alternative perspective of the economic productivity of the USSR, see chapter 5, footnote 8 of Understanding Power: the Indispensable Chomsky ( "In June 1956, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer that "the economic danger from the Soviet Union was perhaps greater than the military danger." The U.S.S.R. was "transforming itself rapidly . . . into a modern and efficient industrial state," while Western Europe was still stagnating." (this happened in spite of the USSR's utter destruction during WWII).

OK, I will look into this soon when I have proper time, and come back here with details. If it turns out to seem really correct on the object level and economists don't seem able to address it, then we'll have no conclusion on the matter (our investigation says one thing, the experts mostly say another). If the argument looks plausible but unclear on the object level, then we'll accept the economists' view but with a higher degree of uncertainty. If the case looks unlikely on the object level then we'll drop it. If I had more time and education I might be willing to do a super-deep personal review capable of directly uncovering the whole story, but I don't.

You could do this too btw if you want, and it could be integrated into the CSS. I just need the results of comparing things against other sources, comprehensive debates with other people, etc to make it reliable. Some kind of meta-review or double crux. I could trust that.

The Economic Freedom of the World Index is published by the Cato Institute, among other libertarian/pro-market think tanks and institutes.

I've revised the paragraph in the CSS draft (partially stuff I did soon after making the OP, but partially just now after reading your post) and this is what it says now:

One aspect of many socialist plans is greater government control of the economy. But Hall and Lawson (2014) looked at 198 relevant empirical studies published in highly selective social science journals, and we can add a more recent study by Jackson (2017). The result is that economic freedom corresponds with good outcomes in 68% of studies and bad outcomes in just 4% of studies. Hall and Lawson find that this result might be weakened by publication bias but find no evidence to indicate that it would be overturned. In a more recent, narrower and simpler literature review, Horpedahl et al (2019) argue that economic freedom generally helps achieve the aims of social justice (which is good for social welfare, ceteris paribus). The think tanks which produce the rankings of economic freedom – mainly the Fraser Institute, but also the Heritage Foundation – are conservative, but highly ranked (see reports here) and the rankings are commonly accepted in the academic literature. Now it’s worth noting that other aspects of socialism could temper the downsides of free markets and thereby reduce the necessary level of economic regulations, but it’s not clear whether a socialist government would be inclined to take advantage of this opportunity.

Due to uncertainties, I now say that greater government control of the economy seems bad (as opposed to the OP here where I wrote that it would be bad).

There are various ways to look for bias in studies and metanalyses, so if there is not published evidence for strong bias then it seems rather unlikely.

I should note that none of this is an apology for human rights abuses carried out by Castro and the USSR.

I wouldn't think of it that way, no need to worry. We're all EAs here

Comment by kbog on Drowning children are rare · 2019-06-04T23:34:08.658Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Then you sure aren't obligated to do accurate marketing, or anything else. That kind of nihilism just blows everything up. It's a bit like saying "I'm just a Boltzmann brain, therefore drowning kids don't exist."

Comment by kbog on What exactly is the system EA's critics are seeking to change? · 2019-05-30T09:58:20.227Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · EA · GW
Maybe, but I didn't say that I'd expect to see lots of projects trying to fix these issues, just that I'd expect to see more research into them, which is obviously the first step to determine correct interventions.

But you were talking about supposed deficiencies in EA modeling. Now you're talking about the decision of which things to research and model in the first place. You're shifting goalposts.

Voting mechanisms can be systemic if they're approached that way. For instance, working backwards from a two party system in the US, figuring out what causes this to happen, and recommending mechanisms that fix that.

That's no more systemic than any other way to decide how to improve how to improve voting. Changing voting mechanisms is basically working backwards from the problem of suboptimal politicians in the US, figuring out what system causes this to happen, and recommending mechanisms that fix that. Whether "figuring out" is more guided by empirical observations or by social choice theory doesn't change the matter.

What would count as useful speculation if you think that EAs cause prioritization mechanisms are biased?

Well you can point out arguments that people are ignoring or rejecting for bad reasons, but that requires more concrete ideas instead of speculation. Maybe the lesson here is to dabble less in "speculation" and spend more time trying to make concrete progress. Show us! What's a good cause we've missed?

This is another great example of EA bucking the trend, but I don't see it as a mainstream EA cause.

Yes, because right now the only good way to approach it is to pretty much "get better at biology" - there is not enough fundamental knowledge on cognition to make dedicated progress on this specific topic. So EAs' decisions are rational.

By the way, no other groups of "systems thinkers" are picking up on paradise engineering either.

These are certainly examples of root cause thinking, but to be truly systems thinking they have to take the next step to ask how can we shift the current system to these new foundations.

Like, uh, building institutions and advocacy for responsible AI design, and keeping them closely networked with the EA community, and spreading the idea of functional decision theory as a component of desirable AI design, with papers about FDT cooperation being published by multiple EA groups that focus on AI (MIRI and FRI)?

Consider for instance how hard it is to incorporate a feedback loop into a guesstimate model, not to mention flowthrough effects

Lol. I included "feedback loops" in arithmetic in a Word document. I had governance listed as 5% equal to the sum of other long-run policy issues, but due to the feedback loop of better governance begetting better governance, I decided to increase it to 10%. Done.

Non-systemic solution: Seeing that people are irrational, then creating an organization that teaches people to be rational.
Systemic solution: Seeing that people are irrational, asking what about the system creates irrational people, and then creating an organization that looks to change that.

Right. Let's build kibbutzim where children are conditioned to make rational decisions. Sounds super tractable to me! Those silly EAs have been missing this low-hanging fruit the entire time.

Also, it's not even clear how this definition of systems fits with your earlier claims that systems solutions are incorrectly less amenable to EA methodology than non-systems solutions. The concrete thing you've said is that EA models are worse at flow-through effects and feedback loops, which even if true (dubious) seems to apply equally well to non-systemic solutions.

I'm including systems thinking as part of my definition. This often leads to "big" interventions, but oftentimes the interventions can be small, but targeted to cause large feedback loops and flowthrough effects.

Except apparently you aren't including poverty relief, which has large feedback loops and flowthrough effects; and apparently you aren't including for animal advocacy, which has the same; and apparently you aren't including EA movement growth, which has the same; and apparently you aren't including promoting the construction of safe AGI, which has the same; and so on for everything else that EA does.

This looks very no-true-Scotsman-like.

They "have to" do that? Why?

Because they only have a hundred million dollars or so, and uh they don't have the ability to coerce the general population? Come on.

"Hopefully" getting it to catch on elsewhere also seems silly. Perhaps they could try to look into ways to model the network effects, influence and power structures, etc, and use systems thinking to maximize their chances of getting it to catch on elsewhere

This is pedantry. Saying "hopefully" doesn't imply that they're not going to select the option with the highest cause for hopes. It merely implies that they don't have control over how these things actually play out.

Comment by kbog on Drowning children are rare · 2019-05-30T08:25:46.174Z · score: 17 (12 votes) · EA · GW

My takeaway is that the EA forum's voting is better than LessWrong's.

Comment by kbog on Drowning children are rare · 2019-05-30T08:23:33.514Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

More than that, I'm saying we're simply obligated to save lives for $100k each. Assuming that we are first-worlders with spare money, of course.

Comment by kbog on What exactly is the system EA's critics are seeking to change? · 2019-05-30T08:19:06.529Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW
For all EA's globalist ambitious, there is this assumption that people who are actually in a low-middle income country aren't a part of the conversation

Come on, the assumption of the writers is "people looking to us for philanthropy advice are predominantly living in the First World," and that assumption is correct. (And it's not a self-fulfilling prophecy, either).

The problem isn't the phrasing, of course, it's what the phrasing indicates about the writer.

OK, then how do you know that it doesn't merely indicate that the writer is good at writing and marketing?

You can't just assume that your solidarity group is the most effective way to do things. Someone still has to do an impact evaluation on your social movement and the flow of talent and resources through that movement, including the particular activities of any particular organization enacting that movement.

More evaluations and analyses are always nice (and some EA orgs have done that kind of thing, I believe). But their value can be dubious and it may just be a fruitless meta trap. You may think that an EA organization is under-allocating time and money for meta evaluations, but other people are going to disagree, and the reasons for such disagreement need to be properly addressed before this kind of thing can be used as a general criticism.

No one has a monopoly on critiquing people merely for having unexamined assumptions. If you start it, it turns into a game of whataboutism and petty status-seeking where no actually useful progress is made to help with important efforts in the real world. Drop the methodology wars and focus on making actual progress.