Posts

On the Risk of an Accidental or Unauthorized Nuclear Detonation (Iklé, Aronson, Madansky, 1958) 2022-08-04T13:19:19.625Z

Comment by nathan98000 on What reason is there NOT to accept Pascal's Wager? · 2022-08-07T16:16:11.773Z · EA · GW

Then it becomes a choice of accepting the VNM axioms or proposition 3 above.

Like I said, I agree that we should reject 3, but the reason for rejecting 3 is not because it is based on intuition (or based on a non-fundamental intuition).  The reason is because it's a less plausible intuition relative to others. For example, one of the VNM axioms is transitivity: if A is preferable to B, and B is preferable to C, then A is preferable to C.

That's just much more plausible than the Yitz's suggestion that we shouldn't be "vulnerable to adversarial attacks" or whatever.

It's also worth noting that your justification for accepting expected value theory is not based on the VNM axioms, since you know nothing about them! Your justification is based on a) your own intuition that it seems correct and b) the testimony of the smart people you've encountered who say it's a good decision theory.

Comment by nathan98000 on What reason is there NOT to accept Pascal's Wager? · 2022-08-06T13:52:40.859Z · EA · GW

Consider three propositions:

1. Expected value theory is true.
2. Expected value theory recommends sometimes taking bets that we expect to lose.
3. We should not adopt decision theories that recommend sometimes taking bets that we expect to lose.

You reject 3.

Yitz rejects 1.

This is not a matter of making more or fewer assumptions. Instead, it's a matter of weighing which of the propositions one finds least plausible. There may be further arguments to be made for or against any of these points, but it will eventually bottom out at intuitions.

Comment by nathan98000 on What reason is there NOT to accept Pascal's Wager? · 2022-08-05T19:05:05.524Z · EA · GW

Although I don't think Yitz's comment is persuasive, I don't think your response is either. What's the "logic-founded" reason for accepting the wager? You might say expected value theory, but then, it's possible to ask what the reason for that is, etc. It's intuition all the way down.

Comment by nathan98000 on [link post] The Case for Longtermism in The New York Times · 2022-08-05T18:52:31.632Z · EA · GW

Good points, though it's worth noting that the people who comment on NYT articles are probably not representative of the typical NYT reader

Comment by nathan98000 on What reason is there NOT to accept Pascal's Wager? · 2022-08-04T17:12:53.896Z · EA · GW

In Amanda Askell's site, linked in another comment by ColdButtonIssues, she gives a reason to think an evidentialist god could be more likely: ‘Divine hiddenness’ plus God making us capable of evidentialism. Roughly, the idea is to ask the question, "Why would a god want us to irrationally believe in it?"

It's also plausible that people's beliefs in a supernatural punishing/rewarding god can be explained by evolutionary/cultural factors that wouldn't reliably track the truth.

Comment by nathan98000 on Encouraging epistemic modesty, scout mindset and generating new ideas, should be considered among the most effective things people can do for world peace. · 2022-04-09T18:48:27.866Z · EA · GW

This post left a bad taste in my mouth, and I wanted to briefly touch on why:

1. You say that the right time to act is now, but this is extremely ambiguous.

What should people do now? Maybe you're referring to some of the actions mentioned later in the post like "consciously deciding if this is worth your time" and "doing research".

This reminds me of a scene from Friends where one of the characters says that he has a plan. And his plan is that someone should come up with a new plan.

And there seems to be an inconsistency in your approach. You say there is a "slow increase in calls for research, increase in funds and increased public attention." Instead, we should... call for more research??

2. You say that the right method is research, but your support for this is not strong.

You say you looked for different theories of war on the 80,000 hours website. I think this pays too much deference to the 80k team. They're smart, but not all-knowing. There are other people with views on war. I searched Google Books for "theories of war" and got 4.9 million results. If someone writes up the 5 millionth book on war, is that a tractable way of reducing war?

More generally, the existence of research and the existence of easily comprehensible and actionable plans are two different things.

And are different theories of war even the right topic of research to focus on in the first place? There are other things that it could be helpful to understand (e.g. effective activism tactics, moral circle expansion, technical capabilities of weapons systems, the history of military/political leaders).

And is research the right course of action? How about political lobbying? How about relief for refugees? How about grassroots activism?

It seems like the sum of your reasoning on this is that the scope of nuclear war is really large. So figuring out how to stop nuclear war would be really good. So we should figure out how to stop nuclear war. Much of the rest of your post felt like applause lights.

Comment by nathan98000 on Anecdotes Can Be Strong Evidence and Bayes Theorem Proves It · 2022-04-08T19:04:17.758Z · EA · GW

Good post! Spencer Greenberg has a post with similar thoughts on this:

https://www.spencergreenberg.com/2021/05/is-learning-from-just-one-data-point-possible/

Comment by nathan98000 on ESH - A guide to forming habits you'll keep · 2022-04-07T18:08:28.752Z · EA · GW

This is a great post! One thing I'd suggest is adding a little more to your "how we produced these results" section. For example, it's standard for meta-analyses to include the search terms used to select papers. It'd be helpful to have that included here (or in a supplemental document) as well.

Comment by nathan98000 on Free money from New York gambling websites · 2022-01-25T18:19:17.217Z · EA · GW

Just curious, how was the expected value calculated? Wouldn’t this depend on the bets you make?

Comment by nathan98000 on Stress - effective ways to reduce it · 2022-01-08T04:55:48.005Z · EA · GW

I only poked around the studies you listed a little, but there were a few things I noticed that made me more skeptical of the evidence:

• I was initially surprised the SKY intervention made the list of primary recommendations. One of the studies comes from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine  and the other is based off of a sample of 21 veterans with PTSD. Surely there are cheap interventions with better evidence bases?
• It seems like you're comparing apples and oranges for many of these interventions. Some interventions measure cortisol levels, some use self-reports, some use blood pressure. A 20% reduction in one will not translate to a 20% reduction in another. And presumably, what matters for the sake of this post is a reduction in stress, something that's not measured directly by many of these studies.
• It seems like you're simply taking a raw average  of all the studies within an intervention category to come up with an overall effect size. But this is invalid because some studies are higher quality and more informative than others (because of sample size, study design, etc.).
Comment by nathan98000 on [Creative Writing Contest] All the People You Could Come to Love · 2021-10-30T01:33:26.921Z · EA · GW

This was wonderful! I felt my eyes water a bit as Ethan was walking away. Thank you for writing this.

Comment by nathan98000 on [Creative Writing Contest] Average Joe · 2021-10-30T01:20:09.125Z · EA · GW

Thank you for writing this! I hadn't read anything before about Salk, and this was a very well written brief bio. I especially liked that you kept his name hidden until the middle of the story. Up until then, I thought this was entirely fictional. The idea that a REAL person could save thousands of lives is  inspiring and the feeling comes through in your writing

Comment by nathan98000 on Philosophy Web - Project Proposal · 2021-08-26T02:32:32.146Z · EA · GW

This may be of interest. Several of the links on this website have the user test the consistency of their philosophical beliefs.

https://www.philosophersmag.com/games

Comment by nathan98000 on (Video) You (Probably) Shouldn't Go To College · 2021-08-25T01:36:55.060Z · EA · GW

https://youtu.be/xECUrlnXCqk

Comment by nathan98000 on (Video) You (Probably) Shouldn't Go To College · 2021-08-19T01:28:53.454Z · EA · GW

You three days ago:

Do you NEED an art degree to become a successful artist?

You yesterday:

Did you have to [go to Julliard] in order to become a successful musician?

I think it's fair for me to characterize your argument as:

You don't have to go to college to be  successful.

I agree that this discussion is unlikely to lead to anything productive. I encourage you to concede that going to college is actually a benefit for most people.

Comment by nathan98000 on (Video) You (Probably) Shouldn't Go To College · 2021-08-18T22:19:34.564Z · EA · GW

Sure you could learn how to use your left hand, but it's an impedes progress and doesn't really help you much in achieving your goals. Like art school.

You're missing the analogy.

Your argument is that you don't have to go to college to be successful. Therefore, you probably shouldn't go to college.

My argument is that you don't have to use your right hand to be successful. Therefore, you probably shouldn't use your right hand.

Both of these are bad arguments.

A better argument would be: The benefit gained from getting an art degree is not worth the cost of college.

But 1) this would require actually looking at the numbers, and 2) the numbers would probably suggest that college is a good investment (even for art majors).

Comment by nathan98000 on (Video) You (Probably) Shouldn't Go To College · 2021-08-17T23:54:41.161Z · EA · GW

"Social sciences" and a lot of psychology are soft sciences, and possibly even pseudosciences.

You explicitly say at the start of your video that you recommend people go into psychology... You also use images of art supplies in your video whenever you say the word "art". You also talk about getting paints from Michael's as a substitute for an arts education. It seems goal-post shifting to now claim you were actually referring to liberal arts in general. It also doesn't at all address the fact that most college students don't go to private universities.

Did you have to in order to become a successful musician?

I don't have to use my right hand to be successful.  But it would be silly to make a video called "You (Probably) Shouldn't Use Your Right Hand".

Comment by nathan98000 on (Video) You (Probably) Shouldn't Go To College · 2021-08-17T03:08:55.745Z · EA · GW

Of course it's clickbait, and I don't see anything wrong with using clickbait titles as long as they aren't misleading.

It is misleading. The title is "You (Probably) Shouldn't Go To College." But you complain specifically about arts, language, and literature majors at private universities. This is not most people who go to college.

Are you disagreeing with that analysis?

Asserting that humanities professors are pretentious jackoffs with dumbass interpretations is more easily interpreted as angry venting than as reasonable argument.

I don't care if you graduated top of your class with a music degree from Julliard, since it tells me nothing about what type of music you're capable of composing.

Think of it like this: People care if you graduated top of your class with a music degree from Julliard. Is it stupid? Maybe, but that's how it is. I didn't make the rules.

Comment by nathan98000 on (Video) You (Probably) Shouldn't Go To College · 2021-08-16T01:56:31.048Z · EA · GW

I downvoted this and wanted to explain why.

First, the video seems contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. For example, the title of the video is "You (Probably) Shouldn't Go To College" even though you seem to limit your criticisms to art, language, and literature majors at private universities. In other words, you clickbaited the title so people would go in looking for an angry disagreement.

This is even more obvious towards the end of your video where you say that in your experience people who teach humanities subjects are "pretentious jackoffs" who have "dumbass" interpretations. It's hard to interpret this as a good-faith argument about why people in general shouldn't go to college.

Second, you present zero evidence for any claims you make. Your video is a list of assertions. You talk about doing a cost-benefit analysis, but then you handwave numbers out of nowhere.  Your video doesn't leave me feeling confident that you've looked at the data on the job prospects of those with vs without college degrees.

I understand that the style of your video isn't a lecture that's comprehensively reviewing the research. But I think that's exactly the problem. Not that every video has to be a lecture. But I would like to see fewer uncharitable, uninformed Angry Rant videos on the EA Forum.

Comment by nathan98000 on Idea: the "woketionary" · 2020-12-16T02:04:21.001Z · EA · GW

Having shared definitions also prevents deliberate/strategic misinterpretation.

The existence of a dictionary which claims to be apolitical doesn't mean that people will have shared definitions. Webster's dictionary already exists. This doesn't stop people from having semantic disagreements.

Sure, nothing is ever apolitical.  But you can try to make it less so.

How does one make a "less political" dictionary that explicitly and exclusively deals with political concepts?

What do you mean "the standard reasons"?

There's a risk of EA being subsumed under one or another political party, which would make it less credible to those of different political affiliations.  There's also the risk of turning into the kind of dumpster fire of bad faith arguments that many political forums encounter. There's also the fact that political issues are relatively less neglected.

Comment by nathan98000 on Idea: the "woketionary" · 2020-12-11T04:14:01.810Z · EA · GW

This doesn't seem like a great use of time. For one thing,  I think it gets the psychology of political disagreements backwards. People don't simply disagree with each other because they don't understand each others' words. Rather they'll often misinterpret words to meet political ends.

I also question anyone's ability to create such an "objective/apolitical" dictionary. As you note, even the term "woke" can have a negative connotation. (And in some circles it still has a positive connotation.) Some words are essentially political footballs in today's climate. For example, in this dictionary what would be the definition of the word "woman"?

I'm also unconvinced that this is an EA type of activity. For the standard reasons, I think EA should be very cautious when approaching politics. It seems like creating a central hub for people to look up politically loaded terms is the opposite of this.

Comment by nathan98000 on Effective strategy and an overlooked area of research? · 2020-09-24T01:11:58.249Z · EA · GW

I didn’t downvote, but I’ll give my two cents after having read the abstract.

Your abstract didn’t leave me wanting to read the rest of your essay.

You say that the cause of our lack of coordination and management of x-risks is because of “human nature.” This is such a nebulous term, it’s unclear how to evaluate this claim, and given many people’s tendency to wax poetic without saying much of substance about human nature, I worry your essay is in this genre. You also say we cannot change human nature. It’s unclear how you would argue for this and why this wouldn’t immediately lead to a defeatist attitude. But given advances in neuroscience, genetics, and AI I strongly doubt that any conception of human nature is as fixed as you would claim. You do later say that a cooperative society is possible, which seems inconsistent with the earlier part of your abstract.

The key to cooperating and managing x-risks, you say, is acquiring an understanding life and human nature. Again, this is too vague to evaluate.

And you say this knowledge can be made quick and easy to acquire, which seems... utopian? So I strongly doubt that the essay would lead to actionable advice.

Comment by nathan98000 on Is there a clear writeup summarizing the arguments for why deep ecology is wrong? · 2019-10-25T15:36:41.687Z · EA · GW

Much of this is also noncentral, but may be worth reading for background

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental/

Comment by nathan98000 on Suffering of the Nonexistent · 2019-03-03T20:35:06.548Z · EA · GW

You're right, I think I didn't read carefully enough, and I pattern matched to the nearest sensible view.

Comment by nathan98000 on Suffering of the Nonexistent · 2019-03-02T22:23:32.739Z · EA · GW

I agree with Sarthak. You seem to take a long time to get to your point.

Regarding the content of your post, you may be interested in reading up on population ethics. Your post basically maps onto the debate about whether we should adopt a person-affecting view of ethics. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person-affecting_view