The value of x-risk reduction 2022-05-21T19:40:48.952Z
How close to nuclear war did we get over Cuba? 2022-05-13T19:58:48.008Z
When is AI safety research harmful? 2022-05-09T10:36:26.688Z
The Mystery of the Cuban missile crisis 2022-05-05T22:51:00.140Z
A formalization of negelectness 2021-08-20T16:06:54.615Z
Non-consequentialist longtermism 2021-06-05T01:48:18.630Z
Voting reform seems overrated 2021-04-10T00:35:40.757Z
Nathan_Barnard's Shortform 2021-03-31T22:58:35.033Z


Comment by Nathan_Barnard on The value of x-risk reduction · 2022-05-21T22:12:56.629Z · EA · GW

Yeah this is just about the constant risk case, I probably should have referred to it not covering time of perils explicitly, although same mechanism with neglectedness should still apply.

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on The value of x-risk reduction · 2022-05-21T20:44:29.735Z · EA · GW

Thanks! Fixed

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on How close to nuclear war did we get over Cuba? · 2022-05-13T22:31:11.514Z · EA · GW

wow that's really interesting, I'll look more deeply into that. It's defintely not what I've read happened, but at this point I think it's proably worth me reading the primary sources rather than relying on books. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on How close to nuclear war did we get over Cuba? · 2022-05-13T22:30:12.694Z · EA · GW

I have no specifc source saying explicitly that there wasn't a plan to use nuclear weopons in response to a tactical nuclear weopon. However, I do know what the decsion making stucture for the use of nuclear weopons was. In a case where there hadn't been a decapiting strike on civillian administrators, the Presidnet was presented with plans from the SIOP (US nuclear plan) which were exclusively plans based around a statagy of descrution of the Communist bloc. The SIOP was the US nuclear plan but triggers for nuclear war weren't in it anywhere. When induvidual soliders had tactical nuclear weopons their instructions weren't fixed - they could be instructed explictly not to use tactical nukes, in general though the structure of the US armed forces was to let the commanding officer decide the most approate course of action in a given sitaution. 

Second thing to note - tactical nukes were viewed as battlefeild weopons by both sides. Niether viewed them as anything special becaue they were nuclear in the sense that they should engender an all out attack. 

So maybe I should clarify that by saying that there was no plan that required the use of tactical nuclear weopons in response a Soviet use of them.

Probably the best single text of US nuclear war plans is The Bomb by Fred Kaplan.

Probably best source on how tactical nukes were used is Command and Control by Eric Schollsser

On the second one, I have a post here that serves to give the wider statagic context:

But it's not clear to me how Berlin is relvent. It's relvent insofar as it's an important factor in why the crisis happened but it's not clear to me why Berlin increased the chance of escaltion into nuclear war beyond the fact that the Soviet response to a US invasion of Cuba could be to attempt to take Berlin. 

Why does the China-India war matter here post Sino-Soviet split?

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on When is AI safety research harmful? · 2022-05-10T17:26:05.822Z · EA · GW

Thanks for you feedback! Unfortunately I am a smart  junior person, so looks like we know who'll be doing the copy editing 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on When is AI safety research harmful? · 2022-05-09T15:38:57.085Z · EA · GW

Yeah I think that's very reasonable

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on The Mystery of the Cuban missile crisis · 2022-05-05T23:24:25.534Z · EA · GW


I think three really good books are One minute to Midnight, Nuclear folly, and Gambling with Armageddon. Lots of other ones have shortish sections but these three focus more almost completely on the crisis. 

This article:

Also deals with the issue from the same persecptive I've presented here. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on How much current animal suffering does longtermism let us ignore? · 2022-04-22T16:44:33.432Z · EA · GW

I think that there is something to the claim being made in the post which is that longtermism as it currently is is mostly about increasing number of people in the future living good lives. It seems genuinely true that most longtermists are prioritising creating happiness over reducing suffering. This is the key factor which pushes me towards longtermist s-risk.  

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on FTX/CEA - show us your numbers! · 2022-04-20T17:02:01.800Z · EA · GW

I think the key point here is that it is unsually easy to recuirt EAs at uni compared to when they're at McKinsey. I think it's unclear if a) among the the best things for a student to do is go to McKinsey and b) how much less likely it is that an EA student goes to McKinsey. I think it's pretty unlikely going to McKinsey is the best thing to do, but I also think that EA student groups have a realtively small effect on how often students go into elite coporate jobs (a bad thing from my perspective) at least in software engineering.  

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on FTX/CEA - show us your numbers! · 2022-04-20T16:56:25.417Z · EA · GW

I'm obviously not speaking for Jessica here, but I think the reason the comparison is relevant is that the high spend by Goldman ect suggests that spending a lot on recruitment at unis is effective. 

If this is the case, which I think is also supported by the success of well funded groups with full or part time organisers, and that EA is in an adversarial relationship to  with these large firms, which I think is large true, then it makes sense for EA to spend similar amounts of money trying to attract students. 

The relvent comparison is then comparing the value of the marginal student recurited with malaria nets ect. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Free-spending EA might be a big problem for optics and epistemics · 2022-04-14T23:06:53.214Z · EA · GW

I'm going through this right now. There have just clearly been times both as a group organiser and in my personal life when I should have just spent/taken money and in hindsight clearly had higher impact, e.g buying uni textbooks so I study with less friction to get better grades. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on AMA: Joan Rohlfing, President and COO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative · 2021-12-09T02:28:45.039Z · EA · GW

I view India-Pakistan as the pair of nuclear armed states most like have a nuclear exchange. Do you agree with this and if so  what should this imply about our priorities in the nuclear space.  

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on AMA: Joan Rohlfing, President and COO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative · 2021-12-09T02:27:24.905Z · EA · GW

As long as China and Russia have nuclear weapons, do you think it's valuable for the US to maintain a nuclear arsenal? What about the UK and France?

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Reducing long-term risks from malevolent actors · 2021-12-04T00:36:17.726Z · EA · GW

So the model is more like, during the Russian revolution for instance it's a 50/50 chance that whichever leader came out of that is very strongly selected to have dark traid traits, but this is not the case for the contemporary CCP.  

Yeah seems plausible. 99:1 seems very very strong. If it were 9:1  means we're in a 1/1000 world, 1:2 means an approx 1/10^5. Yeah, I don't have a good enough knowledge of rulers before they gained close to absolute power to be able to evaluate that claim. Off the top of my head, Lenin, Prince Lvov (the latter led the provisional govt' after Feb revolution) were not dark triady. 

The definition of unstable also looks important here. If we count Stalin and Hitler, both of whom came to power during peacetime, then it seems like also should count Soviet leaders who succeeded Stalin, CCP leaders who succeeded Mao,  Bashar al-Assad, Pinochet, Mussolini. Sanity check from that group makes it seem more much like a 1:5 than 1:99. Deng definitely not Dark Triad, nor Bashar, don't know enough about the others but they don't seem like it? 

If we're only counting Mao, then the selection effect looks a lot stronger off the top of my head, but should also probably be adjusted because the mean of sadism seems likely much higher after a period of sustained fighting given the effect of prison guards for instance becoming more sadistic over time, and gennerally violence being normalised. 

Don't know enough about psychopathy or machivallianism. 

It's also not completely clear to me that Stalin and Mao were in the top 10% for sadism at least. Both came from very poor peasant societies. I know at least Russian peasant life in 1910 was unbelievably violent and they reguarly did things which we sort of can't imagine. My general knowledge of European peasant societies - e.g crowds at public executions - makes me think that it's likely that the average Chinese peasant in 1910 would have scored very highly on sadism. If you look at the response of the Chinese police/army to the 1927  Communist insurgency it was unbelievably cruel. 

Makes screening for malicious actors seem worse and genetic selection seem better.  

Apologies that this is so scattered. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Open Thread: Spring 2022 · 2021-12-03T21:07:50.687Z · EA · GW

I'm currently doing research on this!  The big big driver is age, income is pretty small comparatively, the education effect goes away when you account for income and age. At least this what I get from the raw health survey of England data lol. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Reducing long-term risks from malevolent actors · 2021-12-03T19:56:57.035Z · EA · GW

It seems like a strange claim that both the atrocities committed by Hitler, Stalin and Mao were substantially more likely because they had dark triad traits and that when doing genetic selection we're interested in removing the upper tail, in the article it was the top 1%. To take this somewhat naively, if we think that the Holocaust, and Mao and Stalin's terror-famines wouldn't have happened unless all three leaders exhibited dark tetrad traits in the top 1%, this implies we're living in a world world that comes about with probability 1/10^6, i.e 1 in a million, assuming the atrocities were independent events. This implies a need to come up with a better model. 

Edit 2: this is also wrong. Assuming independence the number of atrocious should be binomially distributed with p=1/100 and n=#of leaders in authoritarian regimes with sufficiently high state capacity or something. Should probably be a markov-chain model. 

If we adjust the parameters to top 10%  and say that the atrocities were 10% more likely to happen if this condition is met, this implies we're living in a world that's  come about with probability (p/P(Dark triad|Atrocity)^3, where p is the probability of that the atrocity would have occurred without Hitler, Stalin and Mao having dark triad traits. The interpretation of P(Dark triad|Atrocity) is what's the probability that a leader has a dark triad traits given they've committed an atrocity.  If you have p as 0.25 and P(Dark|Atrocity) as 0.75 this means we're living in a 1/9 world, which is much more reasonable. But, this makes this intervention look much less good. 

Edit: the maths in this section is wrong because I did a 10% probability increase of p as 1.1*p rather than p having an elasticity of 0.1  with respect to the resources put into the intervention or something. I will edit this later. 

Excluding 10% of population from politcal power seems like a big ask. If the intervention reduced the probability that someone with dark triad traits coming to power (in a system where they could commit an atrocity) by 10%, which seems ambitious to me, this reduces the probability of an atrocity by 1% (if the above model is correct). Given this requires excluding 10% of the population from politcal power, which I'd say is generously 10%, this means that EV of the intervention is reducing the probability of an atrocity by 0.1%. Although this would increase if the intervention could be used multiple times, which seems likely. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Sasha Chapin on bad social norms in EA · 2021-11-25T16:54:50.839Z · EA · GW

I definitely feel this as a student. I care a lot about my impact and I know intellectually that being really good at being a student the best thing I can do for long term impact.  Emotionally though, I find it hard to know that the way I'm having my impact is so nebulous and also doesn't take very much work do well. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-22T11:49:07.970Z · EA · GW

I organise EA Warwick and we've had decent success so far with concepts workshops as an alternative to fellowships. They're much less of a time commitment for people, and after the concepts workshop people seem to basically bought into EA and want to get involved more heavily. We've only done 3 this term so far, so definitely we don't know how this will turn out. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on A formalization of negelectness · 2021-08-27T07:16:21.980Z · EA · GW

Thanks :)

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Governor Of California? (Scott Alexander: Astral Codex Ten) · 2021-08-26T13:47:28.767Z · EA · GW

Yes, I kind of did see this coming (although not in the US) and I've been working on a forum post for like a year and now I will finish it. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on A formalization of negelectness · 2021-08-25T07:56:40.911Z · EA · GW

Yeah I wrote it in google docs and then couldn't figure out how to transfer the del and suffixes to the forum.

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs · 2021-08-20T00:31:36.406Z · EA · GW

I think this is correct and EA thinks about neglectedness wrong. I've been meaning to formalise this for a while  and will do that now. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Nathan_Barnard's Shortform · 2021-06-16T01:48:23.577Z · EA · GW

If preference utilitarianism is correct there may be no utility function that accurately describes the true value of things. This will be the case if people's preferences aren't continuous or aren't complete, for instance if they're expressed as a vector. This generalises to other forms of consequentialism that don't have a utility function baked in. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Nathan_Barnard's Shortform · 2021-06-11T23:57:47.348Z · EA · GW

A 6 line argument for AGI risk 

(1) Sufficient intelligence has capitalities that are ultimately limited by physics and computability  

(2) An AGI could be sufficiently intelligent that it's limited by physics and computability but humans can't be 

(3) An AGI will come into existence

(4)  If the AGIs goals aren't the same as humans, human goals will only be met for instrumental reasons and the AGIs goals will be met

(5) Meeting human goals won't be instrumentally useful in the long run for an unaligned AGI

(6) It is more morally valuable for human goals to be met than an AGIs goals

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Non-consequentialist longtermism · 2021-06-11T23:48:34.647Z · EA · GW

Thank you, those both look like exactly what I'm looking for

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Non-consequentialist longtermism · 2021-06-06T22:56:33.257Z · EA · GW

But thank you for replying, in hindsight by reply seems a bit dismissive :)

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Non-consequentialist longtermism · 2021-06-05T11:31:38.050Z · EA · GW

Not really because that paper is essentially just making the consequentialist claim that axiological long termism implies that the action we should take are those which help the long run future the most. The Good is still prior to the Right.  

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Non-consequentialist longtermism · 2021-06-05T10:18:41.809Z · EA · GW

Hi Alex, the link isn't working 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Introducing Rational Animations · 2021-05-30T19:19:32.798Z · EA · GW

I'm worried about associating Effective altruism and rationality closely in public. I think rationality is reasonably likely to make enemies. The existence of r/sneerclub is maybe the strongest evidence of this, but also the general dislike that lots of people have for silicon valley and ideas that have a very silicon valley feel to them. I'm unsure to degree people hate Dominic Cummings because he's a rationality guy, but I think it's some evidence to think that rationality is good at making enemies. Similarly, the whole NY times-Scott Alexander crazyness makes me think there's the potential for lots of people to be really anti rationality.  

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Nathan_Barnard's Shortform · 2021-04-19T12:27:51.845Z · EA · GW

I think empirical claims can be discriminatory. I was struggling with how to think about this for a while,  but I think I've come to two conclusions. The first way I think that empirical claims can be discrimory is if they express discriminatory claims with no evidence, and people refusing to change their beliefs based on evidence.  I think the other way that they can be discriminatory is when talking about the definitions of socially constructed concepts where we can, in some sense and in some contexts, decide what is true. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior · 2021-04-19T11:16:02.043Z · EA · GW

I think the relevant split is between people who have different standards and different preferences for enforcing discourse norms. The ideal type position on the SJ side is that a significant number of claims relating to certain protected characteristics are beyond the pale and should be subject to strict social sanctions. The facebook group seems to on the over side of this divide. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Voting reform seems overrated · 2021-04-14T09:48:39.193Z · EA · GW

I think using Bayesian regret misses a number of important things. 

It's somewhat unclear if it means utility in the sense of a function that maps preference relations to real numbers, or utility in axiological sense. If it's in the former sense then I think it misses a number of very important things. The first is that preferences are changed by the political process. The second is that people have stable preferences for terrible things like capital punishment. 

If it means it in the axiological sense then I don't think we have strong reason to believe that how people vote will be closely related and I think we have reason to believe it will be different systematically.  This also makes it vulnerable to some people having terrible outcomes.  

Lots of what I'm worried about with elected leaders are negative externalities. For instance, quite plausibly the main reasons Trump was bad was his opposition to climate change and rejecting democratic norms. The former harms mostly people in other countries and future generations, and the latter mostly future generations (and probably people in other countries too more than Americans although it's not obviously true.) 

It also doesn't account for dynamic affects of parties changing their platforms. My claim is that the overton window is real and important.  

I think that having strong political parties which the electoral system protects is good for stopping these things in rich democracies because I think the gatekeepers will systematically support the system that put them in power. I also think the set of polices the elite support is better in the axiological sense than those supported by the voting population. The catch here is that the US has weak political parties that are supported by electoral system. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Voting reform seems overrated · 2021-04-11T10:26:10.892Z · EA · GW

Yeah I mean this is a pretty testable hypothesis and I'm tempted to actually test it. My guess is that the level of vote splitting that electoral system has won't have an effect and that that whether not voting is compulsory, number of young people, level of education and level of trust will explain most of the variation in rich democracies. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Nathan_Barnard's Shortform · 2021-04-09T22:30:49.275Z · EA · GW

Two books I recommend on structural causes and solutions to global poverty. The bottom billion by Paul Collier focuses on the question how can you get failed and failing states in very poor countries to middle income status and has a particular focus on civil war. It also looks at some solutions and thinks about the second order effects of aid. How Asia works by Joe Studwell focus on the question of how can you get poor countries with high quality, or potentially high quality governance and reasonably good political economy to become high income countries. It focuses exclusively on the Asian developmental state model and compares it with neoliberalish models in other parts of Asia that are now mostly middle income countries. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Nathan_Barnard's Shortform · 2021-04-05T22:21:45.021Z · EA · GW

Maybe this isn't something people on the forum do, but it is something I've heard some EAs suggest. People often have a problem when they become EAs that they now believe this really strange thing that potentially is quite core to their identity now and that can feel quite isolating. A suggestion that I've heard is that people should find new, EA friends to solve this problem. It is extremely important that this does not come off as saying that people should cut ties with friends and family who aren't EAs. It is extremely important that this is not what you mean. It would be deeply unhealthy for us as community is this became common. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Nathan_Barnard's Shortform · 2021-04-05T22:17:19.566Z · EA · GW

Yeah that sounds right, I don't even know how many people are working on strategy based around India becoming a superpower, which seems completely plausible. 

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on Nathan_Barnard's Shortform · 2021-03-31T22:58:35.423Z · EA · GW

Is there anyone doing research from an EA perspective on the impact of Nigeria becoming a great power by the end of this century? Nigeria is projected to be the 3rd largest country in the world by 2100 and potentially appears to be having exponential growth in GDP per capita. I'm not claiming that it's a likely outcome that Nigeria is a great power in 2100 but nor does it seem impossible. It isn't clear to me that Nigeria has dramatically worse institutions than India but I expect India to be a great power by 2100. It seems like it'd be really valuable for someone to do some work on this given it seems really neglected.  

Comment by Nathan_Barnard on "Why Nations Fail" and the long-termist view of global poverty · 2021-02-23T01:49:32.374Z · EA · GW

I think China is basically in a similar situation to  Prussia/Germany from 1848 to 1914. The revolutions of 1848 were unsuccessful in both Prussia and the independent South German states but they gave the aristocratic elites one hell of fright. The formal institutions of government didn't change very much, nor did who was running the show - in the Prussia then Germany the aristocratic-military Junker class. They still put people they didn't like in prison sometimes and still had kings with a large amount of formal power. However, they liberalised pretty spectacularly in lots of way - for instance trade unions were unbanned and the SPD (communist party at the time) grew to be the largest party in Germany, contract law was made equal between employers and workers and a market economy was allowed to flourish independently of the state and the old organisations of guilds and the vestiges of feudalism allowed to die. 

To see how dramatic this change was one can look at the state of Prussian agriculture before and after 1848. Prior to 1848 agriculture was still in important ways governed by  the Conservative mode of economic organisation - production, exchange and consumption were decided by what tradition dictated, was insulated from market forces by tariffs, and dominated by old aristocratic families. After 1848 Prussian agriculture was allowed to become a part of the market economy and become dominated by bourgeois men who ran their farms to make a profit and hired and fired workers as they pleased, and the market dictated the price of grain. It is hard to overstate how different this is from how agriculture was organised in, say, 1830. 

I think China is doing something pretty similar now. 20 years ago individuals lives were controlled in lots of ways by their work units. Your factory unit provided you with your job, your house, your pension, your healthcare and it was controlled by the party. This is now not the case. People move freely between jobs (that's mostly but not entirely true) , regional newspapers report on government failures and people bring lawsuits against big powerful companies and sometimes they win. 

Prussia/Germany was able to achieve growth at the frontier  after 1848 and I think it's plausible China does the same. Basically, I think that both governments are acting something like monopolists would in a contestable market. From the outside it's looks uncompetitive and like the monopolist should be extracting big rents, but actually they're keeping prices low because they're shit scared that someone's  going to come and take their place if they start trying to get monopoly profits. 

Now, having said all that, the Chinese economy has some big structural problems that look like classic extractive institutions problems. The two biggest to me at least look like the urban-rural divide and the massive about of infrastructure spending fueled by local government spending based land value prices. The Hukou system increases the cost of individuals moving from one administrative district to another by making it extremely difficult to access public services. This has created an underclass of poorly educated, low productivity migrants in the big cities who've left their children back home who go to low quality schools and just have the poor life chances associated by being raised not by one's parents. China then also has the classic authoritarian problem of being really good at producing loads of infrastructure and then producing way too much of it relative. The political economy reason behind this is in the China case is that  big infrastructure projects offer opportunities for graft and make regional GDP numbers look good.