Is rapid diagnostic testing (RDT), such as for coronavirus, a neglected area in Global Health? 2020-03-17T22:24:05.915Z · score: 10 (3 votes)
Ramiro's Shortform 2019-10-17T13:16:14.822Z · score: 3 (2 votes)
Merging with AI would be suicide for the human mind - Susan Schneider 2019-10-03T17:55:07.789Z · score: 0 (2 votes)


Comment by ramiro on [Link] Expert Communities and Public Revolt · 2020-03-29T23:44:51.547Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW
Robert analogized this illustration to how public trust in expert communities of economists plummeted after the Great Recession

And yet, I guess central banks across the world are usually shielded from politics; and you can observe more international cooperation and convergence in macroeconomics (e.g., see how governments and central banks adopted similar measures to provide stimulus worldwide).

So maybe we'll have an analogous outcome for epidemiologists - mistrust from people, respect from politicians.

Comment by ramiro on What promising projects aren't being done against the coronavirus? · 2020-03-23T16:04:22.292Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Using rapid diagnostic tests for other respiratory infections to exclude covid-19 diagnosis?

Most Western countries have reached the limits of their testing capabilities; it'll take a while to deploy the new serological antibody rapid tests, and even so, we'll likely have a huge demand for them. Is it feasible to use other point-of-care rapid tests for different respiratory infections (particulalry Influenza, but I guess there might be rapid tests for Streptococcus, too) to exclude Covid-19 diagnosis?

Comment by ramiro on What promising projects aren't being done against the coronavirus? · 2020-03-23T15:58:43.520Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Mitigation of negative effects of social distancing?

The economic effects are already being targeted (enough?). However, could we improve measures aiming at social and psychological effects? For instance, could we have a system to use public spaces in shifts, instead of making everyone stay at home -so ensuring everyone can enjoy sometime outdoors, without crowds?

Comment by ramiro on Ubiquitous Far-Ultraviolet Light Could Control the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Pandemics · 2020-03-23T11:54:04.601Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that preventing exposure to virions is a priority, but I am concerned with indoor air quality overall, especially if people are staying indoors for long periods:

Comment by ramiro on What promising projects aren't being done against the coronavirus? · 2020-03-23T11:50:33.995Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Could you be more specific or provide an example?

Comment by ramiro on Ubiquitous Far-Ultraviolet Light Could Control the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Pandemics · 2020-03-20T18:01:48.947Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Epistemic status: not my expertise, I'm guessing.

It's hard for it to flow upwards, and it'll probably disperse a lot (since it doesn't reproduce outside a host, I guess this minimizes the chance of being infected)... but yeah, if your apartment is close to an infected person, there's a chance that the wind will carry virions to your apartment; that's why hospitals are supposed to place infected people according to the airflow.

There's probably a trade-off between probability of external contamination vs. time virions stay viable on surfaces in an environment. It seems like, at least for other respiratory infections, for most collective environments, we should be more concerned about the latter.

What's your opinion here? Of course, there's a point where the external environment becomes so contaminated (in a hospital, or if everyone in your building is infected) that you better insulate your personal environment as best as you can.

Comment by ramiro on Ubiquitous Far-Ultraviolet Light Could Control the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Pandemics · 2020-03-19T00:51:08.527Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I like this idea. On the other hand, the other promising environmental measure analysed by WHO, ventilation, seems very straightforward and intuitive - but it's still neglected (I haven't observed any emphasis on that recently, at least). If people can't open their windows and turn off the air conditioning during epidemics, I wouldn't be very hopeful concerning UV lamps.

Comment by ramiro on Cortés, Pizarro, and Afonso as Precedents for Takeover · 2020-03-03T12:36:05.433Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

First, thanks! I had no idea Afonso de Albuquerque's conquests had been so marvelous. I mean, yeah, Camões and Pessoa dedicated him some verses, but it's not very informative.


Why didn’t it happen the other way around: some ambitious local ruler talks to the conquistadors, exploits their internal divisions, allies with some to defeat the others, and ends up on top

Actually, it happened sometimes - natives played Europeans against each other in Africa and Brazil, where the absence of centralized government (and bad terrain) made a quick takeover impossible.

Comment by ramiro on FHI Report: The Windfall Clause: Distributing the Benefits of AI for the Common Good · 2020-02-14T21:42:45.731Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

(Epistemic status: there must be some flaw, but I can't find it.)

Sure. But, let me be clearer: what drew my attention is that, apparently, there seems to be no down-side for a company to do this ASAP. My whole point:

First, consider the “simple” example where a signatory company promises to donate 10% of its profits from a revolutionary AI system in 2060, a situation with an estimated probability of about 1%; the present value of this obligation would currently amount to U$650 million (in 2010 dollars). This seems a lot; however, I contend that, given investors’ hyperbolic discount, they probably wouldn’t be very concerned about it – it’s an unlikely event, to happen in 40 years; moreover, I’ve checked with some accountants, and this obligation would (today) be probably classified as a contingent liability of remote possibility (which, under IAS 37, means it wouldn’t impact the company’s balance sheet – it doesn’t even have to be disclosed in its annual report). So, I doubt such an obligation would negatively impact a company’s market value and profits (in the short-term); actually, as there’s no “bad marketing”, it could very well increase them.

Second (all this previous argument was meant to get here), would it violate some sort of fiduciary duty? Even if it doesn’t affect present investors, it could affect future ones: i.e., supposing the Clause is enforced, can these investors complain? That’s where things get messy to me. If the fiduciary duty assumes a person-affecting conception of duties (as law usually does), I believe it can’t. First, if the Clause were public, any investor that bought company shares after the promise would have done it in full knowledge – and so wouldn’t be allowed to complain; and, if it didn’t affect its market value in 2019, even older investors would have to face the objection “but you could have sold your shares without loss.” Also, given the precise event “this company made this discovery in such-and-such way”, it’s quite likely that the event of the promise figures in the causal chain that made this precise company get this result – it certainly didn’t prevent it! Thus, even future investors wouldn’t be allowed to complain.
There must be some flaw in this reasoning, but I can’t find it.

(Could we convince start-ups to sign this until it becomes trendy?)

Comment by ramiro on FHI Report: The Windfall Clause: Distributing the Benefits of AI for the Common Good · 2020-02-14T05:18:01.854Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I wonder how such a commitment would actually impact a company's balance sheet.

In the example of Windfall Clause worth $649.34 million (in 2010 dollars), I guess that, according to IAS 37, it would be considered a contingent liability of remote possibility - and so wouldn't even need to be disclosed by the company.

Moreover, due to hyperbolic discount, it would probably be perceived as much less costly than $650m. (and I thought time preferences were evil...)

Comment by ramiro on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-02-11T19:44:45.654Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW
Policies that claim for "more education", in Brazil at least, tend to emphasize a completely different skillset: far leftist-biased history, far leftist-biased geography, far leftist-biased sociology, far leftist-biased philosophy, arts and culture (there's this perception that "more culture" is some sort of panacea), and "critical thinking", which is usually code for "opposing pro-growth policies".

I do agree math & science are really wanting in the 3rd world, that they're more fundamental for growth, and that we should focus on them. However, I disagree with the diagnosis; I believe the reason students are comparatively worse in hard sciences is, well, that they're relatively harder - they require training and competence, from students AND teachers. If the problem were that we implemented leftist pro-culture policies, instead of improve hard sciences learning, we should at least observe improvements in some other capabilities - e.g., they should be able to read, interpret, and expose arguments on why, e.g., everything bad was caused by colonialism, patriarchy, etc.

I think we have a more complex inadequate equilibria: bad teachers in unions defending their interests, students from terrible backgrounds, talented people avoiding teaching (if you know calculus, why would you want to try to teach poor kids for a low salary?), and, of course, governments focused on whatever will win votes in the next election.

I do agree that any proposal on changing educational policies will meet a backlash, espacially from humanities, and that it will often carry a leftist taste - but we shouldn't focus on this backlash, that's not the cause of illiteracy, nor innumeracy. When we frame the issue as "the problem is that education is dominated by marxist thinking", we're just unnecessarily politicising it.

Comment by ramiro on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-02-11T13:35:19.425Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · EA · GW

You should first find out how to make people (justifiably) trust those policies.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re in some sort of stalemate here. A can say: “economics show that, unless you adopt pro-business policies – e.g., lower your taxes, slash labor and consumer regulations – investors will avoid this country.” And B replies: “social science shows that, unless you adopt redistributive policies – e.g., tax the rich, protect workers and consumers – people won’t support the government.” Of course, that’s even worse when A and B identify themselves as belonging to specific classes - then it's more a political bargain than a debate on economics. I’d like to know more about how developed countries actually faced this conundrum – as far as I know, very badly: 30 years later, the 80’s neoliberal policies are still the core of debates. But the difference between developed and developing countries regarding social trust (and trust in the government) is truly remarkable; I wonder what's the direction of causality here.

Comment by ramiro on Ramiro's Shortform · 2020-02-11T12:33:27.636Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Does anyone know or have a serious opinion / analysis on the European campaign to tax meat? I read some news at Le Monde, but nothing EA-level seriousness. I mean, it seems a pretty good idea, but I saw no data on possible impact, probability of adoption, possible ways to contribute, or even possible side-effects?

(not the best comparison, but worth noting: in Brazil a surge in meat prices caused an inflation peak in december and corroded the governement's support - yeah, people can tolerate politicians meddling with criminals and fascism, as long as they can have barbecue)

Comment by ramiro on Ramiro's Shortform · 2020-01-31T19:36:23.864Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Too bad I don't have a Facebook account anymore... I'd appreciate if someone else (whou found it useful, of course) could raise this subject in those groups.

(man, do I miss the memes!)

Or I could just post it as a Question in this forum, to get more visibility.


Comment by ramiro on Ramiro's Shortform · 2020-01-29T16:58:24.538Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'm thinking on both: adequately categorizing papers may have an indirect impact on how other scholars select their bibliographical references; and the volunteer editors themselves may acquire (or anticipate its acquisition - I suppose that, if a paper is really good, you'll likely end up finding it anyway) knowledge of their corresponding domains.

Of course, perhaps the answer is "it's already hard enough to catch up with the posts on such-and-such subjects in the EA and rationalist community, and read the standard literature, and do original work, etc. - and you still want me to work as a quasi-librarian for free?"

Comment by ramiro on [Link] "Moral understanding and moral illusions" · 2020-01-26T16:37:30.327Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Kudos, specially for your concern about copyrights

Comment by ramiro on Potential downsides of using explicit probabilities · 2020-01-25T14:03:41.982Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Oh, I only apologised because, well, if we start discussing about catchy paradoxes, we'll soon lose the track of our original point.

But if you enjoy it, and since it is a relevant subject, I think people use 3 broad "strategies" to tackle St. Petersburg paradoxes and the like:

[epistemic status: low, but it kind makes sense]

a) "economist": "if you use a bounded version, or takes time into account, the paradox disappears: just apply a logarithmic function for diminishing returns..."

b) "philosopher": "unbounded utility is weird" or "beware, it's Pascal's Wager with objective probabilities!"

c) "statistician": "the problem is this probability distribution, you can't apply central limit / other theorem, or the indifference principle, or etc., and calculate its expectation"

Comment by ramiro on Comparing Four Cause Areas for Founding New Charities · 2020-01-24T17:26:40.261Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · EA · GW
Has active agents, namely tobacco companies, that push against interventions in this space

I wonder if that's so bad: considering we are playing a zero-sum game against this companies, each $ we make them spend to defend themselves against public policies will impact the price of their product - and, given price-elasticity, will deter consumption.

Comment by ramiro on Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent · 2020-01-24T17:20:04.838Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I wonder if companies could be held liable for something like misleading advertisement in case of voluntarily failing to fulfill their commitments. I googled it a little bit; there's a growing concern about legally enforcing CSR commitments, but I still can't make my mind on this possibility (and its desirability: could it backfire?)

Comment by ramiro on Potential downsides of using explicit probabilities · 2020-01-24T15:55:23.540Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I mostly agree with you. I subtracted the reference to martingales from my previous comment because: a) not my expertise, b) this discussion doesn’t need additional complexity.

I'm sorry for having raised issues about paradoxes (perhaps there should be a Godwin's Law about them); I don’t think we should mix edge cases like St. Petersburg (and problems with unbounded utility in general) with the optimizer’s curse – it’s already hard to analyze them separately.

when talking about utility itself, and thus having accounted for diminishing returns and all that, one should be risk-neutral.

Pace Buchak, I agree with that, but I wouldn't say it aloud without adding caveats: in the real world, our problems are often of dynamic choice (and so one may have to think about optimal stopping and strategies, information gathering, etc.), we don't observe utility-functions, we have limited cognitive resources, and we are evaluated and have to cooperate with others, etc. So I guess some "pure" risk-aversion might be a workable satisficing heuristics to [signal you] try to avoid the worst outcomes when you can't account for all that. But that's not talking about utility itself - and certainly not talking probability / uncertainty itself.

Comment by ramiro on Potential downsides of using explicit probabilities · 2020-01-23T12:29:08.531Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I am very satisfied with the new text. I think you understood me pretty well; the problem is, I was a little bit unclear and ambiguous.

I'm not sure if this impacts your argument: I think diminishing returns accounts pretty well for saturation (ie., gaining $1 is not as important as losing $1); but it's plausible to complement subjective expected utility theory with pure risk-aversion, like Lara Buchak does.

But what I actually had in mind is something like, in the extreme for unbounded utility, St. Petersburg paradox: if you're willing to constantly bet all your budget, you'll sure end up with $0 and bankrupt. In real life, I guess that if you were constantly updating your marginal utility per dollar, this wouldn't be a problem (so I agree with you - this is not a challenge to expected utility maximisation).

Comment by ramiro on Ramiro's Shortform · 2020-01-22T19:22:52.770Z · score: 7 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Shouldn't we have more EA editors in Philpapers categories?

Philpapers is this huge index/community of academic philosophers and texts. It's a good place to start researching a topic. Part of the work is done by voluntary editors and assistants, who assume the responsibility of categorizing and including relevant bibliography; in exchange, they are constantly in touch with the corresponding subject. Some EAs are responsible for their corresponding fields; however, I noticed that some relevant EA-related categories currently have no editor (e.g.: Impact of Artificial Intelligence). I wonder: wouldn't it be useful if EAs assumed these positions?

Comment by ramiro on Potential downsides of using explicit probabilities · 2020-01-21T18:28:26.940Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW
And I think that, even when one is extremely uncertain, the optimizer’s curse doesn’t mean you should change your preference ordering (just that you should be far less certain about it, as you’re probably greatlyoverestimating the value of best-seeming option).

I'm not very sure, but I imagine that the Optimizer's curse might result in a reason against maximizing expected utility (though I'd distinguish it from using explicit probability models in general) if we're dealing with a bounded budget - in which case, one might prefer a suboptimal option with low variance...?

(Plus, idk if this is helpful: in social contexts, a decision rule might incorporate the distribution of the cognitive burdens - I'm thinking about Prudence in Accounting, or maybe something like a limited precautionary principle. If you use an uninformative prior to assess a risk / liability / asset of a company, it might be tempted to hide information)

Comment by ramiro on The ‘far future’ is not just the far future · 2020-01-17T19:31:58.243Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW
Existential risk reduction and handling the technological transformation are therefore not just questions of the ‘far future’ or the ‘long-term’; it is also a ‘near-term’ concern.

Some risks are pretty low for the next 2 generations, so that they're neglected in favor of more present concerns (welfare, inequality, financial risks, etc.)

I was wondering: perhaps one could model human cooperation across the time as analogous to pensions schemes (or Ponzi schemes, if they fail) – as a network of successive games of partial conflict, so that foreseeing the end of the chain of cooperation would, by backward induction reasoning, entail its collapse. So, if we predict that an x-risk will increase, you can anticipate that the probability of future generations refusing to cooperate with previous ones will increase, too: my grand-grandchildren won't take care of my grandchildren (or of whatever they value), who so will see no point in cooperating with my children, who won't cooperate with me. Does it make sense?

Comment by ramiro on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-01-17T17:52:44.429Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I just read the paper. It's more a literature review plus data analysis than a classic meta-analysis (i.e., a paper aggregating the results of many different observations into a single statistical pooled estimate).

I interpret “Improving health is not the best way to increase growth” as: growth usually leads to better health (sure!), and that (very plausibly) investment in economic development (on average) tends to be more cost-effective than investing in health, in the long-term.

However, for EAs, I'd first remark that what matters is not so much "what's the causal direction in the growth-health correlation?" – which is David Weil's point – but "what prevents the 3rd world from developing - low GDP or poor health?". The first question would have for scope even current US and Norway. Since growth trajectories are path dependent and affected by many different things, we should distinguish analyses related to current low and high-income countries, and account for the possibility that different countries will find distinct paths to growth (at least if I understand D. Rodrik’s main point). E.x.: the question "why Senegal still has a low GDP per capita and life expectancy" may turn out to be quite unrelated to "why France has increased its HDI in XXth century". I’d be marveled if health statistics (which, at least for latin America, includes violence) didn’t play a role in the first case; my personal anecdotal evidence is that prospects for life deeply affect one’s plans, so that, e.g., it’s really hard to design savings and insurance systems, with stable interest rates, in countries where people do not expect to reach old age.

Second, I am very wary of certain conclusions/analysis:

- “differences in life expectancy at birth tend to be far smaller than differences in life expectancy at birth” (p. 3 of the file – 626 in the book)… so what? Life expectancy is still significantly different across countries, income levels and regions, otherwise every age pyramid would be similar to all the others, except that in poor countries it’d have a larger base. Second, if you’re using life expectancy as a proxy for health in general, child mortality is relevant because it provides information about other sanitary conditions.

  • David Weil calculates the return to health using height as a proxy. I will suspend my judgement until further inquiry and maybe look at the raw data, but I suspect of regressional Goodhart.
Comment by ramiro on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-01-17T16:20:45.155Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

That's very plausible. So, if someone wants EA to focus on growth, they should use different strategies to convince x-riskers that it's better for the long-term (ex: "read Tyler Cowen") or welfare/equality EAs that it's better for low-income people ("read... Tyler Cowen?").

Comment by ramiro on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-01-17T14:54:52.133Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW
Firstly, establishing the truth of this claim should be a top priority for EAs who are focused on reducing global poverty. EAs are now moving more than a hundred million dollars every year in this space, so evaluating a crucial consideration such as this is of paramount importance.


Secondly, it is less clear whether advocacy for growth is crowded relative to its scale, which is the more relevant comparison.

I'm not so sure. What matters is not the scale x impact of the problem, but of the intervention, and so the matter is if an additional contribution would scale. I'm pretty sure that economic growth is hugely important and that policies conducing to it must be supported, but the question is if there's any low-hanging fruit that I can grab myself here. Show me a proposal and I'm gonna ask "why isn't the government/ banks / World Bank / Bill Gates funding it?" (damn convergent interests and institutional altruists eating all the low-hanging fruit!)

However, I do concede that RD is not very neglected anymore.

Thirdly, we present several suggestions for the kinds of things that could be funded in Appendix 3

Actually, that'd be Appendix 5, right? I liked them, in general. BTW, I'm very curious about what happened to appendix 4.

Comment by ramiro on Ramiro's Shortform · 2020-01-17T13:41:25.701Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Philosophers and economists seem to disagree about the marginalist/arbitrage argument that a social discount rate should equal (or at least be majorly influenced by) the marginal social opportunity cost of capital. I wonder if there's any discussion of this topic in the context of negative interest rates. For example, would defenders of that argument accept that, as those opportunity costs decline, so should the SDR?

Comment by ramiro on Ramiro's Shortform · 2020-01-15T13:40:18.218Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

So, I saw Vox's article on how air filters create huge educational gains; I'm particularly surprised that indoor air quality (actually, indoor environmental conditions) is kinda neglected everywhere (except, maybe, in dagerous jobs). But then I saw this (convincing) critique of the underlying paper.

It seems to me that this is a suitable case for a blind RCT: you could install fake air filters in order to control for placebo effects, etc. But then I googled a little bit... and I haven't found significant studies using blind RCTs in social sciences and similar cases. I wonder why; at least for these cases, it doesn't seem more unethical or harder to do it than in medical trials.

Comment by ramiro on Coordinating Commitments Through an Online Service · 2020-01-07T19:14:49.713Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I tend to agree with you... But then I remember how Facebook can be used to coordinate and broadcast executions in Brazil, or sow hate against Rohingyas. My point is not "you should think about this flaw that your system perhaps-eventually-might have", but "are you sure that we need more effective coordination, instead of tools to ensure that it aims for good?"

Comment by ramiro on Coordinating Commitments Through an Online Service · 2020-01-05T10:20:03.158Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'm not sure about how much good outcomes that depend on individual actions could profit from better coordination, or how an app focused on that would improve the situation. But have you considered that, since coordination is not a good in itself, your app could be used for evil, too?

Comment by ramiro on On Collapse Risk (C-Risk) · 2020-01-04T12:31:16.968Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that "Dark age mitigation" is a very neglected area; but I am not so sure about "Dark age prevention". Governments and scholars are often concerned about long-term stable growth, even outside EA. In addition, I wonder what a general policy aiming at "minimising the length of Dark Ages and leading to a faster Renaissance" would look like. If it were in Asimov's Foundation style, it'd likely be secret (specially if you are concerned about world war scenarios).

Comment by ramiro on On Collapse Risk (C-Risk) · 2020-01-04T12:20:27.382Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Has anyone inquired if primitive segregated communities could function as a (low-cost) kind of "ark" - a hedge for our species, in secluded environment protected from some global catastrophes?. My guess is that they would probably survive pandemics, or a "simple" collapse of civilization. But they would be quite fragile to environmental changes; perhaps there could be a way to make them more resilient?

Comment by ramiro on Welfare stories: How history should be written, with an example (early history of Guam) · 2020-01-04T11:37:58.279Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Congrats for this post. This reminds me the debate on careers for EAs that are not focused by 80kh - see In school, History was mainly taught as a sequence of facts (wars, kings, discoveries), or as struggles between groups (nations, tribes, classes); but there's so much to discover (and teach to young students) about welfare improvements, and long-term risks and trends. Btw, that's why I got addicted in Extra History -

Comment by ramiro on When To Find More Information: A Short Explanation · 2020-01-04T11:18:29.682Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry, man, you're just making it sound even cooler.

Comment by ramiro on When To Find More Information: A Short Explanation · 2019-12-30T23:57:06.479Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

David might be cheating, using a neg: saying so much "don't read my dissertation" that now I am actually very curious about it.

Comment by ramiro on Stories and altruism · 2019-12-27T21:51:57.415Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Did the spreadsheet idea survive? Because maybe we should add another column with the total number of people who saw each movie/book; this would be useful to distinguish works that correlate with being an EA (e.g., TLYCS book) from things everyone saw, but we associate with our feelings (like LOTR).

Comment by ramiro on Your Altruism Movie Suggestions? · 2019-12-27T21:42:09.022Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I like the idea of listing related movies, but I conceive it in a very different way - movies that might have a more indirect influence. For example, "The Current War" provides an interesting example of the revolutionary benefits and uncertain risks of technological changes., and would probably interest any longtermist (at least those with no prior knowledge of the history of electricity)

Comment by ramiro on Brief summary of key disagreements in AI Risk · 2019-12-27T18:25:38.158Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Maybe we should add: Does working on pre-ASI risks improve our prospects of solving ASI (I think that's the core of the conciliation between near-term and long-term concerns about AI... but up to what point?), or does it worsen it?

Comment by ramiro on Which banks are most EA-friendly? · 2019-12-26T20:21:17.061Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I join the chorus of those who are confused by the ambiguity of this question. On the other hand, considering the role of banks and financial systems in our economy and social lives, I'm surprised, too, that we rarely mention them in EA.

If you're thinking about the impact of microcredit, unfortunately, there's no evidence that it's very effective - though microinsurance might be a low hanging fruit. You might also be interested in how banks prey on people who lack the skills and knowledge necessary to make financial decisions; however, there are some initiatives about this - I remember Marginal Revolution and Future Perfect citing how economic undergrads were learning about financial education, and some government agencies are often concerned about it, too. Moreover, it's an interesting way to present some concepts about rationality, like risk-aversion, cognitive bias, time preference, etc. Besides, governments and regulators are often concerned about predatory practices, concentration, stability and efficiency, and the whole market will supposedly change with technological innovations. I'd like to see some evidence on the effectiveness of their policies (too many people talking about "financial disruption"), but the area is far from being neglected.

If you're thinking about systemic change (and the systemic risks our financial system entails), I strongly recommend The End of Banking. I wouldn't say this subject is like an x-risk, but economic crises are frequent hazards that greatly affect economic growth (and probably politics, too). Open Philanthropy dedicates some attention to macroeconomic policy research, and there's a bunch of smart people everywhere concerned about it. Again, not neglected.

Or maybe you're thinking about how one can use banks to gain leverage and amplify the impact of some policy; for example, since they're often seen as the bad guys, many banks (and related associations) are announcing committments concerning climate change mitigation and corporate social responsibility, and people are discussing how climate hazards should affect their balance sheet. This approach is probably limited, though; but maybe there's a low-hanging fruit in nudging those ethical washing activities into effective charities.

Finally, another attractive feature of financial systems: they provide interesting examples of success and failures in governance. Central Banks are monetary and regulatory authorities, whose power relies on expertise and financial tools, instead of popular support or political representation; and a bunch of international financial organizations, such as IMF and BIS, are often more successful in implementing policies than institutions receiving more attention from diplomats and heads of state, such as UN and OAS - think about how the EEUU depends on the ECB, for example. I wonder if this could offer a case study for AI governance (or other x-risks).

Comment by ramiro on Ramiro's Shortform · 2019-12-20T12:48:04.013Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks. Your post strengthened my conviction that EAs should think about the subject - of course, the optimal strategy may vary a lot according to one's age, wealth, country, personal plans, etc.

But I still wonder: a) would similar arguments convince non-EA people? b) why don't EA (even pledgers) do something like that (i.e., take their deaths into account)? Or If they do it "discretely", why don't they talk about it? (I know most people don't think too much about what is gonna happen if they die, but EAs are kinda different)

(I greatly admire your work, btw)

Comment by ramiro on Notes on not dying · 2019-12-19T01:39:31.797Z · score: -7 (3 votes) · EA · GW

... I wouldn't advice it, but perhaps one could buy life insurance in favor of EA Funds and go B.A.S.E. jump?

Comment by ramiro on Ramiro's Shortform · 2019-12-19T01:29:19.413Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Why don't we have more advices / mentions about donating through a last will - like Effective Legacy? Is it too obvious? Or absurd?

All other cases of someone discussing charity & wills were about the dilemma "give now vs. (invest) post mortem". But we can expect that even GWWC pledgers save something for retirement or emergency; so why not to legate a part of it to the most effective charities, too? Besides, this may attract non-pledgers equally: even if you're not willing to sacrifice a portion of your consumption for the sake of the greater good, why not those savings for retirement, in case you die before spending it all?

Of course, I'm not saying this would be super-effective; but it might be a low-hanging fruit. Has anyone explored this "path"?

Comment by ramiro on Ramiro's Shortform · 2019-12-15T21:22:25.152Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I was reading this recommended book and wondering how much of the late changes in our world is due to the demographic transitions - i.e., boomers. We know the population pyramid shape affects unemployment rates, wealth concentration (morever, think about how income predicts life expectancy, at least in very unequal countries - so one can expect a higher proportion of wealthier individuals in old age), and maybe even increasing health costs and votes - e.g., I just confirmed that, in Brazil, opinions about the government among young and old people are symmetrically opposite.

Idk what to infer from here. It seems to me there's an elephant in the room: I read a lot about economics, philosophy and politics, and I've seen almost no mention of it but for discussions over one of those topics alone - never something concerning all of them. But I do think this should interest EAs, because much of our economic and political theory fails to account for an aging population - something quite remarkable in human history. So, I'd appreciate any tip to read something that takes demography seriously (except for Peter Turchin, whom I already follow).

Comment by ramiro on Institutions for Future Generations · 2019-12-15T21:06:31.046Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Wouldn't this trend be better explained by the hypothesis that older people are usually more conservative? (e.g., I just confirmed that, in Brazil, opinions about the government among young and old people are symmetrically opposite)

Comment by ramiro on Institutions for Future Generations · 2019-11-27T14:01:11.089Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'd gladly replace "inequality" with "ensuring more people have lower levels on Maslow's hierarchy met" - I was thinking about inequality world-wide and the negative psychological effects of scarcity and risk-aversion. And I do agree that egalitarian reforms may often harm private investment.

I don't advocate equality as a good per se; however, I guess too much inequality may also increase a feeling, at least for some people, that some goods "are not for them" - that there's no point in saving, because the future will be (best case scenario) just like the present, for them and for their descedants. There's no point in long-term planning for these people, and I guess they don't care very much about future generations.

Comment by ramiro on Institutions for Future Generations · 2019-11-20T00:16:09.068Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Other prosals: I wonder if, besides institutions and norms explicitly aiming for longterm welfare, we shouldn't have institutions to avoid (more) abrupt changes and power centralization. Examples:

1. Instead of Supreme Courts to unify case law through binding precedents, we could use a voting system to aggregate decisions from individual judges and lower courts. Besides diluting power, this would also increase legal certainty.

2. More vague (and way less confident about its effectiveness and feasibility): one of the challenges for institutional reforms is that they affect current decision-makers status, who are biased towards their own short-term self-interests. So if you had a system where: a) some norms would have explicit expiration dates, and / or b) reforms would only come into effect many years later (how much? Well, that depends… I guess most people don’t plan too much for more than 16 years ahead, even politicians), c) would be designed by another body… would it be enough to make people more impartial about, e.g., electoral reform?

Comment by ramiro on Institutions for Future Generations · 2019-11-19T23:58:55.281Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I don’t like flattering, and I disliked most of the proposals, but this is the post of the month for me. Do you produce a kind of spreadsheet with those proposals? With a column for pros, cons, and maybe even something like “historical or fictional examples/analogies”

On the other hand, I look at the small savings rate in most countries – even OECD countries usually save less than 15% of GDP (exceptions: Korea, Norway, Chile)... It’s hard to think that, given such high individual discount rates, people could become more long-term concerned. I wonder how much of this is due to scarcity and uncertainty about one’s own welfare; so perhaps the first step forward would be to mitigate present day inequality? Besides encouraging people into long-term investment, but still within their life span – maybe Tobias’s proposal of longterm securities could work with a 50y term (if we could define a matching liability, as Larks notices).

Comment by ramiro on Institutions for Future Generations · 2019-11-19T21:50:45.270Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Some people would say that the Church exemplifies how an elite opmized for their own welfare instead of christian values, though.

Comment by ramiro on Institutions for Future Generations · 2019-11-19T21:27:00.755Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Maybe time preference is not quite the issue here. Older people have a peculiar scheme of long/short term individual/impartial preferences: since they won't live much longer, it's reasonable for them to discount their own future welfare at a higher rate - i.e., no sense in saving for old age anymore; but precisely because of their shorter life span, their self-interest may not weight so much when confronted with preferences for the welfare of others.