RandomEA's Shortform 2020-11-30T01:16:12.584Z
Should there be an EA crowdfunding platform? 2018-05-01T15:34:01.183Z
Would an EA world with limited money fund costly treatments? 2018-03-31T01:20:08.675Z
Would it be a good idea to create a 'GiveWell' for U.S. charities? 2018-02-04T21:29:41.564Z
How much further does your dollar go overseas? 2018-02-04T21:28:01.733Z
Which five books would you recommend to an 18 year old? 2017-09-05T21:10:19.667Z
Does Effective Altruism Lead to the Altruistic Repugnant Conclusion? 2017-07-27T20:49:06.425Z


Comment by RandomEA on What actually is the argument for effective altruism? · 2021-01-26T06:45:08.958Z · EA · GW

I was actually assuming a welfarist approach too. 

But even under a welfarist approach, it's not obvious how to compare campaigning for criminal justice reform in the US to bednet distribution in developing countries.

Perhaps it's the case that this is not an issue if one accepts longtermism. But that would just mean that the hidden premise is actually longtermism.

Comment by RandomEA on 80,000 Hours: Where's the best place to volunteer? · 2021-01-26T05:31:21.981Z · EA · GW

The reason many volunteering schemes persist is that volunteers are more likely to donate in the future. For instance, when FORGE cut their volunteering scheme to be more effective, they inadvertently triggered a big drop in donations.

This seems somewhat misleading to me. If you click through to the FORGE blog post, it states that "volunteers were each required to raise a minimum of $5,000." 

I don't think it's reasonable to extrapolate from 'an organization that required each volunteer to raise a substantial sum saw a large decrease in revenue after decreasing the number of volunteers' to 'many volunteering schemes are maintained because volunteers are more likely to donate.'

The way the article phrases the two sentences implies that the second provides support for the first when in fact it does not (at least not without citation to evidence that many volunteering schemes require volunteers to raise substantial sums). 

Comment by RandomEA on 80,000 Hours: Where's the best place to volunteer? · 2021-01-26T05:19:26.782Z · EA · GW

The criticisms of volunteering in this article seem directed at traditional volunteering: structured opportunities that produce direct impact. Under this definition of volunteering, the criticisms seem reasonable. 

But a person might be interested in a broader sense of volunteering: unpaid, non-job related ways of using their free time to have an impact. Under this definition, there are many worthwhile volunteering opportunities. For example, a person could do one on one video calls with college EAs interested in their field, provide feedback on draft EA content, or run an EA discussion group

The article does note non-traditional ways of volunteering at the end but I think it'd be more likely to leave the reader with an accurate impression of the author's position if it substituted "traditional volunteering" for "volunteering" in the first several paragraphs.

Comment by RandomEA on Ranking animal foods based on suffering and GHG emissions · 2021-01-21T04:17:48.007Z · EA · GW

Great work! I think it might be a good idea for you to state on the page that the numbers are per kcal of energy. I clicked the link before reading your post and initially assumed it was the impact of eliminating the category from a standard diet. For what it's worth, I think it could be useful to have "impact of category in a standard diet" as an option on the page.

Comment by RandomEA on CHOICE - Creating a memorable acronym for EA principles · 2021-01-08T02:58:33.087Z · EA · GW

I agree that one word is better but I think this factor is less important than other factors like clarity. Because of this, I think "Helping others" would be better than "Helpfulness."

I also think the placement of "Cause prioritization" and "Collaboration" should be switched in the primary proposal so that "Cause prioritization" is next to "Effectiveness."

And in the alternative proposal, I think "Cause prioritization" should be replaced with "Commitment to others."

I strongly prefer "reasoning carefully" to "rationality" to avoid EA being too closely associated with the rationality community and people's perceptions of it. Notably, in his post defining effective altruism, William MacAskill uses "careful reasoning."

As for "greatest impact," I think it works reasonably well in a sentence combining all six values: the EA community uses evidence and careful reasoning to identify causes and approaches that allow for the greatest impact from an altruistic and impartial perspective and pursues those causes and approaches in a collaborative and norm-respecting manner.

Comment by RandomEA on CHOICE - Creating a memorable acronym for EA principles · 2021-01-07T08:53:48.497Z · EA · GW

I really like the idea of an acronym! Thank you for taking the time to create one and write a post about it. If I may, I'd like to add another option to the table:



Reasoning carefully


Norms (integrity, inclusion etc.)

Greatest impact

I like the word "caring" because it pushes back against the idea that a highly deliberative approach to altruism is uncaring. 

Comment by RandomEA on [Feedback Request] The compound interest of saving lives · 2020-12-24T05:49:04.341Z · EA · GW

Michael Bitton has used this argument as a reductio against longtermism (search "Here's an argument").

It seems it could work as to the medium term but would not work as to the very long term because i) if the fertility rate is above replacement, the initial additional people stop having a population effect after humanity reaches carrying capacity and ii) if the fertility rate is below replacement, the number of additional people in each generation attributable to the initial additional people would eventually reach zero.

Comment by RandomEA on A new, cause-general career planning process · 2020-12-24T05:14:49.549Z · EA · GW

Two suggestions for the list of "broad categories of longer-term roles that can offer a lot of leverage" under "Aim at top problems":

  • Under "Direct work", add foundations as one type of organization and grantmaking as one type of skill (or make this a separate category)
  • Under "Government and policy", add international organization to the list of employers to consider

Similar changes could be made to the "Five key categories" in the article "List of high-impact careers". 

Comment by RandomEA on What myths or misconceptions prevent people from supporting EA organizations that work on animal welfare or long-termist causes? · 2020-12-22T08:18:47.435Z · EA · GW

Thanks Luke. Do you know why EA Funds excludes ACE Movement Grants? There is substantial overlap between the recipients of ACE Movement Grants and the recipients of EA Animal Welfare Fund grants, which is why I wanted clarification that exclusion is not meant to imply anything negative about ACE Movement Grants.

Comment by RandomEA on Forum update: New features (December 2020) · 2020-12-22T08:13:54.161Z · EA · GW

Feature request: Create an option for content in the "Recent Discussion" section to be sorted based on the "Magic (New & Upvoted)" formula used for "Frontpage Posts" instead of based solely on recency. This would allow people without time to go through every single piece of new content to still be able to find and engage with important new comments. 

Comment by RandomEA on What myths or misconceptions prevent people from supporting EA organizations that work on animal welfare or long-termist causes? · 2020-12-17T04:54:53.523Z · EA · GW

For animal suffering:

  1. we can't say that farm animals live lives that are not worth living;
  2. advocating higher welfare standards legitimizes factory farming;
  3. corporations are unlikely to adhere to their higher welfare pledges;
  4. commercial fishing is okay since fish usually die painfully anyways;
  5. bad to transition from animal farming since jobs would be lost;
  6. the world will eventually transition to cultivated meat anyways;
  7. should end human suffering before addressing animal suffering;
  8. advocates ignore how food system affects communities of color;*
  9. I can't donate to farm animal advocacy if I haven't gone vegan; and
  10. wild animal advocates support radically altering the ecosystem.

*There is some truth to this statement, especially regarding the past, and the answer should candidly acknowledge this. (There may also be some truth to some of the other statements, but I thought this one was especially worth highlighting.)


I do have a question for you. On GWWC's "Best Charities to Donate to in 2020" page, under the "Give together, as a community" section, GWWC omits ACE Movement Grants. Is this intentional, and if so, can you publicly state GWWC's reasoning?

Comment by RandomEA on RandomEA's Shortform · 2020-11-30T01:16:13.065Z · EA · GW

Global Poverty and Animal Suffering Donation Opportunities (2020)

Comprehensively Evaluated Charities

GiveWell Maximum Impact Fund (allocated between GiveWell Top and Standout Charities at GiveWell's discretion; list of GiveWell Top Charities for 2020 below)

Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) Recommended Charity Fund (allocated between ACE Top and Standout Charities at ACE's discretion; list of ACE Top Charities for 2020 below)


Other Promising Opportunities

EA Global Health and Development Fund (allocated between promising global health and development projects at the discretion of GiveWell co-founder Elie Hassenfeld; links to most recent grants below)

EA Animal Welfare Fund (allocated between promising animal welfare projects at the discretion of a team led by Lewis Bollard, the program officer for farm animal welfare at the Open Philanthropy Project; links to most recent grant rounds below)

ACE Movement Grants (allocated between promising animal advocacy projects around the world at ACE's discretion; links to all grant rounds below)

Charity Entrepreneurship incubated charities

*included despite arguably falling outside the scope of global poverty and animal suffering 


Infrastructure Organizations

GiveWell (evaluates promising interventions and charities in the global poverty space)

Animal Charity Evaluators (evaluates promising interventions and charities in the animal suffering space)

Charity Entrepreneurship (incubates high-impact charities)

Rethink Priorities (prioritization research mostly on animals)

General infrastructure organizations

  • Centre for Effective Altruism (local group support, conferences, EA Forum, EA Funds, Giving What We Can etc.)
  • 80,000 Hours (podcast, job board, general career concepts etc.)
  • (I've excluded organizations that appear not to accept donations from the general public such as Women and Non-Binary Altruism Mentorship and Founder's Pledge)
Comment by RandomEA on Introducing Probably Good: A New Career Guidance Organization · 2020-11-23T04:12:44.902Z · EA · GW

How about just Good Careers?

The two most widely known EA organizations, GiveWell and 80,000 Hours, both have short and simple names.

Comment by RandomEA on What actually is the argument for effective altruism? · 2020-11-23T03:49:22.689Z · EA · GW

It seems to me there's a fourth key premise:

0. Comparability: It is possible to make meaningful comparisons between very different kinds of contributions to the common good.

Comment by RandomEA on Questions for Will MacAskill's fireside chat in EAGxAPAC this weekend · 2020-11-23T03:22:16.306Z · EA · GW

It looks like I'm  too late. But here's something I've been wanting to ask. 

In your paper "The Definition of Effective Altruism," you distinguish effective altruism from utilitarianism on various grounds, including that:

  • EA does not claim that a person must sacrifice their personal interests (e.g. having children) when doing so would bring about greater good; and
  • EA does not claim that a person must violate non-consequentialist constraints in the rare situations when doing so might bring about greater good.

For me, this points to a broader principle that EA does not require a person to sacrifice something "morally major" to bring about greater good. This would imply that an EA can choose to prioritize things like a duty to contribute their fair share, a duty to family members, and a duty to rescue those they are uniquely positioned to rescue over bringing about greater good. 

However, in a 2015 debate, you argued (scenario; response) that a person alone in a burning building should choose to rescue a Picasso painting (assuming they can keep it) over a child since the money from selling the painting could be used to save thousands of children. 

Do you think effective altruism necessarily entails that position or were you just speaking to what is morally better? 

Comment by RandomEA on What are the leading critiques of "longtermism" and related concepts · 2020-10-17T03:09:47.727Z · EA · GW

I've completed my draft (now at 47,620 words)! 

I've shared it via the EA Forum share feature with a number of GPI, FHI, and CLR people who have EA Forum accounts.

I'm sharing it in stages to limit the number of people who have to point out the same issue to me.

Comment by RandomEA on 80,000 Hours user survey closes this Sunday · 2020-09-30T14:31:26.568Z · EA · GW

Thanks Howie.

Something else I hope you'll update is the claim in that section that GiveWell estimates that it costs the Against Malaria Foundation $7,500 to save a life.

The archived version of the GiveWell page you cite does not support that claim; it states the cost per life saved of AMF is $5,500. (It looks like earlier archives of that same page do state $7,500 (e.g. here), so that number may have been current while the piece was being drafted.)

Additionally, the $5,500 number, which is based on GiveWell's Aug. 2017 estimates (click here and see B84), is unusually high. Here are GiveWell's estimates by year:

2017 (final version): $3,280 (click here and see B91)

2018 (final version): $4,104 (click here and see R109)

2019 (final version): $2,331 (click here and see B162) (downside adjustments seem to cancel with excluded effects)

2020 (Sep. 11th version): $4,450 (click here and see B219)

Once the AMF number is updated, the near-term existential risk number is less than five times as good as the AMF number. And if the existential risk number is adjusted for uncertainty (see here and here), then it could end up worse than the AMF number. That's why I assumed the change on the page represented a shift in your views rather than an illustration. It puts the numbers so close to each other that it's not obvious that the near-term existential risk number is better and it also makes it easier for factors like personal fit to outweigh the difference in impact.

Comment by RandomEA on 80,000 Hours user survey closes this Sunday · 2020-09-17T03:58:44.157Z · EA · GW

Hi Arden and the 80,000 Hours team,

Thank you for the excellent content that you produce for the EA community, especially the podcasts.

There is one issue that I want to raise. I gave serious thought to raising this via your survey, but I think it is better raised publicly.

In your article "The case for reducing extinction risk" (which is linked to in your "Key ideas" article), you write:

Here are some very rough and simplified figures to show how this could be possible. It seems plausible to us that $100 billion spent on reducing extinction risk could reduce it by over 1% over the next century. A one percentage point reduction in the risk would be expected to save about 100 million lives among the present generation (1% of about 10 billion people alive today). This would mean the investment would save lives for only $1000 per person.

At the top of the page, it says the article was published in October 2017 and last updated in October 2017. There are no footnotes indicating any changes were made to that section.

However, an archived copy of the article from June 2018 shows that, at the time, the article read:

We roughly estimate that if $10 billion were spent intelligently on reducing these risks, it could reduce the chance of extinction by 1 percentage point over the century. In other words, if the risk is 4% now, it could be reduced to 3%.
A one percentage point reduction in the risk would be expected to save about 100 million lives (1% of 10 billion). This would mean it saves lives for only $100 each.

I think it would be helpful to members of the community to indicate when and how an article has been substantively updated. There are many ways this can be done, including:

  • an article explaining how and why your views have changed (e.g. here, here/here, and here);
  • linking to an archived version of the article (as you do here) ideally with a change log; and
  • a footnote in the section indicating what it previously said and why your views have changed.

I understand that you have a large amount of content and limited staff capacity to review all of your old content. But what I'm talking about here is limited to changes you choose to make.

I'm sure it was just an oversight on the part of whoever made the change. You all have a lot on your plate, and it's most convenient for an article to just present your current views on the subject.

But when it comes to something as important as the effectiveness of spending to reduce existential risk and something as major as a shift of an order of magnitude, I really think it'd be helpful to note and explain any change in your thinking.

Thank you for reading, and keep up the good work.

Comment by RandomEA on What are the leading critiques of "longtermism" and related concepts · 2020-09-02T03:50:02.487Z · EA · GW

While I have made substantial progress on the draft, it is still not ready to be circulated for feedback.

I have shared the draft with Aaron Gertler to show that it is a genuine work in progress.

Comment by RandomEA on What are the leading critiques of "longtermism" and related concepts · 2020-06-04T22:11:19.980Z · EA · GW

Thanks Ben. There is actually at least one argument in the draft for each alternative you named. To be honest, I don't think you can get a good sense of my 26,000 word draft from my 570 word comment from two years ago. I'll send you my draft when I'm done, but until then, I don't think it's productive for us to go back and forth like this.

Comment by RandomEA on What are the leading critiques of "longtermism" and related concepts · 2020-06-02T22:19:48.568Z · EA · GW

Thanks Pablo and Ben. I already have tags below each argument for what I think it is arguing against. I do not plan on doing two separate posts as there are some arguments that are against longtermism and against the longtermist case for working to reduce existential risk. Each argument and its response are presented comprehensively, so the amount of space dedicated to each is based mostly on the amount of existing literature. And as noted in my comment above, I am excerpting responses to the arguments presented.

Comment by RandomEA on What are the leading critiques of "longtermism" and related concepts · 2020-06-02T01:13:18.678Z · EA · GW

As an update, I am working on a full post that will excerpt 20 arguments against working to improve the long-term future and/or working to reduce existential risk as well as responses to those arguments. The post itself is currently at 26,000 words and there are six planned comments (one of which will add 10 additional arguments) that together are currently at 11,000 words. There have been various delays in my writing process but I now think that is good because there have been several new and important arguments that have been developed in the past year. My goal is to begin circulating the draft for feedback within three months.

Comment by RandomEA on What will 80,000 Hours provide (and not provide) within the effective altruism community? · 2020-04-28T02:11:19.348Z · EA · GW

For those who are curious,

  • in April 2015, GiveWell had 18 full-time staff, while
  • 80,000 Hours currently has a CEO, a president, 11 core team members, and two freelancers and works with four CEA staff.
Comment by RandomEA on What will 80,000 Hours provide (and not provide) within the effective altruism community? · 2020-04-26T19:16:49.310Z · EA · GW

Hi Ben,

Thank you to you and the 80,000 Hours team for the excellent content. One issue that I've noticed is that a relatively large number of pages state that they are out of date (including several important ones). This makes me wonder why it is that 80,000 Hours does not have substantially more employees. I'm aware that there are issues with hiring too quickly, but GiveWell was able to expand from 18 full-time staff (8 in research roles) in April 2017 to 37 staff today (13 in research roles and 5 in content roles). Is the reason that 80,000 Hours cannot grow as rapidly that its research is more subjective in nature, making good judgment more important, and that judgment is quite difficult to assess?

Comment by RandomEA on A cause can be too neglected · 2020-04-08T00:36:30.701Z · EA · GW

It seems to me that there are two separate frameworks:

1) the informal Importance, Neglectedness, Tractability framework best suited to ruling out causes (i.e. this cause isn't among the highest priority because it's not [insert one or more of the three]); and

2) the formal 80,000 Hours Scale, Crowdedness, Solvability framework best used for quantitative comparison (by scoring causes on each of the three factors and then comparing the total).

Treating the second one as merely a formalization of the first one can be unhelpful when thinking through them. For example, even though the 80,000 Hours framework does not account for diminishing marginal returns, it justifies the inclusion of the crowdedness factor on the basis of diminishing marginal returns.

Notably, EA Concepts has separate pages for the informal INT framework and the 80,000 Hours framework.

Comment by RandomEA on Are selection forces selecting for or against altruism? Will people in the future be more, as, or less altruistic? · 2020-03-28T00:54:21.338Z · EA · GW

In his blog post "Why Might the Future Be Good," Paul Christiano writes:

What natural selection selects for is patience. In a thousand years, given efficient natural selection, the most influential people will be those who today cared what happens in a thousand years. Preferences about what happens to me (at least for a narrow conception of personal identity) will eventually die off, dominated by preferences about what society looks like on the longest timescales.

(Please read all of "How Much Altruism Do We Expect?" for the full context.)

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Elie Hassenfeld, co-founder and CEO of GiveWell · 2020-03-23T14:55:46.518Z · EA · GW

Thanks Lucy! Readers should note that Elie's answer is likely partly addressed to Lucy's question.

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T06:26:38.095Z · EA · GW

What are your thoughts on the argument that the track record of robustly good actions is much better than that of actions contingent on high uncertainty arguments? (See here and here at 34:38 for pushback.)

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T05:30:27.963Z · EA · GW

Should non-suffering focused altruists cooperate with suffering-focused altruists by giving more weight to suffering than they otherwise would given their worldview (or given their worldview adjusted for moral uncertainty)?

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Elie Hassenfeld, co-founder and CEO of GiveWell · 2020-03-18T04:56:33.021Z · EA · GW

Has your thinking about donor coordination evolved since 2016, and if so, how? (My main motivation for asking is that this issue is the focus of a chapter in a recent book on philosophical issues in effective altruism though the chapter appears to be premised on this blog post, which has an update clarifying that it has not represented GiveWell's approach since 2016.)

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T04:18:27.355Z · EA · GW

How confident are you that the solution to infinite ethics is not discounting? How confident are you that the solution to the possibility of an infinitely positive/infinitely negative world automatically taking priority is not capping the amount of value we care about at a level low enough to undermine longtermism? If you're pretty confident about both of these, do you think additional research on infinites is relatively low priority?

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T03:57:18.714Z · EA · GW

What do you think is the strongest argument against working to improve the long-term future? What do you think is the strongest argument against working to reduce existential risk?

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Elie Hassenfeld, co-founder and CEO of GiveWell · 2020-03-18T03:54:47.899Z · EA · GW

(This comment assumes GiveWell would broadly agree with a characterization of its worldview as consequentialist.) Do you agree with the view that, given moral uncertainty, consequentialists should give some weight to non-consequentialist values? If so, do you think GiveWell should give explicit weight to the intrinsic value of gender equality apart from its instrumental value? And if yes, do you think that, in consider the moral views of the communities that GiveWell operates in, it would make sense to give substantially more weight to the views of women than of men on the value of gender equality?

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T03:37:41.890Z · EA · GW

There are many ways that technological development and economic growth could potentially affect the long-term future, including:

  • Hastening the development of technologies that create existential risk (see here)
  • Hastening the development of technologies that mitigate existential risk (see here)
  • Broadly empowering humanity (see here)
  • Improving human values (see here and here)
  • Reducing the chance of international armed conflict (see here)
  • Improving international cooperation (see the climate change mitigation debate)
  • Shifting the growth curve forward (see here)
  • Hastening the colonization of the accessible universe (see here and here)

What do you think is the overall sign of economic growth? Is it different for developing and developed countries?

Note: The fifth bullet point was added after Toby recorded his answers.

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T02:50:58.483Z · EA · GW

Do you think that "a panel of superforecasters, after being exposed to all the arguments [about existential risk], would be closer to [MacAskill's] view [about the level of risk this century] than to the median FHI view"? If so, should we defer to such a panel out of epistemic modesty?

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T02:44:14.943Z · EA · GW

How much uncertainty is there in your case for existential risk? What would you put as the probability that, in 2100, the expected value of a substantial reduction in existential risk over the course of this century will be viewed by EA-minded people as highly positive? Do you think we can predict what direction future crucial considerations will point based on what direction past crucial considerations have pointed?

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T02:36:32.004Z · EA · GW

What do you think of applying Open Phil's outlier opportunities principle to an individual EA? Do you think that, even in the absence of instrumental considerations, an early career EA who thinks longtermism is probably correct but possibly wrong should choose a substantial chance of making a major contribution to increasing access to pain relief in the developing world over a small chance of making a major contribution to reducing GCBRs?

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T02:18:07.613Z · EA · GW

Is the cause area of reducing great power conflict still entirely in the research stage or is there anything that people can concretely do? (Brian Tse's EA Global talk seemed to mostly call for more research.) What do you think of greater transparency about military capabilities (click here and go to 24:13 for context) or promoting a more positive view of China (same link at 25:38 for context)? Do you think EAs should refrain from criticizing China on human rights issues (click here and search the transcript for "I noticed that over the last few weeks" for context)?

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T01:47:21.517Z · EA · GW

In an 80,000 Hours interview, Tyler Cowen states:

I don't think we'll ever leave the galaxy or maybe not even the solar system.
. . .
I see the recurrence of war in human history so frequently, and I’m not completely convinced by Steven Pinker [author of the book Better Angels of Our Nature, which argues that human violence is declining]. I agree with Steven Pinker, that the chance of a very violent war indeed has gone down and is going down, maybe every year, but the tail risk is still there. And if you let the clock tick out for a long enough period of time, at some point it will happen.
Powerful abilities to manipulate energy also mean powerful weapons, eventually powerful weapons in decentralized hands. I don’t think we know how stable that process is, but again, let the clock tick out, and you should be very worried.

How likely do you think it is that humans (or post-humans) will get to a point where existential risk becomes extremely low? Have you looked into the question of whether interstellar colonization will be possible in the future, and if so, do you broadly agree with Nick Beckstead's conclusion in this piece? Do you think Cowen's argument should push EAs towards forms of existential risk reduction (referenced by you in your recent 80,000 Hours interview) that are "not just dealing with today’s threats, [but] actually fundamentally enhancing our ability to understand and manage this risk"? Does positively shaping the development of artificial intelligence fall into that category?

Edit (likely after Toby recorded his answer): This comment from Pablo Stafforini also mentions the idea of "reduc[ing] the risk of extinction for all future generations."

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T00:40:26.178Z · EA · GW

What are your thoughts on these questions from page 20 of the Global Priorities Institute research agenda?

How likely is it that civilisation will converge on the correct moral theory given enough time? What implications does this have for cause prioritisation in the nearer term?
How likely is it that the correct moral theory is a ‘Theory X’, a theory radically different from any yet proposed? If likely, how likely is it that civilisation will discover it, and converge on it, given enough time? While it remains unknown, how can we properly hedge against the associated moral risk?

How important do you think those questions are for the value of existential risk reduction vs. (other) trajectory change work? (The idea for this question comes from the informal piece listed after each of the above two paragraphs in the research agenda.)

Edited to add: What is your credence in there being a correct moral theory? Conditional on there being no correct moral theory, how likely do you think it is that current humans, after reflection, would approve of the values of our descendants far in the future?

Comment by RandomEA on AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement · 2020-03-18T00:32:14.985Z · EA · GW

Do you think there are any actions that would obviously decrease existential risk? (I took this question from here.) If not, does this significantly reduce the expected value of work to reduce existential risk or is it just something that people have to be careful about (similar to limited feedback loops, information hazards, unilateralist's curse etc.)?

Comment by RandomEA on Quotes about the long reflection · 2020-03-08T14:24:05.817Z · EA · GW

In the new 80,000 Hours interview of Toby Ord, Arden Koehler asks:

Arden Koehler: So I’m curious about this second stage: the long reflection. It felt, in the book, like this was basically sitting around and doing moral philosophy. Maybe lots of science and other things and calmly figuring out, how can we most flourish in the future? I’m wondering whether it’s more likely to just look like politics? So you might think if we come to have this big general conversation about how the world should be, our most big general public conversation right now is a political conversation that has a lot of problems. People become very tribal and it’s just not an ideal discourse, let’s say. How likely is it do you think that the long reflection will end up looking more like that? And is that okay? What do you think about that?

Ord then gives a lengthy answer, with the following portion the most directly responsive:

Toby Ord: . . . I think that the political discourse these days is very poor and definitely doesn’t live up to the kinds of standards that I loftily suggest it would need to live up to, trying to actually track the truth and to reach a consensus that stands the test of time that’s not just a political battle between people based on the current levels of power today, at the point where they’ll stop fighting, but rather the kind of thing that you expect people in a thousand years to agree with. I think there’s a very high standard and I think that we’d have [to] try very hard to have a good public conversation about it.
Comment by RandomEA on Quotes about the long reflection · 2020-03-06T04:18:09.793Z · EA · GW

The GPI Agenda mentions "Greg Lewis, The not-so-Long Reflection?, 2018" though as of six months ago that piece was in draft form and not publicly available.

Comment by RandomEA on Thoughts on electoral reform · 2020-02-19T06:43:40.120Z · EA · GW

With respect to the necessity of a constitutional amendment, I agree with you on presidential elections but respectfully disagree as to congressional elections.

For presidential elections, the proposal with the most traction is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which requires compacting states to give their electoral votes to the presidential ticket with a plurality of votes nationwide but only takes effect after states collectively possessing a majority of all electoral votes join the compact. Proponents argue that it is constitutional (with many believing it can be done without congressional consent), while opponents say that it is unconstitutional and in any case would require congressional consent. See pages 21-30 of this Congressional Research Service report for a summary of the legal issues. Regardless of which side has the better argument, it's unlikely that an interstate compact would be used to adopt instant runoff voting or approval voting for presidential elections because i) absent a law from Congress, it would be up to non-compacting states whether to switch from plurality voting in their own state (which could mean voters in some states would be limited to choosing one ticket) and ii) it is questionable whether Congress has the power to require non-compacting states to switch (though see pages 16-17 of this article arguing that it does).

As for congressional elections, it's worth noting that the U.S. Constitution does not require plurality voting and does not even require single member districts. Indeed, ranked choice voting was used in Maine for congressional elections in 2018, and a federal judge rejected the argument that it is unconstitutional due to being contrary to historical practice. And while single member districts have been used uniformly for nearly two centuries, it was not the only method in use at the founding and courts tend to give special weight to founding era practice (see e.g. Evenwel v. Abbott for an example related to elections), which makes me think that FairVote's single transferable vote proposal is on solid constitutional footing.

Comment by RandomEA on I'm Cullen O'Keefe, a Policy Researcher at OpenAI, AMA · 2020-01-11T17:23:28.387Z · EA · GW

The 80,000 Hours career review on UK commercial law finds that "while almost 10% of the Members of Parliament are lawyers, only around 0.6% have any background in high-end commercial law." I have been unable to find any similar analysis for the US. Do you know of any?

Comment by RandomEA on Many EA orgs say they place a lot of financial value on their previous hire. What does that mean, if anything? And why aren't they hiring faster? · 2018-10-23T00:12:19.230Z · EA · GW

This makes me feel more strongly that there should be a separate career advice organization focused on near term causes. (See here for my original comment proposing this idea.)

A near term career advice organization could do the following:

  • Write in-depth problem profiles on causes that could be considered to be among the most pressing from a near term perspective but that are not considered to be among the most pressing from a long term perspective (e.g. U.S. criminal justice reform, developing country mental health, policy approaches to global poverty, food innovation approaches to animal suffering, biomedical research focused on aging)

  • Write in-depth career reviews of careers that could be considered to be among the highest impact from a near term perspective but that are not considered to be among the highest impact from a long term perspective (e.g. careers that correspond with the problems listed in the previous bullet point, specific options in the global poverty space, specific options in the animal suffering space)

  • Produce a podcast that focuses on interviewing people working on issues that could be considered to be among the most pressing from a near term perspective but that are not considered to be among the most pressing from a long term perspective

  • Become deeply familiar with the global poverty space, the animal suffering space, and other cause areas that are much more likely to be prioritized by near term people and form close connections to organizations working in such cause areas

  • Provide job postings, career coaching, and referrals based on the information gained through the previous bullet point

I think the proposed organization would actually complement 80,000 Hours by expanding the number of cause areas for which there's in-depth career advice and coaching; the two organizations could even establish a partnership where they refer people to each other as appropriate.

(As noted in my original comment, I think it's better to have a separate organization do this since a long-term focused organization understandably wants to focus its efforts on causes that are effective from its perspective.)

This approach could have various benefits including:

  • directly increasing impact by providing better advice to individual EAs who are unable to contribute to causes that are considered to be among the most pressing from a long term perspective

  • benefiting the long-term space by keeping individuals who have the potential to contribute to the long term space involved with EA while they gain more skills and experience

  • benefiting the long-term space by increasing the number of people who are able to benefit from EA career advice and thus the number of people who will refer others to 80,000 Hours (directly or through this proposed organization)

  • benefiting the long-term space through the various benefits of worldview diversification (learning from feedback loops, community image, option value)

  • benefiting individual EAs by helping them find a more fulfilling career (their utility counts too!)

Comment by RandomEA on EA needs a cause prioritization journal · 2018-09-12T22:59:35.273Z · EA · GW

Relevant literature:

Comment by RandomEA on EA Forum 2.0 Initial Announcement · 2018-09-09T08:06:45.193Z · EA · GW

Would it be possible to introduce a coauthoring feature? Doing so would allow both authors to be notified of new comments. The karma could be split if there are concerns that people would free ride.

Comment by RandomEA on Open Thread #41 · 2018-09-07T02:41:34.297Z · EA · GW

[Criminal Justice Reform Donation Recommendations]

I emailed Chloe Cockburn (the Criminal Justice Reform Program Officer for the Open Philanthropy Project) asking what she would recommend to small donors. She told me she recommends Real Justice PAC. Since contributions of $200 or more to PACs are disclosed to the FEC, I asked her what she would recommend to a donor who wants to stay anonymous (and whether her recommendation would be different for someone who could donate significantly more to a 501(c)(3) than a 501(c)(4) for tax reasons). She told me that she would recommend 501(c)(4)s for all donors because it's much harder for 501(c)(4)s to raise money and she specifically recommended the following 501(c)(4)s: Color of Change, Texas Organizing Project, New Virginia Majority, Faith in Action, and People's Action.

I asked for and received her permission to post the above.

(I edited this to add a subject in brackets at the top.)

Comment by RandomEA on Public Opinion about Existential Risk · 2018-08-26T23:23:08.392Z · EA · GW

Do you know if this platform allows participants to go back? (I assumed it did, which is why I thought a separate study would be necessary.)