Posts

Systematically under explored project areas? 2015-09-28T20:16:19.754Z · score: 11 (11 votes)
Criminal Justice Reform: DEA enforcement incentives? 2015-03-25T02:20:15.761Z · score: 1 (1 votes)
At the intersection of Global Health and Global Risks: Bill Gates talks about epidemic preparation [LINK] 2015-03-18T20:07:52.496Z · score: 4 (4 votes)
How Much Can We Generalize from Impact Evaluations? (link) 2014-10-30T08:09:17.489Z · score: 9 (9 votes)

Comments

Comment by romeostevens on Will MacAskill on his ‘Eat That Elephant’ routine, learning from successful people, and the diminishing marginal returns of time spent working [blog cross-post] · 2019-10-12T01:43:44.425Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · EA · GW

My current best guess is that doing lots of work is at least weakly negatively correlated with doing important work.

Comment by romeostevens on Why do social movements fail: Two concrete examples. · 2019-10-10T16:41:34.063Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I was thinking about

EA goodharting on analysis theater

Marxism becoming a counter-culture thing

Globalisation and China

Military industrial complex

(note I will not get into discussion of these due to politics. I think the lens is the interesting thing and would discuss more neutral examples. I was just answering the question honestly.)

Comment by romeostevens on What actions would obviously decrease x-risk? · 2019-10-07T18:04:51.202Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I'd suggest keeping brainstorming and debates about obviousness thresholds separate as the latter discourages people from ideating.

Comment by romeostevens on What actions would obviously decrease x-risk? · 2019-10-06T23:59:48.192Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Increasing the ease/decreasing the formality of world leaders talking to each other as per the Red Phone. World leaders mostly getting educated at the same institutions helps enormously with communication as well, though it does increase other marginal risks due to correlated blind spots.

Biorisk mitigation becoming much higher status a field and thus attracting more top talent.

Pakistan not having nukes.

Comment by romeostevens on The ITN framework, cost-effectiveness, and cause prioritisation · 2019-10-06T23:54:59.372Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

>in-depth marginal cost-effectiveness analysis.

I'd recommend finding an easy to remember name for the proposal.

Marginal Efficiency Gain Analysis? (MEGA)

something metaphorical? (what well known existing thing does something similar?)

Also some worked examples will both help cement the idea and show possible areas of improvement.

Comment by RomeoStevens on [deleted post] 2019-10-06T23:40:36.124Z

I think maintaining a lot of optionality winds up turning into risk aversion in practice.

Comment by romeostevens on Why do social movements fail: Two concrete examples. · 2019-10-06T23:36:35.960Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Glad to see an analysis of GS!

I'll add that many movements fail by succeeding too well at something that was only incidental to the original aims of the movement.

Comment by romeostevens on Analgesics for farm animals · 2019-10-04T16:21:30.321Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I'm excited about this area and only wish I had the funds to make grants in it. I think finding people to consult with who have been through the process of FDA change before would be especially helpful.

>I'm sure that there are people already working on this.

IIRC there are a couple advocacy groups but they seemed a bit orphaned due to pushback within the normal animal welfare memeplex (abolitionists vs reductionists, plays out in climate change too on the nuclear and geoengineering fronts). I think this is neglected and there's an opportunity for a motivated group to move the needle substantially.

Comment by romeostevens on The Germy Paradox: An Introduction · 2019-10-04T16:12:54.502Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the substantive engagement even though I was pretty terse on justification. I'm less concerned when I see engagement with differential infohazard analysis (i.e. some parts of this might have problems and some might not). I still feel a sense of caution about EA getting involved in this area given its poor track record of taking into account existing best practices/chesterton fences.

+1 for comparing it to existing works in the area to help reason about this.

Comment by romeostevens on Altruism Coach · 2019-10-02T21:53:16.589Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you very much for offering your services. It's awesome to have a concrete go to referral rather than some ambiguous sense that such services are reachable.

Comment by romeostevens on Why is the amount of child porn growing? · 2019-10-02T21:47:19.298Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

>Communication technology didn't change much in that timeframe

I find it plausible that de facto availability of secure communication channels had a lowered enough technical bar that thresholds were passed in that time frame.

Comment by romeostevens on [Link] Moral Interlude from "The Wizard and the Prophet" · 2019-09-28T16:21:01.435Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Some examples:

thinking in terms of generational shifts

thinking in terms of a given outcome things are evolving towards

thinking in terms of specific scenarios

thinking in terms of cycles

any of these can be thought about on multiple temporal horizons and people will give different answers depending on their mental habits.

Comment by romeostevens on [Link] Moral Interlude from "The Wizard and the Prophet" · 2019-09-28T03:46:26.804Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Inferential distances and thus discount rates are vastly different depending on which metaphors you use to think about the future.

Comment by romeostevens on The Germy Paradox: An Introduction · 2019-09-26T20:11:01.901Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I don't think public discourse around this is a good idea. Same as the reports on nuclear weapons trying to demonstrate that a nuclear exchange 'wouldn't be that bad' or publicly wondering in detailed ways about why copycat attacks of certain kinds aren't more common.

Comment by romeostevens on Model-free and model-based cognition in deontological and consequentialist reasoning · 2019-09-24T22:23:41.806Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

+1 and to generalize I think a bunch of philosophical debates are basically reifications of different sorts of ways different pattern matching cognitive systems operate. We let the urge to compress for efficiency reasons get a bit out of hand and try to build perverse monisms out of everything.

Comment by romeostevens on [Link] Research as a Stochastic Decision Process · 2019-09-12T22:09:57.354Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Even smart people will often intuitively (that is to say, without realizing it, or only dimly realize it) shy away from the part of the project that would provide information that would tell them they're doing the wrong thing. This is part of the value of things like gantt charts and other project maps in that even though the plans they are typically used to generate fail when colliding with reality, they can alert you to ways you are fooling yourself about the most uncertain parts of a project.

Comment by romeostevens on What opinions that you hold would you be reluctant to express publicly to other EAs? · 2019-09-10T20:30:43.493Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Although I lean in the direction that Hillary would have been a lower war risk than Trump, the fact that it's at all uncertain is depressing.

Comment by romeostevens on [updated] Global development interventions are generally more effective than Climate change interventions · 2019-09-10T20:23:29.267Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This is really interesting. I'm curious about crowding out and marginal dollar effects. i.e. the smart money spends all its resources on this, allowing the dumb money to free ride and keep on with the status quo (or even get worse with less perceived consequences). Meanwhile, there are now far less smart dollars available to fund weird moonshots that only the smart money can think about.

One solution: more funding for geoengineering moonshots (and please, with fewer assumptions that geoengineering automatically means that safety and reversibility aren't major design criteria).

Comment by romeostevens on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2019-09-10T15:00:42.670Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This is a big part of the reason why a split keyboard can be so helpful since it really makes maintaining better posture much more comfortable and intuitive.

I also recommend a roost laptop stand to get the monitor up to eye level.

Comment by romeostevens on How do most utilitarians feel about "replacement" thought experiments? · 2019-09-06T17:38:33.015Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Most utilitarian gotchas are either circular or talking about leaky abstractions. 'Assume higher utility from taking option X, but OH NO, you forgot about consideration Y! Science have gone too far!'

See also aether variables.

Comment by romeostevens on Cause X Guide · 2019-09-05T12:09:37.140Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I think there are two claims. I stand by both, but think arguing them simultaneously causes things like a motte and bailey problem to rear its head.

Comment by romeostevens on Cause X Guide · 2019-09-04T14:57:29.721Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA · GW

We seem to be having different conversations. I think you're looking for strong evidence of stronger, more universal claims than I am making. I'm trying to say that this hypothesis (for some children) should be within the window of possibility and worthy of more investigation. There's a potential motte and bailey problem with that, and the claims about evidence for benefit from schooling broadly should probably be separated from evidence for harms of schooling in specific cases.

>Imagine a country with two rules: first, every person must spend eight hours a day giving themselves strong electric shocks. Second, if anyone fails to follow a rule (including this one), or speaks out against it, or fails to enforce it, all citizens must unite to kill that person. Suppose these rules were well-enough established by tradition that everyone expected them to be enforced. -Meditations on Moloch

Imagine that an altruistic community in such a world is very open minded and willing consider not shocking yourself all the time, but wants to see lots of evidence for it produced by the tazer manufacturers, since after all they know the most about tazers and whether they are harmful...

If you give children the option of being tazed or going to school some of them are going to pick the tazer.

Comment by romeostevens on Cause X Guide · 2019-09-04T01:38:00.704Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · EA · GW

It seems like you're arguing from common sense?

http://happinessishereblog.com/2017/10/reading-doesnt-need-taught-unschoolers-learn-read/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201406/survey-grown-unschoolers-i-overview-findings

Comment by romeostevens on Cause X Guide · 2019-09-03T16:04:30.144Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

>There is strong evidence that the majority of children will never learn to read unless they are taught.

This is a different claim. I don't know of strong evidence that children will fail to learn to read if not sent to school.

Comment by romeostevens on Cause X Guide · 2019-09-02T01:22:53.813Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Although it seems to be fine for the majority, school drives some children to suicide. Given that there is little evidence of benefit from schooling, advocating for letting those most affected have alternative options could be high impact.

Comment by romeostevens on Cause X Guide · 2019-09-02T01:13:56.681Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Easing euthenasia legal and logistics obstacles for those with painful terminal illness.

Comment by romeostevens on How Life Sciences Actually Work: Findings of a Year-Long Investigation · 2019-08-17T19:39:52.874Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

The raising money for famous scientists part seems at odds with some of the optimism in the early sections. Any further comment on this?

Comment by romeostevens on Cluster Headache Frequency Follows a Long-Tail Distribution · 2019-08-05T03:31:49.665Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Still seems worth it, FB might just eventually ban. ( I sort of doubt anything would happen if you link to an informational infographic)

Comment by romeostevens on [Link] Thiel on GCRs · 2019-07-24T03:46:15.899Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I think how the 'middle class' (a relative measure) of the USA is doing is fairly uninteresting overall. I think most meaningful progress at the grand scale (decades to centuries) is how fast is the bottom getting pulled up and how high can the very top end (bleeding edge researchers) go. Shuffling in the middle results in much wailing and gnashing of teeth but doesn't move the needle much. Their main impact is just voting for dumb stuff that harms the top and bottom.

Comment by romeostevens on [Link] Thiel on GCRs · 2019-07-23T16:54:34.293Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Economic growth likely isn't stagnating, it just looks that way due to some catch up growth effects:

https://rhsfinancial.com/2019/01/economic-growth-speeding-up-or-slowing/

Comment by romeostevens on Defining Effective Altruism · 2019-07-21T06:21:29.203Z · score: 3 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Maximizing is usually a bad idea.

Comment by romeostevens on "Why Nations Fail" and the long-termist view of global poverty · 2019-07-18T07:17:38.199Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Reminds me of how revolutionaries think they're really sticking it to the elites when they protest against free markets. But elites hate free markets, they try to insulate themselves from them as much as possible. Why would you want competition from up and coming new elites? That's why elites fund the useful idiots who think they are revolutionaries.

There's also a weird thing where newly minted elites don't think of themselves as elites and so don't engage with the possibility of moving major equilibria even though they are potentially large enough to do so, and doing so can be much more powerful than tuning efficiencies in existing equilibria. Probably fears related to consequentialist cluelessness as well.

Comment by romeostevens on [Link] "Why Responsible AI Development Needs Cooperation on Safety" (OpenAI) · 2019-07-12T22:25:07.152Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

First thought is to wonder why prizes aren't more common. E.g. awards for fostering cross organizational coordination, either on the object (direct cross org efforts that result in research) or meta level (platforms, conferences etc.). One guess is that prize grantors don't gain enough from granting them. Grantors might also have a systematic aversion to paying for things that have already happened without much guarantee that doing so will incentivize further desired behavior.

Comment by romeostevens on In what ways and in what areas might it make sense for EA to adopt more a more bottoms-up approach? · 2019-07-12T20:54:24.983Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Funding more parallel work. If something is worth doing once, and is cheap, it is very likely worth doing 2-3 times and then having the teams crux on conclusions, data, and methodology.

Comment by romeostevens on Rationality, EA and being a movement · 2019-07-12T17:48:11.069Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, that's the concern. Asking me what projects I consider status quo is the exact same move as before. Being status quo is low status, so the conversation seems unlikely to evolve in a fruitful direction if we take that tack. I think institutions tend to slide towards attractors where the surrounding discourse norms are 'reasonable and defensible' from within a certain frame while undermining criticisms of the frame in ways that make people who point it out seem like they are being unreasonable. This is how larger, older foundations calcify and stop getting things done, as the natural tendency of an org is to insulate itself from the sharp changes that being in close feedback with the world necessitates.

Comment by romeostevens on Rationality, EA and being a movement · 2019-07-12T03:48:30.726Z · score: 19 (6 votes) · EA · GW

It sounds like one crux might be what counts as rigorous. I find the 'be specific' feedback to be a dodge. What is the counter party expected to do in a case like this? Point out people they think are either low status or not rigorous enough?

The damage, IMO, comes from EA sucking up a bunch of intelligent contrarian people and then having them put their effort behind status quo projects. I guess I have more sympathy for the systemic change criticisms than I used to.

Comment by romeostevens on New study in Science implies that tree planting is the cheapest climate change solution · 2019-07-06T15:25:44.867Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · EA · GW

2) is great stuff, thanks for posting it.

Have some disagreements with 1 because there is no possible intervention that can't be made infeasible with enough impact report requirements.

Comment by romeostevens on New study in Science implies that tree planting is the cheapest climate change solution · 2019-07-05T22:10:13.358Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Great to see some momentum in the space. I looked into this about a year ago and concluded that I could *personally* pull off about $2 a tree if I really went at it just with commodity resources. Then based on looking at how things scaled in other domains guessed that you could get down to maybe $1 a tree with scaling + an effective org around you. That plus the idea that if smart people spent some serious time analysing cost bottlenecks harder costs would go down even more multiplied out by the relative carbon sequestration cost compared to next best geoengineering soltuions I concluded that this likely wouldn't remain neglected for very long and stopped paying attention. I still think climate shifts are going to be terrible in lots of minor costly ways and we may still fail at the coordination needed to get it *right*, but I've mostly stopped paying attention to the doom and gloom estimates.

Comment by romeostevens on Ways Frugality Increases Productivity · 2019-07-04T01:24:19.635Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

These don't strike me as opposite approaches. Spending frugally gives me more leeway to spend on less common time savers.

Comment by romeostevens on Announcing the launch of the Happier Lives Institute · 2019-06-23T01:32:39.613Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

People observe that observed happiness doesn't seem to respond much to interventions, so they deprioritize such interventions. This is partially due to the illegibility of variance in happiness.

Comment by romeostevens on Announcing the launch of the Happier Lives Institute · 2019-06-21T23:38:32.280Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I think there were some previous links in a debate about this on FB that I'm not finding now.

https://www.sciencealert.com/where-you-live-has-a-drastic-effect-on-your-happiness-levels

It's a U shaped curve since rural folks are also unhappy. My own sense was that there was a phase shift somewhere between 100k and 250k (exact mapping to density I don't know) related to whether the schelling points for social gathering condense or fracture. I'd recommend people find out for themselves by visiting smaller and happier places. People in SV for instance can spend time in Santa Cruz which is #2 in happiness in the nation.

Comment by romeostevens on Announcing the launch of the Happier Lives Institute · 2019-06-21T10:49:09.225Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Fair. I may be over updating on the EAs I know who don't seem particularly concerned that they are default stressed and unhappy. Also I think people living in high density cities underestimate how stressed and unhappy they actually are.

Comment by romeostevens on A case for strategy research: what it is and why we need more of it · 2019-06-21T10:37:56.546Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

The methodological diversity necessary to get any consilience in highly abstract areas makes it very hard for donors to evaluate such projects. Many of the ideas that form the basis of the AI memeplex, for instance, came from druggy-artist-scientists originally. So what happens in practice is that this stuff revolves around smoking gun type highly legible philosophical arguments, even though we know this is more hedgehog than fox, and that this guarantees we'll only, on average, prepare for dangers that large numbers of people can comprehend.

Concretely: the more money you have, the higher the variance on weird projects you should be funding. If the entire funding portfolio of the Gates' foundation are things almost everyone thinks sound like good ideas, that's a failure. It's understandable for small donors. You don't want to 'waste' all your money only to have nothing you fund work. But if you have a 10 billion and thus need to spend 500 million to 1 billion a year just to not grow your fund, you should be spending a million here and there on things most people think are crazy (how quickly we forget concrete instances like initial responses to the shrinking objects to nanoscale idea?). This is fairly straightforward porting of reasoning from startup land.

Comment by romeostevens on What new EA project or org would you like to see created in the next 3 years? · 2019-06-19T22:26:19.497Z · score: 18 (7 votes) · EA · GW

An org devoted to researching measurement methods that are relevant to human welfare. Because no one wants to fund this directly it only gets worked on indirectly at orgs working on other things.

Comment by romeostevens on Announcing the launch of the Happier Lives Institute · 2019-06-19T21:34:15.823Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · EA · GW

There seems to be strong status quo bias and typical mind fallacy with regard to hedonic set point. This would seem to be a basically rational response since most people show low changes in personality factors (emotional stability, or 1/neuroticism, the big five factor most highly correlated with well being reports, though I haven't investigated this as deeply as I would like for making any strong claims) over their lifetime. In particular, environmental effects have very transient impact, colloquially referred to as the lottery effect, though this instantiation of the effect is likely false.

After doing personal research in this area for several years one of the conclusions that helped me make sense of some of the seeming contradictions in the space was the realization that humans are more like speedrunners than well-being of the video game character maximizers. In particular the proxy measure is generally maximizing the probability of successful grandchildren rather than anything like happiness. In the same way that a speedrunner trades health points for speed and sees the health points less as the abstraction of how safe the protagonist is and more as just another resource to manage, humans treat their own well being as a just another resource to manage.

Concretely, the experience is that only people *currently* in the tails of happiness seem to be able to care about it. People in the left tail obviously want out, and people in the right tail seem to be able to hold onto an emotionally salient stance that *this might be important* (they are currently directly experiencing the fact that life can be much much better than they normally suppose). In the same way that once people exit school their motivation for school reform drops off a cliff. It has been noted that humans seem to have selective memory about past experiences of intense suffering or happiness, such as sickness or peak experiences, as some sort of adaptation. Possibly to prevent overfitting errors.

More nearby, my guess is that caring about this will be anti-selected for in EA, since it currently selects for people with above average neuroticism who use the resultant motivation structure to work on future threats and try to convince others they should worry more about future threats. Positive motivational schemas are less common. Thus I predict lots of burnout in EA over time.


Comment by romeostevens on Evidence Action is shutting down No Lean Season · 2019-06-07T06:36:07.917Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Don't know anything more than just what is written here about it, but this pinged my absurdity filter. This sounds totally within the expected teething problems of a new charity.

Comment by romeostevens on There's Lots More To Do · 2019-05-31T20:17:36.045Z · score: 20 (10 votes) · EA · GW

The 8.3 billion should have grown since 2011. Openphil's grants have not even totalled 800 million yet and that is the amount that the fund should have grown *per year* in the interim.

Comment by romeostevens on Scrupulosity: my EAGxBoston 2019 lightning talk · 2019-05-14T16:10:43.359Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Great links to the psychology research on the subject. I think there's also the outwardly directed version which exacerbates poor information diet tendencies and thus ADHD which goes something like 'I must find and keep track of all relevant considerations or I will accidentally act in a morally inexcusable fashion.' This search strategy results in them seeking out the most virulent scrupulosity enhancing memes.

The map of ideologies can also be thought of as the map of memetic immune disfunction, with different kinds of cancers finding fertile grounds in different types of mind architectures.

Comment by romeostevens on Benefits of EA engaging with mainstream (addressed) cause areas · 2019-05-13T03:03:28.448Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for writing this and making clear points. I think it helps the quality of discourse in these areas.

A couple potential downsides:

Mimesis means that integrating with traditional philanthropy makes us more likely to also adopt the same blind spots that prevent them from seeing order of magnitude improvements. Correlated strategies -> correlated results.

Involvement in existent niches usually means fighting with the organisms already exploiting that niche. Even if you try to explain that you're helping them. See pulling the rope sideways.

One writing point: I almost skipped this post due to the title. Maybe something more direct?

Comment by romeostevens on Cash prizes for the best arguments against psychedelics being an EA cause area · 2019-05-10T22:27:27.635Z · score: 19 (11 votes) · EA · GW

A common misconception is that if something is being talked about publicly there is probably funding available for it somewhere. But the number of weirdness dollars actually available in the wild for anything not passing muster with Ra can still be safely rounded to zero for most purposes. Even people who have had past success in more conventional areas often have trouble getting funding for weirder ideas, and if they do wind up spending a lot of time fundraising.