Posts

Do Long-Lived Scientists Hold Back Their Disciplines? 2019-08-12T18:33:29.139Z · score: 13 (9 votes)
Who Supports Animal Rights? 2019-07-29T10:58:19.231Z · score: 33 (20 votes)
Want to Save the World? Enter the Priesthood 2019-07-09T09:18:03.704Z · score: 17 (11 votes)
How Much Do Wild Animals Suffer? A Foundational Result on the Question is Wrong. 2019-06-24T21:51:08.132Z · score: 68 (27 votes)
[Question] Pros/Cons of Donor-Advised Fund 2019-04-22T00:56:00.840Z · score: 11 (6 votes)
Be Careful About a Stubborn Attachment to Growth 2018-12-20T02:34:02.840Z · score: 6 (5 votes)
[Link] "Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?" 2018-12-17T17:50:41.085Z · score: 17 (8 votes)
Should Effective Charities Prepare for a Recession? 2018-11-29T00:02:18.455Z · score: 28 (18 votes)
What I Learned from a Year Spent Studying How to Get Policymakers to Use Evidence 2018-09-04T15:55:33.514Z · score: 23 (23 votes)
Updates Thread: How Have You Changed Your Mind This Year? 2017-12-20T03:53:43.456Z · score: 10 (10 votes)
The Hidden Cost of Shifting Away from Poverty 2017-10-09T15:58:02.154Z · score: 22 (22 votes)
Institutional Change in Animal Rights vs. Global Poverty 2016-05-10T23:05:36.032Z · score: 11 (13 votes)
The Poor Meat Investor Problem 2016-04-21T21:17:08.793Z · score: 9 (11 votes)
Announcing ImpactMatters: Auditing Charity Impact across Causes 2015-12-11T17:21:22.365Z · score: 9 (9 votes)
A Note on Framing Criticisms of Effective Altruism 2015-07-24T13:17:28.778Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
That UMD Extra Credit Question 2015-07-13T23:23:51.741Z · score: 1 (1 votes)
Collective Action and Individual Impact, Part II 2015-06-19T13:11:37.358Z · score: 5 (9 votes)
Collective Action and Individual Impact 2015-05-28T03:12:24.347Z · score: 2 (6 votes)

Comments

Comment by zdgroff on Existential Risk and Economic Growth · 2019-09-04T20:13:00.936Z · score: 14 (8 votes) · EA · GW

I think this is an extremely impressive piece of work in economics proper not to mention a substantial contribution to longtermism research. Nice going.

Comment by zdgroff on Consumer preferences for labgrown and plant-based meat · 2019-08-09T13:45:54.694Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for sharing this! This is good to see and somewhat dispiriting. A few things about this piece that are raise questions for me:

1) The consumers opposing use of the word "beef" for non-cow-based products seems presumably intended to yield evidence on the labeling laws in several states, but I would guess consumers would react differently to, e.g., "burger" or "nugget."

2) The labels on products seem to involve more than just the brand recognition because the farm-raised beef label has an image of a cow seemingly out on pasture. (This may not be inaccurate in the case of cows, but if applied to the case of chickens, pigs, or fish, such an image would be misleading.)

3) I'd be curious for the results with a term other than lab-grown.

4) The result that males prefer plant-based or clean meat is surprising and out of line with every other data source I've seen, e.g. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/hiFMdBjkTxH4hEx8B/who-supports-animal-rights

Comment by zdgroff on Who Supports Animal Rights? · 2019-08-09T11:24:18.197Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

The wealth thing matches other data I've seen. I think Veganomics mentioned that. Not sure where else I've seen it but I think the result is fairly robust.

Comment by zdgroff on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-07-31T16:14:44.773Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Great, thanks!

Comment by zdgroff on Four practices where EAs ought to course-correct · 2019-07-30T17:12:41.080Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW
This post suggested the rather alarming idea that EA's growth is petering out in a sort of logistic curve.

Is this the right link? I don't see that claim in the post, but maybe I'm missing it.

Comment by zdgroff on "Why Nations Fail" and the long-termist view of global poverty · 2019-07-19T16:25:31.117Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

As I've been doing research this summer, I've become a bit more tentative and wary of acting like we know much, but my general intuition is that (a) our focus should not be on saving animals now but on securing whatever changes save future animals, so ethical changes and institutional changes; (b) I think institutional changes are the most promising avenue for this, and the question is which institutional changes last longest; (c) we should look for path dependencies.

It's unclear to me what advocacy changes this means, but I think it makes the case for, e.g., the Nonhuman Rights Project or circus bans stronger than they are in the short term. I think this is a crucial area of research though.

For path dependencies, the biggest one right now I think is whether clean and plant-based meat succeed. The shift from longtermism here I think is that rather than trying to get products to market the fastest, we should ask what in general makes industries most likely to succeed or fail and just optimize for the probability of success. As an example, this makes me inclined to favor clean meat companies supporting regulations and transparency.

Comment by zdgroff on Six-month update and summer fundraiser at Wild Animal Initiative · 2019-07-17T17:00:28.817Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I'm so impressed and excited by all that you are up to, and I'm really glad about the Executive Director decision. Keep up the good work.

Comment by zdgroff on "Why Nations Fail" and the long-termist view of global poverty · 2019-07-16T14:51:48.869Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I really applaud this! Longtermism seems to me a compelling idea across cause areas. I've thought about what it means in the context of animal advocacy, and I think there too it would recommend a shift of focus. I'm glad to see someone bring this up in the context of poverty. I've seen many people over the years support development after hearing arguments for longtermism because of vague long-term flow-through effects, and actually researching long-term poverty alleviation is important if we want to actually support it.

Comment by zdgroff on Want to Save the World? Enter the Priesthood · 2019-07-14T14:14:45.962Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This is all really interesting, and thank you all for chiming in. Liam, I'm curious—do you adopt EA tools within a Catholic moral framework, or do you practice Catholicism while adopting a different moral framework? I figure your participation in EA is some sort of anecdata.

Comment by zdgroff on If physics is many-worlds, does ethics matter? · 2019-07-14T11:58:34.404Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

The explainer doesn't seem to imply the choice is equivalent to a quantum split unless I'm missing something? I've had Jeff's reservation every time I've heard this argument. It seems like it would just be a huge coincidence for our decisions to actually correspond to splits. Subjective senses of uncertainty may not equal actual lack of determinism at the atomic level.

Comment by zdgroff on Want to Save the World? Enter the Priesthood · 2019-07-10T09:44:31.234Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW
I think a big part of what makes reaching out to religious groups at least somewhat promising is that a lot of them are already trying to do good.

Really interesting point. I hadn't thought of this, but I agree. In college I lived with seven guys who I in some ways really struggle to relate to for the most part because they don't have a sense of purpose that drives them. I always related well to one of them who was a devout Christian, because even though our religious views were wildly distinct, we both had some rich view about what we ought to do.

Also, from anecdotal experiences from friends and ex-colleagues as well as my own personal experience, I know a lot of agnostic/atheists who are involved in religious groups

This is interesting. I know in many Jewish congregations atheists and agnostics are common, although still usually not overt (although I had a Rabbi once who described himself as an "agnostic on a good day"). I participate in Buddhist and Jewish events as an agnostic atheist. I guess I would still be surprised if this was that common in religions that emphasize faith more, but then again, I'm not as familiar with the actual practice there.

I used to be an organizer with an animal rights group (Direct Action Everywhere) that had a lot of unattractive qualities, but one thing I think that they did for some people was offer a lot of what religion can offer: community, sense of purpose, regular events. I think there is an opening to fill a gap in a lot of non-religious people's lives. It makes me think of the book Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam about the decline in social life in America.

Comment by zdgroff on How Much Do Wild Animals Suffer? A Foundational Result on the Question is Wrong. · 2019-07-04T09:57:12.318Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this comment. I think the model equally yields predictions on both. In no way does the model give any sense of scale or units. The only thing it's useful for at this stage is saying whether suffering exceeds enjoyment or vice versa, and that should be true on average if and only if it's true on the whole, unless I'm missing something.

Comment by zdgroff on Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice? · 2019-07-04T09:54:45.330Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I lean toward effective altruism moving in the direction of "justice" for a few reasons.

1) I think Aaron is right that "justice-oriented arguments seem to have had a much greater chance of going "viral" than altruistic arguments", and I think the academic literature supports him. Van Zomeren and Postumes (2008) is, from what I understand, one of the better syntheses/reviews on the psychology of collective action, and it finds that an injustice framing promotes more participation.

2) I think the effect of the different terms on moral attitudes is ambiguous at worst. Most of your examples above seem to be on the fence. In the animal welfare case, you ask for help resolving this. I can't claim to be decisive and have a lot more doubt here than I used to, but I think "justice" is a better way to build alliances with other advocacy groups, the most promising of which are on the left, but possibly even on the right if part of a Christian justice view. (In Poland, there's major conservative support for animal welfare because of a kind of fondness for rural life that seems more in line with justice than altruism.) I think altruism calls to mind dietary change and leafleting sorts of approaches, which have somewhat fallen out of favor in animal advocacy. To my mind, the current tactics with the most EA support, namely corporate campaigns, undercover investigations, and clean and plant-based meat, are somewhat orthogonal to the altruism-justice consideration.

3) Trends in the EA movement over time suggest to me that the term altruism is more likely to bias us in the wrong direction than justice. Initially EAs focused substantially on earning to give, donating to poverty charities, and dietary change as I note above. Over time, there has been much more interest in policy (even for poverty, where immigration and climate policy seem to have more support in EA now). AI strategy and policy, for example, seems very pressing, and most EA animal advocates I know favor institutional change over individual change. Many of the judgments we have moved away from since the earlier days of EA seem to be cases where we did the sort of things "altruism" is evocative of, and increasingly we find ourselves doing the "justice" things.

I do worry, as someone in animal advocacy who has seen all the conflict in that movement, that the "justice" framing could have a perverse impact on discourse and civility. I think at the margin we could afford to move a bit more in that direction, though.

Comment by zdgroff on Announcing the Buddhists in EA Group · 2019-07-04T09:32:27.354Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for creating this. This is awesome!

Also, to those who create and organize EA for Christians: count me as impressed. I had no idea there was such work going on in that space.

Comment by zdgroff on How Much Do Wild Animals Suffer? A Foundational Result on the Question is Wrong. · 2019-06-26T11:03:38.270Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Brian. I agree that this sort of argument deserves relatively low epistemic weight and that the argument is very speculative, as I tried to emphasize in the paper but am worried that not everybody picked up. I'm definitely more uncertain than you on the topic, perhaps because of different views on suffering. Thanks for the comment.

Comment by zdgroff on Effective animal advocacy movement building: a neglected opportunity? · 2019-06-15T02:04:57.140Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · EA · GW

As someone in the EAA space, I'm curious how much value EAA movement-building brings relative to general animal advocacy movement-building. ACE has cited the latter as neglected. In general I think EAA movement-building may be somewhat narrower because of the conjunction of beliefs (animal advocacy and EA), which I would think makes it less tractable and potentially lower in scale.

Comment by zdgroff on What is the Impact of Beyond Meat? · 2019-05-04T05:36:13.163Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I would think any direct impact would be quite small, as the products are all aimed at substituting for cow products now, and cows are basically a rounding error in the number of farmed animals. It seems like the main impact of Beyond Meat is to drive the plant-based industry further and to establish itself to be able to produce higher-impact replacements down the line.

Comment by zdgroff on Aging research and population ethics · 2019-04-30T05:04:14.473Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

One question I have about these discussions is that I'd read some arguments back when I took a class on environmental science that humanity was near the earth's carrying capacity, meaning there is not capacity on earth for a much larger population (and capacity is quite likely smaller). This term "carrying capacity" seems like a sketchy one that tacitly packs in normative and positive judgments, so I don't endorse it, but is there a chance that something like this is true, and so lengthening life will reduce the probability of others being born because it raises the probability of environmental problems that lower the sustainable population?

Comment by zdgroff on Interview with Jon Mallatt about invertebrate consciousness · 2019-04-30T04:58:19.402Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Wow, this is incredible. Such a great write-up and so much here. Two questions:

1) Do you think there is a consensus that Jon Mallatt and Todd Feinberg are among the leading experts and their books among the best on the subject? Just trying to figure out how much to update based on this.

2) Jon Mallatt seems from the way he talks like the type of biologist who could be amenable to wild -animal welfare research. Has anyone reached out to him?

Comment by zdgroff on Terrorism, Tylenol, and dangerous information · 2019-03-23T03:00:55.730Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

In general, I think the degree of compliance with any social norm one typically observes should be surprising. I've long thought it's remarkable that people intent on harming others do not use cars as weapons of destruction as much as they have recently. So I think there's something disturbing and something encouraging about this, in that we see lots of facile ways to hurt others be far rarer than we would expect in the presence of perfect information.

Comment by zdgroff on Suggestions for EA wedding vows? · 2019-03-23T02:57:57.752Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I'm getting married in September and November (he's Brazilian, and we want to celebrate in the U.S. and Brazil). Mostly following out of interest, but some things we've thought of:

1) I'm interested in doing a giving game in the bags we leave for guests at the hotel. Guests can vote on where to give money from a list of charities and descriptions.

2) Obviously try to direct gifts to donations.

3) We're animal advocates, and we got officiants on board with that and who will probably talk about all sentient beings in addition to our vows.

Comment by zdgroff on A Research Agenda for Establishing Welfare Biology · 2019-03-17T01:08:29.559Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This is very interesting to see/hear. I have a paper coming out that's purely theoretical but that deals with this issue, and I'd be interested in talking more about this spreadsheet.

Comment by zdgroff on A Research Agenda for Establishing Welfare Biology · 2019-03-17T01:06:30.961Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Very excited to see where this goes and, I hope, participate in it!

Comment by zdgroff on Deliberative Polling-A Better Way to Gauge Public Opinion on AGI · 2019-02-28T00:52:22.083Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'd never heard of this center and find this work really interesting! Do you think deliberative polling in the context of values could be a way of getting some idea of where coherent extrapolated volition would go?

Comment by zdgroff on Why I'm focusing on invertebrate sentience · 2018-12-11T22:27:26.915Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW
When I bring this up with EAs who are focused on AI safety, many of them suggest that we only need to get AI safety right and then the AI can solve the question of what consciousness is.

I find this somewhat frustrating. Obviously there's a range of views in the EA community on this issue, but I think the most plausible arguments for focusing on AI safety are that there is a low but non-negligible chance of a huge impact. If that's true, then "getting AI safety right" leaves a lot of things unaddressed, because in most scenarios "getting AI safety" right is only a small portion of the picture. In general I think we need to find ways to hold two thoughts at the same time, that AI safety is critical and that there's a very significant chance of other things mattering too.

Comment by zdgroff on Which animals need the most help from the animal advocacy movement? · 2018-12-07T01:10:19.170Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'm curious what "wild rat" means—does this include rats that live in cities and enter into apartments? If not, did you consider mice and rats (and other animals) killed in traps by humans? I know a lot of traps are quite awful—poison or sticky traps that let them die by starvation—so I thought it was possible that this would be a priority category.

Comment by zdgroff on Vox has a new department, Future Perfect, covering the world from an effective altruist perspective · 2018-10-18T04:29:57.817Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

This is indescribably awesome.

Comment by zdgroff 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? · 2018-10-13T07:17:23.898Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

It seems like the reasons listed why organizations who value talent highly aren't hiring center on a growth constraint that can't be alleviated by money or talent. If there is this growth constraint, then doesn't it just mean we should focus elsewhere, i.e. by doing activities independent of these organizations? It seems like if organizations have slightly more room for talent than money, but ultimately little room for either, then their relative preference between the two shouldn't matter much, no?

Comment by zdgroff on ACE's Response to John Halstead · 2018-09-07T21:11:47.900Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · EA · GW

As I noted on the original post, I am grateful this dialogue is happening so respectfully this time around.

Comment by zdgroff on Concerns with ACE research · 2018-09-07T21:11:12.501Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · EA · GW

I'm grateful to see this dialogue being had so respectfully and am grateful to both sides for this dialogue.

Comment by zdgroff on Public Opinion about Existential Risk · 2018-09-03T07:30:15.126Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

I find it interesting that there's apparently more proportional risk in the second half of this century than in this half and the following centuries. I'm guessing that's just a byproduct of numeric heuristics, but I'd be interested in if there's anything more on that. Discussions of climate change seem to center on the 50-100 year time horizon, which seems like a somewhat arbitrary choice by scientists, but I could see it influencing public perceptions.

Comment by zdgroff on HLAI 2018 Field Report · 2018-09-03T07:25:09.917Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I talked to two people who said things that indicated they lean EA, asked them about if they identified that way, and then they told me they didn't because they associate EA with Singer-style act utilitarianism and self-imposed poverty through maximizing donated income.

This is interesting. What about them seemed EA-aligned? When I came across EA I was attracted to it because of the Singer-style act utilitarianism, and I've had worries that it's drifting too far from that and losing touch with the moral urgency that I felt in the early days. That said, I do think that actually trying to practice act utilitarianism leads to more mature views that suggest being careful about pushing ourselves too far.

Comment by zdgroff on Good news that matters · 2018-09-03T07:14:39.528Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for sharing this, Michelle. I'm glad my post inspired this! I've been trying to find more positive news these days because I still do think from what I've read that the world is getting better, but it's hard to remind myself of that. I've signed up to positive newsletters, like The New York Times's the Week in Good News and positive.news, and I've been somewhat disappointed, because the stories there are just as anecdotal as the negative ones are! They tend to focus on individual things, often actions that seem frivolously expensive. I think it might be worth someone's time to create a more substantive positive newsletter. Maybe "Positive Trends" or something like that?

Comment by zdgroff on How to make an impact in animal advocacy, a survey. · 2018-09-03T06:55:08.459Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'm curious how you determined how utilitarian/EA people you spoke with were?

I think it's remarkable how much EAA has changed in the past several years. When people first started these effective animal advocacy online discussion spaces, veg outreach was the most-talked about intervention. It's a pretty resounding shift.

Comment by zdgroff on Doing vs Talking at EA Events · 2018-09-03T06:44:20.471Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I feel your desire for doing at a meet up, because I ran a student group in college where I worried there was a lot of talk and too little action. I think there could be versions of "talking" that are closer to "doing," though—for example, presenting on recent projects or donation decisions, thereby giving members a chance to feel good about good they've done recently and creating a norm of action. This would probably avoid some of the problems with short-term freelancing laid out in other comments. Hope this idea helps!

Comment by zdgroff on Open Thread #41 · 2018-09-03T06:40:03.422Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · EA · GW

[Did Career Research to Reach a Sense of Conclusion]

About a year ago I left an organization I was closely involved in, and I spent the past year struggling quite a bit with what I wanted to do with my career. I applied to PhD programs in economics and got into a top one, Stanford. I spent several months thinking about what causes I want to focus on and whether this made sense for my career, and I made a pretty ambitious plan of reading up on debates that pertained to crucial considerations I'd longed neglected, such as how RCTs compare to other forms of evidence, what the best theories of consciousness are and their implications, and what the odds of various risks are.

I'm pretty happy with where I am now after doing this. I updated my moral weight for animals downwards (though it was quite high before so it's still pretty high), my probability of machine sentience in the medium-term upwards, and my views on different forms of evidence and seriousness of risk stayed largely the same. Overall, I concluded that most of the things I'm most concerned about have research as their biggest gap, and the PhD is well-suited to that. I like to contemplate my career regularly, but I've reached a place of satisfaction that I had not been in for a while. Meanwhile, I started the PhD and am very happy with it so far.

Comment by zdgroff on Announcing PriorityWiki: A Cause Prioritization Wiki · 2018-06-21T02:15:55.017Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This is awesome. I suppose this is something anyone could fix, but I'm curious why it seems to deviate from the normal EA division of causes and has animal welfare as a subcause? Animal welfare already has a number of categories under it, and not all policy-related, so seems like maybe it should be its own category.

Comment by zdgroff on Effective Advertising and Animal Charity Evaluators · 2018-06-15T19:49:43.434Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · EA · GW

I think ACE is acting responsibly. These criticisms strike me as off, particularly the one involving cute/fuzzy animals. I think some in EA are put off by the use of emotions as a tactic, and that's going to lead us to a completely warped picture of human behavior and a correspondingly warped approach to changing it.

Comment by zdgroff on Empirical data on value drift · 2018-04-23T23:47:47.940Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · EA · GW

This is so necessary and helpful. This is a significant update for me toward a donor advised fund (and also reinforces my current practice of donating regularly rather than saving to donate).

This data to me suggests that the EA community may have made some mistakes in modeling our decisions as more rational than they are. Specifically, whether broad career capital makes sense depends a lot on whether we are rational and will optimize or whether we need commitment devices. Maybe we all need more of a behavioral econ update.

Comment by zdgroff on Announcing Rethink Priorities · 2018-03-06T00:20:26.109Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'm excited to see what happens here! Will you be comparing different areas and the lessons learned to apply to the others? I think lessons from poverty may in some cases translate to animal advocacy and vice versa (and there may be some potential for cross-pollination with growing EA or other causes).

Comment by zdgroff on How effective and efficient is the funding policy of Open Philanthropy concerning projects on AI risks? · 2018-03-01T16:04:52.728Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I agree with Benito and others that this post would benefit from a deeper engagement with already-stated OPP policy (see, for instance, this recent interview with Holden Karnofsky: https://soundcloud.com/80000-hours/21-holden-karnofsky-open-philanthropy), but I do think it is good to have this conversation.

There are definitely arguments for OPP's positions on the problems with academia, and I think taking a different approach may be worthwhile. At the same time, I am a bit confused about the lack of written explanations or the opposition to panels. There are ways to try to create more individualized incentives within panels. Re: written explanations, while it does make sense to avoid being overly pressured by public opinion, having to make some defense of a decision is probably helpful to a decision's efficacy. An organization can just choose to ignore public responses to its written grant justification and to listen only to experts' responses to a grant. I would think that some critical engagement would be beneficial.

Comment by zdgroff on Why I prioritize moral circle expansion over artificial intelligence alignment · 2018-02-23T19:50:20.941Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Isn't hedonium inherently as good as dolorium is bad? If it's not, can't we just normalize and then treat them as the same? I don't understand the point of saying there will be more hedonium than dolorium in the future, but the dolorium will matter more. They're vague and made-up quantities, so can't we just set it so that "more hedonium than dolorium" implies "more good than bad"?

Comment by zdgroff on A generalized strategy of ‘mission hedging’: investing in 'evil' to do more good · 2018-02-23T19:00:34.609Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This is really fascinating. I think this is largely right and an interesting intellectual puzzle on top of it. Two comments:

1) I would think mission hedging is not as well suited to AI safety as it is to climate or animal activism because AI safety is not directly focused on opposing an industry. As has been noted elsewhere on this forum, AI safety advocates are not focused on slowing down AI development and in many cases tend to think it might be helpful, in which case mission hedging is counterproductive. I could also imagine a scenario in which AI problems also weigh down a company's stock. Maybe a big scandal occurs around AI that foreshadows future problems with AGI and also embarrasses AI developers.

2) As kbog notes, it doesn't seem clear that the growth in an industry one opposes means the marginal dollar is more effective. Even though an industry's growth increases the scale of a problem, it might lower its tractability or neglectedness by a greater amount.

Comment by zdgroff on What is Animal Farming in Rural Zambia Like? A Site Visit · 2018-02-23T13:45:48.630Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

This matches what I saw in Ghana when I lived there for a few months. Interestingly, I lived with someone in the agriculture corps, an initiative by U.S. ag to promote its image by helping developing countries. I think it probably has the effect of putting them more firmly on a factory farming path, sadly.

The ag corps member would always talk about how terrible animal husbandry in Ghana was, and I was pretty shocked. After all, at least the chickens, goats, and sheep roamed freely. She noted that but said that they eat garbage, and their slaughter is frequently botched. To me, eating garbage seemed like a very small harm next to living your life in a tiny stall or extremely crowded barn. At the end of the discussion, I realized that she thought their animal husbandry was worse than that in the U.S. because her college ag classes had equated good animal husbandry practices with standard industrial practices, so sloppy practices–even if they allowed for more freedom–were worse in her view.

Comment by zdgroff on How much further does your dollar go overseas? · 2018-02-07T20:12:38.766Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

This is an excellent and thorough analysis.

Comment by zdgroff on How fragile was history? · 2018-02-07T19:55:25.135Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Wow, this is a fascinating post, and so short! I think a write-up on the historiography on this would be really useful. This is really important for EAs, particularly those focused on the long term or systemic change, and it could use a detailed treatment.

Comment by zdgroff on Would it be a good idea to create a 'GiveWell' for U.S. charities? · 2018-02-07T19:50:06.312Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Some people/organizations are doing similar things, but in general I agree with others that opportunity cost is the main downside. At the same time, I could see some of these, especially 2-3, actually offering cost-effective impacts because of low-probability systemic changes.

Impact Matters isn't doing exactly this, but they do something similar to it: https://www.impactm.org/

Another resources is the Center for Evidence-Based Programs: evidencebasedprograms.org

Comment by zdgroff on Ongoing lawsuit naming "future generations" as plaintiffs; advice sought for how to investigate · 2018-01-25T01:51:20.031Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This seems really exciting and promising to me now that you point it out. I did not pay much attention to this lawsuit since I classified it in my head as a climate change thing, and climate change is much more crowded than other high-impact future causes. Based on what I know of the U.S. legal system, though, having a lawsuit recognize future generations' claims would be a pretty big deal and probably very good for far future causes in general. I'm glad you thought of this.

Comment by zdgroff on Updates Thread: How Have You Changed Your Mind This Year? · 2017-12-20T03:55:22.328Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Here's mine, copied and pasted from my blog :

1) The importance of artificial general intelligence:

I'd previously been dismissive of superintelligence as being something altruists should focus on, but that was in large part motivated reasoning. I read books like Superintelligence and Global Catastrophic Risks, and I knew their theses were right initially but would not admit it to myself. With time, though I came to see that I was resisting the conclusion that superintelligence is an important priority mostly because it was uncomfortable. Now I recognize that it is potentially the most important problem and want to explore opportunities to contribute.

2) The economic argument for animal welfare reforms:

One of the reasons often given for supporting animal welfare reforms to those who want to see fewer (read: no) animals tortured for food is that welfare reforms make the industry less profitable, cutting down on the numbers of animals raised. I did not think this effect was strong enough to be worth the effort activists put into such reforms, but I've changed my mind significantly based on three pieces of evidence. The first was an analysis by economists Jayson Lusk and Conner Mullaly finding that Proposition 2 made a significant dent in egg production. The second was a write-up by Lewis Bollard at the Open Philanthropy Project on how the Sierra Club managed to shrink the coal industry through regulations and subsidies. The third was Sentience Institute's report on nuclear power and clean meat, which found that economic institutions can powerfully shape the success or failure of novel technologies. I now think the economic approach to animal advocacy is an exceptionally promising strategy.

3) The value of research for animal advocacy:

I've always thought animal advocates had a large research gap. When I look at the economic development world as an animal advocate, I feel envy. I'd previously thought that a lot of advocacy tactics simply could not be tested, but after looking around at datasets on social movements (for instance, Erica Chenoweth's dataset on the "Resistance"), reading the ingenious work of institutional economists on using instrumental variables to set up quasi-experimental studies, and reading about experimental work in political science and other disciplines, I think there's a lot more that can be done than has, enough for it to be one of the most promising routes for animal advocates.

4) The importance–and neglectedness–of social institutions:

This was a year when through reading, following the news, and personal experience, I saw how much rules, norms, and processes matter–and how forgotten this can be. I saw how charismatic men with easy scapegoats and enchanted people behind them can pervert and break important and worthwhile structures. At the same time, I saw how dissent and conviction can preserve and improve safeguards.

5) The interplay of protests and politics:

I fiercely avoided this conclusion until recently, but I now think that in situations without sufficient, actionable public support, protests do not mix well with politics. As I've concluded before, protests have two primary effects: growing a movement and pressuring institutions. As a movement grows in size and support, the most important effect of a protest should shift from the former to the latter. When a protest is raising awareness, and the public does not agree with the protesters, I think the protest should probably be largely separate from political campaigns.

6) The importance of wild animal suffering:

I've followed a similar path here to that on artificial intelligence. I avoided an uncomfortable conclusion, but I ended up having to accept it: that given the massive numbers of wild animals in the world (anywhere from 1,000 to 1,000,000,000 sentient wild animals for every human), figuring out what effect we do and can have on their suffering is of first order importance for animal advocates.

7) Religion, the internet, and social cohesion:

I've tended in the past to think that electronic communications are clearly positive, and I'm an atheist and have a staunch secularist streak. (Écrasez l'infame!) Nonetheless, various readings have moved me toward wondering if the Internet is creating an overly individualistic generation, and if we could use some institutions that resemble and replicate religion in some ways. I read up on the Bowling Alone theory and Cass Sunstein's #Republic. I think the health of civic society in the face of an increasingly atomistic world is a worthy concern.

8) How much cause there is for optimism:

I am a pessimist by nature but for a while have been a deliberate optimist. By poverty, violence, and oppression, I think it is hard to make the case that the broad sweep of history is negative. Even against that background, I end the year with more optimism about the causes that concern me. Most important, I am more hopeful that current animal advocacy strategies will put a massive dent in industry (see number 2). I am excited about the direction effective altruist organizations are going in, with Animal Charity Evaluators' research standards improving and groups like Sentience Institute carefully examining a broader body of evidence. I am more hopeful than ever that for most sentient beings, the future is growing brighter.

Comment by zdgroff on [deleted post] 2017-12-18T22:02:21.437Z

It would seem to throw a wrench into the discussion around the Against Malaria Foundation and GiveWell's recs: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/xo/givewells_charity_recommendations_require_taking/