(Strongly endorse you giving further critical feedback—this is a new area, and the more the other side is steelmanned, the better the decision that can be reached about whether and how to prioritize it. That said, I don’t think this criticism is particularly good, per Ozzie’s response.)
I’d also suggest the Sage series on research methods as a good resource for non-experts who want at least a basic level of understanding of what to do. In this case, Fowler’s “Survey Research Methods” would have provided most of these insights without trial and error—it’s around 150 pages, but it’s not heavy reading.
I mostly agree, but the revision of the Longtermism white paper from the original “work in progress” version seems like exactly the type of response to some of the early claims you’re requesting—see the discussion on fanaticism. And given how recent all of this is, further responses could still be forthcoming, as these types of conversations take time.
See my response about the specific reason I think Will and others have not responded—and why I think they are right not to do so directly.(And I’m still very much on speaking terms with Phil, and understand why he feels aggrieved, even though I don’t agree with him either about his current approach, or the substantive criticisms, as I noted in the piece you linked.)
This seems like an important criticism and warning—but I think that the response to the Torres piece has been dismissive for reasons largely unrelated to the discussion here. I’ve spoken to Phil recently, and he feels like he’s been reasonable in personally attacking several people in EA, both because of how they treated him(1), and their supposedly dangerous / “genocidal” ideologies—and he isn’t likely to change his mind. That seems to be why most of the people whose positions are being attacked aren’t responding themselves—not only were they personally attacked, but it seems clear that substantive engagement with the specific criticisms is no longer a way to effectively respond or discuss this with Phil.Otherwise, I think EA still does have a record of being very willing to engage in discussion, and I agree that we need to be zealous in protecting our willingness to do so—so thanks for this post!1) I won’t comment on what happened, other than to say that most of what is being complained about seems like typical drama where it’s easy to blame anyone you’d like depending on the narrative you construct.
Thanks Simon—this is great. I do want to add a few caveats for how and why the “One Country” idea might not be the best approach.The first reason not to pursue the one-country approach from a policy perspective is that non-existential catastrophes seem likely, and investments in disease detection and prevention are a good investment from a immediate policy perspective. Given that, it seems ideal to invest everywhere and have existential threat detection be a benefit that is provided as a consequence of more general safety from biological threats. There are also returns to scale for investments, and capitalizing on them may require a global approach.Second, a key question for whether the proposed “one country” approach is more effective than other approaches is whether we think early detection is more important than post-detection response, and what they dynamics of the spread are. As we saw with COVID-19, once a disease is spreading widely, stopping it is very, very difficult. The earlier the response starts, the more likely it is that a disease can be stopped before spreading nearly universally. The post-detection response, however, can vary significantly between countries, and those most able to detect the thread weren’t the same as those best able to suppress cases—and for this and related reasons, putting our eggs all in one basket, so to speak, seems like a very dangerous approach.
Your definition of problematic injustice seems far too narrow, and I explicitly didn’t refer to race in the previous post. The example I gave was that the most disadvantaged people are in the present, and are further injured—not that non-white people (which under current definitions will describe approximately all of humanity in another half dozen generations) will be worse off.
Yes. The ways that various movements have gone wrong certainly differs, and despite the criticism related to race, which I do think is worth addressing, I’m not primarily worried that longtermists will end up repeating specific failure modes—different movements fail differently.
I think that ignoring historical precedent is exactly what Scott was pointing out we aren’t doing in his post, and I think the vast majority of EAs think it would be a mistake to do so now.My point was that we’re aware of the skulls, and cautious. Your response seems to be “who cares about the skulls, that was the past. I’m sure we can do better now.” And coming from someone who is involved in EA, hearing that view from people interested in changing the world really, really worries me—because we have lots of evidence from studies of organizational decision making and policy that ignoring what went wrong in the past is a way to fail now and in the future.
Mostly endorsed. Or perhaps more simply, if a small, non-representative group disagrees with the majority of humans, we should wonder why, and given base rates and the outside view, worry about failure modes that have affected similar small groups in the past.
I’m pointing out that you’re privileging your views over those of others—not “some philosophers,” but “most people.”And unless you’re assuming a fairly strong version of moral realism, this isn’t a factual question, it’s a values question—so it’s strange to me to think that we should get to assume we’re correct despite being a small minority, without at least a far stronger argument that most people would agree with longermism if properly presented—and I think Stefan Schubert’s recent work implies that is not at all clear.
Is that true?Many current individuals will be worse off when resources don’t go to them, for instance, because they are saving future lives, versus when they do, for instance, funds focused on near-term utilitarian goals like poverty reduction. And if, as most of us expect, the world’s wealth will continue to grow, effectively all future people who are helped by existential risk reduction are not what we’d now consider poor. You can defend this via the utilitarian calculus across all people, but that doesn’t change the distributive impact between groups.
I think this is a good idea, but would benefit greatly from narrowing the scope greatly, and finding what answer are already known before brainstorming what to investigate. Given that, I think you’d benefit from some of the basic works on policy analysis, rather than policy engagement, to see what is already understood. I’ll specifically point to Bardach’s A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving as a good place to start, followed by Weimar and Vining’s book.
I might have been unclear. As I said initially, I claim it’s good to publicly address concerns about “the (indisputable) fact that avoiding X-risks can be tied to racist or eugenic historical precedents”, and this is what the LARB piece actually discussed. And I think that slightly more investigation into the issue should have convinced the author that any concerns about continued embrace of the eugenic ideas, or ignorance of the issues, were misplaced. I initially pointed out that specific claims about longtermism being similar to eugenics are “farcical.” More generally, I tried to point out in this post that many the attacks are unserious or uniformed- as Scott pointed out in his essay, which this one quoted and applied to this situation, the criticisms aren’t new. More serious attempts at dialog, like some of the criticisms in the LARB piece are not bad-faith or unreasonable claims, even if they fail to be original. And I agree that “we cannot claim to take existential risk seriously — and meaningfully confront the grave threats to the future of human and nonhuman life on this planet — if we do not also confront the fact that our ideas about human extinction, including how human extinction might be prevented, have a dark history.” But I also think it’s obvious that others working on longtermism agree, so the criticism seems to be at best a weak man argument. Unfortunately, I think we’ll need to wait another year or so for Will’s new book, which I understand has a far more complete discussion of this, much of which was written before either of these pieces were published.
My point is that many people who disagree with the longtermist ethical viewpoint also spent years thinking about the issues, and dismissing the majority of philosophers, and the vast, vast majority of people’s views as not plausible, is itself one of the problems I tried to highlight on the original post when I said that a small group talking about how to fix everything should raise flags.And my point about racism is that criticism of choices and priorities which have a potential to perpetuate existing structural disadvantages and inequity is not the same as calling someone racist.
I agree that there are some things in Bio and AI that are applied—though the vast majority of the work in both areas is still fairly far from application. But my point which granted your initial point was responding to “I don’t think it counterfactually harms the global poor.”
Yes, you’ve mentioned your skepticism of the efficacy of a long reflection, but conditional on it successfully reducing bad outcomes, you agree with the ordering?
Thanks—I largely agree, and am similarly concerned about the potential for such impacts, as was discussed in the thread with John Halstead.As an aside, I think Harper’s LARB article was being generous in calling Phil’s current affairs article “rather hyperbolic,” and think its tone and substance are an unfortunate distraction from various more reasonable criticisms Phil himself has suggested in the past.
Found it—the quote was slightly off: https://twitter.com/ASmallFiction/status/901252178588778498″It was a dirty job, he thought, but somebody had to do it. As he walked away, he wondered who that somebody might be.”