On the same theme https://radicalecologicaldemocracy.org/pluriverse .
there was a free online copy and there may still be. its a collection of 100 essays by people associated with various social movements (some of which have been around for decades) mostly dealing with the global south, environmental issues and also ones relevant to ‘developed countries’ such as USA .
i think it overlaps with the Oxford handbook. both of these to me are like reading an encyclopedia or history book.
(There are more social movements than the 100 in the book, but they overlap alot, so in a sense even if the ‘missing’ movements are not in the book they are mostly implicity there. I think there may have been some favoritism into who was included in the book, and who was excluded.
Many of these ‘movements’ or groups are fairly short lived—they last for a few years and dissapear, often partly due to internal conflicts. )
I never joined any social movements except for the green party, and i no longer attend their events due to internal strife. These small groups tend to attract certain individuals who try to take them over and turn them into cults of personality, though they do it using the rhetoric of social justice, intersectionality, ecology, democracy, etc.
Jacobin magazine (now sort of affiliated with DSA and a big supporter of Bernie S., though it had its roots in ISO , and has had a sort of constantly shifting ideology—they can’t decide which form of socialism they prefer ) was among the groups involved in the local political or ‘social movement’ scene—sort of by mistake i get their magazine .
(it has interesting histories of leftist movements in USA and internationally—written by academics and grad students primarily (almost never in sciences), but some of it i view as redundant leftist drivel.) Its a younger version of the nation mag, and a high brow version of CPUSA (i’ve seen old copies of that) , with excellent production and graphics. Their articles are usually written by various academics affiliated with universities that range from fairly ‘low level’ city colleges to the ivy league. )
This book and the Oxford one are also relevant to a May 2019 discussion on the EA forum about ‘leftist critiques of EA movement’—which i thought was fairly thorough. ( i looked at that partly since i’m ‘self-quarantining’. My area is sort of on ‘lockdown’ , so i skim various math models of this issue, and then look at lighter stuff.)
The may 2019 discussion pointed out both criticisms of EA as well as its defenses. eg ‘leftists’ dislike the word ‘charity’—it sounds paternalistic; and in the area i live, ‘US imperialism’ and ‘capitalism’ are sort of code or trigger words, or phrases, or rallying crys.
‘Earning to give’ does remind one of Andrew Carnegie (I had a relative who went to CMU which is a top school for AI research—carnegie and mellon gave their money away) , the Rockefellors (Rockefellor U), , the Sackler family (art gallerys, and credited in part for the US opiate epidemic) , and Henry Paulson (plans to donate his 4 Billion $ wealth to environmental causes which he earned on wall street. )
(I knew someone who made a fair amount of money on wall street, who also gave away a large fraction of it, but part of it was based on cigarette companies. He simply seperated his money making investment decisions from his values, so he invested in whatever was most profitable. And then he gave alot of that money away to good causes. He also didnt approve of smoking even though he invested in the companies. ).
(he was actually from a small town background, so didn’t have a ‘systems’ point of view-he was just a good stock picker. I.e. he didn’t notice he may have been ‘stealing from the poor to get rich’, and then acting as a kind of ‘robin hood’ to ‘take from the rich and give to the poor’. (he also donated to bernie’s 1st campaign against Hilary). )
I’m not really affiliated with any ‘leftist movements’ anymore (though i used to attend protests organized by many of these groups, which range from ‘moderate DSA’, green party, or ‘progressive democratic ’ groups , and environmentalist and anti-poverty groups , to ones with more ‘radical views’ (all kinds of socialists, anarchists, and others—many of whom did not get along with each other) .
However since i think i am familiar enough with many of these ‘leftist’ groups i would say for every criticism of EA one can make there is another one equal to that can be made of many of these groups.
(I actually view some of them as sort of modern versions of stalinists—i call them ‘stalinists- lite’.
Just as i view the ‘alt-right’ as the ‘lite’ versions of nazis and kkk. (they don’t dresss in white hoods and gowns anymore, or as storm troopers—they dress in khakis and suits and ties—look like college students or government buerocrats.
The stalinist-lite ‘leftist’ critics of US imperialism, etc. seem to have strong affiliations with RT state sponsored media ‘russia today’ and its ‘Sputnik’ radio version—they have their own radio shows or appear as guests on those stations, as well as with China. They are big critics of US presence in Afghanistan but never mention Russia also invaded Afghanistan. )
I think the differences between EAs, ‘leftists’ and people like myself are cultural and educational primarily. Many EA’s seem to have a philosophy bacground, so for example they use the philosophical definition of Utilitarianism rather than the ones i’ve seen in economics , which are mathematical (Hilary Greaves of Oxford and associated with EA, who also has a background in physics, uses the formalism of utilitarianism closest to the one i try to use—though I am not at her mathematical level.) ‘Leftists’ tend to get their information more from either ‘radical media’ or in college classes in humanites or semi-social sciences like ‘cultural marxism’ and ‘intersectionality studies’. I get my views from my backgroun in ecology and lived experiences in fairly diverse environments—so you have to keep your language simple, even if you are familiar with technical dialects. (There are in my view at least 3 or 4 different dialects for ‘systems science’ or ‘systemic approaches’—i view them as equivalent but they range in mathematical complexity.)
I’ve seen and liked that book. But i don’t think there really is enough information about risks (eg earth being hit by a comet or meteor that kills everything) to really say much—maybe if cosmology makes major advances or in other fields one can say somerthing but that might takes centuries.
I can’t really tell what the article is about, but it appears to be saying that devoting alot of resources and talent to academic economists to do rigorous RCT evalutions of programs is ‘innefective’ or ‘inneficient’ (a waste). (I think the recent noble econ prizes were for this—so this might be critique of them.) I think the same point is often made of alot of rigorous economics—many view these as primarily aesthetic or mathematical excercizes which some economists value more than developement or economic policy.
I think there is a place for aesthetics, mathematics, RCTs and evaluations of them, as well as other forms of policy research and interventions.
But you sort of have to figure out what mix is the best.
I also don’t think the ‘smell tests’ are well worded. I think academic specialties often have their own dialects (as does EA) and they are often mutually almost incomprehnsible. Ecological economists and neoclassiclas often have different dialects, and the same theorem in math can be proven at times many ways, but people can only understand some of them,.
The article by D Meissner (original post) , the comments on it, and the expanded set of articles on the website utilitarianism , all make good points.
1. Specieism. I knew people who lived on farms and raised animals and also grew corn, wheat, and vegetables for food, and also to sell to get cash so they could buy things they couldn’t produce on their farm which they decided they either needed or wanted. (For example a car, truck , phone, or a college education for their children (eg my grandparents, or some of the families in small rural towns i used to live in).
While they were definately not vegans or even vegetarians, many were often not exactly ’specieist—they valued very much the welfare of their cows, chickens, and the wildlife (such as deer , turkeys, trout, bears, bobcats, skunks, weasels, hedgehogs, snakes, etc.) , flora (eg forests), and ecosystems (eg trout stream valleys and the mountains above them) . They took very good care of their animals until they killed or sold them, and they would not tolerate people doing illegal logging to cut down forests to sell as lumber to make paper for newspapers , or use their creeks and valleys as trash dumps and sewers.
Some of the people (even in the same families) decided the only thing that mattered was money—so they permitted illegal dumping, logging, etc. in return for cash, and basically left (with their cash) the areas they grew up in as ecological wastelands , and moved to the city to get a ‘better life’ including a college education and a ‘good job’. the book book ‘hillbilly elegy’ by j d vance shows that perspective.
Some people from cities who do have money have bought up alot of that land and abandoned properties in small towns and now are creating organic farms and vegan restaurants in those areas (while those areas were not really suitable for the kind of large scale ‘factory farming’ except for chickens—there were some cattle but it was nothing like the industrial feedlots of the midwest USA; there were a few (tiny) fish farms—people had a trout pond which was the fish farm equivalent of a small vegetable—they also had small vegetable gardens and sold the produce in front of their homes—and it was a ‘trust system’—they just left the vegetables and the ‘cash register’ on a table (where you put your money—they sold really cheap produce and almost nobody stole anything ( a few teens and preteens might steal stuff, and also break into houses, but it was unusual, and in general people knew who thy were ad just talked to the parents to tell them to ‘behave’).
I heard that has changed now, partly because hard drugs (methamphetamine, heroin) have been introduced into those areas. The level of trust has gone down. (ts near to what is called the ‘heroin highway’). its possible the new organic farms and vegan restaurants can entice the local people to start caring about things beyond drugs, chicken and money, but thats an open question—some of the old time local people resent people they do not know who have alot of money buying up all the property.
while i know most EAs probably hate hunting, the ’old timers from that area (eg anyone over age 20 though it goes up to over 80) hunted and fished for food in part—bass, trout, deer, grouse, turkeys, squirrels, etc. Its brutal, but so is buying a car and driving 60 miles round trip to work in a recycling plant so they can make cash and eat burgers at a Mcdonald’s .
I view Thoreau and Albert Schweitzer as promoting vegetarianism and anti-specieism long beofre p singer.
2. This article and website appears to be written from a philosophical POV. I learned the little i know about utilitarianism from my background as a student in biology—which turned into physics (to study modern biology, you have to take physics, which i did, all the way up into quantum theory and statistical mechanics and a bit of QFT. Once you take those, you realize from a literature search that many of the famous physicists actually wrote papers on utilitarianism (as well as biology). As did economists (who studied biology and physics).
I consider myself a utilitarian—but maybe i should use a different term. (In USA this is like saying you are a ‘socialist’ (some people interpret this as meaning you support Bernie Saunders for president, while others say this means you worship Stalin.
I also consider myself a darwinist (though many interpret this to mean what is called ‘vulgar darwinism’ which is not what darwin said—ie the idea that we are the ‘additive’ sum of our genes.). In a sense i’m also a marxist (but not a vulgar marxist—who are common—who think the world is explained as ‘class struggle’. The LTV has a kernel of truth to it—eg bitcoin).
The 4 postulates of utilitarianism are not what is meant by the term for last 20-40 years though some economists still use that formalism—both ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ ones. The first 1 and the 4th are the most explcitly outdated—‘additivity’ in physics went out decades ago, as did ‘consequentialism’ (ther e is a newer term (which actually goes way back but became more popular or rediscovered after 1990-2000).
I didn’t notice this reply to my comment, but today i did. (as an aside i notice i have −33 votes and +55 votes for my comments. it would be nice if EA world could tolerate diversity of opinions—so far i’m still above zero and i don’t want to start a war. but if people cannot disagree agreeably i’m perfectly willing to go somewhere else—and it won’t be silicon valley. )
While i dislike the term ‘intelligent’, i would call your comment or answer a very intelligent and well informed reply to my comment.
Since you mentioned Brexit, in USA we have a similar issue---- the democratic primaries (as you likely know, though my impression is you are not in USA) --there are not really any single peaked preferences here though it has been reduced to Biden vs Bernie and other—possibly alot of nonvoters.)
I agree that ‘the map is not the territory’. One needs to revise the maps as you go through the territory. there is a tradeoff --- do you follow the map you have and keep going, or spend time revising the map and take a different path?
I agree with you. ‘common sense is not common sense’. (I personally am on a special diet—this means i mostly have to eat vegetables, but other people i know always say ‘you need some protein or meat—that’s common sense’ . i do feel good if i eat some, but next day i wake up sick as a dog. so i avoid it. )
the only issue i had was most people do not read J Emergency management. everyone lives in a ‘filter bubble’.
https://arxiv.org/abs/2003.00107 (and more like that) https://arxiv.org/abs/2002.03268
I had to look up PPE—personal protective equipment. )
I view plastic garbage bags as an almost neccessary thing to carry ( large ones. medium size and small ones—they keep everything dry --small ones are good for papers and books; medium ones are good for extra clothes, and big ones can serve as a rain or snow poncho or tent . I am aware of the environmental consequences of all this plastic but for now i still use them).
When i was in Alaska i lived a 6 mile walk down the frozen Yukon river (in winter ) from Eagle (near the canadian border) . In summer i stayed somewhere else in same area. it seemed like it could go from 80F in summer to −45Fp or colder in winter.
My current area used to be the ‘murder capital of the USA’ ( but now we have lost that title to Baltimore ) but now its the ‘bedbug capital of the world’ . (There are radio shows on the local NPR affiliate WAMU on this bedbug problem—i even had it recently—i dont know how they got in here—maybe some of my guests had them on their clothes and there are also mice in here. This plastic kills these bedbugs.
(Its required in my area that if you throw out a bedbug infested matress you have to enclose it in a big plastic bag).
The neighboring state (maryland) has just declared a corona virus (or covid) state of emergency . I think they only have a few confirmed cases.
Short answer: exploring this idea is a good idea—vote swapping is a good idea and its basic common sense. But i’d just ‘explore’ it—the problem with vote swapping is most people who are sympathetic to it, or would be if they knew about—many have never of heard the idea—and if they have won’t actually do it. They find it too complex (as i did in 2016). Even registering to vote and then voting was too complex.
(Just as many people who are sympathetic to, or supporters of some candidate won’t vote for that candidate—they just don’t vote. I probably will not vote in nov 2020 elections—in my area it doesnt matter—this is an ‘anybody but Trump’ district).
unless you have a ‘critical mass’ its useless. so explore the idea, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket or kill yourself promoting this idea. just keep it on the shelf (if you have a support network of people with similar ideas then you can explore it further—it might work). Lots of explorers perished, but a few hit the jackpot.
This idea was developed a long time ago in my area by a local Green Party Member who is also a local politician (who is also nationally known—Jamin Raskin. I’m not sure if he is the originator of the idea.) . He said ‘vote green’ if you are in a safely democratic district; otherwise swap your vote with someone in a republican district and they can vote green party (GP) and you hold your nose and vote democratic.
i’m a member of GP though i actually do not like the the GP candidates—they seem to ‘talk left, and walk right’ and tend to be bullies, elitists, and opportunists.
I’m in a 90% democratic district. i did (hold my nose—i’m no fan of jill stein) vote GP in 2016 and also to legalize cannabis since i didnt like seeing people getting locked up for smoking a blunt on the street—it also costs money to deal with all these police, courts, and jails, besides wasting the time of people by locking them up—and then people later complain that they didnt go to school and get an education. (i was smoking weed almost starting in elementary school but i never went to jail for that (i have been locked up a few hours a few times for drinking a beer outside—which i did because its cheaper than going to a nosiy bar. ).
I almost regret voting for cannabis legalization because now its turning into another big business controlled by a few people.
I didn’t do the ‘vote swap’—too complex—but its a good idea. I think very few people did this—and this may be why Trump won—he won by a small margin, and a few of these green or other alternative parties may have made the difference (in places like Pennsylvania—which is about 50 miles from here ).
the vote swap was too complex—even voting is too complex.
(I actually sometimes think the people in the GP actually are Trump supporters . Many of them are already associated with RT media (russia today).
Alot of GP people are ‘no compromise’—they will never vote for a democrat because they are not strict enough on the environemnt and other issues. They’d rather have Trump as a lesser evil rather than than having dirty voting hands. (Many of them are in fairly elite professional and academic positions so another 4 years of Trump won’t affect them. If Trump decides to sell their favorite national park to an oil company, they’ll just go their second favorite national park for vacation. )
To me this paper looks like ‘common sense’. Its good to write down ‘common sense’ but its not ‘rocket science’.
(Since i sometimes go hiking or backpacking or on a bike trip i try to keep a list of things i need to take with me—i can basically remember these or recreate the list in my head—but its useful to have a written down checklist—but its basically common sense.
The same is true for phone numbers, addresses, email adresses, computer passwords, the value of fundamental or mathematical constants like c or pi or e, etc. Those of course best be written down.)
I do like the emphasis on ‘prepare to DIY’ (do it yourself). If i recall one of the authors lives in Alaska—i checked the weather in AK today and temperatures ranged from −30F to −40F in the areas i lived in for awhile. In that area (miles from the nearest town and you couldn’t drive to that town in winter) you had to be prepared to DIY. For example—make your own gloves—when i lived in Alaska i made my own gloves and overshoes (like mocassins) from mooseskin someone gave me—my feet were never cold. Its what the indigenous Athabascan indians wear in winter ).
The only issue I have with this is I occassionaly go to a hospital or some other thing—sometimes a ‘planning meeting’ . I usually go to a hospital if i’ve broken my wrist or ankle on a hike—i usually try to do DIY healthcare to fix these broken bones but eventually i seek professional help. (Some times they tell me actually its not broken , just fractured, so i just need a cast.) But also there is alot of buerocracy in these hospitals with paid staff, so you people tell you how to tie your shoes, what a ‘healthy diet ’ is (i’m basically a mixed vegetarian/vegan), and why i should excercize.
In ‘community planning meetings’ people can spend and hour in a discussion and some paid professionals will write ‘policy memos’ or ‘white papers’ on the pros and cons 0f having a community park’ or ‘bike lanes’ if they are planning some new commercial development.
These paid professionals are usually government employees, who sometimes get paid the same amount as a rocket scientist (to write an article on whether you need a community park)
Thats not rocket science either, its common sense. (Though some people oppose community parks—they (usually the owners of the land) view those as wasted land they could put more commercial development or condominiums on. And a few local residents dont want a community park because these attract noisy children and sometimes homeless people and drug addicts).
Its just seems like too much beurocracy—if people had common sense they could DIY. I dont need an academic paper explaining how to tie my shoes. (I did need to learn that long ago—but my parents taught me that—maybe some people who are adults do need to read peer reviewed academic papers to learn things like that. Also, why you should ‘wash your hands’ and ‘clean your room’. Perhaps there should be PhD programs in these areas. )
Since the guidelines for this forum say ‘be kind’, I am sort of pointing out a problem with academic problem—which is one reason alot of open access journals and working paper sites and blogs exist. Noone wants to wait to go through a long peer review process, nor pay to get beyond a paywall to publish or read papers which are mostly common sense. ‘How many economists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?’.
I have mixed feelings about this idea because
1) its still fairly early to know how big a problem this is (and I have heard or read expert opinions on both sides—some say it may be a big problem, while others say it most likely is not)
2) using the EA INT ( Impact-Neglectedness—Tractability) framework (though some use SNT (U) where S= scale=Impact and (U) is ‘urgency’ (a time discounting or triage factor ---i.e. there’s no point in setting up a research program to find a cure if it is going to arrive too late ) I am not sure this issue is Neglected. (I think US govt just allocated 1⁄2 billion$ to work on this).
there are also already many people—epidimiologists, virologists, health care workers, and health management people ---working on this (internationally). Of course that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use some help, or that what they are doing is the most ‘effective’.
I wouldn’t dismiss what these professional people are doing (health departments, CDC, etc.) as innefective or in need of help or input than I would dismiss the efforts of the fire department for fires around here and just try to put the fire myself. But, its possible they could use help (even in a variety of ways—average people can just call the fire dept if they can’t put a fire out, and help any people displaced by the fire.)
3) I have already seen a few theoretical epidemiological papers on this subject. https://infomullet.com has one which is not peer reviewed and less theoretical (its more a ‘fermi ’ or ‘back of an envelope’ set of calculations (though done on a computer ) than a fully fledged theoretical model. (I think its based on the standard SIR model in epidemiology , or an updated , more complex modification of that).
If one is doing a theoretical model , I think one has to try to review what people are doing or have done , though one can at the same time develop your own models and compare—there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. (While I have done a little labwork as an undergrad, and studied some molecular biology, I am not a ‘wet lab worker’, so I would be unable to judge anything regarding possible vaccines except from a theoretical POV—and I’m very limited even at that . )
4) My view is, if this turns out to be a big problem, the real thing is to deal with ‘population heterogeneity’ . I gather China took this route—they sort of have quarantined entire cities, and have shut down transportation and trade routes . Also, within these cities, they have sort of quarantined subsections of the cities, homes and businesses . (So you have quarantines within quarantines.) (I imagine most people on this forum know that).
This is a preventetive intervention—no different than containing a wildfire (such as the ones that destroyed many homes and lives in California not long ago).
In lieu of a cure, thats the way to go. Just try to keep the problem localized.
In USA, CDC and others are already doing that.
It may be useful if people had an ‘app’ to know how close and where the virus (or fire) is—no different than an app for checking the weather.
Also, perhaps an ‘app’ which is a ‘checklist’ of things you should have at home, carry with you, and also where to go if there is a problem (health facility, or authorities who can tell you where to go if you need help—eg you know someone who i sick).
Also an ‘app’ which has a list of things you need to do to prepare for a case in which you lose electricity and internet service.
5) As an aside i’m sort of working (possibly with someone else though the project is in its infancy so we haven’t agreed on exactly what the project is or what form it takes—we each have our own closely related but distinct approaches—so we are just seeing if collaboration is possible ) . Both of us are more theoretically oriented but want a ‘fermi type’ solution—something that could be widely useful and applicable, rather than buried in an academic journal written in language noone without a PhD can understand.
It was not oriented towards the corona virus—its a general formalism—but could be applicable to that issue as well. (The idea is really like creating a very small and short ‘manual’ or handbook, so people can make ‘good decisions’ based on the information they have—and also figure out what information is most relevant, and how to assign priorities or weights to different possible actions.)
(sorry for the length of this comment. i’m listening to the news right now and they are talking about how they are making emergency proclamations in Seattle and California—and some people are criticizing them because they say they don’t have any teeth in them,--just rhetoric or hot air—and don’t deal with ‘population heterogeneity’. i.e. FB workers are told to stay home and telecommute, while people like post office and delivery workers are told to continue business as usual. )
Since this topic interests me and i’m killing time I decided to comment on a few things in your post.
1. wikipedia has a reasonable article on exaptations as an introduction. i also reccomend looking at the wikip article on sexual selection—in my view these topics overlap. (The wikip article on sexual selection looks less complete—i think ‘fisher’s runaway process’ described in that article is most relevant but some others prefer the ‘handicap principal’.
there are much more recent articles on these topics which tend to rely on physics formalism—though fisher used earlier forms of it as well. (fisher was a famous statistician).
2. regarding ‘differential reproduction’ (your 1st question) , i think the answer is ‘both’. (this overlaps with the fisher runaway process ).
being a blue bear might be like having a nice car or prestigious college degree. it may not mean much at all but once its around you better be a blue bear, have a nice car, or have a good college degree.
3. your last paragraph to me does support the idea that evolution is (almost ) a zero-sum game. Its not exactly zero sum, because then there would be no evolution. It might , for example, prove to be that the best way to improve animal welfare would be for those who care about it give them more room—this is the argument made by some well known philosophers—eg patricia macCormack—and writers who promote human extinction—i personally don’t believe this argument, and also don’t they believe they do either even if they don’t know it.
‘Maximizing fitness’ is an idea thatb only occurs in the most simplistic forms of evolutionary theory—and its also due to R Fisher—‘fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection’. Its well known it only applies to ideal systems. (analagous to Lucretius’ universe from 1000s of years ago—assuming the world is basically a set of billiard balls or atoms bouncing off of each other. its called ‘bean bag genetics’. it can explain why a cup of hot coffee cools off, but it cant explain why organisms evolve, much less why there are rocks, rivers, and computers rather than simply air. you need nonequilibrium statistical physics and quantum theory to explain those. )
1. My somewhat limited background is in theoretical biology (which includes evolutionary and ecological field biology) and consersation biology, as well as environmental activism.
From a glance at some papers on the web site all of this looks to be fairly standard academic research, with a very few differences in emphasis—eg discussing topics like ‘suffering’ and ‘animal’s needs’, and distinguishing ‘welfare biology’ from other fields. My view is most scientists and activists do care about these things though just don’t usually use that terminology. (Some don’t—they are really just interested in science or activism rather than ecology.)
I would say the same is true ‘effective envonmentalism’ ---which discusses things like climate change ; i dont see it as very new apart from the term ‘effective’—people have been doing this for years, and have implicitly or explcitly done some sort of cost/benefit calculations to be ‘the most bang for the buck’.
So in a sense I I have nothing against this any more than the areas I worked in—I did them becuse I supported them.
The one issue I do have is that of ‘tractability’. Science in general can be seen as a kind of altruistic activity—eg may benefit future or current living things; as can activism. But one cannot do or fund all science and activism. So the issue is ‘how much’. I’d add most other scientists and activists . I dont see welfare biologists any better placed to deal with uncertainty—eg by doing long term studies. They already do that. Sure they do not have enough funds to collect as much data as they like either. (only thing welfare biologists might be able to do better iof they somehow had more money.) As is said in OP ecological systems are not understood with 100% certainty—no system is.
There is also no certainty that conducting research which generates knowledge even if it shows what doesnt alleviate suffering will better ‘effectively’ inform us what may work. Thats a cost benefit calculation.
Studying ant consiousness of pain i view as neuroscience whuich may have some benefit, though less likely on millions of ants-----using some calculations one could argue spendig the entire 770 billiobn $ defense budget studying ants for this purpose would reasonable because there are so many and likely will be in the future. I’m not a longtermism thinker except for fun—trips to mars, etc. I put my bets that life on earth is my lot. Because of this and my ecological views in also am not much favor of current disciplinary boundaries—activists know that reducing animl suffering as we know it may mean reducing human suffering as well (eg some people advocate big game hunting by tourists as a way to permit some big game to survive so poor don’t eliminate all of them for food or to sell for things like ivory.
This is an interesting review. My family had a grad student from Kenya stay with us when he was working on his PhD in my city—on IR. It was not what i studied so he explained to me the various schools and people—George Kennon, Hans Morgenthau, etc. (Noam Chomsky has many critiques of Kennon but I looked at what Kennon actually wrote, and Chomsky used selective quotes).
The ‘median voter theorem’ or ‘single peaked /dimensional preferences’ is the basic theorem in this area—if you model this mathematically. It also applies to US democracy, etc. It does not hold—in either politics or economics (K Arrow). So you have to deal with more complex situations.
The current world seems a bit too complex to easily model this kind of thing either nationally or internationally . Also, even if you did have a good model, it might be so complex most people could not understand it.
I read (or sort of skimmed) your dissertation (since I have a decision to make—actually (too) many) and thought this might provide some useful advice on how to do it.
I was surprised you discouraged people from reading it—maybe you are trying to hide the fun. I found it be one of the most exciting and racy PhD thesis’ i’ve ever read—it could be a best seller. And it just doesn’t read like a pulp novel; like the best novels, it also hits peaks of scientific inspiration which i think rival the visions I’ve been told you get by reading great poets or theological works or einstein or Dirac or hawking in physics—takes you to a transcendent place.
In any event while i enjoyed the read, i didn’t get my problem solved—i.e. advice on what decision to make. (I ’might even have to decide first which of my problems i should try to solve first, and then do a 2nd iteration of the method and try to solve that particular problem. Or, the method might suggest I try to solve all the problems at once—eg if your house is burning down in a fire you both put it out and rebuild it at the same time.)
Since i found the procedure not exactly intuitive, it seemed to suggest you have to weigh off the cost of a ‘search procedure’ to get information about the possible value of alternative decisions, combined with the cost of making a decision. (eg for a burning house, you might spend some costly time consulting with some firefighters and homebuilders about the best course of action.)
A simple example might be shopping for an item. You could just go to a place you know—and you know the cost, and also the quality or value of the item. Or you could spend alot of time and money shopping around, to see if you can find something with a better value/cost ratio. There is always the risk that you may just waste alot of time and money and find nothing better.
I was wondering if the example above is the sort of decision making problem you are talking about.
(I think my main problem is finding a job—but I don’t really know where to look, and if there are any of the kind I want (I might be looking for something that does not exist) , and whether and how to research finding one. The cheapest default option might be just to wait and see if one comes to me, though it may lead to same result----nothing. One problem is I don’t know what the ‘prior’ is—any more than did the people from europe who explored the USA knew what they would find. They could try to get information from the indigneous people, but that takes time and effort,, and they didn’t know how reliable it would be.)
These are interesting (or amusing, or important) philosophical questions but I am not suren they can be answered. I’ve seen other EA arguments that reducing insect suffering should be the priority because there are many more of them than humans. I think most people sort of go with their gut (and also prioritize global poverty over life in the next 1000 years). But there are other priorities i rank hire than global poverty—there are many important causes and some are linked.
Though I find alot of EA writing to be basically a different dialect (eg ‘Overton window...’) and difficult to read this article seems fairly well written and complete (though often its easy to miss some important issues for complex topics). Theoretical genetics and evolutionary theory are among my pet interests though I am not employed in the field.
But i basically support the precautionary principal so I would not ‘cause prioritize’ genetic enhancement at present any more than I think going to and colonizing Mars or developing a ‘superintelligence’ is a priority. I view these as causes worth thinking about and perhaps working on—and many people are already doing that—but they do not take priority over other causes in my view. If EA is about ‘doing the greatest good’ I would place many of my bets on other causes. (Also given the intricacies of genetics, its very possible alot of research and money can be wasted on things that basically do not turn out to be effective—they just become big money sinks for people with vested interests in their narrow interests.)
In fact i would say learning and studying (or doing research in) theoretical genetics and evolution , and also getting many more people in the population interested in practicing that to be a greater priority. (This may be partly my bias—I’m not interested in policy work promoting this cause (i don’t like most policy work, unless its more like doing reseach) and I don’t want to work in genetic or other labs.)
I similarily don’t see promoting new advanced weapons developement in Federal agencies as a priority because many of the people who would decide how to use them i don’t have confidence in—their judgement or competency.
Despite my views, I know alot of people will prioritize this cause and already do, and crowd out resourcces for what i think are more cost effective projects.
(The link to the paper blog on how more intelligent people tend to be more tolerant/less discriminitary is interestng though i think issue is also very complex—and I might dispute it because ‘underspecified’ (there are lots of forms of discriminatory attitudes ). However the author of that blog does have another one on another cause ‘Universal Basic income’ --his paper is very interesting , and UBI as a cause I think may rank above genetic enhancement—but is an equally complex issue (i.e. just handing out money could be as disastrous as giving geneticists huge budgets to design the future).
I have heard some people wanted to have a ‘high impact career’ but instead they became a ‘stay at home mom or dad’. They had to raise 1 or more children—who then went on to become noble prize winners. That to me is an ‘interaction effect’.
Very good comment. I am in favor of some of universal or conditional basic income, because the issue of ‘relative deprivation’ is very real.
the most extreme example is someone who gets rich by winning a lottery (in my area alot of people play the lottery, because they want to get rich quick and also tend to have low paying and unpleasant jobs—they spend alot of their low incomes on the lottery—which spposedly is used by the govt to pay for public education).
If someone wins the lottery, supposedly everyone is better off, because the winners will buy more stuff in the area (multiplier effect) and so on—and will be much happier themselves because don’t have to worry about money. They can even quit an unpleasant job and pay for their kids’ private school or college tuition. .
But then everyone they know will show up and ask for some money , and they are quickly miserable, and sometimes go broke—some spend most of their money on luxuries which they think will make them happier.
Also often the ‘multiplier effect’ doesn’t really benefit or help much the people who also get money indirectly from the lottery. They just get a bit more than their own neighbors , who proceed to ask them for money. Cash transfers have to take into account the whole community.
I just skimmed this but it raises important issues (which of course have been discussed many times—often economic and philosophy papers).
(I partly skimmed it because i skimmed your ‘preprint’ paper linked to in another thread. I basically didn’t figure out what it said, except I noted it cited Robert May’s ‘complexity and stability’ book which is a classic, so I figured it said something—just not in my dialect.)
What really caught my attention (besides the author’s name) was mention of ‘vacation travel’ as non-altruistic, but part of personal responsibility. The same issue applies less obviously to ‘taking care of your kids’. In biology, having kids can be seen as either ‘selfish’ or ‘altruistic’—perhaps some child grows up to a great altruist. Aldo taking a vacation may be indirectly altruistic. If you don’t get some ‘personal time’, its possible you will not be able to take care of personal and family responsibilities, nor even be ‘altruistic’ (ie donate to various charities). You may help some others more if you take care of yourself enough to also help them.
The question is ‘how much is enough’?
I personally donate the little I do to local and small groups dealing with environmental and poverty issues, as well at times to individuals (who can’t make their bills—in a way this is taking care of myself—it keeps me on ok terms with people in my area, some of whom otherwise can get desperate and turn to criminal behavior.
In a sense i am paying a ‘tax’ for personal safety; which is why I support a some forms of ‘social safety or welfare nets’, and Universal or Conditional Basic Income . Also to an extent i am being ‘altruistic’ to people who are irresponsible—my donations ‘keep the peace’ around here, and while they provide some safety for me, they also provide safety for people who spend all their money on themselves (probably because they feel its a personal responsibility-and even altruistic in their own way. If they have some very expensive car , clothes, and house, their neighbors often like them—makes the nieghborhood aesthetic and a joy to live in. They would have less joy if they spent less on those, and relieved the ‘suffering’ among people who live a few blocks away who can’t afford heat, water, food or electricity by giving it to them. Often they also do not support government services such as ‘welfare’ or ‘rent subsidies’, except perhaps police protection --because that means they have to pay more taxes.
Also many go to church, so if they do give to charity, its their church. A few churches do ‘help the needy’ using donations, though often the help they give is a small fraction of the donations they get—which often goes for good salaries spent on nice clothes and cars and so on for the church staff. Of course the people who make those cars and clothes benefit as well—provides them a job, especially if they like the job. If its not a ‘3rd world sweatshop’ maybe they feel relativiely happy. Ii
It may not be especially useful if you want to get a job or even a math degree The applications of that field are few and far between , only other way you can get a job in that is if you have a degree at PhD level. Or if you can write software you can be slightly involved in that field.
Many if not most or all modern fields of science use some variant of that formalism.
I’m biased towards some versions of graph / network theory , dynamical systems and multiobjective optimization theory. Since you are into neural nets and multivariable calculus it sounds like you are already doing a version of these. (I was in an interdisplinary field and took a fair amount of applied math and physics, many of the details of which i never used or really remember—i can look them up—my applied interests were in between very technical and ‘fermi’ (back of the envelope) problems and i usually tried to phrase them both ways—one solvable. and the other intractable.
I never had a class in statistics but i studied it a bit on my own (partly because one area i did use a bit was statistical physics, though alot of that does not like what you see in a statistics text thoughn they overlap, and also newer texts sometimes sort of have both fields—neural nets to an extent can be viewed as analogous or closely related to statistical physics (sometimes almost the same formalism). .
since i was into applications (and usually not the ones i was assigned to do which were more in biochemsitry and biotech—fields that don’t really interest me even though formally they can be phrased in analogy to ones i was interested in, i never could really get into the research (felt they were not problems of high priority to solve, or at least were ‘aesthetically’ inintersting—just alot of tecnique. its like music—i’m more into forms of modern pop/underground ‘Fermi’ music, rather than (tecnical) classical, thogh they can overlap. ).