We truly do live in interesting times
But the answers to a survey like that wouldn’t be easy interpret. We should give the same message under organization names to group A and group B and see which group is then more likely to endorse the EA movement or commit to taking a concrete altruistic action.
No I agree on 2! I’m just saying even from a longtermist perspective, it may not be as important and tractable as improving institutions in orthogonal ways.
I think it’s really not clear that reforming institutions to be more longtermist has an outsized long run impact compared to many other axes of institutional reform.
We know what constitutes good outcomes in the short run, so if we can design institutions to produce better short run outcomes, that will be beneficial in the long run insofar as those institutions endure into the long run. Institutional changes are inherently long-run.
I saw OSINT results frequently during the Second Karabkh War (October 2020). The OSINT evidence of war crimes from that conflict has been adequately recognized and you can find info on that elsewhere. Beyond that, it seems to me that certain things would have gone better if certain locals had been more aware of what OSINT was revealing about the military status of the conflict, as a substitute for government claims and as a supplement to local RUMINT (rumor intelligence). False or uncertain perceptions about the state of a war can be deadly. But there is a language barrier and an online/offline barrier so it is hard to get that intelligence seen and believed by the people who need it.
Beyond that, OSINT might be used to actually influence the military course of conflicts if you can make a serious judgment call of which side deserves help, although this partisan effort wouldn’t really fit the spirit of “civilian” OSINT. Presumably the US and Russia already know the location of each other’s missile silos, but if you look for stuff that is less important or something which is part of a conflict between minor groups who lack good intelligence services, then you might produce useful intelligence. For a paramount example of dual use risks, during this war, someone geolocated Armenia’s Iskander missile base and shared it on Twitter, and it seems unlikely to me that anyone in Azerbaijan had found it already. I certainly don’t think it was responsible of him, and Azerbaijan did not strike the base anyway, but it suggests that there is a real potential to influence conflicts. You also might feed that intelligence to the preferred party secretly rather than openly, though that definitely violates the spirit of civilian OSINT. Regardless, OSINT may indeed shine when it is rushed in the context of an active military conflict where time is of the essence, errors notwithstanding. Everyone likes to makes fun of Reddit for the Boston Bomber incident but to me it seems like the exception that tests the rule. While there were a few OSINT conclusions during the war which struck me as dubious, never did I see evidence that someone’s geolocation later turned out to be wrong.
Also, I don’t know if structure and (formal) training are important. Again, you can pick on those Redditors, but lots of other independent open source geeks have been producing reliable results. Imposing a structure takes away some of the advantages of OSINT. That’s not to say that groups like Bellingcat don’t also do good work, of course.
To me, OSINT seems like a crowded field due to the number of people who do it as a hobby. So I doubt that the marginal person makes much difference. But since I haven’t seriously tried to do it, I’m not sure.
There is a lot of guesswork involved here. How much would it cost for someone, like the CEA, to run a survey to find out how popular perception differs depending on these kinds of names? It would be useful to many of us who are considering branding for EA projects.
Updates to this:
Nordhaus paper argues that we don’t appear to be approaching a singularity. Haven’t read it. Would like to see someone find the crux of the differences with Roodman.
Blog ‘Outside View’ with some counterarguments to my view:
Thus, the challenge of building long term historical GDP data means we should be quite skeptical about turning around and using that data to predict future growth trends. All we’re really doing is extrapolating the backwards estimates of some economists forwards. The error bars will be very large.
Well, Roodman tests for this in his paper, see 5.2, and finds that systematic moderate overestimation or underestimation only changes the expected explosion date by +/- 4 years.
I guess things could change more if the older values are systematically misestimated differently from more recent values? If very old estimates are all underestimates but recent estimates are not, then that could delay the projection further. Also, maybe he should test for more extreme magnitudes of misestimation. But based on the minor extent to which his other tests changed the results, I doubt this one would make much difference either.
But if it’s possible, or even intuitive, that specific institutions fundamentally changed how economic growth occurred in the past, then it may be a mistake to model global productivity as a continuous system dating back thousands of years. In fact, if you took a look at population growth, a data set that is also long-lived and grows at a high rate, the growth rate fundamentally changed over time. Given the magnitude of systemic economic changes of the past few centuries, modeling the global economy as continuous from 10,000 BCE to now may not give us good predictions. The outside view becomes less useful at this distance.
Fair, but at the same time, this undercuts the argument that we should prioritize economic growth as something that will yield social dividends indefinitely into the future. If our society has fundamentally transformed so that marginal economic growth in 1000 BC makes little difference to our lives, then it seems likely that marginal economic growth today will make little difference to our descendants in 2500 AD.
It’s possible that we’ve undergone discontinuous shifts in the past but will not in the future. Just seems unlikely.
I’m skeptical of this framework because in reality part 2 seems optional—we don’t need to reshape the political system to be more longtermist in order to make progress. For instance, those Open Phil recommendations like land use reform can be promoted thru conventional forms of lobbying and coalition building.
In fact, a vibrant and policy-engaged EA community that focuses on understandable short and medium term problems can itself become a fairly effective long-run institution, thus reducing the needs in part 1.
Additionally, while substantively defining a good society for the future may be difficult, we also have the option of defining it procedurally. The simplest example is that we can promote things like democracy or other mechanisms which tend to produce good outcomes. Or we can increase levels of compassion and rationality so that the architects of future societies will act better. This is sort of what you describe in part 2, but I’d emphasize that we can make political institutions which are generically better rather than specifically making them more longtermist.
This is not to say that anything in this post is a bad idea, just that there are more options for meeting longtermist goals.
This may help address your question about South Africa Lecture 12: Business and Democratic Reform: A Case Study of South Africa—YouTube
Old discussion about this: Selecting investments based on covariance with the value of charities—EA Forum (effectivealtruism.org)
These lectures on historical analysis of the New Testament are neat and might be of interest to you. They give good context for understanding the contemporaneous interpretation of scripture.
The issue with these interventions suggested for preventing collapse is that they generally have much more pressing impacts besides this. For instance, of course approval voting is great, but its impacts on other political issues (both ordinary political problems, and other tail scenarios like dictatorship) are much more significant. More generally, stuff that makes America politically healthier reduces the probability that it will collapse, and the converse is almost always true. So not only is the collapse possibility relatively unimportant, it’s mostly unnecessary baggage to carry in your cognitive model.
As for movement infrastructure, a similar logic probably applies as EA organizations have many other priorities with these things.
There are more problems with The Sunrise Movement (TSM) which don’t seem to have been raised yet in this discussion.
I think they have an underappreciated propensity to actively oppose progress in environmental policy. Others have brought up their opposition to a carbon tax in Washington, as well as their hostility to nuclear power, but here one Sunrise local group is opposing cap-and-trade in Oregon, and here Sunrise is opposing carbon capture on fossil fuel emissions. Also, the same environmentalist-NIMBY problem we have seen with nuclear power is likely to repeat with geothermal energy: certain kinds of geothermal power are a bit controversial because they use technology which is similar to fracking, and as geothermal technology and industry mature this will likely become a bigger battleground where Sunrise may work for the wrong side. I also have reservations about how Sunrise-type activists react to natural gas and waste-to-energy technologies, two things which are legitimately controversial but still might be net positive. I can’t find a source for whether Sunrise has actually opposed waste-to-energy but it seems probable (others like them have). They also gave Biden an F for his climate plan; personally, I thought Biden deserved 2.2 points on air pollution on a −3 to +3 scale. Giving an F to someone with a pretty good environmental plan is a big red flag.
Second, TSM is not very focused on climate change; they perform activism and lobbying for a wider range of political issues. Insofar as TSM spends time and energy on other stuff besides climate change, this probably reduces their effectiveness on climate issues relative to more focused groups. Some of those specific political activities are discussed below.
Third, TSM’s non-climate-change impacts are plausibly harmful.
Housing policy—TSM has engaged in NIMBY opposition to upzoning, and here is Sunrise Honolulu commenting that all housing investment should be banned. I’ve heard that they have a bigger pattern of this. Such behavior is certainly bad for both economic and environmental reasons; see my writeup on residential zoning. At the same time they have promoted new housing in other contexts, it’s not clear if the good outweighs the bad.
Police reform—TSM has promoted Defund the Police. As I describe here, defunding police departments is a bad policy idea, in fact hiring more police officers is probably a good idea. That said, Sunrise has also promoted Black Lives Matter and perhaps some more reasonable forms of police reform, and this is more likely to be a good thing.
Deliberate electoral politics—TSM has endorsed political campaigns with farther-reaching impacts beyond climate policy, generally because they are a progressive left-wing group who wants to achieve a variety of progressive left-wing political goals. Some notable ones which stick out to me are:
They supported an unsuccessful primary campaign against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, which was probably good because Feinstein is a pretty bad senator, tho defeating her probably would have achieved nothing good for climate policy. In fact, Feinstein has sponsored a carbon tax bill.
They supported a successful primary campaign against Rep. Eliot Engel, who had been a strong congressional proponent of effective foreign aid programs including PEPFAR. Removing Engel has no discernible impact on the climate. He has since been replaced in his position as the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee with Rep. Gregory Meeks who has no such record on foreign aid, altho hopefully he will become more active with his new position.
They supported Sen. Ed Markey against a primary challenge. Again this had no discernible impact on the climate, nor on most other policy issues frankly. I am happy that Markey won, but it is not a big deal.
They supported Bernie Sanders in his 2020 presidential primary campaign. On the merits, Sanders was pretty comparable to other Democratic candidates including Biden. But in terms of electability, he was inferior (see this essay where I use his campaign as a case study of electability). So this was a bad decision.
Inadvertent electoral politics—as other commentators have touched upon, some of Sunrise’s advocacy can inadvertently harm the Democratic Party. This is especially a consequence of calls to defund the police. As I argue here, the Democratic Party is generally superior to the Republican Party, so preventing the Democratic Party from winning elections constitutes harm.
Deprioritization of other issues—if TSM’s mechanism of change is to make Democratic politicians expend more political capital on climate change, that implies that the politicians will expend less political capital on other issues. It’s one thing to say that we need more action on climate change, but quite another to say that Democratic politicians should focus on climate policy before or instead of other things like healthcare, immigration and tax policy. I do lean towards saying that air pollution should indeed get more priority on the margin, but the downside for other issues still chips away at the expected value. Additionally, insofar as TSM pressures Democratic politicians to place more priority on other issues like criminal justice and public housing, that similarly detracts from alternative priorities, and here I’d be still less optimistic about the impact.
Certainly there is a difference between everything that TSM does, and the marginal impact of GG’s recommendation for their education fund. And certainly it is possible that the good parts of TSM’s environmental activism outweigh these downsides. And you might disagree with me on some of these political issues. But we must see strong arguments along these lines before prioritizing TSM for donations. And while I haven’t taken a close or systematic look at TSM’s activities, given all the red flags I tentatively expect that the Sunrise Movement does more harm than good.
Other commenters here have framed this stuff as a tension between the left and conservatives/moderates, but there are plenty of Democrats who criticize TSM too. Here’s Matt Yglesias saying “The problem with funding Sunrise is not that there is an objective scarcity of funds and other people need the money more, it’s that Sunrise is bad and should get $0.” And such views about TSM are pretty common at least on left-leaning Twitter. Recommending TSM without having awareness and counterarguments to these criticisms does not imply a need to listen more to conservatives or moderates (tho I don’t necessarily oppose the idea of listening more to conservatives or moderates), it suggests a more general need to keep closer tabs on the current political discourse. The synthesis of “EA should generally strive to be apolitical” and “some good causes are inherently political” should not be for us to naively support interventions because of the way that they attack one political problem while we ignore the risky impacts of those interventions on other parts of the political system.
Finally, I am less confident about this point, but I suspect that GG is being too credulous about TSM achieving change. Just because they demand that Democratic politicians do something, and the Democratic politicians do that something, with TSM claiming that they were responsible for making the Democratic politicians do that something, doesn’t mean TSM actually was responsible for making the politicians change. If a Democratic politician does major climate stuff in office after being criticized by TSM during their election campaign for something symbolic like not bringing up the Green New Deal, that’s only very weak evidence that TSM actually changed the politician’s behavior; it is better evidence for the claim that Democratic politicians are generally both serious on climate policy and savvy at election messaging and TSM was just making unfounded criticisms all along.
Here it is worth distinguishing two theories of how the Democratic Party works. Some people (like TSM and others on the progressive left) think the elites of the Democratic Party are centrist corporatists who don’t really want to implement leftist policies but will do it if their base pressures them hard enough. Other people think that Democratic Party elites are actually very ideologically liberal and would intrinsically like to implement ambitious reforms on the environment and other issues, but are stymied by right-wing and centrist political forces. AFAICT the second theory is much more accurate, and David Shor (the leftist data whiz) seems to agree.
I hope this does not come across too negative, since I am glad Giving Green exists and I just think this recommendation is a mistake.
I agree with you. You may appreciate my articles:https://eapolitics.org/handbook.html
the environmental success of democracies relative to autocracies.
I want to read this but the link doesn’t work
If it is to gather resources en route, it must accelerate those resources to its own speed. Or alternatively, it must slow down to a halt, pick up resources and then continue. This requires a huge expenditure of energy, which will slow down the probe.
Bussard ramjets might be viable. But I’m skeptical that it could be faster than the propulsion ideas in the Sandberg/Armstrong paper. Anyway you seem to be talking about spacecraft that will consuming planets, not Bussard ramjets.
Going from 0.99c to 0.999c requires an extraordinary amount of additional energy for very little increase in distance over time. At that point, the sideways deviations required to reach waypoints (like if you want to swing to nearby stars instead of staying in a straight line) would be more important. It would be faster to go 0.99c in a straight line than 0.999c through a series of waypoints.
If we are talking about going from 0.1c to 0.2c then it makes more sense.
I think this argument implicitly assumes a moral objectivist point of view.
I’d say that most people in history have been a lot closer to the hinge of history when you recognize that the HoH depends on someone’s values.
If you were a hunter-gatherer living in 20,000 BC then you cared about raising your family and building your weir and you lived at the hinge of history for that.
If you were a philosopher living in 400 BC then you cared about the intellectual progress of the Western world and you lived at the hinge of history for that.
If you were a theologian living in 1550 then you cared about the struggle of Catholic and Protestant doctrines and you lived at the hinge of history for that.
If you’re an Effective Altruist living in 2020 then you care about global welfare and existential risk, and you live at the hinge of history for that.
If you’re a gay space luxury communist living in 2100 then you care about seizing the moons of production to have their raw materials redistributed to masses, and you live at the hinge of history for that.
This isn’t a necessary relationship. We may say that some of these historical hinges actually were really important in our minds, and maybe a future hinge will be more important. But generally speaking, the rise and fall of motivations and ideologies is correlated with the sociopolitical opportunity for them to matter. So most people throughout history have lived in hingy times.
Thanks for the comments. Let me clarify about the terminology. What I mean is that there are two kinds of “pulling the rope harder”. As I argue here:
The appropriate mindset for political engagement is described in the book Politics Is for Power, which is summarized in this podcast. We need to move past political hobbyism and make real change. Don’t spend so much time reading and sharing things online, following the news and fomenting outrage as a pastime. Prioritize the acquisition of power over clever dunking and purity politics. See yourself as an insider and an agent of change, not an outsider. Instead of simply blaming other people and systems for problems, think first about your own ability to make productive changes in your local environment. Get to know people and build effective political organizations. Implement a long-term political vision.A key aspect of this is that we cannot be fixated on culture wars. Complaining about the media or SJWs or video game streamers may be emotionally gratifying in the short run but it does nothing to fix the problems with our political system (and it usually doesn’t fix the problems with media and SJWs and video game streamers either). It can also drain your time and emotional energy, and it can stir up needless friction with people who agree with you on political policy but disagree on subtle cultural issues. Instead, focus on political power.
The appropriate mindset for political engagement is described in the book Politics Is for Power, which is summarized in this podcast. We need to move past political hobbyism and make real change. Don’t spend so much time reading and sharing things online, following the news and fomenting outrage as a pastime. Prioritize the acquisition of power over clever dunking and purity politics. See yourself as an insider and an agent of change, not an outsider. Instead of simply blaming other people and systems for problems, think first about your own ability to make productive changes in your local environment. Get to know people and build effective political organizations. Implement a long-term political vision.
A key aspect of this is that we cannot be fixated on culture wars. Complaining about the media or SJWs or video game streamers may be emotionally gratifying in the short run but it does nothing to fix the problems with our political system (and it usually doesn’t fix the problems with media and SJWs and video game streamers either). It can also drain your time and emotional energy, and it can stir up needless friction with people who agree with you on political policy but disagree on subtle cultural issues. Instead, focus on political power.
To illustrate the point, the person who came up with the idea of ‘pulling the rope sideways’, Robin Hanson, does indeed refrain from commenting on election choices and most areas of significant public policy, but has nonetheless been quite willing to state opinions on culture war topics like political correctness in academia, sexual inequality, race reparations, and so on.
I think that most people who hear ‘culture wars’ think of the purity politics and dunking and controversies, but not stuff like voting or showing up to neighborhood zoning meetings.
So even if you keep the same categorization, just change the terminology so it doesn’t conflate those who are focused on serious (albeit controversial) questions of policy and power with those who are culture warring.
You could add this post of mine to space colonization: An Informal Review of Space Exploration—EA Forum (effectivealtruism.org).
I think the ‘existential risks’ category is too broad and some of the things included are dubious. Recommender systems as existential risk? Autonomous weapons? Ideological engineering?
Finally, I think the categorization of political issues should be heavily reworked, for various reasons. This kind of categorization is much more interpretable and sensible:
Helping the Democratic Party (USA)
Statehood for Puerto Rico
Foreign policy and international relations
Great power competition
Nuclear arms control
I wouldn’t use the term ‘culture war’ here, it means something different than ‘electoral politics’.
I don’t think the pernicious mitigation obstruction argument is sound. It would be equally plausible for just about any other method of addressing air pollution. For instance, if we develop better solar power, that will reduce the incentive for countries and other actors to work harder at implementing wind power, carbon capture, carbon taxes, tree planting, and geoengineering. All climate solutions substitute for each other to the extent that they are perceived as effective. But we can’t reject all climate solutions for fear that they will discourage other climate solutions, that would be absurd. Clearly, this mitigation obstruction effect is generally smaller than the benefits of actually reducing emissions.
The pernicious mitigation obstruction argument could make more sense if countries only care about certain consequences of pollution. Specifically, if countries care about protecting the climate but don’t care about protecting public health and crops from air pollution, then geoengineering would give them an option to mitigate one problem while comfortably doing nothing to stop the other, whereas if they have to properly decarbonize then they would end up fixing both problems. However, if anything the reverse is true. To the extent that the politics of climate change mitigation are hampered by the global coordination problem (which is dubious), and to the extent that the direct harms of air pollution are concentrated locally, countries will worry too little about the climate impacts while being more rational about direct pollution impacts. So geoengineering would mitigate the politically difficult problem (climate change) while still leaving countries with full incentives to fix the politically easy problem (direct harms of pollution), making it less of a mitigation obstruction risk than something like wind turbines.
Additionally, given the contentious side effects of geoengineering, the prospect of some actors doing it if climate change gets much worse may actually encourage other actors to do more to mitigate climate change using conventional methods. It’s still the case that researching or deploying geoengineering would reduce the amount of other types of mitigation, but it would do so to a lesser degree than that caused by comparable amounts of traditional mitigation.
Another note: I think if we had a better understanding of the consequences of solar geoengineering, then the security consequences of unilateral deployment would be mitigated. Disputes become less likely when both sides can agree on the relevant facts.