Towards measuring poverty costs of covid from economic disruption: https://blogs.worldbank.org/developmenttalk/lives-or-livelihoods-global-estimates-mortality-and-poverty-costs-covid-19
Thank you for the work put into this.
I can imagine a world in which the idea of a peace summit that doesn’t involve leaders taking mdma together is seen as an ‘are you even trying’ type thing.
Great points. I feel like there’s a rule of thumb somewhere in here like ‘marginal dollars tend to be low information dollars’ that feels helpful.
This portion of the PBS documentary A Century of Revolution covers the cultural revolution:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJyoX_vrlns (Around the 1 hour mark)
Recommended. One interesting bit for me is that I think foreign dictators often appear clownish because the translations don’t capture what they were speaking to, either literally in terms of them being a good speech writer, or contextually in terms of not really being familiar with the cultural context that animates a particular popular political reaction. I think this applies even if you speak nominally the same language as the dictator but don’t share their culture.
Appreciate the care taken, especially in the atomistic section. One thing is that it seems to assume that best we can do with such a research agenda is analyze correlates, where what we really want is a causal model.
I really enjoyed this. A related thing is about a possible reason why more debate doesn’t happen. I think when rationalist style thinkers debate, especially in public, it feels a bit high stakes. There is pressure to demonstrate good epistemic standards, even though no one can define a good basis set for that. This goes doubly so for anyone who feels like they have a respectable position or are well regarded. There is a lot of downside risk to them engaging in debate and little upside. I think the thing that breaks this is actually pretty simple and is helped out by the ‘sorry’ command concept. If it’s a free move socially to choose whether or not to debate (which avoids the thing where a person mostly wants to debate only if they’re in the mood and about the thing they are interested in but don’t want to defend a position against arbitrary objections that they may have answered lots of times before etc.) and also a free move to say ‘actually, some of my beliefs in this area are cached sorries, so I reserve the right to not have perfect epistemics here already, and we also recognize that even if we refute specific parts of the argument, we might disagree on whether it is a smoking gun, so I can go away and think about it and I don’t have to publicly update on it’ then it derisks engaging in a friendly, yet still adversarial form debate.
If we believe that people doing a lot of this play fighting will on average increase the volume and quality of EA output both through direct discovery of more bugs in arguments and in providing more training opportunity, then maybe it should be a named thing like Crocker’s rules? Like people can say ‘I’m open to debating X, but I declare Kid Gloves’ or something. (What might be a good name for this?)
This is a great research question IMO
> Costs of being vegan are in fact trivial, despite all the complaining that meat-eaters do about it. For almost everyone there is a net health benefit and the food is probably more enjoyable than the amount of enjoyment one would have derived from sticking with one’s non-vegan diet, or at the very least certainly not less so. No expenditure of will-power is required once one is accustomed to the new diet. It is simply a matter of changing one’s mind-set.
Appreciate some of the points, but this part seems totally disconnected from what people report along several dimensions.
Potential EA career: go in to defense R&D specifically for ‘stabilizing’ weapons tech i.e. doing research on things that would favor defense over offense. In 3d space, this is very hard.
This is only half formed but I want to say something about a slightly different frame for evaluation, what might be termed ‘reward architecture calibration.’ I think that while a mapping from this frame to various preference and utility formulations is possible, I like it more than those frames because it suggests concrete areas to start looking. The basic idea is that in principle it seems likely that it will be possible to draw a clear distinction between reward architectures that are well suited to the actual sensory input they receive and reward architectures that aren’t (by dint of being in an artificial environment). In a predictive coding sense, a reward architecture that is sending constant error signals that an organism can do nothing about is poorly calibrated, since it is directing the organism’s attention to the wrong things. Similarly there may be other markers that could be spotted in how a nervous system is sending signals e.g. lots of error collisions vs few, in the sense of two competing error signals pulling behavior in different directions. I’d be excited about a medium depth dive into the existing literature on distress in rats and what sorts of experiments we’d ideally want done to resolve confusions.
Literally today I was idly speculating that it would be nice to see more things that were reminiscent of the longer letters academics in a particular field would write to each other in the days of such. More willingness to explore at length. Lo and behold this very post appears. Thanks!
WRT content, you mention it in passing, but yeah this seems related to tendency towards optimization of causal reality (inductive) or social reality (anti-inductive).
Panpsychism still seems like a flavor of eliminativism to me. What do we gain by saying an electron is conscious too? Novel predictions?
Seems like you’re trying to get at what I’ve seen referred to as ‘multifinal means’ at one point. Keyword might help find related stuff.
This is sort of tangential, but related to the idea of making the distinction between inputs and outputs in running certain decision processes. I now view both consequentialism and deontological theories to be examples of what I’ve been calling perverse monisms. A perverse monism is when there is a strong desire to collapse all the complexity in a domain into a single term. This is usually achieved via aether variables, we rearrange the model until the complexity (or uncertainty) has been shoved into a corner either implicitly or explicitly, which makes the rest of the model look very tidy indeed.
With consequentialism we say that one should allow the inputs to vary freely while holding the outputs fixed (our idea of what the outcome should be, or heuristics that evaluate outcomes etc.). We backprop the appropriate inputs from the outputs. Deontology says we can’t control outputs, but we can control inputs, so we should allow outputs to vary freely while holding the inputs to some fixed ideal.
Both of these are a hope that one can avoid the nebulosity of having a full blown confusion matrix about inputs and outputs, and that changing problem to problem. That is to say, I have some control over which outputs to optimize for, and some control over inputs, and false positives and false negatives in my beliefs about both of those. Actual problem solving of any complexity at all both forward chains from known info about inputs, and backchains from previous data about outputs then tries to find places where the two branching chains meet. In the process of investigating this, beliefs about the inputs or outputs may also update.
More generally, I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of thinking of ‘philosophical positions’ as different sorts of error checks that we use on decision processes.
It’s also fun to think about this in terms of the heuristic that How to Measure Anything recommends:
Define parameters explicitly (what outputs do we think we care about, what inputs do we think we control)
Establish value of information (how much will it cost to test various assumptions)
Uncertainty analysis (narrowing confidence bounds)
Sensitivity analysis (how much does final proxy vary as a function of changes in inputs)
it’s a non linear heuristic, so the info gathered in any one step can cause you to go back and adjust one of the others, which involves that sort of bouncing back and forth between forward chaining and back chaining.
So a conceptual slice might be that not only do generals fight the last war, but the ontology of your institutions reflect the necessities of the last war.
It has been noted that when status hierarchies diversify, creating more niches, that people are happier than when status hierarchies collapse to a single or a small number of very legible dimensions. This suggests that it would be possible to increase net happiness by studying the conditions by which these situations arise and tilting the playing field. E.g. are social media sites only having a negative impact on mental health because they compress the metrics by which success is measured?
Related: surely someone somewhere is doing critical path analysis of vaccine development. It certainly wouldn’t be the case that in the middle of a crisis people just keep on doing what they’ve always done. Even if it isn’t anyone’s job to figure out what the actual non parallelizable causal steps are in producing a tested vaccine and trimming the fat, someone would still take it on right?
Training children that it is a good idea to keep psychopaths as pets as long as they are cute probably results in them voting actors into positions of authority later in life.
Exploit selection effects on prediction records to influence policy.
During a crisis, people tend to implement the preferred policies of whoever seems to be accurately predicting each phase of the problem. When a crisis looms on the horizon, EAs coordinate to all make different predictions thus maximizing the chance that one of them will appear prescient and thus obtain outsize influence.
“Type errors in the middle of arguments explain many philosophical gotchas: 10 examples”
“CNS imaging: a review and research agenda” (high decision relevance for moral uncertainty about suffering in humans and non humans)
“Matching problems: a literature review”
“Entropy for intentional content: a formal model” (AI related)
“Graph traversal using negative and positive information, proof of divergent outcomes” (neuroscience relevant potentially)
“One weird trick that made my note taking 10x more useful”
A lot of people are willing to try new things right now. Rapid prototyping of online EA meetups could lead to better ability to do remote collaboration permanently. This helps cut against a key constraint in matching problems, co-location.