Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 26 February 2017 09:35:43PM 0 points [-]

How effective do you think investment would have been at the margin there was at the end of October 2016? I'm surprised to see only about ~$1K of advertising put into it, for example, but maybe there were steep returns by that point?

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 26 February 2017 08:13:00PM *  0 points [-]

Namely, making no claims but only distinctions

Or taxonomies. Hence: The Taxoplasma of Ra.

(Sorry, I should post this in DEAM, not here. I don’t even understand this Ra thing.)

But I really like this concept!

Comment author: Sean_o_h 26 February 2017 04:33:19PM 2 points [-]

There will be a technical AI safety-relevant postdoc position opening up with this CFI spke shortly, looking at trust/transparency/interpretability in AI systems.

Comment author: Michael_S 26 February 2017 03:20:06PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for the write up. I think you make a compelling case that this is more effective than canvassing, which can be over 1000 dollars for votes at the margin in a competitive election like 2016. I do think there are a few ways your estimate may be an overestimate though.

Of those who claimed they would follow through with vote trading, some may not have. You mention that there wouldn't have been much value to defecting. However, much of the value of a vote for individual comes from tribal loyalties rather than affecting the outcome. That's why turnout is higher in safe presidential states in a presidential election than midterm elections, even when the midterm election is competitive. Some individuals may still have defected because of this.

Secondly, many of the 3rd party folks who made the trade could have voted for Clinton anyway. People who sign up for these sites are necessarily strategic thinkers. If they wanted more total votes for Stein/Johnson, but recognized that a vote for Clinton was more important in a swing state, they might have signed up for the site to gain the Stein/Johnson voter, but planned to vote for Clinton even if they didn't get a match. Additionally, even if they were acting in good faith when they signed up, they may have changed their mind as the election approached. 3rd parties are historically over estimated in polling compared to the election results, and 2016 was no exception: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton_vs_johnson_vs_stein-5952.html.

I don't think these problems are enough to reduce the value by an order of magnitude, but it is worth keeping in mind.

Additionally, while vote trading may be high EV now, I am skeptical that it is easy to scale. It's even more difficult to apply outside of presidential elections, so, unlike other potential political interventions, it will mostly be confined to every 4 years in one race. Furthermore, the individuals who signed up now may be lower cost to acquire than additional potential third party traders. They are likely substantially more strategic than the full population of 3rd party voters; in many years, the full population isn't that large to begin with. The cost per additional vote may be larger than your current estimates.

Nevertheless, I agree that right now it's probably more valuable than traditional canvassing and I'm glad people are putting resources into it.

Comment author: Sindy_Li 26 February 2017 01:21:03PM 0 points [-]

Wave is really good! (I use it) Another thing one can do is to work for some mobile money company in a developing country to design products that benefit the poor (e.g. saving, credit, that I mention in the other post), like the American guys I met in Myanmar's Wave Money (but they are still early stage and has many challenges before having an impact). (Not suggesting you should do it though -- involves moving to a developing country etc., and could be much less likely to succeed due to regulations etc.). BTW this is the mobile credit scoring company I had in mind: http://tala.co/.

Comment author: Sindy_Li 26 February 2017 01:11:22PM 0 points [-]

I just got back from Myanmar and I talked with some people running Wave Money (one of the mobile money companies in Myanmar, and the only licensed one so far; not related to the Wave that Jeff mentioned which sends money to Africa).

  • Getting people to adopt could be a big challenge, depending on the country. In Kenya, the anecdotal story of why mobile money took off so quickly is 1) the need to send remittances, 2) preexisting methods for this being not very good for various reasons (insecurity is one); some also argue that Safaricom's unusually high market share in the country played a role in speeding up adoption through bundling of services + network effects (telecommunication markets in other countries seem more fragmented). Mobile money has not taken off in some countries, e.g. Nigeria (this article argues it's due to regulation https://iea.org.uk/blog/why-mobile-money-transformed-kenya-failed-to-take-in-nigeria). In Myanmar it remains an open question: the traditional hundi system for remittances works well for most purposes (being cheap, reliable, and not too slow), which may hinder adoption of mobile money.

  • Other potential functions of mobile money: other than through remittances (which is what Suri's paper is estimating), it can also help poor populations by

  • Saving: providing a safe place to save. This may be important as many poor people seem "savings constrained" (e.g. see https://www.econ.uzh.ch/dam/jcr:5f6e818a-ad07-466a-8962-fdc77bb1dfc2/casaburi_macchiavello_dairy_20160731.pdf, http://www.simonrquinn.com/research/TwoSidesOfTheSameRupee.pdf) and bank are either scarce or expensive in many rural places -- although it might be hard to convince people to adopt mobile money just for saving purposes.

  • Credit: e.g. the Mpesa-based mobile loan Mshwari. There are some startups (including one in Kenya, whose name I forgot) that creates credit scores for people based on their mobile money transaction history, mobile phone records etc. (Mshwari does a version of this but doesn't seem very sophisticated; the startups probably use more "big data") which may help the poor access credit in a way that's much cheaper and sustainable than the traditional microfinance model. (In Myanmar I know one startup trying to do this and giving out small amounts of loan for shorter periods, basically competing with money lenders in slums -- seems hard but could be really good if they succeed; they are quite early stage now.)

  • Sending government benefits, e.g. India is considering introducing universal basic income, and already have biometric identification for most citizens, but one of the remaining barriers is the scarcity of bank branches in rural places. If each village has a mobile money agent things would be much easier (and this has implications not only for poverty reduction but maybe also curbing corruption and improving local governance etc.).

Comment author: Raemon 26 February 2017 06:14:27AM 0 points [-]

Heh, correct. Will update soon when I have a non phone to do it.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 26 February 2017 04:44:58AM 2 points [-]

Thank you for writing this up. I haven't spent cycles thinking this through, but my first glance says that this hits a lot of obvious avenues, which seems good.

I think I had a disjoint model of most of the things above, but it was all scattered and not consolidated. Putting them together (so that learning more, coordination, donating, gruntwork are all here) was a good way for me to update my own thoughts.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 26 February 2017 04:42:09AM 1 point [-]

I'm sure what their respective funding constraints are.

Should there be a "not" in the middle here, or are you just saying that you have good info on their funding situation?

Comment author: vipulnaik 26 February 2017 02:10:09AM 0 points [-]

Hi Dony,

The submission doesn't qualify as serious, and was past the deadline. So we won't be considering it.

Comment author: RobBensinger 25 February 2017 11:15:11PM 3 points [-]

One of the spokes of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence is at Imperial College London, headed by Murray Shanahan.

Comment author: Raemon 25 February 2017 10:37:20PM 1 point [-]

Thanks, fixed.

Actually, is anyone other than DeepMind in London? (the section I brought this up was on volunteering, which I assume is less relevant for DeepMind than FHI)

Comment author: Paul_Crowley 25 February 2017 09:05:30PM 1 point [-]

Nitpick: "England" here probably wants to be something like "the south-east of England". There's not a lot you could do from Newcastle that you couldn't do from Stockholm; you need to be within travel distance of Oxford, Cambridge, or London.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 25 February 2017 08:15:29PM *  5 points [-]

Thinking about what to call this phenomenon because it seems like an important aspect of discourse. Namely, making no claims but only distinctions, which generates no arguments. This was a distinct flavor to Superintelligence, I think intentionally to create a framework within which to have a dialog absent the usual contentious claims. This was good for that particular use case, but I think that deployed indiscriminately it leads to a kind of big tent approach inimical to real progress.

I think potentially it is the right thing for OpenPhil to currently be doing since they are first trying to figure out how the world actually is with pilot grants and research methodology testing etc. Good to not let it infect your epistemology permanently though. Suggested counter force: internal non-public betting market.

In response to Why I left EA
Comment author: Alexander 25 February 2017 06:44:46PM *  0 points [-]

I felt like this post just said that the person had some idiosyncratic reasons they did not like EA, so they left. Well, great, but I'm not sure how that helps anyone else.

Here's a thought I think is more useful. For a long time I have been talking anonymously about politics online. Lately I think this is pointless because it's too disconnected from anything I can accomplish. The tractability of these issues for me is too low. So to encourage myself to think more efficiently, and to think mainly about issues I can do something about, I'm cutting out all anonymous online talk about big social issues. In general, I'm going to keep anonymous communications to a minimum.

Comment author: BenMillwood  (EA Profile) 25 February 2017 01:46:43PM *  0 points [-]

One thing which makes me more confident that object-level risk[1] is important in for-profit investing, but expect it to be less central in charitable work, is that I'm more confident that for-profit risk is priced correctly, or at least not way out of line with what it should be. It seems more plausible to me that there are low-risk high-return charitable opportunities, because people are generally worse at identifying and saturating those opportunities. (Although per GiveWell's post on Broad market efficiency I now believe this effect is much less striking than I first guessed).

[1] I'm not sure this is a correct application of "object-level", but I mean actual risk that a given investment will succeed or fail, rather than the "meta" risk that we'll fail to analyse its value correctly. I'm not super confident the distinction is meaningful.

Comment author: BenMillwood  (EA Profile) 25 February 2017 01:10:26PM 1 point [-]

That tiny little Alwaleed Philanthropies footnote tacked onto the end sounds like a big deal to me. Not only is it a pretty significant amount itself, it seems like it might also start conversations about evidence-based philanthropy among cultures and communities that EA hasn't traditionally had much of a foothold in.

Comment author: BenMillwood  (EA Profile) 25 February 2017 12:31:02PM *  0 points [-]

It's hard to recommend this over playing the lottery upfront, so that you actually know whether your research will be directly used or not.

If you think it's important that the research is done even if the money is not used, would you recommend just doing the research project even with merely a hypothetical £10k that isn't actually donated at the end?

Comment author: BenMillwood  (EA Profile) 25 February 2017 12:29:30PM 0 points [-]

Another key reason against looking for "lego bricks" that I don't think you addressed is that marginal thinking is much more generalizable. You're publishing all your research work, and if I come along afterwards with £1k or £100k, a conclusion you made based on marginal thinking is much more likely to be useful to me than one tailored to your exact donation size.

My guess is that the value of your research in how it informs and influences others may even exceed the value of the £10k directly: if that's modestly likely to be true, it seems a strong recommendation to avoid "exact fit" opportunities.

I guess strictly speaking this kind of motivation falls out of scope for your project, which aims simply to find the best way to spend the £10k. But it's certainly a reason I'm glad you made this choice :)

Comment author: BenMillwood  (EA Profile) 25 February 2017 12:23:32PM 1 point [-]

As a piece of presentational feedback, I found it a little frustrating to have a title like this one, and yet not have the term "lego brick" specifically and directly explained until something like the third paragraph :)

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