Comment author: Kit 18 February 2018 10:58:29PM 1 point [-]

The point I would most like to emphasise is that it's often unclear what will happen to an asset when cost-effectiveness goes up. If you're confident it'll go up at that time, you buy/overweight it. If you're confident it'll go down at that time, you sell/underweight it. If it could go either way, this approach is weaker. Most discussion I have seen on this topic assumes that the 'evil' asset can be expected to move in the same direction as cost-effectiveness. Finding something with reliable covariance in either direction seems like it might be most of the challenge.

For more detail on that, here are some notes on the most valuable insights and most significant errors of the original Federal Reserve paper.

My guess is that the best suggestions from this post appear in 'Applications outside of investment'. These do not fall prey to the abovementioned issues since the mechanisms are different to the investment case, directly exploiting the extra power one gains from being on the inside of an organisation rather than correlation/covariance.

(I might as well note that this comment represents my views on the matter, and no-one else's, while the main post represents the views of others, and not necessarily mine.)

Comment author: MichaelPlant 18 February 2018 10:31:01PM 0 points [-]

I thought this was super interesting, thanks Hauke. The question that sprang to mind: in what circumstances would it do more good to engage in mission hedging vs trying to maximise expected returns?

Comment author: MikeJohnson 18 February 2018 07:54:36PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for this writeup. I found it thoughtful and compelling.

My understanding is that ME is real, serious, and understudied/underfunded. Perhaps the core reason it's understudied is that it's unclear where to start, physiologically speaking -- there's a lot of ontological uncertainty in terms of what this thing is that sometimes cripples people.

This is sometimes solvable by throwing resources at the problem, and sometimes not.

It might be helpful to survey some other diseases that followed a similar trajectory (mysterious crippling conditions that later resolved into known diseases with known causes and known treatments) and see if there are any general lessons to learn. My expectation here is that often, what makes a mystery disease 'make sense' is a new method that gives a novel/fresh window into physiology. Celiac disease could be an interesting case study: it was hugely mysterious (and hugely underdiagnosed) until (1) we got a decent IgG screen, and (2) we started to understand how gut permeability works.

I'd also suggest that you may be a little too cynical about alternative medicine; there's a huge amount of snake-oil there, but alternative medicine is also highly heterogeneous, exploring a lot of the possibility space. There will be a lot of bs, but there often are some pearls as well. Mainstream medicine is also not particularly known for immediately finding these pearls and synthesizing them back into the medical literature, so I think it's also plausible that a viable way to make progress on this problem is to survey what alt-med thinks it knows about ME, filter the bs out, and see if there's anything left that can help mainstream medicine understand what ME is and what general class of treatments might help.

Comment author: gworley3  (EA Profile) 18 February 2018 06:14:21PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for writing this. I don't think I've seen anyone tell the story quite so well, and I was there for all of it!

Comment author: MikeJohnson 18 February 2018 07:57:18AM 0 points [-]

This is really great info-- I'll probably blog about this on the QRI website at some point. (Thanks!)

Another interesting resource along these lines is Luke M's set of case studies about early field growth: I particularly enjoyed his notes on how bioethicists shaped medicine.

Comment author: Webdog 18 February 2018 12:39:13AM 0 points [-]


This was intended to be a reply to casebash, who was questioning whether ME/CFS was psychological. It was not meant as a comment on the article itself. My apologies for the confusion.

Comment author: JanPaul123 17 February 2018 10:50:11PM 1 point [-]

Yeah, the DALY metric I used in this article takes into account how common it is.

Comment author: ann07cor 17 February 2018 05:23:55PM 0 points [-]

It was a good experience anyway, despite the failure to achieve its stated goals. Thanks for sharing)

Comment author: adamaero  (EA Profile) 17 February 2018 03:26:50AM *  0 points [-]

There seems to be some confusion about scale--from importance--in regard to neglectedness (ITN). One should also consider how pervasive the medical condition is in the world. How common is it? Is it a very rare medical condition? Does it affect a certain cohort? Just something to keep in mind.


PS ~ When describing EA to others, a big question is, "What is 'effective' charity?" A common misunderstanding is mistaking 'effective' charities to be preordained or forced. As any EA knows, evaluation is key. Better understanding will come when using complementary diction, such as "scale" and "solvability" (see at least the first link above).

Comment author: Daniel_Eth 17 February 2018 02:55:32AM -2 points [-]

As long as we're talking about medical research from an EA perspective, I think we should consider funding therapies for reversing aging itself. In terms of scale, aging undoubtedly is by far the largest (100,000 people die from age-related diseases every single day, not to mention the psychological toll that aging causes). Aging is also quite neglected - very few researchers focus on trying to reverse it. Tractability is of course a concern here, but I think this point is a bit nuanced. Achieving a full and total cure for aging would clearly be quite hard. But what about a partial cure? What about a therapy that made 70 year olds feel and act like they were 50, and with an additional 20 years of life expectancy? Such a treatment may be much more tractable. At least a large part of aging seems to be due to several common mechanisms (such as DNA damage, accumulation of senescent cells, etc), and reversing some of these mechanisms (such as by restoring DNA, clearing the body of senescent cells, etc) might allow for such a treatment. Even the journal Nature (one of the 2 most prestigious science journals in the world) had a recent piece saying as much:

If anyone is interesting in funding research toward curing aging, the SENS Foundation ( is arguably your best bet.

Comment author: JanPaul123 16 February 2018 05:13:12PM 1 point [-]

Also, what's great about EA is that we're not just individuals with an hour here and there to spare. We have entire organisations dedicated to researching causes and interventions. They could take a couple of controversial diseases like this (I only had time to look into this one) and properly research what's going on, and how much funding in the right places would help.

They might find that none of this is useful to spend money on. Or they might find some gems. I think it's worth finding out!

Comment author: JanPaul123 16 February 2018 04:53:31PM 0 points [-]

That's fair, a lot of this are recent findings. Which is why I think it's interesting to EA, since there isn't much mainstream understanding and funding yet.

I would say if you're going to spend an hour researching, I'd look at the 2015 Institute of Medicine report, which contains most of the current state of the art ( Which is very little. But they do cite quite a few studies on physical manifestations of the disease, in an attempt to establish diagnostic criteria (e.g. physical differences during exercise stress tests).

There obviously are some more findings since then, but since funding is so low there isn't that much progress since 2015. ;)

Comment author: JanPaul123 16 February 2018 04:36:47PM 1 point [-]

Yes, but only very recently so. For example, it's only a few months ago that the CDC removed language and recommendations that were remnants of the belief that it is psychological. See the article that I linked at the end of the post for some background there ( And it's likely that there are plenty of doctors who haven't followed these developments closely and would still believe it's not a physiological disease.

In response to Open Thread #39
Comment author: nobody 16 February 2018 02:07:09PM 0 points [-]

What do folks here think about the political views of Noam Chomsky? I ask because he is a strict global cosmopolitan thinker on foreign policy. And global cosmopolitanism is a central part of EA. Do any seasoned members of this site have an opinion?

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 16 February 2018 09:15:42AM 0 points [-]

Have you got any examples of schools and universities offering free accommodation to staff? I've only heard of subsidised accommodation, and here - - it says that the difference between the rent paid and market rate is taxable.

Comment author: Lila 16 February 2018 03:41:31AM 1 point [-]

It's not either/or. It's likely not to be a single disease - would probably be more accurate to call it a syndrome.

Comment author: Webdog 16 February 2018 12:22:26AM 0 points [-]

ME/CFS (the currently accepted name in the US) is a physiological disease. This is beyond dispute, and no longer a debate in the medical and scientific community. At least in the United States.

US CDC: "Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a serious, long-term illness that affects many body systems."

US National Academy of Medicine: ME/CFS "is a medical — not a psychiatric or psychological — illness."

New York State Department of Health: ME/CFS is "a multi-system disease associated with neurological, immunological, and energy metabolism impairment."

Comment author: WillPearson 15 February 2018 11:12:16PM 0 points [-]

I would add something likes "Sensitivity" to the list of attributes needed to navigate the world.

This is different from Predictive Power. You can imagine two ships, with the exact same compute power and Predictive Power. One with cameras on the outside and long range sensors, one blind without. You'd expect the first to do a lot better moving about the world

In Effective Altruism's case I suspect this would be things like the basic empirical research about the state of the world and the things important to their goals.

Comment author: casebash 15 February 2018 10:56:06PM *  0 points [-]

One of the biggest challenges is trying to even figure out how likely it is caused by something physical vs. a psychological root cause. It is a very controversial topic, to say the least. I spent about an hour looking into this, but I wasn't really able to get anywhere, at least without any knowledge of the field or where to find reliable information.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 15 February 2018 03:14:23AM 0 points [-]

I don't know, the link to Zvi's writeup works for me. But here is the URL:

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