Comment author: ole_koksvik 09 August 2018 11:55:03PM 1 point [-]

Yes, the old adage: "I don't have time to write short texts."

Comment author: ole_koksvik 09 August 2018 11:50:32PM 0 points [-]

Thank you for your replies.

[Warning: musings ahead.]

Re your reply on 2, I found it interesting that overall you seem focused on working with *insiders8 --- people already quite involved and invested in the political system --- rather than aiming for uptake in the population at large, and then to use that as leverage on politicians (which is what I had been musing about when thinking about how to cause political change). I wonder whether there's data on the effectiveness on the two different approaches. Most likely it's too dependent on context and question.

Comment author: Jan_Kulveit 09 August 2018 10:30:30PM 5 points [-]

I think this is quite useful, thanks for posting it publicly.

Based on CZEA experience, this seems similar to what we converged at - basically

  • public introductory events
  • more in-depth meetups and advanced content workshop for members
  • core with advanced knowledge, incubating and leading projects

An interesting difference seem to be in the approach to workshops, where we have not much tried something small (~8h - and it was more a series of talks than a workshop) but we tried Fri-Sun retreat.

Comment author: Naryan 09 August 2018 09:02:23PM 5 points [-]

Pretty cool idea - since I'm new to EA, I hope this will become a neat snapshot for me to look back on in a few years to see how far I've come.

Growing up, I believe I was raised to be a decent member of society - be kind to others, don't litter, help those in need. I never really thought explicitly about ethics, or engaged deeply with any causes. Sure, I'd raise money for cancer at "Relay for Life", but it wasn't because I thought the $100 dollars would make a difference - more because it would be fun to have a camp-out with friends.

In my twenties, my goal was primarily to make money to retire early so I could travel, and maybe volunteer my time to help increase financial literacy, or apply my career experience in a not-for-profit. Fairly ephemeral goals though - I also considered becoming a full-time music producer.

Rationality

When I was 28, I found Less Wrong from a link my friend posted on Facebook. Over the next two years I read every essay in the Rationality sequences, supplemented by a healthy amount of psychology/economy/math/self-help style audiobooks. Reading that material was an enjoyable journey and lead to a few minor epiphanies. * I love improving my thinking, and upgrading my effectiveness * I thought deeply about my ethics for the first time * I have a responsibility to improve the world in the biggest and best way possible

Seriously - the last book "Becoming Stronger" and the sequence "Challenging the Difficult" really motivated me to think much larger than I had before. Discovering 80,000 Hours around the same time was a great template to follow.

Effective Altruism

In May 2018 I attended my first EA meet-up. I recall thinking, "Wow! There are actually other rationalists out there". Up until that point, I'd never really met others who thought or spoke similarly, let alone a whole room full of them. I'm currently enjoying the learning curve, finding more questions than answers. * Attending weekly meet-ups at the Fox & Fiddle with EA Toronto * Hosting games nights, going on hikes, watching debates * Independently tackling cause prioritization, clarifying my ethics and their implications for where I should dedicate my effort * Excited to attend the EA Summit 2018!

I'm currently working with a team of amazing EAs towards my top cause priority, and hope to launch this autumn.

Comment author: DavidNash 09 August 2018 07:03:06PM 11 points [-]

Looking at other social events not at pubs the ratio has been similar, ranging from picnics, hikes, Disney movies, restaurants, education/animal focused topics.

Comment author: SimonBeard 09 August 2018 06:23:53PM 5 points [-]

Hey Rhys

Thanks for prompting me on this. I was hoping to find time for a fuller reply to your but this will have to do, you only asked for the texture after all. My concerns are somewhat nebulous so please don't take this as any cast iron reason not to seek out estimates for the probability of different existential risks. However, I think they are important.

The first relates to the degree of uncertainty that surrounds any estimate of this kind and how it should be handled. There are actually several sources of this.

The first of these relates to the threshold for human extinction. We actually don't have very good models of how the human race might go extinct. Broadly speaking human beings are highly adaptable and we can of-course survive across an extremely wide range of habitats, at least with sufficient technology and planning. So roughly for human extinction to occur then a change must either be extremely profound (such as the destruction of the earth, our sun or the entire universe) very fast (such as a nuclear winter), something that can adapt to us (such as AGI or Aliens) or something that we chose not to adapt to (such as climate change). However, personally, I have a hard time even thinking about just what the limits of survivability might be. Now, it is relatively easy to cover this with a few simplifying assumptions. For instance that 10 degrees of climate change either-way would clearly represent an existential threat. However, these are only assumptions. Then there is the possibility that we will actually be more vulnerable to certain risks than it appears, for instance, that certain environmental changes might cause an irrevocable collapse in human civilization (or in the human microbiome if you are that way inclined. The Global Challenges Foundation used the concepts of 'infinite threshold' and 'infinite impact' to capture this kind of uncertainty, and I think they are useful concepts. However, they don't necaserilly speak to our concern to know about the probability of human extinction and x-risk, rather than that of potential x-risk triggers.

The other obvious source of uncertainty is the uncertainty about what will happen. This is more mundane in many ways, however when we are estimating the probability of an unprecedented event like this I think it is easy to understate the uncertainty inherent in such estimates, because there is simply so little data to contradict our main assumptions leading to overconfidence. The real issue with both of these however is not that uncertainty means that we should not put numerical values to the likelihood of anything, but that we are just incapable of dealing very well with numerical figures that are highly uncertain, especially where these are stated and debated in a public forum. Even if uncertainty ranges are presented, and they accurately reflect the degree of certainty the assessor can justifiably claim to have, they quickly get cut out with commentators preferring to focus on one simple figure, be it the mean, upper or lower bounds, to the exclusion of all else. This happens and we should not ignore the pitfalls it creates.

The second concern I have is about the context. In your post you mention the famous figure from the Stern review and this is a great example of what I mean. Stern came up with that figure for one reason, and one alone. He wanted to argue for the higher possible discount rate that he believed was ethically justified in order to give maximum credence to his conclusions (or if you are more cynical then perhaps 'he wanted to make it look like he was arguing for...'). However, he also thought that most economic arguments for discounting were not justified he was left with the conclusion that the only reason to prefer wellbeing today to wellbeing tomorrow was that there might be no tomorrow. His 0.1% chance of human extinction per year (Note that this is supposedly the 'background' rate by the way, it is definitely not the probability of a climate-induced extinction) was the highest figure he could propose that would not be taken as overly alarmest. If you think that sounds a bit off then reflect on the fact that the mortality rate in the UK at present is around 0.8%, so Stern was saying that one could expect more than 10% of human mortality in the near future to result from human extinction. I think that is not at all unreasonable, but I can see why he didn't want to put the background extinction risk any higher. Anyway, the key point here is that none of these considerations was really about producing any kind of estimate of the likelihood of human extinction, it was just a guess that he felt would be reasonably acceptable from the point of view of trying to push up the time discount rate a bit. However, of course, once it is out there it got used, and continues to get used, as if it was something quite different.

The third concern I have is that I think it can be at least somewhat problematic to break down exitential risks by threat, which people generally need to do if they are to assign probability estimates to them. To be fair, your are here interested in the probability of human extinction as a whole, which does not fact this particular problem. However many of the estimates that I have come across relate to specified threats. The issue here is that much of the damage from any particular threat comes from its systemic and cascading effects. For instance, when considering the existential threat from natural pandemics I am quite unconcerned that a naturally occurring (or even most man-made) pathogen might literally wipe out all of humanity, the selection pressures against that would be huge. I am somewhat more concerned that such a pandemic might cause a general breakdown in global order leading to massive global wars or the collapse of the global food supply. However, I am mostly concerned that a pandemic might cause a social collapse in a single state that possessed nuclear weapons leading to them becoming insecure. If I simply include this as the probability of either human extinction via pandemic or nuclear war then that seems to me to be misleading. However, if it got counted in both then this could lead to double counting later on. Of course, with great care and attention this sort of problem can be dealt with. However on the whole when people make assessments of the probability of existential risks they tend to pool together all the available information, much of which has been produced without any coordination making such double counting, or zero counting, not unlikely.

Please let me know if you would like me to try and write more about any of these issues (although to be honest I am currently quite stretched so this may have to wait a while). You may also be interested in a piece I Wrote with Peter Hurford and Catheryn Mercow (I won't lie, it was mostly they who wrote it) on how different EA organizations account for uncertainty which has had quite a bit of impact on my thinking http://effective-altruism.com/ea/193/how_do_ea_orgs_account_for_uncertainty_in_their/

Also if you haven't already seen it you might be interested in this piece by Eliezer Yudkowsky https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/AJ9dX59QXokZb35fk/when-not-to-use-probabilities

PS: Obviously these concerns have not yet lead me to give up on working with these kinds of estimates, and indeed I would like them to be made better in the future. However they still trouble me.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 09 August 2018 06:10:22PM 4 points [-]

I don't know, you could email and ask. If Chloe wanted to take only large donations one could use a donor lottery to turn a small donation into a chance of a large one.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 09 August 2018 05:37:20PM *  0 points [-]

The website is now up at eahotel.org. It's possible to book via the Booking page, and the Wiki has information for guests and an FAQ. People can also book video calls to talk about proposals for free stays working on EA stuff via the Contact page (I have updated the Next Steps section in the OP to reflect this).

Comment author: evemccormick 09 August 2018 05:02:38PM 10 points [-]

Hey, thanks for this :)

EA Cambridge (UK) has been tracking gender ratios at events for several years now, and we have fairly complete data for the last year. As far as I know, this hasn't yet been written up or shared in any formal way, but that is something I would like to do in the near future.

On the topic of pub socials, I don't find the gender bias surprising. The pub socials which we started running this year, aimed at non-students and postgrads, were almost always heavily male-dominated. Other types of pub social that we've run, targetted at newcomers, people somewhat engaged, and people deeply engaged in the community respectively, have similarly been male-dominated. At least two women, despite being deeply involved in the EA Cambridge community, have mentioned to me that they do not feel comfortable at pub socials. So while I think there are probably several reasons why fewer women attend socials in general (e.g. to do with women often feeling less comfortable in situations where they're expected to talk on a topic, especially when they're new), pub environments might compound the problem.

Very much looking forward to reading the results of your research about what motivates men and women to attend events :)

Comment author: saulius  (EA Profile) 09 August 2018 03:44:12PM 1 point [-]

in https://www.iceshanty.com/ice_fishing/index.php?topic=246812.0 an angler asks in a forum how many minnows should she buy for her fishing trip. The most common answer is 2-3 dozens.

Comment author: baxterb 09 August 2018 02:07:52PM 0 points [-]

Great idea, thank you!

Comment author: baxterb 09 August 2018 02:07:18PM 1 point [-]

Could you put together a handbook and/or video that could be sent to all trainees or is it critical that there be interaction between the trainer and trainee?

This would be along the lines of what we would consider doing if we explore this model further. However, I think there would still need to be a vetting process of some kind so that the we can be confident about the quality of the content and delivery.

Comment author: baxterb 09 August 2018 02:01:55PM 0 points [-]

Definitely true on both counts. I suspect that many answers are signalling intentions, but social desirability certainly has a role to play, as we mentioned above. This is one of the reasons we are now placing less emphasis on the future collection of quantitative survey data.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 09 August 2018 01:59:26PM *  1 point [-]

I wonder if it is possible to add a check for this in a future survey. Maybe ask them if they intentionally conserve their water usage to save the environment? There should be no reason for that to change from pre- to post- without a change in social desirability or attrition.

Comment author: Khorton 09 August 2018 01:58:55PM *  1 point [-]

Perhaps a mentorship model could also work with a few dedicated volunteers. They could shadow and watch a presentation by a trained staff member the first time, then team teach with the staff member 2-3 times, before teaching on their own. This model would hopefully mean that minimal extra staff time is spent on training, but volunteers are still able to deliver high quality presentations.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 09 August 2018 01:58:47PM 3 points [-]

Speaking just for myself here, I think tracking career outcomes for SHIC students is important, but Canadian high schoolers in affluent areas are typically 4-7 years away from being able to start a career, so this may take awhile to track well. I also don't expect high schoolers to have meaningful and stable views on their career since it would be so early in their life.

Comment author: baxterb 09 August 2018 01:58:39PM 3 points [-]

Great point, and we should have mentioned more about our intention to track things like career or career path changes as a result of the program. We don't currently have data on this because our audience are generally too young to show reliable signs of moving toward an effective career, but part of what we hope to accomplish with extended engagement (detailed in the Plans for Autumn 2018 section above) is to follow high-potential participants more closely so we can monitor changes like that.

We have had several participants state their intentions of taking actions like this to make a bigger impact, but it is uncertain as to whether they will follow through.

Comment author: saulius  (EA Profile) 09 August 2018 01:54:43PM 2 points [-]

Possible. It could be that the industry inflates the numbers because they want to seem bigger than they are. Note that baitfish is not even the most popular type of bait.

One thing to consider though is how many baitfish people take per fishing trip. After a brief search, I haven't found exact numbers but this website is advising:

Request a discount when purchasing in bulk. Injured minnows may be sold at a discounted rate, but fish that are injured rarely thrive after a change in environment. Instead, request a free dozen for every 10 dozen that you purchase.

So I imagine that fishermen who do buy baitfish, buy a lot of it. I also read that they often don't use them all and throw the rest into a lake, even though that causes ecological issues and everyone is asking fishermen not to do it.

In general, I understand your intuition and I will probably think about this more later.

Comment author: RandomEA 09 August 2018 01:52:58PM *  1 point [-]

Do you know if it's just a fund for other large donors? It seems unusual to require small donors to send an email in order to donate.

If the fund is open to small donors, I hope CEA will consider mentioning it on the EA Funds website and the GWWC website.

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 09 August 2018 01:49:45PM 1 point [-]

I was wondering if it's a difference between number hatched and number that make it to the one-year mark at which they're sold?

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