MichaelPlant comments on High Time For Drug Policy Reform. Part 4/4: Estimating Cost-Effectiveness vs Other Causes; What EA Should Do Next - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: MichaelPlant 29 August 2017 09:39:22AM 0 points [-]

You could have written the same thing 2 years ago replacing "drug policy reform" with "artificial intelligence" and made exactly the same argument: "AI is weird, it will damage EA, imagine interviewing an AI nerd like Elon Musk on tv, etc". Except lots of people now take AI seriously, it's received lots of public money and attention and lots is getting done.This is presumably because the arguments for AI were strong.

You seem to be presenting me with a Morton's Fork (a false dilemma caused by contradictory observations reaching the same conclusons): "if X is seen as weird, don't work on it. If X is not seen as weird, then it can't be neglected so there's no point working on it either." This can't be right, because it would rule out every cause.

I think the role EA fills in the world is exactly finding the important problems in the world others are ignoring, perhaps because those problems seem to weird, and then argue they are worth taking seriously. Notice there's something odd about saying "I've become convinced the arguments for X are very strong, but no one else will be convinced so let's abandon cause X". If you found argument for X persuasive, others probably will too and X is well worth working on. Clearly, we should avoid arguing for weird causes that would do no good. I didn't think DPR was important, now I think it's very substantial.

More generally, I think concerns about reputation and backlash our overstated (#spotlight effect), but I'd be open to someone showing me evidence to the contrary.