Open Thread #39

Use this thread to post things that are awesome, but not awesome enough to be full posts. This is also a great place to post if you don't have enough karma to post on the main forum.

Comments (14)

Comment author: hollymorgan 27 October 2017 09:12:18PM *  12 points [-]

I made a list of what I call "life gems" - those rare and precious things in my life that were easily introduced and have enabled me to "level up" in the amount of positive impact I create. It's obviously not exhaustive, but I started it ~3 months ago and have been adding to it since as things occur to me.

On motivation:

  • The System 1 / System 2 framework

  • Audiobooks - I otherwise struggle to get through books (h/t Sarah Morgan?)

  • Token payments to an EA friend every time I continue a bad habit or fail to sustain a regular, good habit (h/t Niel Bowerman and Sam Hilton)

  • Planning when exactly I will work on tasks so that my current to-do list is always short, otherwise I am tempted to do the quick - and usually less important - tasks in order to shorten the list as quickly as possible (h/t Sam Hilton)

On rationality:

  • The 'regression to the mean' phenomenon (h/t Toby Ord)

On practical ethics:

  • The idea of astronomical waste (h/t Ben Hoskin and Nick Bostrom)

  • The idea that if you're not sure where your meat comes from, the harm of factory farming is so great that you should hardly ever take the chance - this is what first made me a vegetarian (h/t a conversation with Marc Crosby although it may be significant that it was still me who came up with the argument)

  • Figures comparing direct suffering caused by various animal foods (h/t Brian Tomasik)

  • The implication of the prevalence of r-selected species for wild animal suffering (h/t probably Oscar Horta, David Pearce or Brian Tomasik)

  • "A quick test of the assertion that enjoyment outweighs pain in this world, or that they are at any rate balanced, would be to compare the feelings of an animal engaged in eating another with those of the animal being eaten." (h/t Brian Tomasik and Schopenhauer)

  • Graphs comparing what we'd be prepared to pay for an extra QALY for ourselves, vs what we actually pay for ourselves, vs what the NHS would pay for others, vs what various HIV treatments/prevention methods cost, vs what deworming costs (h/t Toby Ord)

  • The idea that contributing to collective action has value because of the small chance that you tip the balance (h/t Toby Ord)

  • The idea that you should choose a cause to focus your career on before thinking about your comparative advantage, because the scale of the differences between causes dwarfs the scale of the differences in your future talents (h/t 80,000 Hours)

  • The idea that doing good now through donating and direct work at the expense of investing in yourself long-term implies a surprisingly low confidence in the altruism of your future self (h/t Robin Hanson)

  • The idea that the way you evaluate a startup is different from the way you evaluate an established organisation (h/t Rochelle Harris and CEA)

On normative ethics:

  • The realisation that deontology and virtue ethics collapse into consequentialism much more easily than one of the other ways around

On metaethics:

  • The argument that "If nihilism is true, it doesn't matter what I do, so I might as well assume it's false." (h/t DanielLC)

On teamwork:

  • The notion of having a 'blaming mindset' - giving it a bad name helps me to recognise and stop it (h/t Adam Freeman)

  • The notion that everyone is just fighting a hard battle (h/t Will Jefferson and Ian Maclaren)

On my social life:

  • The notion of permanent singlehood as a lifestyle choice

On money:

  • An awareness of the risks of developing expensive new habits / increased standards of living i.e. huge future expense for temporary boost in happiness thanks to the hedonic treadmill

On everything:

  • Committing to weekly reviews with someone else that include the question "How can we improve this process?" (h/t Niel Bowerman and Sam Hilton)

It's a good exercise. It helps you have more realistic expectations of how much future self-improvement you can expect, or how often you will be able to really help someone else improve. The content is interesting too, as indications of what efforts you and others could make to help someone else become more impactful.

Comment author: kastrel  (EA Profile) 07 November 2017 03:58:44PM 7 points [-]

Hi, I'm planning a post on finding relevant literature (I'm a librarian), as well as using reference management software to save time. Does anyone have any great suggestions for places they go for academic writing on EA-related topics, or for datasets? I'm thinking things beyond Google Scholar/Arxiv/JSTOR. All input valued.

Comment author: casebash 23 October 2017 11:53:40PM *  5 points [-]

LW 2.0 now exists. It's still in beta, with a significant number of bugs left to fix and many features that haven't been added yet, but at some point it will become stable enough that it would be reasonable to consider switching. I'm curious what people think about this? Just thought that I'd flag this now.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 26 October 2017 02:06:44PM 2 points [-]

I'd want to wait for more info on how LW 2.0 plays out. The EA Forum doesn't seem broken in any way right now, so I don't think there's a rush to switch over the backend.

Comment author: gworley3  (EA Profile) 25 October 2017 07:04:27PM 1 point [-]

My guess is that it probably makes sense to keep the brands separate even if they are intertwined. That does mean there may be a lot of cross posting or posting things in one location when they would have done better in the other. Unless LW 2.0 has some plans I'm unaware of to support branded sub-groups so EA could have its own identity on the LW platform.

Comment author: casebash 25 October 2017 09:03:14PM 1 point [-]

I meant keeping the site separate, but changing the tech underneath.

Comment author: dponce 07 November 2017 02:51:58AM 2 points [-]

Hi everyone!

I'm new to EA, but after reading 80,000 Hours and Doing Good Better, I'm eager to incorporate these ideas into my life. I find it amusing that I discovered EA shortly after getting accepted into medical school, since doctors have often come up as the prototypical example for being counter-intuitively ineffective. I don't think this is unrelated to the lack of fulfillment and jadedness that many doctors eventually come to experience, and I've since been consumed by the desire to find a promising way to avoid this trap. I think EA offers a compelling perspective, one which gives me inspiring and explicit suggestions for directing my time and resources.

At my school, we're required to conduct an independent research project on any medically-related topic of our choosing by the time we graduate. I've decided to use this as an opportunity to delve deeper into EA as it relates to my future career as a physician, and ideally, to form connections with individuals who can help me towards my altruistic goals in the future. Some topics I've considered include examining the ways that physicians make a difference other than earning to give, identifying the different metrics by which to measure a physician's impact, and interviewing specific physicians who accomplish impactful goals. As you've probably already noticed, these topics are extremely broad, and I was hoping that members here might offer suggestions for specific research questions that I could investigate - ideally something that is as of yet under or unexplored. While I've read many great suggestions on how to navigate careers, I'm interested in learning more about how this applies to the practicing physician. I would also be interested to hear from/about doctors who have chartered their own unique path towards making a difference, challenging the typical template for what a medical doctor looks like. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!



Comment author: Henry_Stanley 05 November 2017 08:44:34PM 2 points [-]

I've written up some notes from EA Global London – anyone who attended (or indeed spoke at) the conference should feel free to add/edit!


Comment author: HaydnBelfield 02 November 2017 09:08:55PM 2 points [-]

The recent quality of posts has been absolutely stellar*. Keep it up everyone!

*interesting, varied, informative, written to be helpful/useful, rigorous, etc

Comment author: daisy_b 27 October 2017 06:09:20PM *  2 points [-]

Hey guys, I'm working on a project called Innovations in Fundraising, in partnership with the Centre for Effective Altruism and the University of Exeter, UK. We're currently developing a wiki, in which we're collating useful resource for charities, fundraisers, donors, researchers, employers, and the third sector to use to make their fundraising and giving more effective.

At the moment, we're looking for stories from people who have/have attempted to organise a fundraiser at their place of work for an effective charity, or those who have pushed for the donations from a fundraiser they didn't organise to go to an effective charity.

If you think you've got a relevant anecdote or two, please reply to me here, drop me a message, or comment here on the wiki directly. below are some questions it'd be good if you could answer:

  1. Have you tried to organise a fundraiser at your company? How successful was it?

  2. What barriers have you come up against and (how) have you been able to overcome these?

  3. How did you get your colleagues and in particular your superiors on board?

  4. Who really makes decisions at your workplace about fundraising, partnering with charities, and employee giving benefits and schemes?

  5. Have you tried to convince them to choose a different charity? How did you make this argument and how was it received?

  6. How does your firm choose the 'preferred charity'?

  7. How have you connected and networked with people trying to achieve similar goals?

Thanks everyone! :)

Comment author: WillPearson 23 October 2017 08:28:06PM 2 points [-]

I've posted about an approach to AGI estimation.

I would love to find collaborators on this kind of thing. In London would be great.

Comment author: ELW 26 October 2017 11:05:18AM 1 point [-]

I have a query regarding DALYs which I've been unable to find an answer too, but suspect there is literature on were I more familiar with econ/global health:

By my understanding one of the main advantages of DALYs is that they capture the intuition action in cases like "You may extend either person As life by 5 healthy years or extend person Bs life by 5 mediocre years (lets say they go blind due to the treatment)."

However, there seems to be no way of distinguishing the case where person A and B start of as perfectly healthy and we may help the former more and the cases where B is already blind and we may add "five years at their current state of well-being". This seems to not be ideal.

Is there any talk or use of "marginal DALYs" for want of a better term, where the intervention is considered relative to the previous level of wellbeing? Alternatively, is it simply common practise to use QALYs in the kind of case I am concerned with?

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 26 October 2017 02:05:25PM 0 points [-]

However, there seems to be no way of distinguishing the case where person A and B start of as perfectly healthy and we may help the former more

If you improve the number of years lived for a healthy person, that is "straightforward" on the DALY view -- it's +1 DALY for every extra year of life added.

The question of improving the quality of their life is a harder one -- I think the suggestion from the DALY framework is that if the person has perfect health, there isn't any way to improve the quality of their life (because it's already perfect). ...However, we know that's not actually true, because there is no DALY weight for getting tickets to go see Hamilton, while I think that would improve nearly anyone's life. That's just an area where DALY metrics are incomplete, but you could extend the DALY framework that way, by asking people questions like "If you could choose between an free Hamilton tickets but had a 1% chance of death, would you take the tickets?" (I'd probably take the tickets at a 0.005% chance of death.)


and the cases where B is already blind and we may add "five years at their current state of well-being". This seems to not be ideal.

This one is also "straightforward" in the DALY view -- you're adding more years at their current disability weight. If I recall correctly, an extra year of life that would otherwise not have been lived, but lived with blindness is worth +0.8 DALY. Thus adding "five years at their current state of well-being" (that is, blindness but no other issues), would be +4 DALY.

Comment author: gworley3  (EA Profile) 25 October 2017 07:01:47PM 1 point [-]

I recently wrote about if generic feedback processes might produce suffering. I'm working on a follow up post now so interested especially in things I didn't address that people would like to see addressed.