Owen_Cotton-Barratt comments on Causal Network Model III: Findings - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Owen_Cotton-Barratt 23 November 2017 11:15:36PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for the write-up!

I found the figures for existential-risk-reduced-per-$ with your default values a bit suspiciously high. I wonder if the reason for this is in endnote [2], where you say:

say one researcher year costs $50,000

I think this is too low as the figure to use in this calculation, perhaps by around an order of magnitude.

Firstly, that is a very cheap researcher-year even just paying costs. Many researcher salaries are straight-up higher, and costs should include overheads.

A second factor is that having twice as much money doesn't come close to buying you twice as much (quality-adjusted) research. In general it is hard to simply pay money to produce more of some of these specialised forms of labour. For instance see the recent 80k survey of willingness to pay of EA orgs to bring forward recent hires, where the average willingness to forgo donations to move a senior hire forward by three years was around $4 million.

Comment author: Alex_Barry 24 November 2017 05:58:45PM 1 point [-]

Ah good point on the researcher salary, it was definitely just eyeballed and should be higher.

I think a reason I was happy to leave it low was as a fudge to take into account that the marginal impact of a researcher now is likely to be far greater than the average impact if there were 10,000 working on x-risk, but I should have clarified that as a separate factor.

In any case, even adjusting the cost of a researcher up to $500,000 a year and leaving the rest unchanged does not significantly change the conclusion, with the very rough calculation still giving ~$10 per QALY (but obviously leaves less wiggle room for skepticism about the efficacy of research etc.)

Comment author: Denkenberger 24 November 2017 07:06:15PM 1 point [-]

Indeed, the Oxford Prioritisation Project found cost-effectiveness about an order of magnitude lower than yours for AI. But still it was more cost-effective than global poverty interventions even in the present generation. And alternate foods for agricultural catastrophes are even more cost effective for the present generation.