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Gregory_Lewis comments on The person-affecting value of existential risk reduction - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Gregory_Lewis 13 April 2018 10:19:18PM 4 points [-]

As you've noted in the comments, you model this as $1bn total, rather than $1bn a year. Ignoring the fact that the person affecting advocate (PAA) only cares about present people (at time of initial decision to spend), if the cost-effectivneness is even 10 lower then it probably no long counts as a good buy.

No, in my comments I note precisely the opposite. The model assumes 1B per year. If the cost is 1B total to reduce risk for the subsequent century, the numbers get more optimistic (100x optimistic if you buy counterpart-y views, but still somewhat better if you discount the benefit in future years by how many from the initial cohort remain alive).

Further, the model is time-uniform, so it can collapse into a 'I can spend 1B in 2018 to reduce xrisk in this year by 1% from a 0.01% baseline, and the same number gets spit out. So if a PAA buys these numbers (as Alex says, I think my offers skew conservative to xrisk consensus if we take them as amortized across-century risk, they might be about right/'optimistic' if they are taken as an estimate for this year alone), this looks an approximately good buy.

Population ethics generally, and PA views within them, are far from my expertise. I guess I'd be surprised if pricing by TRIA gives a huge discount, as I take most people consider themselves pretty psychologically continuous from the ages of ~15 onwards. If this isn't true, or consensus view amongst PAAs is "TRIA, and we're mistaken to our degree of psychological continuity", then this plausibly shaves off an order of magnitude-ish and plonks it more in the 'probably not a good buy' category.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 13 April 2018 10:53:55PM 1 point [-]

No, in my comments I note precisely the opposite

In which case I'm not understanding your model. The 'Cost per life year' box is $1bn/EV. How is that not a one off of $1bn? What have I missed?

If the cost is 1B total to reduce risk for the subsequent century

As noted above, if people only live 70 years, then on PAA there's no point wondering what happens after 70 years.

I guess I'd be surprised if pricing by TRIA gives a huge discount

yeah, I don't think people have looked at this enough to form views on the figure. McMahan does want to discount future wellbeing for people by some amount, but is reluctant to be pushed into giving a number. I'd guess it's something like 2% a year. The effect something like assuming a 2% pure time discount.

Comment author: Gregory_Lewis 14 April 2018 12:07:15AM 0 points [-]

The EV in question is the reduction in x-risk for a single year, not across the century. I'll change the wording to make this clearer.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 14 April 2018 11:20:33AM 0 points [-]

Ah. So the EV is for a single year. But I still only see $1bn. So your number is "this is the cost per life year saved if we spend the money this year and it causes an instanteous reduction in X-risk for this year"?

So your figure is the cost effectiveness of reducing instanteous X-risk at Tn, where Tn is now, whenever now is. But it's not the cost effectiveness of that reduction at Tf, where Tf is some year in the future, because the further in the future this occurs, the less the EV is on PAA. If I'm wondering what the cost-effectiveness, from the perspective of T0, it would be to spend $1bn in 10 years and cause a reduction at T10, on your model I increase the mean age by 10 years to 48, the average cost per year become $12k. From the perspective of T10, reducing X-risk in the way you say at T10 is, again $9k.

By contrast, for totalists the calculations would be the same (excepting inflation, etc.).

Also, not sure why my comment was downvoted. I wasn't being rude (or, I think, stupid) and I think it's unhelpful to downvote without explanation as it just looks petty and feels unfriendly.

Comment author: Alex_Barry 16 April 2018 12:15:18AM 0 points [-]

Also, not sure why my comment was downvoted. I wasn't being rude (or, I think, stupid) and I think it's unhelpful to downvote without explanation as it just looks petty and feels unfriendly.

I didn't downvote, but:

In which case I'm not understanding your model. The 'Cost per life year' box is $1bn/EV. How is that not a one off of $1bn? What have I missed?

The last two sentences of this come across as pretty curt to me. I think there is a wide range in how people interpret things like these, so it is probably just a bit of a communication style mismatch. (I think I have noticed a myself having a similar reaction to a few of your comments before where I don't think you meant any rudeness).

I think it's unhelpful to downvote without explanation as it just looks petty and feels unfriendly.

I agree with this on some level, but I'm not sure I want there to be uneven costs to upvoting/downvoting content. I think there is also an unfriendliness vs. enforcing standards tradeoff where the marginal decisions will typically look petty.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 16 April 2018 08:57:32AM 2 points [-]

The last two sentences of this come across as pretty curt to me.

Yeah, on re-reading, the "How is that not a one off of $1bn?" does seem snippy. Okay. Fair cop.

Comment author: Halstead 18 April 2018 09:40:03AM 1 point [-]

I didn't see it as all that snipey. I think downvotes should be reserved for more severe tonal misdemeanours than this.

There's a bit of difficult balance between necessary policing of tone and engagement with substantive arguments. I think as a rule people tend to talk about tone too much in arguments to the detriment of talking about the substance.

Comment author: Alex_Barry 13 April 2018 10:33:52PM *  1 point [-]

If this isn't true, or consensus view amongst PAAs is "TRIA, and we're mistaken to our degree of psychological continuity", then this plausibly shaves off an order of magnitude-ish and plonks it more in the 'probably not a good buy' category.

It would also have the same (or worse) effect on other things that save lives (e.g. AMF) so it is not totally clear how much worse x-risk would look compared to everything else. (Although perhaps e.g. deworming would come out very well, if it just reduces suffering for a short-ish timescale. (The fact that it mostly effects children might sway things the other way though!))

Comment author: MichaelPlant 13 April 2018 10:59:19PM 2 points [-]

It would also have the same (or worse) effect on other things that save lives (e.g. AMF)

I agree. As I said here, TRIA implies you should care much less about saving young lives. The upshot for TRIA vs PAA combined with the life-comparative account is you should focused more on improving lives than saving lives if you like TRIA.>

Although perhaps e.g. deworming would come out very well, if it just reduces suffering for a short-ish timescale

Just on this note, GiveWell claim only 2% of the value of deworming comes from short term health benefits and 98% from economic gains (see their latest cost-effectiveness spreadsheet), so they don't think the value is on the suffering-reducing end.