In response to Open Thread #39
Comment author: Alyssa497 05 June 2018 11:10:41PM 1 point [-]

Hi, I've written an article on climate change but I don't have enough karma points to post. Below I've written the abstract of my paper and I was hoping to get enough karma points to post the full article.

This paper will discuss the impact that climate change has had on the Earth. The issue of climate change has become a huge problem because of the continued campaigns to spread misinformation to the public. Climate change has been affecting the world’s ecosystems, and if nothing is done to fix this issue, various species of animals and plants will become extinct. Although the extinction of some species has already occurred, it is believed that if people work together to limit Earth’s current temperature increase to 1.5˚ Celsius, the rapid extinction of species and devastation of ecosystems will become stabilized. In this paper, some possible solutions to the rapid climate change are also discussed. Keywords: climate, change, global, warming, natural, human

Thanks for taking the time to read this

In response to comment by Alyssa497 on Open Thread #39
Comment author: Carl_Shulman 05 June 2018 11:24:23PM 3 points [-]

You could just link to a Google Drive (or other) copy of your full article in your comment, both to let people read the article, and to accumulate the karma for a top-level post if people like it.

Comment author: Alex_ 04 June 2018 05:27:23AM *  0 points [-]

Pollinator decline is a problem I need to learn more about myself

Honeybee catastrophe is hugely exaggerated and not a serious threat.

That is a very misleading statement referring to a very questionable article based on questionable interpretation of the US-specific statistics.

Just some of the questions and counterarguments in the comments to that same article:

  • "All the article talks about is the number of colonies. Is this representative of the number of bees? (Has the number of bees per colony remained relatively constant?)".

  • "...Making splits causes a yield of two weak hives, which is not the same as having the vigorous, healthy original hive. And just so you know, the splits the commercial folks are making from the survivors of pesticide, fungicide, herbicide exposure on industrial crops are the already weakened colonies that happen to make it."

  • "The typical Consumerist answer to a problem---"just buy more" bees and queens is not addressing the real problems which are decline in clean forage from toxic chemical exposure, lack of forage diversity, trucking bees all over the country, narrow in-bred genetics. The loss of all pollinators, as well as decline in overall ecosystem diversity from the same insults, is the real issue."

Speaking of some more credible sources:

For example: "...wild bees have undergone global declines that have been linked to habitat loss and fragmentation, pathogens, climate change and insecticides 3,4,5,6,7" (Nature, 2016).

"A growing number of pollinator species worldwide are being driven toward extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made, threatening millions of livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies, according to the first global assessment of pollinators" (the UN, 2016, reports 2016, 2017).

By the way: "...field results confirm that neonicotinoids negatively affect pollinator health under realistic agricultural conditions" (Science, 2017).

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 04 June 2018 06:17:35AM *  1 point [-]

To be clear, bees are dying at high rates (and have been for some time) and this is imposing costs on agriculture, and that could get worse, and addressing that is likely a fine use of resources for agricultural R&D and protection.

But that is very different from posing a major risk of human extinction or civilization collapse via breakdown of the ability of agriculture to produce food (particularly the biggest, wind-pollinated, staple crops). That is the exaggerated threat which I say does not check out.

Comment author: rohinmshah  (EA Profile) 27 May 2018 07:08:23PM 4 points [-]

It's not a paradox. The problem is just that, if everyone thought this way, we would get suboptimal outcomes -- so maybe we should figure out how to avoid that.

Suppose there are three possible outcomes: P has cost $2000 and gives 15 utility to the world Q has cost $1000 and gives 10 utility to the world R has cost $1000 and gives 10 utility to the world

Suppose Alice and Bob each have $1000 to donate. Consider two scenarios:

Scenario 1: Both Alice and Bob give $1000 to P. The world gets 15 more utility. Both Alice and Bob are counterfactually responsible for giving 15 utility to the world.

Scenario 2: Alice gives $1000 to Q and Bob gives $1000 to R. The world gets 20 more utility. Both Alice and Bob are counterfactually responsible for giving 10 utility to the world.

From the world's perspective, scenario 2 is better. However, from Alice and Bob's individual perspective (if they are maximizing their own counterfactual impact), scenario 1 is better. This seems wrong, we'd want to somehow coordinate so that we achieve scenario 2 instead of scenario 1.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 28 May 2018 05:31:01AM 4 points [-]

Are you neglecting to count the negative impact from causing other people to do the suboptimal thing? If I use my funds to set up an exploding matching grant that will divert the funds of other donors from better things too a less effective charity, that is a negative part of my impact.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 13 April 2018 06:43:25PM 9 points [-]

Other person affecting views consider people who will necessarily exist (however cashed out) rather than whether they happen to exist now (planting a bomb with a timer of 1000 years is still accrues person-affecting harm). In a 'extinction in 100 years' scenario, this view would still count the harm of everyone alive then who dies, although still discount the foregone benefit of people who 'could have been' subsequently in the moral calculus.

Butterfly effects change the identities of at least all yet-to-be conceived persons, so this would have to not be interested in particular people, but population sizes/counterparts.

Comment author: rjmk 30 March 2018 12:58:58PM 1 point [-]

This post is excellent. I find the historical work particularly useful, both as a collation of timelines and for the conclusions you tease out of it.

Considering the high quality and usefulness of this post, it is churlish to ask for more, but I'll do so anyway.

Have you given any thought to how donors might identify funding opportunities in the AI safety space? OpenPhil have written about how they found many more giving opportunities after committing to give, but it may be difficult to shop around a more modest personal giving budget.

A fallback here could be the far future EA fund, but I would be keen to hear other ideas

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 01 April 2018 02:36:14AM 1 point [-]

If you find your opportunities are being constrained by small donation size, you can use donor lotteries to trade your donation for a small chance of a large budget (just get in touch with CEA if you need a chance at a larger pot). You may also be interested in a post I made on this subject.

Comment author: Milan_Griffes 13 January 2018 11:46:20PM 2 points [-]

The probability that the initiative succeeds is given on row 73. Our best-guess is 80% chance of success, conditional on raising enough funding & future polling remaining good.

Our best-guess here is informed by private polling we have seen that suggests a drug liberalization initiative would be very popular in most US states.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 14 January 2018 06:46:34PM 2 points [-]

Did you collect base rate information for other initiatives before campaigns (which tend to lower approval relative to pre-campaign polling) for that parameter?

Comment author: Jan_Kulveit 01 January 2018 10:43:37PM *  2 points [-]

After thinking about it for a while I'm still a bit puzzled by the rated-100 or rated-1000 plan changes, and their expressed value in donor dollars. What exactly is here the counterfactual? As I read it, it seems based just on comparing "the person not changing their career path". However, with some of the examples of the most valued changes, leading to people landing in EA organizations it seems the counterfactual state "of the world" would be "someone else doing a similar work in a central EA organization". As AFAIK recruitment process for positions at places like central EA organizations is competitive, why don't count as the real impact just the marginal improvement of the 80k hours influenced candidate over the next best candidate?

Another question is how do you estimate your uncertainty in valuing something rate-n?

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 03 January 2018 03:17:15AM *  1 point [-]

Here is 80k's mea culpa on replaceability.

Comment author: RyanCarey 29 December 2017 12:20:20AM 12 points [-]

Re page 9, I think the talk of a civilization maintaining exponential growth is unconvincing. The growth rate of a civilization should ultimately be bounded cubically (your civ grows outward like a sphere), whereas the risk is exponential. Exponentials in general defeat polynomials, giving finite EV in the limit of t, regardless of the parameters.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 29 December 2017 12:45:42AM *  9 points [-]

That's our best understanding.

But there is then an argument on this account to attend to whatever small credence one may have in indefinite exponential growth in value. E.g. if you could build utility monsters such that every increment of computational power let them add another morally important order of magnitude to their represented utility, or hypercomputers were somehow possible, or we could create baby universes.

Comment author: Simon_Jenkins 21 December 2017 04:15:17PM 2 points [-]

1) The winner of the last lottery, Tim, wrote several paragraphs explaining his choice of where to send the winnings. Is this required/expected of future winners? I can understand that a winner selecting a non-EA cause might end up having to convince CEA of their decision, but if I win and just want to give the money to a bona fide EA cause, do I have to say anything about my thought process?

2) Are there advocacy-related reasons for donating directly to charities instead of joining such a lottery? For example, if I'm trying to increase my impact by convincing others to join EA, and someone asks where I donate, there seems to be a cost associated with describing a complicated lottery scheme that may end up with my money going to a cause that I think is ineffective or possibly even bad. It seems likely that people would be confused by the scheme and put off, or even think that I was being swindled.

2b) Relatedly, while I personally trust that the complexities of the scheme arise from a desire to optimise it for fairness and other considerations, I worry that the explanations may be off-putting to some. I appreciate that they are in beta, so I will try to be constructive: I would like to see something like an interactive page with colourful buttons and neat graphics that explains how the scheme works. The boxes (A,B,C,G) are a great start, but I think that for example the equations would be best kept behind an expanding box, or even on another page. The headers as they are are good (though might be better framed as questions like "how will the winner be chosen?"). My take-home point here is that having all of the information on one page is intimidating. These are suggestions largely based on my personal experience of looking through the page.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 21 December 2017 10:18:22PM 1 point [-]

I can understand that a winner selecting a non-EA cause might end up having to convince CEA of their decision,

See Sam's comment below:

"to emphasise this, as CEA is running this lottery for the benefit of the community, it's important for the community to have confidence that CEA will follow their recommendations (otherwise people might be reticent to participate). So, to be clear, while CEA makes the final call on the grant, unless there's a good reason not to (see the 'Caveats and Limitations' section on the EA.org Lotteries page) we'll do our best to follow a donor's recommendation, even if it's to a recipient that wouldn't normally be thought of as a strictly EA."

Are there advocacy-related reasons for donating directly to charities instead of joining such a lottery?

One data point: last year Jacob Steinhardt put a majority of his donations into the lottery for expected direct impact, and then allocated the remainder himself for practice donating and signaling value.

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 21 December 2017 08:19:30PM *  1 point [-]

I can't help but notice that one of the lottery entrants is listed as anonymous. According to the rules, entrants may remain anonymous even if they win, so long as they express a strong objection to their name being public before the draw date. (No entrants to the 2016 donor lottery were anonymous.)

I realize that which charitable cause the winner chooses to fund doesn't change the expected value of any entrant's contribution to the lottery. As Carl Shulman points out, the lottery's pot size and draw probability, as well as entrants' expected payout, are all unaffected even if the eventual winner does nothing effective with their donation.

Nevertheless, donor lotteries like this would seem to rely strongly on trust. Setting aside expected value calculations, there seems to be a strong cultural norm in my country against allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous. In the United States, only seven states allow this without an exemption being made—of course, that only applies to standard lotteries, not donor lotteries. But the point remains: there exists a common understanding in the US and Canada that lottery winners should not be allowed to remain anonymous without good reason.

This is not the case in Europe, where it is far more common for lottery winners to remain anonymous.

When the rules for anonymity were being drafted, was any thought given to this issue? Or was it just decided by default because the rules were drafted by people in a country for which this is just their cultural norm?

(I'm not necessarily against allowing anonymous winners; it just initially feels weird to me because of the cultural norm of the society in which I was raised, and I'm interested in knowing how much thought went into this decision.)

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 21 December 2017 10:06:12PM 2 points [-]

there seems to be a strong cultural norm in my country against allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous... This is not the case in Europe, where it is far more common for lottery winners to remain anonymous. When the rules for anonymity were being drafted, was any thought given to this issue?

If a lottery organization is conducting a draw itself, and could rig the draw, publishing the winner's identity allows people to detect fraud, e.g. if the lottery commissioner's family members keep winning that would indicate skulduggery. I think this is the usual reason for requiring publicity. Did you have another in mind?

In the case of CEA's lottery (and last year's lottery), the actual draw is the U.S. National Institute of Science and Technology public randomness beacon, outside of CEA's control, which allows every participant to know whether their #s were drawn.

When the rules for anonymity were being drafted, was any thought given to this issue?

Someone raised the possibility of people who didn't want publicity/celebrity being discouraged from making use of the option, as part of the general aim of making it usable to as many donors as possible.

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