In response to Open Thread #39
Comment author: some_arts_student 14 January 2018 07:18:13AM *  0 points [-]

Is there any forum online where individuals can put their personal circumstances/choices/options up for discussion? Kind of like the 80 000 Hours coaching service, but since they don't have the resources to advise everyone, more of a crowd-sourced effort where someone could say "I'm in this situation, considering X, Y or Z, can anyone provide opinions/experiences/perspectives/alternatives I may not have thought of?"

I was kind of hoping this forum would be like that, but it seems like it's more academic - and the posts are very interesting and high-quality, so I wouldn't want to see it spammed up with thousands of personal questions. But is there anywhere else on the internet where people can ask this stuff? I have literally been asking careers counsellors since high school how I can make an impact on the world, and they haven´t necessarily had the best info.

Comment author: DavidNash 23 April 2018 02:59:25PM 0 points [-]
In response to Open Thread #39
Comment author: LivBoeree 23 April 2018 12:41:10PM 5 points [-]

Hi all, Liv here (REG co-founder). I've just joined the forum for the first time and don't have enough karma to post in the main thread yet, but hopefully someone very well-versed in climate change intervention rankings will see this:

I'm looking for feedback on the following prioritisation list

This list is being referenced by a potentially very high impact and well-intentioned individual I'm in conversation with, but it IMO it contains a number of surprises and omissions. Does anyone have a more EA-vetted ranking of interventions they could direct me to? Feel free to PM me, thanks.

In response to comment by LivBoeree on Open Thread #39
Comment author: DavidNash 23 April 2018 02:55:35PM 1 point [-]

Could also post to the effective environmentalism group on FB as well.

Comment author: frankfredericks 09 April 2018 07:00:18PM 2 points [-]

This sounds interesting as a model of both community building and fostering collective action. I wonder if there's a MED (minimally effective dose) that can happen in-town, rather than a retreat. I can imagine having a hard time getting commitment for people in NYC (where I'm based) to do this, but perhaps we could do a minimally effective version in 6-8 hours in town. Anyone tried something similar but shorter?

Comment author: DavidNash 10 April 2018 03:50:41PM 2 points [-]

EA London is planning something like this next month, but over a weekend, so people will meet up on both days at the same venue in London.

Comment author: Khorton 10 December 2017 03:42:43PM 0 points [-]

What's the deal with the stars? What makes a project 1* or 3*?

Comment author: DavidNash 11 December 2017 09:31:13AM 4 points [-]

I think that's how many upvotes the project has had.

In response to Open Thread #39
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!



In response to comment by dponce on Open Thread #39
Comment author: DavidNash 24 November 2017 11:16:57PM 0 points [-]

You might find this group useful (once it get's a bit bigger)

Comment author: DavidNash 29 October 2017 07:31:42PM 3 points [-]

I think your conclusion is worth being a post on it's own, and would potentially get read by more people in a shorter format.

It may also be the people that you'd want to read to the end wouldn't read a post as in depth as this.

Comment author: zdgroff 27 October 2017 06:36:31PM *  7 points [-]

Your portrait of what the EA community could be is a beautiful one and made me tear up. You hit the nail on the head many times in this post on the subtle connections between things that I think can be hard to identify: the connection between heart and head, the E and the A, the overuse of jargon, and the hero worship, and so on. I have to say that as a fairly straight-passing gay man with immense amounts of privilege, even I feel many of these pressures and am often put off by the alpha-male machismo you often see in EA spaces.

I’ve witnessed discrimination and harassment, and heard of assault, in EA-ish spaces, and it seems pretty clear that this is contributing to the gender gap. I’ve definitely exhibited some of the combative and argumentative behaviors you mention. When I got into the EA community a few years ago, I began in global poverty and animal advocacy circles, and I found they were much better on these issues than the community is now, sadly. (That’s with both of those areas’ having plenty of problems.)

I think Kelly moved us toward a type of dialogue on this issue that is lacking in the world, and I hope we can have more of it. Right now, discussions around diversity and inclusion seem polarized between the sort of “rationalist” discussion that’s snarky and dismissive on the one hand and an ostracizing mob mentality on the other hand. I don’t want to say EA should chart a middle path, because I think we should lean toward being overly zealous on diversity and inclusion rather than away, but I think EA and its aligned movements (animal advocacy in my mind) would benefit from a conversation that is at the same time inclusive and data-based. I don’t think the world has that type of conversation very often.

The lack of conversations that are both inclusive and data-based seems to lead to pretty bad results, where diversity and inclusion are may not be promoted in the most effective ways, and people opposed to diversity and inclusion harbor suspicions about the world (e.g. that discrimination does not exist) that continue to fester unaddressed.

From my exploration of these matters, I’ve come to see that generally, when one reads about data on discrimination, differences between groups, etc. one finds that (a) discrimination exists and can be quite powerful; (b) there are differences between genders, but the differences are subtle and go in varied directions (e.g. men are more combative, and women are more collaborative, as Kelly notes); and (c ) these differences are not the reason for the vast majority of gaps that we see.

I think that because discussion about differences between genders is often consigned to the more diversity-hostile corners of the internet, though, ideas that would be proven wrong by the data go unchallenged. Again, I think if we were to have the right sort of conversation on these issues, we would find that discrimination is indeed the primary cause of the gender gap in EA, but without that conversation, people will not be convinced. (And if an honest conversation engaged with data and personal experiences came to the conclusion that this was not the case, that would probably be good information to have.)

For instance, I read the Damore memo, but then saw this graph which seems to be pretty good evidence that the vast majority of the gap in tech is not from biological differences (and so likely some iteration of discrimination, implicit or explicit). I don’t remember where I came across this graph, but it was very helpful to me. Without looking at the whole picture, though, one can look solely at the individual components of the picture (e.g. Damore’s arguments on specific gender differences) and come to conclusions that would be put in doubt with fuller information.

As an additional reason why I think EA is a movement that could have the right conversation on this, I think that EAs recognize a moral principle similar to equality of interests, where differences in personal traits do not lead to moral differences. It seems that in many diversity and inclusion conversations, both the right and the left consider personal trait differences to imply moral differences, and I think EAs can challenge and move beyond that assumption–though with care and only after we start improving on our demographics.

This is a very challenging issue because, as noted in a comment below, racism and sexism have long been motivated by biological essentialism, and it’s extremely disturbing to have people talk about a group you are a part of in this way. (As a Jew, I can say that I feel discomfort with the conversation about Jewish values below, for instance, though I don’t have a strong opinion on its propriety.) I think that the way to deal with this problem is to exercise caution when speaking about these sorts of things, to avoid casual discussion of them, and to have a higher evidence standard for when we talk about these things. I think that our community can learn the appropriate maturity to do that, though.

Anyway, all this is to say that I hope that as this conversation goes on, we can bring data to bear and recognize the implications of the way we speak for others in this community. Words and ideas do cause harm, and we should be utilitarians about the way we speak. With appropriate caution, though, I think that EAs can have a conversation that gets to the heart of the matter and offers a model for how these conversations can be had.


For those looking for examples of places where these discussions could be valuable, I have a few:

  • Gender and cosmopolitan values–The Better Angels of Our Nature cites feminism as one of the reasons for declines in all sorts of violence (war, sexual violence, torture), and I’ve seen enough data to match my intuition that feminism is also very good for animals. I think there are lots of things to explore empirically in this domain (that likely would have implications for the A vs. E debate), but they probably involve engaging with uncomfortable questions about where these gender differences arise.

  • On another note, animal advocates will often assert that if we focus on multiple causes, we will solve our diversity and inclusion problem. I think this is a very important claim to test, because focusing on multiple causes may be quite costly. I’m fully supportive of focusing on creating justice within our movements and groups, e.g. by aggressively fighting sexual assault and getting rid of income barriers, but I think the claim about movements’ outward focus is a debatable one that really needs to be empirically explored.

  • Similarly to the above note, animal advocates often work on issues to promote diversity and inclusion including things like fighting urban food deserts without looking into the evidence around them. This could not only hinder direct impacts but also create the impression that advocates’ diversity and inclusion efforts are an afterthought without the same rigor applied to it that advocates apply to work for animals.

Comment author: DavidNash 27 October 2017 08:02:44PM 6 points [-]

Just in reply to the graph section - this post made me think about possible reasons for the discrepancy between computer science and law/medicine.

Comment author: Denkenberger 26 October 2017 05:10:49PM 1 point [-]

I assume this means 3 million viewers at any one time - the total number of people who primarily get their news from Fox would be much larger.

Comment author: DavidNash 27 October 2017 07:51:57AM 0 points [-]

True, looking at this article, it seems that it could be as high as 24 million which is just above 7% of the population, but the political scientist in the post has doubts of how true the figure is and for people who watch, is it 5 minutes or 5 hours.

Comment author: zdgroff 19 October 2017 07:38:08PM 0 points [-]

Wow, the older generation thing is really interesting. Definitely giving that paper a read.

Re: interpretation of events, yeah, that makes sense. I just find it alarming that Trump could get 30%+, or Brexit.

Comment author: DavidNash 20 October 2017 09:01:38AM 2 points [-]

It could be that we are politically engaged and read about every event that happens but the majority of people don't pay much attention to politics. So Trump getting 30%+ is based on a lot of those voters having read 1 or maybe 2 favourable things about him and nothing else, similar with Democrat voters.

For example, Fox news averages 3 million viewers, which is less than 1% of the population.

Comment author: zdgroff 18 October 2017 08:47:46PM 0 points [-]

I've had this instinct myself for a while and blogged about it today ( I'm quite sympathetic to Pinker's thesis but becoming less sympathetic with each passing day. (Maybe I just need to reread the book.)

Do you think tribalism is indeed getting better, and even if so, do you think its rate of decrease might be slowing given the rise of far right populism and leftist identity politics? Articles like this make me worried:

Comment author: DavidNash 19 October 2017 12:40:30PM 4 points [-]

I think most people that write about this subject don't take a step back and look at the historical context and general trends in society, which makes it really hard to work out what's going on.

It's hard to tell from just observing the news how views/public opinion are trending, if the number of the KKK has gone from 3000 to 300, but we only start interviewing and televising them at the 300 level, it will appear as if they are more present in society than in the past.

One study of polarisation (which in some ways is similar to tribalism) shows that polarisation could be increasing the most in older generations, who use the internet least. This might suggest that as people come online, we're hearing more from a more polarised generation, who before the internet, wouldn't be letting people know about their views as much.

Here is another post about how we may start to interpret events in one way even if it doesn't match trends. It seems like a lot of people are now focused on the far right/extremism and tribalism, when they weren't before the election.

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