Comment author: Denise_Melchin 25 July 2017 01:31:47PM *  0 points [-]

That's a great talk, thank you for it. This is why I've started to mind that people get encouraged to figure out what "their cause area" is.

Apart from the fact that they're likely to change their mind within a few years anyway, it's more valuable for the world for them to focus on what they're good at even if it's not in their preferred cause area. Cooperation between cause areas is important.

(Also, "figuring out what the best cause areas are" might be something that should also be done by people whose comparative advantage it is).

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 06 June 2017 03:34:29PM 3 points [-]

What is your model of why other people in the AI safety field disagree with you/don't consider this as important as you?

Comment author: MichaelPlant 07 December 2016 11:22:50AM 1 point [-]

in response to your first point, yes I did mix those up.

And for the 2nd, I'm thinking hedonically and am leaning on the literature on hedonic adaptation. I'm not sure how to think about re-doing the calculations if I was using preferences util. So I think it's consistent to say "I would give up much more than a year of life to keep my child alive" whilst recognising that few (any?) events have a long term impact on happiness, either positive or negative.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 08 December 2016 06:42:41PM *  3 points [-]

I think the results on 'hedonic adaption' are much less straightforward than you think they are. In general I'd caution against making strong claims that completely go against common sense about people's preferences based on just reading a few studies.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 04 June 2016 12:15:34PM 3 points [-]

I agree with David Moss.

Apart from that, the cat will eat those meat cans whether you own it or someone else own it. If you don't increase demand of pets by getting your cat from an animal shelter, this should be fine (besides the costs David mentioned). But you really shouldn't get them from a breeder.

Comment author: Paul_Christiano 06 April 2016 02:55:37PM *  5 points [-]

Thanks for pointing that out.

Compare to this post about a similar specific issue

One difference is that the current post is about a concrete project that has a utilitarian justification and is being philanthropically funded. In some abstract sense it seems like this should be as on-topic as other object-level discussion.

Edit: What I originally thought this post would be about is dangers to cognition from climate change, which I think would be a slightly better fit.

I don't disagree that people might be more interested in that, but it's psychologically/sociologically interesting that it would be a better fit. It's not clear what the relevant difference is.

The paper also isn't accessible.

Thanks, linked to non-paywalled version.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 08 April 2016 11:30:42AM 0 points [-]

Well, the upvotes are speaking for themselves! :-)

My point was that it's not clear to me how it relates to doing 'the most good'. If you had mentioned you want to have this research to influence public policy or to highlight it as an underappreciated risk of global warming, the connection would be less removed than very specific productivity advice (compared to very specific finance advice).

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 06 April 2016 01:05:16PM *  0 points [-]

I generally appreciate your posts and comments, but I wonder whether the EA forum is the right forum for this particular one. It's quite specific. Compare to this post about a similar specific issue and the top comment: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/sw/investment_opportunity_for_the_risk_neutral/

Edit: What I originally thought this post would be about is dangers to cognition from climate change, which I think would be a slightly better fit.

The paper also isn't accessible.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 22 January 2016 08:57:33PM *  0 points [-]

Sounds like we have been talking past one another - I'm really only talking about closed-door conversations and thoughts in your head. Clearly you have to be much more careful when speaking to a wide audience.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 22 January 2016 09:08:57PM 2 points [-]

That wasn't really clear though, since this discussion started upon the term being used in public facing channels.

Comment author: Toby_Ord 21 January 2016 11:45:26AM 15 points [-]

The terms 'softcore EAs' and 'hardcore EAs' are simply terrible. I strongly urge people to use other words to talk about these groups.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 21 January 2016 12:14:24PM 2 points [-]

I totally agree, came here to make the same comment.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 05 January 2016 07:28:09PM 1 point [-]

"I've previously discussed my concerns about the obstacles to changing one's mind about cause prioritization, and I can imagine ethical offsetting at the cause area level being used to remind oneself about various causes of suffering in the world and the organizations working to stop them. This could make it easier to change one’s mind about what’s most effective. It seems somewhat plausible that offsetting would help make the community better at updating and better informed."

This has roughly been my reasoning for considering donating small sums to Animal suffering as a cause area and Climate Change as a cause area. (Though I haven't done so yet.) I think it helps people to keep an open mind and am therefore happy to see them offsetting their 'wrong' behaviour.

I agree with Ryan's and Linch's comments as well.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 21 December 2015 03:04:06PM 3 points [-]

I didn't argue that AMF's flow-through effects exceed its direct effects because (a) it's widely (although not universally) accepted and (b) it's hard to argue for. But this is probably worth addressing, so I'll try and give a brief explanation of why I expect this to be true. Thanks for bringing it up. Disclaimer: these arguments are probably not the best since I haven't thought about this much.

Small changes to global civilization have large and potentially long-lasting effects. If, for example, preventing someone from getting malaria slightly speeds up scientific progress, that could improve people's lives for potentially millions of years into the future; or if we colonize other planets, it could affect trillions or quadrillions of people per generation.

If you believe non-human animals have substantial moral value (which I think you should), then it's pretty clear that anything you do to affect humans has an even larger effect on non-human animals. Preventing someone from dying means they will go on to eat a lot of factory-farmed animals (although more so in emerging economies like China than poorer countries like Ghana), and the animals they eat will likely experience more suffering than they themselves would in their entire lives. Plus any effect a human has on the environment will change wild animal populations; it's pretty unclear what sorts of effects are positive or negative here, but they're definitely large.

Now, even if you don't believe AMF has large flow-through effects, how robust is the evidence for this belief? My basic argument still applies here: the claim that AMF has small flow-through effects is a pretty speculative claim, so we still can't say with high confidence how big AMF's impact is or whether it's even net positive.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 21 December 2015 03:17:27PM *  0 points [-]

When you say it's widely accepted, whom do you mean?

I should have mentioned this in the original comment, but I was mostly concerned with effects on humans. I find the claim that there a big flow through effects on animals, see the poor meat eater problem, much more plausible.

(I also didn't mean that I think that it's implausible that AMF has high flow through effects, but that claiming that with high confidence seems quite off to me.)

Small changes to global civilization have large and potentially long-lasting effects. If, for example, preventing someone from getting malaria slightly speeds up scientific progress, that could improve people's lives for potentially millions of years into the future; or if we colonize other planets, it could affect trillions or quadrillions of people per generation.

That's why I was arguing from the individual child's perspective: The effect on the child and their family is extremely positive, while it's very unlikely that this child will make important scientific discoveries. With the latter part of the quote you're echoing roughly the same what I said, which is that the main effect of AMF is from causing existence to the child (and here, their descendants).

Now, even if you don't believe AMF has large flow-through effects, how robust is the evidence for this belief? My basic argument still applies here: the claim that AMF has small flow-through effects is a pretty speculative claim, so we still can't say with high confidence how big AMF's impact is or whether it's even net positive.

You were the one saying that the flow through effects are probably bigger than the direct impact.

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