Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 13 September 2018 03:56:06PM 14 points [-]

There do seem to be some strong arguments in favour of having a cause prioritisation journal. I think there are some reasons against too though, which you don't mention:

  • For work people are happy to do in sufficient detail and depth to publish, there are significant downsides to publishing in a new and unknown journal. It will get much less readership and engagement, as well as generally less prestige. That means if this journal is pulling in pieces which could have been published elsewhere, it will be decreasing the engagement the ideas get from other academics who might have had lots of useful comments, and will be decreasing the extent to which people in general know about and take the ideas seriously.

  • For early stage work, getting an article to the point of being publishable in a journal is a large amount of work. Simply from how people understand journal publishing to work, there's a much higher bar for publishing than there is on a blog. So the benefits of having things looking more professional are actually quite expensive.

  • The actual work it is to set up and run a journal, and do so well enough to make sure that cause prioritisation as a field gains rather than loses credibility from it.

Comment author: Dunja 13 September 2018 08:31:44PM 5 points [-]

These are good points, and unless the area is well established so that initial publications come from bigger names (who will that way help to establish the journal), it'll be hard to realize the idea.

What could be done at this point though is have an online page that collects/reports on all the publications relevant for cause prioritization, which may help with the growth of the field.

Comment author: Dunja 13 September 2018 08:48:00AM 2 points [-]

I agree that journal publications certainly allow for a raise in quality due to the peer-review system. In principle, there could even be a mixed platform with an (online) journal + a blog which (re)posts stuff relevant for the topic (e.g. posts made on this forum that are relevant for the topic of cause prioritization).

My main question is: is there anyone on here who's actually actively doing research on this topic and who could comment on the absence of an adequate journal, as argued by kbog? I don't have any experience with this domain, but if more people could support this thesis, then it makes sense to actually go for it.

If others agree, I suppose that for further steps, you'd need an academic with expertise in the area, who'd get in touch with one of the publishing houses with a concrete proposal (including the editorial board, the condition that articles be open access, etc.), which would host the journal.

Comment author: Benito 10 September 2018 10:33:54PM 3 points [-]

I don't have the time to join the debate, but I'm pretty sure Dunja's point isn't "I know that OpenPhil's strategy is bad" but "Why does everyone around here act as though it is knowable that their strategy is good, given their lack of transparency?" It seems like people act OpenPhil's strategy is good and aren't massively confused / explicitly clear that they don't have the info that is required to assess the strategy.

Dunja, is that accurate?

(Small note: I'd been meaning to try to read the two papers you linked me to above a couple months ago about continental drift and whatnot, but I couldn't get non-paywalled versions. If you have them, or could send them to me at gmail.com preceeded by 'benitopace', I'd appreciate that.)

Comment author: Dunja 10 September 2018 10:39:47PM 1 point [-]

Thanks, Benito, that sums it up nicely!

It's really about the transparency of the criteria, and that's all I'm arguing for. I am also open for changing my views on the standard criteria etc. - I just care we start the discussion with some rigor concerning how best to assess effective research.

As for my papers - crap, that's embarrassing that I've linked paywall versions, I have them on academia page too, but guess those can be accessed also only within that website... have to think of some proper free solution here. But in any case: please don't feel obliged to read my papers, there's for sure lots of other more interesting stuff out there! If you are interested in the topic it's enough the scan to check the criteria I use in these assessments :) I'll email them in any case.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 10:13:03PM -1 points [-]

Oh no, this is not just a matter of opinion.

Part of being in an intellectual community is being able to accept that you will think that other people are very wrong about things. It's not a matter of opinion, but it is a matter of debate.

There are numerous articles written in the field of philosophy of science aimed precisely to determine which criteria help us to evaluate promising scientific research

Oh, there have been numerous articles, in your field, claimed by you. That's all well and good, but it should be clear why people will have reasons for doubts on the topic.

Comment author: Dunja 10 September 2018 10:16:31PM 1 point [-]

Part of being in an intellectual community is being able to accept that you will think that other people are very wrong about things. It's not a matter of opinion, but it is a matter of debate.

Sure! Which is why I've been exchanging arguments with you.

Oh, there have been numerous articles, in your field, claimed by you.

Now what on earth is that supposed to mean? What are you trying to say with this? You want references, is that it? I have no idea what this claim is supposed to stand for :-/

That's all well and good, but it should be clear why people will have reasons for doubts on the topic.

Sure, and so far you haven't given me a single good reason. The only thing you've done is reiterate the lack of transparency on the side of OpenPhil.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 09:56:56PM *  0 points [-]

I think some people just don't participate in this forum much.

Absofuckinglutely, so let's not make that problem worse by putting them into their own private Discord. As I said at the start, this is creating the problem that it is trying to solve.

And perhaps it's worth a shot to try an environment that will feel safe for those who are put-off by AI-related topics/interests/angles.

EA needs to adhere to high standards of intellectual rigor, therefore it can't fracture and make wanton concessions to people who feel emotional aversion to people with a differing point of view. The thesis that our charitable dollars ought to be given to x-risk instead of AMF is so benign and impersonal that it beggars belief that a reasonable person will feel upset or unsafe upon being exposed to widespread opinion in favor of it. Remember that the "near-term EAs" have been pushing a thesis that is equally alienating to people outside EA. For years, EAs of all stripes have been saying to stop giving money to museums and universities and baseball teams, that we must follow rational arguments and donate to faraway bed net charities which are mathematically demonstrated to have the greatest impact, and (rightly) expect outsiders to meet these arguments with rigor and seriousness; for some of these EAs to then turn around and object that they feel "unsafe", and need a "safe space", because there is a "bubble" of people who argue from a different point of view on cause prioritization is damningly hypocritical. The whole point of EA is that people are going to tell you that you are wrong about your charitable cause, and you shouldn't set it in protective concrete like faith or identity.

Comment author: Dunja 10 September 2018 10:11:52PM *  0 points [-]

While I largely agree with your idea, I just don't understand why you think that a new space would divide people who anyway aren't on this forum to begin with? Like I said, 70% on here are men. So how are you gonna attract more non-male participants? This topic may be unrelated, but let's say we find out that the majority of non-males have preferences that would be better align with a different type of venue. Isn't that a good enough reason to initiate it? Why would it that be conflicting, rather than complementary with this forum?

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 10:05:27PM *  0 points [-]

are their funding strategies rooted in the standards that are conducive to effective and efficient scientific research?

As I stated already, "We can presume that formal, traditional institutional funding policies would do better, but it is difficult to argue that point to the level of certainty that tells us that the situation is "disturbing". Those policies are costly - they take more time and people to implement." It is, in short, your conceptual argument about how to do EA. So, people disagree. Welcome to EA.

Subjective, unverifiable, etc. has nothing to do with such standards

It has something to do with the difficulty of showing that a group is not conforming to the standards of EA.

Comment author: Dunja 10 September 2018 10:08:04PM 1 point [-]

Oh no, this is not just a matter of opinion. There are numerous articles written in the field of philosophy of science aimed precisely to determine which criteria help us to evaluate promising scientific research. So there is actually quite some scholarly work on this (and it is a topic of my research, as a matter of fact).

So yes, I'd argue that the situation is disturbing since immense amount of money is going into research for which there is no good reason to suppose that it is effective or efficient.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 09:35:04PM *  1 point [-]

as I've explained, I may profit from reading some discussions which is a kind of engagement.

OK, sure. But when I look at conversations about near term issues on this forum I see perfectly good discussion (e.g. http://effective-altruism.com/ea/xo/givewells_charity_recommendations_require_taking/), and nothing that looks bad. And the basic idea that a forum can't talk about a particular cause productively merely because most of them reject that cause (even if they do so for poor reasons) is simply unsubstantiated and hard to believe in the first place, on conceptual grounds.

Or think of philosophers of science discussing the efficiency of scientific research in, say, a specific scientific domain (in which, as philosophers, they've never participated).

This kind of talk has a rather mixed track record, actually. (source: I've studied economics and read the things that philosophers opine about economic methodology)

Comment author: Dunja 10 September 2018 09:43:51PM *  0 points [-]

Right, and I agree! But here's the thing (which I haven't mentioned so far, so maybe it helps): I think some people just don't participate in this forum much. For instance, there is a striking gender imbalance (I think more than 70% on here are men) and while I have absolutely no evidence to correlate this with near/far-future issues, I wouldn't be surprised if it's somewhat related (e.g. there are not so many tech-interested non-males in EA). Again, this is now just a speculation. And perhaps it's worth a shot to try an environment that will feel safe for those who are put-off by AI-related topics/interests/angles.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 09:09:03PM *  1 point [-]

doesn't mean we cannot form arguments.

But they'll be unsubstantiated.

since when did arguments exist only if we can be absolutely certain about something?

You don't have to be certain, just substantiated.

there is a bubble in the EA community concerning the far-future prioritization which may be overshadowing and repulsive towards some who are interested in other topics

It may be, or it may not be. Even if so, it's not healthy to split groups every time people dislike the majority point of view. "It's a bubble and people are biased and I find it repulsive" is practically indistinguishable from "I disagree with them and I can't convince them".

we are talking here about a very specific context where a number of biases are already entrenched and people tend to be put off by that

Again, this is unsupported. What biases? What's the evidence? Who is put off? Etc.

my best guess is that you are behaving like this because you are hiding behind your anonymous identity

my IRL identity is linked via the little icon by my username. I don't know what's rude here. I'm saying that you need to engage with on a topic before commenting on the viability of engaging on it. Yet this basic point is being met with appeals to logical fallacies, blank denial of the validity of my argument, insistence upon the mere possibility and plausible deniability of your position. These tactics are irritating and lead to nowhere, so all I can do is restate my points in a slightly different manner and hope that you pick up the general idea. You're perceiving that as "rude" because it's terse, but I have no idea what else I can say.

Comment author: Dunja 10 September 2018 09:37:40PM *  0 points [-]

OK, you aren't anonymous, so that's even more surprising. I gave you earlier examples of your rude responses, but doesn't matter, I'm fine going on.

My impression of bias is based by my experience on this forum and observations in view of posts critical of far-future causes. I don't have any systematic study on this topic, so I can't provide you with evidence. It is just my impression, based on my personal experience. But unfortunately, no empirical study on this topic, concerning this forum, exists, so the best we currently have are personal experiences. My experience is based on observations of the presence of larger-than-average downvoting without commenting when criticism on these issues is voiced. Of course, I may be biased and this may be my blind spot.

You started questioning my comments on this topic by stating that I haven't engaged in any near-future discussions so far. And I am replying that i don't need to have done so in order to have an argument concerning the type of venue that would profit from discussions on this topic. I don't even see how I could change my mind on this topic (the good practice when disagreeing) because I don't see why one would engage in a discussion in order to have an opinion on the discussion. Hope that's clear by now :)

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 09:25:25PM 0 points [-]

Open Phil has a more subjective approach, others have talked about their philosophy here. That means it's not easily verifiable to outsiders, but that's of no concern to Open Phil, because it is their own money.

Comment author: Dunja 10 September 2018 09:30:05PM *  2 points [-]

Again: you are missing my point :) I don't care if it's their money or not, that's beside my point.

What I care about is: are their funding strategies rooted in the standards that are conducive to effective and efficient scientific research?

Otherwise, makes no sense to label them as an organization that's conforming to the standards of EA, at least in the case of such practices.

Subjective, unverifiable, etc. has nothing to do with such standards (= conducive to effective & efficient scientific research).

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 09:15:39PM *  1 point [-]

You reduction of a meta-topic to one's personal experience of it is a non-sequitur

I didn't reduce it. I only claim that it requires personal experience as a significant part of the picture.

Comment author: Dunja 10 September 2018 09:27:14PM 0 points [-]

But in many contexts this may not be the case: as I've explained, I may profit from reading some discussions which is a kind of engagement. You've omitted that part of my response. Or think of philosophers of science discussing the efficiency of scientific research in, say, a specific scientific domain (in which, as philosophers, they've never participated). Knowledge-of doesn't necessarily have to be knowledge obtained by an object-level engagement in the given field.

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