Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 12:08:35AM *  7 points [-]

Discord lets you separate servers into different channels for people to talk about different things. There is already an EA Discord, of course new and near term EAs are welcome there. I think it would be bad if we split things like this because the more the near term EAs isolate themselves, the more and more "alienated" people will feel elsewhere, so it will be a destructive feedback loop. You're creating the problem that you are trying to solve.

Also, it would reinforce the neglect of mid-term causes which have always gotten too little attention in EA.

I ask that far-future effective altruists and people whose priority cause area is AI risk or s-risks do not participate.

Yeah, this isn't good policy. It should be pretty clear that this is how groupthink happens, and you're establishing it as a principle. I get that you feel alienated because, what, 60% of people have a different point of view? (perish the thought!) And you want to help with the growth of the movement. But hopefully you can find a better way to do this than creating an actual echo chamber. It's clearly a poor choice as far as epistemology is concerned.

You're also creating the problem you're trying to solve in a different way. Whereas most "near-term EAs" enjoy the broad EA community perfectly well, you're reinforcing an assumption that they can't get along, that they should expect EA to "alienate" them, as they hear about your server. As soon as people are pointed towards a designated safe space, they're going to assume that everything on the outside is unfriendly to them, and that will bias their perceptions going forward.

You are likely to have a lighter version of the problem that Hatreon did with Patreon, Voat with Reddit, etc - whenever a group of people has a problem with the "mainstream" option and someone tries to create an alternative space, the first people who jump ship to the alternative will be the highly-motivated people on the extreme end of the spectrum, who are the most closed-minded and intolerant of the mainstream, and they are going to set the norms for the community henceforth. Don't get me wrong, it's good to expand EA with new community spaces and be more appealing to new people, it is always nice to see people put effort into new ideas for EA, but this is very flawed, I strongly recommend that you revise your plans.

Comment author: Elizabeth 10 September 2018 08:45:40PM 2 points [-]

I don’t often argue the merits of bednets versus cash transfers, which means I get intellectually sloppy knowing I won’t be challenged.

OK, but in that case wouldn't it be better to stick around people with opposing points of view?

This seems like a pretty severe misreading to me. Ozy is saying that they want to hone their arguments against people with expertise in a particular field rather than a different field, which is perfectly reasonable.

Comment author: Elizabeth 07 September 2018 11:27:37PM 3 points [-]

How does ACE intend the CEEs to be used, if they're not a major determinant of recommendations?

Comment author: Dunja 21 July 2018 01:41:55PM *  0 points [-]

Hey Gregory, thanks for commenting on this. The problem with the idea that downvoting signifies "less of this" is that the poster has no clue as for what that refers to, and hence they're at a loss in trying to reduce less of that. And after all, why would they? All one can conclude is: "There are people here who don't like reading this. Well, that tells me more about this audience (unable to critically engage with my points) and their biased viewpoints than about my post. In fact, it doesn't tell me anything about the arguments provided in my post."

As for meta-discussions on the reasons for down-voting, I think they'd be rather healthy: they'd expose both expectations, values and even biases held by the forum's participants.

Comment author: Elizabeth 05 August 2018 10:57:45PM 4 points [-]

One downside of critical comments is they tend to draw attention to the discussion. Mass downvoting suggests that something is so low quality you don't have to pay attention to it.

Comment author: Dunja 31 July 2018 10:20:21AM *  0 points [-]

I'd be curious to hear some explanation of

"University-based grantees were not considered for these grants because I believe they are not well-positioned to use funds for time-saving and productivity-enhancement due to university regulations."

since I have no clue what that means. In the text previous to this claim it is only stated that "I recommended these grants with the suggestion that these grantees look for ways to use funding to trade money for saving the time or increasing the productivity of their employees (e.g. subsidizing electronics upgrades or childcare)"- but a university staff can indeed use the funding to cover the teaching duties, as well as to buy a better equipment.

Moreover, if it were any other domain of research (say, medicine or physics), I'd be rather worried if university-based grants were disqualified for this kind of reason.

Comment author: Elizabeth 02 August 2018 03:30:31AM 3 points [-]

I'm in no way associated with EA Funds (although I do contract with CEA), but I can take a guess. Several EA orgs pay for assistants and certain other kinds of help for academics directly, which makes me think that the straightforward interpretation of the statement is true: Nick wanted to fund time savings for high impact people, and academics can't accept money to do that, although they can accept donated labor.

Comment author: Elizabeth 31 July 2018 04:03:33AM 5 points [-]
Comment author: MichaelPlant 04 December 2017 12:37:17AM *  2 points [-]

Hello Elizabeth, thanks for writing this up. I think this is important work so please take all my points belows as friendly suggestions for improving the methodology so we can get a better answer or just clarificatory questions because I don't know what something is (I always find it quite hard to understand other people's CEA models).

Saying MBSR will have an effect for 38 years after treatment seems extremely generous. Do you have any data either way on how long the benefits of mindfulness last for? I've seen stuff saying CBT works for 5 years on depression(/anxiety) without much of a drop, but 38 years is very long.

What is 'time cost of initial work'?

What does 'negative years of life after treatment' refer to?

The effects of MBSR on deprssion/anxiety (or is it just anxiety? I haven't check the studies yet) you report are much weaker than I expected. The 7% number suggests that just 7% of the 'DALY-badness' of anxiety has been removed, suggesting it makes a dent in, rather than 'cures', the condition. Do you know what's going on here? Is MBSR partially effective (and how does this compare to CBT)? Are these perhaps studies on low anxiety people that got completed cured? Something else? I would think the effect, while it lasts, would have a much higher impact.

Time cost for continued practice seems odd to me. First, it's pretty implausible every person who went on an MBSR course would do 1 hour's practice each day (and very implausible if you assume they will do this for a next 39 years!). Second, you seem to be assuming the DALY weight of each hour meditating is 0.5, which is roughly as bad as it is to be anxious anyway, no? Surely time meditating can't be that painful. Unless you think meditation is actually unpleasant, something people suffer through to get less stressed when not meditating, I'd remove that part of the CEA. Meditation seems neutral/good IME. The appropriate counterfactual is how pleasant is meditation vs whatever they would have been doing instead with that time (e.g. watching tv?).

Your model also seems to assume that, if not for the treatment, the person wouldn't have had MBSR at all. Given the spread of mindfulness practice worldwide, I think this is better thought of as "if we fund this intervention, how much earlier will it cause 1 average person to start practising mindfulness than they otherwise would have?" If they person would have been an avid mindfulness-er 5 years later anyway, the effect is just 5 years. There's also the possible counterfactual that teaching this one person caused them to speed up the spread of mindfulness because they pass it on to their friends. And there's the possibility they would have used something else, such as CBT, to treat their depression/anxiety, anyway rather than left it untreated. Or that their depression/anxiety would have ended naturally. I'm unsure how to work through these counterfactuals, but it ought to be flagged even if you ultimately say "I'm just going to leave aside these counterfactual effects as too complicated".

Another worry comes when I ask myself "would this be a good thing for EAs to fund?" It seems anyone with access to the internet could self-teach mindfulness if they really wanted to. Hence the relevant obstacles are that people don't want to do it or aren't aware of it. I doubt there are hordes of people who know about MBSR and would do it but are lacking the funds to pay for the course themself. In the developed world, people could probably cough up $300 themselves. It seems a bit weird for EAs to be paying for the medical treatments of other people in the developed world. Suppose, instead, this is a medical treatment to be offered the depressed/anxious in the developing world. Then my concern is one of cultural barriers and that take up of mindfulness would be quite low (intuitively, this seems like a bigger problem for mindfulness than CBT).

If the true obstacles aren't money but awareness or motivation, that suggests the better things for EAs to do might be paying for public campaigns that advertise mindfulness, e.g. via Developed Media International. My concern is then neglectedness: there are(/will be) companies trying to market mindfulness to people for a profit. If this is true, EAs might want to leave this to the market to provide and do something else. I'm not quite sure how to think about this either.

Comment author: Elizabeth 04 December 2017 07:09:05AM 2 points [-]

These are all great comments, thank you.

Saying MBSR will have an effect for 38 years after treatment seems extremely generous. Do you have any data either way on how long the benefits of mindfulness last for? I've seen stuff saying CBT works for 5 years on depression(/anxiety) without much of a drop, but 38 years is very long.

The only studies I remember (and it's been a while since I did this) checked in at 18 months and still showed significant improvement. I'd be very interested if you have a source for the CBT numbers, since that seems directly applicable.

What is 'time cost of initial work'?

Time to attend the class.

What does 'negative years of life after treatment' refer to?

guesstimate doesn't have a sigmoid function, so I used a constant minus a lognormal range.

The effects of MBSR on deprssion/anxiety (or is it just anxiety? I haven't check the studies yet) you report are much weaker than I expected.

All of the studies I read were on mild-to-moderate depression or anxiety, and ended with people having no-to-mild depression/anxiety on average. It wouldn't surprise me if in reality some people got very large benefits and others got none, which would make this a somewhat better intervention because people who didn't benefit could stop.

you seem to be assuming the DALY weight of each hour meditating is 0.5, which is roughly as bad as it is to be anxious anyway, no? Surely time meditating can't be that painful.

I think treating it as bad as death is a ceiling we won't reach, but I do think many people find meditation actively unpleasant, especially if they have a mood disorder, relative to doing something distracting. If meditation were more fun than watching TV we wouldn't have to justify it with long term health.

Another worry comes when I ask myself "would this be a good thing for EAs to fund?" It seems anyone with access to the internet could self-teach mindfulness if they really wanted to.

The costs of learning are so low relative to the costs of practicing they end up not making a big difference in the model.

It seems a bit weird for EAs to be paying for the medical treatments of other people in the developed world.

I am surprised to hear you say that, given your emphasis on mental health, which is suffering independent of material circumstances. Given that only 40% of Americans have the savings for an unexpected $1000 bill (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/63-of-americans-cant-afford-500-car-repair-or-1000-emergency-room-visit-300200097.html) , I find it quite realistic that people would benefit from others paying for care, although I expect the time to take the class and practice to be even bigger barriers.

Then my concern is one of cultural barriers and that take up of mindfulness would be quite low (intuitively, this seems like a bigger problem for mindfulness than CBT).

My intuition is the opposite: CBT was developed in a very specific cultural context and seems to take as an assumption that nothing is actually wrong. Mindfulness meditation has been practiced for... long enough that getting an actual date is infeasible.

If the true obstacles aren't money but awareness or motivation, that suggests the better things for EAs to do might be paying for public campaigns that advertise mindfulness, e.g. via Developed Media International. My concern is then neglectedness: there are(/will be) companies trying to market mindfulness to people for a profit. If this is true, EAs might want to leave this to the market to provide and do something else. I'm not quite sure how to think about this either.

My research on media interventions was very pessimistic, even for DMI (http://effective-altruism.com/ea/1ha/mental_health_shallow_review/). This time could be different, but I think it's a very hard problem.

I think you raise a valid point that there's a vibrant market in mindfulness apps, and I'd be very curious to know how they stacked up to the formal program.

Comment author: Alex_Barry 03 December 2017 04:29:31PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for the post, as a minor nitpick, shouldn't the maximal DALY cost of doing something for an hour a day be 1/16, since there are only 16 waking hours in a day and presumably the period whilst asleep does not contribute?

Comment author: Elizabeth 03 December 2017 04:53:14PM 0 points [-]

You're the second person to argue for this (other was on my personal blog), and I hear the argument. I think there's a slippery slope of what to control for here- if I include sleep, I'd also want to look at how happy people were when meditating relative to the activity it displaced.

Comment author: DonyChristie 27 November 2017 09:48:25AM 0 points [-]

Did you look into coherence therapy or other modalities that use memory reconsolidation? It is theoretically more potent than CBT.

Comment author: Elizabeth 27 November 2017 10:46:17PM 1 point [-]

How scalable is coherence therapy? CBT is attractive not just because of the experimental backing but because it can be automated.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 22 November 2017 10:53:11PM 3 points [-]

Hey, on (1), cost-effectiveness estimates and wellbeing estimates are useful, but I'd also want to think more broadly about the INT framework side-by-side with global health, as well as other more qualitative arguments on each side.

Relatedly, I can imagine concluding that it's a big and neglected problem, but also one where clear, evidence-backed scalable interventions don't yet exist, so the top priority might be more research to develop better interventions. This perspective might get overlooked if you focus more on cost-effectiveness estimates, but seems pretty reasonable in some of these areas, such as mindfulness.

If that perspective is correct, then the question becomes is it better to scale up proven global health interventions, or do more research into mental health interventions?

Comment author: Elizabeth 22 November 2017 11:02:47PM 1 point [-]

...is it better to scale up proven global health interventions, or do more research into mental health interventions?

That's a great question I don't know enough to answer. I'd love to see general guidelines for deciding on investment in research versus boots on the ground work.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 22 November 2017 06:06:57AM 7 points [-]

Great post, like all the data, and would be keen to see more work like this. I've added a link to it here: https://80000hours.org/articles/cause-selection/

Some more questions I'd be interested in:

1) I'd be interested to see more on how you think it compares to other EA causes all considered, especially the most similar one, global health. I'd start with taking a short-term DALYs and economic perspective, but would also be interested in what a long-term perspective might say about the comparison (I've almost seen nothing about this)

2) I'd be interested to see firmer recommendations for people who have already decided they want to focus on mental health - what are your thoughts on the most promising interventions and career paths?

Comment author: Elizabeth 22 November 2017 04:17:56PM *  3 points [-]

Thanks Ben, this is very helpful as I revise the report.

For (1): my research showed that as bad as the existing options for measuring utils are, they're worse for mental health. I'd originally published this on my own blog to avoid spamming EA Forums, but this is the second time I'm linking to it in the comments so I've posted it hear as well: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/1he/measuring_the_impact_of_mental_illness_on_quality/. You might also be interested in a DALY/$ estimate I made for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction: https://acesounderglass.com/2017/11/20/cost-effectiveness-of-mindfulness-based-stress-reduction/ .

For (2): I'll update the doc to reflect this, but in order of increasing abstraction:

'1. Copy StrongMind's model to other poor countries. A SM representative I talked to said they would be happy to help get other charities off the ground.

'2. Research how to optimize mindfulness, make it palatable to the general public, and expand the circle of people it helps/has been demonstrated to help. I met an organization working on this for business at a conference and am quite excited at the potential for increasing both happiness and productive capacity, although I know nothing about the implementation.

'3. Figure out how to measure subjective experience so we can better compare interventions, within and without mental health.

View more: Next