How fragile was history?

Elsewhere  (and better): 1 , 2 . If one could go back in time and make a small difference in the past, would one expect it to effect dramatic changes to the future? Questions like these are fertile soil for fiction writers (generally writing under speculative or alternative history) but... Read More

In defence of epistemic modesty

This piece defends a strong form of epistemic modesty: that, in most cases, one should pay scarcely any attention to what you find the most persuasive view on an issue, hewing instead to an idealized consensus of experts. I start by better pinning down exactly what is meant by ‘epistemic... Read More

Beware surprising and suspicious convergence

Imagine this: Oliver: … Thus we see that donating to the opera is the best way of promoting the arts. Eleanor: Okay, but I’m principally interested in improving human welfare. Oliver: Oh! Well I think it is also the case that donating to the opera is best for improving human... Read More

At what cost, carnivory?

Summary:  Using Animal Charity Evaluator’s figures, I estimate the amount donated to an effective animal charity to equal the harm caused by a typical American diet compared to veganism. This figure is surprisingly low: $2-5 per year. This suggests that personal dietary change, relative to other things we can do,... Read More

Don't sweat diet?

Summary:  Various people (Hurford, Tomasik) have tried to estimate the typical animal welfare cost of a carnivorous diet. These costs have encouraged EAs to become vegetarians or vegans, and EAs particularly focused on animal welfare advocate that others (including EAs) should reduce their consumption of animal products. Closely following an... Read More

Log-normal lamentations

[Morose. Also very roughly drafted. Cross ] Normally, things are distributed normally. Human talents may turn out to be one of these things. Some people are lucky enough to find themselves on the right side of these distributions – smarter than average, better at school, more conscientious, whatever. To them... Read More

How best to aggregate judgements about donations?

For people who care about the outside view, or generally like equal-weight or conciliatory views of social epistemology, a good survey of what people think can be very valuable: one can look for epistemic superiors and follow their lead, and the 'wisdom of the crowds' mean that the central view... Read More

Saving the World, and Healing the Sick

[Part EA origin story, part introduction to EA. I've experimented with a more discursive style, but it may come off as flabby, verbose, etc. Probably won't cover anything new. Hope folks enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.] When I applied to medical school, I had to... Read More

Expected value estimates you can take (somewhat) literally

Summary A geometric interpretation of tail divergence offers a pseudo-robust mechanism of quantifying the expected 'regression to the mean' of a cost effectiveness estimate (i.e. expected value  given  estimated value). With caveats, this seems to be superior to current attempts at guestimation and 'calling the bottom' of anticipated regression to... Read More

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