Comment author: JanBrauner 03 January 2018 04:50:24PM 5 points [-]

You write: "In this discussion, there are two considerations that might at first have ap- peared to be crucial, but turn out to look less important. The first such consid- eration is whether existence is in general good or bad, `a la Benatar (2008). If existence really should turn out to be a harm, sufficiently unbiased descendants would plausibly be able to end it. This is the option value argument. In turn, option value itself might appear to be a decisive argument against doing some- thing so irreversible as ending humanity: we should temporise, and delegate this decision to our descendants. But not everyone enjoys option value, and those who suffer are relatively less likely to do so. If our descendants are selfish, and find it advantageous to allow the suffering of powerless beings, we may not wish to give them option value. If our descendants are altruistic, we do want civilisation to continue, but for reasons that are more general than option value."

Since the option value argument is not very strong, it seems to be a very important consideration "whether existence in general is good or bad" - or, less dichotomous, where the threshold for a life worth living lies. Space colonization means more (sentient) beings. If our descendants are altruistic (or have values that we, upon reflection, would endorse), everything is fine anyway. If our descendants are selfish, and the threshold for a life worth living is fairly low, then not much harm will be done (as long as they don't actively value causing harm, which seems unlikely). If they are selfish and the threshold is fairly high - i.e. a lot of things in a life have to go right in order to make the life worth living - then most powerless beings will probably have bad lives, possibly rendering overall utility negative.

Comment author: vollmer 13 November 2017 09:38:31PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for sharing!

Do you have recommendations for tools to manage reading lists? Especially doing the things that you describe in your flowchart (list types/categories/tags, dragging items around and reordering them, etc.). Mobile apps would be a plus. I've experimented with several tools (e.g. Pocket / Instapaper) but will probably stick with Google Docs / Evernote.

Comment author: JanBrauner 14 November 2017 04:34:25PM 1 point [-]

Sorry, I use plain old google docs as well :|


An algorithm/flowchart for prioritizing which content to read

Summary: The following is an algorithm/flow-chart I use for literature research/reading EA content/… It is not based on any evidence, but it helps me prioritize a lot.   You feel overwhelmed, because there is just too much content that makes you think “I should read this, it might be really... Read More
Comment author: JanBrauner 03 November 2017 11:51:00AM 3 points [-]

This was really interesting and probably as clear as such a topic can possibly be displayed.

Disclaimer: I dont know how to deal with infinities mathematically. What I am about to say is probably very wrong.

For every conceivable value system, there is an exactly opposing value system, so that there is no room for gains from trade between the systems (e.g. suffering maximizers vs suffering minimizers).

In an infinite multiverse, there are infinite agents with decision algorithms sufficiently similar to mine to allow for MSR. Among them, there are infinite agents that hold any value system. So whenever I cooperate with one value system, I defect on infinite agents that hold the exactly opposing values. So infinity seems to make cooperation impossble??

Sidenote: If you assume decision algorithm and values to be orthogonal, why do you suggest to "adjust [the values to cooperate with] by the degree their proponents are receptive to MSR ideas"?

Best, Jan

Comment author: JanBrauner 13 October 2017 09:34:38AM 4 points [-]

Just wanted to say that I found this article really helpful and already sent it to many people who asked me for how they should make a decision. Please never take it down :D

In response to Introducing Enthea
Comment author: JanBrauner 09 August 2017 09:09:13AM 1 point [-]

Seems interesting, how can one stay updated?

Comment author: JanBrauner 02 August 2017 09:02:48AM 1 point [-]

This could be constructed as arguing for an approach that takes all perspectives that one can think of into account, and then discount them by uncertainty.

Comment author: JanBrauner 21 July 2017 04:54:38PM *  3 points [-]

Here is another argument why the future with humanity is likely better than the future without it. Possibly, there are many things of moral weight that are independent of humanity's survival. And if you think that humanity would care about moral outcomes more than zero, then it might be better to have humanity around.

For example in many szenarios of human extinction, wild animals would continue existing. In your post you assigned farmed animals enough moral weight to determine the moral value of the future, and wild animals should probably have even more moral weight. There are 10 x more wild birds than farmed birds, 100-1000x more wild mammals than farmed animals (and of course many, many more fish or even invertebrates). I am not convinced that wild animals' lives are on average not worth living (= that they contain more suffering than happiness), but even without that, there surely is a huge amount of suffering. If you believe that humanity will have the potential to prevent/alleviate that suffering some time in the future, that seems pretty important.

The same goes for unknown unknowns. I think we know extremely little about what is morally good or bad, and maybe our views will fundamentally change in the (far) future. Maybe there are suffering non-intelligent extraterrestrials, maybe bacteria suffer, maybe there is moral weight in places were we would not have expected it (, maybe something completely different.

Let's see what the future brings, but it might be better to have an intelligent and at least slightly utility-concerned species around, as compared to no intelligent species.

Comment author: JanBrauner 13 July 2017 06:20:44PM *  5 points [-]

With regards to "following your comparative advantage":

Key statement : While "following your comparative advantage" is beneficial as a community norm, it might be less relevant as individual advice.

Imagine 2 people Ann and Ben. Ann has very good career capital to work on cause X. She studied a relevant subject, has relevant skill, maybe some promising work experience and a network. Ben has very good career capital to contribute to cause Y. Both have aptitude to become good at the other cause as well, but it would take some time, involve some cost, maybe not be as save.

Now Ann thinks that cause Y is 1000 times as urgent as cause X, and for Ben it is the other way around. Both consider retraining for the cause they think is more urgent.

From a community perspective, it is reasonable to promote the norm that everyone should follow their comparative advantage. This avoids prisoner's dilemma situations and increases total impact of the community. After all, the solution that would best satisfy both Ann's and Ben's goals was if each continued in their respective areas of expertise. (Let's assume they could be motivated to do so)

However, from a personal perspective, let's look at Ann's situation: In reality of course, there will rarely be a Ben to mirror Ann, who would also be considering retraining at exactly the same time as Ann. And if there was, they would likely not know each other. So Ann is not in the position to offer anyone the specific trade that she could offer Ben, namely: "I keep contributing to cause X, if you continue contributing to cause Y"

So these might be Ann's thoughts: "I really think that cause Y is much more urgent than anything I could contribute to cause X. And yes, I have already considered moral uncertainty. If I went on to work on cause X, this would not directly cause someone else to work on cause Y. I realize that it is beneficial for EA to have a norm that people should follow their comparative advantage, and the creation of such a norm would be very valuable. However, I do not see how my decision could possibly have any effect on the establishment of such a norm"

So for Ann it seems to be a prisoner’s dilemma without iteration, and she ought to defect.

I see one consideration why Ann should continue working towards cause X: If Ann believed that EA is going to grow a lot, EA would reach many people with better comparative advantage for cause Y. And if EA successfully promoted said norm, those people would all work on cause Y, until Y would not be neglected enough any more to be much more urgent than cause X. Whether Ann believes this is likely to happen depends strongly on her predictions of the future of EA and on the specific characteristics of causes X and Y. If she believed this would happen (soon), she might think it was best for her to continue contributing to X. However, I think this consideration is fairly uncertain and I would not give it high weight in my decision process.

So it seems that - it clearly makes sense (for CEA/ 80000 hours/ ...) to promote such a norm - it makes much less sense for an individual to follow the norm, especially if said indiviual is not cause agnostic or does not think that all causes are within the same 1-2 orders of magnitude of urgency.

All in all, the situation seems pretty weird. And there does not seem to be a consensus amongst EAs on how to deal with this. A real world example: I have met several trained physicians who thought that AI safety was the most urgent cause. Some retrained to do AI safety research, others continued working in health-related fields. (Of course, for each individual there were probably many other factors that played a role in their decision apart from impact, e.g. risk aversion, personal fit for AI safety work, fit with the rest of their lives, ...)

Ps: I would be really glad if you could point me to errors in my reasoning or aspects I missed, as I, too, am a physician currently considering retraining for AI safety research :D

Pps: I am new to this forum and need 5 karma to be able to post threads. So feel free to upvote.