Comment author: MichaelPlant 16 August 2017 10:26:33AM *  1 point [-]

Thanks for the comment, although I largely feel you're accusing me/us of things I'm not guilty of. (note: Lee wrote the pain section but we both did editing, so I'm unsure whether to use 'I' or 'we' here)

What I see this series of post as doing is suggesting DPR to the EA world as a cause worth taking seriously. I don't insist on particular policy suggestions. I haven't made my mind up and others are free to draw their own conclusions.

One issue we highlight is the lack of pain medication in part A of the world, whilst noting there is too much in part B, but that we wont talk about B. That doesn't seem unreasonable to do in an essay limited in scope, unless it's obvious changing the situation in A would obviously lead to it becoming like B. It's not obvious (although we can argue about it) so we left it out. Indeed, given the use of psychedelics to treat addiciton (see footnote 27), you might think that part of DPR is important because you worry about the opiate crisis.

Further, as I claim in part 1, there are multiple arguments for different types of DPR. So it's not sufficient to claim one part would backfire to say we shouldn't be interested in any of it. There are lots of ways we could do DPR, and you could change everything else whilst leaving opiates unchanged. By analogy, seems that I'm saying something like "X will reduce crimes apart from murders" and you're replying "but you should think about stopping murders" which strikes me as irrelevant.

Here's the quote where I mentioned this in part 3:

Perhaps we should legalise all those drugs up to and including cannabis on the graph of harms I used earlier, but no further. This would mean legalising everything apart from amphetamines, cocaine and heroin (and presumably keeping tobacco and alcohol legal too) [note: graph now added; must have been lost in transmission]

I'm slightly unsure how to response to your point about original analysis, which feels unhelpfully personal. In section 2.1 above I say why drugs have been made illegal, but I didn't want to get stuck into that because I took the real objective to be explaining why DPR might do good. I also suggest a range of policies (in part 3) and how they each solve different parts of the problems. I'm not claiming to be the first to write about DPR. What I thought was missing was an analysis that brings all the different arguments together, as I also discuss in part 3, and, further, brings it to the attention to EA. If you already know lots about DPR the argumentative pay-off only comes in part 4 where I explain why this might be more cost-effective that causes EAs already support. If I'd just written part 4 you (or others) would be justified in complaining I hadn't made the case!

Finally, FWIW, I think the largest ammount of value from DPR would come from tackling mental health with new methods, and that doesn't have the obvious backfire worries. I'm not really sure how to think about the heroin epidemic, nor do I see it as necessary for me to provide an answer. If you happen to have a solution to the opiate crisis and can give me a cost-effectiveness model, then I can build that in to what I do have. I'm not expecting you to have a solution, nor I think I need one to be able to deal with other parts of the topic.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 17 August 2017 06:03:22AM 1 point [-]

Fair points. I'm sorry.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 14 August 2017 10:37:03PM 1 point [-]

We say we're not going to discuss it: it's a relevantly different problem from that of under-prescription in the developing world and this is already a huge document. We don't have particular suggestions for the US epidemic but everything else we say still stands. In part 3 I note it's an open question as to whether decriminalisation, legalisation (or even the status quo) is the right response to heroine.

Do you have a suggestion?

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 16 August 2017 08:16:44AM *  2 points [-]

it's a relevantly different problem from that of under-prescription in the developing world

Seems like it could potentially be pretty relevant if "optimal" levels of prescription tend to slide towards heroin epidemics, or something like that.

this is already a huge document

That's fair. I guess I mainly wanted to ensure that you spent some time thinking about this before actually working on DPR.

[Rant incoming]

I am generally frustrated with EAs for not brainstorming how their projects might backfire. In my view, the sign of a given intervention is much more important than the tractability/cost-effectiveness, and it seems like you devoted more space to the second two. Sign uncertainty should be high by default.

I am also frustrated by the fact that I feel like in this particular case, the 'EA way' of thinking about things is actually worse than the way the average American voter thinks about them. Like, if I proposed to an average American voter that we should legalize all drugs, they would probably immediately say something like "well what about the heroin epidemic", and this seems like a completely valid point to bring up! I'm frustrated that EA has somehow caused us to focus on issues like tractability, cost-effectiveness, and neglectedness instead of addressing the issue of whether we should do the darn thing in the first place. And this is a mistake that the average American voter does not make.

This is also related to another thought pattern I see in EA where it seems like people consider EA to be some kind of magical fairy dust that creates effective interventions. Like, I'm sure many gallons of ink have been spent writing about the optimal drug policy and I don't see you making a serious attempt to either summarize the existing literature or contribute something new (e.g. "here is why drugs were made illegal, here's why the thinking is flawed"--cc Chesterton's Fence--"here's a new drug policy that gets us the benefits of the old policy without the costs"). And even if you were doing either of those things, that still doesn't necessarily constitute a basis for action. I might as well randomly choose one of the many memos that have been written over the years and implement the drug policy suggested by that memo. There's no magical fairy dust in the EA forum that makes your memo better than all the other memos that have been written.

That said, you should not take this objection personally because like I said, it is a beef I have with EA culture in general. This series is fine as a pointer to the topic, and you probably just meant to indicate "hey, EAs should be paying more attention to this", so my rant is probably unjustified.

In part 3 I note it's an open question as to whether decriminalisation, legalisation (or even the status quo) is the right response to heroine.

Could you point to the specific passage you're referring to?

As a final pragmatic note, I think if you actually wanted to work on DPR, solving the heroin epidemic could be a good first step to doing that, because that would create room to maneuver politically for legalization reforms.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 14 August 2017 10:00:26PM 0 points [-]

No discussion of the US heroin epidemic?

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 27 March 2017 02:23:23AM 4 points [-]
Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 06 August 2017 09:44:12PM *  0 points [-]

This comment also has some interesting links.

Comment author: Brian_Tomasik 25 July 2017 05:29:48PM 3 points [-]

does the vegan movement talk about running non-factory farms that sell animal products which are subsidized so they are priced competitively with factory farm products?

I would guess it'd be much less cost-effective than lobbying for welfare reforms and such.

it doesn't seem like it should matter whether the premium is paid by the customer or by some random person who wants to convert dollars in to reduced suffering.

If the altruist spends her money on this, she has less left over to spend on other things. In contrast, most consumers won't spend their savings on highly altruistic causes.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 26 July 2017 05:01:30AM *  0 points [-]

I would guess it'd be much less cost-effective than lobbying for welfare reforms and such.

I suppose this cost-effectiveness difference could be seen as a crude way to measure how close we are to the pure Moloch type scenario?

I agree my proposal would probably not make sense for anyone reading this forum. It was more of theoretical interest. It's not clear whether equivalent actions exist for other Moloch type scenarios.

In response to comment by Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) on EAGx Relaunch
Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 24 July 2017 10:31:51PM 3 points [-]

the people we'd like to have do direct work in many cases already exist in the EA sphere but don't have the affordance or nudge to dedicate themselves to EA work full-time.

Would you view the large number of rejected EA Grants proposals as evidence against this view and toward a view of funding constraints? (Of course, you can answer "yes" to that question and still think the view I quoted is accurate because of a larger balance of evidence pointing toward the quoted view.)

It's cool to see CEA thinking systematically about the entire funnel of EA talent.

In response to comment by Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) on EAGx Relaunch
Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 25 July 2017 05:27:06AM 0 points [-]

large number of rejected EA Grants proposals

Is there info about this somewhere?

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 25 July 2017 05:05:47AM *  1 point [-]

Not sure if "lazy" is quite the right word. For example, it took work to rebuild chicken housing so that each chicken got even less space. I think "greedy" is a more accurate word.

By the way, does the vegan movement talk about running non-factory farms that sell animal products which are subsidized so they are priced competitively with factory farm products? If farming animals ethically costs a premium, from a purely consequentialist perspective, it doesn't seem like it should matter whether the premium is paid by the customer or by some random person who wants to convert dollars in to reduced suffering.

BTW I think this is pretty relevant to the Moloch line of thinking.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 17 July 2017 04:23:26AM *  6 points [-]

Does anyone know which version of your analogy early science actually looked like? I don't know very much about the history of science, but it seems worth noting that science is strongly associated with academia, which is famous for being exclusionary & elitist. ("The scientific community" is almost synonymous with "the academic science community".)

Did science ever call itself a "movement" the way EA calls itself a movement? My impression is that the the skeptic movement (the thing that spreads scientific ideas and attitudes through society at large) came well after science proved its worth. If broad scientific attitudes were a prerequisite for science, that predicts that the popular atheism movement should have come several centuries sooner than it did.

If one's goal is to promote scientific progress, it seems like you're better off focusing on a few top people who make important discoveries. There's plausibly something similar going on with EA.

I'm somewhat confused that you list the formation of many groups as a benefit of broad mindset spread, but then say that we should try to achieve the formation of one very large group (that of "low-level EA"). If our goal is many groups, maybe it would be better to just create many groups? If our goal is to spread particular memes, why not the naive approach of trying to achieve positions of influence in order to spread those particular memes?

The current situation WRT growth of the EA movement seems like it could be the worst of both worlds. The EA movement does marketing, but we also have discussions internally about how exclusive to be. So people hear about EA because of the marketing, but they also hear that some people in the EA movement think that maybe the EA movement should be too exclusive to let them in. We'd plausibly be better off if we adopted a compromise position of doing less marketing and also having fewer discussions about how exclusive to be.

Growth is a hard to reverse decision. Companies like Google are very selective about who they hire because firing people is bad for morale. The analogy here is that instead of "firing" people from EA, we're better off if we don't do outreach to those people in the first place.

[Highly speculative]: One nice thing about companies and universities is that they have a clear, well-understood inclusion/exclusion mechanism. In the absence of such a mechanism, you can get concentric circles of inclusion/exclusion and associated internal politics. People don't resent Harvard for rejecting them, at least not for more than a month or two. But getting a subtle cold shoulder from people in the EA community will produce a lasting negative impression. Covert exclusiveness feels worse than overt exclusiveness, and having an official party line that "the EA movement must be welcoming to everyone" will just cause people to be exclusive in a more covert way.

In response to comment by [deleted] on Announcing Effective Altruism Grants
Comment author: lukeprog 14 June 2017 08:13:18PM 1 point [-]

For context (plausibly Mac already knows this): At least in the U.S., real-money prediction markets are apparently legal so long as the profits from successful bets do not go to the bettors (e.g. because they go to charity instead): see Bet2Give. As I understand it, Bet2Give didn't become popular enough to be sustainable — perhaps because not enough players were motivated to participate given that they couldn't actually receive monetary rewards for successful bets.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 09 July 2017 03:05:14AM 0 points [-]

My suspicion is that prediction markets on 'boring' topics will only take off if they are heavily subsidized.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 03 July 2017 09:30:46AM 1 point [-]

A literature review of relevant research on VC firms finds that the average returns of VC are roughly equivalent to that of the stock market though with significant variation and methodological uncertainty (Rin, Hellmann, & Puri, p78-80). Furthermore, choices of sampling periods and methodology can dramatically change whether venture capital is determined to be more or less profitable than private equity on average (Rin, Hellmann, & Puri, p90).

This sounds exactly like what I would expect given an efficient market for investments. If one asset class or the other delivered superior returns, I would expect capital to flow in to the area where returns were greater until low-hanging fruit was picked and returns equalized.

This sort of thing might not occur in a charitable giving 'market', however.

View more: Next