Comment author: Marcus_A_Davis 11 August 2015 04:46:47PM 10 points [-]

I think you are short selling Matthews on Pascal's Mugging. I don't think his point was that you must throw up your hands because of the uncertainty, but that he believes friendly AI researchers have approximately the same amount of evidence that AI research done today will have a 10^-15 chance of saving the existence of future humanity as any infinitesimal but positive chance.

Anyone feel free to correct me, but I believe in such a scenario spreading your prior evenly over all possible outcomes wouldn't arbitrarily just include spitting the difference between 10^-15 or 10^-50 but spreading your belief over all positive outcomes below some reasonable barrier and (potentially) above another* (and this isn't taking into account the non-zero, even if unlikely, probability that despite caution AI research is indeed speeding up our doom). What those numbers are is very difficult to tell but if the estimation of those boundaries is off, and given the record of future predictions of technology it's not implausible, then all current donations could end up doing basically nothing. In other words, his critique is not that we must give up in the face of uncertainty but that the the justification of AI risk reduction being valuable right now depends on a number of assumptions with rather large error bars.

Despite what appeared to him to be this large uncertainty, he seemed to encounter many people who brushed aside, or seemingly belittled, all other possible cause areas and this rubbed him the wrong way. I believe that was his point about Pascal's Mugging. And while you criticized him for not acknowledging MIRI does not support Pascal's Mugging reasoning to support AI research, he never said they did in the article. He said many people at the conference replied to him with that type of reasoning (and as a fellow attendee, I can attest to a similar experience).

*Normally, I believe, it would be all logically possible outcomes but obviously it's unreasonable to believe a $1000 donation, which was his example, has, say, a 25% chance of success given everything we know about how much such work costs, etc. However, where the lower bound is on this estimation is far less clear.

Comment author: Marcus_A_Davis 14 April 2015 05:12:15PM 6 points [-]

This is super practical advice that I can definitely see myself applying in the future. The introductions on the sheets seem particularly well-suited to getting people engaged.

Also, "What is the first thing you would do if appointed dictator of the United States?" likely just entered my favorite questions to ask anyone in ice-breaker scenarios, many of which have nothing to do with EA.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 11 April 2015 04:43:32PM 0 points [-]

I didn't change my career, but I did dramatically change my career plans, twice.

In response to comment by Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) on April Open Thread
Comment author: Marcus_A_Davis 12 April 2015 04:34:17PM 0 points [-]

That counts. And, as I said above to Ben, I should have been more broad anyway. I just think we can use more first-person narratives about earning to give to present the idea as less of an abstraction.

Of course, I could be wrong and those who would consider earning to give at all (or would be moved to donate more because of hearing such a story) would be equally swayed by a third person analysis of why it is a good idea for some people.

Comment author: Ben_West  (EA Profile) 11 April 2015 04:01:16PM 3 points [-]

How broadly do you define "changing careers"? I, for example, switched from being a developer to founding a company for E2G reasons.

In response to comment by Ben_West  (EA Profile) on April Open Thread
Comment author: Marcus_A_Davis 12 April 2015 04:27:04PM 0 points [-]

That would count but I should have been more broad in my statement anyway. People like the "here's what I did and why I did it narrative" and earning to give could use more of these stories in general. I think a variety of them showing different perspectives for people in different positions and different abilities would be a boon.

Btw, I was quite wrong about there being no first person accounts as, for one, Chris Hallquist has written about this extensively.

Comment author: Marcus_A_Davis 07 April 2015 07:43:56PM 8 points [-]

As for my personal experience with .impact here's a brief summary:

I'm still relatively new to .impact but I actually don’t recall with clarity how I found it. I believe, with barely over 50% confidence, that Peter Hurford told me about it. So far I've found it very welcoming and bursting with ideas and people willing to help. And if you review the meeting notes, over any significant period of time it is clear many things are getting accomplished. However, even with the ability to search all of Hackpad for projects, finding things by project type can be difficult if you don’t know where to look (an Index page sorting projects by type might help). As it stands right now, the easiest way to find something for outsiders and newcomers is often just to ask someone.

Also for a newcomer, particularly one like myself who doesn't currently offer any particularly in-demand skills like web design or programming, it can be difficult to know what exactly to do if you arrive just looking to help. However, I found the answer to this, as many things in life, is to just dive in. If you think you can do it and have the time, volunteer. That’s how I ended up writing this post and moderating this forum. It really is the case that if you have the time, there’s probably something you could be working on.


Reintroducing .impact

It's been over a year since over a year since .impact explained its goals and ideas. Much has changed in effective altruism and with .impact in that time. The following is an update of our purpose and aims explaining what we do, how we do it, and how you can... Read More
Comment author: Marcus_A_Davis 07 April 2015 02:16:19AM *  4 points [-]

As someone currently in the process of learning programming here are a few thoughts on my attempt at learning two of the bolded languages, Java and Ruby:

I'm currently working through The Odin Project, which has a backend focus on Ruby, and I'd highly recommend it. I'd also recommend Peter's guide to TOP which I've found very useful which includes some time estimates, some additional resources and some things to learn after you complete TOP. Perhaps the biggest plus to TOP for me is giving projects of the correct difficulty at the correct time so that they are challenging but doable. Another of the biggest benefits of TOP is the sheer scope of the resources already collected for you. Also Ruby is far more intuitive than Java.

Before starting TOP I started learning programming by attempting to learn Java on my own without much structure. However, going on my own I'd often spend time attempting to track down a good explanation for topics. There was also the issue of not knowing what was a logical path to take to learning and I think I took some major false steps. The resource I found most beneficial during that time were probably the free courses at Cave of Programming which covered a wide range of topics but had the huge downside of being somewhat dated video tutorials. Other than that I didn't find lots of free resources to help learning Java but there are some pretty cheap stuff on Udemy and a subscription to Lynda could be a good investment as well.

Of course, a huge caveat, I am a sample size of one who had no experience at all with programming before starting with Java. People with different backgrounds may have very different experiences.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 02 April 2015 01:09:15PM 0 points [-]

Animal welfare ensures animals are taken care of, but isn't necessarily about ending carnism, i.e., eating animal flesh. Animal rights seeks to respect the rights of nonhuman animals, including the right to life and not to be killed by humans. This is merely my impression, not objective data, but in NY experience the majority of those in effective altruism who care about factory farming are for full animal rights, not merely animal welfare. There is also a contingent of utilitarians within effective altruism who primarily care about reducing and ending suffering. They may be willing to compromise in favor of animal welfare, and not full rights, but I'm not sure. They definitely don't seem a majority of those concerned with animal suffering within effective altruism.

Comment author: Marcus_A_Davis 03 April 2015 02:52:56AM 3 points [-]

There is also a contingent of utilitarians within effective altruism who primarily care >about reducing and ending suffering. They may be willing to compromise in favor of >animal welfare, and not full rights, but I'm not sure. They definitely don't seem a >majority of those concerned with animal suffering within effective altruism.

Of course, only actual data on EAs could demonstrate the proportionate of utilitarians willing to compromise but this seems weird. To me it would seem utilitarianism all but commits you to accept "compromises" on animal welfare at least in the short term given historical facts about how groups gained ethical consideration. As far as I know (anyone feel free to provide examples to the contrary), no oppressed group has ever seen respect for their interests go from essentially "no consideration" (where animals are today) to "equal consideration" without many compromising steps in the middle.

In other words, a utilitarian may want the total elimination of meat eating (though this is also somewhat contentious) but in practice they will take any welfare gains they can get. Similarly, utilitarians may want all wealthy people to donate to effective charities until global poverty is completely solved but will temporarily "compromise" by accepting only 5% of wealthy people to donate 10% of their income to such charities while pushing people to do better.

So, in practice, utilitarianism would mean setting the bar at perfection (and publicly signaling the highest standard that advances you towards perfection) but taking the best improvement actually on offer. I see no reason this shouldn't apply to the treatment of animals. Of course, other utilitarians may disagree that this is the best long term strategy (hopefully evidence will settle this question) but that is an argument about game theory and not whether some improvement is better than none or if settling for less than perfection is allowable.

Comment author: Tom_Ash  (EA Profile) 02 April 2015 03:05:18AM 1 point [-]

I anticipate some slow progress from some of the people listed there.

In response to comment by Tom_Ash  (EA Profile) on April Open Thread
Comment author: Marcus_A_Davis 02 April 2015 03:55:42AM 0 points [-]

Ah, I should have guessed that from the "this is being actively pursued" label or I could have just asked there.

Naturally, if you'd like the help, I suspect there may be at least a few people here who, given their familiarity with a given religion, may have a decent idea of how to pitch the focus on effectiveness to a specific group.

In response to April Open Thread
Comment author: Marcus_A_Davis 02 April 2015 03:10:00AM 1 point [-]

Are there any first person pieces on someone about successfully changing careers in order to earn to give? There have been several stories discussing the topic over the past few years but these all seem to be descriptive, third person accounts, or normative analysis.

Even if not, if you've actually made such a change could you please publicly share your story. I'd like to hear it and I'd bet many others would too.

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