Comment author: Milan_Griffes 15 September 2017 02:15:37PM *  1 point [-]

I haven't engaged closely with your model, but here are some differences that immediately stand out:

  • Your analysis models the a change that impacts the entire UK, whereas ours models a change that impacts California.
  • Your model assumes that everyone in the UK who might benefit from treatment would seek treatment.
  • Your model assumes that everyone who receives treatment would benefit from treatment.
  • Your model doesn't include a replicability adjustment, to discount effect sizes due to the limited amount of evidence.
  • As far as I can tell, your model doesn't include costs of treatment, only costs of rescheduling.
Comment author: MichaelPlant 16 September 2017 01:21:38PM 1 point [-]

Hello Milan!

Your model assumes that everyone in the UK who might benefit from treatment would seek treatment. Your model assumes that everyone who receives treatment would benefit from treatment.

FWIW, in my model I don't assume either of those things. I assume an average counterfactual effect (counter to no rescheduling) of 0.1 HALYs for the 10m in the UK affected by depression or anxiety, not that they all get treatment or everyone benefits from the treatment (to be fair, I specify this in an edit of 14/08/2017 and you might have read it beforehand).

I don't mention replicability, but then I am assuming the rescheduling only brings a slight improvement (in the latter, more optimistic estimate I discuss whether this might be higher than 0.1 HALYs). I also mention the confusing possibility that treating some people with psychedelics might free up health care resources for other treatments.

I don't include costs of treatment, as I'm assuming this is an EA-funded campaign where our job, and what the money goes to, is changing the law and then allowing normal health care distribution to occur in the new scenario (i.e. in the US = insurer pays, in UK = govt pays).

Hence, looking at your model, I'm not sure why you include the costs of treatment, unless you think EA funders are going to be paying for those too. Even if you do think this, we should really want to have two seperate models, one for "cost of changing the law, assuming health practices then change aoccrdingly" and another for "cost effectiveness to EA funders to provide psychedelic therapy if it's available". As an aside, your model is really thorough, and I'm grateful to you for having put it together, good stuff!

This may also sound picky, but what we want to know (1) what is the most suitable model is for any give intervention, so if we're disagreeing with each other, we want to know why we're disagreeing, not just that we're disagreeing. Hence I was asking where and why you disagreed with my model.

You might reply your model is separate (campaign lobbying in UK vs ballot iniative and treatment funding in the US(?)) but, we also want to know (2) whether some new intervention is more cost-effective than all other current interventions an EA could fund (on one or more moral theory). If it's not more cost-effective then, all things considered, it would be bad to fund it. That's why I also asked if, and why, you think your drug policy reform strategy is more cost-effective than the one I proposed.

As it stands, we are perhaps comparing apples and oranges: you seem to have bundled treatment in with a policy change, and assumed this policy change will almost certainly occur depending on the polling numbers. I've just looked at policy change and estimated how much we could spend on it to change public/policy opinion and it still be more effective than AMF, assuming AMF is the current most cost-effective intervention. Hence we may need to get on the same page on this first.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 16 September 2017 12:18:59PM 1 point [-]

I found this helpful. It make clear an implicit distinction I think I'd held but hadn't made explicit. It certainly explains the motivations of many people I know who argue against capitalism when/because they are really against selfishness.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 15 September 2017 08:53:03AM 0 points [-]

Hello Miles and thanks for all this, good to see it's getting discussed.

As you probably saw, I produced a cost-effectiveness model of drug policy campaigning in the final post of my (rather long) series on the subject. In that, I suggest it's plausible drug policy reform, again just by allowing the use of psychedelics to treat mental health, could be in the range of $166/HALYs (Happiness adjusted life years), which would make it some 300 times more cost effective than you suggest.

It would be really helpful if you could say where and why you disagree with my model, given that, if you think drug policy reform is a promising intervention, my analysis suggest it's much more promising that yours does! For simplicity, let's assume HALYs and DALYs are just different types of apples, then I'd want to know why you think the structure of my model is wrong.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 06 September 2017 11:28:30AM 1 point [-]

Ok, done. Thanks. Impact-adjusted numbers are fairer, since that is what you are actually targeting, though there is some subjectivity in the impact adjusting process.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 06 September 2017 12:34:32PM 3 points [-]

Couldn't you put in both types of data so readers can draw their own conclusions?

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 01 September 2017 07:00:21PM 2 points [-]

There's a discussion about the most informative way to slice and dice the cause categories in next year's survey here:

Comment author: MichaelPlant 05 September 2017 12:12:11PM 2 points [-]

I made a comment on Wiblin's fbook thread I thought I would make it again here so it didn't get lost there:

FWIW, I think the "cause" category is confusing because some of the "causes" are best understood as ends in themselves (animal welfare, enviro, AI, non-AI far future, poverty), two of the causes are about which means you want to use (politics, rationality) but don't mention your desired ends. The final two causes (cause prio, meta) could be understood as either means or ends (you might be uncertain about the ends). On this analysis, this question isn't asking people to choose between the same sorts of options and so isn't ideal.

To improve the survey, you could have one question on the end people are interested in and then another on their preferred means to reaching it (e.g. politics, charity, research). You could also ask people's population axiology, at least roughly ("I want to make people happy, not make happy people" vs "I want to maximise the total happiness in the history of the universe"). People might support near-stuff causes even though they're implicitly total utilitarians because they're sceptical of the likelihood of X-risks or their potential to avert them. I've often wanted to know how much this is the case.

Comment author: Joey 30 August 2017 05:37:23AM 3 points [-]

I like getting down to the empirics :) Some thoughts/empirical data on some of the suggestions. Specific to me as it’s hard for me to speak for Holden, but I would be somewhat surprised if my situation/work loads were way different than other folks working in EA orgs.

i) Indeed at CSH our Canada office is small enough to fit in a single home which we do to save money and travel time. Our India location does have an office, but I have found its location to have near 0 effect on staff work hours (this is tracked so we have decent data on it). This might be due to the fact that most staff seem to work a pretty set 35-40 hours in all cases.

ii) We have in fact hired a PA to manage our life operations, but I found the benefits to be pretty minimal (also via hour tracking). Sadly the between the coordination time between us managing the PA and the work they were able to accomplish without our physical presence, our total time saved was pretty limited. This was in large part due to bureaucracy type issues like banks needing to talk to the account holder that I would expect to be true for most PA’s. We do use a bunch of technological systems which mimic a lot of their work (calendly, online groceries, etc)

iii) My job (even though we are based out of India) is pretty minimal in terms of flights, so maybe I am just lucky that I always have enough work-reading to cover the time in them. Maybe this is an issue for folks that fly a lot more or have less reading intensive work tasks? I also am lucky small enough (6 feet) to work on a laptop in even an economy class seat.

iiii) I do spend a decent amount on business class laptops that are updated before they break, but not sure that technological progress is fast enough to see huge differences in this in a single year unless someone is doing pretty computer intensive tasks like video editing.

Regarding any of these or other ideas I would be really interested in seeing any empirical data on them improving work hours as I have found this historically pretty hard to find and hard to create in my personal data. Even data on overall time trades off 1:1 vs 1:3 etc or data on really huge amounts of well time tracked hours worked by people using systems like these would be super handy.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 30 August 2017 09:49:46AM 3 points [-]

Joey, am I right in thinking your don't count work expenses in your estimate?

Your circumstances seem quite unusual for a couple of reason.

It seems you work in your home, and so don't commute to work. Most people don't get to move their office to suit their preferences. In general, if your office is in a city, you either pay to commute to it, or you'd pay more rent if you move closer, both of which are more expensive than your set up. (You could cycle, but you'd expect to you pay more to live within cycling distance).

I'd also be curious to know how you spend as part of your work and whether you count those trips in your budget or class them as business expenses. Just to push the point, if I spent 52 weeks of the year on business travel I claimed from my organisation, my personal expenditure would be tiny. I think there's also something in that travelling abroad for work will be a partial replacement for holidays (at the least, it's a change of scenery), which I don't see in your budget either.

Maybe the other thing is you're living with a partner. This isn't something one can guarantee, and if you doubled your rent, utilities and internet numbers (leaving aside, for the moment, the normal costs of dating!), because I'm assuming you split those, that adds $3300 dollars-ish, around an extra third, to your total.

I think what you're doing is admirable, but my concern is that because you run your own organisation and live with a partner, which not all EAs can or will do, you're able to reduce your own expenditure in ways that are hard to recreate. Hence I'm not sure how practical a standard this is, even leaving aside all the concerns you might be able to spend more to save time.

Comment author: ChristianKleineidam 23 August 2017 06:50:43AM *  0 points [-]

The reason no (serious) politician will endorse DPR is because the public are against it.

How do you know? Why should your audience believe that you understand the motivations of the relevant politicians?

In the UK a plurality even supports decriminalization of cannabis.

Certainly, I think the argument we should make it easier to for doctors to do research into drugs just to see if they can help miserable people, but we that shouldn’t change the law and make it any easier for the public to gain access to drugs, seems pretty hard to object to. That’s seems the least controversial, but not the most impactful, line to take.

It seems to me that you ignore the politics of the situation. Mental health policy is largely driven by Big Pharma and their agenda. You want to change the policies for mental health drugs in a way that leads to the perscription of unpatented drugs in cases where Big Pharma currently makes money with their patented drugs.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 29 August 2017 09:47:19AM 0 points [-]

How do you know? Why should your audience believe that you understand the motivations of the relevant politicians?

What evidence do you want me to present? Surely you're not asking me to look inside peeople's minds.

It seems to me that you ignore the politics of the situation. Mental health policy is largely driven by Big Pharma and their agenda. You want to change the policies for mental health drugs in a way that leads to the perscription of unpatented drugs in cases where Big Pharma currently makes money with their patented drugs

Because your first comment was so unhelpful, I feel inclined to turn it around on you: how do you know mental health policy is driven by big pharma? You seem to be speaking with a US-centric approach. Even if it's true medical policies are, to some extent, driven by commercial interests this is nevertheless (1) still not totally true in the US and (2) much less true outside it (e.g. the UK). Also, mental health is only one part of DPR.

Comment author: TruePath 29 August 2017 06:59:00AM *  0 points [-]

I'm a huge supporter of drug policy reform and try to advocate it as much as I can in my personal life. Originally, I was going to post here suggesting we need a better breakdown of particular issues which are particularly ripe for policy reform (say reforming how drug weights are calculated) and the relative effectiveness of various interventions (lobbying, ads, lectures etc..).

However, on reflection I think there might be good reasons not to get involved in this project.

Probably the biggest problem for both EA and drug policy reform is the perception that the people involved are just a bunch of weirdos (we're emotionally stunted nerds and they are a bunch of stoners). This perception reduces donations to EA causes (you don't get the same status boost if its weird) and stops people from listening to the arguments of people in dpr.

If EA is seen as being a big supporter of DPR efforts this risks making the situation worse for both groups. I can just imagine an average lesswrong contributor being interviewed on TV as to why he supports dpr and when the reporter asks him how this affects him personally he starts enthusiastically explaining his use of nootropics and the public dismisses the whole thing as just weird druggies trying to make it legal to get high. This doesn't mean those of us who believe in EA can't quietly donate to dpr organizations but it probably does prevent us from doing what EA does best, determining the particular interventions that work best at a fine grained level and doing that.

This makes me skeptical this is a particularly good place to intervene. If we are going to work in policy change at all we should pick an area where we can push for very particular effective issues without the risk of backlash (to both us and dpr organiations).

Comment author: MichaelPlant 29 August 2017 09:39:22AM 0 points [-]

You could have written the same thing 2 years ago replacing "drug policy reform" with "artificial intelligence" and made exactly the same argument: "AI is weird, it will damage EA, imagine interviewing an AI nerd like Elon Musk on tv, etc". Except lots of people now take AI seriously, it's received lots of public money and attention and lots is getting done.This is presumably because the arguments for AI were strong.

You seem to be presenting me with a Morton's Fork (a false dilemma caused by contradictory observations reaching the same conclusons): "if X is seen as weird, don't work on it. If X is not seen as weird, then it can't be neglected so there's no point working on it either." This can't be right, because it would rule out every cause.

I think the role EA fills in the world is exactly finding the important problems in the world others are ignoring, perhaps because those problems seem to weird, and then argue they are worth taking seriously. Notice there's something odd about saying "I've become convinced the arguments for X are very strong, but no one else will be convinced so let's abandon cause X". If you found argument for X persuasive, others probably will too and X is well worth working on. Clearly, we should avoid arguing for weird causes that would do no good. I didn't think DPR was important, now I think it's very substantial.

More generally, I think concerns about reputation and backlash our overstated (#spotlight effect), but I'd be open to someone showing me evidence to the contrary.

Comment author: Sanjay 22 August 2017 10:50:34PM *  2 points [-]

Some useful contacts in case you're interested (I could probably get you an intro if you like)

Comment author: MichaelPlant 28 August 2017 10:02:38AM 0 points [-]

Hello Sanjay.

I'd like to speak to TDPF and your 'circus days' friend, that would be useful. Thanks for the Vienna declaration, of which I was unaware, too.

Comment author: Sanjay 22 August 2017 10:48:56PM *  1 point [-]

I have some background in the drugs space (in fact you'll see my face in the Channel 4 documentary about drug decriminalisation that was made about 7 years ago!)

The question I've never seen answered is this: - Alcohol is legal, and it gets used a lot. If other drugs were legal, might they also get used more, meaning that if even if the quality of the drugs were better and the support available were better, the number of people addicted may go up. If we believe that addiction is really bad (I do!) this is a worry. (Sorry if you've answered this, I haven't read everything fully)

Comment author: MichaelPlant 28 August 2017 10:01:08AM 0 points [-]

Hello Sanjay,

We talk about this a bit in the health section of part 2, mentioning Portugal's decriminalisation and the use of psychedelics to treat addiction. Do we answer your questions there? if not, could I ask you to raise (further) concerns in that thread itself, just to centralise discussion for anyone else who reads this later.

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