Comment author: tobiaspulver 15 December 2017 03:24:07PM 3 points [-]

They also work for me, using Firefox.

But what I really wanted to say is that the reserach agenda looks great! I'm of course especially excited about the potential research projects mentioned in the section "The Value of the Future" :) Great to see that these questions are getting more attention!

I've shared the post with EA group leaders in the German-speaking community.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 16 December 2017 12:38:14AM 2 points [-]

Totally agree. I combed through the research agenda and thought there was loads of cool stuff there.

Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 15 December 2017 12:15:53PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the heads up! I think this is a browser issue with the uni website. It actually works for me on Chrome and Edge, but others have found they don't work on Chrome, but do work on Safari. Would you mind trying a different browser and seeing if that works?

Comment author: MichaelPlant 16 December 2017 12:37:46AM 0 points [-]

Yeah, works with explorer but not chrome...

Comment author: MichaelPlant 14 December 2017 11:49:40PM 0 points [-]

This is all very exciting. Just fyi, the application links for the research fellow and senior research fellow that you mention in your last paragraph are broken.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 11 December 2017 10:39:47AM 1 point [-]

Good you set this up. Is the plan to gather the postings from both the 80k board and the fbook group so that everything is on the EA work club?

Comment author: ThomasSittler 02 December 2017 03:13:18PM *  4 points [-]

Thanks for the post! There's actually a lot of existing literature on these topics.

Regarding the effect of cash on happiness, Haushofer, Reisinger & Shapiro (2015) have a paper called "Your Gain Is My Pain: Negative Psychological Externalities of Cash Transfers".

If you are in fact skeptical of the meaningfulness of your income as a metric, you should be similarly skeptical of the meaningfulness of variations in income of people in poor countries

Maybe I misunderstand you, but the whole point of cash transfers is that money matters more for quality of life when you are poor. See 80,000 Hours' review.

The (lack of) productivity effects of (primary) education in developing countries have also been studied, although I'm less familiar with that literature. However, Haushofer & Shapiro (2016) find that as a result of the cash transfers, "education expenditures increase by USD 1 PPP", while overall expenditure on non-durable goods increases by 36 USD PPP. (Table V).

Comment author: MichaelPlant 07 December 2017 03:06:59PM 1 point [-]

Like Tom, I'm a bit uncertain as to the target or upshot of your argument. Are you claiming that GD's wealth transfers go to status goods and therefore they won't increase happiness? If so, then Tom pointing out not very much money goes on education would seem to undermine that, unless you think the rest of the expenditure is status goods too.

Another argument you could make to undermine cash transfers is that the non-comparative part of their effect (presuming it exists, which is probably does) is just quite small or short lived. In the 'Your Gain Is My Pain' paper on p32 they show the effect only lasts a few months. I discuss this in my EAG London talk which I'm hoping will go up soon. Basically I don't cash transfers do nearly as well in terms of life satisfaction as mental health interventions. So we should just fund MH interventions instead, in as much as we're concerned about the happiness of recipients.

Comment author: Khorton 07 December 2017 02:16:54PM 3 points [-]
Comment author: MichaelPlant 07 December 2017 02:56:27PM 1 point [-]

I concur. I don't think the EA forum is really the place for this, and your friend would probably find the facebook group more valuable anyway.

Comment author: Elizabeth 03 December 2017 04:53:14PM 0 points [-]

You're the second person to argue for this (other was on my personal blog), and I hear the argument. I think there's a slippery slope of what to control for here- if I include sleep, I'd also want to look at how happy people were when meditating relative to the activity it displaced.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 04 December 2017 01:22:11AM 0 points [-]

FYI, I note this is my comment above:

Presumably the appropriate counterfactual is how pleasant is meditation vs whatever they would have been doing instead with that time (e.g. watching tv?).

If 1 hour of TV is as fun as 1 hour of mindfulness, you should just ignore the effect on mindfulness for that hour of the person's day and look at it's effects on the rest of the person's life, where the person is probably somewhat happier.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 04 December 2017 12:37:17AM *  2 points [-]

Hello Elizabeth, thanks for writing this up. I think this is important work so please take all my points belows as friendly suggestions for improving the methodology so we can get a better answer or just clarificatory questions because I don't know what something is (I always find it quite hard to understand other people's CEA models).

Saying MBSR will have an effect for 38 years after treatment seems extremely generous. Do you have any data either way on how long the benefits of mindfulness last for? I've seen stuff saying CBT works for 5 years on depression(/anxiety) without much of a drop, but 38 years is very long.

What is 'time cost of initial work'?

What does 'negative years of life after treatment' refer to?

The effects of MBSR on deprssion/anxiety (or is it just anxiety? I haven't check the studies yet) you report are much weaker than I expected. The 7% number suggests that just 7% of the 'DALY-badness' of anxiety has been removed, suggesting it makes a dent in, rather than 'cures', the condition. Do you know what's going on here? Is MBSR partially effective (and how does this compare to CBT)? Are these perhaps studies on low anxiety people that got completed cured? Something else? I would think the effect, while it lasts, would have a much higher impact.

Time cost for continued practice seems odd to me. First, it's pretty implausible every person who went on an MBSR course would do 1 hour's practice each day (and very implausible if you assume they will do this for a next 39 years!). Second, you seem to be assuming the DALY weight of each hour meditating is 0.5, which is roughly as bad as it is to be anxious anyway, no? Surely time meditating can't be that painful. Unless you think meditation is actually unpleasant, something people suffer through to get less stressed when not meditating, I'd remove that part of the CEA. Meditation seems neutral/good IME. The appropriate counterfactual is how pleasant is meditation vs whatever they would have been doing instead with that time (e.g. watching tv?).

Your model also seems to assume that, if not for the treatment, the person wouldn't have had MBSR at all. Given the spread of mindfulness practice worldwide, I think this is better thought of as "if we fund this intervention, how much earlier will it cause 1 average person to start practising mindfulness than they otherwise would have?" If they person would have been an avid mindfulness-er 5 years later anyway, the effect is just 5 years. There's also the possible counterfactual that teaching this one person caused them to speed up the spread of mindfulness because they pass it on to their friends. And there's the possibility they would have used something else, such as CBT, to treat their depression/anxiety, anyway rather than left it untreated. Or that their depression/anxiety would have ended naturally. I'm unsure how to work through these counterfactuals, but it ought to be flagged even if you ultimately say "I'm just going to leave aside these counterfactual effects as too complicated".

Another worry comes when I ask myself "would this be a good thing for EAs to fund?" It seems anyone with access to the internet could self-teach mindfulness if they really wanted to. Hence the relevant obstacles are that people don't want to do it or aren't aware of it. I doubt there are hordes of people who know about MBSR and would do it but are lacking the funds to pay for the course themself. In the developed world, people could probably cough up $300 themselves. It seems a bit weird for EAs to be paying for the medical treatments of other people in the developed world. Suppose, instead, this is a medical treatment to be offered the depressed/anxious in the developing world. Then my concern is one of cultural barriers and that take up of mindfulness would be quite low (intuitively, this seems like a bigger problem for mindfulness than CBT).

If the true obstacles aren't money but awareness or motivation, that suggests the better things for EAs to do might be paying for public campaigns that advertise mindfulness, e.g. via Developed Media International. My concern is then neglectedness: there are(/will be) companies trying to market mindfulness to people for a profit. If this is true, EAs might want to leave this to the market to provide and do something else. I'm not quite sure how to think about this either.

In response to What consequences?
Comment author: MichaelPlant 28 November 2017 09:12:53PM 2 points [-]

A potential objection here is that the Austrian physician could in no way have foreseen that the infant they were called to tend to would later become a terrible dictator, so the physician should have done what seemed best given the information they could uncover. But this objection only highlights the difficulty presented by cluelessness. In a very literal sense, a physician in this position is clueless about what action would be best. Assessing only proximate consequences would provide some guidance about what action to take, but this guidance would not necessarily point to the action with the best consequences in the long run.

I think this example undermines, rather than supports, your point. Of course it's possible the baby would have grown up to be Hitler. It's also possible the baby would have grown up to be a great scientist. Hence, from the perspective of the doctor, who is presumably working on expected value and has no reason to think one special case is more likely than the other, these presumably just do cancel out. Hence the doctors looks the obvious causes. This seems like a case of what Greaves calls simple cluelessness.

A couple of general comments. There is already an academic literature of cluelessness and it's known to some EAs. It would be helpful therefore if you make it clear what you're doing that's novel. I don't mean this in a disparaging way. I simply can't tell if you're disagreeing with Greaves et al. or not. If you are, that's potentially very interesting and I want to know what the disagreement exactly is so I can assess it and see if I want to take your side. If you're not presenting a new line of thought, but just summarising or restating what others have said (perhaps in an effort to bring this information to new audiences, or just for your own benefit) you should say that instead so that people can better decided how closely to read it.

Additionally, I think it's unhelpful to (re)invent new terminology without a good reason. I can't tell the clear different between proximate, indirect and long-run consequences. I would much have preferred it if you'd explained cluelueness using Greaves' set up and then progressed from there as appropriate.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 26 November 2017 10:53:12PM 1 point [-]

Thanks very much for this. I just want to add a twist to this:

Counterintuitively, this suggests that you should stay away from new technologies: it is very likely that someone will try “machine learning for X” relatively soon, so it is unlikely to be neglected.

EAs don't have stay away from new tech. You could plan to have impact by getting rich via being the first to build cutting edge tech and then giving your money away; basically doing a variant of 'earn to give'. In this case your company wouldn't have done much good directly - because what you call the 'time advantage' would be so tiny - and the value would come from your donations. This presumes the owners of the company you beat wouldn't have given their money away.

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