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[link] 'Crucial Considerations and Wise Philanthropy', by Nick Bostrom

On July 9th, 2014, Nick Bostrom gave a talk on Crucial Considerations and Wise Philanthropy at Good Done Right, a conference on effective altruism held at All Souls College, Oxford. I found the talk so valuable that I decided to transcribe it. You can find it here .
Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 14 March 2017 10:02:31PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: HenryMaine 14 December 2016 09:04:20AM *  -1 points [-]

I don't believe in making up credence numbers, especially for an audience full of people who can't tell whether or not to trust my perspective.

The very reason that I am here is to get EAs sufficiently engaged with the right material so that they can approach these sorts of questions themselves, and then we can have a real discussion.

How do I define the potential global catastrophe and people killed? I think I've already answered that in my original post: nuclear war. Of course, there is debate about whether a nuclear war would be a global or local catastrophic risk, though HaydnBelfield's original post is subject to this same question.

Local ethnic cleansing is much more likely than nuclear war.

If you are looking to understand my priors, then imagine the breakup of Yugoslavia, but in the entire EU, not just the Balkans. And the EU is much more strategically relevant to the world’s nuclear powers than Yugoslavia. The EU also contains over a million Russians, and Putin would be motivated to protect them if the EU started to collapse.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 16 December 2016 08:01:05PM 2 points [-]

an audience full of people who can't tell whether or not to trust my perspective.

Statements like "There is a growing risk that European countries will fall into civil war" are very implausible to many folks here. So if you want people to take you seriously, you should at least show us that you sincerely believe this, by being willing to turn those statements into testable predictions. Your refusal to do this is part of the reason some of us don't trust your perspective.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 09 December 2016 06:20:13AM 2 points [-]

I agree re 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' but 'lacto-vegetarian' seems dishonest.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 12 December 2016 11:29:31AM 2 points [-]

Upon reflection, I agree with you. I haven't been using the "lactovegetarian" label much, both because few people know what it means and because there isn't much need to use it. But I won't be using it at all from now on.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 08 December 2016 01:52:37PM *  8 points [-]

Europe is a morass of ethnic conflict, terrorism, sexual violence, rising nationalist militias, and jihadism. There is a growing risk that European countries will fall into civil war. Civil war in Europe would be a catastrophic risk that could go global.

  1. What is your credence that at least one European country will fall into civil war in 2017?
  2. How do you define the global catastrophe that you believe could result from civil war in Europe? In particular, how many people would need to be killed for such an event to count as a global catastrophe in your sense?
Comment author: Ben_Todd 07 December 2016 08:42:34PM 7 points [-]

I downvoted because I found the tone negative and hyperbolic. It won't kill the forum. I think a good norm the community is to always steelman before criticising. This would make us more welcoming and constructive.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 07 December 2016 10:08:39PM *  4 points [-]

I agree that, other things equal, we want to encourage critics to be constructive. All things considered, however, I'm not sure we should hold criticism to a higher standard, as we seem to be doing. This would result in higher quality criticism, but also in less total criticism.

In addition, the standard to which criticism is held is often influenced by irrelevant considerations, like the status of the person or organization being criticized. So in practice I would expect such a norm to stifle certain types of criticism more than others, over and above reducing criticism in general.

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 07 December 2016 07:11:06PM *  5 points [-]

I'd like to contribute $1k. Would you like to coordinate together so we can meet the $5k threshold?

Edit: After further consideration, I decided to instead donate $500 to the donor lottery while increasing my direct donations elsewhere.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 07 December 2016 08:16:38PM *  2 points [-]

I have been put in touch with other donors that are each contributing less than $5k, but you can just team up with us. Email me at MyFrstName at MyLastName, followed by the most common domain extension.

Ideally there should be a better procedure for doing this; the associated trivial inconvenience may be discouraging some people from joining.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 07 December 2016 01:47:26PM 10 points [-]

Cool. I'm in with $2k.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 07 December 2016 03:38:52AM *  5 points [-]

Two quick things. Firstly I think many people give to GiveWell recommended charities because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that a healthier population will spur economic growth, or political reform, or whatever else, which will improve the welfare of present and future generations of people in the country. That argument would apply to total utilitarians, though be swamped by arguments relating to existential risks.

Secondly, GiveWell at least does not claim that AMF is the 'most best charity', but rather that it meets their four criteria here (evidence, cost-effectiveness, room for more funding and transparency): http://www.givewell.org/how-we-work/criteria . But other people might accidentally start using loose language like 'best charity', and they probably shouldn't.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 07 December 2016 01:33:19PM 6 points [-]

Firstly I think many people give to GiveWell recommended charities because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that a healthier population will spur economic growth, or political reform, or whatever else, which will improve the welfare of present and future generations of people in the country.

That argument, however, is vulnerable to the "suspicious convergence" objection.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 07 December 2016 05:10:38AM 1 point [-]

I don't believe organizations should post fundraising documents to the EA Forum. As a quick heuristic, if all EA orgs did this, the forum would be flooded with posts like this one and it would pretty much kill the value of the forum.

It's already the case that a significant fraction of recent content is CEA or CEA-associated organizations talking about their own activities, which I don't particularly want to see on the EA Forum. I'm sure some other people will disagree but I wanted to contribute my opinion so you're aware that some people dislike these sorts of posts.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 07 December 2016 01:12:07PM *  9 points [-]

While I disagree with Michael and don't think we should discourage EA orgs from posting fundraising documents,* I'm disappointed that his comment has so far received 100% downvotes. This seems to be part of a disturbing larger phenomenon whereby criticism of prominent EA orgs or people tends to attract significantly more downvotes that other posts or comments of comparable quality, especially posts or comments that praise such orgs or people.

__

(*) I work for CEA, so there's a potential conflict of interest that may bias my thinking about this issue.

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