Comment author: ThomasSittler 23 May 2017 10:55:02AM *  1 point [-]

Do you mean Bostrom's estimate that "the Virgo Supercluster could contain 10^23 biological humans"? This did come up in our conversations. One objection that was raised is that humanity could go extinct, or for some other reason colonisation of the Supercluster could have a very low probability. There was significant disagreement among us, and if I recall correctly we chose the median of our estimates.

Do you think Bostrom is correct here? What probability distribution would you have chosen for the expected far future population size? :)

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 23 May 2017 07:11:03PM 3 points [-]

colonisation of the Supercluster could have a very low probability.

What do you mean by very low probability? If you mean a one in a million chance, that's not improbable enough to answer Bostrom. If you mean something that would actually answer Bostrom, then please respond to the SlateStarCodex post Stop adding zeroes.

I think Bostrom is on the right track, and that any analysis which follows your approach should use at least a 0.1% chance of more than 10^50 human life-years.

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 22 May 2017 02:41:16PM 5 points [-]

Can you explain your expected far future population size? It looks like your upper bound is something like 10 orders of magnitude lower than Bostrom's most conservative estimates.

That disagreement makes all the other uncertainty look extremely trivial in comparison.

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 08 January 2017 07:32:58PM 6 points [-]

You claim this is non-partisan, yet you make highly partisan claims, such as "conservatives have relied much more on lies" (you cite Trump's lies, but treating Trump as a conservative is objectionable to many conservatives).

Comment author: casebash 18 September 2016 02:43:23PM 1 point [-]

I can see the value of voter registration as an activity for engaging group members, as it provides a very tangible impact.

On the other hand it is a radical departure from EA principles which focus on measurability instead of things that just sound good. Voter registration has a strong intuitive appeal - as does many other ideas such as the idea of empowering aid recipients - but when the rubber hits the road - what is the actual impact? This is something that is way too difficult to predict and far too dependent on subjective views on controversial topics. Particularly, the idea that X is valuable because everyone in mainstream society things it is valuable is greatly concerning from an EA perspective.

As soon as EA chapters start engaging in voter registration, we would have greatly undermined the purpose of EA. This purpose is not, as might be supposed, ensuring that all altruists focus on measurable cause areas, but uniting and growing the community of people focusing on measurable cause areas. When groups start focusing on non-measurable cause areas, this hampers achieving this objective. I mean, one non-measurable cause area by itself would have negligent impact, but the worry is that each such cause area makes it more likely that Effective Altruism losses its focus.

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 18 September 2016 05:06:34PM 3 points [-]

Measurability doesn't sound quite adequate to describe what this proposal is missing.

FHI and MIRI have major problems with measurability, yet have somewhat plausible claims to fit EA principles.

Voter registration has similar problems with estimating how it affects goals such as lives saved, but seems to be missing an analysis of why the expected number of lives saved is positive or negative.

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 17 September 2016 04:38:08PM 4 points [-]

The obvious objection is that voters who would otherwise not vote are likely to be less informed than the average voter, so your effort causes election results to be less well informed.

You sound more concerned with whether your actions are socially approved than you are with evaluating the results.

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 12 August 2016 11:31:42PM -1 points [-]

I'll guess that the most important effects of this would be to influence which species get uploaded when, reducing the chances that the world will be ruled by uploaded bonobos, and increasing the chance of nonprimates ruling.

Comment author: Alexander 21 February 2016 06:46:58AM 1 point [-]

Does anyone know if futures markets for crude oil exist on more than a 10-year time frame?

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 22 February 2016 05:11:16PM 1 point [-]

On the Nymex, they currently go out to Dec 2024. That contract appears to trade less than once a week.

There might be occasional contracts for more distant years traded between institutional investors that don't get publicly reported, but the low volume on publicly traded contracts suggests people just aren't interested in trading such contracts.

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 25 January 2016 08:06:32PM 5 points [-]

Your use of the phrase "fair market value" is a large red flag.

I've been speculating in stocks for 35 years. One of the hardest lessons I needed to learn was to not believe that last year's prices were fairer than today's prices.

Betting on mean reversion occasionally makes sense, but I've learned to only do it after careful analysis of the fundamentals (earnings, book value, etc).

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 01 August 2015 03:42:26PM 0 points [-]

The goal of avoiding groupthink has the potential to be a very important reason for preferring direct funding. If the direct funding ends up substituting for donations to large, entrenched institutions, then I expect it to be valuable. But I expect that any groupthink associated with young charities that have a handful of employees comes from a broader community, not the specific institution.

Comment author: Paul_Christiano 30 July 2015 06:06:18PM *  8 points [-]

It's worth spelling out why you think that individuals are cheaper than institutions. Reasons I can see:

  1. Individuals are willing to work for less. But this doesn't really speak to the opportunity cost of their time, which (from the perspective of society, or "effective altruism" as a whole) is the main cost.

  2. Tax treatment. Most of the time this is much worse for gifts to individuals (unless you arrange to make a grant to an individual, which is quite difficult for most donors and introduces significant additional reporting overhead). It can be better if (a) donors weren't able to deduct their donations anyway (e.g. because they are in an unfavorable jurisdiction or are donating > 50% of AGI in the US), and (b) people are willing to work for very low wages outside of institutions.

  3. Fundraising. I don't see why this would be cheaper for individual donors, though I agree that in general we could as a community reduce fundraising costs by improving our collective decision-making.

  4. Coordination. Groups spend time coordinating with each other, on training and recruiting, etc., but in general these seem like worthwhile projects that are pursued precisely because they are cost-effective.

  5. Administrative overhead. This seems like the main game. Some of this is useful work that improves efficacy, while some is just overhead involved with hiring people, accounting, maintaining non-profit status. It would be useful to get a more precise estimate for the total "lost" overhead that can be avoided by working independently. I think this is the main thing you could do to make this case more compelling.

It's worth pointing out that the number of dollars spent on overhead as a fraction of total dollars isn't a directly relevant metric, given that the opportunity cost of employee time is often significantly higher (so e.g. a 20% financial overhead may be more like a 5-10% overhead if we include all inputs). Between this and some overhead being useful for productivity (e.g. having an office, saving employee time, recruiting...), I mostly don't feel concerned about institutional overhead.

Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 01 August 2015 03:20:16PM 0 points [-]

One difference in cost comes from institutions such as Oxford requiring their employees to get prestigious wages. That makes the $75k average misleading. More obscure charities can hire employees much more cheaply.

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