Comment author: PeterMcCluskey 23 February 2018 11:04:43PM *  1 point [-]

It does seem like there are important areas where medical research is inadequate. I'll suggest that part of the problem is inadequate effort devoted to treatments that aren't protected by patents.

It looks like some unknown fraction of ME/CFS is caused by low thyroid hormone levels. "Subclinical" hypothyroidism has symptoms that are pretty similar to those of ME/CFS. They are usually distinguished by TSH tests. [TSH is the standard measure of thyroid levels; there are a number of other options, none of which are ideal].

Here's speculation that we should distrust TSH results. (There's a more detailed and very verbose version of that speculation here).

There's plenty of confusion about when it's wise to increase a patient's thyroid hormone. E.g. this small RCT study which gave a standard T4 dose, rather than adjusting the dose to achieve some measure of optimal hormone levels. The reported TSH levels of 0.66 in patients receiving T4 suggest that many patients got more than the optimal dose, and/or didn't convert T4 to T3 well.

In contract, two smaller uncontrolled studies (here00014-0/abstract) and here) reported good results from T3 treatment for treatment-resistant depression (H/T Sarah Constantin). Plus there are lots of anecdotal reports of benefits (see mine here).

There are real dangers from overdoses, and it's unclear how well researchers have measured the benefits, so it's easy to imagine that most doctors are erring on the side of inaction.

My intuition says that there's plenty of room for making protocols that more safely determine the optimal dose. I don't have enough expertise to estimate how tractable that is.

Another area where EAs might possibly provide an important benefit is Alzheimer's. There have been some recent claims that there are strategies which substantially prevent Alzheimer's or reverse it in early stages. As far as I can tell, these claims aren't prompting as much research as they deserve.

Some parts of those strategies are backed by small RCTs published in 2013 and 2012, and yet the first Google search result for Alzheimer's is still a page that says Alzheimer's "cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed".

I expect good research about Alzheimer's to be too expensive for EAs to fund directly, but it seem like we should be able to do something to nudge existing research funding into better directions.

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.

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