Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 02 August 2018 06:05:37AM *  7 points [-]

Thank you for starting that discussion. Some resources that come to mind that should be relevant here are:

  • Lukas Gloor’s concept of Tranquilism,
  • different types of happiness (a talk by Michael Plant where I think I heard them explained), and
  • the case for the relatively greater moral urgency and robustness of suffering minimization over happiness maximization, i.e., a bit of a focus on suffering.
Comment author: riceissa  (EA Profile) 20 June 2018 06:22:12AM *  5 points [-]

(Context: I host the Cause Prioritization Wiki.)

I think there might be a misunderstanding here, so I would like to clarify a couple of things.

I also don't want the fact that one person has done the project at one point to mean that no one can ever do the project again.

I assume this is referring to me, and that Peter is saying the Cause Prioritization Wiki is dead. It's true that the wiki was inactive for about two years, but more recently I've been adding more content to it; there is an edit history graph showing activity for the past year.

But even assuming the wiki is dead, I'm not sure starting essentially from scratch is better than reviving the existing project.

We mainly chose to go with a different wiki software to improve the editing experience (especially editing without creating an account) to remove barriers to contribution.

The choices of wiki software and of allowing anonymous edits are not unchangeable. For the former, I've actually been pondering for a while whether switching to MediaWiki would be a good idea (I haven't looked into Wiki.js, which is what PriorityWiki uses), as I've gotten more experience with editing on MediaWiki wikis since the time when I started the Cause Prioritization Wiki. For the latter, my thinking has been that I don't want to spend a lot of time moderating the wiki, which is why I chose to restrict account creation and disable anonymous edits. But if there is enough energy to moderate the wiki, I would be fine with allowing more open editing.

Some thoughts I had about competition while thinking about this situation (I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about this topic):

  • In general I think competition benefits end users.
  • There are four existing wikis about bitcoin that I know of, which might be an interesting case study:
  • With free software, forking is often difficult (existing codebase too complicated to understand, written for a different OS, written in a language that one is unfamiliar with) so there's a proliferation of similar applications. This seems to be less of a problem for prose.
  • Again with free software, different software projects focus on different (sometimes incompatible) things, like speed, feature-richness, memory use, portability. With a wiki, there is still some of that (one can trade off along formal vs informal language, background knowledge assumed, audience's goals) but I think it's less strong.
  • Again for software, there is also the issue of getting stuck in local optima (think how horrible LaTeX is but people are forced to use it). I think Wikipedia is similarly a local optimum for a generic encyclopedia, but this seems mostly problematic because of its deletionism.
  • For products that are sold there is also competition along price.
  • For textbooks, I think it's good that there are a bunch of them for each (topic, level) combination, because exposition style/difficulty can vary significantly. I think for general reference works there is a lot less of that, and even less for inclusionist electronic wikis.
Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 20 June 2018 11:02:22AM 2 points [-]

I’m against it. ;-)

Just kidding. I think monopolies and competition are bundles of advantages and disadvantages that we can also combine differently. Competition comes with duplication of effort, sometimes sabotaging the other rather than improving oneself, and some other problems. A monopoly would come with the local optima problem you mentioned. But we can also acknowledge (as we do in many other fields) that we don’t know how to run the best wiki, and have different projects that try out different plausible strategies while not being self-interested by being interested in the value of information from the experiment. So they can work together, automatically synchronize any content that can be synchronized, etc. We’ll first need meaningful differences between the projects that it’ll be worthwhile to test out, e.g., restrictive access vs. open access.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 20 June 2018 07:51:42AM *  11 points [-]

It looks like there is another abandoned wiki here, which was moved to here (but the latter link appears to be overrun with spam). Less than 2 years ago, angelinahli started what looks like a really solid attempt to do something kinda similar to what Marcus & Peter appear to be doing here.

I wish there was some way to solve the meta-level problem of projects like this getting forgotten. If you zoom out a bit, this category appears quite crowded. It seems that attempts to prevent things from getting lost in the sands of time may also get lost in the sands of time!

Maybe it's not an issue of fragmentation so much as lack of discoverability. Perhaps what's needed is to persuade people running the EA forum/EA Facebook Group to link to the directory resource from the forum intro/FB group description. If it's known that a wiki has readers, maybe it will be easier to attract writers. Article view counts might be helpful? (Chicken-and-egg problem: For readers, you need writers, but for writers, you need readers.)

Zooming out, I suspect part of the issue is it feels scummy to promote your own work, so good work often ends up gathering dust--even if the purpose of that work was to help prevent other work from gathering dust! I think people should get over their aversion to promoting their own work some, and also try to promote the work of others more often. Then maybe we can have a wiki which reaches "meme status".

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 20 June 2018 10:52:50AM 0 points [-]

That would be an immensely valuable meta problem to solve!

Then maybe we can have a wiki which reaches "meme status".

On a potentially less serious note, I wonder if one could make sure that a wiki remains popular by adding a closed section to it that documents particular achievements from OMFCT the way Know Your Meme does. xD

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 19 June 2018 03:33:59PM *  13 points [-]

Sweet! I hope it’ll become a great resource! Are you planning to merge it with If there are too many wikis, we’d just run into the same problem with fragmented bits of information again.

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 08 June 2018 09:59:21AM 1 point [-]

Thank you! I suspect, this is going to be very helpful for me.

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 08 June 2018 08:00:30AM 1 point [-]

Awesome! Do you also have plans to assist EA founders of for-profit social enterprises (like e.g. Wave)?

Comment author: Denkenberger 26 March 2018 12:30:39AM 2 points [-]

From my book: "Synthetic food production refers to using chemical synthesis. Sugar has been synthesized from noncarbohydrates for decades (Hudlicky et al., 1996). Hudlicky, T., Entwistle, D.A., Pitzer, K.K., Thorpe, A.J., 1996. Modern methods of monosaccharide synthesis from non-carbohydrate sources. Chem. Rev. 96, 1195–1220." I didn't write much because I don't know enough about catalysis to say whether it can be ramped up quickly in a catastrophe. But for space colonization, that is not an issue.

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 30 March 2018 08:30:39AM 0 points [-]

Awesome, thank you!

Comment author: Jeffhe  (EA Profile) 17 March 2018 02:12:42AM *  0 points [-]

Hi Telofy,

Thanks for this lucid reply. It has made me realize that it was a mistake to use the phrase "clear experiential sense" because that misleads people into thinking that I am referring to some singular experience (e.g. some feeling of exhaustion that sets in after the final headache). In light of this issue, I have written a "new" first reply to Michael_S to try to make my position clearer. I think you will find it helpful. Moreover, if you find any part of it unclear, please do let me know.

What I'm about to say overlaps with some of the content in my "new" reply to Michael_S:

You write that you don't see anything morally relevant linking the person moments of a single person. Are you concluding from this that there is not actually a single subject-of-experience who feels, say, 5 pains over time (even though we talk as if there is)? Or, are you concluding from this that even if there is actually just a single subject-of-experience who feels all 5 pains over time, it is morally no different from 5 subjects-of-experience who each feels 1 pain of the same sort?

What matters to me at the end of the day is whether there is a single subject-of-experience who extends through time and thus is the particular subject who feels all 5 pains. If there is, then this subject experiences what it's like of going through 5 pains (since, in fact, this subject has gone through 5 pains, whether he remembers going through them or not). Importantly, the what-it's-like-of-going-through-5-pains is just the collection of the past 5 singular pain episodes, not some singular/continuous experience like an feeling of exhaustion or some super intense pain from the synthesis of the intensity of the 5 past pains. It is this what-it's-like that can plausibly be worse than the what it's like of going through a major pain. Since there could only be this what-it's-like when there is a single subject who experiences all 5 pains, therefore 5 pains spread across 5 people cannot be worse than a major pain (since, at best, there would only be 5 experientially independent what-it's-like-of-going-through-1-minor-headache).

My latest reply to Michael_S focuses on the question whether there could be a single subject-of-experience who extends through time, and thus capable of feeling multiple pains.

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 25 March 2018 03:05:07PM *  1 point [-]

Hi Jeff!

To just briefly answer your question, “Are you concluding from this that there is not actually a single subject-of-experience”: I don’t have an intuition for what a subject-of-experience is – if it is something defined along the lines of the three characteristics of continuous person moments from my previous message, then I feel that it is meaningful but not morally relevant, but if it is defined along the lines of some sort of person essentialism then I don’t believe it exists on Occam’s razor grounds. (For the same reason, I also think that reincarnation is metaphysically meaningless because I think there is no essence to a person or a person moment besides their physical body* until shown otherwise.)

* This is imprecise but I hope it’s clear what I mean. People are also defined by their environment, culture, and whatnot.

Comment author: Denkenberger 21 March 2018 12:48:01PM 1 point [-]

Impressive work - I especially liked the graphs. For humane space colonization, rather than photosynthesis, it would be far more efficient to use solar or nuclear electricity for direct chemical synthesis of food or powering electric bacteria. One non-space colonization motivation would include agricultural catastrophes. Outside a catastrophe, it would likely be more fossil energy intensive than growing plants, but maybe not than producing animals. And it would be far less fossil energy intensive than artificial light growing of plants, which people are working on.

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 25 March 2018 09:49:59AM 0 points [-]

Cool, thank you! Have you written about direct chemical synthesis of food or can you recommend some resources to me?

Comment author: Jeffhe  (EA Profile) 16 March 2018 03:36:34AM *  0 points [-]

Imagine you have 5 headaches, each 1 minutes long, that occur just 10 seconds apart of each other. From imagining this, you will have an imagined sense of what it's like to go through those 5 headaches.

And, of course, you can imagine yourself in the shoes of 5 different friends, who we can suppose each has a single 1-minute long headache of the same kind as above. From imagining this, you will again have an imagined sense of what it's like to go through 5 headaches.

If that's what you mean when you say that "the clear experiential sense is just as clear or unclear to me no matter whether I think about the person moments of the same person or of different people", then I agree.

But when you imagine yourself in the shoes of those 5 friends, what is going on is that one subject-of-experience (i.e. you), takes on the independent what-it's-likes (i.e. experiences) associated with your 5 friends, and IN DOING SO, LINKS THOSE what-it's-likes - which in reality would be experimentally independent of each other - TOGETHER IN YOU. So ultimately, when you imagine yourself in the shoes of your 5 friends, you are, in effect, imagining what it's like to go through 5 headaches. But in reality, there would be no such what-it's-like among your 5 friends. The only what-it's-like that would be present would be the what-it's-like-of-going-through-1-headache, which each of your friend would experience. No one would experience the what it's like of going through 5 headaches. But that is what is needed for it to be the case that 5 such headaches can be worse than a headache that is worse than any one of them.

Please refer to my conversation with Michael_S for more info.

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 16 March 2018 10:43:32PM 1 point [-]

Argh, sorry, I haven’t had time to read through the other conversation yet, but to clarify, my prior was the other one – not that there is something linking the experiences of the five people but that there is very little, and nothing that seems very morally relevant – that links the experiences of the one person. Generally, people talk about continuity, intentions, and memories linking the person moments of a person such that we think of them as the same one even though all the atoms of their bodies may’ve been exchanged for different ones.

In your first reply to Michael, you indicate that the third one, memories, is important to you, but in themselves I don’t feel that they confer moral importance in this sense. What you mean, though, may be that five repeated headaches are more than five times as bad as one because of some sort of exhaustion or exasperation that sets in. I certainly feel that, in my case especially with itches, and I think I’ve read that some estimates of DALY disability weights also take that into account.

But I model that as some sort of ability of a person to “bear” some suffering, which gets worn down over time by repeated suffering without sufficient recovery in between or by too extreme suffering. That leads to a threshold that makes suffering below and above seem morally very different to me. (But I recognize several such thresholds in my moral intuitions, so I seem to be some sort of multilevel prioritarian.)

So when I imagine what it is like to suffer headaches as bad as five people suffering one headache each, I imagine them far apart with plenty of time to recover, no regularity to them, etc. I’ve had more than five headaches in my life but no connection and nothing pathological, so I don’t even need to rely on my imagination. (Having five attacks of a frequently recurring migraine must be noticeably worse.)

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