Comment author: WillPearson 23 May 2018 09:46:58PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for writing this up! I've forwarded it to a friend who was interested in the happiness app space a while back.

I would add to the advice, from my experience, pick something not too far out of people's comfort zones for a startup or research idea. There seems to be a horizon beyond which you don't get feedback or help at all.

Comment author: WillPearson 05 April 2018 10:39:08AM 0 points [-]

I think it possible that blockchain can help us solve some co-ordination problems. However it also introduces new ones (e.g. which fork of a chain/version of the protocol you should go with).

So I am torn. It would be good to see one successful use/solid proposal of the technology for solving our real world coordination problems using ethereum.

Something I am keeping an eye on is the economic space agency

Comment author: WillPearson 15 February 2018 11:12:16PM 1 point [-]

I would add something likes "Sensitivity" to the list of attributes needed to navigate the world.

This is different from Predictive Power. You can imagine two ships, with the exact same compute power and Predictive Power. One with cameras on the outside and long range sensors, one blind without. You'd expect the first to do a lot better moving about the world

In Effective Altruism's case I suspect this would be things like the basic empirical research about the state of the world and the things important to their goals.

In response to Open Thread #39
Comment author: WillPearson 12 February 2018 09:15:54PM *  0 points [-]

I'm thinking about radically more secure computer architectures as a cause area.

  1. Radical architecture changes are neglected because it hard to change computer architecture
  2. Bad Computer security costs a fair amount at the moment
  3. Having a computer architecture that is insecure is making it hard to adopt more useful technology like Internet of Things.

I'd be interested in doing an analysis of whether it is effective altruistic cause. I'm just doing it as a hobby at the moment. Anyone interested in the same region want to collaborate?

Comment author: Michael_PJ 23 January 2018 06:57:02PM 0 points [-]

You seem to be assuming that the "bad case" for systematic reform is that it's, say, 1/500th of the benefit of the GD average effort. But I don't think that's the bad case for most systematic reforms: the bad case is that they're actively harmful.

For me, at least, the core of my problem with "systematic reform" is that we're "clueless" about its effects - it could have good effects, but could also have quite bad effects, and it's extremely hard for us to tell which.

I think the ceiling cost estimate is a nice way of framing the comparison, but I agree with Milan that the hard bit is working out the expected effect.

Comment author: WillPearson 23 January 2018 08:00:40PM 1 point [-]

There are some systemic reforms that seem easier reason about that others. Getting governments to be able to agree a tax scheme such that the Google's and Facebook's of the world can't hide their profits, seems like a pretty good idea. Their money piles suggest that they aren't hurting for cash to invest in innovation. It is hard to see the downside.

The upside is going to be less in developing world than the developed (due to more profits occurring in the developed world). So it may not be ideal. The tax justice network is something I want to follow more. They had a conversation with givewell

In response to Open Thread #39
Comment author: WillPearson 02 December 2017 10:28:18PM *  0 points [-]

I'm thinking about funding an analysis of the link between autonomy and happiness.

I have seen papers like

https://academic.oup.com/heapro/article/28/2/166/661129

and http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-101-1-164.pdf

I am interested in how reproducible and reliable they are and I was wondering if I could convert money into an analysis of the methodology used in (some of) these papers.

As I respect EA's analytical skills (and hope their is a shared interest in happiness and truth), I thought I would ask here.

Comment author: RobBensinger 31 October 2017 03:38:42PM *  1 point [-]

I don't think we should describe all instances of deference to any authority, all uses of the outside view, etc. as "modesty". (I don't know whether you're doing that here; I just want to be clear that this at least isn't what the "modesty" debate has traditionally been about.)

The question is what happens when you criticize it and don't get a better explanation. What should you do? Strongly adopt a partial solution to the problem, continue to look for other solutions or trust the specialists to figure it out?

I don't think there's any general answer to this. The right answer depends on the strength of the object-level arguments; on how much reason you have to think you've understood and gleaned the right take-aways from those arguments; on your model of the physics community and other relevant communities; on the expected information value of looking into the issue more; on how costly it is to seek different kinds of further evidence; etc.

I'm curious what you think about partial non-reality of wavefunctions (as described by the AncientGeek here and seeming to correspond to the QIT interpretation on the wiki page of interpretations, which fits with probabilities being in the mind ).

In the context of the measurement problem: If the idea is that we may be able to explain the Born rule by revising our understanding of what the QM formalism corresponds to in reality (e.g., by saying that some hidden-variables theory is true and therefore the wave function may not be the whole story, may not be the kind of thing we'd naively think it is, etc.), then I'd be interested to hear more details. If the idea is that there are ways to talk about the experimental data without committing ourselves to a claim about why the Born rule holds, then I agree with that, though it obviously doesn't answer the question of why the Born rule holds. If the idea is that there are no facts of the matter outside of observers' data, then I feel comfortable dismissing that view even if a non-negligible number of physicists turn out to endorse it.

I also feel comfortable having lower probability in the existence of God than the average physicist does; and "physicists are the wrong kind of authority to defer to about God" isn't the reasoning I go through to reach that conclusion.

Comment author: WillPearson 31 October 2017 04:41:30PM *  0 points [-]

In the context of the measurement problem: If the idea is that we may be able to explain the Born rule by revising our understanding of what the QM formalism corresponds to in reality (e.g., by saying that some hidden-variables theory is true and therefore the wave function may not be the whole story, may not be the kind of thing we'd naively think it is, etc.), then I'd be interested to hear more details.

Heh, I'm in danger of getting nerd sniped into physics land, which would be a multiyear journey. I'm found myself trying to figure out whether the stories in this paper count as real macroscopic worlds or not (or hidden variables). And then I tried to figure out whether it matters or not.

I'm going to bow out here. I mainly wanted to point out that there are more possibilities than just believe in Copenhagen and believe in Everett.

Comment author: RobBensinger 31 October 2017 01:16:17PM *  1 point [-]

He endorses "many worlds" in the sense that he thinks the wave-function formalism corresponds to something real and mind-independent, and that this wave function evolves over time to yield many different macroscopic states like our "classical" world. I've heard this family of views called "(QM) multiverse" views to distinguish this weak claim from the much stronger claim that, e.g., decoherence on its own resolves the whole question of where the Born rule comes from.

From a 2008 post in the MWI sequence:

One serious mystery of decoherence is where the Born probabilities come from, or even what they are probabilities of.

[... W]hat does the integral over squared moduli have to do with anything? On a straight reading of the data, you would always find yourself in both blobs, every time. How can you find yourself in one blob with greater probability? What are the Born probabilities, probabilities of? Here's the map—where's the territory?

I don't know. It's an open problem. [...]

This problem is even worse than it looks, because the squared-modulus business is the only non-linear rule in all of quantum mechanics. Everything else—everything else—obeys the linear rule that the evolution of amplitude distribution A, plus the evolution of the amplitude distribution B, equals the evolution of the amplitude distribution A + B.

Comment author: WillPearson 31 October 2017 02:49:53PM 0 points [-]

Ah, it has been a while since I engaged with this stuff. That makes sense. I think we are talking past each other a bit though. I've adopted a moderately modest approach to QM since I've not touched it in a bit and I expect the debate has moved on a bit.

We started from a criticism of a particular position (the copenhagen interpretation) which I think is a fair thing to do for the modest and immodest. The modest person might misunderstand a position and be able to update themselves better if they criticize it and get a better explanation.

The question is what happens when you criticize it and don't get a better explanation. What should you do? Strongly adopt a partial solution to the problem, continue to look for other solutions or trust the specialists to figure it out?

I'm curious what you think about partial non-reality of wavefunctions (as described by the AncientGeek here and seeming to correspond to the QIT interpretation on the wiki page of interpretations, which fits with probabilities being in the mind ).

Comment author: RobBensinger 31 October 2017 12:50:21PM *  0 points [-]

Yeah, I'm not making claims about what modest positions think about this issue. I'm also not endorsing a particular solution to the question of where the Born rule comes from (and Eliezer hasn't endorsed any solution either, to my knowledge). I'm making two claims:

  1. QM non-realism and objective collapse aren't true.
  2. As a performative corollary, arguments about QM non-realism and objective collapse are tractable, even for non-specialists; it's possible for non-specialists to reach fairly confident conclusions about those particular propositions.

I don't think either of those claims should be immediately obvious to non-specialists who completely reject "try to ignore object-level arguments"-style modesty, but who haven't looked much into this question. Non-modest people should initially assign at least moderate probability to both 1 and 2 being false, though I'm claiming it doesn't take an inordinate amount of investigation or background knowledge to determine that they're true.

(Edit re Will's question below: In the QM sequence, what Eliezer means by "many worlds" is only that the wave-function formalism corresponds to something real in the external world, and that this wave function evolves over time to yield many different macroscopic states like our "classical" world. I've heard this family of views called "(QM) multiverse" views to distinguish this weak claim from the much stronger claim that, e.g., decoherence on its own resolves the whole question of where the Born rule comes from.)

Comment author: WillPearson 31 October 2017 12:59:54PM 0 points [-]

and Eliezer hasn't endorsed any solution either, to my knowledge)

Huh, he seemed fairly confident about endorsing MWI in his sequence here

Comment author: RobBensinger 31 October 2017 12:41:35AM *  1 point [-]

Going back to your list:

nutrition, animal consciousness, philosophical zombies, population ethics, and quantum mechanics

I haven't looked much at the nutrition or population ethics discussions, though I understand Eliezer mistakenly endorsed Gary Taubes' theories in the past. If anyone has links, I'd be interested to read more.

AFAIK Eliezer hasn't published why he holds his views about animal consciousness, and I don't know what he's thinking there. I don't have a strong view on whether he's right (or whether he's overconfident).

Concerning zombies: I think Eliezer is correct that the zombie argument can't provide any evidence for the claim that we instantiate mental properties that don't logically supervene on the physical world. Updating on factual evidence is a special case of a causal relationship, and if instantiating some property P is causally impacting our physical brain states and behaviors, then P supervenes on the physical.

I'm happy to talk more about this, and I think questions like this are really relevant to evaluating the track record of anti-modesty positions, so this seems like as good a place as any for discussion. I'm also happy to talk more about meta questions related to this issue, like, "If the argument above is correct, why hasn't it convinced all philosophers of mind?" I don't have super confident views on that question, but there are various obvious possibilities that come to mind.

Concerning QM: I think Eliezer's correct that Copenhagen-associated views like "objective collapse" and "quantum non-realism" are wrong, and that the traditional arguments for these views are variously confused or mistaken, often due to misunderstandings of principles like Ockham's razor. I'm happy to talk more about this too; I think the object-level discussions are important here.

Comment author: WillPearson 31 October 2017 08:51:24AM 1 point [-]

Concerning QM: I think Eliezer's correct that Copenhagen-associated views like "objective collapse" and "quantum non-realism" are wrong, and that the traditional arguments for these views are variously confused or mistaken, often due to misunderstandings of principles like Ockham's razor. I'm happy to talk more about this too; I think the object-level discussions are important here.

I don't think the modest view (at least as presented by Gregory) would believe in any of the particular interpretations as there is significant debate still.

The informed modest person would go, "You have object reasons to dislike these interpretations. Other people have object reasons to dislike your interpretations. Call me when you have hashed it out or done an experiments to pick a side". They would go on an do QM without worrying too much about what it all means.

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