Comment author: joshjacobson  (EA Profile) 20 April 2018 08:15:03PM 1 point [-]
  1. Why should this be considered tractable? Why should we think your approach is specifically tractable?

  2. I find this visualization to be likely deceptive. The 'cost of violence' most often includes a many types of violence (domestic, community, crime, etc.) that are unaddressed by 'peacekeeping' interventions. Is my read, that your visualization is comparing a huge category with a specific part of its spend, correct?

  3. Why should we focus on peacekeeping, the effect of which is very difficult to measure, instead of scaling or improving interventions on community violence, some of which already show significant promise in cost-effectiveness?

Comment author: frankfredericks 22 April 2018 03:04:10PM 0 points [-]

Hi Josh, thank you for your thoughtful questions! Here's my answers.

  1. We can ignore the proposed process from my article in terms of tractibility (there's a conversation to be had there, but not core to this conversation), but there is compelling evidence that on the inter-personal level, you can use social nudges to change human behaviors (probabilistically). Danial Kahneman, Eldar Shafir, etc, how shown this in a few ways. Contact Theory suggest this to be the case too for violence, but we don't have a measured way to turn the concept into probabilities. I would love to find out if it's possible, so it's merely a hypothesis at this point. I believe the social payoff would be so large that even if it's unlikely to be found, it's pursuit is worthwhile (high risk high reward in social good terms).

  2. Fair enough, and perhaps worth taking up with the Institute of Economics and Peace. Also these numbers are in PPP, which annoys me since interventions would likely be funded from outside sources, so nominal terms would be more helpful. I think the amount spent on military spending versus peacebuilding is more telling/helpful, which is nominal terms is $1.7T v. $6B respectively. This is crucial because if a peacebuilding intervention is presented with the scientific rigor of medical interventions, we know the resources exist to scale worthy solutions. The DoD, USAID, State Dept, and USIP already fund in this space, but increased funding would be possible with more viable solutions (or more scientific backing of existing solutions).

  3. I think we're talking of one and the same. I'm speaking of peacebuilding (as opposed to Peacekeeping) My hypothesis is to focus on the science of the individual's response to a peacebuilding intervention, not the wider systems where violence is happening. Incidentally, there's already several organizations looking at systems modeling and violence, both in predicting when/where violence will happen, and interventions on that level. I believe if it's possible, those existing initiatives will find it. However, my invitation here isn't as focused on validated my own hypothesis (I'm working on that elsewhere), but rather to evaluate this problem space from an EA point of view.

You've asked some great questions here, is this a topic you're interested in digging into?

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 20 April 2018 07:24:54PM 2 points [-]

Okay I'm interested.

You might want to look into Paul Collier's book The Bottom Billion where he talks about military interventions to stabilize the developing world.

Comment author: frankfredericks 22 April 2018 02:49:55PM 0 points [-]

Great, feel free to email me, I'm happy to connect. Frank at worldfaith dot org.


Applying EA Measures to Peacebuilding and Violent Conflict

Hey folks, As an effective altruist-minded founder, I've been working to find ways to bring EA values and measures into a space that is relatively behind in terms of scientific rigor: Peacebuilding.  I recently wrote an op-ed outline the scope, neglectedness, and potential for innovation in the field, which you... Read More
Comment author: frankfredericks 09 April 2018 07:00:18PM 2 points [-]

This sounds interesting as a model of both community building and fostering collective action. I wonder if there's a MED (minimally effective dose) that can happen in-town, rather than a retreat. I can imagine having a hard time getting commitment for people in NYC (where I'm based) to do this, but perhaps we could do a minimally effective version in 6-8 hours in town. Anyone tried something similar but shorter?

Comment author: frankfredericks 09 April 2018 06:48:02PM *  1 point [-]

I'd love to see the comparison in multiplier for donating stock versus cash in the UK. In the US our largest donors often give in stock because the donor avoids capital gains tax AND can deduct the FMV (fair market value) of the stock. Would be valuable to see how that plays out in the UK for you larger donors.

Comment author: frankfredericks 04 April 2018 03:11:02AM 3 points [-]

I'm not sure I am completely convinced by the premise that EA need to be first in blockchain to be positioned to affect positive change in the blockchain or crypto spaces. If you look at technological innovation from a historical lens, often the first mover fails, and from their ashes rises another company/entity that picks up the concept and runs with it. While not the thesis of The Innovators Delimma by Clayton Christiansen, it's certainly a recognized pattern throughout the book. For us I think that means that both the crytocurruencies and actual blockchain system as it stands will likely fail, but we'll see someone else build an improved version of blockchain technology that can actually be mainstreamed, and most of what we know today will be as relevant as the companies of the first dotcom bust. That's not a fact, but the empiricial evidence makes it probable.

Comment author: frankfredericks 03 April 2018 08:54:22PM 0 points [-]

Super interesting, and I was just having this conversation recently. There's one issue I have with the analysis of psycholotherapy (assuming we even get a control group, which few studies do). The data points we're using to calculate effectiveness is self-reported. In other words, we have no external method of evaluating the actual positive impact impartially, only as it was experienced by the participants. Sunk-cost fallacy, the Hawthorne Effect, etc, could inspire truly believed but ultimately inaccurate reporting.

Comment author: frankfredericks 03 April 2018 08:45:30PM *  0 points [-]

A needed reflection for sure. I'd add that culture extends beyond language, which can make even technically well-translated materials ineffective in other cultural contexts. One example is from a friend of mine who is a Chinese screenwriter. She mentioned that there's a ton of Mandarin-fluent writers from the US who ultimately flop when writing for Chinese audiences. It isn't the language, she said, but it's the story arc. In the US and western culture at large (if we can clump so many peoples together) the prototypical story is a battle between good a evil, followed by epiphany/battle (read "Hero With a Thousand Faces"). The Chinese story frame, she explained, was a progression between balance, imbalance, followed by rebalance. As culture is so much more than language and music (etc), but a system of practices, beliefs, narratives, and social structures. So if/when translation happens, it ought to be by those native to that community, in order to translate not just the language, but the cultural framing as well.

Comment author: Arepo 07 March 2018 06:03:21PM *  5 points [-]

Somewhat tangentially, am I unusual in finding the idea of 'thought leaders' for a movement about careful and conscientious consideration of ideas profoundly uncomfortable?

Comment author: frankfredericks 03 April 2018 08:36:45PM 0 points [-]

While I think that could be a fair metacritique, the science of social change nearly always requires thought leaders/leadership as a method of normalization. It's likely a sociological hangover of our tribal evolved psychology, but every tribe looks for a tribal leader. I'd say the EA movement is doing a decent job of put forward thoughtful voices without building a messianic culture. What do you think?

Comment author: frankfredericks 03 April 2018 08:29:42PM 0 points [-]

An interesting discussion, although one I doubt will have to be reasonably considered for some time. Two things that come to mind for me though:

  1. There's an underlying assumption that the cost/life won't chance either through economies of scale, nor improved research causing to price reduction. If research on disease B could cut the cost of the invention per person, that changes the calculation. While you may assume all things equal in the exercise, in real life there's always the possibility of innovation, economies of scale, and working against both of those, the law of diminishing returns.

  2. There's an underlying assumption that people experience hope in rational quantities based on an accurate understanding of their probabilities of treatment. Behavioral psychologists and economists have demonstrated that that's certainly not the case. If it were true, no one would buy lottery tickets (see prospect theory with low probabilities of high pay offs). So you'd require a nonlinear hope/probability curve.

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