Comment author: adamaero  (EA Profile) 02 May 2018 07:14:08PM *  2 points [-]

Minor Critique

On page 140 of the handbook, "Does foreign aid really work?" Moyo's Dead Aid is mentioned. Although, she is strictly speaking about gov't aid: "But this books is not concerned with emergency and charity based aid." (End of page 7, Dead Aid.)

(1) humanitarian or emergency ~ mobilized and dispensed in response to catastrophes and calamities

(2) charity-based ~ disbursed by NGOs to institutions or people

(3) systematic: "aid payments made directly to governments either though government-to-government transfers [bilateral aid] or transferred via institutions such as the World Bank (known as multilateral aid)."

Therefore, since EA is about charity-based aid, and Moyo is strictly discussing gov't aid, I do not think it is relevant to mention Dead Aid.


Aside, total US gov't foreign aid is 4150G*.7%

= almost 30 billion.

Where 373.25 billion by foundations & individuals (in the US), and

of that 265 billion by individuals alone!

http://www.pbs.org/development/2016/06/14/giving-usa-2016-released-today

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 14 May 2018 01:06:14PM *  0 points [-]

I haven't read the book, but a lot of government aid goes to very similar programs as private aid, however. It's not clear to me that none of the conclusions remain true.

Charity is such a touchy moralistic subject in the US, and foreign aid such a juicy political target, that I wouldn't be surprised if the author walled off the topic in such a manner for editorial rather than rational reasons.

Comment author: RandomEA 03 May 2018 06:30:24AM *  10 points [-]

The shift from Doing Good Better to this handbook reinforces my sense that there are two types of EA:

Type 1:

  1. Causes: global health, farm animal welfare

  2. Moral patienthood is hard to seriously dispute

  3. Evidence is more direct (RCTs, corporate pledges)

  4. Charity evaluators exist (because evidence is more direct)

  5. Earning to give is a way to contribute

  6. Direct work can be done by people with general competence

  7. Economic reasoning is more important (partly due to donations being more important)

  8. More emotionally appealing (partly due to being more able to feel your impact)

  9. Some public knowledge about the problem

  10. More private funding and a larger preexisting community

Type 2:

  1. Causes: AI alignment, biosecurity

  2. Moral patienthood can be plausibly disputed (if you're relying on the benefits to the long term future; however, these causes are arguably important even without considering the long term future)

  3. Evidence is more speculative (making prediction more important)

  4. Charity evaluation is more difficult (because impact is harder to measure)

  5. Direct work is the way to contribute

  6. Direct work seems to benefit greatly from specific skills/graduate education

  7. Game theory reasoning is more important (of course, game theory is technically part of economics)

  8. Less emotionally appealing (partly due to being less able to feel your impact)

  9. Little public knowledge about the problem

  10. Less private funding and a smaller preexisting community

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 14 May 2018 01:04:17PM 0 points [-]

What on Earth do you mean by "disputing moral patienthood"? If there are no moral patients then there is basically no reason for altruism whatsoever.

Comment author: kieuk 13 May 2018 04:35:30PM 1 point [-]

You only have control over your own actions: you can't control whether your interlocutor over-interprets you or not.

Your "right approach", which is about how to behave as a listener, is compatible with Michael_PJ's, which is about how to behave as a speaker: I don't see why we can't do both.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 14 May 2018 01:00:38PM *  0 points [-]

You only have control over your own actions: you can't control whether your interlocutor over-interprets you or not

But I can control whether I am priming people to get accustomed to over-interpreting.

I don't see why we can't do both.

Because my approach is not merely about how to behave as a listener. It's about speaking without throwing in unnecessary disclaimers.

Comment author: ozymandias 25 April 2018 07:36:14PM 11 points [-]

The EA community climate survey linked in the EA survey has some methodological problems. When academics study sexual harassment and assault, it's generally agreed upon that one should describe specific acts (e.g. "has anyone ever made you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex against your will using force or a threat of force?") rather than vague terms like harassment or assault. People typically disagree on what harassment and assault mean, and many people choose not to conceptualize their experiences as harassment or assault. (This is particularly true for men, since many people believe that men by definition can't be victims of sexual harassment or assault.) Similarly, few people will admit to perpetrating harassment or assault, but more people will admit to (for example) touching someone on the breasts, buttocks, or genitals against their will.

I'd also suggest using a content warning before asking people about potentially traumatic experiences.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 25 April 2018 08:02:55PM *  7 points [-]

I didn't notice the community survey until I saw your comment. I had to retake the survey (answering "no my answers are not accurate") to get to it.

I think there will be selection bias when the survey is optional and difficult to access like this.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 24 April 2018 12:23:45AM *  1 point [-]

I just noticed the article you linked. In the future it's probably best to put all the arguments here on this forum, where you can add more details and EA-specific information.

Your idea seems to be figuring out a way of assessing individuals' propensity for violence, and then seeing what changes that. But that's not how war happens. It happens at the level of societies and nations as a result of more complicated dynamics.

Individuals don't have a clear, easy-to-study propensity for violence. It's a complicated thing that depends on the environment. In behavioral economics, we can study consumer choice and come up with descriptive decision theories because everything is about money, which is interchangeable and easy to measure and used for everything. The equivalent of this would be a study of individuals' propensity to go to college or something like that. We can study such things, but not in the same way and not with the same kind of results.

And only a small proportion of a population will ever become militants. This makes it very hard to study in a statistically rigorous way. If 1% of people will become a militant, then a survey of 1,000 people reaches only ten future militants on average. This creates numerous statistical problems.

In a very general sense, sure you could say X causes people to engage in violence, let's reduce X, and then violence is reduced in expectation. But that just sounds like normal research that probably already exists.

Finally, it seems to me that interventions which target the people who actually are violent are likely to be more effective. If 1% of people become militants then generic interventions will have to be 50-100x cheaper.

Comment author: Jeffhe  (EA Profile) 23 April 2018 04:42:54PM *  0 points [-]

the reason why 5 minor toothaches spread among 5 people is equivalent to 5 minor toothache had by one person is DIFFERENT from the reason for why 5 minor headaches had by one person is equivalent to 1 major toothache had by one person.

No, both equivalencies are justified by the fact that they involve the same amount of base units of pain.

So you're saying that just as 5 MiTs/5 people is equivalent to 5 MiTs/1 person because both sides involve the same amount of base units of pain, 5 MiTs/1 person is equivalent to 1 MaT/1 person because both sides involve the same amount of base units of pain (and not because both sides give rise to what-it's-likes that are experientially just as bad).

My question to you then is this: On what basis are you able to say that 1 MaT/1 person involves 5 base units of pain?

But Reason S doesn't give a crap about how bad the pains on the two sides of the equation FEEL

Sure it does. The presence of pain is equivalent to feeling bad. Feeling bad is precisely what is at stake here, and all that I care about.

Reason S cares about the amount of base units of pain there are because pain feels bad, but in my opinion, that doesn't sufficiently show that it cares about pain-qua-how-it-feels. It doesn't sufficiently show that it cares about pain-qua-how-it-feels because 5 base units of pain all experienced by one person feels a whole heck of a lot worse than anything felt when 5 base units of pain are spread among 5 people, yet Reason S completely ignores this difference. If Reason S truly cared about pain-qua-how-it-feels, it cannot ignore this difference.

I understand where you're coming from though. You hold that Reason S cares about the quantity of base units of pain precisely because pain feels bad, and that this fact alone sufficiently shows that Reason S is in harmony with the fact that we take pain to matter because of how it feels (i.e. that Reason S cares about pain-qua-how-it-feels).

However, given what I just said, I think this fact alone is too weak to show that Reason S is in harmony with the fact that we take pain to matter because of how it feels. So I believe my objection stands.

Have we hit bedrock?

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 23 April 2018 10:44:02PM *  0 points [-]

On what basis are you able to say that 1 MaT/1 person involves 5 base units of pain?

Because you told me that it's the same amount of pain as five minor toothaches and you also told me that each minor toothache is 1 base unit of pain.

5 base units of pain all experienced by one person feels a whole heck of a lot worse than anything felt when 5 base units of pain are spread among 5 people, yet Reason S completely ignores this difference. If Reason S truly cared about pain-qua-how-it-feels, it cannot ignore this difference.

If you mean that it feels worse to any given person involved, yes it ignores the difference, but that's clearly the point, so I don't know what you're doing here other than merely restating it and saying "I don't agree."

On the other hand, you do not care how many people are in pain, and you do not care how much pain someone experiences so long as there is someone else who is in more pain, so if anyone's got to figure out whether or not they "care" enough it's you.

Have we hit bedrock?

You've pretty much been repeating yourself for the past several weeks, so, sure.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 20 April 2018 07:24:54PM 1 point [-]

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: turchin 18 April 2018 03:03:24PM 0 points [-]

It was in fact discussed in section 7.1 there we wrote:

The price of a lifetime supply of metformin, 500 USD, will pay for an additional 1-3 years of life expectancy and a proportional delay of age-related diseases.

However, the actual price of the therapy for a person could be negative, because medical insurance companies will be interested that people will start taking age-slowing drugs, as it will delay payments on medical bills. Insurance companies could gain interest on this money. For example, if 100K of medical bills is delayed by three years, and the interest rate is two percent, the insurance company will earn 6 000 USD on later billing. Thus, insurance companies could provide incentives such as discounts or free aging treatments to those who use antiaging therapies.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 18 April 2018 03:31:05PM 1 point [-]

Medical expenses are wayyy lower in the developing world.

Comment author: turchin 18 April 2018 01:59:57PM 0 points [-]

For example, here https://www.medindia.net/drug-price/metformin/diamet.htm one table of 500mg costs 1 rupee, which is 0.0015 USD.

The model was deliberately oversimplified, as actually these 5 billions will be born the whole duration of the 21 century and will start to take the drug in different ages.

I will add more links on previous studies of metformin, as it probably seems unclear from the article that it is already tested drug for other conditions.

If we speak about fortification of food with useful microelements like iodine, fluoride, and some vitamines it probably has very high reach in developed countries. For some life extending drugs was shown that they could be taken in courses and could have effect on life expectancy.

The problem of constant taking a medical drug is not related to metformin, but to any drug which a person has to take constantly, like hypertension drugs, antidepressant, vitamins etc. This is a different important problem which should be solved to improve public health. There is one possible solution in the form of app (already exist) which records what one has taken and remind to take the drug.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 18 April 2018 03:23:07PM *  0 points [-]

For example, here https://www.medindia.net/drug-price/metformin/diamet.htm one table of 500mg costs 1 rupee, which is 0.0015 USD.

1 rupee is $0.015 not $0.0015 by nominal exchange rates. Sales tax must be included, as well as comparison with the lower nominal incomes in India rather than the global PPP standard that I gave. Other metformin manufacturers seem to generally charge more (https://www.medindia.net/drug-price/list.asp). Presumably they are not available in all locations; presumably there are areas where people simply don't have easy access to buying these drugs at all. And we are just talking about India, the king of drug IP abuse. I bet if you look at Pakistan or Nigeria then it won't be so easy to buy these drugs there.

I just don't understand how it is possible to assume that even half of the people in the world will purchase and use the most effective product regardless of where they live. Have you tried to convince someone in this position to take any kind of supplements? Like, gone to someone who has very low income, and relies on bicycle or public transport, and explained to them why they should add this or that vitamin or OTC drug to their daily routine? If you had, I don't think you would be making this assumption.

The problem of constant taking a medical drug is not related to metformin, but to any drug which a person has to take constantly, like hypertension drugs, antidepressant, vitamins etc. This is a different important problem which should be solved to improve public health. There is one possible solution in the form of app (already exist) which records what one has taken and remind to take the drug.

Well yeah, but if you want to calculate the expected value then you must go by what is likely to happen, not what you wish to happen.

Apps exist on smart phones, which lots of people don't have, and most of the remainder won't bother to install or pay attention to it. Moreover, apps don't exist in every language.

Comment author: turchin 18 April 2018 01:00:17PM *  0 points [-]

Yes, I just suggested it as an example of absurd consequences of the idea that one has value unborn people as much as already existing.

Anyway, If humanity survives and start space exploration, an enormous amount of new people will be born, and they will be born in the much better conditions, where there is no aging and involuntary death. Thus, postponing new lives until creation a better world may be morally good.

I also added the following section to the article where tried to answer yours and other commenters concerns:

4.6. Analysis of the opportunity costs and possible negative consequences of the life extension

Proper cost-benefit analysis of the effective altruistic intervention requires looking into possible opportunity costs of the suggested intervention. Here we list some considerations:

  1. Life extension will increase global population which will increase food and other prices and lower quality of life of the poorest people. The main driver of the population growth is fertility, and if it becomes lower, we move to the next point about the value of unborn people. The main model of the future on which we rely is based on the idea of indefinite technological progress, and if the progress will outperform growth of the population, there will no negative consequences. So, overpopulation will be a problem in the situation of low fertility, low technological progress and very large life extension. This outcome is unlikely as the same biotech which will help extend human life could be also used to produce more food recourses. Also, in our model of the effect of simple interventions, the total effect on the population is rather insignificant, in order of magnitude of several percent, which is smaller than expected error in the population projection.

  2. Life extension will take resources and fewer new people will be born, thus unborn people will lose the opportunity to be alive. As we discussed above, fewer newborn people now could be compensated but much more people which will be born in the future in the much better world.

  3. The older population will be less innovative and diverse. The population is aging anyway, and slowing aging process will make people behave as if they are younger in the same calendar age.

  4. Effects on pension system and employment. Life extension may put pressure on labor market and pension funds, but the general principle is that we can’t kill people to make the economy better. In reality, if powerful life extension technologies will be available, the same technological level will revolutionize other spheres of society.

  5. Optimizer curse could affect our judgment. Optimizer curse is mathematical proof that in case of choice between several uncertain variables, the median error tends to accumulate, and the best solution likely has the biggest error (Smith & Winkler, 2006). This means that our estimation of the metformin efficiency in saving lives is likely to be an overestimation. However, we have around 4 orders of magnitude margin to be the best possible solution to save lives.

We also will explore relations between life extension and existential risks prioritization in the section 8.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 18 April 2018 02:55:11PM *  1 point [-]

These claims about life extension's impact on the economy, finances and resource shortages are controversial and uncited. You also aren't applying sound counterfactual reasoning, instead you are appealing to a generic sense of "well, lots of people will live wonderful lives ANYWAY, so there is no opportunity cost!!" which clearly doesn't address my concerns. Moreover, no one is talking about killing people, we are talking about being more accurate about the value of saving people's lives.

My point is not to keep arguing about this here, but to say that these things should be properly addressed in the paper. With these points and the optimizer's curse especially, you're still not doing real work to improve the argument. You're just taking comments from yourself and other users, and including them in the paper. A paper for cause prioritization cannot be a list of comments, it must be a structured argument.

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