Comment author: markus_over 11 September 2018 02:27:49PM 2 points [-]

Coworking sessions sound interesting. The fact that few groups utilize them, but those that do do it apparently very frequently, seems to suggest that it may be underrated. Could people from groups that do this on a regular basis elaborate on the format? Is it about organizing the group itself, i.e. preparing events etc.? Actively working on research topics? Or just generally people from the group meeting to work on things they personally need to get done? Would you say this specific setup increases productivity substantially?

Comment author: joshjacobson  (EA Profile) 01 July 2018 04:58:40PM 3 points [-]

I appreciate this. A lot of smart ideas.

I know this isn't meant to be universal, but just a note that for me, eating out is one of the best activities on the fun-per-dollar scale.

Comment author: markus_over 21 July 2018 09:16:08AM 0 points [-]

I don't think eating out ranks highly on the "fun per dollar" scale for me personally simply due to the amounts of dollars involved, but still I find it really difficult to imagine a world without me going out for dinner relatively regularly. It may be my most expensive "hobby", but still it seems to provide quite a lot of value. I'm not quite sure why exactly, and if there are less expensive ways to obtain the same gain.

Could you maybe expand a little on the details of why it ranks so highly for you? I'd be interested in a more detailled perspective.

Comment author: Milan_Griffes 15 July 2018 07:14:45PM *  1 point [-]

...systems with many sign flipping crucial considerations

Yeah, I'm continuing to think about this, and would like to get more specific about which domains are most amiable to cost-effectiveness analysis (some related thinking here).

I think it's very hard to identify which domains have the most crucial considerations, because such considerations are unveiled over long time frames.


A hypothesis that seems plausible: cost-effectiveness is good for deciding about which interventions to focus on within a given domain (e.g. "want to best reduce worldwide poverty in the next 20 years? These interventions should yield the biggest bang for buck...")

But not so good for deciding about which domain to focus on, if you're trying to select the domain that most helps the world over the entire course of the future. For that, comparing theories of change probably works better.

Comment author: markus_over 19 July 2018 10:06:13AM 1 point [-]

Aren't there interventions that could be considered (with relatively high probability) robustly positive with regards to the long term future? Somewhat more abstract things such as "increasing empathy" or "improving human rationality" come to mind, but I guess one could argue how they could have a negative impact on the future in some plausible way. Another one certainly is "reduce existencial risks" - unless you weigh suffering risks so heavily that it's unclear whether preventing existential risk is good or bad in the first place.

Regarding such causes - given we can identify robust ones - it then may still be valuable to analyze cost-effectiveness, as there would likely be a (high?) correlation between cost-effectiveness and positive impact on the future.

If you were to agree with that, then maybe we could reframe your argument from "cost-effectiveness may be of low value" to "cause areas outside of far future considerations are overrated (and hence their cost-effectiveness is measured in a way that is of little use)" or something like that.

Comment author: Mati_Roy  (EA Profile) 17 July 2018 09:17:39AM *  5 points [-]

I invite anyone looking to get an accountability partner to fill this form: https://bit.ly/AccountabilityBuddies.

Edit: the survey is now closed; if you would like to find an accountability partner, I suggest posting here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1757073531018701/.

Comment author: markus_over 18 July 2018 01:55:29PM 1 point [-]

Can you give us more details on what's going to happen afterwards? Will you personally try to match up pairs of people? Will this end up as a semi-public list?

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 21 June 2018 04:06:23AM 5 points [-]

Not all EAs are on board with AI risk, but it would be rude for this EA hotel to commit to funding general AI research on the side. Whether all EAs are on board with effective animal advocacy isn't the key point when deciding whether the hotel's provided meals are vegan.

An EA who doesn't care about veganism will be mildly put off if the hotel doesn't serve meat. But an EA who believes that veganism is important would be very strongly put off if the hotel served meat. The relative difference in how disturbed the latter person would be is presumably at least 5 times as strong as the minor inconvenience that the former person would feel. This means that even if only 20% of EAs are vegan, the expected value from keeping meals vegan would beat out the convenience factor of including meat for nonvegans.

Comment author: markus_over 21 June 2018 08:24:18AM 9 points [-]

Plus there's reason to believe that of the non-vegans/vegetarians, a substantial subset probably still agrees to some extent that it's generally a good idea, and simply doesn't commit to the diet due to lack of motivation, or practicality in their situation, and thus would still welcome or at least be open to vegan food being provided in the hotel. So I guess even if 80% of EAs consider themselves to be omnivores, we can't assume that the whole 80% would personally perceive this policy of the hotel as negative.

Comment author: markus_over 20 June 2018 12:00:54PM 1 point [-]

I'm hearing of this for the first time now, and actually spent quite a bit of time throughout the last few months thinking about this exact concept and how it seems to be missing in the EA community, and whether this could be something I could possibly work on myself. The problem being that coaching of any kind really isn't my comparative advantage, and thus I'd probably be the wrong person to do it.

I find it rather difficult to decide whether or not scheduling a (series of) call(s) would make sense for me. In your testimonials, many people speak of productivity increases in concrete numbers, such as +15%. Are these their personal judgments, or did you provide a certain framework to measure productivity?

Can you elaborate a bit more on what kind of people would profit most from working with you?

Also +1 on richard_ngo's question about the comparison to CFAR.

Comment author: bwildi 20 June 2018 10:22:27AM *  1 point [-]

I think high amounts of concern for wild animals is actually a bit of a defect in utilitarianism. A quite compelling reason for caring more about factory farmed animals is that we are inflicting a massive injustice against them, and that isn't the case for wild animals generally. We do often feel moral obligations to wild animals when we are responsible for their suffering (think oil spills for example). That's not to say wild animals don't matter, but they might be further down our priority list for that reason.

I think the visualization is great. I think the exploding red dots is very powerful, demonstrates just an immense amount of bloodshed.

Comment author: markus_over 20 June 2018 11:39:23AM *  1 point [-]

A quite compelling reason for caring more about factory farmed animals is that we are inflicting a massive injustice against them, and that isn't the case for wild animals generally.

But couldn't you say that, for instance, the forces of evolution are inflicting an even more massive injustice against wild animals? Assuming injustices are more relevant because our species happens to inflict them doesn't seem 100% convincing to me. From the animal's point of view, it probably doesn't matter very much whether its situation is caused by some kind of injustice, what matters to the animal is whether and by what degree it's suffering.

I do of course share your intuition about injustice being bad generally, and "fixing your own mistakes before fixing those of others" so to speak seems like a reasonable heuristic. It's hard to tell whether the hypothetical "ideal EA movement" would shift its focus more towards WAS than it currently does, or not. My rather uninformed impression is that quite many EAs know about the topic and like talking about it - just like we are now - so it often seems there's a huge focus on wild animals, but the actual work going into the area is still a great degree lower than that. https://was-research.org/about-us/team/ still only lists three employees, after all.

Also I, too, like the visualization. I wonder how it would look with ~2k animals/second, which seems to be the sad statistic of the planet.

Comment author: aRound 18 June 2018 09:11:54PM 1 point [-]

This isn't something I'd thought about at all - I guess wild animal suffering is one of those things you just accept as unfortunate but inevitable.

Still I wouldn't say the absolute scale (# of suffering farm animals vs. # of suffering wild animals) makes much of a difference, rather the scale of what can be accomplished with a given resource investment. Suffering in factories seems like a much easier problem to solve, and I'd expect the amount of suffering reduced per dollar invested to be far higher.

Also, I would feel a lot more hesitant about large-scale interventions on wild animals, since they are part of complex ecosystems where I've been led to believe we don't have a good enough understanding to anticipate long-term consequences accurately. Farm animals are situated in a fairly simple living situation where I'd feel much more confident about the long-term suffering reduction of various interventions.

Maybe I'm missing some obvious high-impact interventions though? Or maybe the area is unexplored and there are big potential benefits from spending some effort figuring out if there are high-impact interventions?

Comment author: markus_over 20 June 2018 08:33:43AM *  0 points [-]

Or maybe the area is unexplored and there are big potential benefits from spending some effort figuring out if there are high-impact interventions?

I think that's pretty much it. Right now, there aren't many known concrete promising interventions to my knowledge, but the value of information in this area seems extremely high.

Using the standard method of rating cause areas by scale, neglectedness and tractability, it seems wild animal suffering scores a lot higher on scale, much higher on neglectedness (although farm animals are already pretty neglected), and seemingly much lower on tractability. There's quite a bit of uncertainty regarding the scale, but still it seems very clear it's orders of magnitude beyond farm animals. Neglectedness is apparent and not uncertain at all. The one point that would count against investing in wild animal suffering, tractability, on the other hand is highly uncertain (i.e. has "low resilience", see https://www.effectivealtruism.org/articles/the-moral-value-of-information-amanda-askell/ ), so there's a chance that even little research could yield highly effective interventions, making it a highly promising cause area in that regard.

I would feel a lot more hesitant about large-scale interventions on wild animals, since they are part of complex ecosystems where I've been led to believe we don't have a good enough understanding to anticipate long-term consequences accurately

You're right about this one, and we probably all agree on things being a bit tricky. So either research on our long term impact on ecosystems could be very helpful, or we could try focusing on interventions that have a very high likelihood of having predictable consequences.

(That all being said, there may be many reasons to still put a lot of our attention on farm animal suffering; e.g. going too public with the whole wild animal suffering topic before there's a more solid fundamental understanding of what the situation is and what, in principle, we could do to solve it while avoiding unforeseen negative effects, seems like a bad idea. Also finding ways to stop factory farming might be necessary for humanity's "moral circle" to expand far enough to even consider wild animals in the first place, thus making a solution to factory farming a precondition to successful large scale work on wild animal suffering. But I'm rambling now, and don't actually know enough about the whole topic to justify the amount of text I've just produced)

Comment author: markus_over 19 June 2018 08:15:30PM 1 point [-]

I guess this very much depends on how individual activities are executed. We had our 2.5 day retreat in Dortmund, Germany about a month ago, and while I didn't see the evaluation results, I got a strong impression that most people agreed on these points (still, take this with a grain of salt):

  • career discussion in small groups (~3-5) was quite useful; we had about 1 hour per group, and more would probably have been better.

  • double crux (I guess similar to productive disagreement?) was a cool concept, but a bit difficult to execute under the given circumstances (although it worked great for me), for similar reasons as mentioned by you

  • discussion about where to donate - this was, to some degree, what this weekend was primarily about for us, as we raised money on the first evening and then had to figure out where to send it. And while it started very slowly, we ended up spending many hours on Sunday on this (very open) discussion, and it was tremendously valuable. I really didn't expect this, but ultimately, judging from how engaged everybody was, how interesting our conversations were in the end, and how often each of us changed their mind over the course of the discussion, this was a great way to spend our time