Comment author: zdgroff 06 March 2018 12:20:26AM 2 points [-]

I'm excited to see what happens here! Will you be comparing different areas and the lessons learned to apply to the others? I think lessons from poverty may in some cases translate to animal advocacy and vice versa (and there may be some potential for cross-pollination with growing EA or other causes).

Comment author: zdgroff 01 March 2018 04:04:52PM 1 point [-]

I agree with Benito and others that this post would benefit from a deeper engagement with already-stated OPP policy (see, for instance, this recent interview with Holden Karnofsky:, but I do think it is good to have this conversation.

There are definitely arguments for OPP's positions on the problems with academia, and I think taking a different approach may be worthwhile. At the same time, I am a bit confused about the lack of written explanations or the opposition to panels. There are ways to try to create more individualized incentives within panels. Re: written explanations, while it does make sense to avoid being overly pressured by public opinion, having to make some defense of a decision is probably helpful to a decision's efficacy. An organization can just choose to ignore public responses to its written grant justification and to listen only to experts' responses to a grant. I would think that some critical engagement would be beneficial.

Comment author: Jacy_Reese 21 February 2018 01:54:31PM 2 points [-]

That makes sense. If I were convinced hedonium/dolorium dominated to a very large degree, and that hedonium was as good as dolorium is bad, I would probably think the far future was at least moderately +EV.

Comment author: zdgroff 23 February 2018 07:50:20PM 1 point [-]

Isn't hedonium inherently as good as dolorium is bad? If it's not, can't we just normalize and then treat them as the same? I don't understand the point of saying there will be more hedonium than dolorium in the future, but the dolorium will matter more. They're vague and made-up quantities, so can't we just set it so that "more hedonium than dolorium" implies "more good than bad"?

Comment author: zdgroff 23 February 2018 07:00:34PM 1 point [-]

This is really fascinating. I think this is largely right and an interesting intellectual puzzle on top of it. Two comments:

1) I would think mission hedging is not as well suited to AI safety as it is to climate or animal activism because AI safety is not directly focused on opposing an industry. As has been noted elsewhere on this forum, AI safety advocates are not focused on slowing down AI development and in many cases tend to think it might be helpful, in which case mission hedging is counterproductive. I could also imagine a scenario in which AI problems also weigh down a company's stock. Maybe a big scandal occurs around AI that foreshadows future problems with AGI and also embarrasses AI developers.

2) As kbog notes, it doesn't seem clear that the growth in an industry one opposes means the marginal dollar is more effective. Even though an industry's growth increases the scale of a problem, it might lower its tractability or neglectedness by a greater amount.

Comment author: zdgroff 23 February 2018 01:45:48PM 3 points [-]

This matches what I saw in Ghana when I lived there for a few months. Interestingly, I lived with someone in the agriculture corps, an initiative by U.S. ag to promote its image by helping developing countries. I think it probably has the effect of putting them more firmly on a factory farming path, sadly.

The ag corps member would always talk about how terrible animal husbandry in Ghana was, and I was pretty shocked. After all, at least the chickens, goats, and sheep roamed freely. She noted that but said that they eat garbage, and their slaughter is frequently botched. To me, eating garbage seemed like a very small harm next to living your life in a tiny stall or extremely crowded barn. At the end of the discussion, I realized that she thought their animal husbandry was worse than that in the U.S. because her college ag classes had equated good animal husbandry practices with standard industrial practices, so sloppy practices–even if they allowed for more freedom–were worse in her view.

Comment author: zdgroff 07 February 2018 08:12:38PM 0 points [-]

This is an excellent and thorough analysis.

Comment author: zdgroff 07 February 2018 07:55:25PM 2 points [-]

Wow, this is a fascinating post, and so short! I think a write-up on the historiography on this would be really useful. This is really important for EAs, particularly those focused on the long term or systemic change, and it could use a detailed treatment.

Comment author: zdgroff 07 February 2018 07:50:06PM 1 point [-]

Some people/organizations are doing similar things, but in general I agree with others that opportunity cost is the main downside. At the same time, I could see some of these, especially 2-3, actually offering cost-effective impacts because of low-probability systemic changes.

Impact Matters isn't doing exactly this, but they do something similar to it:

Another resources is the Center for Evidence-Based Programs:

Comment author: zdgroff 25 January 2018 01:51:20AM 3 points [-]

This seems really exciting and promising to me now that you point it out. I did not pay much attention to this lawsuit since I classified it in my head as a climate change thing, and climate change is much more crowded than other high-impact future causes. Based on what I know of the U.S. legal system, though, having a lawsuit recognize future generations' claims would be a pretty big deal and probably very good for far future causes in general. I'm glad you thought of this.

Comment author: zdgroff 20 December 2017 03:55:22AM *  7 points [-]

Here's mine, copied and pasted from my blog :

1) The importance of artificial general intelligence:

I'd previously been dismissive of superintelligence as being something altruists should focus on, but that was in large part motivated reasoning. I read books like Superintelligence and Global Catastrophic Risks, and I knew their theses were right initially but would not admit it to myself. With time, though I came to see that I was resisting the conclusion that superintelligence is an important priority mostly because it was uncomfortable. Now I recognize that it is potentially the most important problem and want to explore opportunities to contribute.

2) The economic argument for animal welfare reforms:

One of the reasons often given for supporting animal welfare reforms to those who want to see fewer (read: no) animals tortured for food is that welfare reforms make the industry less profitable, cutting down on the numbers of animals raised. I did not think this effect was strong enough to be worth the effort activists put into such reforms, but I've changed my mind significantly based on three pieces of evidence. The first was an analysis by economists Jayson Lusk and Conner Mullaly finding that Proposition 2 made a significant dent in egg production. The second was a write-up by Lewis Bollard at the Open Philanthropy Project on how the Sierra Club managed to shrink the coal industry through regulations and subsidies. The third was Sentience Institute's report on nuclear power and clean meat, which found that economic institutions can powerfully shape the success or failure of novel technologies. I now think the economic approach to animal advocacy is an exceptionally promising strategy.

3) The value of research for animal advocacy:

I've always thought animal advocates had a large research gap. When I look at the economic development world as an animal advocate, I feel envy. I'd previously thought that a lot of advocacy tactics simply could not be tested, but after looking around at datasets on social movements (for instance, Erica Chenoweth's dataset on the "Resistance"), reading the ingenious work of institutional economists on using instrumental variables to set up quasi-experimental studies, and reading about experimental work in political science and other disciplines, I think there's a lot more that can be done than has, enough for it to be one of the most promising routes for animal advocates.

4) The importance–and neglectedness–of social institutions:

This was a year when through reading, following the news, and personal experience, I saw how much rules, norms, and processes matter–and how forgotten this can be. I saw how charismatic men with easy scapegoats and enchanted people behind them can pervert and break important and worthwhile structures. At the same time, I saw how dissent and conviction can preserve and improve safeguards.

5) The interplay of protests and politics:

I fiercely avoided this conclusion until recently, but I now think that in situations without sufficient, actionable public support, protests do not mix well with politics. As I've concluded before, protests have two primary effects: growing a movement and pressuring institutions. As a movement grows in size and support, the most important effect of a protest should shift from the former to the latter. When a protest is raising awareness, and the public does not agree with the protesters, I think the protest should probably be largely separate from political campaigns.

6) The importance of wild animal suffering:

I've followed a similar path here to that on artificial intelligence. I avoided an uncomfortable conclusion, but I ended up having to accept it: that given the massive numbers of wild animals in the world (anywhere from 1,000 to 1,000,000,000 sentient wild animals for every human), figuring out what effect we do and can have on their suffering is of first order importance for animal advocates.

7) Religion, the internet, and social cohesion:

I've tended in the past to think that electronic communications are clearly positive, and I'm an atheist and have a staunch secularist streak. (Écrasez l'infame!) Nonetheless, various readings have moved me toward wondering if the Internet is creating an overly individualistic generation, and if we could use some institutions that resemble and replicate religion in some ways. I read up on the Bowling Alone theory and Cass Sunstein's #Republic. I think the health of civic society in the face of an increasingly atomistic world is a worthy concern.

8) How much cause there is for optimism:

I am a pessimist by nature but for a while have been a deliberate optimist. By poverty, violence, and oppression, I think it is hard to make the case that the broad sweep of history is negative. Even against that background, I end the year with more optimism about the causes that concern me. Most important, I am more hopeful that current animal advocacy strategies will put a massive dent in industry (see number 2). I am excited about the direction effective altruist organizations are going in, with Animal Charity Evaluators' research standards improving and groups like Sentience Institute carefully examining a broader body of evidence. I am more hopeful than ever that for most sentient beings, the future is growing brighter.

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