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Today, 23 April 2024
Today, 23 Apr 2024

Quick takes

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Consider donating all or most of your Mana on Manifold to charity before May 1. Manifold is making multiple changes to the way Manifold works. You can read their announcement here. The main reason for donating now is that Mana will be devalued from the current 1 USD:100 Mana to 1 USD:1000 Mana on May 1. Thankfully, the 10k USD/month charity cap will not be in place until then. Also this part might be relevant for people with large positions they want to sell now: > One week may not be enough time for users with larger portfolios to liquidate and donate. We want to work individually with anyone who feels like they are stuck in this situation and honor their expected returns and agree on an amount they can donate at the original 100:1 rate past the one week deadline once the relevant markets have resolved.
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High impact startup idea: make a decent carbon emissions model for flights. Current ones simply use flight emissions which makes direct flights look low-emission. But in reality, some of these flights wouldn't even be there if people could be spread over existing indirect flights more efficiently, which is why they're cheaper too. Emission models should be relative to counterfactual. The startup can be for-profit. If you're lucky, better models already exist in scientific literature. Ideal for the AI for good-crowd. My guess is that a few man-years work could have a big carbon emissions impact here.
I see way too many people confusing movement with progress in the policy space.  There can be a lot of drafts becoming bills with still significant room for regulatory capture in the specifics, which will be decided later on. Take risk levels, for instance, which are subjective - lots of legal leeway for companies to exploit. 
I think it would be good if lots of EAs answered this twitter poll, so we could get a better sense for the communities views on the topic of Enlightenment / Awakening: https://twitter.com/SpencrGreenberg/status/1782525718586413085?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet

Monday, 22 April 2024
Mon, 22 Apr 2024

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CEA is hiring for someone to lead the EA Global program. CEA's three flagship EAG conferences facilitate tens of thousands of highly impactful connections each year that help people build professional relationships, apply for jobs, and make other critical career decisions. This is a role that comes with a large amount of autonomy, and one that plays a key role in shaping a key piece of the effective altruism community’s landscape.  See more details and apply here!
Quote from VC Josh Wolfe: > Biology. We will see an AWS moment where instead of you having to be a biotech firm that opens your own wet lab or moves into Alexandria Real Estate, which is you know, specializes in hosting biotech companies, in in all these different regions approximate to academic research centers. You will be able to just take your experiment and upload it to the cloud where there are cloud-based robotic labs. We funded some of these. There's one company called Stratios. > > There's a ton that are gonna come on wave, and this is exciting because you can be a scientist on the beach in the Bahamas, pull up your iPad, run an experiment. The robots are performing 90% of the activity of Pouring something from a beaker into another, running a centrifuge, and then the data that comes off of that. > > And this is the really cool part. Then the robot and the machines will actually say to you, “Hey, do you want to run this experiment but change these 4 parameters or these variables?” And you just click a button “yes” as though it's reverse prompting you, and then you run another experiment. So the implication here is that the boost in productivity for science, for generation of truth, of new information, of new knowledge, That to me is the most exciting thing. And the companies that capture that, forget about the societal dividend, I think are gonna make a lot of money. https://overcast.fm/+5AWO95pnw/46:15
I noticed that many people write a lot not only on forums but also on personal blogs and Substack. This is sad. Competent and passionate people are writing in places that get very few views. I too am one of those people. But honestly, magazines and articles are stressful and difficult, and forums are so huge that even if they have a messaging function, it is difficult to achieve a transparent state where each person can fully recognize their own epistemological status. I'm interested in such collaborative blogs, similar to the early Overcoming Bias. I believe that many bloggers and writers need help and that we can help each other. Is there anyone who wants to be with me?
Has anyone seen an analysis that takes seriously the idea that people should eat some fruits, vegetables and legumes over others based on how much animal suffering they each cause? I.e. don't eat X fruit, eat Y one instead, because X fruit is [e.g.] harvested in Z way, which kills more [insert plausibly sentient creature].
The catchphrase I walk around with in my head regarding the optimal strategy for AI Safety is something like: Creating Superintelligent Artificial Agents* (SAA) without a worldwide referendum is ethically unjustifiable. Until a consensus is reached on whether to bring into existence such technology, a global moratorium is required (*we already have AGI). I thought it might be useful to spell that out.

Sunday, 21 April 2024
Sun, 21 Apr 2024

Quick takes

GiveWell and Open Philanthropy just made a $1.5M grant to Malengo! Congratulations to @Johannes Haushofer and the whole team, this seems such a promising intervention from a wide variety of views
I'm going to make a quick take thread of EA-relevant software projects I could work on. Agree / disagree vote if you think I should/ should not do some particular project.
I recently discovered the idea of driving all blames into oneself, which immediately resonated with me. It is relatively hardcore; the kind of thing that would turn David Goggins into a Buddhist. Gemini did a good job of summarising it: This quote by Pema Chödron, a renowned Buddhist teacher, represents a core principle in some Buddhist traditions, particularly within Tibetan Buddhism. It's called "taking full responsibility" or "taking self-blame" and can be a bit challenging to understand at first. Here's a breakdown: What it Doesn't Mean: * Self-Flagellation: This practice isn't about beating yourself up or dwelling on guilt. * Ignoring External Factors: It doesn't deny the role of external circumstances in a situation. What it Does Mean: * Owning Your Reaction: It's about acknowledging how a situation makes you feel and taking responsibility for your own emotional response. * Shifting Focus: Instead of blaming others or dwelling on what you can't control, you direct your attention to your own thoughts and reactions. * Breaking Negative Cycles: By understanding your own reactions, you can break free from negative thought patterns and choose a more skillful response. Analogy: Imagine a pebble thrown into a still pond. The pebble represents the external situation, and the ripples represent your emotional response. While you can't control the pebble (the external situation), you can control the ripples (your reaction). Benefits: * Reduced Suffering: By taking responsibility for your own reactions, you become less dependent on external circumstances for your happiness. * Increased Self-Awareness: It helps you understand your triggers and cultivate a more mindful response to situations. * Greater Personal Growth: By taking responsibility, you empower yourself to learn and grow from experiences. Here are some additional points to consider: * This practice doesn't mean excusing bad behavior. You can still hold others accountable while taking responsibility for your own reactions. * It's a gradual process. Be patient with yourself as you learn to practice this approach.

Topic Page Edits and Discussion

Saturday, 20 April 2024
Sat, 20 Apr 2024

Quick takes

Animal Justice Appreciation Note Animal Justice et al. v A.G of Ontario 2024 was recently decided and struck down large portions of Ontario's ag-gag law. A blog post is here. The suit was partially funded by ACE, which presumably means that many of the people reading this deserve partial credit for donating to support it. Thanks to Animal Justice (Andrea Gonsalves, Fredrick Schumann, Kaitlyn Mitchell, Scott Tinney), co-applicants Jessica Scott-Reid and Louise Jorgensen, and everyone who supported this work!
Be the meme you want to see in the world (screenshot).  

Friday, 19 April 2024
Fri, 19 Apr 2024

Frontpage Posts

Quick takes

While AI value alignment is considered a serious problem, the algorithms we use every day do not seem to be subject to alignment. That sounds like a serious problem to me. Has no one ever tried to align the YouTube algorithm with our values? What about on other types of platforms?
The topics of working for an EA org and altruist careers are discussed occasionally in our local group.  I wanted to share my rough thoughts and some relevant forum posts that I've compiled in this google doc. The main thesis is that it's really difficult to get a job at an EA org, as far as I know, and most people will have messier career paths. Some of the posts I link in the doc, specifically around alternate career paths: The career and the community Consider a wider range of jobs, paths and problems if you want to improve the long-term future My current impressions on career choice for longtermists
The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness and an article about it: https://sites.google.com/nyu.edu/nydeclaration/declaration https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/animal-consciousness-scientists-push-new-paradigm-rcna148213

Thursday, 18 April 2024
Thu, 18 Apr 2024

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Quick takes

An alternate stance on moderation (from @Habryka.) This is from this comment responding to this post about there being too many bans on LessWrong. Note how the LessWrong is less moderated than here in that it (I guess) responds to individual posts less often, but more moderated in that I guess it rate limits people more without reason.  I found it thought provoking. I'd recommend reading it. > Thanks for making this post!  > > One of the reasons why I like rate-limits instead of bans is that it allows people to complain about the rate-limiting and to participate in discussion on their own posts (so seeing a harsh rate-limit of something like "1 comment per 3 days" is not equivalent to a general ban from LessWrong, but should be more interpreted as "please comment primarily on your own posts", though of course it shares many important properties of a ban). This is a pretty opposite approach to the EA forum which favours bans. > Things that seem most important to bring up in terms of moderation philosophy:  > > Moderation on LessWrong does not depend on effort > > "Another thing I've noticed is that almost all the users are trying.  They are trying to use rationality, trying to understand what's been written here, trying to apply Baye's rule or understand AI.  Even some of the users with negative karma are trying, just having more difficulty." > > Just because someone is genuinely trying to contribute to LessWrong, does not mean LessWrong is a good place for them. LessWrong has a particular culture, with particular standards and particular interests, and I think many people, even if they are genuinely trying, don't fit well within that culture and those standards.  > > In making rate-limiting decisions like this I don't pay much attention to whether the user in question is "genuinely trying " to contribute to LW,  I am mostly just evaluating the effects I see their actions having on the quality of the discussions happening on the site, and the quality of the ideas they are contributing.  > > Motivation and goals are of course a relevant component to model, but that mostly pushes in the opposite direction, in that if I have someone who seems to be making great contributions, and I learn they aren't even trying, then that makes me more excited, since there is upside if they do become more motivated in the future. I sense this is quite different to the EA forum too. I can't imagine a mod saying I don't pay much attention to whether the user in question is "genuinely trying". I find this honesty pretty stark. Feels like a thing moderators aren't allowed to say. "We don't like the quality of your comments and we don't think you can improve". > Signal to Noise ratio is important > > Thomas and Elizabeth pointed this out already, but just because someone's comments don't seem actively bad, doesn't mean I don't want to limit their ability to contribute. We do a lot of things on LW to improve the signal to noise ratio of content on the site, and one of those things is to reduce the amount of noise, even if the mean of what we remove looks not actively harmful.  > > We of course also do other things than to remove some of the lower signal content to improve the signal to noise ratio. Voting does a lot, how we sort the frontpage does a lot, subscriptions and notification systems do a lot. But rate-limiting is also a tool I use for the same purpose. > Old users are owed explanations, new users are (mostly) not > > I think if you've been around for a while on LessWrong, and I decide to rate-limit you, then I think it makes sense for me to make some time to argue with you about that, and give you the opportunity to convince me that I am wrong. But if you are new, and haven't invested a lot in the site, then I think I owe you relatively little.  > > I think in doing the above rate-limits, we did not do enough to give established users the affordance to push back and argue with us about them. I do think most of these users are relatively recent or are users we've been very straightforward with since shortly after they started commenting that we don't think they are breaking even on their contributions to the site (like the OP Gerald Monroe, with whom we had 3 separate conversations over the past few months), and for those I don't think we owe them much of an explanation. LessWrong is a walled garden.  > > You do not by default have the right to be here, and I don't want to, and cannot, accept the burden of explaining to everyone who wants to be here but who I don't want here, why I am making my decisions. As such a moderation principle that we've been aspiring to for quite a while is to let new users know as early as possible if we think them being on the site is unlikely to work out, so that if you have been around for a while you can feel stable, and also so that you don't invest in something that will end up being taken away from you. > > Feedback helps a bit, especially if you are young, but usually doesn't > > Maybe there are other people who are much better at giving feedback and helping people grow as commenters, but my personal experience is that giving users feedback, especially the second or third time, rarely tends to substantially improve things.  > > I think this sucks. I would much rather be in a world where the usual reasons why I think someone isn't positively contributing to LessWrong were of the type that a short conversation could clear up and fix, but it alas does not appear so, and after having spent many hundreds of hours over the years giving people individualized feedback, I don't really think "give people specific and detailed feedback" is a viable moderation strategy, at least more than once or twice per user. I recognize that this can feel unfair on the receiving end, and I also feel sad about it. > > I do think the one exception here is that if people are young or are non-native english speakers. Do let me know if you are in your teens or you are a non-native english speaker who is still learning the language. People do really get a lot better at communication between the ages of 14-22 and people's english does get substantially better over time, and this helps with all kinds communication issues. Again this is very blunt but I'm not sure it's wrong.  > We consider legibility, but its only a relatively small input into our moderation decisions > > It is valuable and a precious public good to make it easy to know which actions you take will cause you to end up being removed from a space. However, that legibility also comes at great cost, especially in social contexts. Every clear and bright-line rule you outline will have people budding right up against it, and de-facto, in my experience, moderation of social spaces like LessWrong is not the kind of thing you can do while being legible in the way that for example modern courts aim to be legible.  > > As such, we don't have laws. If anything we have something like case-law which gets established as individual moderation disputes arise, which we then use as guidelines for future decisions, but also a huge fraction of our moderation decisions are downstream of complicated models we formed about what kind of conversations and interactions work on LessWrong, and what role we want LessWrong to play in the broader world, and those shift and change as new evidence comes in and the world changes. > > I do ultimately still try pretty hard to give people guidelines and to draw lines that help people feel secure in their relationship to LessWrong, and I care a lot about this, but at the end of the day I will still make many from-the-outside-arbitrary-seeming-decisions in order to keep LessWrong the precious walled garden that it is. > > I try really hard to not build an ideological echo chamber > > When making moderation decisions, it's always at the top of my mind whether I am tempted to make a decision one way or another because they disagree with me on some object-level issue. I try pretty hard to not have that affect my decisions, and as a result have what feels to me a subjectively substantially higher standard for rate-limiting or banning people who disagree with me, than for people who agree with me. I think this is reflected in the decisions above. > > I do feel comfortable judging people on the methodologies and abstract principles that they seem to use to arrive at their conclusions. LessWrong has a specific epistemology, and I care about protecting that. If you are primarily trying to...  > > * argue from authority,  > * don't like speaking in probabilistic terms,  > * aren't comfortable holding multiple conflicting models in your head at the same time,  > * or are averse to breaking things down into mechanistic and reductionist terms,  > > then LW is probably not for you, and I feel fine with that. I feel comfortable reducing the visibility or volume of content on the site that is in conflict with these epistemological principles (of course this list isn't exhaustive, in-general the LW sequences are the best pointer towards the epistemological foundations of the site). It feels cringe to read that basically if I don't get the sequences lessWrong might rate limit me. But it is good to be open about it. I don't think the EA forum's core philosophy is as easily expressed. > If you see me or other LW moderators fail to judge people on epistemological principles but instead see us directly rate-limiting or banning users on the basis of object-level opinions that even if they seem wrong seem to have been arrived at via relatively sane principles, then I do really think you should complain and push back at us. I see my mandate as head of LW to only extend towards enforcing what seems to me the shared epistemological foundation of LW, and to not have the mandate to enforce my own object-level beliefs on the participants of this site. > > Now some more comments on the object-level:  > > I overall feel good about rate-limiting everyone on the above list. I think it will probably make the conversations on the site go better and make more people contribute to the site.  > > Us doing more extensive rate-limiting is an experiment, and we will see how it goes. As kave said in the other response to this post, the rule that suggested these specific rate-limits does not seem like it has an amazing track record, though I currently endorse it as something that calls things to my attention (among many other heuristics). > > Also, if anyone reading this is worried about being rate-limited or banned in the future, feel free to reach out to me or other moderators on Intercom. I am generally happy to give people direct and frank feedback about their contributions to the site, as well as how likely I am to take future moderator actions. Uncertainty is costly, and I think it's worth a lot of my time to help people understand to what degree investing in LessWrong makes sense for them. 
It seems plausible to me that those involved in Nonlinear have received more social sanction than those involved in FTX, even though the latter was obviously more harmful to this community and the world.

Wednesday, 17 April 2024
Wed, 17 Apr 2024

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Quick takes

Marcus Daniell appreciation note @Marcus Daniell, cofounder of High Impact Athletes, came back from knee surgery and is donating half of his prize money this year. He projects raising $100,000. Through a partnership with Momentum, people can pledge to donate for each point he gets; he has raised $28,000 through this so far. It's cool to see this, and I'm wishing him luck for his final year of professional play!
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FHI has shut down yesterday: https://www.futureofhumanityinstitute.org/
Ethical Implications of AI in Military Operations: A Look at Project Nimbus   Recently, 'Democracy Now' highlighted Google’s involvement in Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion initiative to provide cloud computing services to the Israeli government, including military applications. Google employees have raised concerns about the use of AI in creating 'kill lists' with minimal human oversight, as well as the usage of Google Photos to identify and detain individuals. This raises ethical questions about the role of AI in warfare and surveillance. Despite a sit-in and retaliation against those speaking against the project, there has been little visible impact on the continuation of the contract. The most recent protesters faced arrest. What does this suggest about the power of AI in the hands of governments and the efficacy of public dissent in influencing such high-stakes deployments of AI use?

Tuesday, 16 April 2024
Tue, 16 Apr 2024

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Quick takes

I am not confident that another FTX level crisis is less likely to happen, other than that we might all say "oh this feels a bit like FTX". Changes: * Board swaps. Yeah maybe good, though many of the people who left were very experienced. And it's not clear whether there are due diligence people (which seems to be what was missing). * Orgs being spun out of EV and EV being shuttered. I mean, maybe good though feels like it's swung too far. Many mature orgs should run on their own, but small orgs do have many replicable features. * More talking about honesty. Not really sure this was the problem. The issue wasn't the median EA it was in the tails. Are the tails of EA more honest? Hard to say * We have now had a big crisis so it's less costly to say "this might be like that big crisis". Though notably this might also be too cheap - we could flinch away from doing ambitious things * Large orgs seem slightly more beholden to comms/legal to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing. * OpenPhil is hiring more internally Non-changes: * Still very centralised. I'm pretty pro-elite, so I'm not sure this is a problem in and of itself, though I have come to think that elites in general are less competent than I thought before (see FTX and OpenAI crisis) * Little discussion of why or how the affiliation with SBF happened despite many well connected EAs having a low opinion of him * Little discussion of what led us to ignore the base rate of scamminess in crypto and how we'll avoid that in future
I recently wrote a post on the EA forum about turning animal suffering to animal bliss using genetic enhancement. Titotal raised an thoughtful concern: "How do you check that your intervention is working? For example, suppose your original raccoons screech when you poke them, but the genetically engineered racoons don't. Is that because they are experiencing less pain, or have they merely evolved not to screech?" This is a very good point. I was recently considering how we could be sure to not just change the expressions of suffering and I believe that I have determined a means of doing so. In psychology, it is common to use factor analysis to study a latent variables--the variables that we cannot measure directly. It seems extremely reasonable to think that animal pain is real, but the trouble is measuring it. We could try to get at pain by getting a huge array of behaviors and measures that are associated with pain (heart rate, cortisol levels, facial expressions, vocalizations, etc.) and find a latent factor of suffering that accounts for some of these behaviors. To determine if an intervention is successful at changing the latent factor of suffering for the better, we could test for measurement invariance which is an important step in making a relevant comparison between two groups. This basically tests whether the nature of the factor loadings remains the same between groups. This would mean a reduction in all of the traits associated with suffering. This would also seem relevant for environmental interventions as well.  As an illustration: imagine that I measure wefare of a raccoon by the amount of screeching it does. A bad intervention would be taping the raccoons mouth shut. This would reduce screeching, but there is no good reason to think that would alleviate suffering. However, imagine I gave the raccoon a drug and it acted less stressed, screeched less, had less cortisol, and started acting much more friendly. This would be much better evidence of true reduction in suffering.  There is much more to be defended in my thesis but this felt like a thought worth sharing.
From a utilitarian perspective, it would seem there are substantial benefits to accurate measures of welfare.  I was listening to Adam Mastroianni discuss the history of trying measure happiness and life satisfaction and it was interesting to find a level of stability across the decades. Could it really be that the increases in material wealth do not result in huge objective increases in happiness and satisfaction for humans? It would seem the efforts to increase GDP and improve standard of living beyond the basics may be misdirected. Furthermore, it seems like it would be extremely helpful in terms of policy creation to have an objective unit like a util.  We could compare human and animal welfare directly, and genetically engineer animals to increase their utils.  While efforts might not super successful, it would seem very important to merely improve objective measures of wellbeing by say 10%.
Making an image with generative AI uses as much energy as charging your phone - MIT Technology review.  Should the EA forum still recommend to use an AI generated picture for a post's preview image? https://www.technologyreview.com/2023/12/01/1084189/making-an-image-with-generative-ai-uses-as-much-energy-as-charging-your-phone/

Monday, 15 April 2024
Mon, 15 Apr 2024

Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sun, 14 Apr 2024

Quick takes

Have Will MacAskill, Nick Beckstead, or Holden Karnofsky responded to the reporting by Time that they were warned about Sam Bankman-Fried's behaviour years before the FTX collapse?

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