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4917 karmaJoined Jul 2019Working (0-5 years)New York, NY, USAsunyshore.substack.com



I'm interested in effective altruism and longtermism broadly. The topics I'm interested in change over time; they include existential risks, climate change, wild animal welfare, alternative proteins, and longtermist global development.

A comment I've written about my EA origin story

Pronouns: she/her

"It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If we take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others, the other elements, and the other nations will help you become whole." —Uncle Iroh


Philosophize This!: Consciousness
Mistakes in the moral mathematics of existential risk - Reflective altruism
EA Public Interest Tech - Career Reviews
Longtermist Theory
Democracy & EA
How we promoted EA at a large tech company
EA Survey 2018 Series
EA Survey 2019 Series


Topic contributions

I can speak for myself: I want AGI, if it is developed, to reflect the best possible values we have currently (i.e. liberal values[1]), and I believe it's likely that an AGI system developed by an organization based in the free world (the US, EU, Taiwan, etc.) would embody better values than one developed by one based in the People's Republic of China. There is a widely held belief in science and technology studies that all technologies have embedded values; the most obvious way values could be embedded in an AI system is through its objective function. It's unclear to me how much these values would differ if the AGI were developed in a free country versus an unfree one, because a lot of the AI systems that the US government uses could also be used for oppressive purposes (and arguably already are used in oppressive ways by the US).

Holden Karnofsky calls this the "competition frame" - in which it matters most who develops AGI. He contrasts this with the "caution frame", which focuses more on whether AGI is developed in a rushed way than whether it is misused. Both frames seem valuable to me, but Holden warns that most people will gravitate toward the competition frame by default and neglect the caution one.

Hope this helps!

  1. ^

    Fwiw I do believe that liberal values can be improved on, especially in that they seldom include animals. But the foundation seems correct to me: centering every individual's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thank you for posting this! I've been frustrated with the EA movement's cautiousness around media outreach for a while. I think that the overwhelmingly negative press coverage in recent weeks can be attributed in part to us not doing enough media outreach prior to the FTX collapse. And it was pointed out back in July that the top Google Search result for "longtermism" was a Torres hit piece.

I understand and agree with the view that media outreach should be done by specialists - ideally, people who deeply understand EA and know how to talk to the media. But Will MacAskill and Toby Ord aren't the only people with those qualifications! There's no reason they need to be the public face of all of EA - they represent one faction out of at least three. EA is a general concept that's compatible with a range of moral and empirical worldviews - we should be showcasing that epistemic diversity, and one way to do that is by empowering an ideologically diverse group of public figures and media specialists to speak on the movement's behalf. It would be harder for people to criticize EA as a concept if they knew how broad it was.

Perhaps more EA orgs - like GiveWell, ACE, and FHI - should have their own publicity arms that operate independently of CEA and promote their views to the public, instead of expecting CEA or a handful of public figures like MacAskill to do the heavy lifting.

I've gotten more involved in EA since last summer. Some EA-related things I've done over the last year:

  • Attended the virtual EA Global (I didn't register, just watched it live on YouTube)
  • Read The Precipice
  • Participated in two EA mentorship programs
  • Joined Covid Watch, an organization developing an app to slow the spread of COVID-19. I'm especially involved in setting up a subteam trying to reduce global catastrophic biological risks.
  • Started posting on the EA Forum
  • Ran a birthday fundraiser for the Against Malaria Foundation. This year, I'm running another one for the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Although I first heard of EA toward the end of high school (slightly over 4 years ago) and liked it, I had some negative interactions with EA community early on that pushed me away from the community. I spent the next 3 years exploring various social issues outside the EA community, but I had internalized EA's core principles, so I was constantly thinking about how much good I could be doing and which causes were the most important. I eventually became overwhelmed because "doing good" had become a big part of my identity but I cared about too many different issues. A friend recommended that I check out EA again, and despite some trepidation owing to my past experiences, I did. As I got involved in the EA community again, I had an overwhelmingly positive experience. The EAs I was interacting with were kind and open-minded, and they encouraged me to get involved, whereas before, I had encountered people who seemed more abrasive.

Now I'm worried about getting burned out. I check the EA Forum way too often for my own good, and I've been thinking obsessively about cause prioritization and longtermism. I talk about my current uncertainties in this post.

Okay, so one thing I don't get about "common sense ethics" discourse in EA is, which common sense ethical norms prevail? Different people even in the same society have different attitudes about what's common sense.

For example, pretty much everyone agrees that theft and fraud in the service of a good cause - as in the FTX case - is immoral. But what about cases where the governing norms are ambiguous or changing? For example, in the United States, it's considered customary to tip at restaurants and for deliveries, but there isn't much consensus on when and how much to tip, especially with digital point-of-sale systems encouraging people to tip in more situations. (Just as an example of how conceptions of "common sense ethics" can differ: I just learned that apparently, you're supposed to tip the courier before you get a delivery now, otherwise they might refuse to take your order at all. I've grown up believing that you're supposed to tip after you get service, but many drivers expect you to tip beforehand.) You're never required to tip as a condition of service, so what if you just never tipped and always donated the equivalent amount to highly effective charities instead? That sounds unethical to me but technically it's legal and not a breach of contract.

Going further, what if you started a company, like a food delivery app, that hired contractors to do the important work and paid them subminimum wages[1], forcing them to rely on users' generosity (i.e. tips) to make a living? And then made a 40% profit margin and donated the profits to GiveWell? That also sounds unethical - you're taking with one hand and giving with the other. But in a capitalist society like the U.S., it's just business as usual.

  1. ^

    Under federal law and in most U.S. states, employers can pay tipped workers less than the minimum wage as long as their wages and tips add up to at least the minimum wage. However, many employers get away with not ensuring that tipped workers earn the minimum wage, or outright stealing tips.

What time of day are the applications for the EA career development program due?

Imagine a product A with 0 CO2 but a huge animal suffering impact, B with huge CO2 but 0 suffering, and C with non-zero but tiny impact on both dimensions. Your weighting would favor C, while for any rational person either A or B (or both) would necessarily be preferable.

I think it's the other way around. Under a weighted product model (WPM), the overall impact of both A and B is zero because either component is zero, so the WPM favors A and B over C. Whereas summing the climate and welfare components (with "reasonable" weights) would result in C being the most favorable.

How can the EA community better support neurodivergent community members who feel like they might make mistakes without realizing it?

Returning to this thread because my Forum Wrapped says it's my most upvoted comment this year 😆

This makes me think of a Linkin Park song that was written specifically to address the cycle of valorization and demonization in the public sphere, particularly of celebrities:

We're building it up
To break it back down
We're building it up
To burn it down
We can't wait to burn it to the ground

You might say "the pendulum swings" between both extremes of this cycle.

I'm noticing a trend in "literary" online magazines in EA and adjacent movements, like Works in Progress and Asterisk. Were you inspired by these other magazines/websites? :3

The Center for New Liberalism's New Liberal Podcast (fka Neoliberal Podcast) covered the PEPFAR crisis in a November 10 episode.

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