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Hi, my name is James Fodor. I am a longtime student and EA organiser from Melbourne. I love science, history, philosophy, and using these to make a difference in the world.


Critique of Superintelligence


I think it is appropriate for the movement to reflect at this time on whether there are systematic  problems or failings within the community that might have contributed to this problem. I have publicly argued that there are, and though I might be wrong about that, I do think its entirely reasonable to explore these issues. I don't think its reasonable to just continually assert that it was all down to a handful of bad actors and refuse to discuss the possibility of any deeper or broader problems. I like to think that the EA community can learn and grow from this experience.

I disagree that events can't be evidence for or against philosophical positions. If empirical claims about human behaviour or the real-world operation of ethical principles are relevant to the plausibility of competing ethical theories, then I think events can provide evidential value for philosophical positions. Of course that raises a much broader set of issues and doesn't really detract from the main point of this post, but I thought I would push back on that specific aspect.

I love the research-focus of this piece and the lack of waffle. Very impressed.

"Is it really "grossly immoral" to do the same thing in crypto without telling depositors?"

Great point about ventilation. I am not aware of any evidence that hand sanitisation in particular is merely 'safety theater'. Surface transmission may not be the major method of viral spread, but it still is a method, and hand sanitisation is a very simple intervention. Also, to emphasise something I mentioned in the post, masks are definitely not 'safety theater'. It is good to see that the revised COVID protocol now mentions that mask use will be encouraged and widely available.

I don't understand how Australia's travel policy is relevant. I'm not asking for anything particularly unusual or onerous, I just would expect that a community of effective altruists would follow WHO guidelines regarding methods to reduce the spread of COVID. I honestly don't understand the negative reaction.

Thanks Amy, I think these clarifications significantly improve the policy. I disagree on the decision not to mandate masks but I understand there will be differences in views there. However mentioning that they are encouraged may be just as effective at ensuring widespread use. That was part of my original concern, that I did not feel this aspect of norm-setting was as evident in the original version of the policy.

It doesn't seem to me this has much relevance to EA.

Hi David,

We deliberately only included information which is based on some specific empirical evidence, not simply advice or recommendations. Of course readers of the review may wish to incorporate additional information or assumptions in deciding how they will run their groups then of course they are welcome to do so.

If you have any particular sources or documents outlining what has been effective in London I'd love to see them!

Hi everyone, thanks for your comments. I'm not much for debating in comments, but if you would like to discuss anything further with me or have any questions, please feel free to send me a message.

I just wanted to make one clarification that I feel didn't come across strongly in the original post. Namely, I don't think its a bad thing that EA is an ideology. I do personally disagree with some commonly believed assumptions or methodological preferences etc, but the fact that EA itself is an ideology I think is a good thing, because it gives EA substance. If EA were merely a question I think it would have very little to add to the world.

The point of this post was therefore not to argue that EA should try to avoid being an ideology, but that we should realise the assumptions and methodological frameworks we typically adopt as an EA community, critically evaluate whether they are all justified, and then to the extent they are justified defend them with the best arguments we can muster, of course always remaining open-minded to new evidence or arguments that might change our minds.

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