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I'm interested in ways to increase the EV of the EA community by mitigating downside risks from EA related activities. Without claiming originality, I think that:

  • Complex cluelessness is a common phenomenon in the domains of anthropogenic x-risks and meta-EA (due to an abundance of crucial considerations). It is often very hard to judge whether a given intervention is net-positive or net-negative.
  • The EA community is made out of humans. Humans' judgement tends to be influenced by biases and self-deception. That is a serious source of risk, considering the previous point.
    • Some potential mitigations involve improving some aspects of how EA funding works, e.g. with respect to conflicts of interest. Please don't interpret my interest in such mitigations as accusations of corruption etc.

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(haven't read the entire post)

I think the "good people'' label is not useful here. The problem is that humans tend to act as power maximizers, and they often deceive themselves into thinking that they should do [something that will bring them more power] because of [pro-social reason].

I'm not concerned that Dario Amodei will consciously think to himself: "I'll go ahead and press this astronomically net-negative button over here because it will make me more powerful". But he can easily end up pressing such a button anyway.


It may be useful to consider the % of [worldwide net private wealth] that is lost if the US government commits to certain extremely strict AI regulation. We can call that % the "wealth impact factor of potential AI regulation" (WIFPAIR). We can expect that, other things being equal, in worlds where WIFPAIR is higher more resources are being used for anti-AI-regulation lobbying efforts (and thus EA-aligned people probably have less influence over what the US government does w.r.t. AI regulation).

The WIFPAIR can become much higher in the future, and therefore convincing the US government to establish effective AI regulation can become much harder (if it's not already virtually impossible today).

If at some future point WIFPAIR gets sufficiently high, the anti-AI-regulation efforts may become at least as intense as the anti-communist efforts in the US during the 1950s.


Follow up questions to anyone who may know:

Is METR (formerly ARC Evals) meant to be the "independent, external organization" that is allowed to evaluate the capabilities and safety of Anthropic's models? As of 2023-12-04 METR was spinning off from the Alignment Research Center (ARC) into their own standalone nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, according to their website. Who is on METR's board of directors?

Note: OpenPhil seemingly recommended a total of $1,515,000 to ARC in 2022. Holden Karnofsky (co-founder and co-CEO of OpenPhil at the time, and currently a board member) is married to Daniela Amodei (co-founder of Anthropic and sibling of the CEO of Anthropic Dario Amodei) according to Wikipedia.

I failed to mention in the parent comment that the prime minister of Israel (Netanyahu) would plausibly not survive politically without the support of Ben-Gvir, which may have allowed the latter to have a lot of influence over the behavior of the Israeli government w.r.t. the war. Quoting from a WSJ article that was published today:

The differing paths present a stark choice for Netanyahu, who now risks heightening Israel’s international isolation if he continues the war, or potentially losing power if Ben-Gvir withdraws his Jewish Power party’s six lawmakers from the governing coalition.

“Ben-Gvir has huge leverage over Netanyahu,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Jerusalem-based think tank the Israel Democracy Institute. “The last thing Netanyahu needs is an early election and Ben-Gvir knows that.”

There's also the unilateralist's curse: suppose someone publishes an essay about a dangerous, viral idea that they misjudge to be net-positive; after 20 other people also thought about it but judged it to be net-negative.

In 2018, two years before it won a Peace Prize,[3] the World Food Programme was ranked worst of 40 largest aid agencies on the QuODA scale (decent proxies for aid quality).

Quoting form the linked page (from the website of The Center for Global Development):

QuODA’s 24 aid effectiveness indicators are listed below and we’ve published a detailed methodology along with the data.

I suppose that the claim in the parent comment that the WFP "was ranked worst of 40 largest aid agencies" is based on that "data" spreadsheet. But notice that 27 of those 40 "aid agencies" are not aid agencies but rather countries (e.g. Australia, United States). So this is already a big red flag. For each agency/country, the spreadsheet provides 7 indicators that are grouped under the title "Maximising Efficiency". One of those indicators is called "ME4" according to which the WFP performed 3rd worst among all 40 agencies/countries. Quoting from the "detailed methodology" PDF (removing footnote references):

Indicator ME4: High Country Programmable Aid Share

[...] The [OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC)], recognizing the need for a metric that reflects the amount of aid that is received and recorded by partner country governments, constructed a measure called country programmable aid. CPA is a measure of development assistance that excludes funding that does not flow to partner countries (e.g. donor administrative costs and imputed student costs), unpredictable flows (e.g. humanitarian assistance), and transfers that are not discussed between donors and partner countries (e.g. food assistance). [...]

So if I understand correctly, the the QuODA scale seems to "punish" agencies that spend money on food assistance directly (rather than giving the money to the host state), and therefore does not seem like a good scale for evaluating the World Food Programme. (To be clear, I'm not overall familiar with QuODA scale; I'm just reporting what seems to me like a very big red flag).

A 2008 study found that UN agencies were by far the least efficient agencies, with the WFP disbursing just $30,000 per employee, where the average was $1,000,000.

Maybe the WFP employs many locals in low-GPD-per-capita states as part of their efforts to distribute food and the salaries are not a large % of WFP's budget? (I don't know whether that is the case; I'm just pointing out that that metric does not seem useful here.)

It's possible that if the UN had not existed, we would have already had a third world war. The UN is obviously not optimal but may be a lot better than nothing (w.r.t. allowing humanity to coordinate on important issues). EDIT: 'Making the UN better' may be an important cause area from an EA perspective.

If Russia and China are worse offenders (which I doubt, if the metric is "atrocities per capita") and have been treated less severely by the UN, this seems to point at a bias in favor of permanent members of the UN Security Council / superpowers, rather than a bias against Israel in particular.

And one of the major drivers of the conflict is the UN policy towards palestinian refugees, which has encouraged revanchism over integration for decades, unlike their policy towards other descendants of refugees.

Many policies that seek to hold states accountable for committing atrocities can be accused of encouraging revanchism. Nonetheless, the international community should probably coordinate to prevent states from doing things like conquering land and then effectively throwing hundreds of thousands of natives outside their new borders (causing them to be stateless), killing those who try to return, destroying/stealing almost all of their property without providing any compensation, etc.

I think this is verified by the very anomalous way the UN treats Israel, like repeatedly condemning Israel while neglecting far worse offenders,

Can you give an example of a state that was clearly a "worse offender" than Israel and yet was clearly treated less severely by the UN?

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