Oscar Delaney

Executive Research Assistant @ Rethink Priorities
683 karmaJoined Apr 2021Working (0-5 years)Brisbane QLD, Australia



Working at RP, but views are my own unless otherwise stated.

I studied maths, philosophy and genetics at The University of Queensland in Australia. I was drawn to EA through GiveWell and Singerian global health ethics, but am now also interested in animal welfare and the longterm future. I did a biosecurity project at CERI and an AI alignment project at SERI MATS, and previously interned as a quant trader at Jane Street and a policy analyst for the Australian government.


What updates are you thinking of? Gemini 1.5?

Thanks for writing up a version for the forum, and congrats on finishing your thesis!

I thought this was useful and clearly written. I particularly liked the discussion of the tension between BWC Articles IV and X, which I hadn't thought about. And very interesting re your detailed digging into IGSC companies and that many of them don't take it very seriously. Shows gov regulation is more important, perhaps. That would be wild if the companies would actually be contractually obliged to not deny dangerous orders in some case!! I know next to nothing about law, but it reminds me of something I have wondered for a while about whether shareholders could sue a company for being too moral and not ruthlessly shareholder-value-maximise-y enough (if the company eg made a donation, or moved away from fossil fuels or tobacco, more than is optimal for PR).

Have you reached out to Braden Leach? Seems well worth it if you haven't yet. I don't know him, but we have a few mutual LinkedIn connections.

Similarly for Piers Millet, could be worth contacting him - I can put you in touch if you want, though he often seems very busy.

A minor terminological quibble: you write "most of them do not include genetic sequences in their domestic transfer control lists" (and various other similar uses of 'genetic sequence'). On face value I would interpret this as being about whether you are allowed to transfer the intellectual property of a computer fine with a DNA sequence. Whereas I think what you are referring to is rules on the transfer of physical nucleic acid molecules (which are of a particular genetic sequence). I haven't looked into whether my usage is standard, but my sense is a 'sequence' more connotes an abstract noun unlike 'molecule' for the physical noun.

Thanks for sharing, yes motivational benefits do seem important too!

Nice, I didn't know about some of these, good to take stock after an eventful year! I am so used to GPT-4 and integrating it into my work and life that it is weird to think it has been around such a short length of time ...

Thanks good points, I don't think we disagree directionally, perhaps just on how important some of these effects are. It feels like a very difficult epistemic problem to attribute how much the relative absence of bioweapons use is attributable to the BWC - I know roughly nothing about exploding bullets and the like, but maybe they are just more useful than bioweapons for most belligerants? And therefore are used more irrespective of how strong the relevant treaties are. But yes, agree that these aspects still provide some value :)

Thanks, useful thoughts, I think I roughly agree with you and will change this. I suppose the tradeoff I was facing with the title (not that I spent any time weighing up different options consciously) is between brevity, accurateness, and interestingness. I think the more complete title would be something like 'Updating weakly against the Biological Weapons Convention being as important to work on as I thought'. I think I will change the title to 'Reflections on the BWC' so that people who only see the title don't get a negative vibe (I agree we want people overall to think good thoughts about the BWC). And then if people are interested enough to read the post, they will see that I raise, quite sloppily/intuitively, some drawbacks. More than me arguing the BWC is -10 on some scale of goodness, what I was thinking is it moved from +20 to +10 or something.

I haven't thought about it lots but I think I would endorse something like 'the BWC should continue to exist, and should be larger and bigger and better, but it is less of a central priority than I thought, and so people who care about prioritisation and don't have individual reasons that the BWC is unusually good for them should strongly consider focusing more on something else'.

Thanks for writing this, I thought it was moving and beautifully written. I think the world would be a lot better if more people showed this sort of radical empathy.

Nice, wow there was lots of engagement on this beforehand! I think I am now leaning towards abrahamrowe's suggestion to just take the average of everyone's distributions, possibly with some minimum threshold to avoid the hassle of disbursing small amounts of money. But so many considerations - a more complicated decision than initially meets the eye I think.

Whoops my mistake. OK thanks, interesting! Maybe next year we can have an informal meta-vote beforehand on which voting system we want to use ;) I think currently I am in favour of RCV but maybe I am biased by being Australian and the fact that we use that here, so it seems especially intuitive and nice to me.

I recall there was some discussion about different voting systems for the Donation Election. I think it would be interesting to see whether/how different the results would have been with a different system. We can't really retrofit the data to quadratic voting, but I think it would be possible for approval voting and rank-choice voting (for approval voting we could just say that any candidate receiving points from a person is approved, unless they voted for many candidates in which case just the top 12). I am not sure what codebase you have at the backend for this, but I could imagine switching the voting system could be fairly easy; maybe it isn't worth it though.

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