nhaliday + effective-altruism   63

Links 3/19: Linkguini | Slate Star Codex
How did the descendants of the Mayan Indians end up in the Eastern Orthodox Church?

Does Parental Quality Matter? Study using three sources of parental variation that are mostly immune to genetic confounding find that “the strong parent-child correlation in education is largely causal”. For example, “the parent-child correlation in education is stronger with the parent that spends more time with the child”.

Before and after pictures of tech leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Sergey Brin suggest they’re taking supplemental testosterone. And though it may help them keep looking young, Palladium points out that there might be other effects from having some of our most powerful businessmen on a hormone that increases risk-taking and ambition. They ask whether the new availability of testosterone supplements is prolonging Silicon Valley businessmen’s “brash entrepreneur” phase well past the point where they would normally become mature respectable elders. But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring. Paging Peter Thiel and everyone else who takes about how things “just worked better” in Eisenhower’s day.

China’s SesameCredit social monitoring system, widely portrayed as dystopian, has an 80% approval rate in China (vs. 19% neutral and 1% disapproval). The researchers admit that although all data is confidential and they are not affiliated with the Chinese government, their participants might not believe that confidently enough to answer honestly.

I know how much you guys love attacking EAs for “pathological altruism” or whatever terms you’re using nowadays, so here’s an article where rationalist community member John Beshir describes his experience getting malaria on purpose to help researchers test a vaccine.

Some evidence against the theory that missing fathers cause earlier menarche.

John Nerst of EverythingStudies’ political compass.
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6 weeks ago by nhaliday
Information Processing: US Needs a National AI Strategy: A Sputnik Moment?
FT podcasts on US-China competition and AI: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2018/05/ft-podcasts-on-us-china-competition-and.html

A new recommended career path for effective altruists: China specialist: https://80000hours.org/articles/china-careers/
Our rough guess is that it would be useful for there to be at least ten people in the community with good knowledge in this area within the next few years.

By “good knowledge” we mean they’ve spent at least 3 years studying these topics and/or living in China.

We chose ten because that would be enough for several people to cover each of the major areas listed (e.g. 4 within AI, 2 within biorisk, 2 within foreign relations, 1 in another area).

AI Policy and Governance Internship: https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/ai-policy-governance-internship/

Deciphering China’s AI Dream
The context, components, capabilities, and consequences of
China’s strategy to lead the world in AI

Europe’s AI delusion: https://www.politico.eu/article/opinion-europes-ai-delusion/
Brussels is failing to grasp threats and opportunities of artificial intelligence.

When the computer program AlphaGo beat the Chinese professional Go player Ke Jie in a three-part match, it didn’t take long for Beijing to realize the implications.

If algorithms can already surpass the abilities of a master Go player, it can’t be long before they will be similarly supreme in the activity to which the classic board game has always been compared: war.

As I’ve written before, the great conflict of our time is about who can control the next wave of technological development: the widespread application of artificial intelligence in the economic and military spheres.


If China’s ambitions sound plausible, that’s because the country’s achievements in deep learning are so impressive already. After Microsoft announced that its speech recognition software surpassed human-level language recognition in October 2016, Andrew Ng, then head of research at Baidu, tweeted: “We had surpassed human-level Chinese recognition in 2015; happy to see Microsoft also get there for English less than a year later.”


One obvious advantage China enjoys is access to almost unlimited pools of data. The machine-learning technologies boosting the current wave of AI expansion are as good as the amount of data they can use. That could be the number of people driving cars, photos labeled on the internet or voice samples for translation apps. With 700 or 800 million Chinese internet users and fewer data protection rules, China is as rich in data as the Gulf States are in oil.

How can Europe and the United States compete? They will have to be commensurately better in developing algorithms and computer power. Sadly, Europe is falling behind in these areas as well.


Chinese commentators have embraced the idea of a coming singularity: the moment when AI surpasses human ability. At that point a number of interesting things happen. First, future AI development will be conducted by AI itself, creating exponential feedback loops. Second, humans will become useless for waging war. At that point, the human mind will be unable to keep pace with robotized warfare. With advanced image recognition, data analytics, prediction systems, military brain science and unmanned systems, devastating wars might be waged and won in a matter of minutes.


The argument in the new strategy is fully defensive. It first considers how AI raises new threats and then goes on to discuss the opportunities. The EU and Chinese strategies follow opposite logics. Already on its second page, the text frets about the legal and ethical problems raised by AI and discusses the “legitimate concerns” the technology generates.

The EU’s strategy is organized around three concerns: the need to boost Europe’s AI capacity, ethical issues and social challenges. Unfortunately, even the first dimension quickly turns out to be about “European values” and the need to place “the human” at the center of AI — forgetting that the first word in AI is not “human” but “artificial.”

US military: "LOL, China thinks it's going to be a major player in AI, but we've got all the top AI researchers. You guys will help us develop weapons, right?"

US AI researchers: "No."

US military: "But... maybe just a computer vision app."

US AI researchers: "NO."

AI-risk was a mistake.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Charity Cost-Effectiveness in an Uncertain World – Foundational Research Institute
Evaluating the effectiveness of our actions, or even just whether they're positive or negative by our values, is very difficult. One approach is to focus on clear, quantifiable metrics and assume that the larger, indirect considerations just kind of work out. Another way to deal with uncertainty is to focus on actions that seem likely to have generally positive effects across many scenarios, and often this approach amounts to meta-level activities like encouraging positive-sum institutions, philosophical inquiry, and effective altruism in general. When we consider flow-through effects of our actions, the seemingly vast gaps in cost-effectiveness among charities are humbled to more modest differences, and we begin to find more worth in the diversity of activities that different people are pursuing.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Annotating Greg Cochran’s interview with James Miller
opinion of Scott and Hanson: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/#comment-90238
Greg's methodist: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/#comment-90256
You have to consider the relative strengths of Japan and the USA. USA was ~10x stronger, industrially, which is what mattered. Technically superior (radar, Manhattan project). Almost entirely self-sufficient in natural resources. Japan was sure to lose, and too crazy to quit, which meant that they would lose after being smashed flat.
There’s a fairly common way of looking at things in which the bad guys are not at fault because they’re bad guys, born that way, and thus can’t help it. Well, we can’t help it either, so the hell with them. I don’t think we had to respect Japan’s innate need to fuck everybody in China to death.

2nd part: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:9ab84243b967

some additional things:
- political correctness, the Cathedral and the left (personnel continuity but not ideology/value) at start
- joke: KT impact = asteroid mining, every mass extinction = intelligent life destroying itself
- Alawites: not really Muslim, women liberated because "they don't have souls", ended up running shit in Syria because they were only ones that wanted to help the British during colonial era
- solution to Syria: "put the Alawites in NYC"
- Zimbabwe was OK for a while, if South Africa goes sour, just "put the Boers in NYC" (Miller: left would probably say they are "culturally incompatible", lol)
- story about Lincoln and his great-great-great-grandfather
- skepticism of free speech
- free speech, authoritarianism, and defending against the Mongols
- Scott crazy (not in a terrible way), LW crazy (genetics), ex.: polyamory
- TFP or microbio are better investments than stereotypical EA stuff
- just ban AI worldwide (bully other countries to enforce)
- bit of a back-and-forth about macroeconomics
- not sure climate change will be huge issue. world's been much warmer before and still had a lot of mammals, etc.
- he quite likes Pseudoerasmus
- shits on modern conservatism/Bret Stephens a bit

- mentions Japan having industrial base a tenth the size of the US's and no chance of winning WW2 around 11m mark
- describes himself as "fairly religious" around 20m mark
- 27m30s: Eisenhower was smart, read Carlyle, classical history, etc.

but was Nixon smarter?: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2019/03/18/open-thread-03-18-2019/
The Scandals of Meritocracy. Virtue vs. competence. Would you rather have a boss who is evil but competent, or good but incompetent? The reality is you have to balance the two. Richard Nixon was probably smarter that Dwight Eisenhower in raw g, but Eisenhower was probably a better person.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Discovering Limits to Growth | Do the Math
One may of course be skeptical that this general trend will also apply to the growth of our technology and economy at large, as innovation seems to continually postpone our clash with the ceiling, yet it seems inescapable that it must. For in light of what we know about physics, we can conclude that exponential growth of the kinds we see today, in technology in particular and in our economy more generally, must come to an end, and do so relatively soon.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
The Morality of Sperm Donation - Gwern.net
There is a third benefit. Surprisingly, sperm donor-assisted pregnancies result in 1/5th the number of birth defects as pregnancies in general. (The CDC tells me that the defect rate is 1 in 33 or ~3%, and that birth defects in 2006 directly killed 5,819 infants.) Much of this large benefit stems from the paternal age effect - older fathers’ sperm result in more birth defects, lowered IQ, linked to autism, etc. To the extent that a sperm donor donating displaces, at the margin, the conception of future offspring at an elder age, donation directly reduces birth defects and the other mentioned effects.

Indeed, given the mixed data on whether sperm count rates are falling with time and the more reliable data on the striking increases with paternal age of negative effects like birth defects or autism - perhaps due to increased mutations4 - it may be worthwhile even for non-donators to bank their sperm for later use. A quick perusal of one sperm bank’s prices suggests that a 20-year old could store a large sample of his sperm until he is 40 for ~$5000 with the ultimate artificial insemination adding <$4000 to the final cost; if this resulted in cutting the risk of his children being autistic by 30%, would it be worthwhile? Perhaps. It is worth considering.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Funding the Reproducibility Crises as effective giving - Less Wrong Discussion
I had definitely noticed all the different nutrition, psychology, and biological initiatives like OSF or the Reproducibility Project, and how expensive they all are, but I didn't realize that they all owed their funding to a single source. I'm very glad Arnold is doing this, but I now feel more pessimistic about academia than when I assumed that the funding for all this was coming from a broad coalition of universities and nonprofits etc....
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Links 1/17: Inaugurl Address | Slate Star Codex
“Fanatics got into the Capitol building and committed a mass shooting on Congress while it was in session, and you’ve never heard of them…people have completely forgotten that in 1972 we had over nineteen hundred domestic bombings in the United States” A review of Days Of Rage and history lesson on the 1970s underground. Highly recommended.

New Yorker: The Mosul Dam in Iraq could fail soon, potentially causing a flash flood and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

An ecologist denounces calls to “drain the swamp” as an insult to swamps: “Given the sea of misinformation we currently find ourselves swimming in, I feel this is as good a time as any to clarify what swamps actually are and why they should be regarded as wonderful and valuable parts of nature rather than objects of derision and hatred.” If any of you are oceanographers, can you troll the Washington Post for me by denouncing their use of the term “sea of misinformation”?

The Seasteading Institute announces a deal with French Polynesia to build the first seastead in a lagoon there. I’m still confused on whether they’ve got funding or anything else besides the location. Still a big step.

80,000 Hours’ guide to what charities to give to this season. A good supplement to GiveWell’s Top Charities list

Vox: Why the war on poverty failed, and what to do now. In the form of a long and detailed history of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyveysant neighborhood. Not clear that anyone actually knows what to do now beyond a few good common-sense suggestions.

RIP utilitarian philosopher Derek Parfit: “When I believed the non-reductionist view [of personal identity], I also cared more about my inevitable death. After my death, there will [be] no one living who will be me. I can now redescribe this fact. Though there will later be many experiences, none of these experiences will be connected to my present experiences by chains of such direct connections as those involved in experience-memory, or in the carrying out of an earlier intention. Some of these future experiences may be related to my present experiences in less direct ways. There will later be some memories about my life. And there may later be thoughts that are influenced by mine, or things done as the result of my advice. My death will break the more direct relations between my present experiences and future experiences, but it will not break various other relations. This is all there is to the fact that there will be no one living who will be me. Now that I have seen this, my death seems to me less bad.”

Alex K. Chen on Quora on the speculation that Ritalin may be long-term safer than Adderall. See also this review article. This is definitely not yet psychiatric common knowledge or consensus.

Meta-analysis in the American Journal Of Nutrition: Red meat does not increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

Acemoglu and Restropo: Economic stagnation is not due to aging populations.

User dogtasteslikechicken at the r/slatestarcodex subreddit gives a good summary of the Flynn Effect. But it looks like he is confused about some of the same things I am. For example, rich people and the nobility probably had good nutrition and education in the past. So we might expect a Flynn effect based on nutrition and education not to affect them as much. But if this were true, we would expect a skewed or bimodal distribution in the past (un-Flynned poor people with bad nutrition + Flynned rich people with good nutrition), which I don’t think ever clearly showed up.

Some fallout from the Buzzfeed story on growth mindset I linked last week. The Spectator published what I think is a really nasty and evidence-free denunciation of the phenomenon. Mindset researcher David Yeager has tried to set the record straight and argues that growth mindset actually replicates just fine, eg in this paper, and that several other large and rigorous replications are being attempted. Dweck herself has a reply up here. And Timothy Bates put his failed replications online here. Looks like it will be an interesting year in this field.

Does pupil size correlate with intelligence? (blog post, paper)
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january 2017 by nhaliday
The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everday Life

A Book Response Prediction: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/03/a-book-response-prediction.html
I predict that one of the most common responses will be something like “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” While the evidence we offer is suggestive, for claims as counterintuitive as ours on topics as important as these, evidence should be held to a higher standard than the one our book meets. We should shut up until we can prove our claims.

I predict that another of the most common responses will be something like “this is all well known.” Wise observers have known and mentioned such things for centuries. Perhaps foolish technocrats who only read in their narrow literatures are ignorant of such things, but our book doesn’t add much to what true scholars and thinkers have long known.


Elephant in the Brain on Religious Hypocrisy:
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august 2016 by nhaliday

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