Naive and extremely rough calculation that doesn’t take logical correlations into account: If you’re in the US and your uncertainty about vote counts is in the tens of millions and the expected vote difference between candidates is also in the tens of millions, then the expected number of elections swayed by the marginal vote might be 1 in 100 million (because almost-equal numbers of votes have lower probability density). If 0.1% of the quality of our future lightcone is at stake, voting wins an expected 10 picolightcones. If voting takes an hour, then it’s worth it iff you’re otherwise winning less than 10 picolightcones per hour. If a lifetime is 100,000 hours, that means less than a microlightcone per lifetime. The popular vote doesn’t determine the outcome, of course, so the relevant number is much smaller in a non-swing state and larger in a swing state or if you’re trading votes with someone in a swing state.

If voting takes an hour, then it’s worth it iff you’re otherwise winning less than 10 picolightcones per lifetime.

Do you mean “per hour” instead?

If a lifetime is 100,000 hours, that means less than a microlightcone per lifetime.

Have you thought about how to estimate microlightcone per lifetime from our other x-risk activities?

Intuitively it seems like everyone except maybe the most productive x-risk activists probably have less than 10 picolightcones per hour of marginal productivity. Does that seem right to you?

Thanks, I did mean per hour and I’ll edit it. I think my impression of people’s lightcones per hour is higher than yours. As a stupid model, suppose lightcone quality has a term of 1% * ln(x) or 10% * ln(x) where x is the size/power of the x-risk movement. (Various hypotheses under which the x-risk movement has surprisingly low long-term impact, e.g. humanity is surrounded by aliens or there’s some sort of moral convergence, also imply elections have no long-term impact, so maybe we should be estimating something like the quality of humanity’s attempted inputs into optimizing the lightcone.) Then you only need to increase x by 0.01% or 0.001% to win a microlightcone per lifetime. I think there are hundreds or thousands of people who can achieve this level of impact. (Or rather, I think hundreds or thousands of lifetimes’ worth of work with this level of impact will be done, and the number of people who could add some of these hours if they chose to is greater than that.) Of course, at this point it matters to estimate the parameters more accurately than to the nearest order of magnitude or two. (For example, Trump vs. Clinton was probably more closely contested than my numbers above, even in terms of expectations before the fact.) Also, of course, putting this much analysis into deciding whether to vote is more costly than voting, so the point is mostly to help us understand similar but different questions.

Density for almost-equal numbers of votes is not lower in most high-stakes elections. I’d say 1 in 5 million or so. That’s just a bit more than one order of magnitude and doesn’t substantially change the overall conclusions.

Naive and extremely rough calculation that doesn’t take logical correlations into account: If you’re in the US and your uncertainty about vote counts is in the tens of millions and the expected vote difference between candidates is also in the tens of millions, then the expected number of elections swayed by the marginal vote might be 1 in 100 million (because almost-equal numbers of votes have lower probability density). If 0.1% of the quality of our future lightcone is at stake, voting wins an expected 10 picolightcones. If voting takes an hour, then it’s worth it iff you’re otherwise winning less than 10 picolightcones per hour. If a lifetime is 100,000 hours, that means less than a microlightcone per lifetime. The popular vote doesn’t determine the outcome, of course, so the relevant number is much smaller in a non-swing state and larger in a swing state or if you’re trading votes with someone in a swing state.

Do you mean “per hour” instead?

Have you thought about how to estimate microlightcone per lifetime from our other x-risk activities?

Intuitively it seems like everyone except maybe the most productive x-risk activists probably have less than 10 picolightcones per hour of marginal productivity. Does that seem right to you?

Thanks, I did mean per hour and I’ll edit it. I think my impression of people’s lightcones per hour is higher than yours. As a stupid model, suppose lightcone quality has a term of 1% * ln(x) or 10% * ln(x) where x is the size/power of the x-risk movement. (Various hypotheses under which the x-risk movement has surprisingly low long-term impact, e.g. humanity is surrounded by aliens or there’s some sort of moral convergence, also imply elections have no long-term impact, so maybe we should be estimating something like the quality of humanity’s attempted inputs into optimizing the lightcone.) Then you only need to increase x by 0.01% or 0.001% to win a microlightcone per lifetime. I think there are hundreds or thousands of people who can achieve this level of impact. (Or rather, I think hundreds or thousands of lifetimes’ worth of work with this level of impact will be done, and the number of people who could add some of these hours if they chose to is greater than that.) Of course, at this point it matters to estimate the parameters more accurately than to the nearest order of magnitude or two. (For example, Trump vs. Clinton was probably more closely contested than my numbers above, even in terms of expectations before the fact.) Also, of course, putting this much analysis into deciding whether to vote is more costly than voting, so the point is mostly to help us understand similar but different questions.

Density for almost-equal numbers of votes is not lower in most high-stakes elections. I’d say 1 in 5 million or so. That’s just a bit more than one order of magnitude and doesn’t substantially change the overall conclusions.