I’m Georgia. I crosspost some of my writings from eukaryotewritesblog.com.
Comparative solsticeology: I helped organize the Seattle Solstice, and also attended the Bay Solstice. Both were really nice. A couple major observations:
The Seattle Solstice (also, I think, the New York one) had a really clear light-dark-light progression throughout the presentations, the Bay one didn’t—it seemed like each speech or song was its own small narrative arc, and there wasn’t an over-arching one.
Seattle’s was also in a small venue where there were chairs, but most people sat on cushions of various size on the floors, and were quite close to the performers and speakers. The Bay’s was on a stage. While the cushion version probably wouldn’t work for a much larger solstice, it felt intimate and communal. (Despite, I think, ~100 attendees at Seattle. Not sure how many people came to the Bay one, ~150 marked themselves as having gone on Facebook but it seemed larger.)
This resonates. When a group conversation became unexpectedly intimate, I’ve definitely felt that urge to bail—or interfere and bring the conversation back to a normal level of engagement. It feels like an intense discomfort, maybe a sense of “I shouldn’t be here” or “they shouldn’t have to answer that question.”
I think that’s often a good instinct to have. (In this context, where ‘interesting’ seems to mean not just a topic you think is neat, but something like ‘substantive and highly relevant to someone’ or ‘involving querying a person’s deep-held beliefs’, etc. Correct me if I’m wrong.) Where “diplomat mode” might be coming from:
The person starting an intensive conversation might be ‘inflicting’ it on the other person, who can’t gracefully duck out
Both people are well-acquainted and clearly interested in having the conversation, but haven’t considered that they’re in public, and in retrospect would prefer not to have everyone else there
Even if they seem to be fine with me being there, my role is unclear if I’m not well-versed on the issue—am I suppose to ask questions, chime in with uneducated opinions, just listen to them talk?
Relatedly, conversations specific to people’s deeply held interests are likely to require more knowledge to engage with, and thus exclude people from the conversation.
If other people are sharing personal stories or details, I might feel pressure to do that too
Conversations that run closer to what people really care about are more likely to be upsetting, and I don’t want to be upset (or, depending, expect them to want to be upset in front of me)
I expect other people are uncomfortable, for whatever (any of the above) reasons
Most of these seem to apply less in small groups, or groups where everybody knows each other quite well. Attempting diplomat --> engineering shifts in large group seems interesting, but risky if there are near-strangers present, and also like managing or participating in that would take a whole different set of group-based social skills. (IE: Reducing risks from the above, assessing how comfortable everybody is with increased above risks, etc.)
I’d like to know if anyone knows good research (or just good estimates) of the following:
Mental effects of hormonal birth control, especially long-term or subtle (think personality changes, maybe cognition, etc, not just increased risk of diagnosed mental illness)
If anyone’s estimated QALYs lost by menstruating
If not, I’m planning on researching it, but I love when people have already done the thing.
Hello friends! I have been orbiting around effective altruism and rationality ever since a friend sent me a weird Harry Potter fanfiction back in high school. I started going to Seattle EA meetings on and off a couple years ago, and have since read a bunch of blogs, made friends who were into existential risk, started my own blog, graduated college, and moved to Seattle.
I went to EA Global this summer, attend and occasionally help organize Seattle EA/rationality events, and work in a bacteriophage lab. I plan on studying international security and biodefense. I recently got back from a trip to the Bay Area, that gaping void in our coastline that all local EA group leaders are eventually sucked into, and was lucky to escape with my life.
I’m gray on the LessWrong slack, and I also have a real name. I had a LW account back early in college that I used for a couple months, but then I got significantly more entangled in the community, heard about the LW revitalization, and wanted a clean break—so here we are. In very recent news, I’m pleased to announce in celebration of finding the welcome thread, I’m making a welcome post.
I wasn’t sure if it would be tacky to directly link my blog here, so I put it in my profile instead. :)
Areas of expertise, or at least interest: Microbiology, existential risk, animal ethics and welfare, group social norms, EA in general.
Some things I’ve been thinking about lately include:
How to give my System 1 a visceral sense of what “humanity winning” looks like
What mental effects hormonal birth control might have
Which invertebrates might be able to feel pain
What an alternate system of taxonomy based on convergent evolution, rather than phylogeny, would look like
How to start a useful career in biorisk/biodefense
I would imagine that at the 50% level, you can put down a prediction in the positive or negative phrasing, and since it’ll be fixed at the beginning of the year (IE, you won’t be rephrasing it six months in), you should expect 50% of them to end up happening either way. Right?
(50% predictions are meaningless for calculating Brier scores, but seem valuable for general calibration levels. I suppose forcing them to 45/55% so that you can incorporate them in Brier scores / etc isn’t a bad idea. I’m not much of a statistician. Is that what you were saying, Douglas_Knight?)
The 99%/97% thing is true in that you’re jumping from one probability to a probability that’s 3 times as high, but it seems practically less necessary in that A) if you’re making fewer than 30 predictions at that interval, you shouldn’t expect any of them to be true, and B) I have a hard time mentally distinguishing 97% and 99% chances, and would expect other people to be similarly bad at it (unless they practiced or did some rigorous evaluation of the evidence.) I’m not sure how much credence I should lend to this.
Yes, I see—it seems like there are two ways to do this exercise.
1) Everybody writes their own predictions and arranges them into probability bins (either artificially after coming up with them, or just writing 5 at 60%, 5 at 70%, etc.) You then check your calibration with a graph like Scott Alexander’s.
2) Everybody writes their estimations for the same set of predictions—maybe you generate 50 as a group, and everyone writes down their most likely outcome and how confident they are in it. You then check your Brier score.
Both of these seem useful for different things—in 2), it’s a sort of raw measure of how good at making accurate guesses you are. Lower confidence levels make your score worse. In 1), you’re looking at calibration across probabilities—there are always going to be things you’re only 50% or 70% sure about, and making those intervals reflect reality is as important as things you’re 95% certain on.
I will edit the original post (in a bit) to reflect this.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in this field. I would hope to see a lot of people very quickly shift a lot of effort into researching:
Effective interventions for reducing the number of insects in the environment (without, e.g., crashing the climate)
Comparative effects of different kinds of land use (e.g. farming crops or vegetables, pasture, left wild, whatever) on insect populations
Ability of various other invertebrates to suffer (how about plankton, or nematodes? The same high-confidence evidence showing insects suffer might also show the same for their smaller, more numerous cousins)
Shifting public perceptions of gene drives
Research into which pesticides cause the least suffering
Currently it seems like Brian Tomasik & the Foundational Research Institute, and Sentience Politics, are paying some attention to considerations like this.
Is there something that lets you search all the rationality/EA blogs at once? I could have sworn I’ve seen something—maybe a web app made by chaining a bunch of terms together in Google—but I can’t remember where or how to find it.
I have taken the survey, please shower me in karma.
My impression is that algae oil is more similar to fish oil than flax, if you decide to experiment—it’s where fish get their omega-3 from.
This was a fantastic read! (In the interests of letting other people have more trust, I did some research on the Cambrian Explosion a bit ago for a project, and the author here accurately represents everything as far as I know. This is a really eloquent explanation of both what we think happened at the time, and why pulling data out of the fossil record is so damn hard and creates so much uncertainty. I don’t know much about Hox genes, but it seems totally plausible.)
A fluid serif/sans-serif font, where the serifs get progressively bigger the more formal your comment is.
Thanks! Honestly, I’m completely fine filling in whatever content people might expect when looking for “controversial biodiversity opinions on LessWrong” with controversial opinions on actual environmental biodiversity.
The actual causal factors behind allocation decisions by GiveWell and OpenPhil continue to be opaque to outsiders, [...]
You mean something other than the cost-effectiveness process and analysis from their website?
If many info-hazards have already been openly published, the world may be considered saturated with info-hazards, as a malevolent agent already has access to so much dangerous information. In our world, where genomes of the pandemic flus have been openly published, it is difficult to make the situation worse.
I strongly disagree that we’re in a world of accessible easy catastrophic information right now.
This is based on a lot of background knowledge, but as a good start, Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley makes a strong case that bioweapons groups historically have had very difficult times creating usable weapons even when they already have a viable pathogen. Having a flu genome online doesn’t solve any of the other problems of weapons creation. While biotechnology has certainly progressed since major historic programs, and more info and procedures of various kinds are online, I still don’t see the case for lots of highly destructive technology being easily available.
If you do not believe that we’re at that future of plenty of calamitous information easily available online, but believe we could conceivably get there, then the proposed strategy of openly discussing GCR-related infohazards is extremely dangerous, because it pushes us there even faster.
If the reader thinks we’re probably already there, I’d ask how confident they are. Getting it wrong carries a very high cost, and it’s not clear to me that having lots of infohazards publicly available is the correct response, even for moderately high certainty that we’re in “lots of GCR instruction manuals online” world. (For starters, publication has a circuitous path to positive impact at best. You have to get them to the right eyes.)
The steps for checking a possibly-dangerous idea before you put it online, including running it by multiple wise knowledgeable people and trying to see if it’s been discovered already, and doing analysis in a way that won’t get enormous publicity, seem like good heuristics for potentially risky ideas. Although if you think you’ve found something profoundly dangerous, you probably don’t even want to type it into Google.
Re: dangerous-but-simple ideas being easy to find: It seems that for some reason or other, bioterrorism and bioweapons programs are very rare these days. This suggests to me that there could be a major risk in the form of inadvertently convincing non-bio malicious actors to switch to bio—by perhaps suggesting a new idea that fulfils their goals or is within their means. We as humans are in a bad place to competently judge whether ideas that are obvious to us are also obvious to everybody else. So while inferential distance is a real and important thing, I’d suggest against being blindly incautious with “obvious” ideas.
(Anyways, this isn’t to say such things shouldn’t be researched or addressed, but there’s a vast difference between “turn off your computer and never speak of this again” and “post widely in public forums; scream from the rooftops”, and many useful actions between the two.)
(Please note that all of this is my own opinion and doesn’t reflect that of my employer or sponsors.)