Search “effective altruism” on social media right now, and it’s pretty grim.
Socialists think we’re sociopathic Randroid money-obsessed Silicon Valley hypercapitalists.
But Silicon Valley thinks we’re all overregulation-loving authoritarian communist bureaucrats.
The right thinks we’re all woke SJW extremists.
But the left thinks we’re all fascist white supremacists. […]
The only thing everyone agrees on is that the only two things EAs ever did were “endorse SBF” and “bungle the recent OpenAI corporate coup.”
In other words, there’s never been a better time to become an effective altruist! Get in now, while it’s still unpopular! The times when everyone fawns over us are boring and undignified. It’s only when you’re fighting off the entire world that you feel truly alive.
And I do think the movement is worth fighting for. Here’s a short, very incomplete list of things effective altruism has accomplished in its ~10 years of existence. […]
Saved about 200,000 lives total, mostly from malaria.
Treated 25 million cases of chronic parasite infection.
Given 5 million people access to clean drinking water.
Scott Alexander recently defended Effective Altruism from its attackers, who these days are coming from all directions. I agree with his article, and would emphasize the true moral atrocity of factory farming, which EAs are correct to focus on as everyone else ignores it.
What is lacking from his piece though is a good psychological theory of why everyone hates EAs, and I think Scott’s defense of the movement actually demonstrates much of the problem. […]
Moreover, EAs have done a lot of things that even their critics would have to acknowledge are good. So what’s going on here?
I think EAs miss just how much their ideology offends people by its very nature. […]
The main problem I think people have with EA is that it is a mirror. It tells you exactly what you are doing wrong, and why. This wouldn’t inspire so much anger unless there was suspicion among others that the critiques they make of standard ways of looking at the world are correct. Everyone accepts utilitarianism to some degree. In that sense, EA has the misfortune of being adjacent to all ideologies, while by its very nature calling them morally and intellectually deficient. There may be no way out of this dilemma, short of abolishing EA as a movement, which I don’t think would be a very good idea.
What is inside of an AI? And what the heck is “monosemanticity”? […]
Their insight is: suppose your neural net has 1,000 neurons. If each neuron represented one concept, like “dog”, then the net could, at best, understand 1,000 concepts. Realistically it would understand many fewer than this, because in order to get dogs right, it would need to have many subconcepts like “dog’s face” or “that one unusual-looking dog”. So it would be helpful if you could use 1,000 neurons to represent much more than 1,000 concepts.
Here’s a way to make two neurons represent five concepts:
If neuron A is activated at 0.5, and neuron B is activated at 0, you get “dog”.
If neuron A is activated at 1, and neuron B is activated at 0.5, you get “apple”.
And so on.
This is consistent with what the psychologist Roy Baumeister has described as the “optimal margin of illusion.” Generally, people believe they themselves are 10-20% better than they really are. […]
An obvious question is should we view ourselves as being a little bit better than we really are? […]
Self-enhancement probably played some nontrivial role here. Viewed objectively, it would be unreasonable for anyone to think they could have done what Napoleon did. But being unreasonable about one’s abilities might be wise, at least to a certain extent and for certain tasks.
We have the opportunity to befriend an Asian country with a huge population, a large and growing economy, and a strategic location.
Americans are spending as much of their paychecks as ever on fast food — and everything else.
Amazingly, even as highly-qualified epidemiologists and economists were labelled “anti-science” for not following the party line, the biggest policy of them all, lockdowns, had little to no scientific backing:
…[lockdowns] became the default strategy for most of the rest of the world. Even though they had never been used before to fight a pandemic, even though their effectiveness had never been studied, and even though they were criticized as authoritarian overreach—despite all that, the entire world, with a few notable exceptions, was soon locking down its citizens with varying degrees of severity.
In the United States, lockdowns became equated with “following the science.” It was anything but. Yes, there were computer models suggesting lockdowns would be effective, but there were never any actual scientific studies supporting the strategy. It was a giant experiment, one that would bring devastating social and economic consequences. […]
The bottom line is that vaccines worked and everything else was a sideshow. Had we approved the vaccines even 5 weeks earlier and delivered them to the nursing homes, we could have saved 14,000 lives and had we vaccinated nursing home residents just 10 weeks earlier, before the vaccine was approved, as Deborah Birx had proposed, we might have saved 40,000 lives.
A flood of cheap Chinese imports is upsetting the global industrial order.
The future in Ukraine and the Middle East holds many possibilities, A glorious victory is one. But so is total defeat. The west might lose its proxy wars in both Ukraine and Israel, and its economic war against China too. The meltdown scenario is not a prediction, but a plausible scenario.
How can this even be? The west is so much wealthier than China or Russia. It has superior militaries. The US is still the global tech leader, with a lot of high-tech gizmos in the development pipeline. We have stable political systems. Why does this not settle the debate?
So-called sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) can be made from a variety of sources, including crops, household waste and cooking oils.
For this flight, a Boeing 787 was filled with 50 tonnes of SAF. Two types were used, with 88% derived from waste fats and the rest from the wastes of corn production in the US.
Lantern Bioworks says they have a cure for tooth decay. Their product is a genetically modified bacterium which infects your mouth, outcompetes all the tooth-decay-causing bacteria, and doesn’t cause tooth decay itself. If it works, it could make cavities a thing of the past (you should still brush for backup and cosmetic reasons).
Stronger than plastic and tougher than glass, the resin-filled material is being exploited for smartphone screens, insulated windows and more
This is ridiculous, and I’m not sure why I’m including it. I was amused, I guess:
To me, the Chimp-Pig hypothesis is a rare theory that is 1) internally consistent and coherent enough not to be ridiculous, 2) overturns everything we think we know about a major area of knowledge, and 3) doesn't have any meaningful implications for our current lives, so it won't really hurt anyone if you give it some credence and it turns out to be false.
Perhaps intergenerational mobility has not declined in the United States after all | Marginal Revolution
A large body of evidence finds that relative mobility in the US has declined over the past 150 years. However, long-run mobility estimates are usually based on White samples and therefore do not account for the limited opportunities available for nonwhite families. Moreover, historical data measure the father’s status with error, which biases estimates toward greater mobility. Using linked census data from 1850 to 1940, I show that accounting for race and measurement error can double estimates of intergenerational persistence. Updated estimates imply that there is greater equality of opportunity today than in the past, mostly because opportunity was never that equal.
Nothing but Backboard: Why Some Korean Basketball Players Love the Bank Shot | New York Times [gift article]
Banked free throws, an unorthodox technique, have a cult following in the Korean Basketball League.