Comment by Torgo on Open thread, Sep. 21 - Sep. 27, 2015 · 2015-10-02T00:38:57.184Z · LW · GW

I believe we should be spending resources to avoid many unlikely existential risks, even those I believe are less likely to be existential risks than climate change (eg. tracking asteroids).

Comment by Torgo on Open thread, Sep. 21 - Sep. 27, 2015 · 2015-10-01T11:38:23.973Z · LW · GW

Some Climatologists, such as James Hanson, believe that a runaway greenhouse effect large enough to potentially distinguish all life on earth is possible Obviously this is not a likely extinction event, but I believe it is still worth considerable resources to reduce its probability.

While little has been done legislatively to combat climate change, the Obama administration is pursuing regulatory action through the EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that will make the construction of new coal fire power plants very difficult.

Additionally, the administration has benefited alternative energy industries through subsidies (in large part through the initial stimulus). Some Republicans do support such subsidies, so admittedly the difference between parties isn't as stark on this point (though this may change with increasing polarization as described below).

Additionally polarization on climate change has increased in recent years. It's less and less likely that a Republican president would pursue policy aimed at substantially reducing green house gasses. They might also appoint a supreme court member who would rule against the regulations the EPA is attempting to implement now.

I don't think that the party who holds the presidency is the most important factor in whether we reduce carbon emissions, but it likely contributes.

Comment by Torgo on Open thread, Sep. 21 - Sep. 27, 2015 · 2015-09-21T11:25:40.088Z · LW · GW

I'm curious which of the two major political parties in the US (and left wing vs. right wing parties more generally) people think is most likely to reduce existential risk. My current view is that the Democrats (and parties of the left) are since they're more likely to favor policies which reduce the threat of climate change (a tail end existential risk and a potential destabilizing force) and are more likely to favor nuclear non-proliferation. However, I know my own opinions might be biased by the fact that I agree with left wing parties on most other less important issues. Which party do you think would do the most to reduce existential risk and how substantial do you think the difference is?

Comment by Torgo on Stupid Questions June 2015 · 2015-06-03T01:34:30.442Z · LW · GW

I'm having some major psychological health issues lately and am feeling lost and hopeless. Ideally, I'd like to seek advice and/or counseling from someone in the EA/LW community because they would be better able to relate to my goals/motivations and might be able to offer me particularity useful advice. Is there anywhere I could go for this, anyone I can reach out to, or does anyone know of a psychiatrist/psychologist in the DC area who is in the EA/LW community? Thanks so much.

Comment by Torgo on Stupid Questions March 2015 · 2015-03-14T23:24:47.321Z · LW · GW

Could I have some advice on salary/benefit negotiations?

I just got a formal job offer from the company where I interned last summer, and it's about what I expected/think I'm worth. I really want to just take the job, but I don't want to leave money on the table; my understanding is that expected value of trying to negotiate should be positive regardless. On the other hand, the company basically knows I'm going to take the job, so I don' t believe I have much power in these negotiations.

Since the whole reason I want more money is to be able to donate more, I'm thinking it might make sense to try to negotiate for employee gift matching instead of a greater salary. However, as a small employer, I don't believe they have such a program for any employees. Is it still worth trying that angle? If so, how might I go about it? Thanks a lot for the advise.

Comment by Torgo on Stupid Questions January 2015 · 2015-01-05T21:42:03.173Z · LW · GW

I’m considering creating a Linkedin profile. I probably should have made one long ago, but, because of my severe social anxiety and a visceral reaction to any activity which involves selling myself, I have avoided it. However, I think it’s probably best to bite the bullet and work through creating the profile and to at least send connection requests to people who I am currently working with. However, first I’d like to know if it looks bad to have a profile with only a few connections. Is that worse than having no profile at all?

Comment by Torgo on Open thread, Dec. 8 - Dec. 15, 2014 · 2014-12-09T11:46:57.895Z · LW · GW

The electoral college system doesn't require that they look over a long list of conditional responses and select from among them; the complexities are hidden from the voters, as you mention. I don't think the complexity of the electoral college system provides much evidence for how prospective voters would react to a complex system of voting options.

Voting systems used privately can be more complex than voting systems for public office because a more educated population may be using them.

I'd be more concerned about getting a representative pool of voters than trying to get voters to learn a new more complex system. I don't believe the difficulty of strategic voting is a major problem. On the other hand, I do think that reforms that reduce the cost of voting would be useful, and are being implemented in some states.

I like the national popular vote, but the complexities of that idea, like the electoral college, are hidden from voters; I don't think it's comparable to your ballot system.

Comment by Torgo on Open thread, Dec. 8 - Dec. 15, 2014 · 2014-12-08T22:49:10.527Z · LW · GW

That would help, but just adding complexities to the act of voting could turn people away (just as offering more possible modes of response to surveys can sometimes decrease response rates).

Whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing depends on what the purpose of voting is. If the purpose of voting is to benefit from collective wisdom, perhaps preventing less educated/intelligent voters from voting is a net positive. However, if the purpose of voting is to represent diverse interests in order to more fairly allocate societal resources, than preventing less educated/intelligent voters from voting could leave them less effectively represented.

Comment by Torgo on Open thread, Dec. 8 - Dec. 15, 2014 · 2014-12-08T22:28:53.025Z · LW · GW

This doesn't sound like a system that would be easy for less intelligent/educated voters to use. I wouldn't be surprised if it would lead to a number of voters voting for candidates they didn't intend to vote for. Additionally, many more potential voters might refrain from voting at all because of the complexity of the system.

Comment by Torgo on Open thread, Nov. 24 - Nov. 30, 2014 · 2014-12-01T14:55:21.491Z · LW · GW


At this point, I'm leaning towards CSER. Do you happen to know how it compares to other X-risk organizations in terms of room for more funding?

Comment by Torgo on Open thread, Nov. 24 - Nov. 30, 2014 · 2014-11-26T01:49:25.999Z · LW · GW

Certainly that is an important point to consider. I could always place funds in a donor advised fund for now. However, if an organization that I donated to thought the funds would be best spent later, they could invest the funds. Considering this, my current thinking is that I should donate to an organization if they share the goal of reducing existential risk and I think they would be better at deciding on the best course of action than I would. Considering I am not currently an expert in areas which would prove useful to reducing existential risk, I'm leaning towards donating. Does this seem like a sensible course of action?

Comment by Torgo on Open thread, Nov. 24 - Nov. 30, 2014 · 2014-11-24T11:19:18.468Z · LW · GW

I've long been convinced that donating all the income I can is the morally right thing to do. However, so far this has only taken the form of reduced consumption to save for donations down the road. Now that I have a level of savings I feel comfortable with and expect to start making more money next year, I no longer feel I have any excuse; I aim to start donating by the end of this year.

I’m increasingly convinced that existential risk reduction carries the largest expected value; however, I don’t feel like I have a good sense of where my donations would have the greatest impact. From what I have read, I am leaning towards movement building as the best instrumental goal, but I am far from sure. I’ll also mention that at this point I’m a bit skeptical that human ethics can be solved and then programmed into an FAI, but I also may be misunderstanding MIRI’s approach. I would hope that by increasing the focus on the existential risks of AI in elite/academic circles, more researchers could eventually begin pursuing a variety of possibilities for reducing AI risk.

At this point, I am primarily considering donating to FHI, CSER, MIRI or FLI, since they are ER focused. However, I am open to alternatives. What are others’ thoughts? Thanks a lot for the advice.

Comment by Torgo on When should an Effective Altruist be vegetarian? · 2014-11-23T16:39:12.122Z · LW · GW

I'm not strictly a vegetarian/vegan for similar reasons; however, I've found that by trying to eat extremely cheaply, I end up basically as a vegetarian by default (aside from the occasional piece of bacon in my canned beans). Nevertheless, I do tend to gravitate towards meat products whenever free food is available, and my diet is still a ways from vegan. In my case, I don't think purposefully trying to avoid animal products would be worth the additional stress and chance of burn out.