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Comment author: jkaufman 31 July 2015 05:13:20PM *  2 points [-]

When I looked into this a few years ago I turned up Prevention of Head Injuries to Car Occupants: An Investigation of Interior Padding Options (McLean et. al. 1997). The improvement in interior padding and airbags since 1997 is probably enough to bring the benefit of a bicycle-style helmet down to just a few percent injury reduction.

But even assuming its as high as 10%, Nick Beckstead wrote:

You allegedly get 1 micromort from driving 230 miles. Say that takes 4 hours, and say you get to reduce 10% of that by wearing the helmet. Then wearing a helmet for 1 hr saves your life with probability 1 in 40 million. So the question is whether you prefer a 1 in 40 million chance of saving your life or the convenience of not wearing a helmet in the car for an hour.

If you valued your life at $40M, then the question would reduce to whether you would be willing to wear a helmet for an hour if it saved you a dollar (neglecting safety benefits). I wouldn't wear a helmet for an hour for a dollar, and would pay a dollar to avoid wearing the helmet. Since all these estimates are average or conservative, that suggests it is not worth it to wear a helmet (at least for me).

Comment author: juliawise 20 July 2015 03:12:40PM 0 points [-]

Thanks; fixed. Our deck is considerably older than that, though, so depending on the wood's age it may still be relevant.

Comment author: jkaufman 22 July 2015 07:39:46PM *  0 points [-]

The back deck is ~1993.

The front stairs are ~2008.

Comment author: Fluttershy 18 July 2015 11:10:31PM 9 points [-]

I agree that SENS is likely the best place to send donations to promote longevity research.

Actually, it's a shame that longevity research doesn't get mentioned by the Effective Altruism movement very often. I'm just now casually wondering if there might be enough value in having a Givewell-like nonprofit evaluation organization focused on longevity research to justify creating such an organization. Note that Animal Charity Evaluators is an animal-based Givewell-like nonprofit evaluation organization-- which means that this sort of thing has been done before.

This having been said, Aubrey de Grey already seems incentivized to fund the most cost-effective anti-aging research first, so directly funding SENS might be everyone's best bet.

Comment author: jkaufman 20 July 2015 02:20:16PM 1 point [-]

Animal Charity Evaluators makes sense because of a values difference: they provide recommendations for people who prioritize animals much more than is typical. I don't think there's something similar with anti-aging; it's just that GiveWell's not yet in a position to evaluate more researchy organizations, though this is changing as the Open Philanthropy Project progresses.

(I do think a GiveWell competitor would be valuable, but in the cause-neutral sense of one looking at all the potential funding-constrained altruistic options and picking the best ones.)

Comment author: Lumifer 20 May 2015 07:30:17PM *  1 point [-]

There are two issues here.

One is tracking of individual contributions. When a charity says "A $5000 donation saves one life" they do not mean that your particular $5000 will save one specific life. Instead they divide their budget of $Z by their estimate of Y lives saved and produce a dollars/life number. This is an average and doesn't have much to do with you personally other than that you were one data point in the set from which this average was calculated.

"I contributed to the common effort which resulted in preventing Y deaths from malaria" is a more precise formulation which, of course, doesn't sound as good as "I saved X lives".

Two is the length of the causal chain. If you, with your own hands, pull a drowning kid out of the water, that's one life saved with the causal chain of length 1. If you give money to an organization which finances another organization which provides certain goods for the third organization to distribute with the help of a bunch of other organizations, the causal chain is long and the longer it goes, the fuzzier it gets.

As always, look at incentives.Charity fundraising is effectively advertising with greater social latitude to use emotional manipulation. One strand in that manipulation is to make the donor feel an direct emotional connection with "direct" being the key word. That's why you have "Your donation saves lives!" copy next to a photo of an undernourished black or brown kid (preferably a girl) looking at the camera with puppy eyes.

Comment author: jkaufman 27 May 2015 02:41:53PM *  0 points [-]

When a charity says...

If someone is saying "I saved 10 lives" because they gave $500 to a charity that advertises a cost per life saved of $50, then yes, that's very different from actually saving lives. But the problem is that charities' reports of their cost effectiveness are ridiculously exaggerated, and you just shouldn't trust anything they say.

Instead they divide their budget of $Z by their estimate of Y lives saved and produce a dollars/life number.

What we want are marginal costs, not average costs, and these are what organizations like GiveWell try to estimate.

the causal chain is long and the longer it goes, the fuzzier it gets

Yes, this is real. But we're ok with assigning credit along longish causal chains in many domains; why exclude charity?

Comment author: Lumifer 20 May 2015 03:21:21PM 2 points [-]

what is the ideal length of tenure at a company?

A rather important question here is what's "ideal" and from whose point of view? From the point of the view of the company, sure, you want some churn, but I don't know what the company would correspond to in the discussion of the aging of humanity. You're likely thinking about "society", but as opposed to companies societies do not and should not optimize for profit (or even GDP) at any cost. It's not that hard to get to the "put your old geezers on ice floes and push them off into the ocean" practices.

The main issue is that people tend to fixate some on what they learn when they're younger, so if people get much older on average then it would be harder to make progress.

That's true, as a paraphrase of Max Planck's points out, "Science advances one funeral at a time".

However it also depends on what does "live forever" mean. Being stabilized at the biological age of 70 would probably lead to very different consequences from being stabilized at the biological age of 25.

Comment author: jkaufman 20 May 2015 06:27:25PM -1 points [-]

Being stabilized at the biological age of 70 would probably lead to very different consequences from being stabilized at the biological age of 25.

This probably also depends a lot on the particulars of what "stabilized at the biological age of 25" means. Most 25 year-olds are relatively open to experience, but does that come from being biologically younger or just having had less time to become set in their ways?

This also seems like something that may be fixable with better pharma technology if we can figure out how to temporarily put people into a more childlike exploratory open-to-experience state.

Comment author: Lumifer 19 May 2015 02:22:23PM 2 points [-]

I do not accept that a dollar is a unit of caring.

I do not think that contributing money to an organization which runs programs which statistically save lives can be legitimately called "I saved X lives". Compare: "I bought some war bonds so I can say I personally killed X enemy soldiers".

I think that strutting one's charitable activities is in very poor taste.

Comment author: jkaufman 20 May 2015 06:07:30PM 2 points [-]

What would you use "I saved X lives" to mean if not "compared to what I would have done otherwise, X more people are alive today"?

(I don't at all like the implied precision in giving a specific number, though.)

Comment author: Lumifer 18 May 2015 03:46:27PM 0 points [-]

there's a lot of room between "longer is probably better" and "effectively unlimited is ideal".

Yes, but are you saying there's going to a maximum somewhere in that space -- some metric will flip over and start going down? What might that metric be?

Comment author: jkaufman 20 May 2015 02:40:18PM 0 points [-]

As I wrote in that post, there are some factors that lead to us thinking longer lives would be better, and others that shorter would be better.

Maybe this is easier to think about with a related question: what is the ideal length of tenure at a company? Do companies do best when they have entirely employees-for-life, or is it helpful to have some churn? (Ignoring that people can come in with useful relevant knowledge they got working elsewhere.) Clearly too much churn is very bad for the company, but introducing new people to your practices and teaching them help you adapt and modernize, while if everyone has been there forever it can be hard to make adjustments to changing situations.

The main issue is that people tend to fixate some on what they learn when they're younger, so if people get much older on average then it would be harder to make progress.

Comment author: Lumifer 16 May 2015 02:40:59AM 0 points [-]

I meant this as a response specifically to

But dramatically fewer children? Much less of the total human experience spent in early learning stages? Would we become less able to make progress in the world because people have trouble moving on from what they first learned?

Comment author: jkaufman 18 May 2015 12:00:59PM *  1 point [-]

More context:

A world in which we have ended death ... may be better than the world now, but I could also see it being worse. On one hand, not having to see your friends and family die, increased institutional memory, more time to get deeply into subjects and achieve mastery, and time to really build up old strong friendships sound good. But dramatically fewer children? Much less of the total human experience spent in early learning stages? Would we become less able to make progress in the world because people have trouble moving on from what they first learned?

I don't think our current lifespan is the perfect length, but there's a lot of room between "longer is probably better" and "effectively unlimited is ideal".

Comment author: gwern 15 May 2015 03:23:52PM *  0 points [-]

I don't see a specific, well-defined question that you're trying to answer.

su3su2u1 has accused EAers of hypocrisy in not donating despite a moral philosophy centering around donating; hypocrisy is about actions inconsistent with one's own claimed beliefs, and on EA's own aggregative utilitarian premises, total dollars donated are what matter, not anything about the distribution of dollars over people.

Hence, in investigating whether EAers are hypocrites, I must be interested in totals and not internal details of how many are zeros.

(The totals aren't going to change regardless of whether you model it using mixture or hierarchical or zero-inflated distributions; and as the distribution-free tests say, the EAers do report higher median donations.)

Comment author: jkaufman 16 May 2015 02:28:11AM 3 points [-]

on EA's own aggregative utilitarian premises, total dollars donated are what matter, not anything about the distribution of dollars over people.

This is a pretty narrow conception of EA. You can be an EA without earning to give. For example, you could carefully choose a career where you directly do good, you could work in advocacy, or you could be a student gaining career capital for later usage.

Comment author: Lumifer 11 May 2015 04:23:52PM *  5 points [-]

I have a feeling a lot of discussions of life extension suffer from being conditioned on the implicit set point of what's normal now.

Let's imagine that humans are actually replicants and their lifespan runs out in their 40s. That lifespan has a "control dial" and you can turn it to extend the human average life expectancy into the 80s. Would all your arguments apply and construct a case against meddling with that control dial?

Comment author: jkaufman 16 May 2015 02:23:27AM 0 points [-]

Huh? It feels like you're responding to a common thing people say, but not to anything I've said (or believe).

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