Posts by Tags

ai

AI bias and the problems of ethical locality

In this post I argue that attempts to reduce bias in AI decision-making face the problem of practical locality—we are limited in what we can do because the actions available to us depend on the society we find ourselves in—and the problem of epistemic locality—we are limited in what we can do because ethical views evolve over time and vary across regions. Both problems have consequences for work on AI bias, and the epistemic locality problem highlights the important links between AI bias and the alignment problem.

epistemology

Does deliberation limit prediction?

There is a longstanding debate about whether deliberation prevents us from making any predictions about actions. In this post I will argue for a weaker thesis, namely that deliberation limits our ability to predict actions.

Transmitting credences and transmitting evidence

There is a longstanding debate about whether deliberation prevents us from making any predictions about actions. In this post I will argue for a weaker thesis, namely that deliberation limits our ability to predict actions.

ethics

AI bias and the problems of ethical locality

In this post I argue that attempts to reduce bias in AI decision-making face the problem of practical locality—we are limited in what we can do because the actions available to us depend on the society we find ourselves in—and the problem of epistemic locality—we are limited in what we can do because ethical views evolve over time and vary across regions. Both problems have consequences for work on AI bias, and the epistemic locality problem highlights the important links between AI bias and the alignment problem.

The optimal rate of failure

We sometimes assume that seeing someone fail implies that they are doing something wrong, but I argue that the ideal rate at which our plans should fail is often quite high. I note that this has consequences in politics and ethics that are often underappreciated.

Vegetarianism, abortion, and moral empathy

When people disagree about moral issues, they often fail to treat the moral beliefs of those that they disagree with as genuine moral beliefs. They instead they treat them like mere whims or mild preferences. This shows a lack of what I call moral empathy. I argue that lacking moral empathy can be harmful and can prevent fruitful discussion on divisive topics.

Can we offset immorality?

People offset bad actions in various ways. The most salient example of this is probably carbon offsetting, where we pay a company to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere by roughly the same amount that we put in. But there are arguably more mundane examples of acts that are intended to offset immoral behavior. In this post I ask what moral offsetting is and whether it is something we should be in favor of.

Prison is no more humane than flogging

Many people believe that corporal punishmenthas no place in a modern criminal justice system. Imprisonment is seen as a more humane form of punishment, and it is one that is employed in most modern criminal justice systems. In this post I ask why we think that imprisonment is humane while corporal punishment is not. I think this should cause us to question the ethics of imprisoning people.

Is the born this way message homophobic?

The message of “born this way“ is that your sexual orientation is something you’re born with rather than something you choose. This is considered an important point in the justification of gay rights. I’m a strong supporter of gay rights, but I realised just over a year ago that something about this slogan didn’t sit right with me. I’m now pretty confident that basing gay rights on the “born this way“ message can be pretty harmful to LGBT people and other oppressed groups.

infinity

musings

When robustly tolerable beats precariously optimal

Something is “robustly tolerable” if it performs adequately under a wide range of circumstances, including unexpectedly bad circumstances. In this post, I argue that when the costs of failure are high, it’s better for something to be robustly tolerable even if this means taking a hit on performance or agility.

The virtues and vices of shark curiosity

Embracing the kind of aggressive curiosity of sharks seems to be a good way of getting better at arguing. But it can have a chilling effect on discourse and friendships. In this post, I explain what I mean by shark curiosity, and how we can strike the right balance between nurturing and testing new ideas.

The optimal rate of failure

We sometimes assume that seeing someone fail implies that they are doing something wrong, but I argue that the ideal rate at which our plans should fail is often quite high. I note that this has consequences in politics and ethics that are often underappreciated.

Disagreeing with content and disagreeing with connotations

It’s possible to agree with the content of a piece of writing but but to think that the conclusions that many readers might draw from it are wrong. I think it’s useful to distinguish between these before criticizing the writing of others.

Impossibility reasoning

It’s typical to teach and use sequential reasoning, but all sequential arguments can be reforumalted as impossibility results. Thinking and presenting arguments in terms of impossibility results rather than sequential arguments can be more fruitful than sequential reasoning.

Keep others’ identities small

I really like Paul Graham’s advice to “keep your identity small” - to avoid making groups or positions part of your identity if you want to remain unbiased. But I often want to add to it “and keep other people’s identity small too”.

Against jargon

It’s sometimes useful to introduce new terms into discourse, but new terms can increase communication efficiency but at the cost of accessibility and sometimes precision. In this post I outline the pros and cons of introducing new, domain-specific terms.

Some noise on signaling

I ask what signaling is and argue that it’s a bad idea to simply accuse people of “signaling” because signaling can mean a lot of things. I also argue that not all signaling is bad.

Vegetarianism, abortion, and moral empathy

When people disagree about moral issues, they often fail to treat the moral beliefs of those that they disagree with as genuine moral beliefs. They instead they treat them like mere whims or mild preferences. This shows a lack of what I call moral empathy. I argue that lacking moral empathy can be harmful and can prevent fruitful discussion on divisive topics.

Can we offset immorality?

People offset bad actions in various ways. The most salient example of this is probably carbon offsetting, where we pay a company to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere by roughly the same amount that we put in. But there are arguably more mundane examples of acts that are intended to offset immoral behavior. In this post I ask what moral offsetting is and whether it is something we should be in favor of.

Prison is no more humane than flogging

Many people believe that corporal punishmenthas no place in a modern criminal justice system. Imprisonment is seen as a more humane form of punishment, and it is one that is employed in most modern criminal justice systems. In this post I ask why we think that imprisonment is humane while corporal punishment is not. I think this should cause us to question the ethics of imprisoning people.

Is the born this way message homophobic?

The message of “born this way“ is that your sexual orientation is something you’re born with rather than something you choose. This is considered an important point in the justification of gay rights. I’m a strong supporter of gay rights, but I realised just over a year ago that something about this slogan didn’t sit right with me. I’m now pretty confident that basing gay rights on the “born this way“ message can be pretty harmful to LGBT people and other oppressed groups.

rationality

When robustly tolerable beats precariously optimal

Something is “robustly tolerable” if it performs adequately under a wide range of circumstances, including unexpectedly bad circumstances. In this post, I argue that when the costs of failure are high, it’s better for something to be robustly tolerable even if this means taking a hit on performance or agility.

The virtues and vices of shark curiosity

Embracing the kind of aggressive curiosity of sharks seems to be a good way of getting better at arguing. But it can have a chilling effect on discourse and friendships. In this post, I explain what I mean by shark curiosity, and how we can strike the right balance between nurturing and testing new ideas.

The optimal rate of failure

We sometimes assume that seeing someone fail implies that they are doing something wrong, but I argue that the ideal rate at which our plans should fail is often quite high. I note that this has consequences in politics and ethics that are often underappreciated.

Does deliberation limit prediction?

There is a longstanding debate about whether deliberation prevents us from making any predictions about actions. In this post I will argue for a weaker thesis, namely that deliberation limits our ability to predict actions.

Impossibility reasoning

It’s typical to teach and use sequential reasoning, but all sequential arguments can be reforumalted as impossibility results. Thinking and presenting arguments in terms of impossibility results rather than sequential arguments can be more fruitful than sequential reasoning.

Transmitting credences and transmitting evidence

There is a longstanding debate about whether deliberation prevents us from making any predictions about actions. In this post I will argue for a weaker thesis, namely that deliberation limits our ability to predict actions.

Against jargon

It’s sometimes useful to introduce new terms into discourse, but new terms can increase communication efficiency but at the cost of accessibility and sometimes precision. In this post I outline the pros and cons of introducing new, domain-specific terms.

Some noise on signaling

I ask what signaling is and argue that it’s a bad idea to simply accuse people of “signaling” because signaling can mean a lot of things. I also argue that not all signaling is bad.

religion