Posts

The Groffscars ("Oscars") of 2018

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Chiming once again in as the Oscars are announced with my picks for this year, which aren't always those that are nominated. My favorite movie of the year was A Star Is Born . I left that movie in awe: the way the camera moves during the concerts makes it feel like we are on stage, and Lady Gaga, the quintessential modern pop star, comes across as a totally normal person. The story and acting had my bawling as I left the theater. After that, I think the next-best movie of the year was Hereditary , which as a horror movie didn't stand a chance of being nominated. It's the scariest movie I've ever seen in theaters, easily, and probably the scariest I've ever seen. It draws with real-life issues as well in a way that makes it all the more unsettling. I think after that Black Panther takes the cake for me. It's a superhero movie made into an afro-futuristic epic, and despite all its popularity, it's not a bit oversold. It draws on all sorts of pop-cultur

Be Careful About a Stubborn Attachment to Growth

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Rob Wiblin interviewed economist Tyler Cowen on the 80,000 hours podcast (“the show about the world’s most pressing problems and how you can use your career to solve them”) and as I would expect, it was a consistently stimulating conversation. Cowen presented on his new book, Stubborn Attachments , which argues that we should place dramatic importance on economic growth because most of humanity’s expected value lies in the future, and economic growth is the most reliable help we can offer future generations. I think the thesis is largely correct, and I'm glad he's making such a strong case for creating an economically prosperous future. I want to contend, though, that growth as conventionally measured does not always do justice to the sort of growth that matters for the long-term future. Cowen makes a good case for providing future generations with as many resources as possible, but economic growth is a systematically imperfect measure of resources. In particular, it's n

Should Effective Charities Prepare for a Recession?

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Source: https://peoplespostng.com/news/when-churches-become-fetish-ritual-dens/ I asked a number of people at effective altruism global in June a question that came to my mind: how would a recession affect charities aligned with effective altruism? A lot of people seemed to me to have concerns, and many people I talked to seemed to think their organizations did not have a plan for if a recession hits and donations decrease. I think that’s a problem worth some thought. The effective altruism movement has now been booming for several years, with many EA-aligned animal organizations multiplying in size and achieving a cascade of long-sought cage-free pledges. EA-oriented meta organizations and those working on the long-term future of humanity have gained significantly more esteem. Evidence-based global development organizations have continued to be dominant in that sphere, even though they are increasingly less connected to self-described EA organizations. There is unmistakable

What I Learned from a Year Spent Studying How to Get Policymakers to Use Evidence

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Source: http://cognitive-edge.com/blog/on-evidence/ The past year I was a senior research analyst at Northwestern University's Global Poverty Research Lab on a study of evidence-based policy. Specifically, our goal was to work on a question often on researchers' minds: how can I get my ideas acted upon? To do this, I dug through a number of bodies of evidence on how science influences policy. One area I looked at is what is called "implementation science" in medicine, which looks at how to get doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators to adopt evidence-based practice. Another was a series of papers by social scientist Carol Weiss and her students on how policymakers in government agencies claim to use evidence. There is also a small literature on how to implement evidence-based policy in public schools, and a little work on policymaker numeracy. I've included a bibliography below that should be helpful for anyone interested in this topic. Most of my yea

I'm Not Running a Marathon Because #YOLO

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A few months ago, I posted on my Facebook wall that I was considering running a marathon and asked for advice. I'd started training low-key in October for no particular reason. I've been a runner since I was eleven or twelve, and one day after going for a slightly longer run than normal, my fiancĂ© Lucas and I talked about how cool it would be if I ran a marathon, so I decided I'd give it a try. Then one day, again for no particular reason, I researched the health effects of running a marathon. I expected to find that it was positive, at least mildly. Instead what I found were articles upon articles  pooh-poohing marathons as unhealthy wastes of time. Now as much as I appreciate science writers for spreading important findings, I also know they frequently get things wrong. So I searched Google Scholar, and I found roughly the same thing.  I'd decided to do the marathon for no particular reason except that it would be an achievable accomplishment with presumably on

Cheers for Animal Charity Evaluators

Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) released a long-overdue report on protest effectiveness . I'm biased because I'm quoted there, but I thought I would take the occasion to note how much I think ACE has grown in the past few years. I'm tremendously grateful to ACE's founders, but when ACE started out (as "Effective Animal Advocacy"), its advice was rudimentary, based on little science, and made by a very small staff. I'm struck by the careful and nuanced conclusion the report reaches: Overall, we would like to see the animal advocacy movement invest slightly more heavily in protests. Protests currently receive a tiny portion of the movement’s resources and, given the limited evidence we do have, it’s plausible they are at least as cost-effective as interventions that receive much more of the movement’s resources, such as leafleting . Moreover, we think that the use of protests contributes to the diversity of tactics in the movement, which can help attrac

Rewatching West Side Story: Four Things I Noticed

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I watched West Side Story this weekend for the first time in years, and I'd really forgotten what a gem it is. I'd always liked the movie, but I'd mostly seen it as a top-notch adaptation of an already excellent musical and not a unique work of art in its own right. In this viewing, I realized what a special piece it is, and there were four things that stuck out to me: 1) Visual Storytelling It seems paradoxical, but musicals can in some way rely more on visuals to tell their stories than non-musicals can. Because music exists on its own, untethered from specific visuals, musical sequences in some ways resemble silent film more than sound film. I was struck by the use of gestures, dance, and camera techniques to tell a story without dialogue, particularly in the opening sequence. 2) The Interplay of Camera and Dance Cinematography and choreography are challenging art forms; combining them is even more difficult. I was struck by how the camera deftly moves w