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Evaluation 2: "Long term cost-effectiveness of resilient foods for global catastrophes compared to artificial general intelligence"

Evaluation 2: "Long term cost-effectiveness of resilient foods for global catastrophes compared to artificial general intelligence"

Published onMay 12, 2023
Evaluation 2: "Long term cost-effectiveness of resilient foods for global catastrophes compared to artificial general intelligence"

This is an evaluation of Denkenberger et al (2022).

Summary Measures

Overall Assessment

Answer: 80

90% CI: (60,90)

Quality Scale Rating

“On a ‘scale of journals’, what ‘quality of journal’ should this be published in?: Note: 0= lowest/none, 5= highest/best”

Answer: 4

90% CI: (3, 5)

See HERE for a more detailed breakdown of the evaluators’ ratings and predictions.

Written Report

I really enjoyed reading this paper and I did learn a lot as well, so thank you for putting it together. It is a very clearly presented, very dense piece of research. My area of expertise however is risk and decision analysis under uncertainty. I am a probabilistic modeller with loads of experience in structured expert judgement used to quantify uncertainty when data are sparse or lacking. My evaluation will therefore not cover the application area as such, as I have no experience with catastrophic or existential risk. I assume the cited literature is appropriate and not a non-representative sample, but I did not spend time verifying this assumption.

At a first read, both the title and the abstract left me wondering if the present analysis compares cost-effectiveness (of resilient foods) with safety (of AGI), which would’ve been a strange comparison to make. However, after reading the very clear (and dense) Introduction, things became very clear. The only minor comment I have about the Introduction is that it sounds more ambitious than what the results provide with respect to the second objective.

The Methods section is well organised and documented, but once in a while it lacks clarity and it uses terminology that may or may not be appropriate. Here’s a list of things Ii found a bit confusing:

  • Terminology 

    • the first sentence mentioned “parameters” without the context of what these parameters may be (sometimes random variables are called parameters, some other times the parameters of a distribution are referred to as parameters, etc)  

    • The probability distribution of the “expected cost effectiveness”. Is “expected” in this context meant in a probabilistic sense, i.e., the expectation of the random variable “cost effectiveness”?

    • The submodels for food and AGI are said to be “independent”; is this meant in a probabilistic way? Are there no hidden/not modelled variables that influence both?

    • The “expert” model was quite confusing for me, maybe because “Sandberg” and the reference number after “Sandberg” don’t match, or maybe because I was expecting a survey vs. expert judgement quantification of uncertainty. As I said (structured) expert judgement is one of my interests (Hanea et al. 2021).

    • In the caption of fig 2, “index nodes” and “variable nodes” are introduced. Index nodes are later described, but I don't think I understood what was meant by “variable” nodes. Aren’t all probabilistic nodes variable?

  • Underlying assumptions/definitions

    • Throughout the methods section I missed a table with a list of all variables, how where they measured, on what sort of scale, or using what formula, where were they quantified from (data, surveys, literature +reference, and if taken from other studies, what were the limitations of those studies)

    • Some of the parameters of the, say, Beta distributions are mentioned but not justified

    • The structure of the models is not discussed. How did you decide that this is a robust structure (no sensitivity to structure performed as far as I understood)

    • What is meant  by “the data from surveys was used directly instead of constructing continuous distributions”?

    • The arcs in Fig 1 are unclear, some of them seem misplaced, while others seem to be missing. This can be a misunderstanding from my part, so maybe more text about Fig.1 would help.

    • It is unclear if the compiled data sets are compatible. I think the quantification of the model should be documented better or in a more compact way.

The Results section is very clear and neatly presented and I did enjoy the discussion on the several types of uncertainty.

It is great that the models are available upon request, but it would be even better if they would be public so the computational reproducibility could be evaluated as well. 

Some of the references are missing links in the text, and at least one does not link to the desired bibitem.

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