A Few Questions
There are a few questions I think are interesting and would like to know the answer to. Most of these questions I haven’t really bothered researching, or I’ve tried to start but got bored actually going through the research. Some of you guys are smart, so this post is just to throw out a few questions that I want to know the answer to, or at least hear some interesting takes on. Feel free to comment if you know of some interesting research on one of these questions, if you have a view that seems like I might not have thought of it, or if you have a question on something entirely different that I might be able to answer in a future post. I may actually write about some of these in future, let me know if any of them sound interesting to explore a bit further. Anyway, here we go!
1) Is creativity immutable or can you learn to be more creative? I read this interesting post by Neel Nanda that claims that creativity is a learnable trait, not just something that’s determined by your genes. Is this true? What are the best ways of measuring creativity that people have found? Are there any interventions that seem like they boost creativity? Do psychedelics actually do anything here or is the evidence for that less convincing than people make it seem?
2) What is the best way to think about the chance of something being true if you have zero good evidence that it is true? Obviously we should think that the chance of any God existing is higher than Zeus or another specific God existing, but how much higher? How should we reason about the chance of any God existing compared to the chance of Russell’s Teapot existing?
3) What is the degree of overlap between ADHD, anxiety, autism, and depression? I am diagnosed with ADHD, but sometimes when I procrastinate a lot it feels like I have some sort of intense anxiety about working rather than any problem with focusing specifically. I also have moderate social anxiety in groups of people I don’t know well, and that can feel similar to procrastination anxiety. I’ve also heard that people with autism and severe depression have some symptoms that sound like ADHD symptoms. What’s going on here?
4) Is changing the voting system actually something that is really worthwhile? Like, I get that it would definitely probably be good, but why do EAs and EA organisations suggest it as something really important? What evidence do we have that changing the electoral system might result in outcomes that are actually better? Is the main argument here that some electoral systems are better at producing outcomes that the electorate are satisfied with, and that this will lead to better outcomes? Is there an argument that electoral reform means the Democrats are more likely to win, and this is what will lead to better outcomes? How does Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter fit in here, if at all?
5) Most of the adverts I see for Oxfam or Unicef or whatever are on television, and show images of children in Sub-Saharan Africa. I don’t think Givewell have adverts like these - why not? Is it that there’s some evidence that these adverts are less effective than they seem to be? Is it that they’re likely to be less effective for GiveWell specifically, but probably work for those other charities? Is GiveWell morally opposed to running those kind of adverts?
6) What is the current state of the literature on psychoanalytic psychotherapy? How does it compare to CBT and all those other types of therapy with names that are hard to remember (like dialectical behaviour therapy)? My impression is that there was a huge backlash against psychoanalytic psychotherapy because lots of Freud’s writing was a bit nuts, but I want to know about the outcomes of psychoanalytic psychotherapy.
7) Is ‘lookism’ a real thing - do employers discriminate against less attractive people? Obviously lookism exists for models and pop stars and so on, but is there really discrimination against less attractive people for jobs ostensibly unrelated to looks? If there is discrimination, what is the effect on wages? Does height discrimination play into this? I once had a professor who claimed that the entirety of the ‘tall wage premium’ went away once you controlled for gender - this sounds unlikely to be true. Is it?