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As a foster-only parent in Massachusetts, I think I have much more interaction with DCF than most parents, albeit from a rather different angle.

In general, the parents’ concern here seems overblown to me — my perception is that DCF case workers will pretty much always start by talking to parents about their concerns if at all possible, and that they’re wildly unlikely to take any punitive action if a conversation about DCF’s expectations is enough to correct (from their perspective) the family’s behavior. If nothing else, the institutional incentives are structured this way; taking on another long-term case even just for monitoring purposes will add more work, case workers already have full loads (or more) as it is, and DCF’s funding (thus staffing) generally doesn’t scale per case.

What I’m seeing is that DCF doesn’t remove children from their homes lightly; if anything, they tend to wait a little too long in order to collect clearer evidence that removal is necessary. They also just don’t really have enough good places to put kids for it to make sense for them to remove kids whose parents are willing and able to cooperate with DCF guidance. Note that removal is not a purely administrative procedure: DCF generally needs to get a court order authorizing a removal before acting, and while they can act immediately in emergency situations, that will get reviewed by a court within days and is subject to a higher legal standard (so from what I see, case workers are hesitant to go that route if they see any other option). Case workers really do not want to risk getting their judgment overruled in court.

Which brings me to:

Having no guidelines is probably better than having very limiting ones, so maybe I should be thankful that MA DCF doesn't give any?

Yeah. I can see how sensible guidelines would be useful and reassuring, but I think we’re better off without the formal guidelines that would actually be created if such guidelines were established. I think there would be both political pressure toward more conservative guidelines (when people think about the appropriateness of minimum age standards, I think most people are primed to assess what is reasonable for most kids rather than what is reasonable for the most mature cohort thereof, and political discourse generally isn’t nuanced enough nowadays to draw such distinctions very well) and institutional pressure in the same direction (case workers don’t want anything that will make their jobs harder, and they totally will end up arguing with parents and their public defenders about whether guidance for more mature kids is applicable in their case when they have less mature kids), so I’m really not surprised to see that the states that do give guidance were heavily slanted in that direction.

It’s not clear to me that putting effort into enforcing existing regulations is more feasible for many of the folks advocating assault rifle bans, nor is it clear to me that it’s a significantly higher impact approach.

Re: feasibility — Your examples of folks advocating additional legislation are federal and state politicians, while my impression is that most handgun enforcement actions in the U.S. traditionally rely on law enforcement agencies at more local levels.  Thus, it’s not clear that the folks pushing such policies are in as good a position to affect the prioritization of handgun law enforcement, which (at least somewhat) counteracts the benefit of pursuing a less controversial remedy.

Also, in particular, the politicians you refer to are Democratic party politicians.  The creation of gun laws is already a highly partisan issue in the United States, with Democratic party associated with efforts for more gun control and the Republican party associated more with gun rights.  My impression is that enforcement of gun laws is currently seen as a much less political issue.  If Democratic politicians start prominently pushing for shifting enforcement priorities toward a political goal of keeping guns off the street, I think that risks turning gun law enforcement policies into just another front in the political debate over gun control legislation.  In the worst case, that could actually result in negative impact from Democratic politicians (particularly a Democratic U.S. president) pushing such policies, because it creates a potential incentive for Republican politicians at the state and local level to decrease such enforcement in order to maintain their political image of “defending the second amendment”.

Re: impact — I agree that an assault rifle ban would have fairly low impact on the bulk of the incidents indicated in the statistic.  However, the limited reporting I’ve seen on efforts to enforce existing regulations has generally indicated that simply scaling up existing efforts in this area doesn’t actually impact gun violence much either.  One example of such reporting (chosen for being particularly easy for me to remember how to re-find in this moment, rather than for being the most compelling report) is, which observes that increasing enforcement of gun possession laws has “not substantially reduced shootings in Chicago. In fact, as possession arrests skyrocketed, shootings increased — but the percentage of shooting victims where someone was arrested in their case declined.”

If we need to introduce entirely new tactics for enforcing the existing laws in order to get the outcomes we’re expecting, such a constraint will correspondingly decrease the feasibility of rolling out that approach.

(Also there may be a degree to which, for politicians, impact is more palpably associated with the avoidance of political crises centered around gun violence, rather than actually avoiding gun deaths.  But I’d rather not focus too much on that one...)

Fair enough.  Thanks for the conversation!

Okay, so you‘re defining the problem as groups transmitting too little information?  Then I think a natural first step when thinking about the problem is to determine an upper bound on how much information can be effectively transmitted.  My intuition is that the realistic answer for many recipients would turn out to be “not a lot more than is already being transmitted”.  If I’m right about that (which is a big “if”), then we might not need much thinking beyond that point to rule out this particular framing of the problem as intractable.

For that distinction to be relevant, individuals need to be able to distinguish whether a particular conclusion of the group is groupthink or whether it’s principled.

If the information being propagated in both cases is primarily the judgment, how does the individual group member determine which judgments are based on real reasons vs not?  If the premise is that this very communication style is the problem, then how does one fix that without re-creating much of the original burden on the individual that our group-level coordination was trying to avoid?

If folks try to square this circle through a mechanism like random spot checks on rationales, then things may become eventually consistent but in many cases I think the time lag for propagating updates may be considerable.  Most people would not spot check any particular decision, by definition.  Anything that requires folks to repeatedly look at the group’s conclusions for all of their discarded ideas ends up being burdensome IMO.  So, I have trouble seeing an obvious mechanism for folks to promptly notice that the group reverted their decision that a particular org is not worth supporting?  The only possibilities I can think of involve more rigorously centralized coordination than I believe (as a loosely-informed outsider) to be currently true for EA.

Do you disagree that “some degree of group-level weeding out of unworthy organizations seems like a transparently necessary step given the sheer number of organizations that exist”?  If not, how does that dynamic differ from “shun[ning] orgs based on groupthink rather than based on real reasons”?

I don’t have a clear opinion on the original proposal… but is it really possible to completely avoid groupthink that decides an org is bad?  (I assume that “bad” in this context means something like “not worth supporting”.)

I would say that some degree of group-level weeding out of unworthy organizations seems like a transparently necessary step given the sheer number of organizations that exist.  I would also agree with you that delegating all evaluation to the group level has obvious downsides.

If we accept both of those points, I think the question is more a matter of how to most productively scope the manner and degree to which individuals delegate their evaluations to a broader group, rather than a binary choice to wholly avoid (or support) such delegation.

Maybe this is because of my vantage point (as your friend and someone who has deliberately distanced themself somewhat from EA as a whole), but I tend to think of you and Julia as relatively central figures in EA.  Like, I’m not sure if you’re among the very most centrally-connected circles of that community, but I’d also guess that you’re not really more than about one rung out from there.  In that case, I’m unsure how much you as an author would contribute to “de-centralizing” author representation?

That said, I do think that EA would absolutely benefit from raising some more approachable / less academic voices to a higher public profile.  I’d certainly enjoy reading a book from you about the topics you describe, even though that book would be unlikely to shift my personal skepticism about the wisdom of EA as a movement.  Your other listed advantages as an author do make sense to me, and I think that your “relevant credentials” disadvantage isn’t meaningful given the desire to focus on a less philosophical lens and to diversify the types of centrally-public EA voices.

For example, say you're wanting to take the next right turn, and the lane becomes a combined bus lane + right turn lane not very far ahead of you. If you don't see a bus and you pull into the lane a bit early you have an extremely good chance of making it to the combined section before a bus comes.

This type of scenario potentially pairs badly with only enforcing the last car in the queue when the bus arrives. As soon as the car at the end of the line switches to the bus lane, everyone in the queue ahead of them is suddenly incentivized to abruptly jump into the bus lane ahead of them. Even setting aside the safety hazards of encouraging drivers to cut each other off, this obstructs the person who wants to make a right turn (particularly relevant if they’re in a situation where they were expecting to make a right on red in order to clear the lane), such that the person who made a sensible decision will potentially be punished for the actions of people who made less sensible decisions.

I didn’t say anything about ever requiring anyone to wear a mask, and yet that’s the only topic that you addressed in your reply.

I think there are a lot more options than a simplistic binary between collectively forcing people to wear masks and individually forcing people to accept all responsibility for their own infection outcomes.  Those two positions aren’t even really points on a single dimension, because not all responsibility is enforced responsibility.  Indeed, the OP spends a fair number of words trying to discern their current unenforced responsibilities to others.

My comment was, loosely speaking, simply an informal proof by contradiction demonstrating that our society is not in fact currently and effectively aligned with your asserted state of the world.  I started by granting your comment’s argument that making appropriate respirators available for sale in appropriate quantities means that individuals are expected to manage their risk of COVID infection without supporting interventions from the rest of society.  I then pointed out that there’s at least one clear-cut way that society currently falls short of this premise — people are not always free to choose whether they will wear or not wear a mask, and by definition one cannot be the sole responsible party for a decision they cannot decide.  Because something needs to change in order to enact your asserted state of the world, we know that this world state hasn’t been fully implemented yet — both sides of a contradiction can’t be simultaneously true.

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