Giving now vs. later: a summary

post by Julia_Wise · 2013-07-23T04:00:39.000Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · EA · GW · Legacy · 6 comments

There's an ongoing debate about whether it's better to give now or later.  A quick summary:

Reasons to give now:

Reasons to give later:

But it’s a topic that deserves more depth than that summary.  Here's some of what's been written on the topic, in roughly chronological order:

 

 

6 comments

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comment by ZacharySmith4989 · 2015-07-04T19:10:51.112Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

FYI The link to Peter Hurford's article is broke. Here it is on his blog: http://lesswrong.com/lw/hr3/giving_now_currently_seems_to_beat_giving_later/

comment by Brian_Tomasik · 2015-04-24T11:18:12.440Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Some additional links:

comment by Pablo_Stafforini2 · 2014-04-10T21:20:00.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Paul Christiano discusses this consideration in The best reason to give later:

I think the most important impact of giving now is probably that it accelerates the process of learning. At the level of the EA movement, the main reason to be optimistic about better giving opportunities emerging in the future is that we will actively seek out such opportunities, and discover through experience what directions are most fruitful to explore. (As an individual you can expect your money to go further if you wait and do nothing, but only because you can benefit from the work of others.)

However, I think that most causes that EAs currently donate to are not responsible for this learning, except indirectly for the reasons explored in the last section (e.g., giving to AMF is not a cost-effective way of learning in and of itself, but may facilitate GiveWell’s other activities, which are a big driver of current learning). A relatively small set of activities seems to be responsible for most learning that is occurring (for example, much of GiveWell’s work, some work within the Centre for Effective Altruism, some strategy work within MIRI, hopefully parts of this blog, and a great number of other activities that can’t be so easily sliced up). The argument I’ve given definitely doesn’t justify delaying any of this funding: I’m recommending delaying object-level do-gooding relative to learning, not delaying do-gooding altogether.

However, it may be that some of these activities produce info much more efficiently than others, and depending on the relative importance of funding and haste it may be worthwhile to stall some of these activities while the most important info-gathering proceeds. To me it currently looks like the value of getting information faster is significantly higher than the value of money, and on the current margin I think most of these learning activities are underfunded. A more serious concern is that there seems to currently be a significant deficit of human capital specialized for this problem and willing to work on it (without already being committed to work on it), so barring some new recruitment strategies (e.g. paying market wages for non-EAs to do EA strategy research) there are significant issues with room for more funding.

These issues seem important to me, and I’ll certainly return to them in future posts. For now, I’d leave it at: a small fraction of activities EAs fund are directly producing relevant info, and those are probably important and worth scaling up. However, the majority of EA funding does not fall into this category.

comment by lukeprog · 2014-04-04T22:20:00.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

The most important reason missing from 'Reasons to give now' is "Giving to particular organizations can accelerate our learning about which causes are best to support." We'll probably get better information as time passes, but we'll get a lot more of it if we fund ongoing projects to figure out what's best to give to.

comment by Ben_Kuhn_on_the_effective_altruist_movement_|_Pablo's_miscellany · 2014-07-23T07:53:44.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

[…] giving now vs. later debate has been ably summarized by Julia Wise on the EA blog. My sense from reading various arguments for both sides is that I more often see bad […]

comment by Overcoming_Bias_:_Multiplier_Isn't_Reason_To_Wait · 2014-04-14T00:23:21.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

[…] the issue of whether to help now vs. later, many reasonable arguments have been collected on both sides. For example, positive interest rates argue for helping later, […]