How are the EA Funds default allocations chosen?

post by Peter Sølling · 2020-08-10T08:00:50.298Z · EA · GW · 12 comments

The recommended distribution between the four focus areas of effective altruism is as follows:

Can someone please show me where the scentific reasoning behind this particular distribution is justified in discussions, presentations, or litterature?

Does it follow the logic used here by Benjamin Todd (80.000h) and here by Robert Wiblin (80.000h)? Or is there more to it?

I hope you enjoy your summer!

Kind regards, 

Peter

12 comments

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comment by SamDeere · 2020-08-10T17:00:23.315Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

First, I'll note that we're actually planning to change this system (likely in the next week or two), so that instead of first seeing a default allocation, donors will choose their own allocation as the first step in the donation process.

To your question, the current EA Funds default allocation was chosen as an approximation of some combination of a) a representative split of the cause areas based on their relative interest across EA, and b) a guess at what we thought the underlying funding gaps in each cause area will likely to be. It's definitely intended to be approximate, and is there partly as a guide to give an indication of how the slider allocation system works, rather than an allocation that we think everyone should choose.

Context: I help run EA Funds and am responsible for the user-facing side of things, including the website

comment by Peter Sølling · 2020-08-10T19:47:21.247Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Sam

Thank you so much for your good and thorough answer.

I see from the payout overviews that the actual distribution of donation amounts between the four focus areas the past three years has followed more or less exactly the distribution indication on the sliders. Plus minus one or two percent. Now that the sliders disappear, does that mean that any future donor will not get any EA recommendation on how to balance her donation between the four areas? Or is there a recommended balance somewhere else? 
I remember here Steve Pinkers words on the EA website front page: 

Effective altruism — efforts that actually help people rather than making you feel good or helping you show off — is one of the great new ideas of the 21st century.

Should EA also help people in finding this hard balance, that tabs into the emerging school of patient longtermism and other academic concepts? 

Kind regards, Peter

comment by Jonas Vollmer · 2020-08-11T11:49:26.489Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Peter,

(Context: I have recently joined CEA to run EA Funds.)

I see from the payout overviews that the actual distribution of donation amounts between the four focus areas the past three years has followed more or less exactly the distribution indication on the sliders.

This seems to be a coincidence. Less than 10% of total donation volume is given according to the default allocation.

does that mean that any future donor will not get any EA recommendation on how to balance her donation between the four areas?

The allocation decision is based on a lot of judgment calls, such as: Do you think strong longtermism [EA · GW] is correct? Do you think that non-human animals matter morally to a significant degree? Do you want to diversify across worldviews? This flowchart and this article give you an overview of some of the judgment calls involved.

There is no clear expert consensus on these questions, and there may not even be an objective answer to some of them, so we're moving away from recommending a particular allocation. But in the future, we may provide more guidance for donors to reason through these worldview questions themselves.

comment by Ben Pace · 2020-08-11T17:13:49.961Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This seems to be a coincidence. Less than 10% of total donation volume is given according to the default allocation.

I roll to disbelieve? Why do you think this? Like, even if there’s slight variation I expect it’s massively anchored on the default allocation.

comment by Jonas Vollmer · 2020-08-12T09:17:42.670Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I agree that many donations will be anchored by the default even if they don't use the default allocation. But donation volume is dominated by a small number of very large transactions, almost all edit: most of which use a completely different allocation (often with 100% going to just one fund).

comment by Ben Pace · 2020-08-12T17:21:26.402Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. Thank you very much.

comment by willbradshaw · 2020-08-10T13:15:04.427Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I have a few responses to this:

  1. This should probably be a question, not a post.
  2. The question in the title is completely different from the question in the post. A better title would be something like "How are the EA Funds default allocations chosen?"

Actually answering the question, I don't think there's any reason to assume that whichever EA Funds staff member selected the default allocation thinks that this is the theoretically optimal way to allocate resources – in fact I think that's very unlikely. So the real question is what higher-level method, if any, was being used to select that allocation.

I don't think anyone except a member of the appropriate team at CEA can answer that. Have you asked them?

comment by Peter Sølling · 2020-08-10T20:11:19.596Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Will

Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions. 

I have now changed the title of the post to be that which you suggested. I wanted it to be a question, but I couldn’t find a way to add a picture to a test in a question. Im new to this forum. Sorry. 

Regarding your comment on the topic, Sam Deere from the EA Fund was kind enough to answer me directly. I have replied him here in the thread. 

Best regards, Peter

comment by willbradshaw · 2020-08-11T19:26:43.008Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Nice, thanks Peter.

I have now changed the title of the post to be that which you suggested. I wanted it to be a question, but I couldn’t find a way to add a picture to a test in a question. Im new to this forum. Sorry.

Seems like a good reason. :-)

comment by Prabhat Soni · 2020-08-10T12:30:54.137Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The recommended distribution between the four focus areas of effective altruism is as follows:


Could you please mention your source for this?

comment by Peter Sølling · 2020-08-10T12:36:03.156Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yes, of course. Sorry. The source is a screenshot of what comes up after you press "Donate" on effectivealtruism.org.

comment by Prabhat Soni · 2020-08-10T12:53:04.815Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks!