Toronto meetup writeup: 2014-12-11

post by Giles · 2014-12-12T21:54:23.291Z · EA · GW · Legacy · 2 comments

This is a meetup report - let me know if you want me to stop posting these. It's intended to give a very rough flavour of what was discussed, not as accurate or complete minutes.

Attendance: 4 (snowy weather may have reduced attendance somewhat)

This was the first Toronto EA meetup for over a year. I'm no longer branding it as a "THINK" meeting, but I'm still reusing the THINK meetup group. It was held in my apartment.

We started the discussion on the effectiveness of Oxfam.

Oxfam certainly evaluate the impact of some of their programs.

But there's a contrast between this and a more data-driven approach, e.g. GiveDirectly. I described a data driven approach as:

Data driven approach:

The issue came up: How do I know which authorities to listen to? (e.g. GiveWell versus other charity evaluators)

Hypothesis: bimodal distribution, with small donors doing hardly any research and large donors paying someone to do research for them

Reasons for corporate donation matching:

A problem that the sort of people working for orgs are unlikely to be good at a data-driven approach. It's a small percentage of the population to start with, and orgs are likely made up of:

Why would priorities of large donors conflict with chasing effectiveness?

We talked about Oxfam and MIRI (I never thought I'd be lumping those two together!) as examples of orgs working on something speculative with hard-to-measure impact. Brian Tomasik was mentioned as someone who's given reasons for giving to MIRI.

Joseph talked about his Neural net to predict earthquakes

This of course got us on to discussing the causes of publication bias:

EA is all about opportunity cost - if you're giving to SCI then that's money you're not giving to Oxfam etc.

We talked about utility:

We talked about the money that we're spending on things other than charity.

Don't try to choose the best one - optimisation is intractable.

Low hanging fruit in purchasing:

Animal suffering


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by bshannon · 2014-12-13T07:59:21.476Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Animals have experience? Short answer: Yes

comment by Bitton · 2014-12-13T01:31:55.084Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I wasn't able to make it. Maybe next time!