Posts

End of year celebration thread! 2016-04-05T09:02:13.634Z · score: 7 (9 votes)
On everyday altruism and the local circle 2015-05-24T14:09:48.083Z · score: 25 (27 votes)
Dorothea Brooke: an alternative origin story for Effective Altruism 2015-01-25T20:26:44.825Z · score: 20 (18 votes)
Parenthood and effective altruism 2014-04-14T01:28:23.000Z · score: 13 (12 votes)

Comments

Comment by bernadette_young on EA Survey 2017 Series: Demographics II · 2017-09-20T13:11:29.572Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

That's still a very important point that doesn't seem to have been made in the analysis here: the demographic questions were not included in the questions put to all respondents. Since there are good reasons to think that people taking the "full" and "donations only" survey will differ systematically (e.g. more likely to have been involved with EA for longer). If the non responses are not random that's an important caveat on all these findings and very much limits any comparisons that can be done over time. I can't seem to see it discussed in the post?

Comment by bernadette_young on Fact checking comparison between trachoma surgeries and guide dogs · 2017-05-16T09:22:18.959Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for responding!

I think it's laudable to investigate the basis for claims as you've done. It's fair to say evidence appraisal and communication really is a specialist area in its own right, and outside our ares of expertise it's common to make errors in doing so. And while we all like evidence confirms what we think, other biases may be at play. I think some people in effective altruism also put a high value on identifying and admitting mistakes, so we might also be quick to jump on a contrary assessment even if it has some errors of its own.

I think your broader point about communicating the areas and extent of uncertainty is important, but the solution to how we do that when communicating in different domains is not simple. For example, you can look at how NICE investigates the efficacy of clinical interventions. They have to distill 1000's of pages of evidence into a decision, and even the 'summary' of that can be 100s of pages long. At the front of that will be an 'executive summary' which can't possibly capture all the ares of uncertainty and imperfect evidence, but usually represents their best assessment because ultimately they have to make concrete recommendations.

Another approach is that seen in the Cochrane Systematic Reviews. These take a very careful approach to criticising the methodology of all studies included in their analysis. A running joke though its that every Cochrane review reaches the same conclusion: "More Evidence is Needed". This is precise and careful, but often lacks any practical conclusion.

Re your 2 questions:

It's $7.14 for 1 eye (in 2001) with 77% success, according to this source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11471088 In Toby Ord's essay he uses this to derive the "less than $20 per person" figure (7.14 *2 /(0.77) = $18.5 ) https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/sites/givingwhatwecan.org/files/attachments/moral_imperative.pdf So that's both eyes (in 2001 terms).

My main area of uncertainty on that figure is around number needed to treat. I've spoken to a colleague who is an ophthalmologist and has treated trichiasis in Ghana. Her response was "trachoma with trichiasis always causes blindness". But in the absence of solid epidemiology to back it up, I think it's wise to allow for NNT being higher than 1. I would be comfortable with saying that for about $100 we can prevent trachoma-induced blindness, in order to contrast that with things that we consider a reasonable buy in other contexts. (I haven't assessed any orgs to know if there are orgs who do it for that little: they may for instance do surgeries on a wider range of conditions with varying DALYs gained per dollar spent).

Comment by bernadette_young on Fact checking comparison between trachoma surgeries and guide dogs · 2017-05-15T21:03:15.870Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · EA · GW

The mention of the specific errors found in DCP2 estimates of de-worming efficacy, seem to be functioning here as guilt by association. I can't see any reason they should be extrapolated to all other calculations in different chapters of a >1000 page document. The figure from DCP2 for trachoma treatment directly references the primary source, so it's highly unlikely to be vulnerable to any spreadsheet errors.

The table Toby cites and you reference here (Table 50.1 from DCP2) says "trichiasis surgery". This means surgical treatment for a late stage of trachoma. Trichiasis is not synonymous with trachoma, but a late and severe complication of trachoma infection, by which stage eyelashes are causing corneal friction. It doesn't 'sometimes' lead to blindness, though that is true of trachoma infections when the whole spectrum is considered. Trichiasis frequently causes corneal damage leading to visual impairment and blindness. You are right to point out that not every person with trichiasis will develop blindness, and a "Number Needed to Treat" is needed to correct the estimate from $20 per case of blindness prevented. However we don't have good epidemiological data to say whether that number is 1, 2, 10 or more. Looking at the literature it's likely to be closer to 2 than 10. The uncertainty factor encoded in Peter Singer's use of $100 per person would allow for a number needed to treat of 5.

In this case the term "cure" is appropriate - as trichiasis is the condition being treated by surgery. At one point Toby's essay talks about curing blindness as well as curing trachoma. Strictly speaking trichiasis surgery is tertiary prevention (treatment of a condition which has already caused damage to prevent further damage.), but the error is not so egregious as to elicit the scorn of the hypothetical doctor you quote below. (Source: I am a medical doctor specialising in infectious diseases, I think the WHO fact sheet you link to is overly simplifying matters when it states "blindness caused by trachoma is irreversible").

[Edited to add DOI: I'm married to Toby Ord]

Comment by bernadette_young on Update on Effective Altruism Funds · 2017-04-20T20:24:17.602Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · EA · GW

I'm pleased to see the update on GWWC recommendations; it was perturbing to have such different messages being communicated in different channels.

However I'm really disappointed to hear the Giving What We Can trust will disappear - not least because it means I no longer have a means to leave a legacy to effective charities in my will (which I'll now need to change). Previously the GWWC trust meant I had a means of leaving money, hedging against changes in the landscape of what's effective, run by an org whose philosophy I agree with and whose decisions I had a good track record of trusting. EA funds requires I either specify organisations (which I can do myself in a will, but might not be the best picks at a relevant time), or trust a single individual in whom I don't have the same confidence. Also if a legacy is likely to be a substantial amount of money I am more risk averse about where it goes.

Comment by bernadette_young on Proposed methodology for leafleting study · 2017-02-06T21:45:29.411Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Ah sorry, I missed that bit!

Comment by bernadette_young on Proposed methodology for leafleting study · 2017-02-06T20:34:49.411Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Ethics approval would probably depend on not collecting identifying data like name, so it would be important to build that into your design. College name would work, but pseudo-randomising by leafleting some colleges would introduce significant confounding, because colleges frequently differ in their make up and culture.

Comment by bernadette_young on .impact updates 3 of 3: Impact Missions, peer-to-peer fundraisers, matching donations · 2016-11-20T13:08:16.886Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Georgie - I see where we were misunderstanding each other! That's great - research like this is quite hard to get right, and I think it's an excellent plan to have people with experience and knowledge about the design and execution as well as analysis involved. (My background is medical research as well as clinical medicine, and a depressing amount of research - including randomised clinical trials - is never able to answer the important question because of fundamental design choices. Unfortunately knowing this fact isn't enough to avoid the pitfalls. It's great that EA is interested in data, but it's vital we generate and analyse good data well.)

Comment by bernadette_young on .impact updates 3 of 3: Impact Missions, peer-to-peer fundraisers, matching donations · 2016-11-17T10:00:56.112Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Unless you have a specific hypothesis that you are testing, I think the survey is the wrong methodology to answer this question. If you actually want to explore the reasons why (and expect there will not be a single answer) then you need qualitative research.

If you do pursue questions on this topic in a survey format, it is likely you will get misleading answers unless you have the resources to very rigorously test and refine your question methodology. Since you will essentially be asking people if they are not doing something they have said is good to do, there will be all sorts of biases as play, and it will be very difficult to write questions that function the way you expect them to. To the best of my knowledge question testing didn't happen at all with the first survey, I don't know if any happened with the second.

I appreciate the survey uses a vast amount of people's resources, and is done for good reasons. I hate sounding like a doom-monger, but there are pitfalls here and significant limitations on surveys as a research method. I think the EA community risks falling into a trap on this topic, thinking dubious data is better than none, when actually false data can literally costs lives. As previously, I would strongly suggest getting professional involvement.

Comment by bernadette_young on .impact updates 3 of 3: Impact Missions, peer-to-peer fundraisers, matching donations · 2016-11-16T16:42:16.254Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

The median EA donation ($330) was pretty low. There could be various reasons for this, but we can only really pin down an explanation when .impact conduct the next EA Survey. I

According to the reports, the first survey of 2014 (ie reported in 2015) found a median donation of $450 in 2013, with 766 people reporting their donations.

The next survey of 2015 (ie reported 2106) found a mediant donation of $330 in 2014, with 1341 people reporting their donations.

Repeating the survey has gathered more data and actually produced a lower estimate. I'm interested how the third survey will help understand this better?

Comment by bernadette_young on Setting Community Norms and Values: A response to the InIn Open Letter · 2016-10-28T09:04:51.955Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · EA · GW

I didn't down vote it, but I suspect others who did were - like me - frustrated by the accusation of not engaging with you on the substantive points that are summarised in Jeff's post. This post followed a discussion with literally hundreds of comments and dozens of people in this community discussing them with you.

I could explain why I think the term astroturfing does apply to your actions, even though they were not exactly the same as Holden's activities, but the pattern of discussion I've experienced and witnessed with you gives me very low credence that the discussion will lead to any change in our relative positions.

I hope the break is good for your health and wish you well.

Comment by bernadette_young on Concerns with Intentional Insights · 2016-10-25T17:47:00.520Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · EA · GW

No "exchange" has been disclosed. Michelle has disclosed her own words and that she said them to you. Are you claiming people can not report their own speech without the permission of their audience?

Comment by bernadette_young on Concerns with Intentional Insights · 2016-10-25T15:13:50.222Z · score: 13 (30 votes) · EA · GW

I have down-voted this comment because I think as a community we should strongly disapprove of this sort of threat

"If this post gets significant downvotes and is invisible, I’ll be happy to post it as a separate EA Forum post. If that’s what you want, please go ahead and downvote."

The criticisms have been raised in an exceptionally transparent manner: Jeff made a public post on Facebook, and Gleb was tagged in to participate. Within that thread the plans to make this document were explained and even linked to: anybody (Gleb included) could read and contribute to that document while it was under construction.

This statement - that all criticism in the form of down-voting is likely to be driven by personal animosity or an attempt to hide negative feedback - is both baseless and appears to be an attempt to ward off all criticism. While I feel that Gleb is currently in a very difficult position, this framing of the conversation makes engagement impossible, hence downvoting.

Comment by bernadette_young on Concerns with Intentional Insights · 2016-10-24T12:55:48.455Z · score: 10 (17 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you - this represents a very conscientious follow-up to serious concerns and a very complicated discussion. I appreciate the presentation of considered evidence and the opportunity given for a) members of the community pool their concerns and b) InIn to give their response.

Comment by bernadette_young on On making spaces friendlier to parents · 2016-08-19T13:40:41.012Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

The post doesn't claim that having children makes you "good" or "particularly noble", and there's no moral connotation inherent in something being "a pretty basic part of human life".

You're entitled to think what you like, but there's no reason to be nasty about it.

Comment by bernadette_young on On making spaces friendlier to parents · 2016-08-19T11:04:04.509Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

What an incredibly unfriendly thing to say 12 months later to somebody you've never met in person. Given the context above I'm not sure if you are writing it to say I did not competently parent our child at EAG? The EAG I attended happened 8 months after I wrote that comment. In 8 months young children develop and their needs and behaviour change. What a shock.

Our daughter (14 months old at the time of EAG) was present in the lecture theatre for parts of 2 talks. She did not cry during in any of the lectures. She babbled loudly and I removed her when that happened. For the rest of the conference one of us missed the talks in order to keep her in the hall. I paid the full cost of attending the conference.

Both her parents were there by the way, have you made sure to pass your criticism on to her father?

Comment by bernadette_young on Effective Altruists really love EA: Evidence from EA Global · 2016-08-15T08:28:40.157Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Agreed, and though this good evidence about people in EA having a positive experience, it has almost no chance of detecting the people who don't, since participation is conditional on 1.) The subjects choosing to invest significant time and money in attending EAG & 2.) The subjects' applications being approved to attend the conference by the organisers.

I'm not meaning to suggest that the application process was actively weeding out negative people, but pointing out there are a number of significant selective processes before people were asked this question. For that reason it's got limited power to detect anybody who doesn't have a positive experience of EA, and shouldn't be used as evidence of no problem.

It is good to hear about positive experiences though, so thanks for sharing it.

Comment by bernadette_young on 50% every 5 years > 10% every year · 2016-07-28T19:58:48.624Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Neil I believe that's true for the UK. For two reasons

  1. No such thing as a standard deduction
  2. Donations up to the higher tax threshold are not 'deductible' but the 20% tax paid on these pounds goes to the charity as an extra donation.
  3. It's only above the 20% tax rate (higher tax bracket) that you get a refund (if you pay the 40% rate you get 20% back and 20% goes to the charity as above).

So this approach would be counter productive if you earn moderately above the higher tax threshold. The exception would be if you earn so far above the higher tax bracket that donating 50% every 5 years would leave you above the higher tax bracket threshold that year. (However in that case you should probably be donating more than 10% pa ;) )

Comment by bernadette_young on Effective Legacies have arrived! · 2016-06-09T09:12:03.750Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

That seems reasonable. The advice we've had both specifically and generally from legal people is that a will which appears not to take into account your life circumstances is open to challenge. Certainly in the UK, charitable legacies have been successfully challenged for not taking children into account (even when that appears to have been deliberate). https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/28/daughter-wins-164000-decade-long-legal-battle-mother-will-charities

I guess my observation is that almost all people would expect to be in that more complex position before they die, and I expect that will have a large effect on the potential for ROI of these wills.

Comment by bernadette_young on Effective Legacies have arrived! · 2016-06-08T15:36:04.718Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

This is a really interesting topic, and I certainly encountered more complications that I expected in making legacies to charity in my will.

Reading the CS site, it directs you away from the will writing process if you are over 40 or have one of: a spouse, children, property (home ownership?), a business

Does that mean that if someone has written a will with this product, but changes to being one of these categories (over 40, married, a parent, a homeowner or a business owner) then their will would not be valid?

Comment by bernadette_young on End of year celebration thread! · 2016-04-13T14:29:53.942Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks!

Comment by bernadette_young on End of year celebration thread! · 2016-04-13T14:29:46.310Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks!

Comment by bernadette_young on End of year celebration thread! · 2016-04-05T12:19:30.232Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for being so kind Sean. I think you work harder than just about anybody I know: no excuses needed for you!

Comment by bernadette_young on End of year celebration thread! · 2016-04-05T09:17:22.786Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · EA · GW

My own little victory dance:

When I set my threshold for my pledge in 2009, I pledge both an absolute percentage and a threshold of £25000 above which I would donate all money. I had done my research and tried to set a level that would cover both my own needs and that allow for having a family.

This is the first year we have had to pay any real costs for our daughter. For the first year of her life I was on maternity leave, so the cost was an opportunity cost of reduced salary. When I returned to work last May I had two new pretty huge expenses: full time child care (£10k a year, shared with my partner), and - because I was returning to do a PhD - full time university fees which cost £7000 a year.

I'm really excited to have been able to meet both my pledges this year, and within the threshold I've set, to have been able to pay for my study, childcare, as well as my own every day expenses. I'm feeling much more confident about being able to meet my pledge in the future while still providing for my daughter.

Comment by bernadette_young on Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism · 2016-03-22T21:17:52.658Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Your comment above indicated you had measured it at one time but did not plan to do so on an ongoing basis: "However, we can't control that, and it would not be helpful to assess that on a systematic basis, beyond that base rate" That approach would not be sensitive to the changing effect size of different methods.

Comment by bernadette_young on Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism · 2016-03-22T13:04:23.878Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Not really I'm afraid. That reasoning seems analogous to the makers of glipizide saying: we know lowering blood sugar in diabetics decreases deaths (we do indeed have data showing that) and their drug lowers blood sugar, so they don't need to monitor the effect of their drug on deaths. Your model can be faulty, your base statistics can be wrong, you can have unintended consequences. Glipizide does lower blood sugar, but if you take it as a diabetic, you are more likely to die than if you don't.

It would also be like the Against Malaria Foundation neglecting to measure malaria rates in the areas they work. AMF only distribute nets, but they don't actually care about (or restrict themselves to monitoring) how many people sleep under bed nets. The bed net distribution and use only matters if it translates to decreased morbidity and mortality from malaria.

If you are sharing information because you want to increase the flow of money to effective charities, and you don't measure that, then I think you are hobbling yourself from ever demonstrating an impact.

Comment by bernadette_young on Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism · 2016-03-20T20:58:00.136Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

We may have different perspectives on academic readers: I'm a relatively junior medical researcher. Three of my papers have over 100 citations. The view I expressed here is the one shared by my Principal Investigator (a professor at Oxford University who leads a multi-million pound international research consortium, and has an extensive history of publishing in Nature and Science). Humanities and medical research are likely to have some differences, but when fewer than 20% of humanities papers are thought to be cited at all, I'm not sure that supports humanities papers being read more extensively.

I don't see any contradiction between saying:

  1. I believe that, at the level a general reader will engage with it, this piece distorts the ideas of effective giving towards the damaging 'good charities have low overhead' meme, and will not in expectation increase donations to EA charities
  2. In order to show the contrary, you need a more concrete endpoint that website clicks.

No matter how many steps there are between an action an an endpoint, the only robust way to show an association between them is to include measurements of the end point you care about: surrogate markers are likely to lead your astray. For instance, I don't give much weight to a study showing drug Y lowers serum protein X, even though high levels of serum protein X are associated with disease Z. To prove itself worthwhile, the drug companies need to actually show that people on drug Y have lower rates of disease Z, or better yet, deaths from disease Z. Drug companies complain about and manipulate these principles all the time, because solid endpoints are take more time, effort and money to measure, and their manipulation around them has cost lives. (See the diabetic medication glipizide: short terms studies showed it decreasee blood sugar in diabetics - an outcome thought to improve their mortality - but longer term data showed that it makes people taking it more likely to die.)

Of course you're free to measure your work however you choose: I would personally be unconvinced by website traffic, and if you are aiming to convince evidence minded people of your success I think you'd do well to consider firm endpoints or at least a methodology that can deal with confounding (though that is definitely inferior to not being confounded in the first place).

At any rate, that's enough on this from me.

Comment by bernadette_young on Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism · 2016-03-18T11:34:18.892Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that maximising the good done with every effort is the essence of EA; I disagree that the wording and structure of your piece communicated that, even with those words included.

There's a tendency for people who do a lot of academic writing to assume that every sub-clause and every word will be carefully read and weighed by their readers. We agonise for months over a manuscript, carefully selecting modifiers to convey the correct levels of certainty in our conclusions or the strength of a hypothesis. In reality even the average academic reader will look at the title, scan the abstract and possibly look a figure and the concluding sentences.

Communicating complex ideas in a short piece is really hard to do, and if the less concrete the link between the message you want to convey and the topic you are trying to shoehorn that message into, the harder it is to avoid distorting your message. You could seek feedback from people who aren't already aware of what you're trying to communicate, but that's likely to be very hard to do in the time frame needed for a current news story.

If you want a measure of success, I think you need a much better end point than website views, which is a) subject to a wide range of confounders and b) only a proxy for the thing you are trying to achieve.

Comment by bernadette_young on Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism · 2016-03-17T20:00:19.992Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I don't think it's about mismatched expectations so much as I have a different assessment than you do of how much this piece is likely to promote effective giving.

If your intention was to promote consideration of impact, or recipient focussed donation behaviour, then I think this article misses that mark. Sure, the information might be there 15 paragraphs deep in one of a dozen links, but it's not conveyed to me - even as an interested reader versed in effective altruism ideas.

If indeed your article was intended by you to promote Charity Navigator style research with the hope it will nudge people towards the idea of impactful giving (which is what I take you to mean by saying that flattening out of the message is "a bug not a feature"), then I respectfully disagree that such an approach will in expectation increase effective giving.

Comment by bernadette_young on Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism · 2016-03-17T11:21:53.443Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Owen I think these are important caveats.

One further risk is that message you are trying to convey has to be stretched or even distorted to be made relevant to the original story. This is a result of the "hijacking" approach, and unfortunately I think it's evident in this piece.

The problem with Wounded Warriors as I understand it, is not that their proposed projects were not likely to be helpful (I haven't seen evidence that would help me answer that), but that people in the organisation mis-spent funds, and did not use them according to the charities own stated aims. So the problem here is not whether Wounded Warriors are engaged in effective interventions, but that people within the organisation diverted money from interventions and spend it on luxury flights and accommodation for its staff.

It seemed to me that the characterisation of effective altruism groups in the Time piece as organisations "pushing the nonprofit sector to become more transparent and accountable" is indistinguishable from Charity Navigator and others who are concerned with overhead as a metric of effectiveness. If we dilute the notion of an effective charity to one that has been vetted for financial transparency and accountability, we really lose the key message of how much different interventions vary in their impact.

For an example of how this can lead to opposite conclusions than EA reasoning: most EAs would agree it would be better for the world if programs like Scared Straight or Playpumps were bad at delivering their programs, since their programs have a negative impact. I expect it would be overall negative to deliver the message that finding an organisation with low overheads is both necessary and sufficient to ensuring your donation has a positive impact. I imagine that wasn't your aim here Gleb, but it's very much how it reads to me, probably as a result of the need to stay relevant to the news story you were tailing.

Comment by bernadette_young on Against segregating EAs · 2016-01-22T15:55:23.789Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA · GW

AGB reiterates a good suggestion he'd previously made on the facebook group: that no modification is needed for people who participate in EA without being a maximal sacrificer, and it's entirely appropriate to call those people effective altruists. If we want a term for people who are hugely involved, or sacrifice a great deal of their own well-being (I'm not convinced self-sacrifice is a good metric here, but that's another conversation), can't we just find a modifier for those people? Dedicated/devoted may be less problematic when you don't have to search for a counterpart that isn't dismissive.

Comment by bernadette_young on Against segregating EAs · 2016-01-22T15:46:49.886Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for pasting that comment here - I was sure there had been a really good discussion on this, with a general consensus that "softcore" needed to disappear. Perhaps I was just really persuaded by your comment and assumed others were likewise.

I agree there's less an issue a designation for "very involved" being a bit negative, but I'm moderately opposed to "hardcore" because although it is used as you describe, I think its strongest association is with porn.

Comment by bernadette_young on Against segregating EAs · 2016-01-21T16:35:52.304Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this post Julia.

I know lots of people have been seeking alternatives to the 'hardcore vs softcore' terms that seem to have sprung up, and I agree that alternative terms are preferable to those two for many reasons. However I think you've addressed a much more important issue, that any binary categorisation is artificial and likely to be counterproductive.

Comment by bernadette_young on EA is elitist. Should it stay that way? · 2016-01-21T12:21:40.062Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Seeking donations from high net worth individuals/ financial 'elites' is a crowded market. The giving pledge is just one campaign targeting these people, which is already connected to networks of very wealthy person. Do we have good reasons to think that EA would have a comparative advantage in such a crowded market?

Another significant disadvantage I see to becoming another group that concentrates targeting high net worth individuals is that we would be perpetuating the myth that only very wealthy people can make a difference, which more moderately wealthy people often cite as their reason for not taking charity more seriously.

Comment by bernadette_young on Celebrating All Who Are in Effective Altruism · 2016-01-21T12:09:46.158Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Also, any new pledger has some non-zero chance of breaking the pledge (see the GWWC fundraising prospectus for their current estimates, though some people have argued these are under-estimates). The chance of different people is probably largely independent. If this is true, then at the margin, two 10% pledgers have a lower chance of both defaulting and would probably lead to more money being moved (ie narrower 95% confidence interval on the amount moved).

Comment by bernadette_young on Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption · 2015-12-22T13:50:50.177Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · EA · GW

If you use the search function in the main facebook group it's quite straightforward to find plenty of discussion.

Comment by bernadette_young on Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption · 2015-12-22T12:56:02.504Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · EA · GW

"If people make bad decisions then that's unfortunate, but all other things being equal more information leads to better decisions and EA is the last movement which needs to have its strings pulled. "

To be clear: I am not advocating censorship. I'm advocating putting information in a context that makes its scope and importance apparent. It would be naive to ignore that some ideas have mimetic pull, particularly if you're being counter-intuitive by advancing an argument that aid is bad.

"I don't have the time to write about everything."

No of course not, but of all the problems in all the gin joints in all the world, you picked this one. That is a form of cause prioritisation, and I think it's reasonable to draw some inference from that action.

Comment by bernadette_young on Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption · 2015-12-22T12:36:37.817Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I think the phrasing of the 'problem' is bad, but the title really isn't the only issue.

"Considerations entirely outside the model: impact of development on wild animal suffering, climate change, technological progress, global economic development, etc."

I'm afraid this really doesn't read to me as being clear about how narrowly a focus this argument takes. I have literally seen people say "Now I've heard about the poor meat eater problem I've stopped donating to SCI", so simply saying you don't draw any conclusion is not, I think, sufficient justification for advancing such a one sided argument. Those things you wave away in the sentence above will in all likelihood completely dwarf the numbers below.

I do think that considering meat eating in the developed world to be "a separate problem" that is not a "relevant topic" is discriminatory. It's an 'us and them' divide, which is purely conceptual.

I don't think my objections are a reductio ad absurdum, I just think they are harmful actions that are not justified by the reduction in animal suffering they might indirectly lead to. I do find it odd that you see social stability as having positive x-risk only in developed countries though.

Comment by bernadette_young on Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption · 2015-12-22T11:51:32.663Z · score: -1 (19 votes) · EA · GW

Hi kbog, I appreciate you've done a lot of work here, but I've downvoted because I have a strong ethical and practical objection to this issue being discussed as 'the poor meat eater problem'. These objections have been hashed out every time this topic comes up. It makes me very sad that the meme persists, and I think it's terrible for it to be associated with EA discussion.

I think the so-called 'poor meat eater problem' is based on 2 fallacies, at least one of which appears somewhat prejudiced: 1.: the decision to focus on only one long term consequence of advancing development 2: the failure to apply the same reasoning to developed countries

Clearly the vast bulk of meat is eaten by rich people. If you want to discuss the implications for animal suffering of economic development, then why limit the discussion to poor countries? Why limit the consideration to 'what might be the effects of increasing aid to developing countries'. If one was to take this line of reasoning as am important one (ie we should limiting animal suffering by limiting human economic development, since the latter is associated with more animal product consumption), then I would question why you don't also recommend the following:

  • Support political candidates most likely to trash the local economy (reducing local economic development)
  • Support political parties that oppose universal health care (thus keeping the local poor too poor for meat)
  • Support for parties that oppose gun control (murdered people don't eat meat!)
  • Support for anti-vaccination policies (nor do children who die of whooping cough)
  • Support wasteful or ineffective use of research money (to make sure we don't make any discoveries that would advance human development)

I hope you think those would all be terrible things to do, and I think the suggestion that we should limit our help of the global poor because they may as a result consume more animal products is likewise awful.

(edited for clarity, typos and niceness)

Comment by bernadette_young on The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread - 15 December 2015 · 2015-12-18T11:52:00.123Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I don't think 'we can't know it's not a problem' is a helpful guide to deciding if something needs action. Have you seen any evidence of voting being used by cartels or sock puppets? As you say, it's just as possible for up-votes to be done for nefarious reasons (though I have serious doubts as to whether that's the case) - but requiring comments for up-voting would also be onerous and reduce people's interactions on the forum.

I think the suggested policy would make the forum worse by raising the bar to participation. Greg has explained the problems with it quite articulately above, so I won't recapitulate his comment.

Comment by bernadette_young on The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread - 15 December 2015 · 2015-12-17T20:19:25.314Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

But by the same token everybody in this movement has competing priorities and calls on their time. Their feedback might be helpful to you, but why should they be obliged to give it as the price of participating?

Comment by bernadette_young on Promoting Effective Giving Using List-Style Articles · 2015-12-17T20:14:35.257Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

You misunderstand me. I don't think the person is down voting because they disagree, but the fact they are down voting without commenting is an indication they disagree that a down vote requires a comment. That's not ironic.

Comment by bernadette_young on Promoting Effective Giving Using List-Style Articles · 2015-12-17T09:32:07.627Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Not really ironic - just clearly someone who disagrees.

Comment by bernadette_young on CEA is launching a winter fundraising round · 2015-12-11T22:50:30.518Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

There are indeed great questions there with extensive responses, many of which point to information that was already publicly available.

I think it's awesome for people to ask questions: in the GWWC fundraising post there's been a really productive discussion. But here, as on a previous occasion, you seem to be suggesting there is some deception going on. You've suggested in another post that you see these responses as 'punching up', but by keeping it vague it also looks a lot like mud-slinging (as opposed to an airing of your concerns, which I hope everybody would be keen to have happen).

Hopefully you'll have time to elaborate on your concerns soon.

Comment by bernadette_young on The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread - 23 November 2015 Edition · 2015-12-11T13:32:01.731Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'd find it weird if people who chose their careers based on what they thought was of the greatest benefit didn't advocate for that work to other people with similar priorities.

And in response to the suggestion of self-serving behaviour or even corruption raised by this post, it should be made absolutely clear that the trustees of CEA are legally barred from being employed by or financially profiting from its operations.

Comment by bernadette_young on CEA is launching a winter fundraising round · 2015-12-11T10:50:32.215Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

The GWWC fundraising prospectus sets out in quite extensive detail the observations and assumptions that underlie the figures, as well as providing the spreadsheets to let you explore how your own probability estimates would change them.

What further information do you think should be included?

Comment by bernadette_young on New UK aid strategy – prioritising research and crisis response · 2015-12-10T21:03:52.970Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This is fantastic work! Awesome!

Comment by bernadette_young on Pitfalls in Diversity Outreach · 2015-09-02T08:46:21.537Z · score: -4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Your statement here suggests we have nothing to learn from other movements, which seems an unhelpful position to take.

Comment by bernadette_young on Why effective altruism used to be like evidence-based medicine. But isn’t anymore · 2015-08-21T09:14:10.918Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry for being slow to reply James.

The methods of EBM do absolutely favour formal approaches and concrete results. However - and partly because of some of the pitfalls you describe - it's relatively common to find you have no high quality evidence that specifically applies to inform your decision. It is also relatively common to find poor quality evidence (such as a badly constructed trial, or very confounded cohort studies). If those constitute the best-available evidence, a strict reading of the phrase 'to greatest extent possible, decisions and policies should be based on evidence' would imply that decisions should be founded on that dubious evidence. However in practice I think most doctors who are committed to EBM would not change their practice on the basis of a bad trial.

Regarding tradeoffs between maximising expected good and certainty of results (which I guess is maximising the minimum you achieve), I agree that's a point where people come down on different sides. I don't think it strictly divides causes (because as you say, one can lean to maximising expected utility within the global poverty), though the overlap between those who favour maximising expectation and those think existential risk is the best cause to focus on is probably high. I think this is actually going to be a topic of panel discussion at EA Global Oxford if you're going?

Comment by bernadette_young on Charity Science Updates · 2015-08-19T19:55:51.223Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, but a very specific one. After our experience I would generally recommend getting a solicitor to write your will.

Comment by bernadette_young on Pitfalls in Diversity Outreach · 2015-08-19T08:57:19.648Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · EA · GW

I think anybody wanting to raise a potentially divisive or negative discussion should think carefully about how likely a given discussion is to be self-defeating, or to yield negative results that outweigh the benefits.

The setting matters a lot to this: if you post on Facebook, the discussion gets published in lots of people's feeds in a manner that posters don't control (I find 'likes' on comments I make in the EA FB group from friends I know are not members of that group). Also, the FB policy of only allowing 'upvoting' means that the degree to which people's statements are well or badly received is not well reflected. Finally the listing of threads by order of most recent comment keeps pile-ons in the current discussion.

(This also creates an important asymmetry: those who don't care about the discussion being damaging are more likely to continue it, while those who disagree might avoid voicing their disagreement in the hopes that the thread will die away.)

This forum doesn't suffer any of those drawbacks, so I believe it is a better arena for raising these issues for discussion if you reasonably believe there is something important at stake.