Comment by brendon_wong on If slow-takeoff AGI is somewhat likely, don't give now · 2019-01-27T07:29:07.417Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · EA · GW

My interpretation of Premise 4 ("Being an investor in such companies will generate outsized returns on the road to slow-takeoff AGI") is that Milan is asserting a company that develops advanced AI capabilities in the future will likely generate higher returns than the stock market after it has developed these capabilities. This does not seem like a controversial claim since it is analogous to the stocks of biotech companies skyrocketing after good news is announced like regulatory approval to launch a drug. The market may have priced the probability of a company leading a slow AI takeoff in the next X years, but having that actually happen is an entirely different story.

The concept of investing in something that generates a lot of capital if something "bad" happens like investing in AI stocks with the goal of having a lot more capital to deploy if a suboptimal/dangerous AI takeoff occurs is known as "mission hedging." EAs have covered this topic, for example Hauke's 2018 article A generalized strategy of ‘mission hedging’: investing in 'evil' to do more good. Mission hedging is currently a recommended research topic on Effective Thesis.

I think the more important question, which Richard brought up, is whether having X times more cash after a suboptimal/dangerous AI takeoff begins is better than simply donating the money now in an attempt to avert bad outcomes. EAs will have different answers to this question depending on their model of how they can deploy funds now and in the future to impact the world.

The title of the article ("If slow-takeoff AGI is somewhat likely, don't give now" at the time of writing) implies giving now is bad because mission hedging all of that money for the purpose of donating later will lead to better outcomes. I believe the article should be modified to indicate that EAs should evaluate employing mission hedging for part or all of their intended donations rather than suggest that putting all intended donations towards mission hedging and ceasing to donate now is an obviously better option. After all, a hedge is commonly known as a protective measure against certain outcomes, not the sole strategy at work.

Comment by brendon_wong on EAs Should Invest All Year, then Give only on Giving Tuesday · 2019-01-23T07:27:28.933Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I recommend modifying this:

I use and recommend Vanguard, because they have no transaction fees on their index ETFs.

To something like this:

I use and recommend Vanguard as a brokerage firm because they have no transaction fees for buying and selling nearly all U.S. exchange-traded funds. I also recommend using Vanguard ETFs and mutual funds because they essentially operate at cost.

Comment by brendon_wong on Requesting community input on the upcoming EA Projects Platform · 2018-12-29T00:55:18.126Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Alex, thanks for sharing your thoughts! This article was meant to get community input on the design of the platform which is why we did not include other details like the governance structure.

Our prototype was not custom coded, so we did not set up a shared repo. I think that open development has a lot of potential, but there can be drawbacks, particularly slow development or even abandoned projects. My intuition is that a small but dedicated group (or even one person) would be more effective than a large but noncommitted group.

Comment by brendon_wong on Antigravity Investments: Helping the EA Community Leverage Investing to Increase Funding and Donations · 2018-12-20T21:51:44.953Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I reached out to WealthSimple. Their response was:

“We do indeed support the donation of specific assets to a charity of this choice. To my knowledge, we do not have limitations regarding the amount or charities accepted.

This feature is fairly manual. It requires a number of forms to be signed and is not fully supported in-product. However, we can definitely still process a request like this.”

This is great to hear. WealthSimple’s 0.5% annual fee is twice as high as Betterment’s and WealthFront’s. A DIY approach of investing in separate ETFs for asset classes and donating them when appreciated and selling them to harvest losses when depreciated would be more optimal, but WealthSimple looks like a functional choice for people that want to donate a lot of assets.

The Betterment page on donating stock (https://www.betterment.com/donating-stock/) now does not appear to limit the selection of charities. As such, Betterment appears to be a better choice for an EA that wants a managed investment option and wants to donate substantial amounts to registered charities because Betterment makes donating assets very easy within their user interface, has a low fee, and is well established.

Comment by brendon_wong on Antigravity Investments: Helping the EA Community Leverage Investing to Increase Funding and Donations · 2018-12-20T20:53:42.291Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I agree with your heuristic in the sense that prior experience increases the probability of success, but not in the sense that it’s necessary for success.

“Long-Term Active Investing” refers to systematic asset allocation approaches designed by experts that are active in the sense of more frequent trading rather than human decision making.

My main point was to emphasize that because Antigravity Investments is already operating and producing real world outcomes, those operations and outcomes should have majority weight in evaluating this project. I agree that FINRA licensing exams are fundamental competency tests rather than measures of skill, and should be weighted accordingly. In talking with evaluators of this project, I speak almost exclusively about actual impact and progress rather than FINRA licensing or prior experience I had before starting Antigravity Investments.

Information about our actual impact and progress is currently not public knowledge. We’re on course to drive tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to effective charities in 2019, and I think this can be increased substantially since the scope of our operations is very limited. I think this project can drive more to charity than E2G in my near-term future, which is why I’ve prioritized this project above earning to give.

Comment by brendon_wong on Antigravity Investments: Helping the EA Community Leverage Investing to Increase Funding and Donations · 2018-12-20T02:37:30.237Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · EA · GW

"No one has reached out to me" refers to not hearing "significant bugs" in evaluations within the last year (2018) on my current plan for Antigravity Investments. My current plan differs considerably from previous plans that were run past EAs. There currently has been no overlap between people that have evaluated previous versions of the plan versus the current version of the plan, although I am interested in having there be more overlap.

Previous feedback primarily involved (1) focusing on passive investment approaches instead of active approaches, (2) focusing on donating appreciated securities, and (3) questioning the need for EA-specific investment services. Regarding point 1, I revised the plan to incorporate offering passive investment approaches, and think that such approaches are great for DIY investors and taxable investment accounts. Regarding point 2, I think donating appreciated securities is a great idea, if we were currently managing taxable accounts, I would utilize that approach. Regarding point 3, the data points I have indicate that EA organizations are currently not investing or investing suboptimally, and that staff do not have experience with nonprofit asset management. I think external providers either would not be incentivized to provide certain types of recommendations or would provide services that are fairly suboptimal and/or high fee. I am currently focused on serving EA organizations. Regarding serving individual EAs, I think that skilled DIY investing with the donation of appreciated securities is pretty optimal and doesn't require Antigravity Investments if someone can and wants to do it themselves. Managed alternatives like, say, most robo-advisors are less optimal and may not support asset donation.

Antigravity Investments does not do trading or money-management in the sense of actively managing portfolios. Looking at our actual progress and work output (incorporating, becoming SEC-registered, managing EA capital, and using non-controversial evidence-based investing practices) my opinion is that I've managed to make it work despite launching the project without experience (I'm now an SEC-registered investment advisor and have experience managing portfolios).

I've reached out to see if you'd like to reevaluate the current plan.

Comment by brendon_wong on Requesting community input on the upcoming EA Projects Platform · 2018-12-11T22:22:46.402Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I look forward to our upcoming call on Monday to compare platform designs!

I agree that talking with many individuals, which is what we have been doing and will continue to do, reduces the risk that we launch with a suboptimal version of the idea. We are very open to talking with anyone to hear their feedback (the primary reason for this post) as well as collaborating on the platform design with fellow EAs. I think our openness to incorporating insights on how to optimize the platform before and after launch reduces the chance this will have a "large negative impact."

Comment by brendon_wong on Requesting community input on the upcoming EA Projects Platform · 2018-12-11T22:15:04.379Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that those bottlenecks are important and have reached out regarding how to best address them.

Comment by brendon_wong on Requesting community input on the upcoming EA Projects Platform · 2018-12-10T23:19:50.217Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

That's a great idea, I'll include a summary with action items on future long posts. Do you think I should edit a summary into the current post?

I hadn't considered using the EA Survey as a data gathering mechanism. My initial thought is that the survey administrators might not want to include project-related questions in the survey because it might be beyond the scope of the survey, add a lot of additional questions to the survey, and not apply to many respondents. Did you have something specific in mind about what adding project-related info to the survey would look like?

Perhaps the word "project" has a different connotation than I intended. We're seeking to support the highest impact early ventures, and included in that classification would be the past early-stage versions of every currently existing EA organization. Do you think a different term would be appropriate? The naming is very much a work in progress; I was thinking of the EA Initiatives Platform, EA Coordination Platform, or simply the Altruism.vc Platform among many potential names.

The EA Angel Group has received proposals that would match "startup" more than "project." The majority of proposals have already received funding prior to applying to us, have teams actively working on the proposal, and have some degree of traction.

Comment by brendon_wong on Requesting community input on the upcoming EA Projects Platform · 2018-12-10T23:03:24.702Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks! I haven't been able to find a public retrospective on EA Ventures but I just reached out to Tyler Alterman to see if he has any insights. We've also been in communication with multiple EA Grants team members.

Requesting community input on the upcoming EA Projects Platform

2018-12-10T17:41:32.212Z · score: 20 (15 votes)
Comment by brendon_wong on Antigravity Investments: Helping the EA Community Leverage Investing to Increase Funding and Donations · 2018-12-05T04:21:16.898Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks! WealthSimple's support for the donation of appreciated securities is not listed online, so this is very useful information for EAs to have as they evaluate investment options. Do they explicitly support this in the United States, and do they impose any restrictions on asset donations?

Comment by brendon_wong on Antigravity Investments: Helping the EA Community Leverage Investing to Increase Funding and Donations · 2018-12-05T04:18:00.129Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Jonas, thanks for mentioning this, I was not aware this was happening. Unfortunately, no one has reached out to me, so I cannot comment on any potential concerns or address any rumors floating around about the project. I welcome anyone getting in touch with me to evaluate the effectiveness of the overall idea (enhancing community financial returns) and my specific implementation of this idea, since that is much more useful to me and the overall community than circulating possibly incorrect information. My email is brendon@antigravityinvestments.com. As a related note, I believe making it easier to evaluate the EV of EA initiatives such as this one can provide significant value to the community, and this is part of a project I am personally working on at the moment.

It is very likely most concerns are "partly or fully out of date" as you mention, likely stemming from when I talked with a lot of EAs in finance about my very first investment related project idea in 2016, at which time I had a weak background in finance. Within the last year, this project has received positive evaluations from EA Grants, other funders in the community, and EAs in finance, and I have not received any negative feedback or heard of any concerns.

Comment by brendon_wong on Announcing the EA Angel Group - Seeking EAs with the Time and Money to Evaluate and Fund Early-Stage Grants · 2018-10-19T01:08:55.270Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

It's interesting to see that we are receiving community responses that line up with three areas of demand: EAs who just want to fund grants, EAs who want to fund and evaluate grants, and EAs that just want to evaluate grants. There is also the category of EAs that want to perform auxiliary functions like help people assess the impact of working on an EA project and provide advising/support to EA projects that are running.

In our post, we mentioned a system targeted towards the third group (EAs that solely want to evaluate projects) involving the creation of a "distributed group of volunteer grant evaluators with expertise across many different areas of EA to improve upon the traditional model of a small centralized group evaluating a tremendous range of grants." This system will operate meritocratically and I anticipate that it will operate very transparently (barring concerns about project confidentiality).

As Ben mentioned, for the angel group which aims to target the middle group of EAs that want to fund and evaluate grants, we will cater to what angels in the group want. It's hard to tell if there will be strong consensus either way, or a divided group. I anticipate that at least some angels, particularly those that are confident in their grantmaking ability and process, will publicize their grants, and we definitely don't have a problem with that.

We have acquired the domain altruism.vc as a preliminary brand name and website for our initiative. We may use https://altruism.vc/, Medium, or the new EA Forum to post grant recommendations and grants we have issued.

Comment by brendon_wong on Announcing the EA Angel Group - Seeking EAs with the Time and Money to Evaluate and Fund Early-Stage Grants · 2018-10-19T00:57:13.420Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the supportive words Sanjay!

We also believe that early-stage grant opportunities should be made more transparent, and we even proposed a system in our post to create an "online portal to enable the broader community to discover grant opportunities, add their thoughts on the relative merits and risks of grant proposals, and directly fund grants without an intermediary." Making an online portal is more involved than making an angel group but it is possible we may launch something like this in the coming months.

We have already reached out to CEA regarding getting access to EA Grants' grant opportunities. Once our angel group gets going, I intend on resuming our contact with CEA to see what we can do regarding sharing grant opportunities in the early-stage funding space.

CEA doesn't seem to be as responsive on the EA Forum but we have been able to communicate with them via direct outreach.

Antigravity Investments: Helping the EA Community Leverage Investing to Increase Funding and Donations

2018-10-16T10:51:40.054Z · score: 5 (15 votes)
Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-12T05:08:30.359Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Remmelt, have you joined the Rethink Charity Slack? I can't seem to find you on there.

I increased my speed of reviewing progress in the space of small project funding. There seems to be one major project related to improving centralized grant funding. 1–2 people are interested in implementing a "Kickstarter for EA projects" at some point in the future but have not started yet. The EA Peer Funding project is essentially "Kickstarter for making grants to individual EAs." This is the extent of my knowledge based on Skyping with several people in this space. No one has mentioned anything else in the comments section of this post or otherwise.

Since there doesn't appear to be others in this area yet, I believe moving forward with concept refinement and seeking additional feedback would be a useful next step. Let's coordinate this via Rethink Charity's Slack!

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-12T03:16:02.156Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Agreed! I, for one, would like to know who is handling "Idea 2." I have talked to several people working on funding small projects and have only heard about Idea 1 and Idea 3. Idea 3 doesn't seem to have anyone actively working on it, just thinking about it.

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-11T18:53:47.987Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I propose an infrastructure to generate more active qualified grant makers by making people who are close to qualified/good grantmakers (as Gregory says, good judgement, domain knowledge, relevant network, etc) into grantmakers by giving them the ability to recommend grants from a centralized fund that donors can contribute to in order to fund small projects without the hassle of evaluating dozens of projects themselves, and with the possibility of earmarking funds for specific grantmakers.

I also aim to solve the awareness problem of EA projects that are requesting funding, since EA Grants does not at present have a way for non-CEA staff to learn about possible grants, so only a handful of people can actually assess grants and people that might be great grantmakers are left out. This also requires infrastructure.

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-11T00:28:03.089Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the insight Remmelt! A good way to start this would be to create an MVP much like Ryan Carey suggested so that we can get started quickly, with a prebuilt application system (Google Forms, Google Docs, a forum, etc) and possibly using a DAF or fiscal sponsor. The web app itself could take a while, but having public projects and public feedback in a forum or something would be reasonably close and take much less effort.

I am meeting with someone who has made some progress in this area early next week. Based on traction and the similarity between the other person's system and this system, I'll see if a new venture in this space could add value, or if existing projects in this space have a good chance of succeeding. One way or the other I'll be in touch!

Comment by brendon_wong on How to improve EA Funds · 2018-07-11T00:16:46.381Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

If EA Funds wants an effortless "zero risk" option to hold the cash, putting all of the money in a high yield business saving account looks like the way to go. This would probably only take several hours to set up.

According to various online reviews "Community Bank of Pleasant Hill Business Premier Money Management Account" seems the best, and "Goldwater Bank Savings Plus Personal & Business Account" looks good as well. Free withdrawals seem to be limited to twice a month but the withdrawal fee is pretty negligible relative to learning $20,000 in annual interest.

To increase yield, using CDs is an easy next step. Otherwise, opening a brokerage account and putting the capital into a money market fund or a short term bond fund would be a relatively low risk and higher yielding option.

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-10T17:18:09.705Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hey Alex, thanks for your message! Personal experience with funding constraints is one of the reasons that made me consider the current grantmaking space and whether/how it should be improved as well. I have just created the #ti-funding channel in the Rethink Charity Slack to foster greater collaboration and have added you to it.

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-10T16:50:47.787Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Ryan, thanks for sharing information and feedback! I completely agree, practically speaking, spending a long time building something without market feedback/validation is not a good idea, so using an existing way to process applications and operating under an established organization would be a great to way to get started effectively.

I am curious if you have any feedback on the fused proposal that I had in mind, and how to potentially improve the design in order to protect against the possibility of funding low-quality or harmful projects. I was imagining that since there is a discussion section for each proposal, anyone could mention potential problems that could arise from funding a proposal, and donors could check this section for feedback before contributing. Perhaps the benefits from this openness do not exceed the potential harm but it's difficult for me to assess this.

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-10T16:09:39.132Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the information.

The "ideas" were listed more to break down possible implementations than to propose executing all of them in their exact forms. 1 could be incorporated into the new EA Hub perhaps, and I am aware Dony Christie is exploring EA Peer Funding, but perhaps you are referring to other people. I am not familiar with anyone that is working on 2 but I'm happy to hear that this is being worked on in some capacity. Yeah, I agree that improving EA Grants would be a good way to make something like 3 possible, and will likely end up happening.

I believe the exact forms of each listed idea contain problems, and my intended proposal is an attempt to fuse all of the ideas and eliminate weaknesses of implementing an listed idea on its own. I don't know of any attempts to do a fused approach, but please correct me if I'm wrong. For example, regarding the issue of implementing all three listed ideas in their exact form, centralizing this sort of grant funding much like EA Grants has done could cause many problems. There is currently no grant transparency. A lot of possibly useful projects may have applied, not gotten funded, and then given up, or as Remmelt mentioned, other donors may not support a project because it was not funded by CEA. There is no way for other donors in the community uniquely equipped to evaluate, contribute to, or fund projects to actually see what projects exist in EA and evaluate, contribute to, or fund them. Basically, not only is centralization potentially inefficient, it may have already led to a large number of project failures, some of which may have evolved to become successful, high impact projects with a different grantmaking model.

Seconding alexherwix, unless there are privacy concerns, sharing information about other people working in this space and their ideas would be useful for coordination purposes. Also, early stage projects often don't work out, so if the project is important enough, then coordinating efforts or perhaps even building the same broad idea with different teams with very different implementations is a good idea in case one team-implementation pairing would succeed, but other team-implementation pairings would not fare well or be highly suboptimal.

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-10T15:49:09.749Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

One component of the EA Peer Funding network was enabling small grants between people for different purposes. For instance, this could have taken the form of healthcare expenses, educational expenses, etc. The “EA Hotel” is another example of trying to assist existing community members with living and food expenses so they can pursue things.

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-10T10:18:30.744Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for mentioning CFAR, I had a feeling I was omitting organizations that didn't come to mind or that I was not aware of. I have removed my statement about there being only one organization in the area of helping “existing individuals” because it is incorrect.

I agree that EAs may not have a comparative advantage in improving personal efficacy. My point is about funding and emphasizing these areas. For instance, perhaps hiring personal assistance for high impact EA direct workers should be much more funded than it is now (this is just a hypothetical example).

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-10T10:13:08.859Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, I have updated the post to reflect this information.

Comment by brendon_wong on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations · 2018-07-10T09:39:38.176Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Hi byanyothername,

I'm not sure who you are, but I appreciate the candid feedback. I would like to point out, however, that giving anonymous, discrediting feedback in a public setting is discouraging to the receiver and quite possibly harmful. I am not sure if anonymous, discrediting feedback is a useful community norm or not; I haven't thought about this in much detail. Prior examples in the community appear to have individuals give public and non-anonymous feedback in very extreme cases with a tremendous amount of supporting information. Perhaps you can share additional thoughts about your choice to provide anonymous discrediting feedback with minimal information, as opposed to pursuing another course of action, such as privately discussing your concerns with me and updating your opinion of me based on what I share privately before offering to go around offering to share negative opinions about me without my say in the matter and as someone who barely knows me.

Your post makes me feel obligated to defend myself in order to prevent possible misconceptions from spreading. I get the sense that you are judging me based on a highly limited number of data points, and that you do not have a good sense of me as a person or what I've done. I believe judging people too quickly is generally considered a bad practice.

I will respond to your examples individually.

I have attempted to launch many early stage projects before. In order to make sure projects are useful, a large amount of feedback must be obtained, and projects must be presented in their worst possible state, without much validation and with shoddy, minimum viable product execution, by virtue of being early stage. Additionally, entrepreneurs have to express both high optimism to the public and themselves, while simultaneously trying to poke holes in the idea from every possible direction, for the purpose of maintaining self motivation and the motivation of team members, funders, etc while ensuring that what is being built is actually of value. Interactions with people working on early stage ventures could induce an impression of overconfidence, incompetence, or other potentially negative traits when viewed without any additional data points (for instance, "risks" are not part of standard pitch decks to VCs, and founders are instructed to generally act highly optimistic, but not to the point of deception of course).

You mention that you have found me wildly overconfident, but I do not think most/all the people who know me think that, so perhaps you are basing this off of one datapoint, maybe by hearing me speak about an early stage project in a promotional context. I have expressed very high uncertainty about cause areas, donating now vs later, the value of projects I'm working on, the value of projects other people are working on, AI timelines, and many other EA topics as well as pretty much every belief like "the value of taking alpha lipoic acid daily" to provide completely random examples I have thought of recently. My very limited experiments with self calibration in both casual and formal settings (like using PredictionBook.com) don't indicate anything amiss to me. However, there is a probability that I may be overconfident in some ways, or appearing like that in certain contexts, so I can definitely get additional feedback regarding that from other EAs that know me well.

Regarding your comments about Antigravity Investments, I would imagine this person's opinion was rather old, perhaps from over a year ago when I solicited some very early feedback from various EAs. Many of them thought some parts of the idea were not useful. This is a normal part of validating whether an idea and various features are a good idea; I would be shocked if 100% of people expressed high enthusiasm about 100% of the idea. There is pretty much always very high variance in feedback on any sort of idea, startup or not, although curing cancer at $1 per treatment will probably get pretty much universal enthusiasm. I hope that you are not implying or thinking that I ignore feedback and pursue projects blindly. As someone who has personally shut down a lot of things I've started myself, I take outside feedback very seriously. As entrepreneurs know, market feedback and market traction is everything, not the theoretical optimality of an idea. In fact, I terminated an idea similar to EA Funds solely based on one EA's opinion that a web-based donor advised fund would experience nearly zero traction due to a lack of broad market demand and was thus not worth pursuing. There are now many startups and projects doing something very similar now, maybe over 5 separate teams in the EA community alone. The balance between weighing an internal model versus weighing external feedback on parts of that model can be challenging to balance in both directions.

Finally, I spent literally one week at Leverage Research many years ago as a 13–14 year old high school freshman doing an "internship" learning about creating strategic plans using the yEd graphing software. I have not had any contact with Leverage since then, have not worked on any Leverage Research projects at any point in my life, etc. Hopefully this is obvious, but I think claiming an association between a one week internship spent learning yEd as a young teenager and my current level of confidence is a little bit of a stretch.

No offense, but I would personally feel uncomfortable having you in the community warning about others in the community based on the quality of your analysis and your judgement in posting this, although I am again open to changing my opinion if people have thought about this and think this sort of thing is a good norm. And my opinion about you is also based on a very limited data point, which may not indicate much about your interpersonal demeanor, personality traits, overall judgement, etc.

Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations

2018-07-10T06:12:29.993Z · score: 18 (18 votes)
Comment by Brendon_Wong on [deleted post] 2017-08-08T18:48:02.495Z

I don't think so, Interactive Brokers supports many different account funding options: https://www.interactivebrokers.com/en/software/am/am/funding/depositingfunds.htm and all banks should support wire transfers. It's important to note that we will likely be supporting additional brokers in the next few months, including DriveWealth, which has lower fees than IB. This will be relevant if the account size is small, and IB will be better if the account size is large. Feel free to message us via our Facebook page or email brendon [at] antigravityinvestments [dot] com to share information so we can provide better recommendations.

Comment by Brendon_Wong on [deleted post] 2017-08-06T01:57:50.537Z

Yes! Antigravity Investments is open to over 170 countries around the world through Interactive Brokers and additional brokers coming soon. We are one of the first global robo-advisors (servicing everywhere instead of a specific country or region). We also provide advising and semi-automated investment management to EAs to provide certain features while we expand international support, such as support for Ireland domiciled ETFs which may be more tax advantageous for European investors. Non-Swiss securities might require a different currency to purchase other than Francs, but Interactive Brokers does offer built in currency exchange at excellent rates.

Comment by Brendon_Wong on [deleted post] 2017-08-03T09:11:04.786Z

I assume your question is regarding the risk of everyone following the same investing strategy as opposed to having their funds custodied at a particular firm—our financial health has no impact on client funds because our partner SIPC-member brokerage firms will be holding the funds and not us. Regarding following the same investing strategy, that really depends on how EAs are already doing and what the alternative investment strategy is. Individual investors tend to underperform common benchmarks (https://www.umass.edu/preferen/You%20Must%20Read%20This/Barber-Odean%202011.pdf) but perhaps EA investors do better. I think that it is quite possible many EAs are currently suboptimally managing investments and that many EAs following an exceptionally well-designed strategy might produce better outcomes. If the majority of EAs are currently following a very basic strategy such as 100% stocks, then the community is vulnerable to stock market volatility and having many people follow a more diversified strategy will reduce overall risk. It might be better for everyone to diversify into different strategies, but having one trustworthy firm offer many strategies doesn't seem to be definitely worse than non-aligned firms offering strategies if the strategies are comparable.

Comment by Brendon_Wong on [deleted post] 2017-07-14T22:13:13.465Z

Other EAs in finance have noted trustworthy people and good evidence-based advice is hard to come by, there are EA specific considerations for investing, and quality people/firms often extract a lot of the value for themselves. This could make high quality EA financial advice and investment management a non-trivial inconvenience. Betterment and Wealthfront cover a fraction of financial services—basic passive investing—and while they're cheap, their performance is subpar, very much so compared to our passive and active strategies and passive strategies in general. High quality investment management is hard to get. For someone looking to donate appreciated securities with Betterment/Wealthfront they're probably out of luck.

Comment by Brendon_Wong on [deleted post] 2017-07-11T07:20:41.626Z

We don't really have a minimum, and this is made easier because automation allows us to easily scale across many client accounts. Robo-advisors have scaled with billions of dollars in ETFs so I'd say the theoretical maximum is fairly high. I'd say a good minimum is $1,000 for U.S. clients in order to generate a diversified portfolio and $10,000 for international clients because of Interactive Brokers' account minimum (only $3,000 for those under 25). We're actively exploring partnerships with additional brokers and looking into features such as fractional share investing. I believe that we're well suited to manage accounts that are in the tens of thousands to millions of dollars range. At that level all of the strategies we have can scale and for accounts with trading commissions, trading commissions become negligible.

Comment by Brendon_Wong on [deleted post] 2017-07-10T19:07:25.599Z

The strategies presented in the document utilize low-fee index ETFs. Most ETFs were not around more than 10 years ago, and we decided on 2007 as a rough starting point for when to start backtests seeing as critical ETFs began to exist around that time. Our backtester also currently incorporates data from the last 15 years. That is why all of the performance graphs with the exception of one strategy have roughly 10.5 years of historical data.

I'm not sure if longer backtest periods substantially reduce the risk of overfitting, but developing and optimizing over a specific in-sample period and doing significant out-of-sample testing certainly helps, and that is part of our testing and development process. We have examined performance over longer timeframes with other tools, but exporting the data from third-party tools, merging backtest results made with mutual funds with backtest results made with ETFs, considering commissions, slippage, and unreliable data, transferring it to Excel and generating graphs, integrating it into the offerings document, and figuring out how to compare annual returns and other performance metrics with different backtest periods on the offerings document and website turned out to be quite a headache so I decided to delay displaying longer term backtests in a public facing format until we can much more easily generate graphs and performance metrics through the web app which is what we are currently working on.

There is also a segment in the FAQ titled "Antigravity Investments' performance returns seem too good to be true, and past performance isn't necessarily indicative of future returns. What should my expectations be for future strategy performance?" which briefly touches on strategy development.

Comment by Brendon_Wong on [deleted post] 2017-07-10T18:45:34.176Z

Thanks for your comment, those are great questions!

A. In our current plan, profits should come from outside the EA community with our general market and nonprofit offerings, allowing us to provide investing services to EAs for free, so we are not decreasing funding for other high impact organizations. That's how the EA-directed hedge fund we are in contact with is offering their investing strategies for free to EAs as well; 100% of their revenue comes from charging non-charitable clients. The funding part was regarding funders that wanted to have a charitable impact by increasing our speed of growth and probability of success in our initial stages of development. We do not strictly require funding to get started as evidenced by the fact that we're already managing capital and providing EAs with advising services. The code we've written should continue to work with minimal maintenance for at least several years. Funding would certainly be helpful in covering expenses at first, such as access to better curated academic research. The best case scenario is that funding allows us to scale rapidly and significantly help the broader charitable sector as well as generate funds to donate, and the worst case is that the funding does not help with scalability that much and EAs get free investment management at a higher level of development (at the cost of missing other funding opportunities as you mentioned).

B. Automated advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront don't provide any sort of support when it comes to donating appreciated securities. A wealth manager charging high fees in exchange for personalized attention might be able to offer this service but that's probably not accessible for too many people. We are exploring the possibility of offering donor advised fund services with Rethink Charity and are in active talks with another nonprofit, and that could cleanly integrate with the donation of appreciated securities from our investment platform. We can build in features that select optimal securities to donate at any given time and report tax saving metrics to donors.

C. We have live trading performance since December 2016, and the length of time since strategy development depends on the strategy. For instance the Swensen portfolio has been around since 2005, whereas the more recent allocative and systematic strategies have roughly 2 years of performance since creation. I think that there is a greater possibility of luck playing a significant role with traditional human investment management whereas with rules-based investing strategies one can assess the strategy in much greater detail and accuracy (for instance by testing across international markets and timeframes if applicable) instead of purely assessing performance after inception.

Comment by brendon_wong on Accomplishments Open Thread - March 2016 · 2016-03-20T21:12:41.891Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Also technical comment, I'm new to the forum and I didn't get emailed with your comment reply or see any kind of notification, is that normal? Is there a way to get notified?

Comment by brendon_wong on Accomplishments Open Thread - March 2016 · 2016-03-20T21:07:57.149Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the input! Yeah I'd also be interested in the difference in impact between the two approaches, and I might post more on it in the next few days or weeks so hopefully that provokes some deep thinking on the matter.

Responding to your point on compounding societal interest, if I give $1,000 now then 1 life could be saved now, But if I wait, invest, and give $2,000 7 years later, 2 lives could be saved. How does saving 1 life 7 years earlier lead to compounding benefits? Sure that 1 person now gets to live, but if I waited to donate, than 2 people who otherwise might not have been saved would have been saved right? More net good by waiting, as long as people remain to be saved (and unless utopia is imminent I think there will still be life saving opportunities for effective charities at least in the next few years if not for the foreseeable future). I think I need help seeing the social good compounding effect.

Also an argument could be made that EA charities will become even more effective in the future, another argument to delay donating.

Comment by brendon_wong on Accomplishments Open Thread - March 2016 · 2016-03-20T07:45:45.360Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for creating this accomplishments open thread Gleb, I think it's a great idea for this forum and the EA community at large!

I read your intro article on effective giving just now; it's a great start! What do you think about investing planned donations and taking advantage of compound interest, even if just for several years, to increase total giving power?

Comment by brendon_wong on Should you start your own project now rather than later? · 2016-02-26T03:14:30.310Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the catch! Post edited.

Comment by brendon_wong on Should you start your own project now rather than later? · 2016-02-25T06:34:30.752Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

While it may be implied, I don't get the feeling from reading this article that it supports the idea of simultaneously working towards career goals the traditional way and launching projects at the same time. If it does, please disregard the following paragraph. Instead, it feels like the article is recommending young people to "try to tackle G and [take on the high risk of failure, even repeated failure]."

To counter the idea of dedicating one's early life entirely to project launching, I would like to note that this strategy may not suit the vast majority of people, especially not in the age group that the Pareto Fellowship is targeting. Students usually have no career capital and no funding. That leaves them with no specialized skills or startup funds to launch and follow through with a project, and if the project fails or does not generate enough revenue for financial stability, the young person's strategy also results in no fallback plan besides potentially taking a low-paid starting position and living at home if a project fails and they have lost their degree by dropping out to pursue a project full-time. Even older individuals frequently cannot generate the funds necessary to pursue a project full time, let alone sustain it and recover if the project does not succeed, especially with obligations like childcare and saving for retirement. I agree that I will not be killed off if a project fails, but the risks and uncertainty are simply too high to devote 100% of my resources to pursue something so uncertain. I'll note the oft-cited statistic that nine in ten startups fail. Probably because of the high risk of failure with the project and in achieving future career goals, 80000 Hours does not seem to recommend serial entrepreneurship to most young people looking at potential future careers.

As one of the Pareto hopefuls, and one who's "G" may have been alluded to in the article, I'd like to point out that I am currently following the dual-strategy of launching projects (including my G) and simultaneously working towards generating income and building career capital. I believe that this strategy is far superior to dedicating 100% of resources and time towards early-life project launching because it gives people the necessary background and benefits to launching and managing projects while also overcoming the inherent risk of losing everything. Also, Oliver Habryka and many other EA's I've met appear to be implementing my "dual strategy" as well. I suggest that the article suggest this dual strategy as an alternative, or the preferred alternative, to 100% early-life project launching, or clarify that this is the idea the article meant to convey.

Comment by Brendon_Wong on [deleted post] 2016-02-25T04:37:56.061Z

Hi Todd,

I think the idea of creating a charitable giving portfolio is very promising, especially if it can change donor attitudes and persuade people to donate to more effective charities based on evidence and results which can easily be expressed as a stock price. If you do not have the bank accounts and nonprofit status needed to make this idea possible, I can provide that. I have the framework necessary to accept tax deductible donations, hold them in a bank account or brokerage account, and disburse the funds regularly to charities as this idea would require.

I think your idea is excellent, and to utilize psychology and make people more willing to participate and give, I believe that real money has to be at stake. I believe it would be best if people who successfully predicted nonprofit successes were able to somehow gain greater monetary influence for the charities they supported.

To implement this, I propose a seemingly highly complex system, but one that would be simple for donors to understand and participate in. This idea is a brainstorm, and likely needs some thorough analysis and correction of conceptual errors before it becomes mathematically possible. My idea could be implemented very simply in a Google Spreadsheet before hopefully evolving to a more effective solution. First off, I would like to introduce the concept of an "impact point." An impact point is equivalent to one dollar sent out to a charity each year for the foreseeable future. There would be a ratio between dollars and impact points, perhaps to the scale of $40 to one impact point initially. This is a rather steep scale, so perhaps it could be highly modified, but i'll use that as an example for now. if you're curious how one dollar sent out each year could be sustained, the brokerage account that I have access to could invest all money in stocks or a low risk 2.5% annual return investment so that impact points would perpetually hold value, and maybe even automatically increase in value yearly (or investors would get extra impact points for free) if investments in the brokerage account substantially increased in value. All charities, such as the Against Malaria Foundation, would have a share price which could be determined arbitrarily or set as a ratio between a dollar in the share price and the nonprofit's approximate total annual budget. If $1 was equivalent to $10,000 in a nonprofit's annual budget, and AMF's annual budget was $3,000,000, its share price would be $300. That could be an overly steep entry price, so some adjustment to the formula could perhaps be made, but a higher share price is advantageous because it encourages larger investments in any given stock. Anyways, similar to the stock market, donors would have to bid to "buy" shares in a nonprofit, while sellers would propose an asking price for shares. If there was additional demand to invest in a nonprofit because the nonprofit was successful or GiveWell updated their recommendation status or something, the share price would increase as existing shareholders would want to set their asking prices as high as possible to get more impact points out of their transaction and earn a profit in impact points. If a nonprofit was suddenly downgraded by GiveWell, existing investors might want to switch their impact points into other charity instead, and the stock price would crash as sellers set their asking prices as low as possible to escape the charity. As an add-on idea, if donors wanted to liquidate their impact points, perhaps they could sell their shares in the charity, and then have the stock exchange sponsoring organization exchange their impact points for direct donations to a charity/charities.

With this system, investors would be motivated to select the most promising charities as those promising charities' stock prices presumably would increase in value over time as the charities became more effective, thus achieving the goal of the system in encouraging donations to effective charities.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Brendon

Comment by brendon_wong on Introducing the .impact fund - paying for small costs and VA work for independent EA projects · 2015-07-15T20:42:57.861Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This seems like an extremely useful resource. As someone familiar with working on developing high impact ideas, to have just a little bit of extra help to get something started and see if a project is viable could mean the difference between success and failure.

I think that for many people with great ideas, sometimes the "startup inertia" is too great, and the .impact fund can go a long way towards reducing startup inertia.