Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy 2019-10-06T07:20:45.888Z · score: 41 (23 votes)
Should I give to Our World In Data? 2019-09-10T04:56:41.437Z · score: 20 (13 votes)
Should EA Groups Run Organ Donor Registration Drives? 2019-03-27T16:29:40.261Z · score: 9 (8 votes)
On the (In)Applicability of Corporate Rights Cases to Digital Minds 2019-02-28T06:14:22.176Z · score: 12 (4 votes)
FHI Report: Stable Agreements in Turbulent Times 2019-02-21T17:12:51.085Z · score: 25 (12 votes)
EAs Should Invest All Year, then Give only on Giving Tuesday 2019-01-10T21:17:26.812Z · score: 49 (30 votes)
Which Image Do You Prefer?: a study of visual communication in six African countries 2018-12-03T06:38:40.758Z · score: 11 (14 votes)
Fisher & Syed on Tradable Obligations to Enhance Health 2018-08-12T22:17:20.304Z · score: 6 (6 votes)
Harvard EA's 2018–19 Vision 2018-08-04T22:47:29.289Z · score: 11 (13 votes)
Governmental CBA as an EA Career Step: A Shallow Investigation 2018-07-07T13:31:13.728Z · score: 6 (6 votes)


Comment by cullen_okeefe on Long-term Donation Bunching? · 2019-10-08T18:08:15.633Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, it might be. Feel free to sync offline if you want to investigate this.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy · 2019-10-07T23:55:07.833Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for your reply!

you're assuming an abstract notion of 'democraticness' that infuses everything the government does

Isn't this what commitment to democracy entails if you think that democratic governance is procedurally valuable? If a decision derives from a democratic body, then that decision at least prima facie deserves respect as a democratic decision.

whereas the critics don't care whether it's a democratic government that's making a bad decision―it's still a bad decision that leaves individuals with outsized power.

If this was their criticism, they wouldn't bring up democracy, since it's irrelevant. This is a substantive criticism: our democracy has done the wrong thing here. This is not the same thing as being anti-democratic, which is what they seem to be arguing.

I think there is a steelman of this argument which is something like:

A decision made by a democratic body is prima facie democratic, but can be undemocratic if it has certain characteristics like undermining democracy in the long-run or abusing “market failures” in the democratic system itself.

But the problem is I don’t think “making someone more powerful” is necessarily a procedurally objectionable outcome—I don’t think it necessarily undermines democracy. It seems perfectly reasonable to me for a democracy to decide that it will allow billionaires to make a lot of money if they give it away. What the critics have failed to do, in my estimation, is argue that this is not the type of decision that democracies can ratify. In the absence of such a showing, it seems reasonable to me to conclude that a well-known and easily stoppable pattern of mega-philanthropy has been democratically acquiesced to.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy · 2019-10-07T19:43:39.615Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I think I address that here:

The critic could also argue that the problem is the “whitewashing” effect of philanthropy. Like Alexander, I am not convinced that this is a real phenomenon, but even if it was, I don’t think the criticism holds. A democracy should be able to weigh the pros of philanthropy (solution of market and policy failures) against cons it might have (whitewashing a bad or unequal economic system). If the democracy decides that the pros outweighs the cons, that calculus deserves respect. Through the various policy subsidies of philanthropy, our democracy appears to have arrived at such a decision. Again, that might be a substantively bad decision, but it is not an anti-democratic one. And if the decision to subsidize philanthropy was substantively flawed, one wonders why we should expect better disposition of money that would have otherwise gone to philanthropy.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy · 2019-10-07T18:27:51.545Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, this is helpful. Not sure I agree that (1) has an overall anti-democratic effect procedurally, but I see the worry.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy · 2019-10-07T16:51:46.911Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Do you have a hypothetical example? It’s hard for me to imagine such a case. Seems like most things that are cost-effective would have a (gross, if not net) strong positive procedural effect by making a healthier, more active, smarter demos.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy · 2019-10-07T16:38:28.150Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Peter!

Selfish spending may be a bad use of resources, but it doesn't affect other people's lives (at least not on conventional morality where "failing to act" is not considered a relevant issue) the same way philanthropy does. Philanthropy ends up uniquely suspect because of it replacing what is viewed as the role of government and affecting people from a policy perspective without giving them (democratic) representation.

Yes, my point is derived from the fact that I don’t think there is a meaningful act-omission difference. So any omission of philanthropy has the same effect size as philanthropy, just in the opposite direction.

they would allow for the idea that maybe things have gotten out of hand more recently as the rich got richer and the philanthropy got more blatant (note: I'm not sure if this is an actual trend but it certainly is a perceived trend) and so we need to intervene now. This view seems perfectly consistent to me.

I agree that that’s a coherent viewpoint, but it’s also not procedurally cognizable. It’s a substantive claim about the goodness of the current balance of private and public power—a balance which has been democratically set. I agree with the critics that the balance is bad, but I don’t think they do a good job showing how it’s either procedural or substantively bad in the case of charity (see SSC).

Winners Take All tries to do this the most, since a key part of its thesis is that philanthropy masks the harms of the current system. But I don’t think the author actually shows this to be the case. And even if he did, it’s still a substantive point.

I don’t think my argument depends on asserting that the critics think democracy is perfect. It does depend on them thinking that democratic control is a virtue, but insofar as we have made a democratic decision not to intervene, the argument that philanthropy isn’t democratic seems misguided to me.

On your last two points together:

I think the find-the-biggest-demos argument is probably the strongest argument for government spending instead of philanthropy. I really disagree with the nationalism inherent in the premise of the last two defenses for reasons of equity. I also don’t think that the nation is an obvious level to spend philanthropy at when most very rich people made their money through a globalized market.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy · 2019-10-07T16:04:40.789Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, you are right.

I think it’s less interesting to EAs because we already buy the view that we should try to do cost-effectiveness comparisons of these things.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy · 2019-10-07T16:03:25.480Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Good point!

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy · 2019-10-07T16:03:08.989Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Perhaps, but that’s just an argument for higher taxes (which I support), not an argument against philanthropy.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Defending Philanthropy Against Democracy · 2019-10-07T03:50:49.074Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW


Comment by cullen_okeefe on Why did MyGiving need to be replaced? And why is the replacement so bad? · 2019-10-05T23:07:53.219Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Agreed! CSV exportability would also be good. So would receipt storage/linking for tax reasons.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on FHI Report: Stable Agreements in Turbulent Times · 2019-10-05T23:06:18.706Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for your thoughts!

I think it's not quite right to say that anyone is "changing" the contracts. The more accurate way, in my mind, is that parts of the most concrete contents of performance obligations ("what do I have to do to fulfill my obligations?") is determined ex post via flexible decision procedures that can account for changed circumstances. Thus I think "settling" is more accurate than "changing," since the later implies that the actual performance was unsatisfactory of the original contract, which is not true.

You're right that there are interesting parallels to the AI alignment problem. See here.

There are two considerations that need to be balanced in any case of flexibility: the expected (dis)value of inflexible obligations and the expected (dis)value of flexible obligations. A key input to this is the failure mode of flexible obligations would include something like the ability of a powerful obligor to take advantage of that flexibility. In some cases that will be so large that ex post flexibility is not worth it! But in other cases, where inflexibility seems highly risky (e.g., because we can tell it depends on a particularly contingent assumption about the state of the world that is unlikely to hold post-AGI) and sufficiently strong ex post term-settling procedures are available, it seems possibly worthwhile.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Long-Term Future Fund: August 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-10-05T03:23:00.279Z · score: 18 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for a very thorough and transparent reply!

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Why did MyGiving need to be replaced? And why is the replacement so bad? · 2019-10-05T03:18:22.347Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Agreed that recurring donation support would be good. But I also like the current interface better aesthetically and, on function terms, equally.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Long-term Donation Bunching? · 2019-10-04T03:51:03.245Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Note that you could probably make an enforceable contractual obligation to give in bunched donations, which would hedge against value drift.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Long-Term Future Fund: August 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-10-04T03:19:21.762Z · score: 37 (17 votes) · EA · GW

Could the Fund managers explain how they manage conflicts of interest in the grant deliberation process?

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Should I give to Our World In Data? · 2019-10-03T04:12:14.223Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Nope. I might follow-up by email.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Should I give to Our World In Data? · 2019-09-11T15:44:24.259Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW


Comment by cullen_okeefe on Should I give to Our World In Data? · 2019-09-11T02:34:19.983Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I’m not sure that’s entirely true. The one’s who don’t care about effectiveness make the opportunity less neglected, but it still might be neglected relative to its effectiveness if EAs haven’t noticed the potential there.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Should I give to Our World In Data? · 2019-09-10T16:32:10.447Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, on balance I suspect you’re right. But I also think individual donors should be looking for black swan opportunities.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on I want an ethnography of EA · 2019-05-03T23:07:37.840Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

How, if at all, do you envision this differing from some of the portrayals of EAs in Strangers Drowning?

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Is Modern Monetary Theory a good idea? · 2019-04-17T23:53:10.425Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · EA · GW

FWIW, some MMT economists think those questions are strawmen. I don't know enough to comment on whether I agree.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-04-16T03:42:29.014Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that moral hazard is, but you could also imagine an excludable EA insurance scheme that reduced free-riding. E.g., pay $X/month and if you lose your job you can live here for up to a year.

But since the employed EA community is not as diversified as the whole market, employed EAs may be more liable to systemic shocks that render the insurer insolvent. But of course, there's reinsurance...

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Political culture at the edges of Effective Altruism · 2019-04-15T04:29:16.829Z · score: 12 (7 votes) · EA · GW
[Right-wing] Impacts on existential risk:

None yet, that I can think of

I'd add: "A general disbelief in the possibility of AGI/TAI due to theological convictions on the nature of sentience and intelligence."

As someone who actively promotes EA in a school, we definitely do get far more pushback from left-wing (esp. socialist) students than right-wing ones. In fact, from my fundraising experience, I'm 60% confident that conservative students are more financially generous towards EA per capita than liberal ones.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-04-10T21:06:20.267Z · score: 27 (14 votes) · EA · GW

I second this analysis and agree that this was a great grant. I was considering donating to Miles' Patreon but was glad to see the Fund step in to do so instead. It's more tax-efficient to do it that way. Miles is a credible, entertaining, informative source on AI Safety and could be a real asset to beginners in the field. I've introduced people to AIS using his videos.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-04-10T21:01:29.801Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I'd like to also echo others' comments thanking the team for responding and engaging with questioning of these decisions.

A question I have as a consistent donor to the fund: under which circumstances, if any, would the team consider regranting to, e.g., the EA Meta Fund? Under some facts (e.g., very few good LTF-specific funding opportunities but many good meta/EA Community funding opportunities), couldn't that fund do more good for the LTF than projects more classically appropriate to the LTF Fund?* Or would you always consider meta causes as potential recipients of the LTF Fund, and therefore see no value regranting since the Meta Fund would not be in a better position than you to meet such requests?

I ask because, though I still think these grants have merit, I can also imagine a future in which donations to the Meta Fund would have more value to the LTF than the LTF Fund. But I imagine the LTF Fund could be better-positioned than me to make that judgment and would prefer it to do so in my stead. But if the LTF Fund would not consider regranting to the next-best fund, then I would have to scrutinize grants more to see which fund is creating more value for the LTF. But this defeats the purpose of the LTF.

*The same might be said of the other Funds too, but Meta seems like the next best for the LTF specifically IMO.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-04-10T05:19:50.565Z · score: 23 (12 votes) · EA · GW

This could also help free up a significant amount of donation money. My guess is that a central entity that could be (more) risk-neutral than individual EAs would be a more efficient insurer of EA runway needs than individual EAs. Many EAs will never use their runways, and this will mean, at best, significantly delayed donations, which is a high opportunity cost. If runway-saving EAs would otherwise donate (part of) their runways (which I would if I knew the EA community would provide one if needed), there could be net gains in EA cashflow due to the efficiency of a central insurer.

I'm not super confident in this, and I could be wrong for a lot of reasons. Obviously, runways aren't purely altruistic, so one shouldn't expect all runway money to go to donations. And it might be hard or undesirable for EA to provide certain kinds of runway due to, e.g., moral hazard. It might also be hard for EA as a community to provide runways with any reasonable assurance that the outcome will be altruistic (I take this to be one of the main objections to the EA Hotel). Still, I think the idea of insuring EA runway needs could be promising.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-04-10T04:52:06.079Z · score: 32 (14 votes) · EA · GW

Regarding the donation to Lauren Lee:

To the extent that one thinks that funding the runways of burnt-out and/or transitioning EAs is a good idea to enable risk-neutral career decisions (which I do!), I'd note that funding (projects like) the EA Hotel seems like a promising way to do so. The marginal per-EA cost of supplying runway is probably lower with shared overhead and low COL like that.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Value of Working in Ads? · 2019-04-09T23:32:38.086Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Epistemic status: highly speculative and somewhat humorous

I wonder if, for Google engineers specifically, the effect might be dominated by Alphabet investing some small portion of its ad revenue in AGI-relevant things.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Apology · 2019-03-29T07:16:45.899Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · EA · GW

The Sixth Amendment only applies in criminal cases. These are not criminal cases.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Should EA Groups Run Organ Donor Registration Drives? · 2019-03-29T05:06:27.630Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This perspective makes a lot of sense to me :-)

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Should EA Groups Run Organ Donor Registration Drives? · 2019-03-29T05:05:31.714Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

[I think there are strong arguments against cryonics as an altruistic intervention by Jeff Kaufman here.] But I thank you for pointing out the tension :-)

Comment by cullen_okeefe on EAs Should Invest All Year, then Give only on Giving Tuesday · 2019-03-27T22:31:17.720Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Small-cap stocks and emerging market stocks generally perform better than large-cap ones (with higher variance). In the interest of promoting risk-neutrality regarding donations, I'm updating this post and the associated calculations to recommend either VSS (international small-cap index) or VWO (emerging markets).

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Should EA Groups Run Organ Donor Registration Drives? · 2019-03-27T19:24:41.294Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · EA · GW

It's also worth clarifying that I doubt that any group that did this would derive a lot of their EV from this activity. Instead, I think this is a good top-of-the-funnel type activity to run for reasons 5.–11. above. More specifically, I think there's high community-building value in doing activities that:

1. Do a significant, easily quantifiable amount of good;

2. Address important problems;

3. Have some EA motivation; and

4. Give people a chance to talk about their EA worldview with non-EAs,

even if the good resulting from those activities might not, in themselves, account for a significant percentage of the good that EA group accomplishes. I think, e.g., GWWC/1FTW tabling is an example of this.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Should EA Groups Run Organ Donor Registration Drives? · 2019-03-27T19:22:50.962Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Yeah, especially since this is an exploratory proposal, I'd love to have that criticism brought out into the open like Ryan does above. Also (and this is not a complaint regarding those downvotes, but rather my own view of what good community norms are), to encourage promotion of new ideas, I think we should downvote exploratory proposals only if their prima facie justification is very flawed. Maybe mine is, but I can't tell whether unexplained downvotes are justified by some obvious, severe flaw in my prima facie argument or just a different weighing of the evidence.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Should EA Groups Run Organ Donor Registration Drives? · 2019-03-27T19:16:53.119Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

That all seems quite plausible to me. It's definitely a one-off activity, which I agree drives down its EV. I also agree that there's a risk of this promoting potentially harmful ideas about e.g. live kidney donation. I've added those to the list of counterarguments and credited you :-)

I guess my main point is that this seems qualitatively competitive with pledge drives (e.g., GWWC, OFTW), so insofar as those are valuable things for a group to be doing (a common assumption), maybe this is too. But your points have updated me against this somewhat :-)

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Why is the EA Hotel having trouble fundraising? · 2019-03-27T15:13:33.786Z · score: 20 (11 votes) · EA · GW

I think you should expand on why you believe this is the case. It would be useful for me to know your thinking, since I'm considering giving to them.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Bounty: Guide To Switching From Farmed Fish To Wild-Caught Fish · 2019-03-01T18:25:09.899Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Brian Tomasik has written about this here:

Substitution across fish types
The analysis becomes more complex when considering other wild fish species and fish farming. A decrease in the wild population of a given fish species may not reduce total fish consumption but might merely shift consumption to other fish.
Fishing down the food web
Big fish tend to be overexploited first, since they're easier to catch and take longer to mature. As populations of big fish decline, the result is fishing down the food web, i.e., harvesting smaller fish species. To produce the same amount of fish meat, more total fish will need to be harvested. Even if Fred weighs the badness of killing fish by the brain complexity of the fish killed, as long as Fred's brain-complexity function is less than linear in the mass of the fish being caught, then catching a given mass of smaller fish will be worse in Fred's eyes.c Assuming the total mass of fish harvested stays roughly the same now and into the long run, then eating more big fish and thereby reducing their long-term yields will have made things worse for Fred.
Fish farming
In addition to causing consumption of more small wild fish, overfishing of big species in the wild creates pressure to produce farmed fish. Some farmed fish are fed smaller wild-caught fish, which means fish farming can significantly increase total fishing. This would be prima facie bad in Fred's eyes.
However, there might be cases where fishing pressure on smaller wild-caught fish who are fed to bigger fish is sufficiently intense that populations of the smaller fish also decline. One example of this was the Peruvian anchovy fishery, which had supplied fish meal for livestock but which collapsed, leading to increased demand for soy protein instead.
Unfortunately, other fish-feed sources might be even worse than wild-caught fish, such as insects. Farming insects to feed farmed fish would significantly multiply the number of animals killed by humans. That said, fish feed may also include plant-based ingredients.
How much would substitution happen?
In rich countries, I would expect that demand for fish would remain pretty stable in the face of further fishery declines. As there become fewer big wild fish, prices of fish increase slightly, which slightly reduces the quantity demanded. And some eco-conscious consumers might cut back on fish in response to overfishing. But on the whole I expect the effect to be modest for affluent omnivores.
However, the effect might be more pronounced in poor countries, which may lack the resources to undertake aquaculture. According to the UN FAO:
In many areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, [...] fish consumption levels remain too low and they are failing to benefit from the contributions that fisheries and aquaculture are increasingly making elsewhere in terms of sustainable food security and income.
Given that up to 90% of US seafood comes from outside the US and that most rich countries import a lot of seafood from developing countries, increased consumption of fish in rich countries might indeed reduce long-term fishing by poor countries (to the detrmiment of indigent people in those countries).
Total fish production
One macroscopic perspective from which to assess the total impact of fishing is the following graph (compiled by Earth Policy Institute). [Graph here] I think the trends in the graph might be overstated if these figures include China, which is a major fish producer that's widely believed to overreport its fish numbers.d So the increase in fishing is possibly less dramatic than what's shown. But assuming the overall trend of wild + farmed fish is still an increasing one, then this is a bad sign from Fred's perspective, even if Fred only cares about fish in proportion to their mass (so that Fred wants to minimize the total biomass of fish caught). This is weak evidence that further demand for fish would make things worse for Fred, since most of the trend in the graph was probably driven by growing fish demand.
Of course, some fishery doomsayers might claim that the upward trend in the graph can't last forever (especially since fish farming often relies on wild-caught fish), and if they're correct, then drawing conclusions from the portion of the curve we can see now would give the wrong impression. But given that some fisheries are recovering, especially in the US, I'm personally skeptical about "end of fish" scenarios.
When considering substitution of fish consumers away from a declining fish species toward other species and fish farming, the effect of marginal big-fish consumption in the short run on total long-term fish harvesting becomes unclear. It's not obvious how much a reduction in populations of big wild fish reduces total fish consumption especially by the global poor (which could be good from Fred's perspective) versus how much it merely shifts consumption to other fish types (which could be quite bad from Fred's perspective).
Comment by cullen_okeefe on EAs and EA Orgs Should Move Cash from Low-Interest to High-Interest Options · 2019-02-25T15:47:51.912Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the cite; great analysis. I've updated my post to incorporate some of yours. :-)

Comment by cullen_okeefe on EAs Should Invest All Year, then Give only on Giving Tuesday · 2019-01-23T19:48:45.793Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Done, thanks :-)

Comment by cullen_okeefe on EAs Should Invest All Year, then Give only on Giving Tuesday · 2019-01-11T15:43:44.973Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Jeff. I agree.

Note that, strictly speaking, the formula is the value of a given dollar if invested until GT. So, if we're referring to the 20,001st dollar, then we should probably adjust the probability of it getting matched down, way below my 30%. (Due to the time it takes to make several donations on Giving Tuesday morning, that probability should curve down before that anyway). But if you still assign it a probability of 12%, it's worth doing now.

My personal credence that donations above $20K would be matched is probably much lower than this for the reasons you identify, though.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on EAs Should Invest All Year, then Give only on Giving Tuesday · 2019-01-11T15:38:36.773Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

And note that you can adjust for the probability of value drift in the spreadsheet :-)

Comment by cullen_okeefe on [Link] How to set up your planned giving now · 2019-01-04T20:46:43.725Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Set up a bank account beneficiary (CEA USA) as a result of this. Thanks Aaron!

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Which Image Do You Prefer?: a study of visual communication in six African countries · 2018-12-09T21:50:33.009Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Totally. I'll do some elaboration on why I found it useful [we discussed some of this on Facebook, but I thought it worthwhile to post publicly :-)]:

When I table for EA causes, I get a lot of pushback from left-leaning people that are worried (both justifiably and not) about histories of paternalistic and imperialistic aid in the developing world. Specifically, a lot of grad students (where I am) are already quite committed to using a social justice framework to evaluate potential interventions, which puts a lot of emphasis on avoiding these things.

I think EA as such does a good job of mitigating this at the object level by focusing on demonstrable impact. But I don't think we currently do a great job communicating this to people with those worries, which in my experience are quite popular. Adopting better messaging can be a cheap signal that we take these concerns seriously, or moral trade with people who care about donor side attitudes more than effectiveness. My prediction is that this would potentially open them up to both global giving and further engagement with EA. Otherwise, it's hard for us to distinguish ourselves from the reference class of potential white-savior-y people who want to do good overseas.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Bangladesh is in Desperate Need For Effective Altruists · 2018-08-05T16:47:36.336Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for sharing this with us, Farhan. Like Holly, my heart goes out to you and the people of Dhaka.

I wish I was in a better position to help. This feels a bit feeble, but I'm sharing it just because there's a small probability that it helps. The EA community has done a little work on traffic safety. Obviously, this is quite different from the root problem of political corruption. However, given the entanglement of the corruption/violence with the traffic safety catalyst here, perhaps some of the listed organizations would amplify the concerns being voiced and bring more attention to Bangladesh—both the traffic issue and the resulting protests/crackdown.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Harvard EA's 2018–19 Vision · 2018-08-05T16:12:21.620Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Michael! I've linked to a Google Doc version with footnotes for ease-of-reading:

Comment by cullen_okeefe on One for the World as a potential vehicle to expand the reach of Effective Altruism · 2018-08-04T23:47:01.809Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This is correct about HLS. We think that OFTW outreach has generally been a good way to build name recognition for EA—if you ask people what we do, they know about OFTW because it's a big, very visible effort. I think there's some risk that they think we're limited to poverty work (a general EA problem), but I don't think this is an unavoidable consequence of our partnership with OFTW—it's because our other programming has so far been less visible.

It's also a good way for us to stratify our programming (both for our members and for involving non-members) so that we have meaningful interaction with both EA-sympathetic "normal" (i.e., not EA career things) people and career-minded EAs.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Governmental CBA as an EA Career Step: A Shallow Investigation · 2018-07-08T23:13:55.989Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I generally agree, which is why I explicitly acknowledge this in the post. But I also think you're mistaken about what's democratically feasible. The citizenry definitely gives a nonzero value to foreign lives (e.g.,, but current CBA only weighs them quantitatively (which is as good as not at all). I really doubt that diminishing the discounting rate by a point or so would engender political backlash; most people presumably think we should care about the future too and in any case have no clue what the discount rate is.

Basically, the social welfare function of the US citizenry is actually probably more cosmopolitan than current CBA. CBA is pretty well isolated from political scrutiny (most people have no idea what it is and it generally has bipartisan support), so I don't think minor positive adjustments are a big risk.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Governmental CBA as an EA Career Step: A Shallow Investigation · 2018-07-08T21:30:06.237Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks! I've added it to the Goodreads list.

Comment by cullen_okeefe on Announcing Rethink Priorities · 2018-03-26T21:51:38.824Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Super interesting! Keep up the good work! :-)