Does Bail Reform Increase Crime? 2020-02-22T20:58:34.294Z · score: 20 (15 votes)
The Triumph of Humanity Chart 2015-10-27T01:57:38.784Z · score: 12 (12 votes)
The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data 2015-04-18T00:05:26.744Z · score: 13 (15 votes)
Blind Spots: Compartmentalizing 2014-12-31T22:25:38.721Z · score: 7 (15 votes)
Happy Birthday, Giving What We Can! 2014-11-15T23:39:28.899Z · score: 7 (7 votes)


Comment by dale on Any response from OpenAI (or EA in general) about the Technology Review feature on OpenAI? · 2020-02-22T05:34:33.665Z · score: 6 (11 votes) · EA · GW

Seems like the writer decided to stab them in the back, didn't find any weak points, but decided to give it her best shot anyway. I'm not sure any response is necessary other than "don't trust Karen Hao in the future".

Comment by dale on Age-Weighted Voting · 2019-07-28T20:02:41.597Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW
the the weighting scheme I suggested in the post, that would move the median voter (in the US) from age 55 to age 40. (H/T Zach Groff for these numbers. Note this doesn’t account for incentive effects, of younger people being more likely to go out to vote, which could lower the median age to a little under 40.) And under reasonable assumptions (with the most controversial being single-peaked preferences), the median voter is decisive. So it’s not like 20 year olds are now deciding what happens. On the epistocratic question, then, we should be asking whether we think 40yr olds will make better decisions than 55 year olds; not whether 20 year olds make better decisions than 60 year olds. I'd need to dig into the studies a lot more to determine whether 40 year olds discount more steeply than 55 year olds.

If you want to give extra influence to 40 year olds, it probably makes more sense just to give 40 year olds more votes. Otherwise you're putting a lot of faith in one model of how voters work, despite the median voter theorem having lost some of its academic appeal over time (multidimensional preferences, selectorate vs electorate, veto players, heresthetics).

Additionally, if we did give young people lots of extra votes, we'd probably get a Goodheart's Law type situation, where politicians would adopt special policies designed to exploit it - like promising student debt forgiveness, or to ban tuition fees (the latter of which seemed to have been quite successful at manipulating UK students to vote for the Democrat Party in 2015!)

Comment by dale on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-06-06T00:58:19.074Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I found the article impressively detailed in laying out your reasoning, and it gives me significantly more confidence that the fund will be funding the sort of smaller opportunities that individual donors might have trouble accessing otherwise. It provides much more detail than I would have expected, on a wide variety of generally good projects. I'm also pleased about the geographic spread. So nice one!

In contrast to some other commenters, I have no objection to the HPMOR project. While I can see some potential downsides, it seems like it plausibly could be quite good if implemented sensitively, and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

I am a little more skeptical of the Lauren Lee grant however. There could be value in supporting promising new people trying something new out - like many of Alex Zhu's grants. However, that doesn't seem like it applies to someone who has already worked in the sector for two years. At this point we should be expecting significantly more concrete evidence, but what evidence we have here (burning out at CFAR, lack of ability to finish projects to completion) does not seem entirely positive.

We might also look for a set of highly impactful planned outputs. However, the actual list does not seem to meet this criteria:

A program where I do 1-on-1 sessions with individuals or orgs; I’d create reports based on whether they self-report improvements

X-risk orgs (e.g. FHI, MIRI, OpenPhil, BERI, etc.) deciding to spend time/money on my services may be a positive indicator, as they tend to be thoughtful with how they spend their resources

Writings or talks

Workshops with feedback forms

A more effective version of myself (notable changes = gaining the ability to ride a bike / drive a car / exercise—a PTSD-related disability, ability to finish projects to completion, others noticing stark changes in me)

These seem to be a mixture of CFAR-like things (raising the question of why an ex-CFAR employee is better placed to provide them than CFAR) and activities that, while good, are not something that I would expect the fund to support (feedback forms, learning to ride a bike).

I think this is an especially big issue given the history of organizations having a lower bar for giving money - essentially sinecures - to members of the bay area community.

Comment by dale on Are men more likely to attend EA London events? Attendance data, 2016-2018. · 2018-08-10T22:59:48.529Z · score: -5 (10 votes) · EA · GW

Interesting data!

Sounds like churn is much lower with men. Unless it is much more expensive (in terms of advertising etc.) to get new men, which looking at the '1+' row doesn't seem to be the case, or women are more productive, this suggests you have a higher Customer-Lifetime-Value / Customer-Acquisition-Cost ratio with men. If this is the case then, to the extent you can, you should re-allocate your efforts at the relevant margin towards attracting more men.

Comment by dale on Guidelines on depicting poverty · 2016-04-02T21:37:34.370Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

It seems like the advice is basically "represent Africa as being high status, not low status". We also want to get across the message that people in the third world have serious problems that we can very effectively solve. If person A can easily solve person B's problems, but person B can do nothing to help or harm person A, then person A is (much) higher status than person B. Why try to hide this reality? We generally don't give charity money to our superiors or equals.

Perhaps there is an instrumental reason to pretend that this relationship is more egalitarian that it actually is. But while you reference data suggesting that traditional marketing is ignored by most people, you don't present any data suggesting that other approaches work better.

Comment by dale on Finance Careers for Earning to Give · 2016-04-02T21:34:45.870Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

These positions are insanely competitive and they mostly go to either people with extensive networks and contacts in the firm, or people from target schools.

This is not my experience at all. I know many people who got jobs at top banks despite (seemingly) no connections or prestige. They are more meritocratic than you give them credit for (and the average applicant is worse!).

True, but some people believe there is difficulty in terms of long term acceptance and fit in the industry.

Yes, some people believe that. On the other hand, I've seen people be promoted to senior positions, over more qualified people, explicitly because the firm needed more 'diversity'. You shouldn't deter people from applying to the industry on the basis of "some people believe" while not even mentioning the fact that they receive objective advantages that will help them.

I agree that this applies much less at smaller firms.

How many investment bankers do you know?

40 or so? I did work in investment banking for a while.

It's not even clear to me that "being an EA" is a sufficiently descriptive reference class.

You're writing a "Finance Careers for Earning to Give" guide and don't consider "being an EA who is interested in applying to banks" a relevant reference class? These weren't a random sample of EAs, these were EAs who thought working in IB might be a good idea for them.

Though perhaps it has worked out for some more recently and I just don't know who they are.

Either way, I should definitely not mention that fact, because that will give people biases and preconceptions. When they are learning about a career for the first time, they should start out with good, neutral sources, not secondhand rumors about people dropping out.

No, if everyone trying something (EtG in a bank) decided it was a bad idea, that is definitely valuable information. It's not a rumor, Ben could tell you who they are. We don't want neutrality, we want accuracy.

I have seen people talk about both buyside and sellside ER.

People in the industry? Who?

Comment by dale on Finance Careers for Earning to Give · 2016-03-07T03:36:15.650Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Woah I strongly disagree with much of this. For example

If you are new to finance, inexperienced and unsure of what you are doing (and don’t have a 4.0 from Harvard), your time is probably better spent looking for work and connections with smaller and less prestigious companies [than applying to bulge-bracket firms].

You definitely don't need a 4.0 from Harvard to work at budge-bracket firms. In fact, at least one of the firms you listed hired literally no-one from Harvard in their latest analyst class! I would say that all undergraduates looking to get into finance should apply to all the bulge-brackets, not none of them.

Many minorities and women do make it big in even the most competitive areas of finance, although some people believe it is harder for them. A web search will get you more info and websites on this topic.

Many of the big banks run affirmative action programs; it is easier to get hired if you are not a white male. Indeed, I know one bank's HR complained that there were no good black undergraduates for them to hire because their competitors had been offering them internships and scholarships since freshman year.

Investment banking

You should probably mention that IB is full of jocks and every EA who tried it has dropped out because of poor culture fit.

Hedge funds and asset management Equity research: Analyzing stocks and making recommendations for investors (sell side) or working for investors to select investments (buy side).

You are double-counting: buyside research is the same as asset management. But when people say 'equity research', they typically mean sell-side.

However I did like the joke about The Goldman Sachs!

Comment by dale on Giving What We Can needs your help this Christmas! · 2015-12-08T00:20:45.856Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Hey Michelle,

In the past we've discussed how desirable it would be for GWWC to release cohort data to allow potential donors to properly evaluate how much value GWWC creates. Without it its hard for us to estimate the lifetime value of new members. While it seems clear GWWC is positive value, we need to be able to compare it to other effective charities. At the time it was suggested that you would release this data; any chance we could see it in time for this giving season - or if not, in the new year?

Comment by dale on Improving the Effectiveness of Effective Altruism Outreach · 2015-10-20T23:37:58.681Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

It's certainly true that our current demographics are skewed in various ways, but I don't see that alone as a good reason to seek to perpetuate the skew.

Well, you might think that they're skewed because it is cheaper/easier to attract atheists than theists, so we should collect the low-hanging fruit focus on atheists.

Comment by dale on Improving the Effectiveness of Effective Altruism Outreach · 2015-10-20T23:36:45.995Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

developing countries ... are turning more secular over time.

Right but that effect is very gradual. It's been going on for hundreds of year; over the time horizon of any EA marketing campaign it will have been only a de minimis impact.

Comment by dale on EA's Image Problem · 2015-10-20T23:33:51.234Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

It is the donating 20% that measures (in part) my ethical standard

You seem to be somewhat contradicting yourself. You're criticizing others for equating sacrifice with virtue, but then measuring virtue as the percentage that you sacrifice! What matters is how much you help people. If you donate $3,500 to buy bed-nets, you've (in expectation) saved a life. It doesn't matter whether that was 10% of your income or 1% or 0.1%. The important thing isn't the percentage donated, it is the total amount donated. By asking someone earning less than you to donate 20% (or whatever it is you donate), you are asking them to do less good than you do. To be asking the same of them as you do of yourself, you would have to ask they donate a higher percentage, or increase their income.

Comment by dale on EA Open Thread: October · 2015-10-20T23:23:57.131Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

its fallout is causing a lot of suffering.

Committing adultery causes a lot of suffering. Punishing people for anti-social behavior is an important part of any society, to incentivize good behavior. To the extent that western societies hardly punish this behavior at all, despite the huge amounts of suffering it causes, appropriately disincentivizing it could be an extremely effective way of improving the world.

Comment by dale on EA Open Thread: October · 2015-10-20T23:21:28.021Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Are you thinking of adding other EA charities at some point in the near future?

Comment by dale on EA's Image Problem · 2015-10-15T01:24:37.684Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

However, that's simply not the case; people can change their income!

I think this is the wrong point to focus on. Both our income and our generosity are largely determined by factors beyond our control, like our genes and prenatal environment. But they're still part of us! We can give people credit for inherent parts of them. Being born intelligent or generous are both great things, and we should praise people for them.

Comment by dale on EA's Image Problem · 2015-10-15T01:17:39.945Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Good idea, I made the edit you suggested.

My concern was that people might accuse me of overstating my case. It's true that these professions are open to women but I would not feel comfortable recommending them. Certainly if someone suggested I work on a rig I would be rather nonplussed! We can recommend people change career but I think some options are sufficiently beyond the Overton window that it is unreasonable to ask it of people.

Comment by dale on EA's Image Problem · 2015-10-14T02:36:03.410Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

There are lots of people who may be earning as much as they possibly can, and yet still be earning something close to £15k, through no fault of their own.

I seems unlikely there would be many EAs in this situation. EAs are generally very intelligent and very educated - something would have to be very wrong to leave them capped out at $15k. Even people with only High School education can earn 6 figures if they are committed - working on an oil rig, or driving trucks in Alaska, pay very well, and being a nurse is a very achievable career for most people. Even if they didn't change career, most people can substantially boost their income by asking for a raise each year.

Comment by dale on EA's Image Problem · 2015-10-14T02:28:21.052Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I read that section as focusing on the LW/Rationalist segment of EA, rather than the Oxford Philosophy contingent.

But the LW segment believe that value is fragile and that the ends don't justify the means!

Comment by dale on EA's Image Problem · 2015-10-14T02:26:14.890Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

To me, it seems a real problem that this kind of status and reward is so much harder for the poor to attain.

Why, do you believe we should redistribute moral virtue?

The Pledge is trying to encourage people to donate more, so it assigns status on that basis. We don't want to reduce that incentive, it is already weak enough.

Comment by dale on EA Open Thread: October · 2015-10-14T02:21:33.973Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I've been meaning to get a will sorted out for over five years. Can I name FHI or MIRI or CFAR?

Comment by dale on EA Open Thread: October · 2015-10-14T02:20:22.458Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · EA · GW

People might enjoy a joke article I wrote, where I argue that Ashley Madison (the Infidelity website) was an Effective Altruist plot all along. Categorize it under the EA equivalent of crazy startup ideas.

  • Ashley Madison was set up by an activist who wanted to promote ethical behavior and punish the unjust.
  • Firstly, it took money from people who wanted to commit infidelity. Taking money from people makes them worse off.
  • Then, it didn’t provide any services. It never matched any cheaters up.
  • After having handed over credit card details but not received anything, the would-be cheaters realized it was a scam.
  • Then can’t take Ashley Madison to court, because that would be public record.
  • So they try to get out … but realize Ashley Madison has them in an incriminating position.
  • Ashley Madison extorts more money from them to delete their data.
  • Ashley Madison does not delete the data.
  • Ashley Madison discusses a possible IPO purely for the publicity. It knows it’s a fraud and could never stand up to auditing.
  • Ashley Madison then hacks itself. This explains why they were able to access the data so easily. They had previously hacked another competing service.
  • Ashley Madison then releases the data. This provides early downloaders with the opportunity to extort the would-be cheaters.
  • Eventually all the would-be cheaters are revealed, and face the wrath of their poor spouses.
  • No-one ever trusts an infidelity website again, making it harder to commit infidelity in future

So the net result is:

  • Would-be cheaters are effectively fined a significant amount of money.
  • And then exposed.
  • And no-one can ever create an infidelity website.
Comment by dale on EA Open Thread: October · 2015-10-14T02:15:07.604Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Let's say Tess goes to an Ivy League school and wants to make an impact through work in education. She does Teach for America and teaches underprivileged kids in the US for a few years, and gradually rises within the schools she works at until she is an administrator and can allocate resources for an entire district. Because she's very good at it and deeply cares about her work, she ends up making an enormous impact with her career, transforming a bad public school system into a great one, and substantially positively affecting the lives of thousands of kids per year.

This career seems good ex post. It turned out well! But unfortunately forecasting is hard, especially about the future. The relevant question for Tess at age 21 is whether, in expectation, doing TfA is the best use of her time. And the answer is probably no - most TfA graduates achieve very little. In your story she got lucky - but 80k cannot advise 'be lucky' as a career strategy!

Comment by dale on EA Open Thread: October · 2015-10-14T02:12:20.087Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

I work on Wall Street and have a strong instinctive negative reaction to your question. You sound crass. People who want to get into finance have to pretend to be in it for reasons other than the money.

If you actually want advice I will overcome that visceral reaction and try to help. Could you tell me a little about yourself? Age/Sex/Education/Work Experience/Interests/Computer Skills etc,

Comment by dale on Blind Spots: Compartmentalizing · 2015-08-26T00:07:38.386Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Jason Brennan, a philosopher at Georgetown who is at least interested in EA, presents a similar argument here.

Comment by dale on Giving What We Can needs your help! · 2015-08-11T02:51:45.925Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

In the document you suggest using a 3.5% discount rate. Is this a real or nominal discount rate?

Comment by dale on Giving What We Can needs your support — only 5 days left to close our funding gap · 2015-06-28T16:09:02.589Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Owen.

My understanding was GWWC said that 1.7% was the average annual rate for members who admitted they were leaving, with an additional 4.7% of members not responding for two years. Unfortunately, these are not quite the numbers we want, and are likely to be too optimistic for a few reasons:

  • These numbers don't include people who claim to be donating but are not. (Does GWWC attempt to verify donations? )
  • They also don't include any sense of cohort differentiation - how do the early members compare to the later members? Is this number skewed by all of Dr Ord's friends who joined early on?
  • Nor did they break down students donating 1% vs real people donating 10%. The latter are much more valuable, but I would also expect a significant number of people to drop-out when they switch from the relatively undemanding student pledge to the full 10% pledge. As such, if the current mass of members is very student-heavy, high historical retention rates may not generalize to when they leave and become full members.
  • How does the dropout curve change for an individual cohort. Do most of the people leaving leave in the early years of the pledge (good) or does the rate of drop-out increase over time (bad)?

Aside from this optimistic bias, there are a few other reasons to want cohort data

  • It would be nice to be able to reconcile that very low drop-out rates with the very high ones GWWC published a few years ago here, which showed only 65-70% claimed retention after 0-2 years. Right now it seems hard to understand how these are consistent.
  • 2-year grace period is very long. In finance we call a loan non-performing if they are 90-days behind! Worse, GWWC is young and has seen exponential growth, so a 2-year wait period means no data on anyone who joined since June 2013.
  • A few people have expressed concerns to me, both publicly and privately, that GWWC has discovered some very negative facts about their membership. Standardized disclosure, in a form chosen by a third party, can go a long way towards dispelling these fears. This is why public companies have to report in accordance with US GAAP, rather than getting to choose their own metrics.
  • Finally, it would be nice to have some of the mundane, technical details as well. How was this average calculated? etc. With cohort data we don't need to speculate and argue about the virtues of different ways of computing hazard rates, we can just do our own calculations.
Comment by dale on Giving What We Can needs your support — only 5 days left to close our funding gap · 2015-06-27T16:26:08.149Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Hey Michelle, did you release the cohort data I suggested donors might require to evaluate GWWC?

Comment by dale on Suggestions thread for questions for the 2015 EA Survey · 2015-05-15T04:11:26.447Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I think you should have more forced choices and fewer write-ins, to make data analysis easier. It seems that write-in boxes turn everyone into a special snowflake.

Comment by dale on The Outside Critics of Effective Altruism · 2015-04-24T02:33:09.976Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Patri recently linked to a post that was basically written directly to EAs:

On Saving the World and Other Delusions

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-22T02:45:42.804Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

However 65-70% claimed retention after 0-2 years suggests a relatively short half-life for members.

It occurs to me that, if true, this would have important implications for GWWC's marketing, namely that we should deemphasize students, as many of them would have dropped out before they start making bank, and increase the emphasis on mature targets.

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-22T02:28:29.699Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

On average, I expect it made things better, since I expect cause neutrality to be helpful.

I'm implicitly assuming that global poverty is an unusually uncontroversial cause.

I don't see why this change in particular would be expected to lead to a higher dropout rate. At face value, one might expect a broader pledge to have a lower dropout rate.

I guess in the limit if the pledge became sufficiently expansive it would become impossible to fail to comply!

I think locally the effect is likely to be negative, though I don't have much confidence either way till we see the data. Nor do I see much value in speculating on this, save to encourage the release of such data.

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-21T02:12:55.920Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks very much. Some interesting points:

  • only 293 of 705 (41.6%) of the people who applied to join GWWC have returned their pledge forms.
  • The fraction of people who claimed to be fulfilling the pledge in 2011 (I take it GWWC does not have tax receipts etc.) was basically unvarying by year of pledge: 64% of 2009 pledges, 71% of 2010 pledges and 64% of 2011 pledges. This suggests that the 'more keen people join first' and 'people drop out over time' effects perfectly canceled out. (Though the sample size is small). However 65-70% claimed retention after 0-2 years suggests a relatively short half-life for members.
Comment by dale on April Open Thread · 2015-04-20T02:19:56.003Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the suggestion!

Hmm, interesting idea. My concern would be that this would look very weird - outside of my role as an investor, which would make them confused / ignore it. It would be strange for an investor to have advance knowledge of an activist stunt! And indeed I do not actually have knowledge of such activities. In particular, I'm not sure what I would add in such a situation, compared to MFA simply contacting the company directly, who would also be more credible.

It does seem that MFA have been successful on the gestation crates. However, I don't think that exact answer would be applicable here, as generally the companies I'm looking at are like Tyson Foods, rather than the companies which use gestation crates, which tend (I think) to be contractors.

However, I could say something along the lines of "Other companies have been getting negative publicity about gestation crates, and deciding to re-actively stop using them. As it's better to be proactive than reactive, maybe you should start phasing them out of your supply chain now".

Also not all the companies do pork, whereas most do chicken.

I'm completely unconcerned about abortion, so we may be able to trade.

Glad to hear it. Are you aware of similar things having been done before? I'm unaware of how it would work, mechanically. (I'm also not sure exactly what I would buy from you in return, but I guess we could settle for a donation to a charity, whose identity I could determine later.)

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-20T01:38:58.141Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Michelle has a really hard and thankless job to do.

It's not addressed to any one individual, but there was this. Maybe I should have made it more personalized.

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-20T01:30:36.382Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the response.

As it happens, we’re about to put up an impact evaluation.

Glad to hear it! I look forward to seeing the data.

I’m don’t think that we should think of members who joined under the newer pledge as ‘lower quality’. ... People who plan to donate to animal charities because they think that they can help fellow creatures even more by doing so seem every bit as serious in helping others effectively as those donating to eradicate extreme poverty.

Well, that's true unless you don't think animals count as 'others'. Presumably we should discount their value by whatever credence we place in animals counting as moral agents. A wide range of new focuses are now acceptable to GWWC members, and regardless of one's specific personal beliefs, it seems likely that some of those members will focus on something you don't personally think is very valuable. For example, it seems plausible that some people might (falsely) think that donating to a political party was the best way of helping people. Yet presumably no-one would think that increasing donations to both Democrat and Republican parties by $100 is equal to $200 going to AMF!

However, my complaint wasn't really about the target of their donations - I assume that in practice most will mainly donate to AMF etc. anyway - but that they'll see a higher dropout rate. I don't think this concern can really be verified or refuted without seeing the data.

But doing it online means that an email immediately gets sent to the person,

This seems like a bit of a misnomer. People were always requesting a signup form online - you could combine paper forms in the post with an email saying 'Welcome ... the forms are on their way'.

Your point about the overhead costs is a good one though. My impression is this could be outsourced - at least in the US I'm pretty sure there are firms that will deal with your mailing for you, but that still costs money.

By the way, you seem very comfortable with numbers, knowledgable and engaged – how would you feel about working with our research team? We’d be very grateful for the help!

Very kind of you. Unfortunately I work a more-than-full-time job, so can't really commit to anything. However, I get the impression that the EA community has a fair number of math-literate people who would be willing to work on relevant questions just out of interest if the data was available. In this case I'd probably analyse the cohort data if it was available - and the same probably goes for object-level issues as well. This would have a couple of advantages:

  • Save CEA resources
  • Get third parties more involved
  • Provide independent evaluation, which is more credible than internal evaluation (in the same way that companies get independent auditors, etc.)
Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-20T01:15:27.425Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Here is that impact analysis.

Your link just points to this post?

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-20T01:13:50.716Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Upvoted for morally admirable concern for people's confidences.

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-20T01:12:41.861Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, fortunately I am both quite autistic and also don't know many EA people in person.

isn't honest about it with donors.

Yeah, there's an obvious problem whereby organizations with 'dirty secrets' will tend not to share them. As a result, in investment we tend to work out what they key metrics are and then assume the worst if companies don't release them. (Sovereigns can get a bit more leeway because they are incompetent and big). My understanding is that GiveWell uses a similar methodology of assuming the worst from the charities it looks at.

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-20T01:09:32.448Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

It should be public at some point

Glad to hear it!

It also simply takes a lot of work to polish up that kind of analysis to make sure you aren't publishing errors.

This should make publishing the raw/cohort data more appealing - CEA doesn't have to actually do the analysis itself, just maintain data integrity, which it should be doing as a matter of course.

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-20T01:09:06.288Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Yup, I agree:

Making it easier to join means more marginal people, with less attachment to the idea, can join. This is still good if their membership adds value, but they dilute the membership, which means we shouldn’t account for the average new member being signed up now as being equally valuable as the members who joined up in 2010.

but just am concerned that this means our forecasts might overestimate the value of adding another member, causing relative over-investment.

Comment by dale on The Importance of GWWC Cohort Data · 2015-04-18T14:59:50.979Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

However, your post contains a couple of misleading points that I thought would be worth correcting.

Thanks very much for this!

Comment by dale on April Open Thread · 2015-04-02T02:58:13.858Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · EA · GW

As some of you are probably aware I work as a Credit Analyst for a hedge fund in NY - I analyze the bonds of different companies and choose which to invest in. As a result, I frequently meet management of many large corporations and discuss their businesses with them. Management are often quite attentive to investors - not only are we essentially their boss, with the power to set their compensation and even fire them, we spend a great deal of time researching their industry, and so can produce useful insights in a more incentive-compatible way than consultants - albeit restricted by only having access to public information.

In particular, I sometimes meet with the CEOs, CFOs etc. of protein companies - companies that produce beef, pork, chicken and other meat products. I personally don't care about animal rights much, but I'm aware that many EAs think these companies are very evil - plausibly the worst thing to ever happen in the history of the world.

As such, I was wondering if people had any suggestions for issues I might raise with these management teams.

My motives here are basically:

  • You may have ideas for changes that would be both animal-welfare-enhancing and improve shareholder returns. (Technically I care about bondholders not shareholders but I think it is easier for non-finance people to think about shareholders and the conversational framing does not affect me)
  • I am interested in the possibility for moral trade. I am especially concerned about Existential Risks, Abortion and Societal Value Drift. If you are in a position to reduce these then I would like to trade!

In general I believe in holding off from proposing solutions so I don't want to prime you for the sorts of things you could suggest. But in case you don't understand what I'm looking for, here are some initial thoughts I had. Bare in mind that I'm not an expert on animal welfare.


  • Fgneg fryyvat betnavp cebqhpgf, nf gurl pbzznaq n zhpu uvture cevpr, qrznaq vf (?) tebjvat encvqyl, naq ner zber uhznar.
  • Nqbcg n arj fynhtugre grpuavdhr juvpu vf obgu zber pbfg-rssrpgvir naq yrff cnvashy.
  • Vairfg va orrs cebqhpgvba bire puvpxra cebqhpgvba, nf pbafrafhf fnlf gur ynggre znexrg jvyy orpbzr bire-fhccyvrq yngre guvf lrne, naq gur sbezre vf nyfb zber uhznar.
  • Ybool sbe vapernfrq erthyngvba sbe arj snpgbel snezf, juvpu jbhyq cebgrpg vaphzoragf ol ceriragvat arj pbzcrgvgvba sebz vapernfvat fhccyl.
  • Hfvat zber uhznar zrgubqf jvyy cerirag navzny evtugf npgvivfgf sebz perngvat artngvir choyvpvgl sbe lbh. (V qb abg guvax guvf vf n tbbq nethzrag nf tvivat va gb oynpxznvy vf njshy tnzr gurbel, naq npgvivfgf ner bsgra cerggl veengvbany fb jvyy cebonoyl pneel ba nggnpxvat lbh naljnl, ohg vg'f whfg na rknzcyr).
Comment by dale on The Privilege of Earning To Give · 2015-01-18T00:07:48.592Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

this term seems to be used to dismiss wholesale people whose only distinguishing feature is advocating people not being dicks to each other

If the only sense in which you're a SJW is that you think people should be nice to each other, then you're using the word differently from most people, and this does not apply to you - I'm not telling Jeff to avoid people who want to be nice!

But the problem with this definition is it could describe almost any ideology! Marxists think they're 'advocating people not being dicks to each other' by ending exploitation. Libertarians think they're 'advocating people not being dicks to each other' by ending coercion. I think you're in danger of committing the motte and bailey fallacy. One thing that is reasonably distinctive about social justice warriors on the internet, on the other hand, is using language like 'privilege' to attack white male nerds. Just being concerned about social justice doesn't make you a SJW - I don't think many people would call the these academic philosophers SJWs, for example. But I'm reasonably confident that as a

  • white
  • male
  • programmer
  • who lives in a Boston
  • and spends time on the internet
  • and is interested in social issues, politics etc.
  • and makes decent money

all of which are risk factors for SJW attention, Jeff will have received some such heated criticism. Furthermore, this is exactly the sort of article I would want to write as I was a generally liberal person who felt unfairly attacked by what I think of as 'my side' politically.

Comment by dale on The Privilege of Earning To Give · 2015-01-17T23:38:33.788Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW


Comment by dale on The Privilege of Earning To Give · 2015-01-17T23:34:19.801Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

it reads like an implied ad hominem attack on Jeff's argument

I am genuinely bewildered and hurt you could come to this conclusion. According to wikipedia

ad hominem ... means responding to arguments by attacking a person's character

yet I was complimentary and supportive to Jeff! I said he should be proud of who he was and what he did. I can hardly see how I could have been more positive - though apparently I was already too positive as well, so I guess I should give up trying to be nice and just stick to QALY calculations.

And his conclusion is that he should Earn to Give - exactly what I spend 70 hours a week doing. So I'm not trying to sabotage his argument because I dislike the conclusion either. I think Earning to Give is great! So great that I don't think it requires any apology or defense. It is morally praiseworthy.

Comment by dale on The Privilege of Earning To Give · 2015-01-15T01:49:59.394Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · EA · GW

Reading between the lines, I think you probably know some 'Social Justice Warriors', and they give you a lot of flak for your race, gender, career success and so on. And I totally understand the desire to respond to them - I know I frequently feel attacked by SJWs saying hateful things, and want to defend myself and my existence. I think, as ever, Scott has written the canonical piece on this.

But does this really do any good? My impression is that if you ignore them, SJWs largely ignore you. They rarely go after really sexist or racist people, else they would spend all their time campaigning about Rotherham and ISIS. But you interact with them - if you grant them some ground, then you mysteriously become fair game for a tweetstorm of hate.

And they're easy to avoid! People are much more pleasant in the flesh, and there just aren't all that many SJWs. They're are just disproportionately noticeable on the internet because of their hostility.

So my advice is to do the same to SJWs who judge you for your race and gender as I do with people who judge me for my sexuality: don't let them bring you down to their level. You should be proud of who you are and what you do - there's no need to apologize. The world is full of lovely, tolerant people, and by spending time with haters you're depriving yourself of opportunities to make new friends who will care about you for who you really are.

Comment by dale on The Outside Critics of Effective Altruism · 2015-01-14T02:30:10.568Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Those groups tend to be largely dominated by young, white men to begin with.

Most social movements are lead by young white men - EA is nothing special here.

To acquire a middle-class income ... requires access to acquire money to education, which is getting more expensive.

That's not true - at least in the US the government provides essentially unlimited credit to people who want to go to college, and furthermore it is possible to earn a very good living without having gone to college. Furthermore if you are the right kind of minority you will even benefit from affirmative action in admissions/scholarships.

Comment by dale on I am Samwise [link] · 2015-01-12T02:50:26.739Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

We really need someone to handle office management, logistics and some PA work.

Does the person need to be an EA? It seems that Samwise could have been replaced with a Dwarven mercenary. Is the concern you would have to pay such a person more if they lacked inherent motivation?

Comment by dale on Blind Spots: Compartmentalizing · 2015-01-12T02:47:06.418Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

We might be worried about how the moral uncertainty argument applies in other cases. For example, homosexual acts

Actually, I'd like to amend my response here. I think there is a clear division between aborting fetuses and homosexuality here. There are strong non-religious arguments for its being wrong to abort a baby, but not very many at all for homosexuality being wrong. It seems that most of the disagreement about homosexuality comes from disagreement about whether Islam is true, which is a factual disagreement, not a moral disagreement. As such, moral uncertainty is much more important for the (im)morality of aborting fetuses than for homosexuality.

Comment by dale on Blind Spots: Compartmentalizing · 2015-01-12T02:42:50.161Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

rates of post partum depression are about 10%, higher in adverse circumstances. Depression is one illness where a person's QALY's are plausibly <0

Apparently even "Major depressive disorder: severe episode" only costs 0.655 QALYs.. If we generously assume every instance of post partum depression is 'major' and 'severe', and generously assume it lasts for 3 years, we get 30.10.655 = 0.1965 QALYs. As we were generous on both multiplicative assumptions, it's plausible the true number is much much lower. Yet even if it was as high as 0.1965, that's not enough to justify aborting a fetus if you ascribed even a 1% chance of it having moral value.

So perhaps my wording choice could have been better - but I don't think it actually makes much difference to the object-level issue.

Comment by dale on The Choose-your-Charity Tax · 2015-01-12T02:32:40.209Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Money gets distributed according to what sounds good

Isn't that largely the case with government spending anyway? We have many government programs that merely sound good to voters/politicians without actually having much economic justification - from the ethanol mandate to the minimum wage to corporate welfare to the war on drugs to healthcare that fails RCTs to state funded art. My impression is the UK is in many regards similar to this. Whether replacing this with charity allocation would lead to more or less 'stuff that sounds good but is actually useless' seems like an open question rather than a clear mark against the policy.