Posts

The UK as an Effective Altruist 2020-08-10T19:29:22.607Z · score: 14 (15 votes)
Link: Longtermist Institutional Reform 2020-07-30T20:36:31.235Z · score: 28 (11 votes)
Why Don’t We Use Chemical Weapons Anymore? 2020-04-23T01:25:34.706Z · score: 23 (15 votes)
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)

Comments

Comment by dale on What is the increase in expected value of effective altruist Wayne Hsiung being mayor of Berkeley instead of its current incumbent? · 2020-08-07T19:00:08.723Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Allowing such a post would totally neuter the rule. All one would have to do is take your draft "Trump is actually the best candidate from an EA perspective" and re-title it "Is Trump actually the best candidate from an EA perspective?" Scatter in a few question marks in the text and you are fully compliant.

Comment by dale on avacyn's Shortform · 2020-08-07T18:53:51.337Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I think Gregory_Lewis is referencing the same poor behavior here if you are looking for more sources. Please let me know what the organizers say if you ended up asking them.

Comment by dale on avacyn's Shortform · 2020-07-22T18:29:15.720Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · EA · GW
Do you have a source for this claim?

Yes. You are welcome to ask the other people who helped organize the previous EAGs about it. If you like I can try to work out the dates.

Also, I would note that if you allow unsourced positive claims, but not negative claims, this isolated demand for rigor creates a bias and make us vulnerable to hostile actors whose behavior cannot be called out. Though of course you can moderate your forum however you like!

Comment by dale on Systemic change, global poverty eradication, and a career plan rethink: am I right? · 2020-07-17T16:44:29.871Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · EA · GW
I doubt it will be a fringe view on this forum that Western colonialism tended to cripple poor countries' economies, or that certain European and US interventions (like the Iraq War) led to huge devastation.

You're right that this is not a fringe view, and it is probably one of the more mainstream views Hickel has. However, I do not think that it is obviously true. Poor countries suffered many disadvantages from colonialism, but also gained many advantages, like education, infrastructure, and more advanced legal systems. The earliest western colonialism seemed quite brutal and destructive, like the Spanish in South America, but the later kinds were much more benign, ultimately culminating in extremely beneficial British rule over Hong Kong. There are clearly some parts of the world that have ended up very rich as a direct result of colonial rule, like the US, Canada, Australia or Hong Kong. Within sub-Saharan Africa, the area that was colonized the longest (South Africa) is also the richest, and the only part of Africa that wasn't colonized (Ethiopia) is no richer than most other sub-Saharan African countries. Whether this colonization was beneficial on net is an empirical question; the only paper I have seen with an even vaguely credible methodology is this one on shipping islands:

Using a new database of islands throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans we examine whether colonial origins affect modern economic outcomes. We argue that the nature of discovery and colonization of islands provides random variation in the length and type of colonial experience. We instrument for length of colonization using wind direction and wind speed. Wind patterns which mattered a great deal during the age of sail do not have a direct effect on GDP today, but do affect GDP via their historical impact on colonization. The number of years spent as a European colony is strongly positively related to the island's GDP per capita and negatively related to infant mortality. This basic relationship is also found to hold for a standard dataset of developing countries. ... The timing of the colonial experience seems to matter. Time spent as a colony after 1700 is more beneficial to modern income than years before 1700, consistent with a change in the nature of colonial relationships over time.

You're definitely right that condemning the Iraq war is far from a fringe view, but honesty compels again me to object. While I think the Iraq war was a mistake, it must be noted that as late as 2006 it seems the majority of Iraqis actually thought the war was a good idea, even after seeing 3 years of poorly-administered aftermath:

A majority of Iraqis (61%) still believe that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth the hardships they might have suffered, but this is down from the 77 percent who said this in January.

I haven't checked this, but it seems quite plausible to me that in 2006 the war was actually more popular in Iraq than it was in the west!

Additionally, it's also important to note that Iraq's GDP has grown dramatically since the war. In 2002 it was around $19bn; by 2012 it was apparently almost 10x higher at around $218 (and has remained around this level since). They benefited from a rise in the oil price, of course, but I don't think that can explain everything, and oil prices have fallen again now anyway. Their unemployment rate also apparently fell from around 9-10% pre-war to around 8% now.

More pertinently from your case, the invasion of Iraq was clearly quite an unusual situation. In the 17 years since we have not seen another similar invasion by western powers, partly because western governments have little desire to repeat the expensive war + subsequent nation-building process. Most poor countries have not seen a conflict similar to the Iraq war, and probably will not (if nothing else they rarely pretend to have WMDs!); civil wars are much more common. As such I don't think the Iraq war experience has much read-through to your ultimate question how how effective farm equipment rental programs in sub-Saharan Africa will be.

A different scenario to contrast the Iraq experience with would be the English invasion of Sierra Leone in 2000. Unlike Iraq, Sierre Leone is the sort of extremely poor country that EAs typically consider health and poverty interventions in, and the military intervention was extremely successful:

The rebel forces were scared away from the city, the UN got off its knees and the government army was revitalised. Eighteen months later, Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war was brought to an end. In the streets of Freetown at the time the graffiti read: "Queen Elizabeth for king!" and "Return to us our colonial mother!" Tony Blair remains more popular here than anywhere else on the planet. He still visits the country every couple of years, and officials from his office are seconded into the finance and health ministries. Several Sierra Leoneans said they would personally campaign for Blair to be the country's president. A young Freetown documentary-maker, Arthur Pratt, told me: "We think we are to him as a favourite child."

Now, the intervention in Sierra Leone was unusual in how well it went. But I don't think you can consider unusually bad interventions like Iraq without also considering unusually good interventions as well.

Comment by dale on Systemic change, global poverty eradication, and a career plan rethink: am I right? · 2020-07-16T16:22:21.007Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

The 'freedom to trade internationally' composite, which is basically not-being-protectionist, saw one of the largest improvements of any of their scores over this time. They are still protectionist relative to many richer countries, like the JV requirements. But they are dramatically less protectionist than they used to be, and this change coincided with / preceded their dramatic growth.

Comment by dale on Systemic change, global poverty eradication, and a career plan rethink: am I right? · 2020-07-16T15:51:12.528Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW
Hickel claims that China's very non-neoliberal policy enriched its people

China's post-1979 reforms are one of the textbook examples of neoliberalism! They privatized many businesses, allowed the creation of markets for many goods and services, opened up to international trade and reduced capital controls. While there is still a great deal of central control, the level is dramatically lower than it was in the 1970s. Their economic freedom ranking improved from a terrible 3.59 in 1980 to a respectable (though still not great) 6 in 2002, a very rapid rise. This is a similar increase to other countries undergoing neoliberal reforms at the same time, like the UK, Chile and Sweden, though many of these started from a higher base.

EDIT: Unless you are talking about the One Child Policy, which I would agree is very non-neoliberal, and is a major policy.

Comment by dale on Objections to Value-Alignment between Effective Altruists · 2020-07-16T14:20:54.239Z · score: 25 (13 votes) · EA · GW

Interesting article. I would like to raise one quabble:

Advocates for traditional diversity metrics such as race, gender and class do so precisely because they track different ways of thinking.

I agree this is the stated reason for many corporate diversity advocates, but I think it is not their true reason. In practice many companies recruit using basically a combination of filters whose purpose is to select people with a certain way of thinking (e.g. resumes, interviews, psychological screens) combined with various quotas for desired racial groups. If getting cognitive diversity was the goal they would try testing and selecting for that directly, or at least stop actively selecting against it. The status quo is likely to mean McKinsey get people from a variety of races, all of whom went to Harvard Business School, which I presume is basically what we want. After all, while cognitive diversity in some regards is useful, we want everyone to have the same (high) level of the cluster of skills that make up being a good consultant, like diligence, intelligence and sociability.

In particular, that even if hypothetically research showed that traditional racial/sexual diversity inhibited useful cognitive diversity (perhaps by making people less comfortable about sharing their views), advocates would be unlikely to change their mind.

I think their true motivations are more like some combination of:

  • Desire to appeal to a variety of audiences who would be less likely to buy from an outsider (e.g. hiring black sales guys to sell in black areas).
  • Wanting to avoid being criticized as racist by hostile outsiders.
  • Left wing conceptions of fairness on behalf of HR staff and other management, unrelated to firm objectives.
  • Intellectual conformism with others who believe for the previous three reasons.
A non-exhaustive subset of admired individuals I believe includes: ... As far as I perceive it, all revered individuals are male.

It seems a little rude to make public lists of perceived intelligence. Imagine how it would feel to be a prominent EA and to be excluded from the list? :-( In this case, I think you have excluded some people who are definitely higher in community estimation that some on your list, including some prominent women.

Members write articles about him in apparent awe and possibly jest

The linked article is from over eleven years ago. I think GWWC hadn't even launched at that point, let alone the rest of the EA community. This is like attacking democrats because Obama thought gay marriage was immoral and was trying to build a border wall with Mexico, both of which were the case in 2009.

Comment by dale on Is it possible, and if so how, to arrive at ‘strong’ EA conclusions without the use of utilitarian principles? · 2020-07-13T14:04:41.044Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Maybe a deontological version would consist of not merely doing enough to avoid violating moral law, but using evidence to absolutely minimize the risk of violating any such duties. For example, the Center for Effective Deontology might research contracts people commonly sign (like cell phones or insurance) and provide advice on how to avoid accidentally violating them to reduce promise-breaking.

Comment by dale on avacyn's Shortform · 2020-07-13T13:18:34.347Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · EA · GW
DxE has been fairly controversial in the animal advocacy world

For anyone who hasn't been following closely, this is quite the understatement! Wayne once threatened to "start a big fight" at EAG in order to generate media attention.

Comment by dale on EA considerations regarding increasing political polarization · 2020-07-01T04:55:40.462Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW
For context, Facebook is the social media company that has been most reluctant to be political, and apparently this is really making them bleed financially.

I added up the numbers in the first article and got around $634m of total 2018 ad spend, vs 2019 facebook revenue of 70700bn - less than 1%. Many of those companies only say they are 'pausing' or 'for July', rather than stopping. Finally, a company that was re-considering its facebook ad spend for unrelated reasons might want to frame it as a moral stance.

Perhaps principle-agent problems are at play; individual ideologues put SJ ahead of corporate profitability, and the much larger number of ordinary people are afraid of being bullied so do not speak out. But this is obviously not a full explanation.

Comment by dale on Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths? · 2020-06-10T15:42:10.798Z · score: 27 (10 votes) · EA · GW
Who is the 'we' here and by whose yardstick the benefit measured?

Investigations into police brutality that follow viral footage have historically been quite harmful for all involved. The upside is a small reduction in police brutality. The downside is a massive increase in non-police brutality, as found in this recent paper:

all investigations that were preceded by "viral" incidents of deadly force have led to a large and statistically significant increase in homicides and total crime. We estimate that these investigations caused almost 900 excess homicides and almost 34,000 excess felonies. The leading hypothesis for why these investigations increase homicides and total crime is an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity. In Chicago, the number of police-civilian interactions decreased by almost 90% in the month after the investigation was announced. In Riverside CA, interactions decreased 54%. In St. Louis, self-initiated police activities declined by 46%. Other theories we test such as changes in community trust or the aggressiveness of consent decrees associated with investigations -- all contradict the data in important ways.

Indeed the harm done by one day of reduced policing in Chicago may have already rendered the protests a net negative, even ignoring spreading Coronavirus:

From 7 p.m. Friday, May 29, through 11 p.m. Sunday, May 31, 25 people were killed in the city, with another 85 wounded by gunfire, according to data maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
In a city with an international reputation for crime — where 900 murders per year were common in the early 1990s — it was the most violent weekend in Chicago’s modern history, stretching police resources that were already thin because of protests and looting.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a longtime crusader against gun violence who leads St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, said it was “open season” last weekend in his neighborhood and others on the South and West sides.

I also think you misunderstand your fellow EAs:

Animal rights activists are not turning out in large numbers to get tear gassed and beaten for the cause. This is pretty good evidence that they are not in the set of 'everyone else who thinks their reason is as good as I think this one is'.

Many animal rights activists believe that the status quo is far far worse than the holocaust. There are billions of animals being farmed for meat today, generally treated very cruelly. Whatever you think of the state of US race relations, it is clear that, if animals matter, they are much worse off - both much more numerous and treated much much worse!

I think what you are missing is that there are factors other than believed importance of cause that determine one's actions. For example, animal rights activists might care about suppressing the pandemic! Or they might think getting tear gassed was counter-productive!


You suggest that concessions will help reduce the scale of the protests, but my impression is that the literature suggests that actually repression is effective. For example, this study on the 2011 London Riots, where first-time looters were punished relatively harshly, found it was successful in reducing crime:

The criminal justice response was to make sentencing for rioters much more severe. We show a significant drop in riot crimes across London in the six months after the riots, consistent with a deterrence effect from the tougher sentencing. Moreover, we find that non-riot crimes actually went in the opposite direction, suggesting a response from criminals who look to have substituted away from the types of crimes that received tougher sentences. We find little evidence that spatial displacement or extra police presence on the streets of London in the wake of the riots accounts for these patterns of change. More evidence of general deterrence comes from the observation that crime also fell in the post-riot aftermath in areas where rioting did not take place.

Similarly, this study on Israeli counter-terrorism police:

An increase in repressive actions leads to a reduction in terrorist attacks. ... An increase in conciliatory actions has no effect on terrorism.

Finally my guess is that this is sort of irrelevant anyway because OP is probably not a senior government official; she may be able to persuade some friends not to go protest, but probably can't change US policy.

Comment by dale on What are some good charities to donate to regarding systemic racial injustice? · 2020-06-10T13:22:39.505Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW
Using a new database of islands throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans we examine whether colonial origins affect modern economic outcomes. We argue that the nature of discovery and colonization of islands provides random variation in the length and type of colonial experience. We instrument for length of colonization using wind direction and wind speed. Wind patterns which mattered a great deal during the age of sail do not have a direct effect on GDP today, but do affect GDP via their historical impact on colonization. The number of years spent as a European colony is strongly positively related to the island's GDP per capita and negatively related to infant mortality. This basic relationship is also found to hold for a standard dataset of developing countries. We test whether this link is directly related to democratic institutions, trade, and the identity of the colonizing nation. While there is substantial variation in the history of democratic institutions across the islands, such variation does not predict income. Islands with significant export products during the colonial period are wealthier today, but this does not diminish the importance of colonial tenure. The timing of the colonial experience seems to matter. Time spent as a colony after 1700 is more beneficial to modern income than years before 1700, consistent with a change in the nature of colonial relationships over time. [emphasis added]

Colonialism and Modern Income - Islands as Natural Experiments

Comment by dale on Cause Prioritization in Light of Inspirational Disasters · 2020-06-09T04:38:05.680Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · EA · GW

This seems quite ungenerous. Yes, you can construe this as having a negative 'vibe'. But it's far from the only such possible 'vibe'! The idea of exposure to mild cases of a bad thing yielding future protection through behavioral change is widespread in medicine: think of vaccination with live virus changing the behavior of your immune system, or a mild heart attack causing an unhealthy young person to change their habits.

But even if the 'vibe' was bad, in general we should try to analyze things logically, not reject ideas because they pattern match to an unpleasant sounding idea. If it was the case that global pandemics are less of an Xrisk now, owning up to it doesn't make it worse.

Comment by dale on Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths? · 2020-06-08T18:13:54.927Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

These articles do not appear to contradict what Halstead said at all.

The first link appears to be an opinion piece rather than a serious piece of analysis - for example it does not include any comparison of the rates of Police killing between the UK and the US. It complains that UK police haven't been found guilty of murdering black men for a long time, but does not compare this to the number of unarmed black men shot by cops in the UK - a number which is approximately zero most years! It mentions that black men are imprisoned at higher rates than white men in the UK, but does not compare this to the rate at which they commit crimes, which is also significantly higher. Indeed, the only time it actually makes a direct comparison between the US and UK it actually (begrudgingly) agrees with Halstead:

Few people would deny that in many respects life is better for non-white people in the UK than in the US.

Overall I would not consider that article to be a particularly serious analysis of the issue.

Your second link (which I see you found by following a link in the Guardian article) is significantly more data-orientated, but again the only time it directly touches on the issue at hand it seems to agree with Halstead:

14% of deaths in police custody or otherwise following contact with the police since 1990 were BAME. This is proportionate to the population as at the 2011 census.

Finally, neither article contains any comparisons to the pandemic.

Comment by dale on Racial Demographics at Longtermist Organizations · 2020-05-06T18:31:53.420Z · score: 14 (9 votes) · EA · GW
I’d very much like to see EA and/or Longtermist organizations hire people with “different academic backgrounds, different world views and different ideologies.”

In that case you probably shouldn't argue that an opinion being held by an ideological minority makes it especially dangerous:

I agree with Hauke that this perspective carries PR risk, and in my opinion seems especially extreme in a community that politically skews ~20:1 left vs. right.

Diversity doesn't bring any value if you then crush all disagreement!

Comment by dale on Why Don’t We Use Chemical Weapons Anymore? · 2020-04-23T01:28:20.134Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Why is this a personal blogpost? What does that mean? I thought I was posting to the EA forum?

Comment by dale on Effective Animal Advocacy Nonprofit Roles Spot-Check · 2020-04-22T13:56:58.922Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · EA · GW
Interestingly, however, this spot-check found less evidence that women were underrepresented in management and leadership roles than OpenPhil’s research

This is a very unusual way of saying 'women were over-represented' (relative to their share of the population).

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.

https://www.klipfolio.com/resources/kpi-examples/saas-metrics/customer-lifetime-value-to-customer-acquisition-ratio

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: 10 (9 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.