Share these links with Christian friends interested in EA 2022-08-11T12:30:59.867Z
dominicroser's Shortform 2022-06-27T13:27:58.544Z
New Publication: Effective Altruism and Religion 2022-01-25T09:22:16.077Z
How do ideas travel from academia to the world: any advice on what to read? 2021-02-24T15:27:36.473Z


Comment by dominicroser on [Cause Exploration Prizes] Obstetric Violence · 2022-09-06T12:02:39.301Z · EA · GW

I sincerely hope this cause will be taken as seriously as possible and thoroughly examined. 

On an anecdotal basis, I have been repeatedly surprised just how many people around me have had significant experiences along these lines. I would never have guessed this before my friends all were in child-bearing age.

I also think the relevance of this cause area might typically remain hidden from public sight because:

  1. less than half the population ever gives birth
  2. most people who do give birth, do so only once or very few times during their life
  3. if something goes wrong, they are in a uniquely bad position to follow-up given that life with a small child is a uniquely intense phase

We should also naturally be open to the idea that OV happens much more frequently than assumed given that 

  1. birthing persons are in a uniquely vulnerable situation
  2. health and safety concerns  - even if well-intentioned - always provide a plausible cover/excuse
Comment by dominicroser on How do changes in rich world economic conditions affect poor countries? · 2022-08-25T03:06:17.639Z · EA · GW

It is so helpful to have this  overview assesment in concentrated form. 

In public debates about the pros & cons of economic growth in rich countries there is often the idea "Growth in rich countries is unimportant/bad -- but, yes,  for poor countries it is important to still grow". 

The kind of work you portray about spillovers puts the viability of the idea "growth in poor countries without growth in rich countries" into question and helpfully puts numbers on how strongly growth in rich countries is linked to growth in poor countries.  

Comment by dominicroser on Is there any research on internalizing x-risks or global catastrophic risks into economies? · 2022-07-06T20:27:45.867Z · EA · GW

A paper that Kian Mintz-Woo is working on is relevant: "Incentives for the Long-Term(ist)"

From the abstract: "To address long-term externalities, I propose internalizing long-term externalized costs: according to our best estimates of the long-term costs of an activity or product, this cost should be added."

You would have to ask him directly where he's currently at with his draft.

Comment by dominicroser on What should I ask Alan Hájek, philosopher of probability, Bayesianism, expected value and counterfatuals? · 2022-07-02T02:08:46.307Z · EA · GW

Many people - both in academia and policymaking - consider the concept of 'Knightian Uncertainty' (roughly, the absence of probabilities for decision-making) to be highly relevant (eg for the purpose of spelling out precautionary principles). Does the concept make sense? If not, is it a problem that many people find it practically relevant?

Comment by dominicroser on dominicroser's Shortform · 2022-06-27T13:27:58.731Z · EA · GW

Looking for help: what's the opposite of counterfactual reasoning -- in other words: when EAs encourage counterfactual reasoning, what do they discourage?

I ask because I'm writing about good epistemic practices and mindsets. I am trying to structure my writing as a list of opposites (scout mindset vs soldier mindset, numerical vs verbal reasoning, etc). 

Would it be correct to say that in the case of counterfactual reasoning there is no real opposite? Rather, the appropriate contrast is: "counterfactual reasoning done well vs. counterfactual reasoning done badly"?

Comment by dominicroser on Will faster economic growth make us happier? The relevance of the Easterlin Paradox to Progress Studies · 2022-06-26T09:40:50.463Z · EA · GW

Thank you so much - this is the most helpful text I've read about this question!

I'd love it if someone were to write 

-- an equally detailed post about developing countries (rather than just something the length of section 4.4)

-- summarized how well it's possible to boost growth in developing countries without doing so in developed countries.

The thought is that the best case for economic growth leading to happiness would be along the following lines (excluding the link between growth and catastrophic/existential risk):
- growth doesn't hurt happiness in rich countries
- growth promotes happiness in poor countries
- growth in poor countries isn't possible without growth in rich countries

Comment by dominicroser on Catholic theologians and priests on artificial intelligence · 2022-06-15T03:36:52.039Z · EA · GW

Brian Green, the author of the epilogue, has contributed to EA for Christians in a number of helpful ways in the past (eg

Comment by dominicroser on Contest: 250€ for translation of "longtermism" to German · 2022-06-02T02:44:38.506Z · EA · GW

Etwas mit "Ganzzeitdenken", "Gesamtzukunftsdenken", "Vollfristdenken"?

Das sind keine konkreten Vorschläge, sondern mehr Brainstorming. Etwas was ja Longtermism von Mainstream-Aufrufen zu mehr langfristigem Denken unterscheidet ist der Fokus auf der gesamten Zukunft (statt "nur" auf den nächsten 100 Jahren).


Comment by dominicroser on What moral philosophies besides utilitarianism are compatible with effective altruism? · 2022-04-20T14:40:05.914Z · EA · GW

There are chapters here on Buddhism, Orthodox Judaism and Christianity in this book on religion and EA. 

I think there is a simple reason why EA is compatible with many moral views: increasing welfare is an important element of any sensible moral view. Utilitarianism is just the view that this is the only element that matters. But any other sensible moral view will acknowledge that increasing welfare matters at least alongside other considerations. 
Plus: the element of increasing welfare has become more important in the past 3-4 decades since our opportunities for increasing welfare have increased a lot compared to the previous history of humanity. Thus, the 'utilitarian element' of any sensible moral view has become practically more relevant in the past 3-4 decades. And since EA helps us to exploit these opportunities, EA matters according to any sensible moral view.

Comment by dominicroser on Complexities of wedding gifts; Thoughts? · 2022-02-18T06:24:10.336Z · EA · GW

One thing to keep in mind: for most people the point of a gift is not to transfer an economic resource to you but to express something about the relationship they have with you (and they're willing for this expression to cost something; and, generally, we're willing as a society for this expression to come with economic inefficiencies: often, the giver chooses a gift (though less so at weddings) and the giver has much less information about the preferences of the receiver than the receiver). 

I think gift-giving is a psychologically tricky issue. I also think one shouldn't downplay the symbolic value in gifts -- rather, one should see the economic costs of a gift as a necessary cost for creating the symbolic value (rather than primarily as a cost for making a new coffee machine stand in the receiver's kitchen).

I just say this because often, donations to charity aren't a full substitute for a gift to the receiver: they don't fully create the same symbolic meaning. (I'd actually love to see a more general discussion of this: many EAs create fundraisers for their birthdays and I, personally, think such fundraisers partly miss the point of gift-giving)


Comment by dominicroser on Future-proof ethics · 2022-02-05T07:15:25.038Z · EA · GW

[Pre-remark: I have only lightly skimmed the post]

Just wanted to add a pointer to Tim Mulgan's book Ethics for a Broken World  -- given the similarity in framing: "Imagine living in the future in a world already damaged by humankind...Then imagine looking back into the past, back to our own time and assessing the ethics of the early twenty-first century. ....This book is presented as a series of history of philosophy lectures given in the future, studying the classic texts from a past age of affluence, our own time. "

Comment by dominicroser on Giving Multiplier after 14 months · 2022-01-31T19:20:19.063Z · EA · GW

I've given a number of small talks about effective donations to various non-EA audiences. In the end -- after having made my case for focusing on effectiveness in giving -- I encouraged them and said: "If my argument convinced you, how about making a start and using half of your next batch of donations for the most effective charities."

Do you see any problem in taking your research as evidence that this might be sensible advice? I know Giving Multiplier does something different. However, I wonder whether it's similar enough to be transferable?

Comment by dominicroser on Why do you find the Repugnant Conclusion repugnant? · 2021-12-18T04:40:49.666Z · EA · GW

There was a somewhat unusual short philosophical paper this year signed by lots of philosophers which claimed that avoidance of the repugnant conclusion should not be seen as a necessary condition for an adequate population ethics. I guess it's driven by a similar concern you have here: the repugnant conclusion is much less obviously repugnant than its name makes it seem.     

Comment by dominicroser on On Sleep Procrastination: Going To Bed At A Reasonable Hour · 2021-04-19T09:43:12.362Z · EA · GW

I love this post. It singles out a very specific problem and tackles it very thoughtfully.

On website blockers: I have also quitted them regularly but since I have started using ColdTurkey I have quitted much less. I think it's better than other blockers. 

For myself, family life has done the trick of making me go to bed at a reasonable hour. But as soon as my wife and kids are gone for a day or two, I (regrettably!) just stay up forever. One of the reasons why I do so (and which doesn't come up on your list) is that my mood often happens to be very good when I stay up late and I also enter flow states more easily when working late at night.

Comment by dominicroser on How do ideas travel from academia to the world: any advice on what to read? · 2021-02-26T02:41:09.751Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this!

Comment by dominicroser on Ranking animal foods based on suffering and GHG emissions · 2021-01-23T04:24:03.798Z · EA · GW

And just to add a small comment: The country of origin does not only affect transport distance but also the legal standards for animal welfare (and to a lesser extent how much GHGs are involved in production). My impression is that many people overrate this. They think "Oh yes, there is horrible animal farming elsewhere  - but I only eat meat from my own country and surely everything is much better here." It would be nice to have something to counter this objection.

Comment by dominicroser on Ranking animal foods based on suffering and GHG emissions · 2021-01-21T20:51:24.332Z · EA · GW

This is really nicely done and it is exactly what many are looking for. Thank you so much! 

If it is to be shared more widely it might help to add a remark about how sensitive the results are to which country the animal products are from and whether they're organic or not. The reason for this being that many in the public sphere (and not infrequently wrongly) assume that this makes a crucial difference.

Comment by dominicroser on Space governance is important, tractable and neglected · 2021-01-11T14:54:14.441Z · EA · GW

This is tangential but I wonder whether there are side-benefits for unrelated areas if humanity collectively engages in thinking about how it would design a space governance framework. Some past thinkers used the literary device of utopias in order to think about real-world problems. In the same way, putting us in the mindset of creating rules for space governance from scratch could be a helpful exercise and helpful priming in order to solve other (short-term, earth-bound) problems. 

Comment by dominicroser on Solander's Shortform · 2020-09-15T02:56:56.789Z · EA · GW

Here's one piece of research -- it'd be wonderful if there were much more in this vein:

Comment by dominicroser on Timeline of the wild-animal suffering movement · 2020-06-17T03:56:58.096Z · EA · GW

Nice and helpful -- thanks!

I've always been fascinated by the biblical vision of a perfect world which features the lion and the lamb (etc) living together peacefully:

It might be interesting to sift through the history of humanity in order to collect further pre-1970 visions which lament WAS or which feature a utopia without WAS. I know extremely little about Buddhism, Hinduism, etc but given the links between humans and animals via rebirths: isn't the Nirvana as a state without suffering also the ultimate vision for wild animals? Also, there is the biblical new testament reference to the *whole* creation groaning and waiting for redemption.

Comment by dominicroser on What are EA project ideas you have? · 2020-03-09T08:43:10.527Z · EA · GW

WHAT: A book like "Strangers Drowning", but focused on the "E" of EA rather than the "A" of EA.

WHY: narrative can be such a tremendous force in changing people's lives. It's often more powerful than argument (even for brainy people).

There's already a lot of world literature and newspaper stories on people who have been tremendously altruistic. There is much less literature about people who have been tremendously altruistic and -- this is key -- have been motivated by their altruism to care about effectiveness and listen to the evidence.

I'd love to have a book with biographies or stories that traces -- in narrative rather than argument -- people whose love for others has pushed them to care about effectiveness, care about evidence, and generally care about a results-oriented outlook that focuses on what 'really works at the end of the day'. (Note that the book should not generally be about people who care about effectiveness and evidence -- but only about people who have deliberately chosen to do so out of altruism (rather than, say, out nerdiness)).

Possible biographies could include: Florence Nightingale, Ignaz Semmelweis, Deng Xiaoping, figures from EA and utilitarianism, some theologians in the 2nd world war who pragmatically looked towards ending the killing (Bonhoeffer, Barth, etc?), etc. Not vouching for this list of examples at all -- it's more to give an idea.

By the way, creating such a book could be a project for EAs with a different skillset than the cliché EAs.

Comment by dominicroser on Existential risk as common cause · 2020-02-29T10:38:01.069Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this! Very interesting.

And really sorry for replying only now -- I somehow missed this and only saw it now.

--- On population increase: yes, many Christians work towards population increase but it's equally true that many Christians don't. An interesting side remark is that the influential passage Genesis 1,28 on which pro-natalism is often based calls for *filling* the earth. Arguably, humanity can claim to have unlocked this achievement. We can tick it off our To-Do-List. (Also, in terms of background information, my view that determining the optimal population size might be God's task rather than a human task started with this blogpost:

--- On miracles: One thing is that I find it a bit hard to exclude miracles from classical theism. But even if we exclude them (or understand them to be compatible with natural laws) and even if we understand God to act within the causal history of the universe, one thing we surely can't exclude in classical theism is that God acts in addition to human agency (including acts which might be surprising). To the extent that this is true, Christian concern with x-risks should continue to be somewhat mitigated relative to the atheist's concern?

--- And thanks for the helpful observation that the blogpost unhelpfully avoids clear upshots (and thus also avoids responsibility for actions that might follow from it). The thing is: I find it genuinely extremely hard to think about the right approach to long-termism from a Christian perspective and this actually was *merely* a start. The parliamentary model etc would indeed be needed to derive actionable conclusions. (And, just to say, I do agree with many EAs that the far future should definitely receive more consideration than it typically does).

Comment by dominicroser on Against anti-natalism; or: why climate change should not be a significant factor in your decision to have children · 2020-02-28T14:56:31.363Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this, Michael! I will look at it.

Comment by dominicroser on Against anti-natalism; or: why climate change should not be a significant factor in your decision to have children · 2020-02-27T04:16:57.226Z · EA · GW

Great to put the climate externality of a child explicitly in relation to other positive and negative values that come with having a child. Thanks for doing this and doing it so well.

A question: where else in the population ethics debate can I find the kind of reasoning that you employ? More specifically, where else can I find (1) lists of the bazillion positive and negative externalities of an additional child and (2) some argument -- however weak -- that takes us beyond agnosticism on the question whether an additional child is overall a *net* positive or negative externality (and, in case it is a net negative externality, where can I find some argument -- however weak -- whether it is *sufficiently* net negative so as to outweigh the value that the life has to the child itself)?

PS: I've laid out 9 further reasons (plus a version of the point that you make) why the initially appealing case for less children here is surprisingly unclear at closer inspection: I've grown convinced that the climate case for less children is much more difficult than people think and think it's important to highlight this fact.

Comment by dominicroser on Khorton's Shortform · 2020-02-18T05:37:48.211Z · EA · GW

Thanks a lot for this pointer!

An odd observation: He cites someone who's done such stuff before -- John Nolt, a philosopher. He himself is professor of the psychology of music. I think the calculations of both of them are extremely useful (even if extremely speculative). But there's a big question here: what prevented *scientists* from offering such numbers? Are they too afraid of publishing guesstimates? Does it not occur to them that these numbers are utterly relevant for the debate?

Comment by dominicroser on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-01-22T13:06:29.950Z · EA · GW

If the case for growth in rich and poor is very different (possibly negative in the one but not the other case), then it starts to matter a lot whether we can promote growth in poor countries without promoting growth in rich countries as a side-effect. I don't know how the proposed interventions fare in this respect?

Comment by dominicroser on Long-term investment fund at Founders Pledge · 2020-01-10T08:55:54.407Z · EA · GW

You asked for other examples. The following two examples are certainly not the most relevant but they are interesting:

-- Benjamin Franklin, in his will, left £1,000 pounds each to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia, with the proviso that the money should be invested for 100 years, with 25 percent of the principal to be invested for a further 100 years. As a result, Boston wound up in 1990 with a fund of over $5 million, Philadelphia with $2.3 million.) [copy-pasted from a book review by Joseph Heathe in Ethics]

-- From Cliff Landesman's 1995 2-page-paper ( ): "I and a dozen or so nickel and dime philanthropists belong to the 2492 Club. We each contributed less than $25 to open a Giftrust mutual fund account (#25000044879) with Twentieth Century Investors. With luck, a millennium after Columbus landed in America, this account will pay out its accumulated value (expected to exceed the equivalent of 26 million in 1992 dollars) to Oxfam America, an organization that fights hunger in partnership with poor people around the world. Other altruistic gamblers who wish to join the 2492 Club, hoping to influence events centuries from now, and betting that current conditions will prevail for another 500 years, should contact the author or Oxfam America."

PS: In trying to remember where I found the quotes I came across the following two papers which pre-date the current EA discussion and I just post them here in case anyone who's interested in this stuff hasn't noted them: Dan Moller's 2006 paper "Should we let people starve -- for now?" ( or Laura Valentini's 2011 paper "On the duty to withhold global aid now to save more lives in the future" ( .

Comment by dominicroser on Taking advantage of climate change concerns to channel donations to EA-recommended organizations at low marginal cost (proposal and call for more research) · 2019-12-20T11:54:57.431Z · EA · GW

Also, some ways of mitigating climate change have (positive or negative) side benefits* for humanity's ability to solve other upcoming challenges, such as AI safety or pandemics. And from an EA perspective, these latter challenges might possibly be higher priority than climate change. Thus, there's a further avenue for EAs who do not care much about climate change to "harness" the current societal focus on climate change for EA-aligned goals.

*For example, I'm thinking of side benefits of strategies such as:

-- strengthening global cooperation

-- spreading a radically technology-friendly mindset among greens

-- fighting anti-science trends in society

-- etc

Comment by dominicroser on Introducing Good Policies: A new charity promoting behaviour change interventions · 2019-12-19T03:38:05.883Z · EA · GW

A very general remark on this: "There are plenty of potential weaknesses to advocacy-based interventions compared to more direct interventions. One large concern we have is understanding the impact of organisations in this space."

Federally organized constituencies (Switzerland, US, etc) are a great thing for political scientists: you can compare the effect of policies or advocacy campaigns in different sub-national jurisdictions which are very similar. (Not sure whether this is of any help in your case, though).

PS: Just to add: fantastic initiative. Curious to hear how it's developing!

Comment by dominicroser on Existential risk as common cause · 2019-04-30T17:37:42.902Z · EA · GW

I've written a blogpost on whether Christians should share the emphasis that many EAs put on the long term, including extinction risks. Since this fits nicely with your aim in this blogpost -- i.e. whether *many* worldviews should prioritise existential risks -- I thought I'd mention it here:

Comment by dominicroser on Effective Impact Investing · 2019-03-07T09:46:45.214Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the *great* discussion.

One question that was raised is whether there is a trade-off between Impact Investing and donations. I am not sure whether one of the biggest reasons for the existence of such a trade-off has been mentioned so far: People who invest socially responsibly feel more comfortable about owning that money and may therefore be less prone to donations. Conversely, people who feel that they are earning their money in illegitimate ways may feel under more pressure to give it away.

I don't have any data to support this claim. It's merely my personal impression that *a lot* of my non-EA friends who care about poverty, animals, etc. are much drawn to the idea that what they should *really* be doing is aiming at clean hands by investing & consuming ethically. They feel that if they earned & spend their money in a clean way, any donations are then superogatory.

Because of this sense, I often strategically try to undermine people's belief in impact investing -- in order to convince them that it's (at the very least) not a comprehensive solution and that donations are crucial as well. Neither Gabe nor Max claimed that it's a comprehensive solution but I believe that people perceive it as such. And this perception implies that there are significant trade-off in promoting impact investments rather than donations.

P.S.: One solution to that would of course be to promote impact investing but *frame* it such that people don't feel like they can refrain from donations simply because the money was earned in a "clean" way.

Comment by dominicroser on Effective Altruism and Religious Faiths: Mutually Exclusive Entities, or an Important Nexus to Explore? · 2015-09-24T15:17:45.247Z · EA · GW

Thanks so much, Sophie, for this very rich and helpful text!

I'd be very interested to hear more about this claim: "In Judaism, “tzedaka” is the idea of donating a certain portion of one’s income to /effective/ charities on a regular basis." Is there anyone specific I could ask or anything specific I could read on the relation of tzedaka and effectiveness?

[Two minor corrections: I think the reference to Eric Gregory's work is missing. And, churches going back to Wesley (such as the United Methodist Church) have much more than half a million members -- a pity they don't follow Wesley's advice....]

Comment by dominicroser on Suggestions thread for questions for the 2015 EA Survey · 2015-05-14T08:13:32.306Z · EA · GW

Doesn't seem to personal for me (and, generally speaking, a good idea)