The Exploitation Framework - How We Accidentally Cause Harm To Others 2020-12-08T18:10:35.469Z


Comment by ElliotJDavies on Any recommendation for how to explain EA funds grants to friend? · 2022-09-29T20:40:47.456Z · EA · GW

Good question, and I think this is definitely healthy discussion. In general, money is a sensitive issue, and I would encourage all parties to show nuance, this includes (but not limited to) when: "judging" someone's salary, when asking for a salary, and when granting a salary.

Two steelmen for decent chunky grants 1) Bounded loss and unbounded wins - while theoretically salaries could be cut in half, impact could easily be 10-100x. I.e. the focus should be opportunity cost and not expenditure 2) many smart people in ea, and the people granting, may have previously been earning decent significant salaries as programmers/executives/consultants. You and I may see 80k USD as a lot of money, but its pretty normal for developers in Cali to earn hundreds of USD. Therefore, expecting people to earn 50k a year may effectively be asking them to donate 75% of their income.

And 2 steelmen for keeping salary low - 1) this is a movement about charity, helping others, and donating. We put a lot of effort and time into building health communities around these principles built on a heavy basis of trust. It's important to feel like people are in it for the right reason, and high salaries can jeopardise that. 2) it's pretty easy to justify a high salary with some of the above reasoning, perhaps too easy. As a community builder myself, it seems totally plausible we could attract people that are a poor fit for ea by being too relaxed around the money pedal.

For my own personal opinion, I think it's far too easy to ignore opportunity cost, and concentrate on short term expenditure and salary. However, I can very much imagine myself leaving the community if I salaries became too inflated. And I am likely to feel less aligned with others who require large salaries (just being honest here). Looking at recent posted receipts, I don't see anything that catches my eye in a bad way, although it could be said to be unfair that some community builders will be working 3x harder on a volunteer basis than other community builders on a competitive salary. I think this partially reflects the incentives which produced a world we currently live in (I.e. largely unaltruistic).

Whilst I find the arguments for working hard, and concentrating on impact, rather than earning little, pretty compelling - it's worth pointing out that there's some fantastic work coming out of Charity Entrepreneurship charities (who's employees generally earn little) , so it's not clear the tradeoff is always present.

Lastly, I would say its likely that I've made tradeoffs with my own salary, which have likely significantly negatively effected my social impact. I suspect this is easy to do, and would encourage people to avoid failing into this trap.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Any recommendation for how to explain EA funds grants to friend? · 2022-09-29T19:46:11.112Z · EA · GW

I think this is a wise decision, and I disagree with those claiming that publicly criticising grant receipts is a good idea.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Is there more guidance/resources on what to do if one feels like they are part of a sugnificant minority that should focus on potentially pressing global issues beyond current 80 000h priorities? · 2022-09-07T11:51:56.099Z · EA · GW

Perhaps you can be the person who makes/distributes those resources - if someone follows in your footsteps and is able to make better decisions because of you, you will have generated lots of Utility points 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Open EA Global · 2022-09-01T18:20:55.708Z · EA · GW

So this is just my subjective opinion, but because they are less professionalised, more studenty, they feel more relaxed. Even after the event itself (i.e. at after-parties) if the vibe is less professional, you will feel that in the atmosphere, and the way people behave

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Open EA Global · 2022-09-01T13:58:03.059Z · EA · GW

I am sceptical about this, I think understanding the formula of EAG and EAGx helps contextualise and solve most of the issues in the post. 

There's currently 8 EAGx in the next 7 months, and probably many more in the pipework. EAGx events are designed to have a more inclusive bar to entry. It should be noted, that they not exactly small events. We are aiming for 1000 people in EAGxNordics in April next year. EAGx are also, notoriously, "weirder".  

With that in mind, I am not sure how less events, which are less targeted, but bigger  would be an advantage. But I have to admit, the quickest way to resolve this would be to try and run an event for 10,000 people, and collect feedback 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Open EA Global · 2022-09-01T13:41:15.061Z · EA · GW

it's updating me to think about what spots I'm taking by attending. 

I have had concerns about this, and seen similar concerns among others even applying to our national retreat. An easy solution would be to add a box on the application form "I want to come, but don't want to crowd out somebody else" - or perhaps better wording! These people are accepted last, after all other people hitting the-bar-for-entry are accepted. 


Do you (I mean this in a general sense for anyone to answer) have any suggestions for how to do outreach to those not deep in the EA radar so we can make it more of an 'open' conference?

Could be worthwhile reaching out to Santeri from EA Finland about this, since he's running a hackathon for 100's of persons. As I understand, have nice website and graphics, but all the work is done in person conversations/flyering at the uni , until eventually you build enough of a reputation over the years that it just spreads by word of mouth (Do things that don't scale)

On this last point, I think this is likely what we are starting to see with EAGx's - I think EAGxBerlin is gonna be pretty huge 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Open EA Global · 2022-09-01T13:30:18.645Z · EA · GW

But then of course there is the question of what's keeping EAG organizers from making them twice the size. They will have a better insight here!

I suspect/my understanding is, it's just a slow feedback loop. You have to book a venue before you know how many people will apply, and if that venue has a capacity (i.e.  there literally wouldn't be enough space, or health and safety issues) you can't accept more than that. 

With that said, I would be very surprised if EAG-SF (Which IIRC had around 1700 accepted, with 200 no shows) rejected more than 30% of US based applicants. And those rejections would likely no be capacity related, by more due to not hitting the bar of acceptance. So the limiting factor could be demand

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Announcing What We Owe The Future · 2022-09-01T11:45:28.508Z · EA · GW

Curious to know what kind of services a publisher provides, in this case I imagine the PR team and outreach is not being spearheaded (or paid for by the publisher)? Can someone steel man for me? 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on My favourite Holden Karnofsky essays (pre Cold Takes) · 2022-08-31T17:13:17.267Z · EA · GW

Thanks for sharing - I've found the cold take series thought provoking so perhaps I'll give these a read

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Military Service as an Option to Build Career Capital · 2022-08-10T14:39:31.375Z · EA · GW

Fantastic post! Learned a lot

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Punching Utilitarians in the Face · 2022-07-13T22:49:59.765Z · EA · GW

Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't neccessarily see St Petersberg Paradox as being the same as Pascals mugging. The latter is a criticism of speculation, and the former is more of an intuitive critique against expected value theory 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on (Self-)Criticism Doesn't Solve Problems. We Do. · 2022-07-04T09:09:15.676Z · EA · GW

Yet when those of us in EA ask the authors of such op-eds what should be done differently, they tend not to have satisfactory answers to the question.

Strong agreement here - I've noticed a common trend where someone claims to have drastically different values from x person, but when asked how would they behave differently to solve y problem, they basically don't suggest an intervention that would be different from what x person is doing.

Nowadays, I am on the lookout for narcissism of small differences

I'll suggest putting more time and effort into proposing solutions too as a starting point.

This seems like a good rule of thumb 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on How to start a blog in 5 seconds for $0 · 2022-07-04T08:59:44.344Z · EA · GW

Love this type of post! 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on The Future Might Not Be So Great · 2022-07-01T10:31:39.468Z · EA · GW

I think you have undervalued optionality value. Using Ctrl + F I have tried to find and summarise your claims against optionality value: 


  • EA only has a modest amount of "control" [ I assuming control = optionality ]
  •  EA won't retain much "control" over the future
  • The argument for option value is based on circular logic
  •  Counterpoint, short x-risk timelines would be good from the POV of someone making an optionality value argument
  • Counterpoint, optionality would be more important if alien's exist and propagate negative value
  •  humans existing limits option value similar [question, by similar do you mean equal to?] to that of non-existence
  • We can't raise x-risk after we've lowered it 

Without having thought about this for very long, I think the argument against optionality needs to be really really strong. Since you essentially need to demonstrate we have equal or better decision making abilities right now, than at any point in the future. 

One of the reasons optionality seems like an exceptionally good argument, is that uncertainty exists both inside and outside EV models (i.e. you can model EV, and include some uncertainty, but then you need to account for uncertainty around the entire EV model because you've likely made a ton of assumptions during the process). And it's extremely likely this uncertainty would remain constant overtime. One way we try to improve our models of the world is by making predictions and seeing if we were correct. The two reasons we do this are: making predictions is hard (so it's test for a model that's hard to pass) , and we have more information in the future. 

The argument against optionality seems borderline tautological, because you essentially have to round all optionality value to 0, meaning the value of making predictions (and all over science, philosophy ect.) is also 0. 

I am basically making a fanatical argument here for optionality, whereby the only  consideration that trumps it is opportunity cost. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on EA megaprojects continued · 2022-06-02T15:44:31.948Z · EA · GW

Out of curiosity, would you be interested in sharing your biggest "causes for concern" with higher education? 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on The EA movement’s values are drifting. You’re allowed to stay put. · 2022-05-24T08:57:20.297Z · EA · GW

I agree with this goal hierarchy framework - it's super super useful to appreciate that many of one's personal goals are just extrapolations and mental shortcuts of more distilled upstream goals 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Big EA and Its Infinite Money Printer · 2022-05-11T13:39:51.790Z · EA · GW

I am sort of making a number up, since I didn't attend EAGxBoston, but I  would guess 30-50% . If they've been around for some years, have been donating some fraction of their income, have changed things in the life because of EA, then they're probably highly engaged. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Big EA and Its Infinite Money Printer · 2022-05-06T11:33:05.884Z · EA · GW

My impression of the Boston and London conferences is that most of the people there are "coincidental allies" by this framing. They'd be in their chosen careers regardless of whether it was an EA cause area. 

I feel like this is falsifiable, perhaps by handing out surveys or interviews asking participants around career path, and how they've updated over time. 

I suspect what you stated is true for many "median engaged EA's" but not true for highly engaged EA's. For me personally, my career direction is radically different as a result of becoming an Aspiring EA / being a member of my local group. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Big EA and Its Infinite Money Printer · 2022-05-05T12:45:23.078Z · EA · GW

I think there's some misunderstanding of the figure. The figure is an EV that's probably  benchmarked off of cash transfers (i.e. givedirectly). The logic being, if Openphil can recruit for an AI researcher for any less than $20 million USD, they have made more impact than donating it to GiveDirectly. Not that they intend to spend 20 million on each counterfactual career change. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Making Community Building a more attractive career path · 2022-04-07T14:15:52.998Z · EA · GW

Broadly speaking, I am sceptical that this is tractable or desirable.

Whilst I A) belive city and national groups will be absolutely vitally important B) impact from community building can be significantly reduced by an early departure. I also believe i) this is unlikely to change, increasing salaries won't help ii) long term employees may stagnate and prevent future growth.

One reason to think ii) is because "churn" in economics is seen as largely healthy (IIRC) - this may be something to do with stagnation, which can occur both to employees and organisations. We should expect a competitive and dynamic labour market, just like a competitive and dynamic industry, to have lots of movement, as different people flourish, stagnate and decline at different times.

Second reason for ii) if groups will gain funding or impact, then personal fit for employees (and talent pool that could work at the organisation) will change. A good example for this would be myself, its plausible that I was the best person for my CB job, because nobody else wanted the role (to my knowledge). But if the organisation gains significant funding and multiple employees, this could change. Having me seat-sitting, demanding a larger salary whilst having a poor grasp of the native language seems suboptimal. It's also possible that my competive advantages involve running or founding smaller organisations.

Some reasons I believe i) demographic EAs are academic, and likely to have families who value academic roles. I think there is tremendous pressure to get a job that your personal network will respect. I see this a lot with why people study to become medical doctors or PhDs . If your a CB, you'll mostly be doing: communications and event planning, 1-1 career guidance, ops, ect., And none of this seems likely to hit the "academic" spot that a lot of people are after. Put shortly, money won't help because it's more important that people think your earning a lot of money, rather than actually earning a lot of money.

Some notes on how to improve the role: 1) more secure funding would certainly make me happier 2) having a representative from the CBG grant, or the "wider ea world" to make themselves present to my team (as you do Ville) can be extremely helpful, because its possible for less experienced voices to be (relatively) overrepresented when it comes to key strategy decisions. 3) job titles matter, as suggested by Peter. We should probably immediately stop using the "community builder" job title.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Issues with centralised grantmaking · 2022-04-05T20:26:53.372Z · EA · GW

I would be very interested in doing this in Copenhagen. If anybody going to EA global has strong opinions this I would love to set up a meeting and chat about this

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Issues with centralised grantmaking · 2022-04-05T20:09:51.153Z · EA · GW

[Quick thoughts whilst on mobile]

My takeaway: interested to hear what said grant makers think about this idea.

I find the arguments re: efficient market hypothesis pretty compelling , but also find the arguments re: "inferential distance" and unilateralist curse also compelling.

One last points, so far, I think one EA's biggest achievements is around truly unsually good epistemics, and I'm particularly concerned around how centralised small groups could damage that - especially since more funding could exacerbate this effect

Comment by ElliotJDavies on GWWC has ambitious plans from 2022 onwards (we're hiring!) · 2022-03-16T10:52:20.473Z · EA · GW

I took the GGWC pledge in 2020 (IIRC) - I think it was a hugely symbolic gesture for myself, committing to altruism as my core focus. I would be interested to see how you can adapt the pledge to improve the effectiveness of this mechanism. 

[Quick Disclosure - I haven't thought about this for very long] I suspect the audience for Effective Donations is much larger than the audience for EA. - Perhaps 1-10% of the population? - I would be very interested in some market research into this target demographic. 

I am more sceptical of effective donors being a larger group than this, it simply seems like incentives and cognitive biases  have existed for a long long time, and are not likely to disappear too soon. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Phil Torres on Against Longtermism · 2022-01-17T16:38:37.959Z · EA · GW

I think we would be happy to add some recommended readings which are critical of Phil , although the reading list is getting pretty long by this point (ha!) 

I am pretty confident that events with speakers critical of EA are a net positive.  I am surprised by those that think otherwise. Judging from those that have listed "going" on our Facebook event, the attendees will not be a group of people who are unexposed to the strongest arguments for long-termism (quite the opposite!). In order to make an impact inside longtermism, you likely need to be highly engaged, and highly engaged longtermists should be able to deal with rigorous debate.

I expect that one of the reason  critical speakers are not often platformed by EA-Orgs is due to the critique (real or expected) from doing so. In a risk averse community, it's hard to find the people with the confidence to run events like these. Which I think this is a shame because there's huge value to be gained from it. I hope in the future we can start to move towards congratulating those who share criticism of EA or common ideas inside EA. 

Regarding particular arguments Phil has made, I think the bar for "writing someone off" as no-longer worthy of being platformed should be extremely high. From speaking with Phil, it's clear he feels disappointed and perhaps even hurt from early attempts to silence him. I would love to say my experience from hosting this event has been quite the opposite. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Cause Area: UK Housing Policy · 2022-01-12T09:29:40.377Z · EA · GW

Low quality/haven't thought about this for very long: 

It's unintuitive to me that a small organisation could make a big difference to an area of policy that (from the outside) seems to get a lot of focus. Take for example the changes the UK Government has made to planning permission in the last few years. Being from the south-east, everybody seems to have an opinion on housing supply, so it doesn't seem to be a neglected issue when it comes to public attention. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Earning to give may be the best option for patient EAs · 2021-12-29T11:27:36.166Z · EA · GW

To what extent do you believe Investing to Give is better than Direct Work because we're not working on exactly the right problems/solutions vs "you just have more money" 

Because if the argument relies on the latter, on producing 9x more money than regular Earning To Give, surely the question is "At what level of income is it better to ETG, than work on direct cause areas". I think this is especially relevant because of how scalable and fungible cold hard cash is.  I.e. If one donates 14 billion USD, they are donating the equivalent of 1.4 million regular people (Whom donate 10,000 USD a year). Considering this has already happened, and we don't (yet) have 1.4 million ETG, it provides strong practical evidence for this mechanism of scale. However labour is likely harder to scale. Hence the funding overhang. 

I appreciate I am not saying anything new here, but I don't see any important distinction between being a high Earning to giver (and donating in the short term), and being a median income Investing to giver. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on A huge opportunity for impact: movement building at top universities · 2021-12-21T18:14:17.465Z · EA · GW

Interesting! I actually think the most interesting question was the one that was skipped: 

Are there any concerns that targeting a small group of people, and actively employing those people under CEA, you are essentially locking CEA into [a] path whereby it is unrepresentative of a wider global movement? 

Regarding general strategy, which I may understand you don't want to answer (but I hope someone will) - there really has to be some thought put into whether you are sending an inviting message to national group organisers. At the time we applied for national funding, both EA-infrastructure funds and CBG grants claimed not to be available to us (EA-funds website contained out of date advice). Luckily, we applied anyway and were successful (with EA-Infrastructure funds) - although I am not sure how "close" the decision was on EA-infrastructure funds side. At the time I predicted our chance of success as being <50%, and we could have very easily not applied for that reason. 

A few months later I can see how national groups, including our-own, are a vital piece of infrastructure for not only community building, but also donation collecting and the distribution of salaries. It's very interesting to me that CEA has no plans to accelerate this. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on A huge opportunity for impact: movement building at top universities · 2021-12-15T11:52:36.619Z · EA · GW

Interesting to hear these new plans. I have some questions: 

  • Are there any concerns that targeting a small group of people, and actively employing those people under CEA, you are essentially locking CEA into path whereby it is unrepresentative of a wider global movement? 

     I am already concerned about how representative CEA is of a wider movement, in particular I have concerns that much of CEA's hiring consists of using direct and personal networks within universities close to your headquarters. At the same time, I believe EA could rapidly grow in the world and be an effective force for change. If EA sees significant growth, I could forsee that the "baking in" of current founder effects to CEA (i.e. small group of "elite") could be pretty disastrously sub-optimal (in the context of a larger global movement). 

    On a similar note: 
  • Do you plan on head hunting for these roles? 

    Off the top of my head there's a few incredibly successful university groups that have successfully flourished under their own volition (e.g. NTNU, PISE). There's likely people in these groups who would be exceptionally good at community growth if given the resources you've described above, but I suspect that they may not think to apply for these roles. 
  • Do you plan on comparing the success of the project, against similar organisations?

    There are many organisations that aim to facilitate and build communities on University campuses. There are even EA adjacent organisations, i.e. GFI. It makes sense to me to measure the success of your project against these (especially GFI), as they essentially provide a free counterfactual regarding a change of tactics. 

    I ask this because I strongly suspect GFI will show stronger community building growth metrics than CEA. They provide comprehensive and beautifully designed resources for students. They public and personable (i.e. they have dedicated speakers who speak for any audience size (at least that's what it appears to me)). And they seem to have a broader global perspective (so perhaps I am a bit bias). But in general they seem to have "the full package" which CEA is currently missing.
  • Is this indicative of your wider plans?/ Is CEA planning on keeping a narrow focus re: universities? 

    I understood that CEA community building plans were temporarily narrow, due to executive and staffing bottlenecks, but this post appears to point in the direction of CEA continuing to move in this narrow direction. Basically, I see two options 1) A tiered approach whereby "Focus" universities get the majority of attention 2) "Focus" universities get all of CEA's  attention at the exclusion of all of universities. 
  • Can you expand on how much money you plan on spending on each campus? 

    I noticed you say "managing a multi-million dollar budget within three years of starting" can you explain what exactly this money is going to be spent on? Currently this appears to me (perhaps naively) to be an order of magnitude larger than the budget for the largest national organisations. How confident are you that  you will follow through on this? And how confident are you that spending millions of dollars on one campus is more efficient than community building across 10 countries? 
Comment by ElliotJDavies on A huge opportunity for impact: movement building at top universities · 2021-12-15T10:27:21.653Z · EA · GW

I strongly share these concerns, in particular: 

If you have limited resources I find it fair to prioritize universities 

As I see, there is no reason CEA should have limited resources to tackle the extremely tractable, low hanging fruit, that is community building. However, there seems to be a trend whereby smart, well educated people in EA: 

Step 1) Overcomplicate a simple problem 

Step 2) Use this over-complication to justify further complications, slowing plans or quitting in general 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Illegible impact is still impact · 2021-12-12T21:22:49.945Z · EA · GW

People should take more time to thank others who have helped them would increase the amount of legible impact in the movement. I was startled to hear someone attribute their taking a job to me more than a year after the fact; this led me to update appropriately on the value of a prior project, and other projects of that type.

Hey Aaron, this comment left an impression on me. I think I am (marginally) more likely to leave this feedback now. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on An Emergency Fund for Effective Altruists · 2021-12-11T09:44:02.867Z · EA · GW

This is great idea!

It seems to me that the purpose of the fund is to:

Generate income + validate donations -> so you can refund if needed

But by opening up your services to people outside the fund, now the purpose seems only to generate income. In which case, why not get the services funded by a private funder or EA funds?

This would be way simpler, as your job would just be to validate donations and transfer money. Which seems like - if nothing else - a good 80/20 to start out with before trying anything else.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on EA megaprojects continued · 2021-12-04T16:08:25.547Z · EA · GW

Wow this sounds super interesting.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on EA megaprojects continued · 2021-12-04T16:03:42.126Z · EA · GW

Though I realize that many EAs probably don't share my antipathy towards the current higher education system.

Anecdotally, most EAs I have spoken to about this topic have tended to agree 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Creating Individual Connections via the Forum · 2021-12-02T13:28:29.675Z · EA · GW

Community building is the lowest hanging fruit! - It's fruit hanging around everywhere! Pick your impact points (or fruit!) while you still can! 

 This is probably because 1) it requires psychological/social risks and effort (i.e. rejection can be hard 2)  people who are willing to take these risks are in short supply in EA (3) It's hard to scale it well 

Small groups have (very) high retention rates, and people in small groups are very likely to become "highly engaged". 

Organising a meetup is crazy simple 1) pick a venue (maybe call ahead) 2) post a facebook event 3) invite people personally (Send them a pm!). If you're not sure people will turn up, that's fine! Just take a book - worst case scenario you get to have a little read and some time to yourself. 

If anybody is considering running an event or starting a group, you can always ask from advice from Catherine Low!  I would  also be super happy to meet you (#impacthasnoborders)! 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Notes on the risks and benefits of kidney donation · 2021-12-01T11:10:45.193Z · EA · GW

Who were going to be the donors for this event?

I was mostly thinking friends and family, but I was hoping the novelty factor could spread it to local communities

I don't know how legal "donate in anticipation of a kidney' is either

Wow yeah I have  a feeling you'd get your name down in case-law either way. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on The Explanatory Obstacle of EA · 2021-11-29T11:43:14.986Z · EA · GW

Fair enough, perhaps it just feels a little risky for me to say "out-loud"

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Historian and bestselling author Rutger Bregman explains why he took the pledge · 2021-11-28T20:07:22.644Z · EA · GW

Thanks a bunch for doing this interview! I just connected the dots as I recall a Dutch historian wrote a piece in the Danish Magazine Zetland.  This gave us a load of traffic for a month afterwards, and was an extremely good pitch/intro into EA. Turns out that was Rutger. 

So good job to Rutger, he's clearly doing well at making  a bit of a splash.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on The Explanatory Obstacle of EA · 2021-11-28T19:49:58.444Z · EA · GW

Controversial opinion, but I think most volunteers are probably fairly ineffective, enough to round down to zero. 

However, it's super easy to be an effective volunteer. Simply: A) Be autonomous/self-motivated B) Put in some significant amount of effort per week C) Be consistent over a long period of time (long enough to climb up the skill curve for the tasks at hand) 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Notes on the risks and benefits of kidney donation · 2021-11-28T15:40:41.185Z · EA · GW

I have started discussing with people the idea of having a "Sponsored" altruistic kidney donation. This would be much like a sponsored half-marathon or something, with money collected for AMF or another high impact charity. 

I brought the idea up at an event on fundraising we recently ran, in a room of 20+ people, 50/50 EA and non-EA, most seemed super sceptical about the idea. This could be down to how squeamish people are about the idea of kidney donations. 

I have also had people mention that this could present EA in a very extreme and unpalatable light, which is my main concern about actually doing this.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Notes on the risks and benefits of kidney donation · 2021-11-28T15:27:36.072Z · EA · GW

The cynical story I've heard is that insurance providers cover it because it is cheaper than years of dialysis and doctors provide it because it pays well. Some doctors are hesitant about it, particularly for non-directed donors, but they aren't the ones performing it.

While that's certainly a possibility, some evidence against that perspective is that many countries (UK, DK off the top of my head) have introduced altruistic/non-direct kidney donation in the last decade. 

Interestingly, I think the Danish Health-board may have a perspective closer to you, in that they have set the minimum age of altruistic kidney donation to 40 years old. I was a little bit frustrated when I discovered this. 

One thing I would say (again, without knowing much) in dialysis does sound intuitively a lot worse than having a transplanted kidney, because you have waste products building up in your body for days at a time. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Notes on the risks and benefits of kidney donation · 2021-11-27T11:07:29.636Z · EA · GW

Interesting. Thanks for posting, as someone who has tried to research this quickly, I agree it's hard to get an accurate picture of the benefits and risks. I think the "self-signalling" is an important incentive for me to donate, but only if it's actually an action of large utility. 

Regarding the benefits of donating, I think you have probably under-sold them here. My logic is (deferring judgment to medical professions) just the amount of effort and money that is spent on facilitating kidney donations, despite the existence of dialysis, indicates that experts think the cost/benefit ration is a good one. One reason I feel safe in this deference is because the field of medicine seems to have strong "loss aversion". I.e. Doctors seem strongly concerned about direct actions that cause harm, even if it is for the greater good. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on A Red-Team Against the Impact of Small Donations · 2021-11-26T07:57:12.068Z · EA · GW

I was discussing this recently with someone, I think it could be highly valuable to crowdsource ideas related to EA.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Coordination within EA: community & ecosystems · 2021-10-21T17:41:17.446Z · EA · GW

Always nice to have a strong feeling about something and have your argument confirmed and strengthened by others.

I would say, there's a lot of work to do in this space. I am happy to hear about the 2 recent CE charities pointing in this direction, and many more are needed. 

One thing I would note here, I suspect that  non-scalable solutions (e.g. headhunting) might not be able to keep up with demand in the foreseeable future. This would be because community building is particularly tractable, and the current level of efforts and money being put into community building could mean that it could grow faster than other parts of EA. The end result would that the types of infrastructure discussed above would continue to be out of reach for the majority of EA's on the local level. 

For this reason I suspect that local groups will have to build a lot of the services discussed here (skills training/headhunting/career planning) for themselves. Therefore I think we are locked into a trajectory of EA being a movement where most activity (research/learning/networking/jobs) exists in local groups, something most EA's would find unimaginable at the moment.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Introducing 'Playpumps Productivity System' · 2021-09-22T02:35:30.296Z · EA · GW

I recognise this is a bit tongue and cheek, but I would like to share how crazy helpful things like this can be. A few times in my life now I've used (something similar to what's described here) to build or crack habits.

One difference services like beeminder offer, compared to what's described here, is the daily accountability aspect, which enables (healthy) habit formation. I think the daily aspect it's nearly as important as the accountability aspect, as it very quickly becomes about protecting your "streak".

If this is one step towards building an EA habit formation program, I'm 100% on board. I could very much imagine getting EAs to follow through ideas with actions to be high impact, and worth someone's time.

Comment by ElliotJDavies on (Video) How to be a less crappy person · 2021-08-03T09:25:10.682Z · EA · GW

I would like to politely push-back on this: 

- I wonder if it's counter to productive to talk about "one minute in" considering this may be received by OP as reactive, impatient and the like. I like to think EA values patience, and appreciates complexity which "one minute in" may not fully capture. This makes an EA watching carefully made EA content sound a bit like Simon Cowell. Which is ironic, because most of us do not have the skills to video edit or script write. 

- Discussing how well this will motivate change, I think you may be undervaluing humor, scale and the value derived from targeting new people 

- Lastly, I may be alone here, but I am concerned with EA community becoming a little too quickly bound to norms and rules. I would be afraid we could quickly become a dogmatic and siloed group. I would argue the approach in the video above is unique/diverse in the community, and that there is strong value in that 

With the above being said, I would be also concerned about the possibly drawbacks of strong, argumentative tones - which can quickly become all consuming, from what I have seen in the past. 


Comment by ElliotJDavies on A Twitter bot that tweets high impact jobs · 2021-07-26T17:06:45.706Z · EA · GW

Great Idea! 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on EA Creatives and Communicators Slack · 2021-07-23T18:36:29.173Z · EA · GW

Wow you guys are pretty huge no? Would be interested to hear how you are thinking of going about the process of becoming more EA-aligned. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on [Podcast] EA Forum Podcast: Narration of "How much does performance differ between people?" · 2021-07-07T09:21:55.796Z · EA · GW

Hey, I think this  is a great idea and certainly providing great value! I have added to my feed 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on [Podcast] Suggest a question for Ben Todd · 2021-07-07T09:00:58.612Z · EA · GW

Hi Luca, thanks for presenting this opportunity. A question about career choices:

I currently live in Denmark and am an active member of EA Denmark. One thing that strikes me is that many of our most committed members go off to other countries, particularly the UK or US to make an EA career. Is this a sensible decision in terms of impact? 

My thinking is, although matchmaking possibilities are better in a bigger country (i.e. not many cultured meat companies in DK). Much of what pushes people to move abroad might be "bigger country = bigger impact",  without considering that there is  (in a best case scenario) a  linear scaling of competition for said impact. In short, that it may be better to be a "big fish in a small pond". Especially in small Scandinavian countries that have more functional politics than the UK & US, and lots of other benefits in the same line. 

Comment by ElliotJDavies on Update on the 0.7% (£4bn for the poor) · 2020-12-21T08:52:09.241Z · EA · GW

Hej Sanjay, 

Thanks for your work on this. I saw your last post and emailed my MP, who has so far written back with the "party line". 

I have concerns about your approach. I feel like you are attempting to use specific strategies geared for efficiency on neglected topics, which are less applicable to competitive fields. 

When looking at a neglected fields, we are gifted with the ability to  use scalable and linear thinking effectively. Much of the world does not have mosquito nets? Well, we can just make mosquito nets, lots of them, for cheap. - Scalable and linear. Empirical studies  fit onto this well, because it is big and clunky. Empiricism requires control and large amounts of time. It is not very good at assessing things on small scale and where variables are shifting and changing. 

When working competitively,  linear and scalable thinking are less helpful. Though not to say they don't help at all. Competitive thinking needs to be iterative and dynamic. Feedback is faster, and harder to assess empirically. Strategies cannot be too linear,  as a competitive opponent  will quickly learn what you are doing. 

Politics seems to be a competitive field to me. There are voices with opposing viewpoints trying to push forward. 

I have probably been inspired to write this by the concept book "the the third door". The metaphor given is that there are three doors into a nightclub. Standing in a long line; Getting in the VIP cue; or trying to sneak around the back, making friends with the bar staff and sneaking in. Although the author breaks his own rules many times in the book, relying on persistence and status quite a lot. I think a strong argument is made for iterative and speculative strategies. In thinking this way, you can potentially be so distinct you separate yourself from the competition. 

Novel and distinct thinking is cognitively demanding, as I am sure you found out when coming up with the current strategy. It is much easier  to copy, but also less effective. So there's a huge balancing act between dynamism, hedging your bets, mimicry, new thinking, persistence, nepotism, scaling and using our competitive advantage. 

To bring it home, on the strategy of sending off emails. I have concerns that it's scalability which is it's main advantage could also be it's weakness. Not to say I am against it, but it should be hedged and balanced with many other strategies. Rather than a sole strategy scaled to diminishing returns. 

Just to tack onto the end, another strategy to be effective is to break the rules. It's a competitive advantage for obvious reasons. Unwritten/Unspoken rules are the best, as often the consequences are inconsistent and thin. If my viewpoint is worthwhile, would I email you to double the chances at it getting seen?  At risk is minor embarrassment at looking too keen. - How to should we weigh these? 

I will have a thinking about some strategies, but to serve as an example: 

  • Could you get some influential peoples phone number? 
  •  Could you get in contact with the  opposition party? 
  • Could you get in contact with journalists? 
  • How much would it cost to make a get someone on fiverr to make a video? Could you get this shared on  some big facebook groups? 
  • Could you come up with some sort of meme-able expression or idea which reflects badly upon the conservatives? 
  • Could you link the foreign aid to any recent issues, e.g. the recent mutant of tier 5 lockdown?