Nick Bostrom on Sam Harris' podcast

2019-03-19T11:21:09.483Z · score: 17 (9 votes)
Comment by haukehillebrandt on Effective Impact Investing · 2019-02-28T19:23:38.272Z · score: 27 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you very much Gabe and Max for the constructive feedback! I really appreciated it and have upvoted your post.

Having said that I disagree with your main arguments and conclusions – I largely agree with John’s response above (hence replying to his post).

Some more thoughts on this, which are mine and also not necessarily John’s.

On my judgment call of favoring theory over very noisy empirical evidence, I wanted to add that:

“Financial economists have found that a randomly chosen portfolio of as few as fifty stocks achieves 90% of the diversification benefits available from full diversification across the entire market. The reason is that once one owns shares of a few dozen of them, the diversification gains from ownership of shares in additional corporations are small.”

John Y. Campbell et al., Have Individual Stocks Become More Volatile? An Empirical Exploration of Idiosyncratic Risk, 56 Journal of Finance 1 (2001). As cited in Weyl’s Radical Markets.

So that means the effects of divestment are likely small and hard to pick up. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Generally, multi-objective optimization is harder than single-objective optimization, and it is usually probably better to optimize for financial returns without social impact constraints with investments that feed your charitable giving and then to optimize for social impact through non-profits without profit-making constraints. As one of the economists in the survey that John cited says: “Hard to believe that adding constraints on portfolio choice leads to higher returns”.

On shareholder advocacy:

Shareholder advocacy might very well have some impact. The question is how much effective than normal advocacy it is. Shareholder advocacy has costs and I don’t think there’s a free lunch here. For instance, it has time costs and socially motivated shareholder advocacy should theoretically reduce a corporation’s profits because it moves the corporation away from its goal to maximize profits.

I also wonder what the added value of being a shareholder for advocacy is. In other words, in theory, there should not be much reason for corporations to listen substantially more to minority stakeholders (or any shareholder for that matter) more so than non-shareholder advocacy, because their goal is to maximize shareholder value. I also worry that there might be displacement effects: one corporation that does not exploit socially harmful ways of making profits might bow under pressure and change their ways, but another purely financially motivated corporation might fill in.

The examples you cite might mostly be because of a corporation's financial self-interest. Tyson investing in clean-meat is actually an example that I’ve cited in my mission hedging piece. Or it might just be good PR and trivially expensive for corporations. To take your example: “At $7 million in annual firearms sales, the category represents less than 1/175th of 1 percent of Kroger's $123 billion in revenues.” https://eu.cincinnati.com/story/money/2018/03/19/kroger-assault-rifles-magazines/437241002/, given that the profits of this will be quite small it would be hard to see that normal advocacy might not have had the same effect. I feel like you imply that shareholder’s ‘might’ does substantial work here and makes it particularly effective, but there are costs and the effectiveness is unclear.

I think there can be some effective shareholder activism:

“Shareholder activism is an alternative middle ground approach in which investments are used to submit and vote on shareholder proposals that influence firms directly. Due to Securities and Exchange Commission rules, a foundation only has to own $2,000 in market value of the firm’s securities (continuously for one year) in order to submit a proposal to be voted on by all shareholders (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (1998)). Thus shareholder activism would be an additional benefit of investing in a firm but is not expected to motivate a sizable investment level.” https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2017042pap.pdf

This is likely to be effective, but more a clever hack that can be exploited with a few 10s of million dollars and does not warrant SRI on this scale which also uses up a lot of philanthropic bandwidth.

[EAGx Talk] Considerations for Fundraising in Effective Altruism

2019-01-15T11:20:46.237Z · score: 14 (5 votes)

EA orgs are trying to fundraise ~$10m - $16m

2019-01-06T13:51:03.483Z · score: 50 (22 votes)

New web app for calibration training funded by the Open Philanthropy Project

2018-12-15T15:18:54.905Z · score: 17 (8 votes)

Impact investing is only a good idea in specific circumstances

2018-12-06T12:13:46.544Z · score: 72 (35 votes)
Comment by haukehillebrandt on Announcing: "Lets-Fund.org: High-Impact Crowdfunding campaigns" & "Let's Fund #1: A (small) scientific Revolution" · 2018-11-16T10:58:13.307Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks so much for the detailed comments and feedback!

1) I'm aware of Oxford Prio's research into this and had read their research. They looked more into Open Science which is related but slightly different from meta-research. There are many more funders funding transparancy, openness and data sharing than meta-research. I do not recall that Oxford prio looked Registered Reports specifically. I think it's an interesting analysis but I think the funders they listed in their analysis are neglecting Registered Reports.

2) re: the literature review methods: we do have a section titled 'Our Research process' in one of our reports. I did a literature review and based on expertise in science created a shortlist of potentially very impactful projects within meta-research (some other projects I considered are listed in the report linked above). Then I interviewed about 5 people in the meta-research field and asked them about their opinions on these projects. Registered Reports seemed most promising of all of these projects. How assess the quality of the papers I cite: as a general rule I look into the studies corresponding to how much weight I place on the point I'm trying to make. So if the study is crucial to the point I'm trying to I look into it more. I also try to find evidence from many different sources so that no argument rests on a single source (also see Sequence vs. Cluster Thinking by Givewell), and generally see whether there are many counter arguments and cite those. Thanks also for flagging the conflict of interest in the cancer study I cite, I absolutely see where you're coming from and have added a footnote to the analysis. In this particular case, I disagree that the study should be completely dismissed and has little value, only because this study was partially funded by a pharma cooperation. I believe that the results can broadly be informative and give a general idea of the impact of new drugs, though it might be an a biased overestimate. This because the study was more descriptive as opposed to an experimental, is not advocating for a particular drug, was peer-reviewed, pushlished and partially funded by the impartial National Institute on Aging. It also does fits with my priors that new cancer drugs often do work quite well.

Evidence Frameworks such as GRADE are interesting and I think they deserve to be funded more. I think they are in practise applied much more in clinical science and would not have such a generalized impact as Registered Reports.

re: EU funding for meta-research: It's encouraging that they have funded this specific doctoral programme for meta-research, and that space should definitely be watched, but I can't see that there is a big general pot of funding available for meta-research, that would hint at this area not stillbeing relatively neglected.

In the future we might add explicit numerical estimates of the degrees of confidence in particular claims for now we opted for careful language and hedging where appropriate. It's a great idea to add a section on what would 'falsify' the case for this grant, we might do this in the future (from the top of my mind: if one could provide evidence that RR advocacy would be bad in the sense that getting people to donate to this over conspicious consumption would be net bad for the world, or if there'd be much better high-risk, high-reward funding opportunity that smaller donors would give to that we're distracting donors from then I would definitely change my mind).

Thanks also for the website suggestions! Generally your feedback is very much appreciated.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Crohn's disease · 2018-11-15T17:23:49.043Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This might be naive and I have only skimmed this thread, but wouldn't using a cheap study using mouse model be best here? Maybe contact the authors of the papers cited in this paper "Mouse models of inflammatory bowel disease for investigating mucosal immunity in the intestine" to collaborate on such a study.

Effective Altruism in non-high-income countries

2018-11-15T17:18:42.761Z · score: 34 (20 votes)

“The Vulnerable World Hypothesis” (Nick Bostrom’s new paper)

2018-11-09T11:20:42.330Z · score: 22 (10 votes)

Why donate to meta-research?

2018-11-08T09:29:58.740Z · score: 17 (5 votes)
Comment by haukehillebrandt on Announcing: "Lets-Fund.org: High-Impact Crowdfunding campaigns" & "Let's Fund #1: A (small) scientific Revolution" · 2018-11-04T09:24:28.980Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the comment!

how will go about finding high-impact projects (I think you mentioned to me that you have some in mind already, but do you have a method for generating a sustainable flow of projects or is there a risk that you might run out soon?)

Our KPI is quality-adjusted money moved. So we not only need a good fundraising ratio but also keep the research quality very high (our first campaign is backed up by ~17k words of analysis). We already have some research on climate change (https://lets-fund.org/research/climate-change/) from my time doing research at the Center for Global Development for our second campaign. But we want to do more and better research, especially into GCR reduction projects (potentially evaluated/peer-reviewed by other (EA) researchers for QA). If you have a really good idea for what we could look into next, we can discuss it in the comments here.

There are many high impact projects out there, one just needs to do all the research to find them. We're currently doing the YCombinator startup school and they tell you 'do things htat don't scale' (see http://paulgraham.com/ds.html).

how will it be funded?

Because we're not taking a cut of the money donated (in fact, we can't do that becasue we're not handling any money, it's all through Facebook and GoFundMe's crowdfunding platforms), we will have to find donors who think that our work is valuable.

[link] Why donate to (scientific) research?

2018-10-29T11:13:25.026Z · score: 7 (2 votes)

Announcing: "Lets-Fund.org: High-Impact Crowdfunding campaigns" & "Let's Fund #1: A (small) scientific Revolution"

2018-10-25T21:22:14.605Z · score: 39 (31 votes)
Comment by haukehillebrandt on Cost-effectiveness of The Humane League's corporate campaigns: 2015-2017 · 2018-04-03T09:31:14.430Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, absolutely, but the elasticity is somewhat hard to calculate (somewhat should try this though!). My example from above is just making a conservative assumption that the replacement effect is extreme. Of course it could be that there would have been a 37 million hen increase independent of corporate campaigns and that corporate campaigns have moved 25.8 million of those hens out of cages.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Cost-effectiveness of The Humane League's corporate campaigns: 2015-2017 · 2018-04-02T11:23:19.295Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · EA · GW

This is very interesting thanks!

These projections of cost-effectiveness seem promising. I have a nagging related worry about what these campaigns have achieved so far, both in order to estimate a lower bound of their effectiveness, but which might also be relevant for future effectiveness. This worry resulted from the hypothesis that there is a displacement effect so that consumers and companies who buy cage free, will lower the price of caged eggs and thus increase demand from other consumers and retailers (in the US and potentially abroad).

Looking very briefly at the data it seems that the number of US cage free hens seem to have gone up in absolute terms by 25.8 million between Jan 2016-Oct 2017. However, it seems that total layer hens in the very similar time period from Dec '15 to Dec '17 have gone up by 37 million ( spreadsheet with sources ). In other words, the absolute number of caged hens seems to be increasing and corporate campaigns might have not had any effect at all so far. This seems to be in line with industry news.

This is also worrying especially if processed eggs from caged eggs might be exported to other countries in the future if the prices for eggs are further pushed down, or if processed eggs from caged hens are imported into the US.

But I'm not an export on this topic, so I would really like to hear someone to tell me what's wrong with this argument.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on A generalized strategy of ‘mission hedging’: investing in 'evil' to do more good · 2018-02-23T20:28:43.731Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Excellent comments- thanks!

AI safety advocates are not focused on slowing down AI development and in many cases tend to think it might be helpful, in which case mission hedging is counterproductive.

I know people working on AI safety who would want to slow down progress in AI if it would be tractable. I actually think that it might be possible to slow down AI by reducing taxes on labor and increasing migration - see https://www.cgdev.org/blog/why-are-geniuses-destroying-jobs-uganda - which I think is a better idea than robot taxes: https://qz.com/911968/bill-gates-the-robot-that-takes-your-job-should-pay-taxes/ . Somebody should write about this.

But this not really about speed: mission hedging might work in this case because the stock price of an AI company merely reflects the probability of whether a company will come up with better artificial intelligence than the competition earlier, not when.

I could also imagine a scenario in which AI problems also weigh down a company's stock. Maybe a big scandal occurs around AI that foreshadows future problems with AGI and also embarrasses AI developers.

Note that it is important to diversify within mission hedging. So weighing down one company's stock doesn't matter. I feel that any scandals that are not really related to the actual ability of the AI industry to produce better AI faster will likely have very limited effect on the stock price dropping. I'm reminded here of fatalities with self-driving cars, which has not rocked investors confidence in investing in them. But even if it does, than that just means that self-driving cars are not as great as we thought they would be (presumably some fatalities are already 'priced in').

But yes, your point is valid in the that 'you can't short the apocalypse', as I mention above. Overall, I actually think, all things considered, mission hedging might work best for AI risk scenarios.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on A generalized strategy of ‘mission hedging’: investing in 'evil' to do more good · 2018-02-23T20:02:08.930Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

These are excellent comments, thank you!

Regarding your first point on investing in industries that covary vs. are causally related: you're right that mission hedging can also work when there is just covariance. I think the main benefit of investing in companies that cause the bad activity is that it will have have a tighter covariance than investing in companies that do not cause the bad activity and we can know this ex ante. I do take your point that this is potentially more of a reputational risk in investing in companies that cause the bad activity (for some cases, for some people). I do not think the reputational risk argument applies much to either small investors or some investments such as investing in technology companies to hedge against AI risks. Now, your last point I find most interesting: if the efficient market hypothesis (EHM) doesn't hold then it's better to invest in things that have a high covariance. I have a strong intuition that EHM holds for publically traded stocks, especially for small investors, who don't make a big fuzz about investing. Overall, I feel drawn to selecting investments that cause the bad activity due to higher certainty about high future covariance.

Now do our donations go further when the problems in the world get worse? I'm inclined to say "yes", but I think it's a very small effect.

Yes, this crucially depends on whether there are increasing returns to scale to charitable intervention, which is another assumption. However, for me the assumption has has intuitive appeal. I can imagine the effect size to be substantial in some cases (I now give a toy model in the beginning of the text). Think about the effect of public good type interventions where the cost-effectiveness scales pretty linearly with the problem (how many beings are affected).

I took a look at your calculation and I'm sorry to say that I don't quite understand it. However, based on the numbers that I see, I think that plugging in different parameters into the model would also not be entirely unreasonable. But yes, I agree think it might be interesting to have more empirical validation on this.

I think our disagreement might boil down to different intuitions about whether EMH holds on the stock market and whether there returns to scale i.e. whether a charity becomes more effective as the problem gets bigger. I think this is somewhat likely in some cases (but I'm not completely confident in this). So I'm still pretty convinced about this to the point where I would advice people to seriously, though carefully consider using mission hedging over your covariance approach.

Also, I think that generalizing to selecting estimates based on covariance with charity value is the right framework to use here, instead of just looking at this sort of hedging.

I think investing in corporations that cause the bad activity is theoretically equivalent to this and in fact is based on finding a (distal) cause of charity effectiveness. However, as mentioned above it assumes increasing returns to scale.

But I just thought about finding a more proximal cause of charity effectiveness, that can still be directly implemented on the stock market and maybe this might be shorting the endowment of your favorite charity. Will Macaskill made a similar comment on your post saying that maybe it might be worth considering shorting FB if OpenPhil is still heavily reliant on it. Maybe your favourite charity has an endowment and it itself doesn't hedge against risks (because their portfolio is not optimally diversified).

Comment by haukehillebrandt on A generalized strategy of ‘mission hedging’: investing in 'evil' to do more good · 2018-02-20T12:48:10.466Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry, I missed your previous comment. I'm not an expert on climate change and this not necessarily the best place for this discussion of why this is neglected within effective altruism - I would recommend that you post your question to Effective Altruism Hangout facebook group and ask for an answer. The reason that you get downvoted is that you post on many different threads even though it's not really related to the discussion. I would recommend you reading this: before posting though: https://80000hours.org/2016/05/how-can-we-buy-more-insurance-against-extreme-climate-change/

However, here are my two cents:

Comment by haukehillebrandt on A generalized strategy of ‘mission hedging’: investing in 'evil' to do more good · 2018-02-20T12:08:32.664Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for asking for clarification - I'm sorry I think I've been unclear about the mechanism. It's not really about shareholder activism, this is just an extra.

I've now added a few graphs and a spreadsheet as a toy model of why mission hedging beats a strategy that maximizes financial returns in the introduction. Can you take a look and see whether it's more clear now? Or maybe I'm missing your question.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on A generalized strategy of ‘mission hedging’: investing in 'evil' to do more good · 2018-02-19T10:54:33.100Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Great question!

In theory, mission hedging can always beat maximizing expected returns in terms of maximizing expected utility.

In practice, I think the main considerations here are a) whether you can find a suitable hedge in practice and b) whether you are sufficiently certain that a cause is important, because you give up the flexibility of being cause neutral and tie yourself financially to a particular cause. You can remain cause neutral by trying to maximize expected financial returns.

To me, the two most promising applications seem to be AI safety, where people are often quite certain that it is one of the most pressing causes (as per maxipok or preventing s-risk), and it seems as if investing in AI companies is plausible to me (but note Kit Harris objections in the comment section here). And then also using mission hedging for ones career might be good by either joining the military, the secret service, or an AI company for the reasons outlined above i.e. historically people in the military have sometimes had outsized impact.

A generalized strategy of ‘mission hedging’: investing in 'evil' to do more good

2018-02-18T17:41:31.873Z · score: 22 (14 votes)
Comment by haukehillebrandt on 69 things that might be pretty effective to fund · 2018-02-12T12:49:57.855Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Excellent question - and apologies I should have been more clear. I've listed him because he is of course one of the top computer scientists in deep learning. Also note that I did caveat that "I don’t have a strong sense if each and every one of these items should really be funded, because I have not vetted them thoroughly, but I hope that they might serve as an inspiration for further research". The idea of this item being that it might be good to just try to convince (and incentivise through funding) one of the top computer scientists in ML to work on AI safety. But I agree maybe there are more people like him that might be better suited. Perhaps you have someone better in mind?

Also, note that many people start out being dismissive of safety, and Cho has been retweeting Miles Brundage quite often recently, so maybe he could be convinced to work on this, especially if given funding to work on e.g. 'concrete problems in AI safety'. So I wouldn't rule him out based on anecdotal evidence.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on 69 things that might be pretty effective to fund · 2018-01-31T12:56:10.862Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

I take your point that because on the cause level AI safety is somewhat more neglected, it scores better on the ITN framework (I actually think all of military spending is kind tangled up in the nuclear security scale / tractability, and so maybe it would actually score worse than climate change).

In any case, I think given that this research has a net present value of $10 trillion and it would also liberate funding and talent to go to other causes it is still worth considering and might on the margin be better than a mediocre AI safety grant.

Also, note that I have written this list explicitly so that there is some flexibility in what one can pitch to different donors, who might care particularly about climate change as a cause. Within climate change, I believe this might be a particularly good research area to fund, even before geoengineering projects.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on 69 things that might be pretty effective to fund · 2018-01-29T11:48:47.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

I take your point. I'm inclined to agree with you that the Allfed should be prioritized over this given that you're the expert. But let's say you're fully funded and we would give you more money to regrant on this cause - would you give to these people for more research or out research? If not, where?

Comment by haukehillebrandt on 69 things that might be pretty effective to fund · 2018-01-26T13:39:29.602Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Excellent question!

There are some hack-ey scientometric search strategies that I got a bit of mileage out to generate a few items on the list, like:

  • having Google Scholar alerts (I’ve experimented with different Google scholar alerts (a complete old list is here). I currently only have thefollowing alerts:
  • "USD trillion" OR "US trillion" OR "trillion USD" OR "trillion dollar"
  • "end of civilization" OR "collapse of civilization" OR "survival of civilization" OR "survival of humanity" OR "human survival" OR "survival of human" OR "survival of the human" OR "global collapse" OR "historical collapse" OR "catastrophic collapse" OR "global disaster" OR "existential threat" OR "catastrophic harm"
  • "per death averted" OR "per life saved"

  • Using Semantic Scholar to scientists find ‘heavily influenced’ for instance OpenPhil grantees and work on similar * topics at reputable universities

But more generally I think more people could find things to fund like this by just starting a Google doc themselves and then add items to the doc by looking at the world (and the news) with open eyes and maybe through a particular lense (see whether some things would score well on the ITN framework, are global public goods, are related to main causes problem profiles , cause x-risk etc.). I think people should just generally be more attentive where one can donate (and what to do - because incidentally some of the orgs on this list might worth working for). In particular, people should look at opportunities within their field of expertise that they are in a unique position to assess.

Part of me feels that on some level, recent efforts to reduce research and critical thinking time on what is most effective to fund, such as donor lotteries and outsourcing donation decisions to experts, are actually quite worrying trends within effective altruism. I think what we need is not fewer people thinking how to do the most good, not less people having doing research and having a discussion on where to donate and what to do, but rather more.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on 69 things that might be pretty effective to fund · 2018-01-26T12:01:11.171Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Unfortunately, Dr. Blair died before our paper was published.

I'm very sorry - I was unaware of this. I have edited this.

Some people say it might have killed the dinosaurs.

Link didn't work.

I've updated the link (Direct link)

Comment by haukehillebrandt on 69 things that might be pretty effective to fund · 2018-01-22T09:54:26.134Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, it is so that people cannot skip ahead to their favorite cause and are thus exposed to different ideas from different causes.

69 things that might be pretty effective to fund

2018-01-21T22:47:32.094Z · score: 34 (30 votes)
Comment by haukehillebrandt on Estimating the Value of Mobile Money · 2016-12-21T14:57:42.450Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Very cool post.

Just saw that the transaction costs for m-pesa are quite high - the company makes ~20% profit... so there might be something that a Wave-like startup could do: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-Pesa#Cost.2C_transaction_charges.2C_statistics

maybe using crypocurrency - see here:

http://phys.org/news/2016-10-cryptocurrency-bottom-billion.html

Comment by haukehillebrandt on How many hits does hits-based giving get? A concrete study idea to find out (and a $1500 offer for implementation) · 2016-12-09T12:55:21.556Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · EA · GW

One starting point could be this recent report by Bridgespan: this is the forbes article about it... I found this interesting - all donations over 25 million in 2015 that are categorized as big bets: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2016/11/30/big-bet-philanthropy-solving-social-problems/#61e76fd03999

And here is an older list with grants from 2000-2014

https://www.bridgespan.org/bridgespan/images/articles/making-big-bets-for-social-change/Making-Big-Bets-for-Social-Change-Pdf.pdf?ext=.pdf

one could analyse how those turned out.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Effective Altruism subreddit · 2016-09-25T09:06:01.355Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Reddit is one of the most visited sites on the web so this might give EA more exposure. People should subscribe and downvote things that are not relevant and contribute to the discussions with helpful links etc...

Comment by haukehillebrandt on What is up with carbon dioxide and cognition? An offer · 2016-06-02T15:30:26.354Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

http://repository.usfca.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1209&context=thes

Air Pollution, Temperature and Cognitive Performance in the Short Run: Evidence from Women’s Ability to Recall Dates

Abstract: Cognitive performance is important to productivity across many fields and potentially correlated to air pollution and extreme temperatures. We study the effects of daily ambient air pollution and monthly temperature on women’s ability of recalling dates across 42 developing countries from 1997 to 2009. We use an estimated natural air pollution data, and calculate the AQI to get an aggregate effect of air pollution. We find that one standard deviation increase in the AQI leads to a statistical decrease in women’s probability to recall dates such as birthdays, marriage date or children’s birthdays by 0.44 percentage point. Furthermore, there is a nonlinear effect of air pollution with a suggesting AQI threshold 150. We also find each degree day above 30°C increase the probability of women fail to recall children’s birthdays by 0.17 percentage point. Moreover, by doing a sub-sample estimation, we find that air pollution and temperature particularly affect uneducated women.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on GiveWell's Charity Recommendations Require Taking a Controversial Stance on Population Ethics · 2016-05-23T13:41:56.542Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry I was being unclear. The part of the equation that you call 'Life saving benefits' (e.g. ((DALYs per life * conversion factor from DALYs to income) / (cost per life saved)) is only of instrumental value - it crucially depend on the conversion factor of from DALYs to income (if you were to set it to zero so that there would be no increase in income due to the morbidity and mortality, the life saving benefits would be zero). So I believe there is no intrinsic valuing of QALYs/Life in the cost-effectiveness model that suggests that bednets are 10 times more effective than cash-transfers, as I thought your argument implies. Rather I believe cost-per-life saved is modelled separately.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on GiveWell money moved in 2015: a review of my forecast and some future predictions · 2016-05-19T11:04:06.077Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Very interesting post - thanks for writing it!

Comment by haukehillebrandt on GiveWell's Charity Recommendations Require Taking a Controversial Stance on Population Ethics · 2016-05-19T10:39:15.805Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

GiveWell claims that AMF is about 10 times more cost-effective than GiveDirectly, and GiveWell ranks AMF as its top charity partially on this basis (see “Summary of key considerations for top charities” in the linked article). This claim depends on the assumption that saving a life creates 35 QALYs.

I'm sorry but I didn't have time to read this post in full and can't comment on the philosophical issues. I also cannot speak for GiveWell and the following is just my personal interpretation of their cost-effectiveness analysis.

I think the statement above is a based on a misunderstanding of Givewell's cost-effectiveness analyses.

GiveWell writes here: "We do include possible developmental impacts on children who sleep under an LLIN: we estimate that sleeping under an LLIN provides the same developmental impacts that a deworming pill provides. However, most of the benefit provided by LLINs is in the lives that LLINs save, not in their impact on development." http://www.givewell.org/international/top-charities/amf#Costperlifesaved

I think this is what the 10x better than GiveDirectly refers to. Deworming charities have a similar effect on development and are also ranked as about 10x as good as cash-transfers and rarely cause mortality, which leads me to believe that the child mortality reduction is not included in that part of the cost-effectiveness analysis, but rather modelled separately.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on $500 prize for anybody who can change our current top choice of intervention · 2016-05-12T11:36:18.920Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

there's some competition in the vaccine reminder space:

http://immunizeindia.org/ http://healthmarketinnovations.org/program/m-chanjo http://healthmarketinnovations.org/program/m-vaccine http://www.path.org/publications/files/TS_mhealth_mobile_messaging_toolkit.pdf

also see: http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/mhealth/maps-toolkit/en/

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Let's conduct a survey on the quality of MIRI's implementation · 2016-02-19T12:19:18.163Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Why wouldn't we just expect them to publish in peer reviewed journals?

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Do EAs underestimate opportunities to create many small benefits? · 2016-01-25T13:04:35.179Z · score: 11 (10 votes) · EA · GW

I think this is great. I actually wanted to write about how the 5th cause areas should be working on providing Global Public Goods.

I also had posted this before but I think it fits: One idea I had a while ago is doing research into optimal reading. I did a quick literature review some time ago trying to find out the ideal size of fonts for fast reading, but couldn't find any definite data. Most of the things written on speedreading seem to be completely unscientific (e.g. flashing words one by one on the screen).

An app could measure how far away you are from the screen with a webcam and then collect data on how fast you're reading. This app could then automatically adjust the font size etc.

The idea here is not so much the app, but more that so many people are reading every day for multiple hours. Making everyone read faster (~more effective) even by 0.1% would have a lot of benefits.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on CEA is launching a winter fundraising round · 2015-12-10T19:16:27.812Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I wanted to add that Givewell, in their recent board meeting mentioned that they moved more than $20 Million to top charities excluding GoodVentures money in 2015. They said that Effective Altruism becoming more popular was the primary driver of increased web traffic this year based on analytics (note that this a non-verbatim summary). source: http://www.givewell.org/about/official-records/board-meeting-31

Thus, I think there's a very good case to be made for EA outreach being very valuable.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Updates from Giving What We Can · 2015-12-07T19:06:08.866Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

One other benefit of our research is that we sometimes advise donors who are thinking about donating a substantial amount of money on where best to donate effectively. Sometimes these reports are tailor-made because donors have hard requirements and want to donate within a particular cause area. Often we think this is very effective use of our time, because we can influence a large amount of money.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Updates from Giving What We Can · 2015-12-07T13:39:32.577Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Tom and Imma,

thanks for the questions.

One example of crucial considerations are disease interactions that might have the potential to significantly influence the cost-effectiveness analyses of charities. One such disease interaction is that of deworming with malaria, which is obviously really relevant and important given that we recommend both malaria and deworming charities. We've reviewed the literature on this interaction this year and it turns out that deworming for STH might have some protective effects against malaria and thus deworming might increase malaria. Givewell has picked up on this and cited our review in their latest review of deworming: http://www.givewell.org/international/technical/programs/deworming#header-3

even if this interaction didn't turn out to be all too worrying, it could be a near miss (obviously if the effect size of this interaction would have been bigger, it would have been more likely to be on everyone's radar, but still).

And yes, even though we think very highly of Givewell and their research output, we also think that it is good to have at least one other independent source in this space.

Academic research is not usually doing what we do. They are reviewing the theoretical cost-effectiveness of an intervention to inform policy of big organisations in development. We are trying to bridge the gap between the scientific literature's theoretical cost-effectiveness estimates and the effectiveness of particular organisations. Also, the research field of cost-effectiveness research is still very young and even though some researchers are doing cost-effectiveness estimates in their particular field (e.g. estimating the cost-effectiveness of vaccines), there are few people who specialize in getting an overview of the different estimates and compare them. One exception is the DCP (DCP-3.org), but then again they are quite theoretical in the sense that their estimates are averages of big scale interventions that cater towards bigger organisations and health ministries.

Generally, even when discarding these considerations, there are good reasons for us having in-house expertise by research analysts: in order to communicate with our members and the general public professionally we need deep understanding of the topic for fact checking our materials and remain credible, which you can only get by doing some research on the topic ourselves.

This is what we write in our upcoming impact evaluation on our research: "Since our members are now consistently donating millions of dollars to effective charities each year, it is crucial that we continue to increase our in-house expertise on charity effectiveness. We must continually inform and fact-check our outreach and marketing, represent Giving What We Can at scientific conferences and meetings, talk to other key players in the development sector on eye-level, and, most importantly, ensure that we always recommend the most effective charities to our members. It is vital for us to stay abreast of relevant findings coming from both academic and non-academic sources, and to communicate these findings to our audience in an accurate and accessible manner. We are planning on hiring for one more full time equivalent research position. There are three reasons for wanting to increase our research capacity. First, due to increasing interest in effective altruism from the public, the media and potential members, we receive an increasing volume of questions about charity effectiveness, and these need to be answered swiftly and competently. There is also increasing demand for our researchers to give talks and answer questions on the results of their research; while this is excellent for our profile, it does place strain on our capacity. Secondly, as Giving What We Can grows and moves more money, our responsibility as stewards of donations becomes greater: we need to remain confident in the charities we recommend and scale up our research capacity accordingly. Granted that Givewell, another charity evaluator, has become increasingly professionalized, we still think that it is important to have at least one other organisation conducting research and keeping up with the literature on charity effectiveness. Finally, the community as a whole has blind spots on topics such as climate change, and it is imperative that we dedicate time to the issue. The distinctive feature of the effective altruism community is that we use evidence and analysis to come to decisions on where to donate; we cannot afford to leave serious gaps simply because of the time commitment required to look into them."

Comment by haukehillebrandt on The limits of RCTs in international development · 2015-11-05T23:32:00.905Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I found some of what Deaton said here very odd. Especially what sounds like a false equivalence of comparing the inference of causation from correlational data with experiments, which are "just like any other method of estimation."

Obviously, there can be external validity problems with RCTs, but this point seems to be overstated especially when it comes to global health interventions.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Evaluating Small, Effective Charities Vs. Large, Less Effective Charities · 2015-10-24T17:34:50.066Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This is an excellent question.

Givewell has written about this:

http://www.givewell.org/search/google/Mega-charities?query=Mega-charities&cx=007119284953973998335%3Arwakucpx-to&cof=FORID%3A11&sitesearch=&safe=medium

My sense is that UNICEF is the most effective big (health) charity - they do lots of highly effective health interventions:

  • they deliver 20-30 million bednets every year - for comparison AMF has delivered 6-7 since its inception
  • they also spend lots of money on vaccinations, which are likely to be more effective than bednets (though better funded due to GAVI)
  • big on HIV spending

But their effectiveness might be diluted because they spend money on non-priority interventions and countries that are not among the least developed countries such as the DRC, where AMF is active.

One thing that has changed since the Givewell posts have been written is that UN agencies (among them UNICEF) have become more transparent, but it's still hard to see what exactly they spend their money on: ati.publishwhatyoufund.org/index-2014/results/

You can see UNICEF's spending on their 7 programme areas here:

http://www.unicef.org/strategicplan/files/2013-ABL4-Integrated_budget-ODS-English.pdf

and then look at the thematic reports here:

http://www.unicef.org/publicpartnerships/66662_66837.html

where they give a breakdown of what they spend their money on in the programme areas (it's still quite crude, I couldn't find out what they spend on which vaccine, but the data might be out there- I just couldn't find it).

You could do a back of the envelope calculation and see whether they're on average better than AMF, and I would not be super terribly surprised, but that doesn't mean that your marginal dollar that you donate to UNICEF will have a bigger impact. It's very difficult to properly ring fence money and restrict funding to priority areas when giving to UNICEF as a small donor, because they might just shift money around (using their considerable unrestricted funding to do that). I'm also not sure whether when you go on the UNICEF website and click 'I want to provide a family with a bednet', whether that then is really going into the restricted funding pot.

If the EA movement were to grow considerably, we might be able to ringfence money properly, by looking at UNICEFs projected spending and the immunization expenditure line and then say 'we want you to spend more on immunizations' or use Social Impact Bonds: 'if everyone in country x is immunized against measles, the EA community will pay X million $'.

Givewell has recently had a post on 'Charities we'd like to see' and they wish for an immunization charity, but I'm not sure whether there ever will be one.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on How does fighting diarrhoea stack up to malaria in effectiveness? · 2015-10-14T15:06:53.627Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Michael,

great post! We're currently looking into this more.

Diarrheal disease really is responsible for a lot of ill health. Here's a breakdown of the reasons for diarrhea taken from (http://ihmeuw.org/3oxy) with some observations on each of those risk factors in terms of highly effective interventions:

The associated risk are:

1.‘Behavioural’ risk factors:

1.1 Malnutrition

1.1.1 Childhood undernutrition

  • Solutions: agricultural aid tries to work on this
  • Givedirectly, because people buy more food
  • deworming, because worms might have a little effect on weight (the effect might be small, but cost-effectiveness might still be high)

1.1.2 suboptimal breastfeeding

  • there DMI is a good candidate, because they encourage breastfeeding, but the midline results were not significant.

1.1.3 Vitamin A and Zinc deficiency

  • this is partly because we recommend Project Healthy Children
  • Living Goods also sells vitamins

  • 'environmental' risk factors

2.1 'WASH' interventions:

2.1.1 Unsafe Water

Potential interventions:

2.1.2 unsafe sanitation

potential interventions:

  • DMI tries to promote latrine ownership - no sig. results so far.
  • I recently saw the folks from peepoople.com speak at a conference and this might be an innovative, high cost-effectiveness approach - but there is not enough evidence out yet. Generally, my sense is that toilets are very difficult.
  • Handwashing (can be done with ash, doesn't even have to be soap). DMI promotes handwashing, but the results for this are still out.

  • Treament:

  • Living Goods also sells an oral rehydration therapy product

  • DMI, in the midline results of their trial, found that they significantly increased the number of people who sought help at a clinic for diarrhea.
  1. New interesting research in this area:

  2. very good recent cluster RCT on:

The Effect of Improved Water Supply on Diarrhea Prevalence of Children under Five in the Volta Region of Ghana: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial.

Supplying clean water by drilling or rehabilitating boreholes reduced diarrheal prevalence by 11% in this study. The study convincingly gets around some methodological issues with self-reported diarrhea. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26404337

  • Effects of better WASH beyond health:

Effect of Early Life Exposure to a Clean Water Intervention on Health and Socioeconomic Status in Adulthood: Evidence from a Quasi-Experimental Cohort Study in Mexico*

“Early childhood diarrhea jeopardizes child development by diverting nutrition away from physical and mental growth towards fighting illness. Consequently, early exposure to clean water interventions, which reduce diarrhea risk, may confer positive effects on adult health and well-being that are typically not accounted for in resource allocation decisions. We found that early life exposure to a clean water intervention in Mexico in 1991 led to increases in adult height for men and completed schooling for women.” http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.363.1560&rep=rep1&type=pdf

I hope this helps.

Comment by HaukeHillebrandt on [deleted post] 2015-09-28T10:02:35.295Z

Great that you're working on this!

I had similar thoughts on Romania, which allows you to donate a certain amount of your income tax to charity (so you just fill in a form and then, at no cost to you whatsoever, your income tax is diverted to a charity of your choice). At first glance, this is an amazing opportunity, but then you realize that Romania has so many problems of its own. But Effective altruism means different things in different countries. If the 'give to developing countries charities' EA meme just doesn't work in one country and some other does, 'give to the most effective charity working within the country' for example, then that's the most effective thing you can do there.

There's a recent paper which is sort of the DCP for noncommunicable disorders but only for Mexico, with some very low $ per DALY averted numbers:

http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/344/bmj.e355.full.pdf

maybe you could convince people to focus on any of these high effectiveness areas that they mention.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Thread for discussing critical review of Doing Good Better in the London Review of Books · 2015-09-22T19:00:33.501Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Here's the Slate Star Codex response to the piece:

http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/09/22/beware-systemic-change/

Comment by haukehillebrandt on The long-term significance of reducing global catastrophic risks [link] · 2015-08-14T11:52:48.111Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

From the spreadsheet linked there ( https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1b7ohoyAi2MlyBOzgarvJ-bOE2v9mJ8a9YDfQYGNk9vk/edit#gid=1273928110 )

Does anybody find the row on Anthropogenic climate change (other than geoengineering) puzzling in the sense that it seems to be not given sufficient priority?

"Not many suitable remaining funding opportunities" for "R&D on clean tech, adaptation preparations, and working toward carbon pricing are all possibilities but all generally highly funded already."

The likelihood of highest-damage scenario over the next 100 years is categorized on the same level as AI risk ('Highly uncertain, somewhat conjunctive, but plausible').

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Some objections and counter arguments against global poverty/health interventions · 2015-08-10T11:41:03.184Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

We're looking into this issue currently.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Some objections and counter arguments against global poverty/health interventions · 2015-08-10T11:40:39.858Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

This is about illicit financial flows generally. I should probably make this more clear. Thanks for the feedback.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Some objections and counter arguments against global poverty/health interventions · 2015-08-10T11:38:13.904Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Absolutely agree that growth has lifted lots of people out of poverty.

The idea here was that, even under very optimistic growth projections, i.e. Africa emulating China, it would simply take to long for growth to benefit the very poor. Because the main factor for growth is capital, and free market forces already provide that (China is investing a lot in Africa), our marginal dollar might be better spent elsewhere.

Some objections and counter arguments against global poverty/health interventions

2015-08-05T09:44:11.863Z · score: 9 (5 votes)
Comment by haukehillebrandt on Why Effective Altruists Should Use a Robo-Advisor · 2015-08-04T13:00:00.906Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

https://zenassets.com

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Iason Gabriel writes: What's Wrong with Effective Altruism · 2015-07-24T17:10:03.831Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

re: the multinational tax dodging:

http://www.cgdev.org/blog/how-much-do-we-really-know-about-multinational-tax-avoidance-and-how-much-it-really-worth?utm_source=150721&utm_medium=cgd_email&utm_campaign=cgd_weekly&utm_

http://www.cgdev.org/blog/talking-about-tax-taxing-pretending-it-simple-will-hurt-poor

http://www.ictd.ac/en/corporate-tax-avoidance-and-development-opening-pandora%E2%80%99s-box

re: his criticism of a small funding gap:

http://effective-altruism.com/ea/ji/room_for_more_funding_why_doesnt_the_gates/

Comment by haukehillebrandt on A Note on Framing Criticisms of Effective Altruism · 2015-07-24T17:05:56.048Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · EA · GW

I really like this. What I would like even more of critics is to suggest a concrete organisation, that they think we should donate to instead of the current top charities.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Giving What We Can's response to recent deworming studies · 2015-07-24T10:30:21.106Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

SCI effectiveness is based on health, because schistosomiasis is much worse than STHs. DtWI is present in India, where they consult the Indian government to huge mass deworming operations, so their effectiveness is due the scalability and the donations have lots of leverage. But they're also in Africa already and want to further expands there, where they treat schisto. And then they spend a significant part of their money on research. That's why they're also very effective.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Long-lasting insecticide treated nets: $3,340 per life saved, $100 per DALY averted. How is this calculated? · 2015-07-24T10:20:26.031Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Big development organisations (Gates, UNICEF, etc) can do certain things that are very effective, such as vaccinations, and might also enjoy economies of scale. It's actually quite surprising that individual donors can do significantly better ($3340 per life saved by donating to AMF vs. $4205 per life saved). Note also, that the $4205 figure is a biased sample of any big development organisations programme - because most are not only active in low income countries. Individual donors cannot donate in a ringfenced fashion to development organisation through big organisations such as UNICEF unfortunately.

Giving What We Can's response to recent deworming studies

2015-07-23T18:19:59.535Z · score: 9 (9 votes)
Comment by haukehillebrandt on Long-lasting insecticide treated nets: $3,340 per life saved, $100 per DALY averted. How is this calculated? · 2015-07-17T18:05:13.178Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

The analysis is a bit more sophisticated than that:

"To avoid overestimation of the number of child deaths averted through health intervention, we take advantage of the analysis published by Wang et al (1), which examined the component of changes in child mortality that can be linked to changes in income per capita and educational attainment. Based on the econometric model used by Wang et al (1), we estimate counterfactual deaths in a scenario where income, education, and number of live births change with time but everything else is set at its year 2000 value." See supplemental material: http://www.thelancet.com/cms/attachment/2033982751/2049751458/mmc1.pdf

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Long-lasting insecticide treated nets: $3,340 per life saved, $100 per DALY averted. How is this calculated? · 2015-07-14T11:14:51.486Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Aren't you double-counting DALYs here? Imagine 2 charities:

Charity 1 prevents Malaria deaths in children. Charity 2 pays for the costs of living of poor people.

If Charity 1 prevents a Malaria death and then Charity 2 pays for the costs of living of the saved person, each will count each year as a DALY win per x$ donated. But they can't both claim full credit.

Great question. Yes, you'd be double counting in this case. The DALY is not perfect, and should always be seen as just a general rough guide, and never be the sole influence for making decisions. As they say, all models are wrong, but some are useful :)

Malaria nets are unpleasant to sleep under, but it's much better than getting malaria. I'm not aware of any studies that measure how much of a reduction in quality of life they result in, but I imagine the effect to be quite small.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Long-lasting insecticide treated nets: $3,340 per life saved, $100 per DALY averted. How is this calculated? · 2015-07-14T11:08:05.970Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

~80 years of life maybe (seems optimistic for these regions) but surely not ~80 DALYs in expectancy for under 5s? What about morbidity that can be expected to be had by the kids you save? Does this come into the discounting decision?

In the DALY framework, people never take into account the regional life expectancy, but a more general or sometimes even western standard life expectancy (Average worldwide life expectancy is 70 years). I think this might be justified as life expectancy is increasing world wide and because of that could even be an underestimate.

Also, Hauke, do you have an idea, personally, of the additional benefit (as a number) in terms of HIV / adult suffering / disease dynamics / reduction of health income shocks etc. etc. from reducing the incidence of malaria beyond avoiding child deaths that you helpfully walk people through in your GWWC article on malaria?

These coinfections are complex issues and all estimates are very uncertain. I review the literature around this here:

https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/blog/2015-04-24/update-against-malaria-foundation

The main point here is that, Malaria interventions are already very cost-effective even when just taking into account childhood mortality, and independent of the effect size of these interactions, you might avert some HIV infections on top the more established effects 'for free'.

Long-lasting insecticide treated nets: $3,340 per life saved, $100 per DALY averted. How is this calculated?

2015-07-13T16:08:20.169Z · score: 9 (5 votes)
Comment by haukehillebrandt on An update on Project Healthy Children · 2015-06-12T18:32:00.236Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Of course, it takes into account the feedback - but I didn't get that much feedback this time, so it'll be very similar.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Room for more funding: Why doesn’t the Gates foundation just close the funding gap of AMF and SCI? · 2015-06-11T18:10:26.945Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Here's the published version of the Appendix:

The cost of fighting Malaria, Malnutrition, Neglected Tropical Diseases, and HIV/AIDS http://buff.ly/1Ksh8pX

Please share!

Comment by haukehillebrandt on An update on Project Healthy Children · 2015-06-11T09:25:50.312Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Have already posted this on the FB group - and it'll go up on the Giving What We Can blog after the review!

An update on Project Healthy Children

2015-06-08T13:36:16.414Z · score: 7 (3 votes)

Room for more funding: Why doesn’t the Gates foundation just close the funding gap of AMF and SCI?

2015-06-03T14:48:07.317Z · score: 4 (4 votes)

Feedback and $2k in funding needed for EA essay competition

2015-05-13T15:13:29.362Z · score: 15 (11 votes)