Posts

Int'l agreements to spend % of GDP on global public goods 2020-11-22T10:33:39.039Z
HaukeHillebrandt's Shortform 2020-04-17T10:13:42.853Z
Growth and the case against randomista development 2020-01-16T10:11:51.136Z
Dataset of Trillion Dollar figures 2020-01-13T13:33:25.067Z
Let’s Fund: annual review / fundraising / hiring / AMA 2019-12-31T14:54:35.968Z
[updated] Global development interventions are generally more effective than climate change interventions 2019-10-02T08:36:27.444Z
New popular science book on x-risks: "End Times" 2019-10-01T07:18:10.789Z
Corporate Global Catastrophic Risks (C-GCRs) 2019-06-30T16:53:31.350Z
Crowdfunding for Effective Climate Policy 2019-05-25T18:17:05.070Z
Nick Bostrom on Sam Harris' podcast 2019-03-19T11:21:09.483Z
[EAGx Talk] Considerations for Fundraising in Effective Altruism 2019-01-15T11:20:46.237Z
EA orgs are trying to fundraise ~$10m - $16m 2019-01-06T13:51:03.483Z
New web app for calibration training funded by the Open Philanthropy Project 2018-12-15T15:18:54.905Z
Impact investing is only a good idea in specific circumstances 2018-12-06T12:13:46.544Z
Effective Altruism in non-high-income countries 2018-11-15T17:18:42.761Z
“The Vulnerable World Hypothesis” (Nick Bostrom’s new paper) 2018-11-09T11:20:42.330Z
Why donate to meta-research? 2018-11-08T09:29:58.740Z
[link] Why donate to (scientific) research? 2018-10-29T11:13:25.026Z
Announcing: "Lets-Fund.org: High-Impact Crowdfunding campaigns" & "Let's Fund #1: A (small) scientific Revolution" 2018-10-25T21:22:14.605Z
A generalized strategy of ‘mission hedging’: investing in 'evil' to do more good 2018-02-18T17:41:31.873Z
69 things that might be pretty effective to fund 2018-01-21T22:47:32.094Z
Some objections and counter arguments against global poverty/health interventions 2015-08-05T09:44:11.863Z
Giving What We Can's response to recent deworming studies 2015-07-23T18:19:59.535Z
Long-lasting insecticide treated nets: $3,340 per life saved, $100 per DALY averted. How is this calculated? 2015-07-13T16:08:20.169Z
An update on Project Healthy Children 2015-06-08T13:36:16.414Z
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
Feedback and $2k in funding needed for EA essay competition 2015-05-13T15:13:29.362Z

Comments

Comment by haukehillebrandt on What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities? · 2020-12-08T18:18:00.940Z · EA · GW

There's a good talk on this - Considerations for fundraising in Effective Altruism.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on HaukeHillebrandt's Shortform · 2020-12-07T16:42:40.955Z · EA · GW

"RCTs in the Field of Development - A Critical Perspective" is a book that was recently published. Description below.

We cite one the chapters extensively in our "Growth and the case against randomista development" piece. 

The individual chapters seem all available for free in preprint version (e.g. http://ftp.iza.org/dp12882.pdf ).

---

In October 2019, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer jointly won the 51st Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty." But what is the exact scope of their experimental method, known as randomized control trials (RCTs)? Which sorts of questions are RCTs able to address and which do they fail to answer? The first of its kind, Randomized Control Trials in the Field of Development: A Critical Perspective provides answers to these questions, explaining how RCTs work, what they can achieve, why they sometimes fail, how they can be improved and why other methods are both useful and necessary. Bringing together leading specialists in the field from a range of backgrounds and disciplines (economics, econometrics, mathematics, statistics, political economy, socioeconomics, anthropology, philosophy, global health, epidemiology, and medicine), it presents a full and coherent picture of the main strengths and weaknesses of RCTs in the field of development. Looking beyond the epistemological, political, and ethical differences underlying many of the disagreements surrounding RCTs, it explores the implementation of RCTs on the ground, outside of their ideal theoretical conditions and reveals some unsuspected uses and effects, their disruptive potential, but also their political uses. The contributions uncover the implicit worldview that many RCTs draw on and disseminate, and probe the gap between the method's narrow scope and its success, while also proposing improvements and alternatives.

Without disputing the contribution of RCTs to scientific knowledge, Randomized Control Trials in the Field of Development warns against the potential dangers of their excessive use, arguing that the best use for RCTs is not necessarily that which immediately springs to mind. Written in plain language, this book offers experts and laypeople alike a unique opportunity to come to an informed and reasoned judgement on RCTs and what they can bring to development.

Table of Contents

General Introduction, Florent Bédécarrats, Isabelle Guérin, and François Roubaud
0:Randomization in the Tropics Revisited: A Theme and Eleven Variations, Sir Angus Deaton
1:Should the Randomistas (Continue to) Rule?, Martin Ravallion
2:Randomizing Development: Method or Madness?, Lant Pritchett
3:The Disruptive Power of RCTs, Jonathan Morduch
4:RCTs in Development Economics, Their Critics, and Their Evolution, Timothy Ogden
5:Reducing the Knowledge Gap in Global Health Delivery: Contributions and Limitations of Randomized Controlled trials, Andres Garchitorena, Megan Murray, Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, Paul Farmer, and Matthew Bonds
6:Trials and Tribulations: The Rise and Fall of the RCT in the WASH Sector, Dean Spears, Radu Ban, and Oliver Cumming
7:Microfinance RCTs in Development: Miracle or Mirage?, Florent Bédécarrats, Isabelle Guérin, and François Roubaud
8:The Rhetorical Superiority of Poor Economics, Agnès Labrousse
9:Are the 'Randomistas' Evaluators?, Robert Picciotto
10:Ethics of RCTs: Should Economists Care about Equipoise?, Michel Abramowicz and Ariane Szafarz
11:Using Priors in Experimental Design: How Much Are We Leaving on the Table?, Eva Vivalt
12:Epilogue: Randomization and Social Policy Evaluation Revisited, James J. Heckman
Interviews
 


 
Comment by haukehillebrandt on Clean technology innovation as the most cost-effective climate action · 2020-12-07T11:51:50.307Z · EA · GW

Excellent post - strong upvote!

Your analysis of the climate impacts of clean protein is really interesting and the dual benefits of clean protein R&D on the environment and animal welfare are definitely worth highlighting, but I agree that in the long-term it's unlikely to be competitive with clean energy R&D.

However, I think what's more interesting is: 

  1. That there are just so many similarities in modelling the problem of climate change and factory farming  i.e. benefits of clean energy R&D and clean protein R&D.
  2. The resulting "Extreme cost-effectiveness of clean protein R&D"

Put simplistically, if you were to take the Let's Fund clean energy analysis (lets-fund.org/clean-energy) and replace the negative externalities (i.e. "emissions" with "farm animal suffering") and solution the "clean energy R&D" with "clean protein R&D" - I think you might still get a lot of mileage out it. 

For instance, in the climate change report I had the following crucial considerations:

  1. The focus of advanced economies like EU countries to prioritize reducing their own domestic emissions is a natural impulse ('clean up your own backyard first'). But 75% of all emissions will come from emerging economies such as China and India by 2040. Only if advanced economies' climate policies reduce emissions in all countries, will we prevent dangerous climate change.
  2. For this reason, the best climate policies are those that stimulate clean energy innovation. Advanced economies need to provide the global public good of cheaper clean energy technology. Only technology spillovers help all countries reduce their emissions, because they lower the cost of low-carbon energy and make carbon taxes more likely.
  3. Many policies stimulate clean energy innovation and create global technology spillovers (e.g. carbon taxes, subsidies for renewable energy, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies). But the most effective policy is increasing government budgets for public clean energy research and development (R&D).
  4. Public clean energy R&D is neglected: only $22 billion is spent per year globally. Many advanced economies such as the US could unilaterally increase this substantially i.e. even without international coordination.

Clean protein R&D's effect on farm animal welfare is similar, where a lot of demand for meat will come from emerging economies, and, because of the global technology spillover, if we were to make clean protein cheaper for all countries, it would reduce factory farming globally, and thus dominate interventions like corporate campaigns, vegan advocacy, meat taxes, etc.

As you write, it's often good to use leverage through policy advocacy for more clean protein R&D. 

Here I feel like the Good Food Institute is most similar to the effective clean energy R&D advocacy interventions:

One of the The Good Food Institute missions is “educate grant-making institutions, corporations, and governmental bodies about plant-based and clean meat R&D as a critical component of endeavors related to sustainability, climate change, and global health.“ 

“Following GFI lobbying, Congress registered its support for alternative protein research in the fiscal 2020 Senate Agriculture Appropriations Report, and it included new language providing extra funding for the Agricultural Research Service to conduct research on pulses. GFI also launched GFI-Israel, now a team of four, and expanded the size of their affiliates in Brazil, India, Asia Pacific, and Europe (now ~25 total across the five offices).” 

Similarly, one of New Harvest’s missions is to “educate and inform stakeholders and the public at large of what cellular agriculture research is, and why it is necessary, in an honest, transparent, science-based manner.” Increasing neglected basic government R&D e.g. on tissue engineering might have very large leverage. For instance, in the US, the National Institutes of Health funds most tissue-engineering research, but focuses on biomedical applications; the Department of Agriculture funds most food-science studies, but spends little on clean meat. Advocacy to increase interdisciplinary research on this might be very effective to increase overall R&D budgets.

Further links: 

  1. Protein Industries Canada | Unleashing the Potential of Canadian Crops
  2. Japan is investing in protein research.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb_EeTu8MEw
  3. How Government-Funded Research on Alternative Proteins Can Grow the Bioeconomy
  4. https://thebreakthrough.org/articles/federal-support-for-alt-protein
  5. https://thebreakthrough.org/issues/food/cultivated-meat
  6. https://thebreakthrough.org/articles/econ-recovery-ag-innovation
Comment by haukehillebrandt on AMA: Jason Crawford, The Roots of Progress · 2020-12-03T17:25:52.341Z · EA · GW

Are ideas getting harder to find?

Comment by haukehillebrandt on BenMillwood's Shortform · 2020-10-24T08:37:31.518Z · EA · GW

I'm sure if I thought about it for a bit I could figure out when these two mutually contradictory strategies look better or worse than each other. But mostly I don't take either of them very seriously most of the time anyway :)

I think these strategies can actually be combined:

A patient philanthropist sets up their endowment according to mission hedging principles.

For instance, someone wanting to hedge against AI risks could invest in (leveraged) AI FAANG+ ETF (https://c5f7b13c-075d-4d98-a100-59dd831bd417.filesusr.com/ugd/c95fca_c71a831d5c7643a7b28a7ba7367a3ab3.pdf), then when AI seems more capable and risky and the market is up, they sell and buy shorts, then donate the appreciated assets to fund advocacy to regulate AI.

I think this might work better for bigger donors.

Like this got me thinking: https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/10/20/21523492/future-forward-super-pac-dustin-moskovitz-silicon-valley

“We can push the odds of victory up significantly—from 23% to 35-55%—by blitzing the airwaves in the final two weeks.”

https://www.predictit.org/markets/detail/6788/Which-party-will-win-the-US-Senate-election-in-Texas-in-2020

Comment by haukehillebrandt on BenMillwood's Shortform · 2020-10-24T08:20:55.891Z · EA · GW

it's possible to make money this way

Agreed, but I don't think there's a big market inefficiency here with risk-adjusted above market rate returns. Of course, if you do research to create private information then there should be a return to that research.

Trading based on private information is sometimes illegal, but sometimes not, depending on what the information is and why you have it, and which jurisdiction you're in. [...[

True, but I've heard that in the US, normally, if I lobby in the U.S. for an outcome and I short the stock about which I am lobbying, I have not violated any law unless I am a fiduciary or agent of the company in question. Also see https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/04/24/its-perfectly-fine-for-herbalife-short-sellers-to-lobby-the-government/#95b274610256

I have my own counterargument

I really like this, but...

it can be made to look bad

This seems to be why people have a knee jerk reaction against it.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Michael_Wiebe's Shortform · 2020-10-16T16:55:34.041Z · EA · GW

Interesting. 

Related: "Some programs have received strong hints that they will be killed off entirely. The Oxford Policy Fellowship, a technical advisory program that embeds lawyers with governments that require support for two years, will have to withdraw fellows from their postings, according to Kari Selander, who founded the program."

https://www.devex.com/news/inside-the-uk-aid-cut-97771

https://www.policyfellowship.org/

Comment by haukehillebrandt on We estimate GiveWell donors’ $15.3 million to the Against Malaria Foundation will save over 3,000 lives · 2020-10-16T10:39:21.493Z · EA · GW

What do you think of the worst case WHO model that suggest that  COVID will disrupt malaria prevention and lead to additional ~350,000 deaths?

See:

https://www.gatesnotes.com/Health/As-COVID-19-spreads-do-not-lose-track-of-malaria

https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/the-potential-impact-of-health-service-disruptions-on-the-burden-of-malaria

https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-020-01710-x

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Can my self-worth compare to my instrumental value? · 2020-10-14T12:12:52.845Z · EA · GW

most of the impact is achieved by a few, very impactful people could also make the people who perceive themselves as having potential for high impact particularly vulnerable, since the gap between their intrinsic value or self-worth and their instrumental value would seem even wider.

 

Not sure if relevant to what you're saying, but there's this very interesting paper that shows:

Suppose that all people in the world are allocated only two characteristics over which they have (almost) no control: country of residence and income distribution within that country. Assume further that there is no migration. We show that more than one-half of variability in income of world population classified according to their household per capita in 1% income groups (by country) is accounted for by these two characteristics. The role of effort or luck cannot play a large role in explaining the global distribution of income.

This has obvious implications how much people can realistically earn to give, but also suggests that other forms of impact, like social impact, might be mostly outside people's control. This is good reason to not be too hard on oneself for not achieving more, and not compare yourself to people like Bill Gates.

This blog post "Why not give 90%?" also seems relevant. 

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Crowdfunding platform tips? · 2020-10-14T10:54:54.989Z · EA · GW

Some people don't have facebook or don't like to give credit card information. You might consider setting up on both FB and GFM, where you try to get people to FB first, because it doesn't take any fees and then maybe either to PayPal, which also doesn't take fees, and only then perhaps to GFM, just make a website with your own aggregate donation count.

You might also want to check out Youtube's new crowdfunding capabilities.

Good luck! Suvita seems  like a great project.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Crowdfunding platform tips? · 2020-10-14T10:52:02.735Z · EA · GW

Yes, correct, sorry we do not accept applications and only do independent research to find giving opportunities.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on What types of charity will be the most effective for creating a more equal society? · 2020-10-13T15:08:16.619Z · EA · GW

I downvoted this for comment for not addressing the central claim but only the tone.

Getting the tone right can sometimes be challenging especially for non-native speakers.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on What types of charity will be the most effective for creating a more equal society? · 2020-10-13T09:59:33.463Z · EA · GW

You might be interested in this 80,000 Hours podcast with Glen Weyl on uprooting capitalism and democracy for a just society: 

Radical institutional reforms that make capitalism & democracy work better, and how to get them

Comment by haukehillebrandt on What types of charity will be the most effective for creating a more equal society? · 2020-10-13T09:52:22.695Z · EA · GW

I think that being open to changing your mind is an important norm. I think you could read this sentence as a very reasonable request to keep this discussion on topic, but I worry that it is a more general stance. 

OP seems very open to change their mind, as evidenced by having donated to help animals and humans,  to direct interventions and systemic change, as well as a recent rethink of their approach. Within their cause, they seem open to change their mind about the most effective interventions (like many other posts on the EA forum that are not very cause neutral).

Some of the other phrases (e.g. "conviction" "deeply sick" "all other problems are just derivatives") make me worry about whether this person will change their mind, make me worry that they're overconfident, and make me worry that they'll use heated discourse in arguments rather than collaboratively truth seeking. All of these also make me a bit less excited about welcoming them to the community.

Emotionally laden language is sometimes apt. If  we stereotype against this sort of language in EA, then people who are justifiably upset about issues such as inequality, especially those personally affected (in contrast to many in the EA community), might feel unwelcome.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Crowdfunding platform tips? · 2020-10-13T07:30:54.691Z · EA · GW

Check out Lets-Fund.org/FAQ

I recommend Facebook, because of great social media integration and zero fees, but am surprised how many donors choose to use GoFundMe instead (maybe because they don't have FB). Facebook campaigns expire every 90 days though and it's not easy to collect contact details of your donors.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Founders Pledge Report: Psychedelic-Assisted Mental Health Treatments · 2020-10-01T14:03:30.905Z · EA · GW

If Alice funded you and Alice had a pet cause of X, I would find that information useful in evaluating your writeup of X.

However I wonder if this is due to the phrasing of "pet cause". If you get funding from the Gates Foundation and you recommend a global health intervention, I really don't think you need to put disclosures about that.

Which unfortunately leaves me without a principled distinction. In this case, with knowledge of the actors involved, I doubt it would affect your funding if you had/hadn't recommended these non-profits, so I don't feel like I would have needed the disclosure. But, yeah, unprincipled.

 

I think there should generally be disclosure statements, especially when it comes to unbiased charity evaluation.

In science, it is now standard practise to disclose any funding (see for instance PLoS ONE's funding disclosure policies). 

Even when it comes to uncontroversial causes such as global health, disclosure statements have their place:

For instance, the Gates foundation has funded research showing that additional spending in low-income countries from 2015-2030 will avert a death for $4,000-11,000 and that more aid should be spent on this cause. Yet, because the aid pie is somewhat fixed and global health might not be the most effective use of funds, the Gates foundation trying to advocate for and leverage funds for global health might have net  negative side effects.

Within causes, disclosure statements might not be as important.

In this case here with psychedelics, there is legitimate worry about (real or perceived) conflicts of interest, especially because some prioritization is highlighted ("psilocybin for depression, is similarly as impactful as our recommendations in other areas") and given that the Good Ventures funding for these two non-profits that are singled out was very recent (one a year ago).

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Founders Pledge Report: Psychedelic-Assisted Mental Health Treatments · 2020-09-30T15:25:36.988Z · EA · GW

Good Ventures, a major donor to Founders Pledge,  also funds the two non-profits you recommend. 

Have you considered adding more disclosure statements wrt to those potential conflicts of interest to the FP research pages?

Comment by haukehillebrandt on RyanCarey's Shortform · 2020-09-30T09:12:04.084Z · EA · GW

I once got the advice from highly successful academics (tenured ivy league profs) that if you want become an academic you should "resist the temptation of the tenure track for as long as possible" and rather do another post-doc. 

Once you enter the tenure track, the clock starts ticking and by the end of it, your tenure will be judged by your total publication record. If you do (another) postdoc before entering the tenure track you'll have more publications in the pipeline, which will give you a competitive edge. This might also increase your chances of getting more competitive professorship. 

By the same token, it perhaps pays to do pre-doctoral fellowships and master's degrees. This is also important for picking a Euro vs. US PhD where the 3 year Euro PhD might better for people who do not want to go into academia whereas the 5 year+ US  PhD might be better for academia.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Factors other than ITN? · 2020-09-26T11:49:34.303Z · EA · GW

Toby Ord writes about prioritizing risks that are soon, sudden and sharp in the Precipice. 

Also see a criticism of the current ITN framework and a proposal for a new one by John Halstead.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Denise_Melchin's Shortform · 2020-09-18T15:33:33.730Z · EA · GW

I mused about something similar here - about corporations as dangerous optimization demons which will cause GCRs if left unchecked :

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/vy2QCTXfWhdiaGWTu/corporate-global-catastrophic-risks-c-gcrs-1

Not sure how fruitful it was.

For capitalism more generally, GPI also has "Alternatives to GDP" in their research agenda, presumably because the GDP measure is what the whole world is pretty much optimizing for, and creating a new measure might be really high value.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on RyanCarey's Shortform · 2020-09-11T15:03:14.004Z · EA · GW

I feel Indonesia / Jakarta is perhaps overlooked / neglected sometimes, despite it being expected to be the world's 4th largest economy by 2050:

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Improving local governance in fragile states - practical lessons from the field · 2020-08-12T11:50:09.383Z · EA · GW

What do you think is the probability of a civil war in Lebanon now and what are the best giving opportunities for donors looking to reduce the risk of war?

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-08-12T10:48:39.913Z · EA · GW

Median income and GDP per capita correlate very strongly (.93 in one sample).

Generally, for emerging economies, growth (raising GDP per capita) seems sufficient to increase median income (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_rising_tide_lifts_all_boats).

Amongst countries with a GDP per capita > $10,000 (~Namibia), no country has a median income below the extreme poverty line (1.90*365 = $693.5). 

And raising median income is sufficient and necessary to eliminate extreme poverty.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-08-09T09:39:27.737Z · EA · GW

I have a section in the appendices "Quotes from Duflo and Banerjee" with more quotes from them from their latest book.

"Economists (and other experts) seem to have very little useful to say about why some countries grow and others do not.

We actually cite Pritchett above directly replying to this quote:

"The Venezuelan economy is not in 2018 spiraling into hyperinflation and in the midst of a tragic economic depression because “economists have little useful to say about economic growth” in the sense the advice, if followed, would be useful."

Whole paper is worth a read:

https://d101vc9winf8ln.cloudfront.net/documents/32264/original/RCTs_and_the_big_questions_10000words_june30.pdf?1565974982

Given that economic growth requires manpower and brainpower, it seems plausible, however, that whenever that spark occurs, it is more likely to catch fire if women and men are properly educated, well fed, and healthy, and if citizens feel secure and confident enough to invest in their children, and to let them leave home to get the new jobs in the city.

From our piece above: Admittedly, GDP and health are strongly correlated. Healthier people can work harder and learn more in school and so one might expect better health to cause growth. However, the evidence for health causing growth is weak and the effect is small: 

 “If improving health leads to growth, this would be a reason, beyond the welfare gain from better health itself, that governments might want to make such investments. However, the evidence for such an effect of health on growth is relatively weak. Cross-country empirical analyses that find large effects for this causal channel tend to have serious identification problems. The few studies that use better identification find small or even negative effects. Theoretical and empirical analyses of the individual causal channels by which health should raise growth find positive effects, but again these tend to be fairly small. Putting the different channels together into a simulation model shows that potential growth effects of better health are only modest, and arrive with a significant delay.” "Health and Economic Growth - CDN." Health and Economic Growth. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.

 (Though there is some disagreement in the literature - for instance, “targeted interventions to improve the health conditions of women and children, such as iodine supplementation or vaccination against human papilloma virus, are likely to yield very high returns in terms of economic growth, well-being, and long-run development.)”)

earned 20 percent more as adults every year, meaning $3,269 USD PPP over a lifetime. The effect might be lower if deworming became universal: The children lucky enough to have been dewormed may have been in part taking the jobs of others.

But to scale this number, note that Kenya’s highest sustained per capita growth rate in modern memory was about 4.5 percent in 2006–2008.

If we could press a macroeconomic policy lever that could make that kind of unprecedented growth happen again, it would still take four years to raise average incomes by the same 20 percent. And, as it turns out, no one has such a lever."

1. Indeed, it is crucial that there's no general equilibrium theory of deworming and we don't know whether these effects scale to the whole population as well as growth does. 2. Of course, the literature on this is hotly debated (c.f. worm wars). Perhaps some targeted effective investments in health might cause growth or otherwise have outsized effects on welfare. 

Our best bet is the literature on the “fetal origins hypothesis” and child development, where early environment affects cognitive development and later life outcomes. Some of the effect sizes are downright incredible and its implications might be big (if true). For example, salt iodization is cheap and might improve (population-level) cognitive development and IQ. , Other examples are pollution, nutrition, disease, weather, smoking, alcohol etc. 

A counterpoint though is that because growth causes population health, and income has also been shown to improve birth weight, test scores etc, growth might still dominate this.

3. Increasing growth benefits almost everyone in the economy and improving policies such as trade policies reach users with ‘zero marginal cost’. In other words, a think tank advocating for lower tariffs for Nigeria to EU markets provides a public good for all 190 million Nigerians. Adding another Nigerian due to population growth is increasing this intervention effectiveness at zero marginal cost.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Addressing Global Poverty as a Strategy to Improve the Long-Term Future · 2020-08-07T13:07:56.719Z · EA · GW

Greg Lewis writes about this in his excellent post: "Beware of surprising and suspicious convergence":

Imagine this:

Oliver: … Thus we see that donating to the opera is the best way of promoting the arts.

Eleanor: Okay, but I’m principally interested in improving human welfare.

Oliver: Oh! Well I think it is also the case that donating to the opera is best for improving human welfare too.

Generally, what is best for one thing is usually not the best for something else, and thus Oliver’s claim that donations to opera are best for the arts and human welfare is surprising. We may suspect bias: that Oliver’s claim that the Opera is best for the human welfare is primarily motivated by his enthusiasm for opera and desire to find reasons in favour, rather than a cooler, more objective search for what is really best for human welfare.

[...]

The claim that, even granting the overwhelming importance of the far future, it turns out that global poverty charities are still the best to give to, given their robust benefits, positive flow through effects, and the speculativeness of far future causes.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on How to promote widespread usage of high quality, reusable masks · 2020-08-03T17:13:57.368Z · EA · GW

I'm sorry if I'm being ignorant because I haven't followed C-19 very closely recently, but can you point out what you take offense with?

Comment by haukehillebrandt on What is an easy way for a $10-50 monthly subscription to a EA fund from outside of US? (my mom case) · 2020-08-01T10:10:31.245Z · EA · GW

https://www.effektiv-spenden.org/ offers SEPA, but there's no English site yet.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on The academic contribution to AI safety seems large · 2020-07-30T11:32:08.345Z · EA · GW

Really interesting and informative - thanks for writing this!

On midterm safety: I think this is underexplored and not discussed enough here.

I have been thinking that generating more examples of how midterm safety risks could be catastrophic might be helpful (e.g. fusion power is apparently bottlenecked by computing power and algorithmic advances). Btw I thought this video by Stuart Armstrong on specification gaming was really good for skeptical specialists.

Also, I feel like more writing on midterm safety could be combined with Greg Lewis' post on GCRs importance from a person affecting view because that significantly relaxes assumptions about the importance of AI safety that might seem alien to skeptics.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Covid offsets and carbon offsets · 2020-07-24T13:52:03.340Z · EA · GW

Relevant EA forum post: "Ethical offsetting is antithetical to EA"

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Most Effective Voter Turnout Campaigns? · 2020-07-22T12:12:57.099Z · EA · GW

I don't have a great answer, but I have a brain/link dump Google doc on this topic that might be of interest.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on HaukeHillebrandt's Shortform · 2020-07-15T13:53:10.634Z · EA · GW

My brain dump "Potential priority areas within cognitive sciences (psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind)"

https://docs.google.com/document/d/12m_KDzKWfwQebrHGN4G4XCVIYPUHrm05Z6SB_loZr5w/edit

Feel free to contribute by making suggested edits!

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Report on careers in politics and policy in Germany · 2020-07-14T13:46:31.408Z · EA · GW

Excellent post - really enjoyed reading it.

My intuition used to be that continental European political careers were generally maybe not the best career option for people interested in effective altruism, but now with the EU and especially Berlin and Paris becoming less insular, more important with more international influence (Brussels effect, G-Zero world etc.), I'm more inclined to think it's perhaps the competitive advantage for people from those countries with the right personal fit.

(I think you could tell readers that there's a german version further down, I read the English version until I realized that there was a German one oops).

Comment by haukehillebrandt on BenMillwood's Shortform · 2020-07-13T13:41:46.638Z · EA · GW

This is a excellent point, I agree. You're absolutely right that they could argue that and that reputational risks should be considered before such a strategy is adopted. And even though it is perfectly legal to lobby for your own positions / stock, lobbying for shorts is usually more morally laden in the eyes of the public (there is in fact evidence that people react very strongly to this).

However, I think if someone were to mount the criticism of having ulterior motives, then there is a counterargument to show that this criticism is ultimately misguided:

If the market is efficient, then the valuation of an industry will have risks that could be created easily through lobbying priced in. In other words, if the high valuation of Big Tobacco were dependent on someone not doing a relatively cheap lobbying campaign for tobacco taxes, then shorting it would make sense for socially neutral investors with no altruistic motives - and thus is should already be done.

Thus, this strategy would only work for truly altruistic agent who will ultimately lose money in the process, but only get a discount on their philanthropic investment. In other words, the investment in the lobbying should likely be higher than the profit from the short. And so, it would be invalid to say that someone using this strategy would have ulterior motives. But yes again, I take your point that this subtle point might get lost and it will end up being a PR disaster.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on BenMillwood's Shortform · 2020-07-12T10:33:15.124Z · EA · GW

Yes, this is a general strategy for a philanthropists who wants to recoup some of their philanthropic investment:

1. Short harmful industry/company X (e.g. tobacco/Philip Morris, meat / Tyson)

2. Then lobby against this industry (e.g. fund a think tank that lobbies for tobacco taxes in a market that the company is very exposed to).

3. Profit from the short to get a discount on your philanthropic investment.

Contrary to what many people intuit, this is perfectly legal in many jurisdictions (this is not legal or investment advice though).

Comment by haukehillebrandt on What values would EA want to promote? · 2020-07-10T13:39:47.050Z · EA · GW

My interpretation of this was promoting robustly good values (e.g. violence is bad) at scale as an effective intervention.

For instance, these are values that the UK government tries to promote:

"Champion democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and address global challenges, including through campaigns on preventing sexual violence in conflict, reducing modern slavery and promoting female education. Promote human and environmental security through London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference. Deepen relationships between states and people, including through the Commonwealth Summit."

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/827788/FCOAnnualReport201819.pdf#page=32

Comment by haukehillebrandt on evelynciara's Shortform · 2020-07-10T10:54:32.178Z · EA · GW

Also see a recent paper finding no evidence for the automation hypothesis:

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2019/12/automation-so-far-business-as-usual.html

Comment by haukehillebrandt on BenMillwood's Shortform · 2020-07-10T10:53:35.818Z · EA · GW

Also see:

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/08/can-short-apocalypse.html

Comment by haukehillebrandt on HaukeHillebrandt's Shortform · 2020-07-07T10:42:48.556Z · EA · GW

Gwern.net articles with an importance score of 9 or 10

Comment by haukehillebrandt on EA Forum feature suggestion thread · 2020-06-24T22:27:43.971Z · EA · GW

1. Could analytics be displayed on the forum? I think it'd be interesting to people to see how many people read different posts. This is also related to the question re: the forum prize - I reckon many authors would be more motivated by seeing that their posts are widely read than by a cash prize.

2. I often see very long posts that jump right into the introduction without summary. Could one introduce a field that is mandatory if a posts is more than 300 words long that forces the author to provide a 200 characters (or so) summary? Or something like this:

https://www.elsevier.com/authors/journal-authors/highlights

could even be added by the mods.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Growth and the case against randomista development · 2020-06-22T16:37:28.928Z · EA · GW

Thank you for your questions. I do write about neglectedness elsewher

1: I’d like to push a bit on the neglectedness argument. Let’s say we want to donate to advocacy groups for policies we feel confident are effective. I believe that there is quite some tension between the degree of certainty that some policy is effective, and its neglectedness. In other words, the policies where we can feel most confident they are effective might already have so much funding and attention that each additional donor or career might have much less marginal benefit. Conversely, the strategies that are most neglected might also carry more uncertainty, as they have been less critically vetted by a large diversity of economists. What are your thoughts on this?

This is an excellent point - you highlight a very interesting dynamic. Basically, the reason why RD is called sometimes called neglected (i.e. "neglected tropical diseases", "global poverty is neglected") is not necessarily due a low amount of money going to the cause in absolute terms, but because the problem is so huge. For instance, transnational wealth transfers through cash transfers can absorb virtually infinite amounts of donor money at not very rapidly diminishing returns. When these funding gaps are very hard to fill even for mega donors (e.g. billionaires and sovereigns), then that's a good reason for them to be more neglected than say research and advocacy for economic growth. The entire economics profession at $6bn a year that we guesstimated above could be roughly bankrolled indefinitely by the wealth of the Gates foundation.

However, given that there's still a lot of very suboptimal economic policy (e.g. see Venezuela or how poorly some countries do in absolute on the World Bank Doing Business indicators) and very little growth advocacy for and there are like still many unfunded opportunities. Btw - my intuition is that similar arguments can be made about other research (e.g. agricultural research) that would benefit emerging economies.

I write more in the appendix under the heading "Growth is not as neglected as RD, its low-hanging fruit have been picked, and the marginal dollar is not as effective"

2: more generally, can you outline in what way current incentive structures in the economics field and other institutions might cause sub-optimal policies to be advocated in a way that effective altruists (through being effective altruists) can mitigate?

Great question: General EA heuristics might be at play here: people are less likely to care for people far removed from them and thus less likely to give to International development think tanks that advocate for them. This domestic bias manifests in suboptimal allocation of research effort - fewer PhDs becoming development economists relative to its effectiveness (100x multiplier) vs. people who become advanced economy labor economists (e.g. studying the effect of minimum wage on employment.

I think generally the world might spend too little on R&D (~1.7%) in general relative to the ~100 trillion in GDP.

I highlight a few more biases in the appendices under the heading (Appendix 5. Biases against growth/for RD ).

3: Daron Acemoglu argues that the main obstacle to economic development in developing countries are institutions that are not conducive to growth, by being extractive, i.e. having excessively concentrated power which among other things slows down innovation. This seems to be something more difficult to address for Westerners. Relatedly, countries with insufficiently inclusive political institutions may grow but without such institutions are unlikely to improve the welfare of the poorest.

Yes, you're raising a great point here. However, there are some attempts to use ODA to strengthen non-extractive institutions. Better and more transparent tax collection might one thing that also falls under economic policy advice. Another example is the Budget Strengthening Initiative

see

https://www.odi.org/blogs/9847-why-uganda-more-transparent-norway

"In Uganda, a government website allows the public to find out both what the Ugandan government plans – and actually does – in districts around the country. A toll-free number lets concerned citizens complain directly with the government if they spot any wrongdoing. The initiative also trains journalists in making the most effective use of the data available."

Research and software for things like that scale and imho would be aid better spent than direct funding of randomista interventions.

4: “However, no one can reliably and rigorously demonstrate exactly which actions best promote development (…) This should lead us to be sceptical about RD.” You could also argue for the opposite conclusion. Since we cannot reliably know which actions promote development, RD can at least help us alleviate suffering of those who are poor today.

This is precisely the point of the contention that the Randomista camp with Duflo et al. has with the Growth camp with Pritchett et al.

I write more about this in the appendix under the heading "The field of “Growth diagnostics”" and "Quotes from Duflo and Banerjee".

I happen to agree with the Pritchett et al. camp and think the Nobel prize winners are wrong on this, which of course is a strong claim.

As we argue in the piece, the value of information of getting to the bottom of who is right here is likely very high.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Climate Change Is Neglected By EA · 2020-06-22T11:00:58.976Z · EA · GW

You raise some excellent points that have a bunch of implications for estimating the value of EA funding policy research.

How confident are you that the funds are actually fully used for the purpose?

I'm very confident that the funds are used for their Clean Energy Innovation program.

We have a mutual agreement of understanding with ITIF that any donations through Let’s Fund will be restricted to the Clean Energy Innovation Program, led by Professor David Hart and Dr Colin Cunliff.

We're in regular contact with their fundraising person and the David Hart.

They have recently hired an additional person and are now also hiring for another policy analyst in Brussels. We think this is very likely in part due to the Let's Fund grant.

how confident are you that they will not reduce their discretionary spending to this program as a consequence?

I think this is plausible but fairly unlikely that the effect is massive - I think think tank programs at think tanks such as ITIF do not tend to top up their programs with discretionary spending much, but there is a bit of "market" where the person who leads the program needs to acquire grant funding. The better the program is at receiving grant funding the more it'll be scaled up. Otherwise, there'd be no incentive for people running the individual programs to apply for grants.

However, of course additional funds, even if restricted to a program will likely be good for ITIF as a whole, because it benefits from the economies of scale and more basic infrastructure (e.g. support staff, a bigger office, communications staff).

> they have some pieces that are fairly confrontational towards China

Yes, so as argued above, I think donations through Let's Fund will predominantly benefit their Clean Energy program, but a small effect on the whole ITIFs activities can't be ruled out.

ITIF works on other issues and I haven't vetted their value in-depth, but my superficial review of ITIFs overall activities leads me to believe that none of their activities are very controversial. This is in part why we selected ITIF.

ITIF is a think tank based in Washington, DC. The Global Go To Think Tank Index has ranked ITIF 1st in their “Science and Technology think tanks“ category in 2017 and 2018.

They also rank quite well on the general rankings.

It's a very academic think tank with lots of their staff members holding advanced degrees and having policy experience in technocratic environments. I think they can still be described as quite centrist and nonpartisan, though ITIFs staff seems closer to the US Democrats than other parties. Also, it is fairly libertarian in terms of economic thinking.

More about ITIF here: https://itif.org/about

On their China stance in particular: I think they mostly argue against some of China's economic policies in a constructive not confrontational way (see everything about China here: https://itif.org/regions/china ). You could see the sign of the value of that going either way - it might be that more constructive criticism is better than not talking about it and then having populists being the only ones who talk about some of China's anti-competitive practices.

This is all very uncertain however. People who are very worried about unintentional consequences might not want to donate to ITIF for those reasons.

Did you consider the Clean Air Task Force when looking for giving opportunities?

Yes, I read the FP report on it. I think the Clean Air Task force is an excellent giving opportunity in climate change. The main reason why I think ITIF has higher expected value is that ITIF is more narrowly focused on increasing clean energy R&D spending, which I make the case is the best policy to push currently on the margin. However, it is perhaps more risky than the Clean Air Task Force, which is more diversified.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on HaukeHillebrandt's Shortform · 2020-06-17T14:31:28.378Z · EA · GW

You can quickly check what others are thinking about the articles you read online through a "bookmarklet": just one click on the bookmark in your browser takes you right to the Twitter response of any article.

In chrome you can create this by going to:
chrome://bookmarks/

"Add new bookmark"
Bookmark name:
Twitter response

URL:
javascript:window.location='https://twitter.com/search?q='+window.location

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths? · 2020-06-08T15:53:12.809Z · EA · GW

Contra: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/07/britain-is-not-america-but-we-too-are-disfigured-by-deep-and-pervasive-racism

Interesting stats on police violence in the UK:

https://www.inquest.org.uk/bame-deaths-in-police-custody

Might suggest that the benefits of protesting in the UK and elsewhere outweigh the costs of virus spread especially given the differential state of the pandemic.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on [updated] Global development interventions are generally more effective than climate change interventions · 2020-06-02T10:17:03.184Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the comment!

the title of the article could maybe use editing!

I think I'll just leave the title for now, because it is confusing as it is and I'm not sure if it's worth it to redo/rewrite the analysis. I should probably have just called it "How to compare the relative effectiveness of development vs. climate interventions". I'll make a note in the beginning of the post linking to your guesstimate, saying that you found different results.

I can't quite follow your analysis from the screenshots (perhaps you could link the models and the assumptions for others). For instance, I'm not sure why the input value of money going to Americans vs. GiveDirectly recipients is 23 to 350.

But generally, I agree that Monte Carlo simulations and minding the distributions can be valuable for better error propagation. Also, I was probably being unclear but my analysis was not supposed to be a confidence intervals but rather my the best guess and extreme scenarios.

For instance, in the cell for cost per tonne of CO2 averted in the pessimistic scenario I intentionally picked the extreme value from the Founder Pledge analysis $0.02 and not their mean value (from the cell note: "A donation to CfRN will avert a tonne of CO2e for $0.12, with a plausible range of $0.02 - $0.72." https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12lwvxlWLjwuSuXiciFvnBF2bkfcCkrusdqqT37_QWac/edit#gid=1267972809&range=E35 ).

Echoing what Greg Lewis said about hobbyists modelling the C19 pandemic being perhaps not super productive, I'm also not sure how productive further
empirical work such as this is on the EA forum (I don't even know how many hits the forum gets generally, and this post in particular, how many climate modellers read it, etc.). I think maybe an org with more research capacity would be better suited to do further analysis on this. Or perhaps one could commission researchers with a background in climate modelling to do this (e.g. the author of this paper might be really qualified to do this: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014098831930218X ).

Comment by haukehillebrandt on [updated] Global development interventions are generally more effective than climate change interventions · 2020-06-02T09:14:23.763Z · EA · GW

I had emailed all the authors of this analysis and asked them, but they didn't get back to me, so I think it's ambiguous and not really replicable. But yes I agree it's a fairly small uncertainty compared to the others.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Projects tackling nuclear risk? · 2020-05-30T10:15:16.566Z · EA · GW

The Nuclear Threat Initiative works on this.

Also see:

https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/global-catastrophic-risks/biosecurity/nuclear-threat-initiative-projects-to-reduce-global-catastrophic-biological-risks

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Racial Demographics at Longtermist Organizations · 2020-05-06T14:04:30.373Z · EA · GW

I assumed diversity of any kind was meant - as used in common parlance (i.e. gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, etc. excluding political diversity which is a more recent Jonathan Haidt thing).

If in the context of this thread, only ethnic diversity was meant, then this implies that we ought to improve gender diversity in EA orgs, but not ethnic diversity. Which would make this highly upvoted statement even more absurd.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Racial Demographics at Longtermist Organizations · 2020-05-02T11:10:12.785Z · EA · GW
given the enormous stakes I think it would be a mistake for even donors and organisations who do value diversity as a terminal value to dedicate resources to this instead of focusing on their core mission. Nor do I think there are likely to be significant instrumental benefits.

I very strongly disagree.

At the very least, consider the instrumental benefits from avoiding the PR-risk of the community adopting your far-out view that we ought not value diversity at all. This seems like a legitimate risk for EA, as evidenced by your comment having more upvotes than the author of this thread.

However, my sense is that, despite problems with diversity in EA, this has been recognized, and the majority view is actually that diversity is important and needs to be improved (see for instance CEA's stance on diversity).

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Modular empirical science · 2020-04-23T15:19:12.864Z · EA · GW

I'm not working with him on this, but Let's Fund is just funding him to do advocacy on Registered Reports.

Comment by haukehillebrandt on Modular empirical science · 2020-04-23T12:39:04.017Z · EA · GW

This is very similar to the Registered Reports format - check out my report and crowdfunding campaign to improve science:

Lets-Fund.org/Better-Science