Posts

Effective animal advocacy movement building: a neglected opportunity? 2019-06-11T20:33:50.415Z · score: 59 (29 votes)
How tractable is changing the course of history? 2019-05-22T15:29:49.195Z · score: 36 (16 votes)
A case study for animal-focused local EA movement building: Effective Animal Altruism London 2019-01-23T22:09:32.308Z · score: 14 (9 votes)
Event Review: EA Global: London (2018) 2018-12-17T22:29:35.324Z · score: 4 (3 votes)
Book Review: The End of Animal Farming (Jacy Reese, 2018) 2018-12-17T22:26:34.669Z · score: 9 (3 votes)

Comments

Comment by jamie_harris on [Link] What opinions do you hold that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of effective altruists? Anonymous form. · 2019-09-12T21:45:43.789Z · score: 6 (24 votes) · EA · GW

I'm very glad that people feel reluctant to express some of those opinions, especially in the unexplained, offensive format that they were expressed in those answers.

Also, some of the comments have very similar wording, which makes me suspect that someone/some people inputted multiple entries.

Comment by jamie_harris on Are there other events in the UK before/after EAG London? · 2019-08-12T21:32:10.862Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Danielle Duffield and I will be running an event for people interested in animal advocacy the evening before, similar to the one I ran last year (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pre-eag-animal-advocate-short-talks-tickets-51187206312?fbclid=IwAR1cOY9tr8PZUQz1MBxUaeJ4omUO_8KZOwdJ-aXltB8lV2l7D5upzX2Ejoo)

Comment by jamie_harris on What book(s) would you want a gifted teenager to come across? · 2019-08-06T22:14:23.252Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'd recommend The End of Animal Farming for anyone interested in animal advocacy. Here's my short review. httpss://butcantheysuffer.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/book-review-jacy-reese-2018-the-end-of-animal-farming-beacon-press-boston-ma/

Personally I found Animal Liberation by Peter Singer very inspiring as a teenager (changed me from a passive vegetarian to someone determined to make a change for animals through some form of advocacy) but I haven't looked back at it in years.

Comment by jamie_harris on Effective animal advocacy movement building: a neglected opportunity? · 2019-07-27T10:23:58.087Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

See Lauren's comment above on a new EAA careers/talent org.

Comment by jamie_harris on Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent · 2019-07-20T08:56:10.514Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'm a big fan of this report and will probably recommend it to interested people as the best of the cost-effectiveness models I have seen on corporate welfare commitments.

I'm very glad for the"Ways this estimate could be misleading" section. I think its very important to make these wider considerations clear; they have not been so clear in previous cost-effectiveness estimates. I also like that you make it clear how you think that these considerations weigh up with the pluses and minuses system.

It's great that this information on various uncertainties is included and yet you are still able to provide a useable estimate of cost-effectiveness (that excludes these indirect effects). I would probably lean towards making this result less prominent in the write-up, e.g. not including it in the title. I do think that, despite your clarity on the uncertainties, it is easy for readers to pick up and focus on the final estimate and then disregard the rest of the post.

Comment by jamie_harris on Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice? · 2019-07-07T00:06:25.445Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Is "altruism" the alternative to "justice" or is "wellbeing/suffering" the alternative to "justice"? I feel like the latter is something that we could aim to maximise, and that this would be consistent with EA, but not with what the majority of aspiring EAs aim to maximise. Justice seems less relevant to utilitarianism and more relevant to virtues ethics or similar (apologies, I don't know much about philosophy).

To the extent that we consider justice as a messaging strategy, rather than something substantial that represents goals/ideology, my guess is that aspiring effective altruists should aim for non-partisanship. My guess is that alignment with established political ideologies (including "the left", or the Democrats over the Republicans in the US) encourages increased political salience in the short term but stagnation longer term. This guess is based mostly on intuition and my research on the anti-abortion movement.

But I would agree with Zach G that, intuitively, justice messaging will have wider reach/virality than altruism messaging.

Comment by jamie_harris on Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question · 2019-06-29T11:43:46.533Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Very big fan of this post. It is one of the best, substantial critiques of EA as it currently is that I've read/heard in a while. There are lots of parts that I'd love to delve into more but I'll focus on one here, which seems to be one of the most important claims:

The three key aspects of this argument are expert belief in plausibility of the problem, very large impact of the problem if it does occur, and the problem being substantively neglected. My argument is that we can adapt this argument to make parallel arguments for other cause areas.

Sure, but this seems to miss out the tractability consideration. Your post barely mentions tractability or cost-effectiveness and the INT framework is really just a way of thinking about the expected value / cost-effectiveness of particular actions. I'd guess that some of the areas you list have been ignored or rejected by many aspiring EAs because they just seem less tractable at first glance.

I do think it's important that the EA community explores plausibly high-impact cause areas, even if only a handful of individuals ever focus on them. So I'd be pleased if people took this post as an encouragement to explore the tractability of contributions to various areas that have been neglected by the EA community so far.

Comment by jamie_harris on Effective animal advocacy movement building: a neglected opportunity? · 2019-06-25T16:15:22.063Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Could do! Not sure what sort of engagement an online course would get? I think Peter Singer had an EA online course and GFI has made one for production methods of cellular agriculture and/or plant-based foods I believe. Could be interesting to see what sort of take up those got, if they've led to many people become actively/deeply engaged, how long they took to create, and how much they cost.

Comment by jamie_harris on Becoming the person who would start a project · 2019-06-21T20:54:59.632Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Interested if you are aware of many examples other than Michael Plant?

Comment by jamie_harris on Might the EA community be undervaluing "meta-research on how to make progress on causes?" · 2019-06-21T20:28:12.729Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'd guess that there are some low-hanging fruit research projects that could help lots of organisations and individuals trying to maximise their positive impact across multiple cause areas (not confident on this because there are some groups whose work I am unfamiliar with).

Examples of existing research that fits this category are the recent post on "Ingredients for creating disruptive research teams" and Open Philanthropy Project's research on the history of philanthropy.

It's possible that having a small organisation explicitly focused on these sort of opportunities could be worthwhile. Otherwise, if someone tried more thoroughly list and prioritise projects, individuals could potentially work on this (and get funding through EA Grants?)

Comment by jamie_harris on Invertebrate Sentience Table · 2019-06-21T20:07:00.278Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Agree with the risks of presenting such a score. Agree that scores would be very speculative and your credibility intervals would be very wide. But I'd also guess that without this sort of score/summary measure, then it's very hard to use this research in practical applications?

Perhaps a compromise is to compile these sorts of summary scores, but then to only share them with advocates or researchers that have specific purposes in mind for those figures? This way, if someone wanted to use the summary score to inform an estimate, or make some decision based off of your research here, they could do so and it would only take them a few minutes to send you an email, rather than several hours trying to come up with an equivalent estimate, using your research as a starting point.

It's still possible that the figures would become more widely known if people find the numbers indirectly, e.g. in citations. But this seems unlikely to affect many people (unfortunately, I don't imagine this research going viral).

PS thanks very much for this very thorough seeming research on this difficult topic!

Comment by jamie_harris on Melbourne University Effective Altruism Study · 2019-06-21T19:40:34.575Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Enjoyed taking part. Will you post the results on the Forum? I look forward to seeing them.

Quick thoughts/warnings:

1) some of the questions referred to "persons" or similar words, implying humans. Other questions referred to "others" which I interpreted as including animals. Interpreting as humans as opposed to humans and other animals (or vice versa) affected my answers in some cases. (Not sure if the wording was chosen for consistency with existing psychological scales)

2) you may get some selection effects from donating to AMF, rather than offering EAs the option to choose from different options (e.g. can pick whichever EA Fund they'd prefer)

3) Here you said you'd donate to AMF and then I got told at the end it would go to GiveDirectly

Comment by jamie_harris on Effective animal advocacy movement building: a neglected opportunity? · 2019-06-15T08:58:37.780Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Sure! I'd guess it depends on the project. I doubt that narrowly supporting effectiveness-focused individuals or organisations would always be the best use of resources, but I'd guess that it would be in most cases (say, 70% of marginal EAA movement building resources over the next 5 years?)

Offering movement building services to some organisations might be a lower priority if you think that those organisations don't have a particularly positive impact anyway.

There are also costs of broadening the scope of some shared resources/services; it makes coordination harder and mutual support less useful. An intuitive (though possibly slightly unfair) comparison is between the EAA Facebook discussion group to various AR or vegan groups. If someone only had time to create/manage one of those two resources, I'd much prefer the former. I think my current view on this is similar to CEA's (e.g. see the section on "preserving value" here).

PS I'm not worried about the total scale being low, if there are opportunities that would likely be cost-effective (see this related post, if interested).

Comment by jamie_harris on Effective animal advocacy movement building: a neglected opportunity? · 2019-06-12T17:02:50.363Z · score: 13 (8 votes) · EA · GW

If you are intending to look into or start one of the projects listed in the post above, please comment on this thread. This may help with coordination and mutual support.

(E.g., as noted above) I'm currently planning to start an EAA podcast in the next few months. Comment below or contact me at james_a_harris@hotmail.co.uk if you would like to share ideas or concerns (both are welcome!)

Comment by jamie_harris on Ingredients for creating disruptive research teams · 2019-05-27T21:23:33.825Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This was very interesting. There were several aspects I found surprising, such as the apparent importance of collaboration and shared physical space. Thanks for writing and sharing this.

I'm interested in the methodology, since I've also been working on both 1) case studies, which I hope to able to compare between at a later point and 2) a literature review.

How long do you estimate that you spent looking at each of the case studies?

It seems that most are based on a small number of sources. Did you find that reading additional sources changed your views about a particular research team compared to the first source or two that you read? Do you expect steeply diminishing returns from investing more time into digging further into particular case studies?

Comment by jamie_harris on Benefits of EA engaging with mainstream (addressed) cause areas · 2019-05-19T07:52:34.357Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

"I wonder if there could be a kind of "trip advisor" type badge to recommend how well charities/interventions are doing in such a way as to encourage them to improve."

Not quite the same, but you might be interested in https://sogive.org/

Comment by jamie_harris on What are good reasons for or against working on protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services? · 2019-05-19T07:21:29.273Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA · GW

It's often assumed in work on wild animal welfare/suffering that biodiversity and ecosystem protection are poor heuristics for representing the best interests of individual animals. Just because a system is diverse doesn't necessarily mean the individuals are suffering more or less.

Many relevant essays by Brian Tomasik on his site. Here's one example https://reducing-suffering.org/medicine-vs-deep-ecology/

Comment by jamie_harris on Why animal charities are much more effective than human ones · 2019-04-28T10:49:51.618Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Additional consideration to the cross-species comparison consideration:

In comparing human to animal charities, we're often comparing human years lost (with DALYs or QALYs) to improvements in quality or years of negative life prevented. There's lots of scope for disagreement in making these comparisons.

E.g. is a year on a factory farm worse than a year of an average human's life is good? If so, by how many orders of magnitude? I'd guess it is worse, perhaps by an order of magnitude or more.

See here for more discussion (though it's quite an old post and Kelly has told me she would change / update sections of it, given the time).

Comment by jamie_harris on Why animal charities are much more effective than human ones · 2019-04-28T10:18:04.643Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this, hadn't seen that link before.

One point made there is that "likely interventions in human welfare, as well as being immediately effective to relieve suffering and improve lives, also tend to have a significant long-term impact... By contrast, no analogous mechanism ensures that an improvement in the welfare of one animal results in the improvements in the welfare of other animals." An important long-term consideration for the effects of welfare reforms is whether they generate more momentum for further reforms for animals and for expansion of the moral circle, or whether they generate complacency. I'm currently very uncertain on this, though lean slightly towards momentum. See here for relevant considerations and evidence.

Some other posts related to considering the long-term effects of animal advocacy interventions:

1) Jacy Reese, "Why I prioritize moral circle expansion over artificial intelligence alignment"

2) Me, "How tractable is changing the course of history?" (see especially some of the considerations in "How tractable are trajectory changes towards moral circle expansion?")

3) Brian Tomasik, "Charity Cost-Effectiveness in an Uncertain World" (not necessarily specific to animal issues, but I think there is some v useful theoretical discussion)

Comment by jamie_harris on Does climate change deserve more attention within EA? · 2019-04-28T09:16:14.750Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this post. Appreciate the "empirical ideas about tackling climate change" but also found the concepts of climate change multiplying very bad outcomes useful.

I wanted to pick up on the "urgency" idea. Doesn't urgency just mean that there are more ways in which it is important, because it has an interactive effect with other issues? I.e. considering urgency means that the importance/scale is high now, even if it might not be as high in the future?

Happy to be challenged on this; I use the ITN framework a lot (I'm sure we all do), so substantial criticism of that model seems worth delving into.

Comment by jamie_harris on Reasons to eat meat · 2019-04-27T14:50:06.338Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I haven't looked into this myself in any detail, but I just wanted to note that others have concluded that factory farmed cows have net negative lives, e.g. see this post by charity entrepreneurship.

On the other hand, here are excerpts from a couple of relevant posts, written by Brian Tomasik:

1) "Rainforest-beef production probably reduces wild-insect suffering. In fact, purchasing one kg of Brazilian beef prevents 2.6 * 105 insect-years of suffering as a median estimate and 5.9 * 106 insect-years in expectation. The sign of this conclusion could flip around if you substantially change certain input parameters—particularly if you think death by burning is many times more painful than predation and other non-burning deaths."

2) "If someone insists on eating meat, I would recommend eating rainforest-raised or grass-fed beef. Rainforest-grown beef plausibly reduces net animal populations because rainforests have such high productivity. Grass-fed beef plausibly also reduces net animal populations, because cattle can eat lots of grass that would otherwise feed smaller animals, and given that less of the feed for these cattle is farmed grain than in the case of non-grass-fed cattle, the uncertain net impacts of crop cultivation loom relatively less large over the calculation."

Comment by jamie_harris on SHOW: A framework for shaping your talent for direct work · 2019-03-17T12:24:47.282Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Were any of the RA positions advertised or were they exclusively cold outreach? I can't think of times when I've seen this sort of position being advertised (context being that I've mostly looked at effective animal advocacy research positions, and very occasionally positions at meta EA orgs)

I'm interested if these sorts of "assistant" roles crop up very often, be it in research or otherwise.

If they aren't formally advertised, do you think that people have to accept very low salaries to have a decent chance of securing a role? If an org/researcher has a need for an assistant, why wouldn't they have advertised for it?

Comment by jamie_harris on Announcing Wild Animal Initiative · 2019-01-26T14:16:56.702Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

"Both WASR and UF spent a significant amount of time on academic outreach in 2018"

I hadn't realised this; I thought that Animal Ethics focused more on this, while WASR focused more directly on foundational research. Do you think there will be overloaded between WAI and Animal Ethics or do the organisations have different approaches?

Comment by jamie_harris on A case study for animal-focused local EA movement building: Effective Animal Altruism London · 2019-01-25T20:43:38.720Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, I had thought about this. There was a question in the survey intending to check if people thought this was the case so far, and I didn't see much evidence for it. But Id guess that those sorts of effects might be less obviously noticeable, or might take longer to become noticeable.

Comment by jamie_harris on List of possible EA meta-charities and projects · 2019-01-12T10:29:01.770Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Just a note that there was a useful post for discussing some of the potential gaps and issues around EA career advice a few months ago (subsequent to our discussion) here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ej2v2wkExivqNghJ4/towards-better-ea-career-advice#YKQxGfmcxAMhYPboY

Comment by jamie_harris on List of possible EA meta-charities and projects · 2019-01-12T10:19:11.057Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Note that an EA for Christians group exists, although I'm not sure if they've conducted active outreach much https://www.eaforchristians.org/

Comment by jamie_harris on Why I'm focusing on invertebrate sentience · 2019-01-06T17:14:45.373Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW
"For example, the difference between assigning a 5% probability and a 50% probability is epistemically vast but arguably practically insignificant. It merely affects the amount of expected value represented by invertebrates by one order of magnitude. There are very roughly 10^18 insects in the world, and this number is still multiple orders of magnitude higher than the number of vertebrate animals."

Given this point, and the implications of Jacy's comment, perhaps it would be preferable to conceptualise the impact of this research/career plan in this area as a form of advocacy, rather than as a form of enhancing our knowledge and affecting cause prioritisation?

In some ways, your rough career trajectory might look similar, but it might affect some decisions e.g. how to split your time between focusing on further research and focusing on giving talks to EA groups, academic settings etc.

Comment by jamie_harris on Animal-Welfare Economic Research Questions · 2019-01-05T19:16:37.542Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This list has research questions across a number of different themes or categories, e.g. "wider understanding of current animal use" and "evaluations of farmed animal interventions." To think about which questions are important, I'd suggest categorising the questions, then prioritising the overall categories.

Sentience Institute has summarised foundational questions in effective animal advocacy, and we tend to prioritise research that we think will best help to improve our understanding of these questions (see our research agenda).

Frankly, there are huge amounts of research questions that could be useful in some shape or form to effective animal advocacy. I'm not aware of anyone having compiled a comprehensive list, although I think that this might be worthwhile doing at some point, especially to coordinate the different organisations and individuals conducting research and to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort.

Comment by jamie_harris on Why we have over-rated Cool Earth · 2018-12-20T20:31:52.067Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

There are also important considerations about the risk that rainforest preservation efforts might indirectly increase suffering.

Many in the effective altruism community believe that a large proportion of wild animals, especially invertebrates and other r-selected species, have net negative lives. Recently, this was the conclusion of a recent report by charity entrepreneurship. If you believe that there is a non-trivial chance that these animals can suffer or have morally relevant experiences, then the short- and medium-term effect of rainforest protection might be a counterfactual increase in wild animal suffering (see here for Brian Tomasik's discussion of a related question).

More widely, encouraging concern for habitat protection might encourage people to value non-sentient entities even where the interests of these non-sentient entities conflict with the direct interests of individual animals. In general, this seems to be a step in the wrong direction if you agree that moral circle expansion is desirable. This might encourage the likelihood of future dystopian scenarios which involve astronomical levels of suffering.

In a sense, by promoting environmentalism via conservation, you might be reducing the chance of a global catastrophe via climat change but increasing the chance of S risk.

Comment by jamie_harris on Long-Term Influence and Movement Growth: Two Historical Case Studies · 2018-12-13T20:10:15.413Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I'm glad to see historical evidence being considered and also awareness of its limitations.

What do you consider to be the main strategic implications for the EA community?

Is it mainly to update slightly away from strategies which might lead to events similar to the hypothesised causes of decline of Mohism, and towards those which might lead to events similar to the hypothesised causes of the success of Confucianism? E.g. update towards being willing to "adapt doctrines to changing social and intellectual circumstances."

Comment by jamie_harris on Lessons Learned from a Prospective Alternative Meat Startup Team · 2018-12-13T18:45:31.638Z · score: 17 (10 votes) · EA · GW

Great write up. I'm a fan of the systematic thinking and research. It's interesting to compare how you approached it to how Charity Entrepreneurship are looking into non-profit startup opportunities. I'm interested in how you weighed up the decision criteria; was this just intuitive, based off the rest of the research, or did you have another approach?

One area where I might diverge from your approach here is in how you conceptualise expected social impact. I get the impression here (mainly from your use of "Filter #2: Social Impact - Comparing Animal Suffering") that you primarily conceptualise the impact of a startup in terms of the the products that that startup produces and the animal products that it replaces counterfactually. But a broader conceptualisation of the impact of a startup might include its contribution (positive or negative) to the overall eventual success (i.e. market share) of plant-based meat and/or clean meat. In the long-term, this could well matter more for total impact.

So a startup which introduces a cellular agriculture product replacing an animal product that causes relatively small amounts of suffering might still be far more impactful than some other startup ideas (e.g. a startup that brings a good clean chicken product to market at a better price point than its competitors) if it helps to bring cellular agriculture products to market in a way that has wider public support. Although each of these examples has a long list of pros and cons, this specific goal might be better achieved by:

1) Focusing on animal products which aren't actually eaten by humans, e.g. leather, pet food

2) Focusing on products which are more widely condemned by the public, e.g. foie gras

3) Focusing on marketising the products in countries which are more likely to be supportive, even if the total market is smaller, e.g. Singapore (see here).

In each of these examples, bringing the products to market in those specific contexts might increase consumer acceptance of the higher priority products, since they (or lots of people in other countries) will already be using cellular agriculture products.

A different approach might be to starting a B2B startup which focuses on providing a cheap - but also stable and secure - specific ingredient, e.g. growth media (this one overlaps with some of your suggestions). This might require that their business focuses on selling to a broader customer base, including medical companies and scientific researchers, to ensure that they have a business model that isn't wholly dependent on the (potentially fluctuating) fortunes of the rest of the clean meat supply chain.

Potentially these strategic concerns might matter less for plant-based foods. I can think of ways it would influence decision-making though, like focusing heavily on price, so that less well-off people can access plant-based foods, to reduce the risk that plant-based food becomes confined to well-off people and specific demographics (hippies/hipsters) due to the real barrier that price puts up and/or due to public perceptions and identity issues.

Generally, I'm arguing for considering a long-term "strategic" perspective to thinking about the social impact of start-ups. J at Sentience Institute has written two technology adoption studies on nuclear power and GM foods which I think are helpful for thinking about these sorts of perspectives. He's currently writing a third, on biofuels - I imagine that that will be similarly useful, and that we'll start to see trends and patterns occurring across the technology adoption studies as he does more.

Comment by jamie_harris on Is it better to be a wild rat or a factory farmed cow? A systematic method for comparing animal welfare. · 2018-12-03T22:07:47.605Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for providing the examples! A couple of questions:

1) Can I check I've understood: the “Estimated population size” and “Odds of feeling pain” columns are not factored into the "total welfare score" (which is made up of adding together scores from the various criteria which then end up somewhere between -100 and +100) at all; they are to be used separately.

So if you wanted to work out whether sparing 10 broiler chickens or 20 beef cows from existence was more impactful, you’d have to multiply your result by the odds of feeling pain etc. E.g. for chickens: 10 * -56 * 0.7 = -392 units of suffering prevented. For beef cows: -20 * 20 * 75% = -300 units of suffering prevented. So sparing chickens slightly better by this metric (also: note that people might not agree with that the rough estimates from the OPP on consciousness mean the same thing as "odds of feeling pain," e.g. if you subscribe to consciousness eliminativism, although I haven't read the OPP report in a while so might be misremembering the specifics)

2) I don’t understand where the “range” figure comes from?

Comment by jamie_harris on Towards Better EA Career Advice · 2018-11-27T17:01:26.427Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the detailed reply. I agree with most of your comments/additions on my comments! Here are some further comments on your comments on my comments:

<< Unfortunately lack of funding constraints doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy to build new teams. For instance, the community is very constrained by managers, which makes it hard to both hire junior people and set up new organisations... [local workshops ] are already being experimented with by local effective altruism groups... [but are] also quite challenging to run well - often someone able to do this independently can get a full-time job at an existing organisation."

Do I take these two comments combined to mean that you believe someone needs managerial experience, or extensive experience to set these up? I feel there might be a half way house here, where those at 80K who are more experienced in running career workshops spent the days/weeks/months required to set up some clear training resources and infrastructure to make these more easily/systematically run at a local level. At this point, it wouldn't require managers or hugely experienced people to run these. For example, I would imagine that anyone with teaching experience who spent a few weeks (paid?) making sure that they were sufficiently up to speed on key EA and career-relevant knowledge could then run workshops like this very successfully. In short, I suspect we have different opinions about a) the resources required to set up the initial infrastructure to make these sessions workable, and b) the level of experience and skill needed to run them locally. Intuitively I feel quite strongly about this but I also have a tendency to underestimate the effort/time required for large projects like this.

<< One-on-one calls seem safer, and funding someone to work independently doing calls all day seems like a reasonable use of funding to me, provided they couldn’t / wouldn't get a more senior job >>

Similarly to the above point, my current impression is that the EA community has more people who are sufficiently talented to do a role like this sufficiently well than it has jobs like this for them to fill. This seems like it would be a fairly generalist role, which could be done well by quite a range of people. Again, I think I might have a lower bar for the calibre of applicant that I would see as sufficient to make it worth funding someone to work on this full time though.

<< Note that we have tried this in the past (e.g. allied health, web design, executive search), but they took a long time to write, never got much attention, and as far as we’re aware haven’t caused any plan changes. >>

Fair enough. However, these metrics assess their usefulness within the context of the current audience and demographics of the EA community / 80K. Part of my understanding of the broader vision of 80K's role (or for other new organisations to step in) assumes a broader / changing audience for the EA community.

<<This seems pretty similar to SHIC: https://shicschools.org/ >>

To my knowledge, SHIC don't spend much time on careers advice. I am aware that SHIC are working on different programmes / forms of delivery at the moment, but the "core curriculum" only includes one session on careers advice, which was mostly a selection of ideas from 80K.

More broadly, this probably fits into an issue that I think EA might have (understandably, given how new it is) of having 1 organisation working on 1 key area. E.g. 80K for careers, SHIC for students. Even ACE for evaluating animal charities/interventions... or Sentience Institute for doing social movement research for animal organisations. But none of those organisations do all possible work in those areas (although you could argue that they take up the low hanging fruit) and they all have particular views about how they should do each of those things that others in the EA community might disagree with.

<< Unfortunately, we have very limited capacity to hire. It seems better that we focus our efforts on people who can help with our main organisational focus, which is the narrow vision. So, like I note, I think these would mainly have to be done by other organisations. >>

My guess would be that it would be worth diverting some time/resources from 80K to actively advocate for the setting up of new organisations, to assist with supporting or selecting the right candidates to fill those roles (e.g. if they applying for some form of grant), and to advise them, based on your own experiences. Or even offer grants to set up organisations to fill those gaps?

(P.S. feel free not to reply to these comments; I added them to try and explain/explore why we might disagree on some of these issues despite me accepting most of the points that you just made)

Comment by jamie_harris on Towards Better EA Career Advice · 2018-11-24T22:44:05.574Z · score: 23 (12 votes) · EA · GW

Given some of the issues raised on this thread, I suggest that either 80K should broaden its role and hire (lots) more staff to make this possible, or that new organisations should be set up to fill the gaps.

I'm glad to see the discussion of the "two visions." I would guess that there is a discrepancy between how 80K thinks of its role (the second vision, focusing on key bottlenecks) and how most people, especially people newer to the EA community or not involved in EA meta orgs, think of 80K's role (the first vision, focusing on broader social impact career advice).

When I come across someone who cares about making the world a better place / maximising their impact who is looking for career advice, I either point them towards 80K or discuss ideas with them that have almost entirely come from 80K. It may well be that 80K doesn't see some of those people that I have conversations with as their intended target audience, but since 80K is the only EA org focusing on careers advice, I default to those recommendations. I would guess that many other people do the same.

A crude summary of some of the ideas here would be that increasing "inclination" is more important than increasing awareness from a long-term perspective. But if 80K is demoralising people new to the movement because it focuses on the second vision of its role over the first vision, then this probably decreases inclination quite a lot and so has negative long-term implications (even if in the short-term, it has higher impact).

Although I haven't thoroughly looked at impact or cost-effectiveness metrics for 80K and other meta orgs, there are several factors that make me think that the EA community should prioritise devoting more resources to filling the gaps in the area of career advice:

1) Conversations about career decisions happen pretty regularly. Even if the most impactful thing for the handful of individuals working at 80K is indeed to focus on the narrower vision of their role, it seems important that other individuals work on the broader conception, so that these regular conversations that are happening anyway can be relatively informed.

2) Given that 80K focuses on the narrower vision, there is probably quite a lot of work that could be done relatively easily and be quite impactful if people were working on the broader vision (i.e. low hanging fruit)

3) We talk about EA movement-building not being funding constrained. If that's the case, then presumably it'd be possible to create more roles, be that at 80K or at new organisations.

4) If I remember correctly, the EA survey suggests that 80K is an important entry point for lots of people into EA. It's also a high-fidelity form of communication about EA ideas/research.

5) Generally there are loads of opportunities for impact that I can think of that a much larger 80K (or additional organisations also working on the intersection of EA and careers advice/decision making) could work on, that seem like they would plausibly have higher impact than some other ways that funds have been used for EA movement building that I can think of:

  • Research/website like 80K's current career profile reviews, but including less competitive career paths (perhaps this would need to focus on quantity over quality and "breadth" over depth)
  • Career coaching calls (available all year round, for anyone focusing on any of the higher priority EA cause areas)
  • Regular career workshops, perhaps run through additional employees at local groups who are trained in how to run them, or perhaps as a single international organisation. This seems like a high fidelity method of EA outreach; if marketed well, I suspect these would get a lot of take-up. Targeted marketing to groups which are demographically under-represented in EA might also be a good way to start addressing diversity/inclusion/elitism concerns.
  • Research/webite/podcasts etc like 80K's current work, but focusing on specific cause areas (e.g. animal advocacy broadly, including both farmed animals and wild animals)
  • Research/webite/podcasts etc like 80K's current work, but focused on high school age students, before they've made choices which significantly narrow down their options (like choosing their degree).

In short, 80K does some amazing and important work, but there seems to be lots of space for the EA community to do more in the broad area of the intersection of EA and careers advice or decision-making. So it seems to me that either 80K should prioritise hiring more people to take up some of these opportunities, or EA as a movement should prioritise creating new organisations to take them up.

Comment by jamie_harris on Hi, I'm Holden Karnofsky. AMA about jobs at Open Philanthropy · 2018-09-28T22:49:41.570Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Michael, apologies for this. I just came back to check this post. I didn't ever receive the email because the formatting of the EA forum removed the underscore from my email, and I didn't notice at the time. If you can find the email that you sent from your sent box in April, and could forward it to me at jamie@sentienceinstitute.org that would be great!

Comment by jamie_harris on Is it better to be a wild rat or a factory farmed cow? A systematic method for comparing animal welfare. · 2018-09-28T22:41:24.708Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I wanted to echo all of Saulius' points (including the thanks for doing this!).

To clarify your response here: all of the rankings are essentially subjective judgements, based on whatever evidence you have available in that category? So in the example above, if those cortisol tests were somehow your only evidence in the "index of biological markers" category, you would just decide a score that you felt represented the appropriate level of badness for the wild rat "index of biological markers" score?

I'm also wondering if you're going to use the method to compare humans to non-human animals? Some of the biological measures we could use fall down when we think about how humans fit in, e.g. neuron count. Including humans in comparative measures seems valuable for reflecting on/testing intuitions we might otherwise have about cross-species comparisons.

Comment by jamie_harris on ACE's Response to John Halstead · 2018-09-12T10:17:16.340Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the reply. Just wanted to note that I agree with ACE's breadth over depth strategy, and that ACE might not be best-placed for a fuller review of social movement impact literature. It's something I'm considering prioritizing doing personally in my work for Sentience Institute.

Comment by jamie_harris on ACE's Response to John Halstead · 2018-09-08T09:37:58.288Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks very much for posting this reply. And thanks a lot for all the work ACE does in general. Some clarifications were useful to have, e.g. "The Relationship Between our Intervention Research and our Charity Reviews" - I had felt confused about this when I first looked through the reviews in depth.

Here are some specific comments:

Reviews of existing literature

I agree that the new intervention reports are much better on this front. I'm especially keen on the clear tables summarising existing literature in the protest report. I suspect that there's still room for more depth here, especially since the articles summarized are probably just the most relevant parts of much wider debates within the social movement studies literature. For example, I notice a couple of items by S.A. Soule; although I haven't read the book and analysis you (or whoever wrote the protest report) cite, I have read another article of her's which was partially directed at considering the importance of the "political mediation" and "political opportunity structure" theories for assessing the impact of social movement organizations, and suspect that some of the works you cite might consider similar issues. I think the protest report goes into an appropriate amount of depth, given limited time and resources etc, but I've recently gained the impression that a literature review of social movement impact theory in a broad sense, or more systematic reviews of some of the more specific sub-areas, is a high priority in EAA research. I'd be keen to hear views about how useful this would be, and I'm happy to share more specific thoughts if that would help.

Unclear sources of figures

With some older intervention reports I agree with John Halstead that there are some confusing, unexplained numbers, although I think he exaggerates the extent of this (perhaps unintentionally), since some of the figures are explained. I don't think this needs further comment since, as noted, the new intervention report style is much clearer. My impression was that the Guesstimate models from more recent charity evaluations also had some slightly unexplained figures on there. E.g. THL guesstimate model – “Rough estimate of number of farmed animals spared per dollar THL spent on campaigns” is -52 to 340. Tracking this back through the model takes you to a box which notes "THL did not provide estimates for the number of animals affected by cage-free campaigns they were involved with. We have roughly based this estimate on estimates from other groups active in promoting cage-free policies and have attempted to take into account the greater amount of resources THL dedicates towards this program area." I feel like some explanation of this (perhaps a link to an external Google sheet) might have been helpful? I don't think this is a big issue though. There's also a chance I've just missed something / don't fully understand Guesstimate yet.

General comment on use of CEEs

ACE does make very clear that it only sees CEEs as one part of a charity evaluation. I'd just suggest that, in spite of these warnings, individuals looking at the reports will naturally gravitate towards the CEEs as one of the more tangible/concrete/easily quotable areas of the report. E.g. when I've organised events and created resources for Effective Animal Altruism London, I've quoted some of the CEEs for charities (and pretty much nothing else from the report) to make broad points about the rough ballpark for cost effectiveness of different groups. Given this, it still makes sense to treat the CEEs as more important than some other parts of the report, and to try and be especially rigorous in these sections. So doing things like using a single disputed paper by De Mol et al (2016) (although this example is from the old corporate campaigns intervention report) as a key part of a cost effectiveness analysis seems inadvisable, if it is avoidable.

Comment by jamie_harris on Why are you here? An origin stories thread. · 2018-08-05T10:53:33.647Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · EA · GW

(Holly probably knows most of my story but writing about myself seems fun so I'm going to do it anyway... maybe it'll be somehow useful for someone too)

When I was 5, I refused to eat meat for emotional reasons (something along the lines of "Mum, that thing you're cutting up still looks like a real chicken and that is sad, I'm going to cry lots now").

When I was about 16, my schoolfriend (also a vegetarian) bought me Peter Singer's Animal Liberation for my birthday. Reading this turned my personal, emotional choice into something which felt like a moral imperative. Despite never having engaged with any philosophy before, Singer's views felt almost like a manifesto of what I thought I believed in. I've been pretty staunchly utilitarian since (although I still haven't engaged very deeply with much philosophy).

I knew that I wanted to contribute positively to the world through my career. Given that history was my favourite subject, it seemed like the best way to help the world was to become a history teacher. I fixed my career plans upon this, and didn't really consider any alternatives to this for years to come...

When I went to university I had hoped to find an animal advocacy student society, but there was none, so I set one up within weeks, alongside a few other people.

It was at uni that I first heard of Effective Altruism. Max Dalton (now at CEA) was at my college at uni and so was in my (extended) friendship group. He was heavily involved in the Oxford GWWC society. I didn't ever speak to Max about EA whilst I was at uni, but I'd guess that most undergrads in my college had heard of EA because of Max. I also went to hear Peter Singer gives talks twice while I was there, and I think one of the talks was about Effective Altruism (before I knew much about it); I don't remember it well, so it obviously didn't leave as much of an impression on me at the time as Animal Liberation had. I thought that EA sounded like a great idea, but that I couldn't engage with it yet, because I wasn't earning any money, and my understanding was that EA was about donating effectively. So I decided I would donate 10% of my income to effective charities once I started earning, but that there was nothing else I needed to do in the meantime.

After my degree and 1 year teacher training course, I began working as a teacher and immediately began donating 10% of my income. I also started tentatively looking for potential EA-related volunteering opportunities (e.g. ACE) but nothing came of this at the time.

I spoke to some uni friends who were at similar levels of support for EA as I was. They said they had taken the GWWC pledge. I decided to sign up, since I was already donating 10%.

After signing up, David Nash (EA London) sent me an email asking if I'd like to come to EA London events. I said yes and asked how else I could get involved; I ended up taking over the majority of the organising of the Effective Animal Altruism London sub-group which he had set up with Saulius (another EA based in London) but didn't have much time to put into organising.

My responsibility for this group (and my general interest) led to a period of deepening involvement in EA; trying to read as much as I could that came out relating to EA and animals and volunteering for several EAA organisations. At some point I decided that I wanted to change my career to have a greater positive impact; this was why I had chosen teaching in the first place anyway, I just hadn't thought the implications of this through. After several months of agonising, speaking to various people and an 80K coaching call, I decided to work towards working directly in the Effective Animal Advocacy community (as opposed to focusing on building more flexible career capital). So I started an EAA blog, contiued to focus on reading into the area and my volunteering.

A few months later, I have just started working full time as a researcher at Sentience Institute.

Comment by jamie_harris on Accountability buddies: a proposed system · 2018-07-16T15:29:40.692Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Do you follow a Getting Things Done framework? If so, how does this fit in? Do you end up duplicating yourself?

Comment by jamie_harris on Impact Investing - A Viable Option for EAs? · 2018-07-12T08:10:48.111Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for exploring this topic!

A few relevant links you might find useful, if you were unaware of any of them:

1) There's an EA FB group on the topic, although unfortunately it's quite inactive

2) Hauke Hillebrandt has written and spoken about EAs engagement with impact investing

3) My blog post exploring whether it would be worth EA Funds or another EA group setting up opportunities for smaller donors/investors to get involved in impact investing. I was focusing on clean meat and plant-based meat to reduce animal suffering, but briefly consider other cause areas in the piece. TLDR: there probably aren't good opportunities for doing this at the moment, but if the landscape changes and some areas become more funding constrained, then it could be a really useful intervention.

General thoughts:

I think there are two main issues for EAs with regards to impact investing, if you come at it from a utilitarian perspective + want to maximise good.

1) Is the social impact greater in total for the same amount of "lost money" in many impact investment opportunities? Through impact investing, in theory at least, you will be losing ROI compared to the market rate. This is equivalent to a donation. Could you do more good by donating directly? If so, then EAs don't need to consider impact investing.

2) The practical issues. How do we manage this? As you note, smaller donors/investors can't invest themselves. Could we pool money together through an EA impact investing fund manager?

I explore both ideas in my blog post linked above. If you come at the issue from a non-utilitarian perspective, then you might still value Socially Responsible Investing.

Specific request / suggestion:

I like the look at a particular investment option above. But I'm not following your opinion on how impact investment there might compare to donation to Cool Earth. Since an issue for EAs is the comparison (in social "bang for your buck" terms) between a direct donation to a charity and an impact investment (which will lose you money since it will have a lower ROI than the top of the market investments), it might be helpful to have a detailed model of an individual case study, which covers estimates on impact for the same amount of lost money, and the timescales involved.

Comment by jamie_harris on Impact Investing - A Viable Option for EAs? · 2018-07-12T07:51:06.261Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This point about the cause is very important, since cause areas can have orders of magnitude difference in their impact.

However, at times, it may be possible to invest in companies in high priority cause areas. See OPP's investment into Impossible Foods here

I've written about this topic elsewhere, to explore whether it would be worth EA Funds or another EA group setting up opportunities for smaller donors/investors to get involved in impact investing. I was focusing on clean meat and plant-based meat to reduce animal suffering, but briefly consider other cause areas in the piece. TLDR: there probably aren't good opportunities for doing this at the moment, but if the landscape changes and some areas become more funding constrained, then it could be a really useful intervention.

Comment by jamie_harris on Reducing Wild Animal Suffering Literature Library: Introductory Materials, Philosophical & Empirical Foundations · 2018-07-04T09:22:17.122Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, you're right, I got mixed up because I found it from the database of useful EA organisers' resources. I've edited the comment!

Comment by jamie_harris on Reducing Wild Animal Suffering Literature Library: Introductory Materials, Philosophical & Empirical Foundations · 2018-07-03T07:52:48.128Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Finding this list very useful personally, so thanks for that!

I am also planning to use it to help create a discussion group on the topic. There is a shorter version from EAF, but here are the questions for discussion I'm thinking of discussing:

  1. Suffering: a. Are we convinced that K-Selecting species have net negative lives? b. Are we convinced that R-Selecting species have net negative lives? c. Are we convinced that wild animals, in total, have net negative lives?

  2. Prioritisation: How far should we prioritise work on reducing WAS compared to: a. farm animal advocacy, b. other EA cause areas?

  3. Potential crucial considerations: a. Should we still focus on WAS if we believed that animals had net positive lives? i. Would this change how far we prioritise the cause over other cause areas? ii. What effect would this have on the actual interventions that we favoured? b. Should we still focus on WAS if a scientific consensus emerged that most insects were not sentient (but other r-selecting species, like many fish, small mammals or birds etc, still were)? i. Would this change how far we prioritise the cause over other cause areas? ii. What effect would this have on the actual interventions that we favoured?

  4. How far should we prioritise each of the following steps: a. Spreading anti-speciesism and concern for all sentient beings, including those living in the wild. b. Raising awareness of the very bad situation in which wild animals are, and spreading the view that we should be prepared to intervene to aid them. c. Doing research regarding the situation in which these animals are and the ways in which the harms they suffer can be reduced, rather than increased. d. Supporting those interventions in nature that are feasible today and present them as examples of what could be done for the good of animals in the wild at a bigger scale.

  5. What are the different actions and interventions we can take for each of the above steps: a. As a community? b. As individuals?

  6. Can we come up with 1 single personal goal to do more in this space? Create a timeframe and feedback loop or commitment device for this?

Comment by jamie_harris on How to have cost-effective fun · 2018-07-01T09:14:02.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Minor question, but when I tried downloading something from libgen.io my internet browser blocked it and didn't give me any obvious options for allowing the download. I'm not exactly techy and so this sort of thing scares me - how confident are you that I can download things off the site without giving my laptop viruses etc?

If people use other sites to access free books I'd also be keen to know!

Comment by jamie_harris on Hi, I'm Holden Karnofsky. AMA about jobs at Open Philanthropy · 2018-04-04T15:25:57.920Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the question - I have wondered the same, as I also studied History at undergraduate level.

A slight detour from your question, but maybe of interest. There is currently is no community / FB group for people with backgrounds or research interests in History within EA that I know of. There have been quite a few times when discussions around the usefulness of historical studies has come up and it might be good to share ideas and collaborate.

I don't have time to try and coordinate this at the moment, but it seems like trying to establish some sort of discussion forum (or organisation?) for using the study of history to advance our understanding of (and strategy towards) cause areas which are often prioritised within EA.

If this is something you (or anyone else seeing this) has an interest in me developing, it's something to bear in mind? People should feel free to contact me at james_a_harris [at] hotmail.co.uk if you want to talk about it further.

Examples: I'm thinking primarily within Effective Animal Advocacy (Sentience Institute's study of the British antislavery movement; ACE discontinuing their social studies project; technology adoption being considered as a precedent for clean meat e.g. by Sentience Institute and Paul Shapiro) but this would also apply to other fields. The systematic approach described in the post linked at [1] seems to correlate more closely with the approach Holden and others took at OPP than it does the studies done in the Effective Animal Advocacy sphere.

[1] http://effective-altruism.com/ea/1lz/why_we_should_be_doing_more_systematic_research/

Comment by jamie_harris on Cost-effectiveness of The Humane League's corporate campaigns: 2015-2017 · 2018-04-02T19:04:40.579Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

A useful exploration, thank you. I hadn't really thought of the cost effectiveness estimates not taking account for previous efforts, so this is useful. It reinforces the importance of really thinking carefully about how different organisations interrelate before we make judgements about comparative effectiveness - and especially before we make important decisions (either as a movement, or as individuals, developing career paths etc) in the light of these judgements. This is something I've been thinking a lot about since reading Harish Sethu's post for The Humane League Labs on a similar topic. [1]

In line with Hauke Hillebrandt's comment about nagging related worries about the campaigns, I feel it's worth re-emphasising the real uncertainty about the long-term implications of these campaigns, summarised by Sentience Institute [2] (and expressed by many upset abolitionists, whenever welfare campaigns or organisations are mentioned): will they lengthen the existence of factory farming by encouragin humanewashing?

Combined with information suggesting that "cage free" isn't actually much of a real welfare improvement [3], it makes me sceptical of the overall value of welfare interventions. And now Hauke Hillebrandt's comment has made me even more sceptical!

All these things combined might make considerations of cost efficiency of the intervention type fairly irrelevant - potentially these are even consideartions of the efficiency of increasing total animal suffering?

I'm possibly being overly negative here - but when THL is the only charity that ACE has recommended in all review periods, and has previously recommended MFA (who run similar programmes), it seems pretty fundamental to EAA.

[1] http://www.humaneleaguelabs.org/blog/2018-01-30-how-ranking-of-advocacy-strategies-can-mislead/

[2] https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/foundational-questions-summaries#momentum-vs.-complacency-from-welfare-reforms

[3] https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/new-report-welfare-differences-between-cage-and-cage-free-housing

Comment by Jamie_Harris on [deleted post] 2018-04-02T17:45:20.828Z

Maybe "confusing" was the wrong word. But I tend to get the sense that people just have no idea what the concept means in practice when I say that, because its so vague / abstract. I'm guessing that people are thinking along the lines "what does he mean by 'doing good'? Surely he means something else / something more specific?" But I might just be misreading people slightly too.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on [deleted post] 2018-03-20T23:14:32.375Z

All points make sense. I find that when introducing the idea, however, people seem slightly confused by the idea of "doing as much good as possible" (I tend to use nearly identical phrasing). I think the idea seems too abstract to them, and I feel compelled to give some kind of more concrete example to help explain. Although I haven't really tried it out as an alternative, the idea of EA aiming to "benefit others" seems that it might be slightly clearer / more imaginable?

If you agree, this then raises the question of whether we should distinguish a definition of EA for "academic" and "outreach" / explanatory purposes. I'd argue that we should probably avoid separating a definition out for different contexts, so might need to keep thinking about how to word a definition which is clear, but also allows for nuance?

Comment by jamie_harris on Why we should be doing more systematic research · 2018-03-20T20:43:25.741Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Is there a community / FB group for people with backgrounds or research interests in History within EA? There have been quite a few times when this has come up and it might be good to share ideas and collaborate.

Examples: I'm thinking primarily within Effective Animal Advocacy (Sentience Institute's study of the British antislavery movement; ACE discontinuing their social studies project; technology adoption being considered as a precedent for clean meat e.g. by Sentience Institute and Paul Shapiro) but this would also apply to other fields. The systematic approach described in the post above seems to correlate more closely with the approach Holden and others took at OPP than it does the studies done in the Effective Animal Advocacy sphere.