Posts

Key Lessons From Social Movement History 2021-06-30T17:05:38.684Z
New skilled volunteering board for effective animal advocacy 2021-06-18T12:27:50.976Z
Social Movement Lessons from the Fair Trade Movement 2021-04-02T10:51:43.982Z
The Importance of Artificial Sentience 2021-03-03T17:17:48.921Z
Effective animal advocacy bottlenecks surveys 2021-01-13T13:38:52.491Z
Technical research for animal product alternatives skills profile 2020-11-30T15:56:08.880Z
Animal product alternatives for-profit roles spot-check 2020-11-19T07:31:35.113Z
Jamie_Harris's Shortform 2020-10-17T07:00:08.848Z
A Brief Overview of Recruitment and Retention Research 2020-10-06T14:21:17.332Z
Careers advising calls and an online course about impact-focused animal advocacy 2020-09-18T13:37:20.832Z
Careers (to help animals) in politics, policy, and lobbying 2020-08-30T10:37:13.870Z
Health Behavior Interventions Literature Review 2020-07-24T16:21:08.754Z
Social Movement Lessons from the US Prisoners' Rights Movement 2020-07-22T12:10:39.884Z
What Interventions Can Animal Advocates Use To Build Community In Their Country? 2020-07-17T17:42:29.040Z
Animal Advocacy Careers advice 2020-07-06T12:56:05.867Z
The Effects of Animal-Free Food Technology Awareness on Animal Farming Opposition 2020-05-16T07:30:35.987Z
Which institutional tactics can animal advocates use? 2020-04-29T14:11:22.174Z
Effective Animal Advocacy Nonprofit Roles Spot-Check 2020-03-31T15:22:36.283Z
Research on developing management and leadership expertise 2020-03-05T16:57:42.422Z
Introducing the Sentience Institute Podcast 2019-12-05T18:12:44.012Z
Survey data on the moral value of sentient individuals compared to non-sentient environmental systems 2019-10-27T07:00:00.000Z
A short survey on bottlenecks in effective animal advocacy from nine attendees of Effective Altruism Global London 2019-10-24T07:00:00.000Z
Effective animal advocacy movement building: a neglected opportunity? 2019-06-11T20:33:50.415Z
How tractable is changing the course of history? 2019-05-22T15:29:49.195Z
A case study for animal-focused local EA movement building: Effective Animal Altruism London 2019-01-23T22:09:32.308Z
Event Review: EA Global: London (2018) 2018-12-17T22:29:35.324Z
Book Review: The End of Animal Farming (Jacy Reese, 2018) 2018-12-17T22:26:34.669Z

Comments

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Avoiding Groupthink in Intro Fellowships (and Diversifying Longtermism) · 2021-09-18T07:34:21.556Z · EA · GW

Well I think moral circle expansion is a good example. You could introduce s-risks as a general class of things, and then talk about moral circle expansion as a specific example. If you don't have much time, you can keep it general and talk about future sentient beings; if animals have already been discussed, mention that idea that if factory farming or something similar was spread to astronomical scales, that could be very bad. If you've already talked about risks from AI, I think you could reasonably discuss some content about artificial sentience without that seeming like too much of a stretch. My current guess is that focusing on detailed simulations as an example is a nice balance between (1) intuitive / easy to imagine and (2) the sorts of beings we're most concerned about. But I'm not confident in that, and Sentience Institute is planning a survey for October that will give a little insight into which sorts of future scenarios  and entities people are most concerned about. If by "introductions" you're looking for specific resource recommendations, there are short videos, podcasts, and academic articles depending on the desired length, format etc.

Some of the specifics might be technical, confusing, or esoteric, but if you've already discussed AI safety, you could quite easily discuss the concept of focusing on worst-case / “fail-safe” AI safety measures as a promising area. It's also nice because it overlaps with extinction risk reduction work more (as far as I can tell) and seems like a more tractable goal than preventing extinction via AI or achieving highly aligned transformative AI.

A second example (after MCE) that benefits from being quite close to things that many people already care about is the area of reducing risks from political polarisation. I guess that explaining the link to s-risks might not be that quick though. Here's a short writeup on this topic, and I know that Magnus Vinding of the Center for Reducing Suffering is publishing a book soon called Reasoned Politics, which I imagine includes some content on this. Its all a bit early stages though, so I probably wouldn't pick this one at the moment.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Avoiding Groupthink in Intro Fellowships (and Diversifying Longtermism) · 2021-09-16T23:05:05.688Z · EA · GW

I agree with 2. Not sure about 3 as I haven't reviewed the Introductory fellowship in depth myself.

But on 1, I want to briefly make the case that s-risks don't have to be/seem much more weird than extinction risk work. I've sometimes framed it as: The future is vast and it could be very good or very bad. So we probably want to both try to preserve it for the good stuff and improve the quality. (Although perhaps CLR et al don't actually agree with the preserving bit, they just don't vocally object to it for coordination reasons etc)

There are also ways it can seem less weird. E.g. you don't have make complex arguments about wanting to ensure a thing that hasn't happened yet continues to happen, and missed potential, you can just say: "here's a potential bad thing. We should stop that!!" See https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/seoWmmoaiXTJCiX5h/the-psychology-of-population-ethics for evidence that people, on average, weigh (future/possible) suffering more than happiness.

Also consider that one way of looking at moral circle expansion (one method of reducing s-risks) is that its basically just what many social justicey types are focusing on anyway -- increasing protection and consideration of marginalised groups. It just takes it further.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on What we learned from a year incubating longtermist entrepreneurship · 2021-09-11T07:11:26.392Z · EA · GW

There are very few people with longtermist & entrepreneurial experience (e.g., 2-3 years experience in both) that we trust to execute ambitious projects in specific areas of longtermism (bio, AI, etc.).

 

Do you have any reflections or recommendations about what people who meet one but not both of these criteria could be doing to become great potential LEs? I appreciate that there is an obvious answer along the lines of "try the other one out!" but I'm wondering if you have any specific suggestions beyond that.

I.e. 

What could people with longtermist experience but negligible entrepreneurship experience be doing to bridge that gap? Are there any specific resources (books, articles, courses, internships, etc) you'd recommend for people to start testing their personal fit with this and building relevant skills?

And the same question again for people with entrepreneurship experience but negligible longtermist experience.

(Further also to hrosspet's question, I'd be interested in roughly how you were defining/conceptualising those two categories, and if you have general comments about the ways in which people tended to insufficiently developed in one or the other.)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on What we learned from a year incubating longtermist entrepreneurship · 2021-09-11T07:04:51.846Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this post. It's great to see the writeup to be able to learn from the experience, even though it didn't work out for you guys in this iteration of the idea.

I sense a slight potential tension between the comment that "EA operations generalists, often with community-builder backgrounds, who would be interested in working on EA meta projects" seem like a promising group to work with and the comment that "There are very few people with longtermist & entrepreneurial experience (e.g., 2-3 years experience in both) that we trust to execute ambitious projects in specific areas of longtermism (bio, AI, etc.)." I would imagine that the former group would tend to not have much experience in "specific areas of longtermism". I'd love any clarity you can shed on this:

  • Am I just wrong? I.e. do some/many of these people have substantial  experience in specific areas?
  • Is it that you see this group as being promising specifically for various meta projects that don't require deep expertise in any one area?
  • Is it that you think that this gap could potentially be bridged as part of a longtermist entrepreneurship incubator's role, e.g. by getting promising-seeming potential future LEs placed into jobs where they can build some domain specific knowledge before revisiting the idea of LE, or some such?
  • Something else?
Comment by Jamie_Harris on What are the EA movement's most notable accomplishments? · 2021-09-10T21:42:22.990Z · EA · GW

Apologies for a quick answer, rather than a thorough answer where I looked up all the links and details, but one potential source:

I believe Charity Entrepreneurship partly see one of their key outputs as being creating tangible achievements of the EA community. I guess a lot of it is still pretty new, but to the extent you can find any impressive achievements from CE-incubated orgs, those are pretty clearly attributable to EA. Fish Welfare Initiative have some impressive commitments from producers in India I think, and my impression was that some of the global health charities have achieved quite a lot in a small space of time.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Buck's Shortform · 2021-09-02T22:52:14.894Z · EA · GW

Maybe there's some lesson to be learned. And I do think that EAs should often aspire to be more entrepreneurial.

But maybe the main lesson is for the people trying to get really rich, not the other way round. I imagine both communities have their biases. I imagine that lots of people try entrepreneurial schemes for similar reasons to why lots of people buy lottery tickets. And Id guess that this often has to do with scope neglect, excessive self confidence / sense of exceptionalism, and/or desperation.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI · 2021-08-28T16:27:42.612Z · EA · GW

Certainly some impressive achievements here and a lot that resonated with topics I've been thinking about, e.g. about the entrepreneurial attitude in EA movement building; I have an outline for a forum post specifically on that topic but not sure if I'll get round to writing it up.

<<As for the importance of personalized programming - when Stanford EA first ran our fellowship, we ran one big section of 15-20 fellows in one big weekly discussion... I then decided to switch our model to 2:1 to 5:1 (fellow:organizer) small groups (largely depending on capacity as I’ve had the most success with 3:1 groups so far). This increased attendance, reading completion and engagement, the ability to personally address questions, criticisms, and key takeaways from the material, and also led to fellows befriending organizers.>> I would love to know any more detail about this that you're happy to share, especially on attendance + retention as the fellowship progressed.

I would intuitively feel worried about setting up such small support groups; if one person drops out of your support groups, I would imagine it would be pretty demoralising for the remaining 1/2/3/4 people, because it would feel like such a big chunk of the group dropping out at once. The effect on perceived social norms / value would presumably be quite high. And do you ever end up with very small groups, or whole support groups disbanding?

Id also be intrigued to know if you have problems with people falling behind on reading / prep before their scheduled meeting times? In Animal Advocacy Careers' online course, the completion rates were higher than I had worried they might be, but we had quite a few people who fell behind on the weekly deadlines and then rushed through the content in a short space of time. (I don't mean they didn't pay attention to it, but cramming it in is likely worse for remembering the content; perhaps also worse for reflection + implementation, though that's just a hunch.)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on [deleted post] 2021-08-27T09:46:14.073Z

I'm  a bit unsure what Charity Navigator's current stance on overhead is. I think that they gradually may have changed their views (see, e.g. this article, and this one on their acquisition of Impact Matters). It could be good to look into that further. And potentially it would be good to have a newer reference than from 2016.

I tried to link to this page, but think I just linked to the page in the wrong way in the way that you edit tags/wikis (this is the first time I've done it!). Not sure why the link has just been replaced with a reference to 2016.

I only skimmed the page, but looks to me like overheads is still a key part. High "Program Expense Percentage" is good, high "Administrative Expense Percentage" and "Fundraising Expense Percentage" are bad.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Writing about my job: Research Fellow, FHI · 2021-08-15T20:57:34.398Z · EA · GW

<<email several academics to ask if they will take a meeting with me, and asking if they are interested in visiting the digital minds group in the future>>

Are you able to share what you talk about on these calls? Do you have specific points/questions you want to address with people or do you just reach out for a chat and an intro to see what comes of it?

Context: I'm also a researcher at a (perhaps slightly less) academia-adjacent EA nonprofit/think tank (Sentience Institute) and I only do low-structured networking at events like EAG.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Research into people's willingness to change cause *areas*? · 2021-08-05T22:21:56.369Z · EA · GW

At Animal Advocacy Careers, we ran two concurrent studies of our one-to-one careers advice calls and our online course. We had a measure in there for cause prioritisation (a subcomponent of our overall "attitudes" metric), amongst many other outcome measures. Both interventions devoted at least some effort to encouraging (some) people to shift cause prioritisation.

We found evidence that the interventions each had significant effects on some outcomes (e.g. career plans, "career-related behaviours,"), but neither had significant effects on attitudes. In fact, there was some somewhat concerning evidence of a backfire effect on the cause prioritisation question, although this seems to be reduced to nothing in some of the sensitivity analyses.

So in short, we found that our intervention failed to persuade people to change cause areas despite being effective at some of the other things we tried. Ofc, this could be a reflection of our interventions. But it's at least weak evidence that persuading people to alter their cause prioritisation is difficult in general.

I've finished the write-up of this but am waiting on some additional feedback and we haven't published it yet. Feel free to email me (jamie@animaladvocacycareers.org) if reviewing the current draft would be helpful.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Book Giveaway Impact Analysis (Doing Good Better in NZ) · 2021-08-01T17:04:06.624Z · EA · GW

I think that this would be amenable to a randomised controlled trial. (Whether by you or someone else.) This would address some of the concerns from the methodology you used here. E.g. how much would people donate without receiving the book? How much support would they express for EA?

You could send 50% of people who asked for it a book that wasn't actually focused on EA. E.g. a book about productivity or something else, where you could frame it in a way that it wouldn't be misleading/disappointing to receive this book rather than DGB.

Or you could put people on a wait list control group, where they still get sent DGB, it just comes ~3 months later, and all participants (whether they've received the book or not yet) fill out a second survey ~3 months after they first request it.

I'm going to be writing some forum posts soon about the possibilities for this sort of experiment in EA movement building, following on from two such experiments we have run at Animal Advocacy Careers. A lot of the methodology could be similar!

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Intervention options for improving the EA-aligned research pipeline · 2021-07-17T07:13:22.973Z · EA · GW

True! I'd forgotten about that page. I think some sort of fairly minimal infrastructure might notably increase the number of people actually doing it though.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on [deleted post] 2021-07-17T07:11:37.950Z

Ah sounds like most of those things relate to questions around maximising good experiences of future nonhumans rather than minimising bad experiences. That makes sense, not sure why I didn't think of that, might have been having a mind blank. So thanks for explaining.

Fwiw it seemed obvious that this tag was in principle broader than the MCE tag, I just couldn't think of instances where this tag would apply but neither the MCE nor s-risk tag would apply. (And I already feel there's a lot of overlap between tags, e.g. should I tag something I write about farmed animals as being about MCE and s-risks)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Intervention options for improving the EA-aligned research pipeline · 2021-07-16T07:43:34.422Z · EA · GW

Just came here to comment something that's been on my mind that I didn't recall being suggested in the post, though it partly overlaps with your suggestions 1, 2, 4, 11, and 19.

Suggestion: Paid literature reviews with some (relatively low level) supervision.

Context: Since working at Sentience Institute, I've done quite a few literature reviews. (I've also done some more "rough and ready" ones at Animal Advocacy Careers.) I think that these have given me a much better understanding of how social sciences academia works, what sort of information is most helpful etc. A lot of the knowledge comes in handy in places that I wouldn't necessarily have predicted, too. This makes me feel like the benefits might be comparable to the sorts of benefits that I expect lots of people get from PhDs -- some methodological training / familiarity, and some useful knowledge. It wouldn't give you  some benefits of PhDs like signalling value, familiarity with the peer review process, or close mentorship relationships, but if you tried to get the literature reviews published in peer-reviewed journals, then that would add some of those benefits back in (and maybe help to improve the end product too).

Lit reviews can be quite time-consuming, but don't necessarily require any very special skills -- just willingness to spend time on it and look things up (e.g. methodological aspects) when you don't know or understand them, rather than plowing on regardless. Obviously some methodological background in the topic would be helpful, but doesn't always seem necessary; I'm a history grad and have done literature reviews on subjects from psychology to ethics to management.

It might be quite easy to explicitly offer (1) funding and (2) facilitation for independent researchers to be connected to potential reviewers of the end product. It could be up to the individual to suggest topics, or to some centralised body (as in your suggestion 7).

 

I'm not sure whose responsibility this should be. It could be EA Funds, Effective Thesis, or individual research orgs.

 

Caveats

  • I have found review + comments from colleagues helpful, so some supervision may be necessary, but these have tended to cluster at the start and end of projects with the vast majority of the work being independent.
  • To do rigorous systematic reviews, you generally want more than one person actually checking through the data, coding decisions etc, which would require more coordination. But this is not always necessary. Indeed, one of my lit reviews is currently going through the peer review process (and looks likely to be accepted) and didn't use multiple author checks on these decisions. And less formal/systematic literature reviews can still be valuable, I think, both for the researcher and the readers.
Comment by Jamie_Harris on [deleted post] 2021-07-16T07:21:53.325Z

I've just seen this tag. What's the intended distinction between this and the moral circle expansion tag? Is it just that some actions that affect non-humans in the long-term future might not be via moral circle expansion? If that's the case, then what's the distinction from the s-risk tag? (As much as I welcome lots of discussion about these topics!)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-05T21:38:44.212Z · EA · GW

Why should the farmed animal movement be different in this regard?

You might be right that, as a general rule this possibility might benefit animal agriculture more than animal advocates at the moment. I can imagine this could work for some more technical or behind the scenes issues (e.g. funding for animal product alternatives R&D being diverted from funding for other more popular seeming sciencey things) or working for more major institutional changes in the future if there was substantial elite opinion change (as seems to have happened with the death penalty in Europe)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Ozzie Gooen's Shortform · 2021-07-03T20:38:44.382Z · EA · GW

If you're happy to share, who are the longtermist academics you are thinking of? (Their work could be somewhat related to my work)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on [Link] Reading the EA Forum; audio content · 2021-07-03T06:58:28.288Z · EA · GW

I'm keen on the idea in principle. 

I’d like to encourage others to also narrate/record forum posts. Any takers?

I have quite a good mic which I use for the Sentience Institute podcast, and would probably be willing to record myself reading a few posts, if there is no urgent deadline.

Feedback welcome, of course. Worth continuing?

One relevant data point is from Animal Advocacy Careers' experience.

We have a number of "skills profiles" which discuss career paths people could pursue. We have offered each of these in three formats: a detailed version with longer text and citations, a short version in a slightly more casual style, and an audio version (me reading out the brief version). We've found that the brief versions are most popular and the audio versions least popular, by quite a long way.

For example, in the first month we launched them (July 2020), across the 3 different profiles, the detailed versions averaged 62% the number of downloads as the short versions, and the audio versions averaged 6% of the number of downloads of the short versions. 

(Caveat that the accessibility of the audio versions wasn't great when we first launched, but I've improved it since then and the audio versions are still far less popular than the written versions.)

So there might be a little less interest than you expect? You could also ask 80k about how many listens the articles that they read aloud on the podcast get relative to (1) other podcast episodes, (2) page views on the articles. They've only done a handful, and not for a while, so I'd guess the numbers were low. (I'd be interested in their answer though, as I've considered doing the same with the SI podcast.)

 

[Edit, I just realised that you've literally already done this, so feel free to ignore the below]

However, it's worth noting that it might be possible to turn the audio into a podcast and reach a new audience, in addition to providing the additional format for regular readers of the Forum. If you've already recorded the audio, it's not much more effort to add some sort of short, standardised intro+outro, and maybe create a free website (e.g. using Wordpress' basic version) where each time you just post a link to the episode and a link to the original forum post.

For the SI podcast, we use Buzzsprout as the hosting platform, which disseminates your content to all the usual podcast streaming services for $12 per month. Under that plan, you can upload up to 3 hours  of audio per month, or pay $4 per extra hour. This seems like a very small amount if it's a useful service.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-02T12:12:41.711Z · EA · GW

I haven't looked at those sort of over-time trends at the movement level and then compared across movements. I don't think there's enough info for that. But otherwise, I agree with all your points here. I didn't update my views on corporate campaigns very substantially when I noticed this significant correlation, though I did update them a little.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-02T12:09:50.049Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the engagement James and for sharing with Animal Rebellion!

Do you think we'll be able to make those larger steps without widespread public support or do you believe we should focus on increasing public support at a later date, perhaps when we've already had more wins or figured out a great issue framing?

My guess is that we can. The evidence that policy change --> public opinion change is not just limited to social movement evidence. I've nearly finished a first draft of a post on "Effective strategies for changing public opinion" (which I suspect you'll be v interested in!). Here's the relevant section, though I've omitted the lengthy footnotes:

"Oskamp and Schultz (2005) summarize several studies showing that public opinion often follows US foreign policy quite closely. There is evidence that public opinion changes can occur from policies affecting social issues and the breadth of the moral circle, too. Some studies suggest that international policies and policies in neighboring jurisdictions can also affect public opinion. When the Supreme Court makes a decision, this tends to cause public opinion to move towards the opinion implied by that decision, though this does not always happen. This all suggests that if advocates can encourage policy change, public opinion will tend to move towards support for those policies. Nevertheless, political scientist James Stimson (2015) presents evidence that public preferences regarding the general direction of further government action sometimes shift in the opposite direction to trends in government policy itself."

There are also various other positive effects (some discussed in the blog post above or the associated spreadsheet) from policy changes that might help, e.g. "Once influential institutions in one country or region adopt a value, they can influence institutions elsewhere to adopt the same value" and "Legislative change can positively affect individual behavior" (which might in turn affect attitudes, advocacy etc).

I think of lots of caveats to my answer that "my guess is that we can," but I'll resist the temptation to spend the rest of the day typing up thoughts on those nuances.

One that I will comment on briefly is that the case studies also highlight that "Legislative change can cause backlash and counter-mobilization". So its true that if radical change is won at the policy level but the movement is not sufficiently prepared to defend those victories, it could cause more problems than its worth.

I do think we should "explore opportunities to bypass public opinion" but I can see a case for trying to do so on lower stakes or more technical issues first, for example.

 

Also whilst it's not clear to me how easy it is to change public opinion, I've been doing some research on Extinction Rebellion (see one graph below)

Thanks for sharing this, that's very interesting. Some caveats on that graph:

  • Public opinion seems to have been trending upwards, as you point out, and I'm not sure if there are other factors at play.
  • Attitude change tends not to last for very long without repeated re-exposure or consolidation (see forthcoming research I mentioned I'm doing!) so its possible that the spike will be temporary.

That said, the spike does look very impressive, so that's still a slight update for me.

 

it seems to against your recommendation of focusing less on increasing issue salience. How would you reconcile these things?

I think the forthcoming research on public opinion change that I mentioned will bring some clarity to this. Some quick thoughts:

  • There is evidence that the media can have an "agenda-setting" effect, i.e. make people think that certain issues are more important/pressing. This can encourage political attention -- whether that attention is helpful or counterproductive would depend on the specifics. To take one example of where high issue salience led to harmful regulation, see the section on "Increased public awareness was linked with increased negative sentiment" here. (That example arguably shows that activism --> helpful regulation, but I think it also demonstrates the point that, if you take the perspective of the GM startups, salience in itself is not necessarily helpful.)
  • Similarly, media coverage can influence the reader's attitudes through a number of different mechanisms. If the coverage is negative or highlights particular features/subissues that are less favourable to advocates' goals, the effects on readers (including, potentially, policy-makers) could be the opposite to what was intended.

So the point is essentially that, yes, "Media coverage can encourage institutional change," but that that could be for good or ill, depending on the coverage.

 

And when you refer to media, are you referring to certain forms of media publications or those aimed at certain audience? An example, is it best to try get into mainstream TV, LadBible or newspapers aimed at conservatives? 

You might like to dig into the case studies I cite for the claim. I don't think they help to make recommendations as specific as this.

That said, here's some partly relevant content you might be interested in:

 

it's extremely hard to know which issue framing or messaging performs best as there hasn't been much substantive work on issue farming for animal advocacy to my knowledge (very worth funding imo).

Very much agreed.

it seems ideal if the animal movement could collaborate on a shared issue framing as it seems that's when movements are most effective at changing public discourse, when a shared message is used from different angles and institutions.

I'm less sure about this. I can see that, in some instances, uniting resources and efforts around a particularly promising framing would be very helpful. But I also think that if often makes sense to tailor your messages to your audience quite substantially (see also "consistent vs. varying messaging").

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-02T11:38:23.272Z · EA · GW

Interesting, thanks for the feedback and suggestions!

I think that this blog post is about as plain language / simplified as we're likely to go, for now, partly because there are just so many nuances and caveats required that stripping even more of these out (I already stripped quite a few, and worried about doing so) might be misleading or damaging.

I think it's more likely that we (or others!) would use this evidence as an input into more public-facing content about particular sub issues. E.g. a blog post specifically about "the idea that social movement activism can have unintended bad consequences" which draws on this historical evidence, as well as psychological/communications studies research into backfire/boomerang effects following persuasion attempts, etc etc. Or persuasive writing along the lines of "Use more of X tactic and less of Y" where we include the historical evidence alongside other evidence, similarly to how we have written about institutional vs. individual tactics (blog example, academic paper example).

That said, if someone else wanted to work on distilling the work into a more accessible format, I'd be happy to discuss and assist.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-02T11:30:58.512Z · EA · GW

I didn't adjust. This was very much "exploratory analysis", and it's not common to adjust in exploratory analysis as far as I'm aware.

I also didn't discuss a couple of correlations that turned out to be significant because it seemed pretty likely to me that they were spurious / artifacts of the methodology and question wording; and I was worried that either people would misinterpret or place too much weight on the "findings", or I'd have to make the post excessively lengthy to discuss the various caveats and nuances.

We had a lot of internal discussion about whether using this statistical analysis was appropriate, given concerns such as (1) the very small number of data points, (2) the scores not really being continuous data since they were always either whole numbers or halves, etc. So any thoughts on the methodology used there are welcome.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-02T11:25:46.089Z · EA · GW

Agreed with all, I think!

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-02T11:23:29.334Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the clarifications and comments!

I would guess that support and opposition to capital punishment and abortion are not very sensitive to cost

I'm inclined to agree with this, and discussed it a bit in the anti-abortion case study. (See the bullet point beginning "One paper finds that “the fundamental law" and the corresponding footnotes, 371-3)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-01T18:10:57.065Z · EA · GW

This is just a definitional thing? I think most people would see that as incremental, but just a much larger / more radical step than most incremental tactics we usually refer to.

And for what its worth, along the lines of my argument above that we should diversify institutional tactics, and given that I don't think there's much reason to suspect that conservative institutional legislative tactics will necessarily be most cost-effective in the long-run, all-things-considered, I'd like to see more resources going towards these sorts of more radical institutional campaigns, and more experimentation with tactics that might help to advance such campaigns.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-01T18:07:41.359Z · EA · GW

To be clear, my "pushback against incremental reforms" is not meant to suggest that the average successful incremental reform will have net negative effects, just that there are real risks that we should be attentive to and seek to minimise or avoid where possible.

I do see incremental institutional reform as a very important contributor.  I don't have a specific "series" in mind. If we wanted to replicate the example of the British antislavery movement closely, we might seek bans on factory farming as a major step, and frame this explicitly as a step towards abolition. But there's not much reason to expect that this was necessarily the optimal strategy -- they were successful, but this success could be explicable due to many different contributing factors.

I think there are many tactics that could contribute in some shape or form. I've written about various institutional approaches here,  but I do think that there's some scope for individual focused tactics too, as addressed at the bottom of that post and in the section above (using them as a "complement").

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Key Lessons From Social Movement History · 2021-07-01T17:57:31.747Z · EA · GW

There are many disanalogies.  I gesture at these in the "Features of the X Movement" sections of each case study, though I don't unusually make explicit comparisons to the farmed animal movement, mostly for space reasons. (More on the methodology here)

Are you suggesting that this particular disanalogy substantially weakens any of the specific claims or recommendations I make here?

(Less important, but with respect to this particular point, I think there's a similar effect from Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers and other incremental anti-abortion legislation, which makes abortion more difficult or expensive. Restrictions on lethal injection and other methods of capital punishment similarly raise the price of capital punishment relative to other options, albeit only by a small amount, and capital punishment is already more expensive. And more tentatively,  there's an analogy with the welfare reforms implemented by some slaveowners. So I don't actually think that this disanalogy is as strong as many of the others we could point to.)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on New skilled volunteering board for effective animal advocacy · 2021-06-19T13:38:42.198Z · EA · GW

Thanks!

<<do you have a sense of how much organisations value skilled volunteers>> Reactions were pretty mixed. Some orgs seemed quite excited about the idea, others either didn't seem to get it, didn't seem to think it would be helpful, or just didn't reply. Most of the positive feedback was generic, along the lines of "this is an exciting initiative," which makes it difficult to interpret how useful they actually expect it to be. So in short, I don't have a very clear sense, no.

<<how you prioritised this initiative overall from the other activities you are doing>> We were in between some different projects, waiting on feedback. This felt like it would feed into several different goals we have and not take very long to set up, so we just tried it out with relatively little evaluation. (If you're interested in the more thorough thought process more typical of what we usually do for larger projects, see here https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/QGhoBnjjiGkBsrHC7/animal-advocacy-careers-2021-plans-and-2020-review)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on New skilled volunteering board for effective animal advocacy · 2021-06-18T13:08:38.868Z · EA · GW

I have the sense that the skilled volunteering board could be useful for career capital and testing personal fit purposes even for people who don't prioritise animal advocacy, and so I was hoping to interest some of those people. But I suppose it does feel a little deceptive, which would be a bad community norm, so I changed it. Thanks for highlighting.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Linch's Shortform · 2021-06-09T20:51:31.680Z · EA · GW

Does the Precipice count? And I think Will Macaskill is writing a new book.

But I have the vague sense that public-facing books may be good for academics' careers anyway. Evidence for this intuition:

(1) Where EA academics have written them, they seem to be more highly cited than a lot of their other publications, so the impact isn't just "the public" (see Google Scholar pages for Will Macaskill, Toby Ord, Nick Bostrom, Jacy Reese Anthis -- and let me know if there are others who have written public-facing books! Peter Singer would count but has no Google Scholar page)

(2) this article about the impact of Wikipedia. It's not about public-facing books but fits into my general sense that "widely viewed summary content by/about academics can influence other academics" https://conference.druid.dk/acc_papers/2862e909vshtezgl6d67z0609i5bk6.pdf

Plus all the usual stuff about high fidelity idea transmission being good.

So yes, more EA books would be good?

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Professional development resources for fundraisers: a few links · 2021-06-08T06:32:06.718Z · EA · GW

Cool list! Here's a list I made, as part of Animal Advocacy Careers' skills profile on fundraising. Like you, I haven't vetted many of them, but several were recommended by more experienced fundraisers.

(I know you've seen this now, but for the benefit of any other readers)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on How do other EAs keep themselves motivated? · 2021-06-05T10:27:17.329Z · EA · GW

I just have a very ingrained working routine where I start work at a certain time and stop work at a certain time. If I stop working too early, I feel guilty because I haven't finished my allotted work time yet.

It has some downsides (e.g. it doesn't allow for much flexibility if there is more or less productive work that needs to be done within a particular time period) and might not work for other people, but I think it's been pretty effective for me for my ~3 years of remote, EA work. I haven't ever really felt drained or burnt out. Occasionally I feel kind of down about things not working out as well as I hoped but it doesn't really reduce my productivity.

I realise this answers the title of your question but not the emotional aspect. I don't really feel the need to be emotionally connected to the work if I have a productive routine that keeps me engaged.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on MichaelA's Shortform · 2021-05-31T22:11:50.313Z · EA · GW

Animal Advocacy Careers skills profiles are a bit like this for various effective animal advocacy nonprofit roles. You can also just read my notes on the interviews I did (linked within each profile) -- they usually just start with the question "what's a typical day?" https://www.animaladvocacycareers.org/skills-profiles

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Linch's Shortform · 2021-05-24T21:53:41.734Z · EA · GW

Thanks, good to know!

Comment by Jamie_Harris on MichaelA's Shortform · 2021-05-19T18:47:55.240Z · EA · GW

These feel like they should be obvious points and yet I hadn't thought about them before. So this was also an update for me! I've been considering PhDs, and your stated downsides don't seem like big downsides for me personally, so it could be relevant to me too.

Ok, so the imagine you/we (the EA community) successfully make the case and encourage demand for RA positions. Is there supply?

  • I don't recall ever seeing an RA position formally advertised (though I haven't been looking out for them per se, don't check the 80k job board very regularly, etc)
  • If I imagine myself or my colleagues at Sentience Institute with an RA, I can imagine that we'd periodically find an RA helpful, but not enough for a full-time role.
  • Might be different at other EA/longtermist nonprofits but we're primarily funding constrained. Apart from the sense that they might accept a slightly lower salary, why would we hire an RA when we could hire a full blown researcher (who might sometimes have to do the lit reviews and grunt-work themselves)?
Comment by Jamie_Harris on EA is a Career Endpoint · 2021-05-19T18:28:50.598Z · EA · GW

I agree with most of the things you said.

But I think rejection should be taken as evidence that your talent or current level of experience is insufficient. Rejection from any one round is weak evidence, because there are lots of other factors + random noise that might also explain the result. But if you applied to a similar type of role 100 times and were rejected 100 times without making it through the initial screening, that would be strong evidence. (Caveat that this might just be semantics/pedantry and we might already agree)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Linch's Shortform · 2021-05-15T16:56:49.988Z · EA · GW

Side question: what was the management training you took, and would you recommend it?

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Animal Welfare Fund: Ask us anything! · 2021-05-13T22:24:19.403Z · EA · GW

How important is the track record of the applicant to your decision-making?

E.g. if someone proposes a promising research idea but they have little to no track record of relevant research (maybe just good university grades etc), how likely does it seem that you would fund them?

E.g. if a nonprofit that you have not funded and whose work you generally see as being of low usefulness or quality asked for funding for a specific project that you were optimistic about in a generalised sense, how likely does it seem that you would fund them?

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Animal Welfare Fund: Ask us anything! · 2021-05-13T22:00:55.888Z · EA · GW

What's the smallest grant you'd consider making?

E.g. are you open to funding individuals for a few months' living expenses while they explore a promising project idea?

E.g. would you be willing to fund data collection for a single study if someone already had a promising research idea and had the time to carry it out?

Comment by Jamie_Harris on How to identify your local high impact career opportunities - process and tips from EA Sweden · 2021-05-08T21:36:13.597Z · EA · GW

Id be quite interested to know roughly how many new opportunities you identified for each cause area. And I'd be interested to check to see if orgs I'm aware of came up through your methods, or if there are others I'm not aware of that came up!

(If you're happy to share privately, I won't share onwards -- my email is jamie@animaladvocacycareers.org). Thanks!

Comment by Jamie_Harris on How do you stay emotionally motivated while working on highly specific problems? · 2021-05-08T20:51:59.810Z · EA · GW

It's a pretty simple trick, but I find it very helpful to have multiple projects on the go in any one day/week/month and switch projects (1) half way through the day, and/or (2) when I get especially bored or notice I'm flagging.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on What are the highest impact questions in the behavioral sciences? · 2021-05-08T20:32:31.409Z · EA · GW

A lot of cause-specific research relates to these disciplines! I don't have a go-to list that answers your question directly as asked, but here are a few examples of resources that touch on this that might help to spark some ideas

Comment by Jamie_Harris on JamesOz's Shortform · 2021-05-08T19:30:12.895Z · EA · GW

If you haven't already, make sure you check out Faunalytics' helpful resources on survey design. https://faunalytics.org/research-advice/

And yes, I'd be happy to have a quick call, assuming this is still relevant. You can pick a time here https://calendly.com/jamie-a-harris94/60min

Comment by Jamie_Harris on EA Malaysia Cause Prioritisation Report (2021) · 2021-05-08T19:26:28.319Z · EA · GW

I imagine that this was a useful process for you guys to think through cause prioritisation research and relevant considerations. Looking at your methodology though, it seems as if you were attempting to essentially redo EA cause prioritisation research to date from scratch in a short timeframe?

My guess of the most useful process would have been to just take some of the most commonly / widely recommended EA cause areas (and maybe a couple of other contenders) and try to clarify how they seem more or less promising in the Malaysian context specifically.

If you agree with my characterisation of your process, with the benefit of hindsight, would you recommend that other national groups follow your methodology or my suggested alternative?

And, a somewhat separate question: what sorts of considerations do you think differ between Malaysia and other contexts in which these questions have been considered, if any?

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Silk production: global scale and animal welfare issues · 2021-04-20T19:50:19.042Z · EA · GW

Interesting! Obviously a whole host of pros and cons to animal advocacy in India generally. The evidence I'm referring to is from our social movement case studies -- we have a post in draft form atm. Feel free to either wait for the finished post (~1 month?) or email me at jamie@sentienceinstitute.org and I'll send you the draft!

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Silk production: global scale and animal welfare issues · 2021-04-20T11:48:29.238Z · EA · GW

Important topic! I appreciate the balanced consideration of both direct and indirect evidence, as well as both advocacy and academic perspectives / info.

I agree bans at the retail level seem promising for a number of reasons. Apologies if I missed it, but have you seen data on which countries/areas are the main markets for silk? I.e. the demand side rather than the supply side? (On the one hand, bans in areas with high use might have larger impact, but historical evidence and my general intuition suggest that bans in areas with low usage will be much more tractable -- happy to provide further info if helpful)

Comment by Jamie_Harris on On the longtermist case for working on farmed animals [Uncertainties & research ideas] · 2021-04-11T11:04:25.715Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this post Michael, I think I agree with everything here! Though if anyone thinks we can "confidently dismiss the above longtermist argument for farmed animal welfare work, without needing to do this research" I'd be interested to hear why.

I won’t be pursuing those questions myself, as I’m busy with other projects

I just wanted to note that Sentience Institute is pursuing some of this sort of research, but (1) we definitely won't be able to pursue all of these things any time soon, (2) not that much of our work focuses specifically on these cause prioritisation questions -- we often focus on working out how to make concrete progress on the problems, assuming you agree that MCE is important. That said, I think a lot of research can achieve both goals. E.g. my colleague, Ali, is finishing up a piece of research that fits squarely in "4a. Between-subjects experiments... focused on the above questions" currently titled "The impact of perspective taking on attitudes and prosocial behaviours towards non-human outgroups." And the more explicit cause prioritisation research would still fit neatly within our interests. SI is primarily funding constrained, so if any funders reading this are especially interested in this sort of research, they should feel free to reach out to us.

Contact the Sentience Institute and/or me to discuss ideas

Thanks for this note! Agreed. My email is jamie@sentienceinstitute.org if anyone does want to discuss these ideas or send me draft writeups for review.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on Case studies of self-governance to reduce technology risk · 2021-04-10T15:11:51.299Z · EA · GW

Cool post! I like the methodology; it bears a lot of similarities to the case studies summary and analysis I'm writing for Sentience Institute at the moment. What do you think about the idea of converting those low / moderate / high ratings in the RQ2 table into numerical scores (e.g. out of 5, 10, or 100) and testing for statistically significant correlations between various scores and the "level of success" score?

Comment by Jamie_Harris on EA Debate Championship & Lecture Series · 2021-04-10T11:29:58.573Z · EA · GW

I saw after writing this comment that Jonas Vollmer's recent "Some quick notes on 'effective altruism'" post is filled with people calling for more empirical testing on EA messaging. So perhaps there is both more interest and intent to carry out this sort of research than I previously believed.

Comment by Jamie_Harris on EA Debate Championship & Lecture Series · 2021-04-06T19:25:55.712Z · EA · GW

This is very cool. Seems like high fidelity outreach to a highly promising group, done well.

My main concern: how often can this general debate theme be repeated among major debate tournaments? I wonder if this will now not be repeatable for several years.

<<Lesson 5: It may be helpful to design a formal EA-advocacy framework and research agenda. Debate can be a useful case-study for EA-advocacy for the reasons mentioned in this post.>> I have often thought this. There is a lot of research that seems like it could be useful for EA outreach, e.g. testing the effectiveness of various messaging strategies. There's some cause area-specific research, but not much that I'm aware of relating to more general EA principles.

<< However, even with the help of fellow EAs, it took us a while to understand how best to measure engagement with EA content. >> I have also thought this! I created some questions to use in an RCT we are running at Animal Advocacy Careers and lamented that I had a scale to use for "Animal Farming Opposition" (based on factor analysis of Sentience Institute's surveys) but not "Effective Altruism Inclination" or something similar.

Would be happy to discuss the EA outreach research ideas a bit more if anyone reading this is interested in pursuing (/ collaborating on?) that.