Posts

Charges against BitMEX and cofounders 2020-10-02T21:05:08.534Z · score: 36 (26 votes)
Introducing Luke Freeman as head of Giving What We Can 2020-07-27T20:35:20.145Z · score: 69 (23 votes)
Finding equilibrium in a difficult time 2020-03-18T02:50:14.119Z · score: 149 (81 votes)
It's OK to feed stray cats 2020-01-28T10:33:37.543Z · score: 78 (44 votes)
More info on EA Global admissions 2019-12-23T20:20:09.969Z · score: 51 (35 votes)
Countering imposter syndrome 2019-08-28T01:55:10.565Z · score: 60 (27 votes)
You have more than one goal, and that's fine 2019-02-20T01:08:48.269Z · score: 100 (61 votes)
Submit questions about Giving What We Can for Q&A session December 30 2018-12-30T00:51:03.555Z · score: 17 (5 votes)
Open beta of the new EA Forum now available 2018-10-18T02:59:49.556Z · score: 12 (12 votes)
Forum moving to open beta this week 2018-10-15T21:24:30.107Z · score: 4 (3 votes)
Additional plans for the new EA Forum 2018-09-07T15:35:47.733Z · score: 5 (16 votes)
Self-care sessions for EA groups 2018-09-06T15:55:12.835Z · score: 14 (10 votes)
EA syllabi and teaching materials 2018-09-05T18:19:10.207Z · score: 44 (20 votes)
How to use the Forum 2018-09-05T17:22:55.831Z · score: 71 (38 votes)
Upcoming AMA with Holden Karnofsky on job openings at the Open Philanthropy Project (Monday March 26, starting 9:30 am Pacific) 2018-03-23T13:57:53.133Z · score: 9 (9 votes)
A contact person for the EA community 2018-01-12T17:04:14.404Z · score: 58 (59 votes)
Changes to the EA Forum 2017-07-02T17:34:18.441Z · score: 19 (23 votes)
Upcoming AMA with Luke Muehlhauser on consciousness and moral patienthood (June 28, starting 9am Pacific) 2017-06-21T21:56:48.696Z · score: 13 (15 votes)
A mental health resource for EA community 2017-05-06T02:07:05.630Z · score: 30 (23 votes)
Advisory panel at CEA 2017-03-07T01:49:08.971Z · score: 22 (28 votes)
Practical political action on global health 2017-02-27T15:01:54.575Z · score: 22 (22 votes)
Clarifying the Giving What We Can pledge 2017-02-06T20:07:29.719Z · score: 44 (41 votes)
EAs write about where they give 2016-12-09T16:00:28.601Z · score: 18 (18 votes)
Running an EA reading group 2016-12-02T16:21:45.435Z · score: 14 (14 votes)
Making EA groups more welcoming 2016-07-29T01:09:18.503Z · score: 24 (24 votes)
Guidelines on depicting poverty 2016-03-28T14:24:32.423Z · score: 32 (43 votes)
Against segregating EAs 2016-01-21T16:15:37.410Z · score: 29 (39 votes)
An embarrassment of riches 2015-11-19T18:23:28.370Z · score: 26 (25 votes)
Burnout and self-care 2015-10-23T13:15:26.672Z · score: 24 (23 votes)
Meetup : Boston dinner/discussion 2015-02-20T02:47:41.839Z · score: 0 (0 votes)
On making spaces friendlier to parents 2015-01-27T22:06:13.728Z · score: 13 (16 votes)
How much does it cost to have a child? 2014-12-24T15:06:18.236Z · score: 14 (14 votes)
Aim high, even if you fall short 2014-10-11T17:26:53.809Z · score: 33 (32 votes)
Where I'm giving and why: Julia Wise 2013-12-27T20:05:48.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes)
Giving now vs. later: a summary 2013-07-23T04:00:39.000Z · score: 27 (18 votes)
Cheerfully 2013-06-21T04:00:03.000Z · score: 44 (45 votes)

Comments

Comment by julia_wise on Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups · 2020-10-15T17:45:56.914Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

But still relevant for the Munich organizers, since Singer seems to get protested more per event in Germany than in other countries.

Comment by julia_wise on Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups · 2020-10-15T13:37:32.873Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I got permission to add the full quote, though the meaning is the same. This example was actually in the US.

Comment by julia_wise on Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups · 2020-10-14T21:37:37.855Z · score: 121 (50 votes) · EA · GW

I appreciate that Larks sent a draft of this post to CEA, and that we had the chance to give some feedback and do some fact-checking.

I agree with many of the concerns in this post. I also see some of this differently.

In particular, I agree that a climate of fear — wherever it originates— silences not only people who are directly targeted, but also others who see what happened to someone else. That silencing limits writers/speakers, limits readers/listeners who won’t hear the ideas or information they have to offer, and ultimately limits our ability to find ways to do good in the world.

These are real and serious costs. I’ve been talking with my coworkers about them over the last months and seeking input from other people who are particularly concerned about them. I’ll continue to do that.

But I think there are also real costs to pushing groups to go forward with events they don’t want to hold. I’m still thinking through how I see the tradeoffs between these costs and the costs above, but here’s one I think is relevant:

It makes it more costly to be an organizer. In one discussion amongst group organizers after the Munich situation, one organizer wrote about the Peter Singer talk their group hosted. [I’m waiting to see if I can give a fuller quote, but their summary was about how the Q&A session got conflicted enough that the group was known as “the group that invited Peter Singer” for two years and basically overpowered any other impression students had of what the EA group was about.]

“It seemed like the talk itself went pretty well, but during the Q&A section a few people basically took over the discussion and only asked question about all the previous things he has said about disabled people (and possibly some other things). The Q&A is basically all people remembered from the event. I think it did a lot of reputation damage to our group, which took 2 years to get over (by which point many attendees of the talk graduated). Before that, people basically didn't know what EA was and after it was "the group that invited Peter Singer". "

Hosting Singer and other speakers who have said controversial things has been good for many EA groups. But I also think it’s okay for individual organizers to decide they’re not up for hosting an event that carries some risk of seriously throwing their group off the rails. Being at the center of a controversy, especially for student organizers constantly living in the same environment where the talk is held, can bear a heavy personal cost as well. (Of course, knowing that people will back down if you make it costly enough for them to follow through is exactly what incentivizes you to make it costly.)

On the specifics: I was the main staff member who advised the Munich organizers, and I’d like to add more detail about how this all unfolded. There are a lot of quotes so I’ll italicize them.

The week before Hanson’s scheduled online talk about tort law reform for the Munich group, the organizers contacted CEA to say they were considering canceling the event after learning about some of Hanson’s past writing. From my first message to the Munich organizers:

"I don’t have a clear answer about whether to cancel the event. I could it being reasonable either way. . . . If the discussion goes into areas where you think people may be offended or upset, maybe have an organizer or two stay behind after to have continued discussion after the Q&A with Hanson is done. I looked at what I think is basically the same talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPdHXw05SvU Some parts will probably go over ok with an audience that’s used to thinking about alternate governance systems. But for example he suggests torture as a possible penalty, and as far as I saw from a cursory look through the slides, he doesn’t address objections to that. People seem to find his work very polarizing, so some people find it very refreshing because he says things almost no one else says, and other people hate it. So you may well get some indication from the Q&A about how people are feeling, and you may want to follow up with them if they seem upset."

After that, the Munich organizers discussed the situation internally, held a vote, and wrote to Hanson saying that they had decided to cancel the talk. Hanson tweeted about the cancellation, indicating he didn’t think they had adequately explained their decision.

I wrote to the Munich organizers:

"If you were going to respond, I'd send this both to Hanson and perhaps also reply on the Twitter, with points along these lines:

  • We weren't familiar with all of Hanson's work, but we saw (and still believe) that he has raised some interesting and valuable ideas. We booked him to give a talk about an idea for reforming the legal system. It was not a large event - around 17 people were RSVPd.
  • After booking the talk, we heard about some of his work that we weren't familiar with, specifically his posts on "gentle silent rape" and sex redistribution.
  • We discussed what to do, and found it a difficult decision. The strongest consideration in favor of continuing the event was that we did not want to further "cancel culture" or make it so that only uncontroversial ideas could be shared in EA spaces.
  • However, we're aware that many people, particularly women, have found Hanson's writing on rape and "redistribution" of sex to be offensive and disturbing.
  • We got in touch with CEA, who said they could see either decision about the event being reasonable. We discussed ways to mitigate negative effects if we went ahead with the event.
  • In the end, we decided that Hanson's previous work was not something we were comfortable tying to our group.
  • Instead, we scheduled a discussion about cancel culture, to give our group a chance to discuss how we could handled controversial ideas and speakers in the future.
  • For anyone eager to see the presentation Hanson would have given, we believe this video shares the material he was planning to present"

Using these suggestions, the Munich organizers drafted their statement explaining the situation and their decision, and a coworker and I made some minor suggestions afterwards.

Since they were volunteers writing what was probably their first public statement to be read by the wider internet on a tight timeframe, I do wish I had given them more feedback on the draft. I also wish I had focused my advice not just on the practicalities, but also on the tradeoffs discussed above. Specifically, I should have checked that organizers were tracking some of the things that Larks raises in the conclusion. I also agree that when CEA leaves the final decision to organizers, we aren’t off the hook — we aim to provide the best advice we can to organizers, and to learn from experience.

Comment by julia_wise on Evidence on correlation between making less than parents and welfare/happiness? · 2020-10-12T18:26:44.477Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

My personal experience is that my parents spent money on some stuff that didn't match my tastes. I spend less on some things than them (smaller living space, no car partly because I dislike driving) and more on other things (more expensive city).

I guess I think one major task of young adulthood is figuring out which of your formative influences will serve you well, and which you'd rather get rid of. He probably doesn't want to be identical to his parents, so this is just one more thing to re-evaluate.

Another question is if he plans to have children, what does he want them to be accustomed to? Is the plan for every generation to be at least as rich as his parents so no one will experience a spending cut?

Comment by julia_wise on Introducing LEEP: Lead Exposure Elimination Project · 2020-10-09T13:58:29.048Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I've been surprised that this topic hasn't gotten more attention in EA before, and I'm happy to see this work launch!

Comment by julia_wise on Deliberate Consumption of Emotional Content to Increase Altruistic Motivation · 2020-09-16T01:55:31.950Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

The novel "A Thousand Splendid Suns" was an example of this for me - depicting how people could have meaningful lives and happiness despite terrible circumstances, which I found really unintuitive beforehand. (I'm wary of generalizing from fictional evidence but it seems not totally crazy to treat this as a window on what other people can at least imagine experiencing.)

Comment by julia_wise on How have you become more (or less) engaged with EA in the last year? · 2020-09-10T13:31:23.153Z · score: 54 (23 votes) · EA · GW

An example I remember from a non-EA, mostly male meetup:

Man, striking up conversation with new woman attendee: "So, are you actually interested in [topic of the meetup] or did someone drag you here?" When I objected, he said, "It's just that most of the women who come here are dragged by someone else." That might have been true, but it sure wasn't what I'd want to hear as a new attendee.

It might be a mistake people are more likely to make if they think explicitly about Bayesianism. "I have some data on what people like you are like; let me tell you my prior." But one point of a meetup is to encounter people as individuals. If I understand Bayesian terms right, it's about gathering data to inform your posteriors - what is this specific person actually like?

In some cases it's not a bad idea to let your priors drive conversation - if I meet someone who's a biology student, I might guess they're interested in topic X. But in other cases it's just insulting.

Comment by julia_wise on Some extremely rough research on giving and happiness · 2020-09-09T16:59:16.247Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

At first I thought it at least indicates that people got as much satisfaction from donation as from whatever else they might have done with the money (since it's controlled for income but not income minus donations). But the median donation is $150 so not enough to make much difference in a yearly budget.

Comment by julia_wise on Some thoughts on the EA Munich // Robin Hanson incident · 2020-09-03T14:59:22.197Z · score: 14 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that you intended this - just wanted to be sure there wasn't a misunderstanding.

Comment by julia_wise on You have more than one goal, and that's fine · 2020-09-02T18:31:41.702Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW

The "real communities" I've been part of are mostly longer-established, intergenerational ones. I think starting a community with almost entirely 20-somethings is a hard place to start from. Of course most communities started like that, but not all of them make it to being intergenerational.

Comment by julia_wise on Are we underutilizing grassroots-style political advocacy? · 2020-09-01T14:47:13.431Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

We basically lost momentum, and the group member with professional lobbying experience moved away.

Comment by julia_wise on Some thoughts on the EA Munich // Robin Hanson incident · 2020-09-01T14:41:50.592Z · score: 35 (14 votes) · EA · GW

there was also one very explicit threat made to the organizers at EA Munich, at least if I remember correctly, of an organization removing their official affiliation with them if they were to host Hanson.

If I were reading this and didn't know the facts, I would assume the organization you're referring to might be CEA. I want to make clear that CEA didn't threaten EA Munich in any way. I was the one who advised them when they said they were thinking of canceling the event, and I told them I could see either decision being reasonable. CEA absolutely would not have penalized them for continuing with the event if that's how they had decided.

Comment by julia_wise on Are we underutilizing grassroots-style political advocacy? · 2020-08-31T21:39:27.878Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

The Boston group tried some of this in 2017: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/JSqQsu7ahCNgHhZt2/practical-political-action-on-global-health

Comment by julia_wise on You have more than one goal, and that's fine · 2020-08-31T19:49:55.586Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I feel that my folk dance community is a pretty solidly real one - people help each other move, etc. The duration is reassuring to me - the community has been in roughly its current form since the 1970s, so folk dancers my age are attending each other's weddings and baby showers but we eventually expect to attend each other's funerals. But I agree that a lot of community institutions aren't that solid.

Comment by julia_wise on Shifts in subjective well-being scales? · 2020-08-19T15:34:43.571Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

A friend of mine described this happening between high school and university - he felt his life was pretty good in high school, and in university he thought "oh wow, there are so many options out here in adult life, my life could be way better than I thought."

Comment by julia_wise on Shifts in subjective well-being scales? · 2020-08-19T13:59:35.592Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

A friend of mine described this happening between high school and university - he felt his life was pretty good in high school, and in university he thought "oh wow, there are so many options out here in adult life, my life could be way better than I thought."

Comment by julia_wise on Book Review: Deontology by Jeremy Bentham · 2020-08-12T18:40:47.910Z · score: 14 (11 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for making this such an enjoyable read!

Comment by julia_wise on Why I Give (Zoe Savitsky) · 2020-08-05T20:54:30.187Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This is one of my favorite EA pieces ever.

Comment by julia_wise on Should local EA groups support political causes? · 2020-07-30T17:40:32.436Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

True. I didn't realize it was popular that early, but I see it got going well before 1890.

Comment by julia_wise on Objections to Value-Alignment between Effective Altruists · 2020-07-30T15:47:12.468Z · score: 23 (10 votes) · EA · GW

My experience being named "Julia" in EA is that people periodically tell me how much they love my podcast, until they find out I'm not actually Julia Galef.

Comment by julia_wise on Should local EA groups support political causes? · 2020-07-24T20:08:48.478Z · score: 19 (8 votes) · EA · GW

One question I'd ask myself is how well this holds up over time. If EA had existed in other times, what might left-leaning student types have been supporting? My guesses in the US, based on what was popular with progressive types at the time:
- 1970s: opposing the Vietnam War (this one holds up fine)
- 1920s: supporting communism
- 1890s: supporting women's suffrage, and also eugenics?

Comment by julia_wise on Problem areas beyond 80,000 Hours' current priorities · 2020-06-24T15:00:39.023Z · score: 9 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I agree this is a broad and worthwhile area to think about. The community health team at CEA (Sky Mayhew, Nicole Ross, and I) do some work in this area, and I know of various staff at other orgs who also think about risks to EA and incorporate that thinking into their work. That’s not to say I think we have this completely covered or that no risk remains.

Comment by julia_wise on How to Fix Private Prisons and Immigration · 2020-06-16T20:29:21.431Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I'm very interested in this topic, but found the framing here difficult to follow. (I think in part, as Johann pointed out, because positive and negative impacts are combined into one graph.) As a person who hasn't spent much time reading about math and related fields, equations like "ΠBob=MBob−FundingBob−CrimesBob" don't make a lot of sense to me and require a bunch of scrolling around to remind myself what "ΠBob" is.

It might be easier to understand if a plainer-language summary were included under each equation.

Comment by julia_wise on Who should / is going to win 2020 FLI award 2020? · 2020-06-12T20:35:45.650Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Wow, that's astonishing. I imagine it's more complex than a single person single-handedly developing each vaccine, but still.

Comment by julia_wise on Preventing pandemics by not hunting and farming animals · 2020-05-01T14:27:59.419Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I would expect the low-hanging fruit to be things like closing certain types of operations or outlawing certain practices, not ending animal consumption entirely.

This industry wouldn't just vanish costlessly - it would have to be replaced with something else, in terms of livelihoods for people who currently work in that sector, economic reality for low-income people who raise and hunt animals, and food culture. For example, I'm from Virginia where tobacco used to be a major crop and still is to some degree (despite the frowns of public health experts). When the government decided to start discouraging tobacco use, those tobacco farmers had to be transitioned to another livelihood. For example, in 2004 the federal government offered $10 billion in buyouts to encourage tobacco farmers to switch to another crop.

The study you point to on the "nutrition transition in South Korea" includes in its summary "Major dietary changes included a large increase in the consumption of animal food products and a fall in total cereal intake." Providing lessons to people in preparing traditional plant-based foods doesn't mean that's what people will actually do en masse. 

Comment by julia_wise on Preventing pandemics by not hunting and farming animals · 2020-04-30T15:13:39.222Z · score: 15 (9 votes) · EA · GW

I haven't looked into this much, but my impression is that mainstream public health experts are worried about overuse of antibiotics in factory farming, and maybe about specific settings like wet markets, but that calls for stopping meat consumption in general are coming from the animal advocacy side more than the public health side. I'd be interested in whether mainstream public health people think reduction in animal consumption is a tractable thing to push for. My guess is that this looks much more worthwhile to work in if you factor in animal welfare, but on public health grounds doesn't seem to be all that tractable compared to other ways to reduce pandemic risk?

From a sociological perspective, a transition to "not hunting and farming animals" would mean big shifts in economics, food culture, etc. Even if governments decided they wanted to do this, it's a much harder step to take than a lot of other steps they could take toward reducing pandemic risk. When you look at the efforts to reduce poaching of certain species it hasn't been easy or fully successful, and moving to preventing all animal consumption would be many times harder.

Comment by julia_wise on Matt_Lerner's Shortform · 2020-04-22T13:46:41.165Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

What does PR stand for?

Comment by julia_wise on Finding equilibrium in a difficult time · 2020-04-06T22:10:48.536Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

An update after about a month at home - I think I was overly optimistic about some of this! I've definitely spent less time than planned watching concerts and more time working out how to procure ice cream. If meditation and such is working for you, great! But no shame if you're like the rest of us and not exactly living up to your lockdown ideals. 

Comment by julia_wise on What fraction of posts submitted on the Effective Altruism Facebook group gets accepted by the admins? · 2020-04-03T16:26:28.129Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

(I'm one of the moderators of that group.) I don't think we've tracked the exact numbers, but I estimate that we approve about half of posts. Some others we refer to other groups for specific topics - for example we're referring most coronavirus posts to the coronavirus group right now. We reject some posts that aren't relevant enough or that don't meet the bar for what we think readers will find useful or interesting, which we recognize isn't a firm category. 

Because we have two moderators vote on each post, it can take us a few days to process a post - sorry for the delay.

Comment by julia_wise on US Non-Profit? Get Free* Money From the Gov on 3 Apr! · 2020-04-02T14:40:43.983Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I think there's a difference between "are you affected by economic uncertainty" - which probably applies to all nonprofits right now - and "are you about to lay off staff or not be able to pay them." The fact that loan forgiveness goes to organizations that have not laid anyone off within 8 weeks implies to me that it's intended for organizations that would otherwise lay off staff or be unable to pay them within that timeframe, and I think most EA orgs have more than 8 weeks of runway.

The updated version of the post is clearer, though!

Comment by julia_wise on Finding equilibrium in a difficult time · 2020-03-27T22:06:52.992Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I mean, credit goes to Lewis, and to Harry Peto for linking to it in another EA discussion group!

Comment by julia_wise on Advice for getting the most out of one-on-ones · 2020-03-21T16:04:05.561Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · EA · GW

The EA Global organizers have been emphasizing to more experienced participants (like staff at EA organizations) that this is their chance to do some mentorship and help newer people with their projects and careers. I'd hope that most experienced EAs at a conference are there with that mindset. I'm grateful to the people who gave me advice and pointed me to resources when I was starting out, and I'm happy to have such meetings with other EAs if I can be useful to them. 

Personally, what I like to see in a meeting invite is a specific topic or several topics the person wants to talk about, rather than a vague interest in talking in general. Even if it's sensitive enough that they don't spell out exactly what they want to talk about, I want to know that they do have something specific in mind.

Comment by julia_wise on COVID-19 brief for friends and family · 2020-03-07T02:06:20.347Z · score: 42 (16 votes) · EA · GW

I second the "wash your hands and stay home if you're sick" message, but not the "this is other people's problem" vibe. The population most at risk, older and immunocompromised people, does include some EAs, and definitely includes friends and family of EAs. If the situation swamps the capacity of hospitals, then it will be a problem for anyone who needs a hospital. If schools and daycares close, then it will be a problem for children and anyone with children. If borders close, it's a problem for anyone who needs to go somewhere. If workplaces close, it's a problem for people who need to work in person and won't get paid.

I agree that some forms of reaction aren't helpful, but the epidemic is in fact a problem that affects an awful lot of people. It's worth figuring out not just if we can reduce harm to ourselves but also if we can protect others we might infect, and if we can prevent the spread of an illness that will incapacitate a lot of systems we all depend on.

Comment by julia_wise on Shoot Your Shot · 2020-02-18T17:34:02.238Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I try to keep this list of EA syllabi up to date. Please do check out the materials from other classes, and let me know if you have a reading list or similar you'd like me to add!

Comment by julia_wise on How do you feel about the main EA facebook group? · 2020-02-13T22:06:27.825Z · score: 18 (10 votes) · EA · GW

The Facebook group has nearly 18,000 members, most of whom are new to EA. If you remember it being different in 2015, it was. But it also had a third as many people.
 

Comment by julia_wise on Who should give sperm/eggs? · 2020-02-12T21:19:07.862Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I think discussion of this typically doesn't acknowledge that it's actually not an option for most people. Your age, test scores, weight, height, attractiveness, ethnicity, and personal and family medical and mental health history all have to be what the agency wants. Most people I know who've considered this option have not made it past the screening. Even if you're donating for a friend or family member, their clinic may not approve you e.g. if you've experienced mental health problems.

Comment by julia_wise on Snails used for human consumption: The case of meat and slime · 2020-02-07T21:24:42.673Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks!

Comment by julia_wise on Snails used for human consumption: The case of meat and slime · 2020-02-07T01:44:13.443Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Maybe this has been addressed somewhere and I missed it, but is there research on how snails might experience pain? It seems like there's particular doubt about whether bivalves experience sensation. How close are snails to bivalves in that way?

Comment by julia_wise on More info on EA Global admissions · 2020-01-08T17:58:21.692Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, we do take attendees' travel costs into consideration. This is part of why we went back to having multiple EA Global conferences after trying out having only one in 2016, and why we have continued to have EAGx events, so that more people have something near them. We recognize that reduced travel costs would be one benefit to having more events.

Comment by julia_wise on Quote from Strangers Drowning · 2019-12-23T21:44:20.431Z · score: 16 (9 votes) · EA · GW

I was thinking about something related a while ago. I think most people find utilitarian thought experiments about things like kidneys kind of horrifying. But the draft - the idea that young men's freedom and lives can be claimed by the government for the sake of the nation's welfare - has been more or less accepted for millennia because it's how armies function. You could frame it as a utilitarian thought experiment: "Hey, what if the government randomly selected people to go do dangerous and traumatic work, where they might get killed, for the sake of their fellow citizens? It would be for the greater good." I'd guess most people would find this horrifying.

Comment by julia_wise on Which Community Building Projects Get Funded? · 2019-11-15T21:51:36.920Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I'm wondering if there's confusion around what's meant by "community building grants." I'm imagining that Alex means something like "If EA Macedonia wants funding, we're going to refer them to CEA's CBG program because they specialize in local and national groups. But if someone wants to do something like mental health resources for the community, the Meta Fund would still consider that our remit." Is that right?

Comment by julia_wise on EA Hotel Fundraiser 5: Out of runway! · 2019-11-08T21:52:48.012Z · score: 44 (16 votes) · EA · GW

After talking more with Greg, I realized I should clarify that I don't mean I think something went badly wrong at the Hotel.

As Nicole said above, CEA would be happy to help the Hotel with finding an excellent Project and Community Manager, and to consider helping to fund these roles if there's another source of general funding.

I have no objections to other donors supporting the Hotel. The default is that projects don't get EA Grants, and this situation should be seen as "the default happened" rather than "the Hotel did something unusually bad to disqualify itself from funding it would otherwise have gotten."

Comment by julia_wise on EA Hotel Fundraiser 5: Out of runway! · 2019-11-07T21:57:45.589Z · score: 46 (15 votes) · EA · GW

From my perspective, I repeatedly gave you information about a situation that I saw as a problem. How you decided to handle the problem as the manager of the project was up to you. We don't see it as a good idea for funders to make ultimatums about the staffing decisions of potential grantees. But as Nicole said, this was one of the things among many she considered when looking back at the history of the project.

Comment by julia_wise on EA Hotel Fundraiser 5: Out of runway! · 2019-11-07T21:30:25.070Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · EA · GW

The point I raised was not about the round of media stories from Sept 2018, but was about preparing for future media inquiries. So you're right that it's not about past media situations, but about how further situations might be handled.

Comment by julia_wise on EA Hotel Fundraiser 5: Out of runway! · 2019-11-07T21:07:08.111Z · score: 38 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Greg - from my perspective, CEA did discuss all of these points with you. For example, last week when you emailed and asked what the Hotel could have done better on media, I replied about something I saw as a mistake and what I thought should have been done differently. We’ve also discussed the staffing issue. I'm happy to discuss more by email or call if you'd like.

I understand we may view these situations differently and that you may disagree with CEA's recommendations for improvements. We might also have different views about how much explicit direction (versus just advice) it’s appropriate for us to give an external org. I don't think it's accurate, though, to indicate that we haven't provided feedback or suggestions.

Comment by julia_wise on Candy for Nets · 2019-10-15T18:18:56.326Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · EA · GW

One way we try to make it easier is by making it clear that the children can make personal choices about things like donation, diet, and eventually career. E.g. we have the full range from vegan to meat-eaters in our house, and when Lily decided she wanted to be vegetarian for a while we said "It's your choice."

I can imagine having conflict later about her wanting to use the money we donate differently (for spending on "extras" or for donating to something we don't think is effective). But I don't expect it to be worse than the conflict parents and children typically have about money.

Comment by julia_wise on Why did MyGiving need to be replaced? And why is the EffectiveAltruism.org replacement so bad? · 2019-10-10T17:43:43.929Z · score: 17 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry, I’ll try again.

  1. It’s true that we try to provide a default option for giving, because so many users seem to find that helpful. (See Michelle’s comment above on the surprising-to-us amount of use the Giving What We Can Trust got.) When we did charity research and recommendations, those recommended charities were also a suggested default. As a project with the mission of inspiring giving to the world’s most effective organizations, we do think it’s appropriate to provide a recommendation or default, with the knowledge that members have pledged to donate to wherever they believe will most effectively help others. (I acknowledge that those of us who pledged before the Giving What We Can became cause-neutral pledged with a different wording that was then specific to global poverty.) We understand and expect that members will make their own choices about where to donate.

  2. When I want to make a donation outside the EA Funds, I do so (for example at againstmalaria.com) and then report it on https://app.effectivealtruism.org/dashboard/pledge by clicking the “report a donation” button. This is the second of two buttons, and I agree that the “New EA Funds donation” button comes first and is more brightly colored, but I don’t think it’s any harder to select the “report a donation” button.

If I decide to donate using the EA Funds, I agree that the four funds are by far easier to donate to, and donating to other under organizations (under the “Choose Funds / Organizations” button as shown in the screenshot above) is more cumbersome. We want to provide this option for users who want to donate to multiple organizations in a single transaction, or who get a tax advantage by donating the Funds. But I agree that the setup of the EA Funds website is primarily designed around ease of donating to the four funds. If donating to individual organizations via the Funds is too cumbersome, I’d suggest donating to those organizations directly (as all members originally did).

As to the preset defaults on the sliders, I’m not sure of all the decisions that went into setting it up that way. My understanding of the intention is to demonstrate “You can move the sliders around and it will always add up to 100%” rather than trying to strongarm donors into donating in a way they don’t want to (although we did choose defaults that we thought would be broadly reflective of the values of the community). You’re right that currently allocations are not saved between subsequent donations, which seems like it would be an improvement to fix.

Again, we expect Giving What We Can members to make their donations based on their consciences and the basic parameters of the spirit of the Pledge. Thank you for explaining your view, but I think we might have a basic disagreement about whether it’s appropriate to suggest default options to members.

If you’d like to talk more, you can always schedule a call with me here: https://calendly.com/julia-d-wise

Comment by julia_wise on Why did MyGiving need to be replaced? And why is the EffectiveAltruism.org replacement so bad? · 2019-10-08T14:52:56.001Z · score: 43 (14 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Holly,

(posted as me but written as a collaboration between me, Michelle Hutchinson, and CEA's tech team)

I talked to Michelle (who ran Giving What We Can at the time the old system was put together) and she writes: “The old one was built linking to a CRM [i.e. a database of users] which was pretty difficult to use and which we chose at the time for being free and on a platform well-known to our then tech-lead, who long since moved on. It was built by a volunteer, who continued to help maintain it. He did a stellar job, but that’s not sustainable long-term: particularly because it contains such sensitive financial information and so keeping its various pieces up to date in order to prevent security breaches is incredibly important. It also didn't link in to any of the other systems - the main Giving What We Can website, the new CRM or EA Funds.”

In 2017 the old My Giving platform needed to be replaced because the old system was at the end of its life, and we didn’t have the in-house technical expertise to maintain it safely (e.g apply security patches) or extend its functionality (e.g. automate donation reporting through the Giving What We Can Trust, or its successor, EA Funds). As we were actively working on the EA Funds platform (for which we had in-house expertise, and runs on a significantly more up-to-date and maintainable tech stack), and because both EA Funds and Giving What We Can are about donating effectively, it made sense to roll them into the same system. The aim was to overcome some of the limitations of the old system, while striving for feature parity with it. Unfortunately, we didn’t allocate enough time to the project, and competing priorities meant that the final parts of the migration (along with more extensive user testing) didn’t happen when they should have.

Some functionality is decreased compared to the old version.

  • In order to add or edit recurring donations, you currently need to email us and we can make any changes you request to your recurring donations. In the old system, users were able to do this themselves. This is something we’re currently working towards fixing.
  • Only people who have made a Giving What We Can pledge (either the full Pledge or Try Giving) can use the system, while the old system could be used by anyone.
  • There are no longer graphs breaking down giving into categories, or estimating the real-world impact of donations (e.g. number of bednets distributed from donations to AMF). This is largely because members give to a much wider range of organizations than they previously did, and we’re not able to keep up-to-date with estimates of the impact of each organization (especially now that Giving What We Can doesn’t have an in-house research team).

Some functionality is added in the new version.

  • Donations from EA Funds automatically port in instead of needing to be recorded manually.
  • You can now view your pledge progress both by “overall pledge progress” (your lifetime pledge) and by income period (typically the financial year for which you reported income). This means you can see the total amount you’ve given, and also see that amount broken down over time.
  • You can set income periods to be anything you want (i.e. you don’t just have to report for calendar years).
    • For example, imagine you were a student from January to May, and then employed from June to December. You could enter those as separate income periods, making it easier to see what your pledge would be for each different income situation. The platform will even make sure that you’re only pledging 1% during times that you’re a student or unemployed.
  • You can record donations made in different currencies, and we’ll convert them to the currency your income was reported in. You can also now choose to show your overall pledge progress in any currency you’ve used to report income.

As to why improvements haven’t happened faster, our (usually) two-person tech team has been balancing a number of projects over the last few years:

  • Rebuilding and improving the Giving What We Can donation dashboard
  • Developing and maintaining the EA Funds
  • Developing and maintaining the new EA Forum
  • Developing and maintaining the donation lottery
  • Technical side of EA Global applications
  • Adding ability to donate cryptocurrency
  • Maintenance of givingwhatwecan.org, centreforeffectivealtruism.org, eaglobal.org, and effectivealtruism.org

I think it’s likely that CEA as an org has underinvested in tech capacity for various reasons, and I apologize for the slowness of improvements to the donation platform.

Comment by julia_wise on Why did MyGiving need to be replaced? And why is the EffectiveAltruism.org replacement so bad? · 2019-10-08T14:34:41.554Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, this kind of specific feedback on features you'd like is more helpful than vaguer comments about it being "so bad."

Comment by julia_wise on Why did MyGiving need to be replaced? And why is the EffectiveAltruism.org replacement so bad? · 2019-10-08T14:28:31.933Z · score: 34 (11 votes) · EA · GW

[Edited: I missed some corrections that Michelle made to my paragraph about the history of the Giving What We Can Trust. Corrected now.]

I spoke with Michelle Hutchinson (former executive director of Giving What We Can) about this. She writes, “When we first set up the GWWC Trust, we assumed it wouldn't get much use (we set it up on an account designed for an annual turnover of £10k pa), and within a year it was getting up to £1mn. It turned out many GWWC members actually valued a low cost way of giving (in terms of decisions and of how easy it was to give) a bunch more than we expected. Making EA funds easy to use and prominent seems responding to that need.”

The Giving What We Can Trust was a separate legal entity to CEA and was legally restricted to only being able to direct funds within global poverty (since the Charities Commission prefers charities to have narrow focus areas and it wasn’t expected to get extremely wide take up). Given that it did seem to be widely used, and many members wanted to be able to donate to charities other than those tackling global poverty (particularly those joining after 2014 when the pledge became explicitly cause neutral) it became clear that it would be better to have a broader tool than the Giving What We Can Trust. EA Funds provides such a platform. I’d note that while CEA is the operator of EA Funds and does have final sign-off on grants for legal reasons, grant recommendations are made by each Fund’s respective management team, who are independent of CEA.

As to the breakdown of suggested donations, the default split I see on the EA Funds site is:

The default split is intended to provide an example that roughly reflects the donation patterns of both Giving What We Can members and the many other EAs who use the EA Funds. Of course users can adjust the sliders however they wish. You’re correct that the default does not reset based on users’ past donations.

Compare this split to the 2018 EA Survey analysis of EA's responses to "this cause should be the top priority."

If anything, the ways the EA Fund options are unrepresentative of users’ preferences are

  1. in not having a fund for climate change, and
  2. in under-promoting the Long-Term Future Fund and EA Meta Fund compared to how many EAs believe those areas should be the top priority.