Posts

What would you do if you had half a million dollars? 2021-07-17T16:18:41.471Z
New Free Stuff on Skillshare.im 2015-04-01T05:18:40.212Z
EARadio: A New Podcast for Effective Altruists 2014-11-22T18:16:27.337Z

Comments

Comment by Patrick on What would you do if you had half a million dollars? · 2021-07-18T04:04:36.576Z · EA · GW

Re patient philanthropy funds: Spending money on research rather than giving money to a fund does seem more focused and efficient. I think there are limits to how much progress you can make with research (assuming that research hasn't ruled the idea out), so it does make sense to try creating such a fund at some point. Some issues would become apparent with even a toy fund (one with a minimal amount of capital produced as an exercise). A real fund that has millions of dollars would be a better test of the idea, but whether contributing to such a fund is a good use of money is less clear to me now.

Comment by Patrick on What would you do if you had half a million dollars? · 2021-07-18T03:03:52.045Z · EA · GW

In general, it kind of seems like the "point" of the lottery is to do something other than allocate to a capital allocator. The lottery is "meant" to minimise work on selecting a charity to give to, but if you're happy to give that work to another allocator I feel like it makes less sense?

When I entered the lottery, I hadn't given much thought to what I'd do if I won—I was convinced by the argument that giving to the lottery dominated giving to the LTFF (for example), since if I won the lottery I could just decide to give the money to the LTFF. I think you're right that it makes less sense to enter the donor lottery if you think you'll end up giving the money to a regranting organization, but I think it still makes some sense.

Lottery again! You could sponsor CEA to do a $1m lottery. If you thought it was worth it for $500k, surely it would be worth it for $1m!

Someone else suggested that to me a while ago, but I'm not sure how much it would change things—if I don't have interesting ideas about what to do with $500k, I probably wouldn't have interesting ideas about what to do with $1m. There would also be some overhead to setting up another lottery.

Be quite experimental, give largish grants to multiple young organisations, see how they do, and then direct your ordinary giving toward them in the future. This money can buy access to more organisations, and setup relationships for your future giving.

Thanks for suggesting that—it seems like an idea worth considering for at least a portion of the money.

Comment by Patrick on EARadio - more EA podcasts! · 2021-06-14T14:46:42.151Z · EA · GW

Thanks! Yes, they do.

Comment by Patrick on EARadio - more EA podcasts! · 2021-06-11T01:30:04.753Z · EA · GW

velutvulpes, could you update the RSS link to point to https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/1755269.rss? I'm working on migrating to a new podcast host (Buzzsprout). The old feed currently redirects there, but my understanding is that it will stop redirecting after I complete the migration.

Comment by Patrick on Semi-regular Open Thread #35 · 2021-06-11T01:24:58.629Z · EA · GW

This isn't your first EA podcast. This is not so much because the content is difficult, but because it has relatively low production value (it's just EA conference talks in podcast format). The 80,000 Hours Podcast, Hear This Idea, and The FLI Podcast are more entertaining and polished while still being similarly informative, and I'd recommend listening to those first.

Comment by Patrick on A case against strong longtermism · 2020-12-21T04:37:29.908Z · EA · GW

I will primarily focus on The case for strong longtermism, listed as “draft status” on both Greaves and MacAskill’s personal websites as of November 23rd, 2020. It has generated quite a lot of conversation within the effective altruism (EA) community despite its status, including multiple podcast episodes on 80000 hours podcast (one, two, three), a dedicated a multi-million dollar fund listed on the EA website, numerous blog posts, and an active forum discussion.

"The Case for Strong Longtermism" is subtitled "GPI Working Paper No. 7-2019," which leads me to believe that it was originally published in 2019. Many of the things you listed (two of the podcast episodes, the fund, and several of the blog and forum posts) are from before 2019. My impression is that the paper (which I haven't read) is more a formalization and extension of various existing ideas than a totally new direction for effective alturism.

The word "longtermism" is new, which may contribute to the impression that the ideas it describes are too. This is true in some cases, but many people involved with effective altruism have long been concerned about the very long run.

Comment by Patrick on What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others? · 2020-11-29T17:44:33.005Z · EA · GW

On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?

—Thomas Babington Macaulay

The good of any one individual is of no more importance, from the point of view (if I may so say) of the Universe, than the good of any other; unless, that is, there are special grounds for believing that more good is likely to be realized in the one case than in the other.

—Henry Sidgwick

Pain is always new to the sufferer, but loses its originality for those around him.

—Alphonse Daudet

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

—Albert Einstein

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

—John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Comment by Patrick on [deleted post] 2020-11-29T17:35:32.343Z

On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us? —Thomas Babington Macaulay

The good of any one individual is of no more importance, from the point of view (if I may so say) of the Universe, than the good of any other; unless, that is, there are special grounds for believing that more good is likely to be realized in the one case than in the other. —Henry Sidgwick

Pain is always new to the sufferer, but loses its originality for those around him. —Alphonse Daudet

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind. —Albert Einstein

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. —John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Comment by Patrick on Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books? · 2020-06-20T17:17:08.782Z · EA · GW

In addition to lowering the cost for readers, buying the rights to a book could allow certain improvements to be made.

The paperback version of Reasons and Persons is poorly typeset (the text is small and cramped) and unevenly printed (some parts are too light; others too dark). The form factor is close to that of a mass market paperback (short, narrow, and fat). The cover photo is bleak and blurry. These factors combine to make the book seem dated and unappealing.

On What Matters, a book with the same author and publisher, is a beautiful volume, and an example of what's possible if someone puts some effort into the process and uses modern technologies.

Living High and Letting Die influenced me more than any other book. Unfortunately, it seems not to have been edited. Here's a passage from the first page:

Now, you can write that address on an envelope well prepared for mailing. And, in it, you can place a $100 check made out to the U.S. Committee for UNICEF along with a note that's easy to write.

I count two odd-sounding filler phrases ("well prepared for mailing" and "that's easy to write"), one clearly superfluous comma (following "And" in the second sentence), and a bizarre choice to italicize the name of an organization. The whole book reads like it was dictated but not read. Another problem is that it gives unrealistically low estimates of the cost of saving a life.

Changing the text of a book might not always be feasible (you'd need the author's buy-in, and many authors wouldn't want to spend time helping to re-edit an old book), but it's something worth exploring.

Comment by Patrick on What are good options for giving later? · 2019-12-29T22:19:19.795Z · EA · GW

I've looked a bit at DAFs but the fees look quite high and I wonder if I could assemble something better myself.

By "quite high," do you mean 0.6% per annum in addition to the mutual-fund expense ratio? That's the fee charged by Vanguard, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab on the first $500k. To me, the benefits a DAF offers seem worth the price:

  • immediate tax-deductibility
  • untaxed dividends and interest
  • ease of granting (you don't have to coordinate with the recipient to transfer appreciated assets)
  • pre-commitment (the money must go to a 501(c)(3) charity)

For people looking to invest millions of dollars, 0.6% would seem excessive. But larger accounts have lower fees. Here the fees for Vanguard's "Select" accounts:

| First $500K | 0.60% |
| Next $500K  | 0.30% |
| Next $29M   | 0.13% |
| Next $70M   | 0.05% |

So a $100m account would cost $77,200 in DAF fees, plus the mutual-fund fee. That seems like a steal to me (although high-rollers might prefer something with more-flexible investment options).

The main reason I can think of not to use a DAF is that you think that there's a high chance you'll want to do something with the money other than donate it to a 501(c)(3).

Comment by Patrick on The case for taking AI seriously as a threat to humanity · 2019-12-22T21:55:34.391Z · EA · GW

If you haven't read the article (as I hadn't, since I came by a direct link to this comment), you should know that there's exactly one sentence about algorithmic racial discrimination in the entire article. I was surprised that a single sentence (and one rather tangential to the article) generated this much discussion.

Whatever you think about the claim, it doesn't seem like a sufficient reason not to recommend the article as an introduction to the subject.

Comment by Patrick on Credit Cards for EA Giving · 2019-12-01T19:59:39.649Z · EA · GW

For people spending larger amounts, Citi Double Cash or Alliant Cashback Visa Signature are probably the best options. The Double Cash card has no annual fee and gives 2% back (assuming you pay off your credit-card bill in full). The Alliant card gives 3% cash back and waives the annual fee the first year, and gives 2.5% cash back and charges $99 in subsequent years. So you'd need to spend at least $20k per year for the Alliant card to be a better option in the long run.

Even with 2.5% cash back, it would be a better deal to send a check to the charity if the amount is large (say $10k+), the fees aren't waived, and there's no donation match that requires paying online.

Here's a good summary of the best cash-back credit cards, including most of the ones mentioned in the post.

Comment by Patrick on Funding chains in the x-risk/AI safety ecosystem · 2019-09-15T02:32:11.350Z · EA · GW

I have to say I found this all very funny.

Comment by Patrick on How urgent are extreme climate change risks? · 2019-09-08T02:54:31.717Z · EA · GW

The Future of Life Institute Podcast has some episodes on the risks of climate change. The most relevant one is The Climate Crisis as an Existential Threat. There's also an ongoing series about global warming called Not Cool that has some episodes not yet listed on the FLI Web site.

Comment by Patrick on What new EA project or org would you like to see created in the next 3 years? · 2019-06-30T05:52:28.912Z · EA · GW

A few years ago I lent a total of about $3k to two EAs.

The larger loan was to someone vouched for by a respected member of the community and was to help cover educational expenses. The person wasn't able to find a job, and I didn't get any money back. The smaller loan was not for educational expenses and went to someone not vouched for, and got I got about a third back.

Lending money to students may be a good idea. The standards of hits-based giving may be more relevant than the standards of finance, and a high default rate may be tolerable. I just want people to know that they may not get their money back.

Comment by Patrick on Open Thread #44 · 2019-03-10T21:04:26.828Z · EA · GW

The talks from EA Global 2018 in San Francisco have been available on YouTube for a few months. They're now also available in podcast format at EARadio . (The podcast is an aggregation of publicly available talks relevant to EA. It isn't affiliated with the CEA.) The EA Global London talks will be released over the next couple of weeks.

Subscription links:

Comment by Patrick on How to improve EA Funds · 2018-04-06T03:53:28.641Z · EA · GW

I also admit that it isn't "free" to invest the money in bond, in that there's operational overhead involved, but with such a large amount of money held it seems worthwhile.

You said that the funds currently hold $1.1 million and that US Treasury bonds yield 1.7% a year. That's $18,700 a year in foregone revenue. In 80,000 Hours' survey of EA organizations, a new hire was seen as worth something in the neighborhood of a million dollars in forgone donations a year. So it's not surprising to me that the donations are held in cash—I could easily see the overhead of investing exceeding the potential returns.

Similarly, it's not surprising that the funds are slow to be disbursed. If each fund manager's time is valued at millions or tens of millions of dollars a year, the discount rate on the donations held in a fund isn't an overwhelming consideration.

But that raises the question, why create the funds in the first place? Someone at CEA would be best qualified to answer that. But I don't expect a timely answer, as their communication style tends (in my experience and in that of others on this forum) toward reticence and delay. (I suspect this is due to their placing higher priority on other projects rather than due to a desire to keep information private.)

If I were to speculate, I'd say that the CEA sees the funds as an experiment, and that they'll be abandoned if they don't eventually significantly more in donations. But it seems likely that they'll invest some more effort before giving up.

Comment by Patrick on Kidney donation is a reasonable choice for effective altruists and more should consider it · 2018-01-15T03:05:59.187Z · EA · GW

Just a heads-up, many people aren't eligible to become kidney donors. Here are some common disqualifiers (at least in the US):

  • smoking
  • use of illegal drugs (including marijuana) within the past year or so
  • regular use of medicines that may cause kidney damage (this includes common drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen)
  • certain chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure

Criteria vary by transplant center, so if you're interested it's probably worth checking even if you match one of the things I listed. But don't get your hopes up too high.

Here are some of the criteria for one US transplant center.

Comment by Patrick on Semi-regular Open Thread #35 · 2016-12-31T01:36:38.406Z · EA · GW

The EARadio podcast is back on iTunes. (The podcast is an aggregation of publicly available talks relevant to EA, such as those from EA Global.)

It had been delisted for the better part of a year, but I failed to noticed because I don't use iTunes. (The most likely reason for its delisting is that it didn't specify whether it contained explicit language, which is now an Apple requirement.)

Subscription links:

Comment by Patrick on [deleted post] 2016-11-10T06:32:57.775Z

I wrote some code that had a bug. My understanding is that if you published an article, it would appear on the homepage, but if you clicked on the link, you'd get an error page (404 not found) instead of seeing the article. In addition, it wasn't clear that the article was being published, which resulted in some articles appearing multiple times.

I haven't yet had a chance to investigate the bug, but my changes were undone and the broken links deleted. Thanks to Peter Hurford, Ryan Carey, and Michael Webb for noticing and fixing the issue. And I'm sorry for introducing the bug.

Comment by Patrick on Dedicated Donors May Not Want to Sign the Giving What We Can Pledge · 2016-11-07T06:35:21.024Z · EA · GW

I agree, and I imagine you can adjust your pledge. If you pledged 50% as a doctor and later decided to change to a lower-paying non-profit career, I doubt whether Giving What We Can would blackball you for adjusting your pledge to 10%.

If the US government were to get rid of the charitable tax deduction or to sharply raise taxes, I couldn't meet my pledge. But I don't think that I'd be a worse person than I would've been had I correctly forecast changes in tax policy. I would simply update my pledge with Giving What We Can and get on with life.

Comment by Patrick on Dedicated Donors May Not Want to Sign the Giving What We Can Pledge · 2016-11-07T06:15:39.807Z · EA · GW

The Giving What We Can pledge doesn't make any mention of a time period (other than your working years) over which you must give the pledged percentage of your income:

For people earning a regular income, the Pledge commits you to giving at least 10% of your pre-tax income, until retirement, to the charities you believe will do the most good in the world.

If I were interpreting this as a legal contract, I would consider it fulfilled if someone donated nothing for their first forty working years and made it up by donating most of their salary in their last ten years. That would clearly go against the spirit of the pledge, but my point is that the pledge seems to allow for flexibility in when you give.

I don't think that you would have violated your pledge by giving less than your pledged percentage in a given year owing to a large one-time expense, so long as you make it up in subsequent years.

Comment by Patrick on Dedicated Donors May Not Want to Sign the Giving What We Can Pledge · 2016-11-07T05:43:06.510Z · EA · GW

Another potential problem with a maximum-consumption pledge is that it acts as an effective 100% marginal tax rate, and so may reduce self-interested motivation for doing things that will increase one's salary.

Comment by Patrick on Ideas for Future Effective Altruism Conferences: Open Thread · 2016-08-15T20:29:27.477Z · EA · GW

It was simpler in the old days, when Bakers were bakers and Farmers were farmers.

Comment by Patrick on Ideas for Future Effective Altruism Conferences: Open Thread · 2016-08-13T04:02:34.015Z · EA · GW

I felt that the group photo was a waste of my time because I wasn't visible to the camera. But if I hadn't participated I suppose someone else might've gotten my bad spot.

Comment by Patrick on What is up with carbon dioxide and cognition? An offer · 2016-05-05T20:36:48.303Z · EA · GW

Was the winner decided?

Comment by Patrick on 11 changes to the Effective Altruism Forum: EA Profiles integration and more · 2016-04-26T02:42:07.488Z · EA · GW

This looks like an old post. I think it was originally published several months ago.

EDIT: I thought it had been published because I saw a draft of it in August, and most of the changes mentioned aren't recent. For example, the article says

The sidebar's display for meetups near you and recent posts was improved. For example, now the meetup names are displayed, whereas previously users just saw the address of the meetup.

But meetups have since been removed. (There is now only a link to an external page.) I thought maybe the article had somehow been republished owing to a bug in the forum software. But now I think its publication was just delayed.

Comment by Patrick on The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread - 9 November 2015 Edition · 2015-11-12T02:45:27.480Z · EA · GW

The talks from EA Global are available in podcast format at EARadio (iTunes link). The YouTube videos seem to have disappeared, so this may be the easiest way to access the talks. Cheers!

Comment by Patrick on EARadio: A New Podcast for Effective Altruists · 2015-07-04T06:16:44.450Z · EA · GW

Sure, that would be very helpful. Boris did that for a couple of other files. I'll upload any cleaned-up audio sent my way. New audio is also welcome!

E-mail is probably the best way to get in touch: pbrinichlanglois@gmail.com

And sorry for the delayed reply! I didn't see your comment.

Comment by Patrick on EARadio: A New Podcast for Effective Altruists · 2015-04-01T04:43:54.416Z · EA · GW

80,000 Hours have only a few videos on their YouTube channel that're more than ten minutes long.

Is there anything you had in mind? I don't know of any other talks that are relevant and whose permissions would be easy to secure.

P.S. I just realized that the audio quality of Toby Ord's talk is very bad.

P.P.S. If anyone would like to take over this project, let me know.

Comment by Patrick on You have a set amount of "weirdness points". Spend them wisely. · 2014-11-28T19:41:38.327Z · EA · GW

But reforming the earned income tax credit and relaxing zoning laws would also both do a lot to help the poor in the US.

The link above didn't seem to have any proposals of how to reform the earned income tax credit. It argues for an alternative measure of poverty in the US.

Comment by Patrick on Effective Altruism Summit 2014 · 2014-04-15T22:50:00.000Z · EA · GW

Space limitations: http://lesswrong.com/lw/jxd/effective_altruism_summit_2014/apw3

This raises the question, Why not choose a larger space? Perhaps because of financial limitations.

Comment by Patrick on Effective Altruism Summit 2014 · 2014-04-04T20:31:00.000Z · EA · GW

Maybe they want an idea of how many people will attend. If people just needed to type in their names and e-mail addresses, it could be that a lot more people sign up than attend. Also, they might have space limitations, and so they might have to turn people away. Normally rationing of conference attendance is done by charging a fee for a limited number of slots. Maybe they wanted to base attendance on interest rather than willingness to spend.

But it would be nice to hear an official explanation.