Comment by sanjay on Three Biases That Made Me Believe in AI Risk · 2019-02-17T08:52:30.142Z · score: 14 (5 votes) · EA · GW

For clarity, I upvoted ofer's post, and I did it to indicate that I too would like to read about these arguments. (I suspect that all the other people who upvoted it did this for the same reason). PS this is a great post, thank you Beth!

Comment by sanjay on Will companies meet their animal welfare commitments? · 2019-02-03T22:32:40.860Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Great post! Saulius, do you think that campaigners in the relevant animal charities are aware of this piece?

Comment by sanjay on Cause profile: mental health · 2019-01-06T19:05:30.423Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Great to see this! I'm very sympathetic to the value of mental health as a cause area, so wonderful to see this written up, thank you.

One suggestion (it may be too late for this write-up, but may be useful for future reference): other cause write-ups (e.g. by 80k or FP) have given numerical scores to each of Impact, Neglectedness, and Tractability, and I think this would have been good to see here too.

Doing this for MH and other causes would have better conveyed the nuances in your thinking. For example, you make the case for mental health being neglected, but presumably you think that other things (e.g. x-risk?) are more neglected. And you make the case for mental health being tractable, but presumably you think that other things (sending cash to the poor?) are more tractable. A table of scores would have helped you sound balanced, while still supporting your overall conclusion.

Comment by sanjay on Impact investing is only a good idea in specific circumstances · 2018-12-24T16:18:59.503Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Great to have something written down on this -- thanks very much guys!

I too have worried about some of the issues highlighted here and ended up not doing any impact investing for this reason. However a benefit of impact investing is that you get the money back and can invest it a new venture (or donate it) later. So to accept your conclusion that impact investing is (usually) less good than donating, you would have to believe that the problems with impact investing (e.g. crowdedness) are bigger than the benefit of getting your money back. I actually suspect that they are (so I'm in agreement with you) but I don't think I saw this comparison done in the report. (Although admittedly I read it fairly quickly, so sorry if it's in there and I didn't spot it)

Comment by sanjay on If You’re Young, Don’t Give To Charity · 2018-12-24T15:56:56.689Z · score: 11 (10 votes) · EA · GW

The article implores us, instead of donating large amounts, to "make yourself a better, smarter, friendlier, and more capable person. Buy books. Take classes. Get a better job. Move to a better city. Throw parties. Get a gym membership. Go out dancing. Travel places you haven’t been. Build things you haven’t built. Start a business. Learn a craft."

But lots of these things don't actually require money, and those which do require money don't require much money, so we can still have plenty left to donate. So I find the piece unconvincing.

Comment by sanjay on EA gifts for kids? · 2018-12-07T00:29:28.097Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I met with the founder of, which enables to celebrate (e.g.) birthdays in a kinder way, e.g. involving charitable giving. I tried to encourage her towards a more EA approach to charitable giving from a young age, but she was keen for the children to support something local so that they could go and see the impact the of their donation. So it's not very EA, but otherwise is meeting the encouraging children to think philanthropically.

Comment by sanjay on Why we have over-rated Cool Earth · 2018-11-30T22:32:05.724Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Aaron, I think we agree that the contraception section is not the strongest part of the post. On your specific point though, I don't think it's actually so bad to use the $9.4bn divided by 74 million.

You suspect that $9.4bn is calculated by looking at data from a much smaller sample and performing a simple extrapolation. So do I. But that's actually exactly what we want -- this advice is intended for people donating thousands, not billions. (This point is what I was trying to get at with my note about more-expensive "last-mile" contraceptive needs).

Also remember I'm aiming for a rough estimate.

Comment by sanjay on Why we have over-rated Cool Earth · 2018-11-30T22:01:11.551Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Publishing the correspondence would be tricky because lots of it happened over phone calls. However it may be possible to get them to respond to this post, and then you can see their point of view from the horse's mouth.

Comment by sanjay on Why we have over-rated Cool Earth · 2018-11-27T23:21:15.472Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Commenters appear to be not unanimous about whether "We all knew that the Cool Earth recommendation was low-confidence." I don't have a dispositive answer on this, but my impression (based on anecdotes/conversations with EAs) is that many people consider the Cool Earth conclusion definitive.

Comment by sanjay on Why we have over-rated Cool Earth · 2018-11-27T23:14:29.408Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Larks and Taymon. Your comments about the section on contraception is probably fair.

Why we have over-rated Cool Earth

2018-11-26T02:29:41.731Z · score: 57 (34 votes)
Comment by sanjay on Even non-theists should act as if theism is true · 2018-11-10T11:03:59.824Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

" It is difficult to see how unguided evolution would give humans like Tina epistemic access to normative reasons. "

Not sure if I'm misunderstanding something, but couldn't unguided evolution give us general all-purpose reasoning, and then that could be used to give Tina epistemic access to at least enough rationale to guide her actions?

Comment by sanjay on Relieving extreme physical pain in humans – an opportunity for effective funding · 2018-11-07T19:11:48.027Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks again for this, very interesting. I've tried looking at some Cochrane Collaboration reviews of this, and I'm getting the impression that (a) opioids do not always achieve "night-and-day" dramatic improvement in welfare (b) while addiction is rare, various other negative side-effects are common

This review on long term treatment of non-cancer pain agreed that addiction was rare, but found that "Many participants discontinued due to adverse effects (oral: 22.9%; transdermal: 12.1%; intrathecal: 8.9%, etc "

It also said that "Findings regarding quality of life and functional status were inconclusive". While the reason given for this is lack of evidence, it seems that if material numbers of participants are discontinuing, it can't be the case that almost all of them are having life-changing improvements in quality of life.

Another Cochrane Collaboration review found a 78% chance of (some) adverse side-effects, and a 7.5% chance of a serious adverse side-effect.

Just wanted to check whether I've understood this correctly?

Comment by sanjay on Announcing: " High-Impact Crowdfunding campaigns" & "Let's Fund #1: A (small) scientific Revolution" · 2018-11-01T21:56:50.857Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I think this is a valuable project -- I imagine there must be plenty of donors looking for exciting projects like this, and having the level of detail that is found on the lets-fund site is great. Some more questions about the project:

-- how will go about finding high-impact projects (I think you mentioned to me that you have some in mind already, but do you have a method for generating a sustainable flow of projects or is there a risk that you might run out soon?) -- how will it be funded?

Comment by sanjay on Announcing: " High-Impact Crowdfunding campaigns" & "Let's Fund #1: A (small) scientific Revolution" · 2018-11-01T21:54:07.249Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

My project is gathering a charity dataset focused on key indicators of cost-effectiveness.

Comment by sanjay on Announcing the EA Angel Group - Seeking EAs with the Time and Money to Evaluate and Fund Early-Stage Grants · 2018-10-20T09:56:24.846Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for engaging with this itty. I agree that option (2) would be onerous for EA grants.

However I don't see how option (1) makes things worse? They could simply publish the grant applications without endorsement or indeed any comment beyond the fact that those projects didn't make the cut.

If they don't do this, funders like me are simply left to find funding opportunities on their own.

Comment by sanjay on Open Thread #42 · 2018-10-18T23:39:23.873Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Could unsuccessful EA grants applications be made public?

Could CEA ask unsuccessful applicants for EA grants whether they would be willing for those applications to be made public? If they agree, it would mean that funders have the ability to access potentially exciting new funding opportunities.

(It would be even better if CEA could also give some indication of their opinion on the quality of the application, to help us find out whether the application was good, but they just didn't have enough money to fund it, or whether they thought it wasn't worth funding. However I suspect they might not have enough resource for that, so I don't want to be too demanding.

Comment by sanjay on Announcing the EA Angel Group - Seeking EAs with the Time and Money to Evaluate and Fund Early-Stage Grants · 2018-10-18T23:35:26.492Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Great idea -- this is very much the way I want to use my philanthropy!

To support this, I asked in the EA forum post about EA grants whether unsuccessful applications to EA grants could be made public (with the applicant's permission, of course) so that others could look into those funding opportunities.

It seems this has had no reply

Comment by sanjay on Open Thread #42 · 2018-10-18T23:30:10.183Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Would you like to see an write-up on a failed digital marketing campaign to create high-impact donors?

This was work conducted by my organisation SoGive which aims to support donors towards high-impact charitable giving.

If enough people express an interest, I may write this up.

Edit: sorry, should have said this earlier, but it would be useful if interested people could clarify whether they are saying: "I would like this to exist, but I can't definitely commit to reading what's written" or whether they are saying: "I would like this to exist, and I commit to actually reading the post, and demonstrating that I have read it by other commenting on the post or mentioning it to Sanjay in a direct message"

Apologies to Peter H and Milan who gave their responses before I made this edit

Comment by sanjay on Good news that matters · 2018-10-13T17:27:12.272Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

There's a website which focuses on good news: It was set up by the cousin of a friend of mine. I can't promise that they have quantified how much the good news matters though, so it might not necessarily appeal to EAs as it currently stands, but there may scope for someone to contribute to it.

Comment by sanjay on EA Grants applications are now open · 2018-10-13T17:12:06.522Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Will you ask applicants whether they are willing for their application to be published (or shared in some way)? That way if CEA can't fund something that's promising, other funders may be able to fund it.

Comment by sanjay on Relieving extreme physical pain in humans – an opportunity for effective funding · 2018-10-13T16:36:10.286Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Really interesting piece, thank you. Could you please expand on the claim that fears about morphine dependence and misuse are unwarranted?

Comment by Sanjay on [deleted post] 2018-03-21T12:49:11.922Z

Really? "doing as much good as possible" is confusing people? I tend to use that language, and I haven't noticed people getting confused (maybe I haven't been observant enough!)

Comment by sanjay on Nudging donors towards high-impact charities (a request for funding for SoGive) · 2018-01-14T09:04:09.170Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, that's right! SoGive also makes it easier for users to find high-impact charities by leveraging a mixture of our own analysis (based on our unique database) and analysis done by others such as GiveWell (mostly the latter at the moment)

Nudging donors towards high-impact charities (a request for funding for SoGive)

2018-01-13T10:06:16.605Z · score: 6 (8 votes)
Comment by sanjay on Against neglectedness · 2017-11-02T02:05:29.078Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Excellent to see some challenge to this framework! I was particularly pleased to see this line: "in the ‘major arguments against working on it’ section they present info like ‘the US government spends about $8 billion per year on direct climate change efforts’ as a negative in itself." I've often thought that 80k communicates about this oddly -- after all, for all we know, maybe there's room for $10 billion to be spent on climate change before returns start diminishing.

However, having looked through this, I'm not sure I've been convinced to update much against neglectedness. After all, if you clarify that the % changes in the formula are really meant to be elasticities (which you allude to in the footnotes, and which I agree isn't clear in the 80k article), then surely lots of the problems actually go away? (i.e. thinking about diminishing marginal returns is important and valid, but that's also consistent with the elasticity view of neglectedness, isn't it?)

Why I still think I'm in favour of including neglectedness: because it matters for counterfactual impact. I.e. with a crowded area (e.g. climate change), it's more likely that if you had never gone into that area, someone else would have come along and achieved the same outcomes as you (or found out the same results as you). And this likelihood drops if the area is neglected.

So a claim that might usefully update my views looks something like this hypothetical dialogue:

  • Climate change has lots of people working on it (bad)

  • However there are sub-sectors of climate change work that are high impact and neglected (good)

  • But because lots of other people work on climate change, if you hadn't done your awesome high-impact neglected climate change thing, someone else probably would have since there are so many people working in something adjacent (bad)

  • But [some argument that I haven't thought of!]

Comment by sanjay on Open Thread #38 · 2017-08-24T22:10:49.904Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I contacted the authors with some questions a few months back because their website included some apparently interesting info, but with inadequate explanation of how they had defined things, and it looked like the numbers didn't stack up (but I couldn't be sure because things weren't defined clearly enough)

They didn't reply.

Comment by sanjay on High Time For Drug Policy Reform. Part 1/4: Introduction and Cause Summary · 2017-08-22T22:50:34.237Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Some useful contacts in case you're interested (I could probably get you an intro if you like)

Comment by sanjay on High Time For Drug Policy Reform. Part 1/4: Introduction and Cause Summary · 2017-08-22T22:48:56.534Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I have some background in the drugs space (in fact you'll see my face in the Channel 4 documentary about drug decriminalisation that was made about 7 years ago!)

The question I've never seen answered is this:

  • Alcohol is legal, and it gets used a lot. If other drugs were legal, might they also get used more, meaning that if even if the quality of the drugs were better and the support available were better, the number of people addicted may go up. If we believe that addiction is really bad (I do!) this is a worry. (Sorry if you've answered this, I haven't read everything fully)
Comment by sanjay on Medical research: cancer is hugely overfunded; here's what to choose instead · 2017-08-09T12:07:30.310Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Agreed. I think that medical research is probably a pretty decent choice for the reasons you give, but that cancer is likely to be the worst choice within the medical research space.

Medical research: cancer is hugely overfunded; here's what to choose instead

2017-08-05T15:41:06.692Z · score: 8 (10 votes)
Comment by sanjay on The marketing gap and a plea for moral inclusivity · 2017-07-10T16:29:01.755Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This post may add grist to the mill that any such gap is a problem:

(The post doesn't quite cover the same issues that Michael talks about here, but there's a parallel)

Comment by Sanjay on [deleted post] 2017-07-10T16:13:49.088Z

Thanks for this post, I used to work for a strategy consultancy that specialised in this sort of area, so I'm quite interested in this.

You state your value-add comes from (a) reducing fees to zero (b) tax-efficiency (e.g. donations of appreciated securities) (c) higher-performing investment strategies

I'm interested to know whether Antigravity investments is really needed when EAs have the option of using the existing investment advice that's out there. In particular:

-- (a) you also ask if people are willing to fund you. Does this mean that an alternative model for you would be to charge your clients and then allow your funders to donate to high-impact charities? If so, doesn't that mean that the zero-cost element of your model isn't actually a big advantage after all? (not meaning to be critical, I just don't know enough about your funding model)

-- (b) is it fair to say that donations of appreciated securities is a well-known phenomenon in tax-efficient donating, and anyone getting any kind of half-decent advice would get this anyway?

-- (c) (I understand you provide no guarantees) How many years of past performance do you have? Would you agree that in general, if a fund manager of any non-passive sort (smart beta or outright active) has a strong first few years, it's much more likely to be luck than an underlying advantage?

Sorry if the questions sounds sceptical, I'm conscious that I don't understand all the details about how you work.

Comment by sanjay on The Philanthropist’s Paradox · 2017-07-02T16:07:18.595Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Have just looked through the comments, and I think Ben Todd's post may be expressing a similar idea to mine

Comment by sanjay on The Philanthropist’s Paradox · 2017-07-02T16:05:45.030Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

If I understood your post correctly, this resolves the paradox:

  • if you invest the money, you get a return (say of r1%)
  • if you donate, this is also an investment, which may get a return of (say) r2%

So the give now / give later problem is more or less about estimating which is better out of r1 and r2.

I think of donating as also being an investment because money donated now may (or may not) have an immediate effect, but there should also be knock-on positive impacts trickling on into the future. I.e.

  • an investment is make-payment-now-and-get-a-series-of-(uncertain)-future-cash-flows
  • a philanthropic "investment" is make-payment-now-and-get-a-series-of-(uncertain)-future-hedon-flows

If this doesn't resolve paradox, it may be that I have misunderstood the post

Comment by sanjay on Introducing CEA's Guiding Principles · 2017-03-11T12:27:23.545Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Will this be publicly available on the internet? eg on

Comment by sanjay on The Moral Obligation to Organize · 2017-02-16T23:55:54.304Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

There's plenty in this post that I agree with, in particular "Political organizing is a highly accessible way for many EAs to have a potentially high impact". I also appreciate that many EAs would like to use their spare time effectively, and this may provide a potential avenue for that.

However I question whether "moral obligation" is really right here. When Toby Ord wrote about the Moral Imperative towards cost-effectiveness, he was arguing for actions which I think were almost certain to be right (i.e. almost certain to make the world a better place) - hence the moral imperative.

However there are lots of ways that lobbying or other political actions could have unforeseen consequences, and could lead to net negative outcomes.

Comment by sanjay on Introducing the EA Funds · 2017-02-11T10:06:15.499Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I think this will probably be useful to many EAs.

That said, I'm aware something like this has been tried elsewhere and considered unsuccessful (sorry for not mentioning where, I'm not sure whether I was told this in confidence or not, but if you message me privately I can tell you more - it was not an EA context)

The reason appears to be that donors want to have a sense of ownership of the success that they have made happen, whereas putting money into a fund makes the donor's impact even more indirect.

(This is also the reason why I personally would be unlikely to use this facility, despite the fact that I also find it hard, difficult work to find optimal giving opportunities)

This may work if EAs are less glory-seeking donors than non-EAs (and me, for that matter!) I suspect that this is probably the case.

Comment by sanjay on Rational Politics Project · 2017-01-12T16:17:49.119Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

People who are interested in better political systems and policy-making may also be interested in this post:

Comment by sanjay on How Should I Spend My Time? · 2017-01-11T10:57:19.961Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

In Defense of Multiprojecting: "I find that I often have separate energies and that I can be refreshed from switching tasks and draw from time that otherwise would not have been used productively." I think this is a valid point that more people could benefit from considering

Comment by sanjay on Semi-regular Open Thread #35 · 2017-01-03T15:22:40.500Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

I think it's useful to have a place to post for those who don't have enough karma for a full post. As for "things that are awesome, but not awesome enough to be full posts", isn't the EA facebook group to be a suitable place for this?

Comment by sanjay on Are You Sure You Want To Donate To The Against Malaria Foundation? · 2016-12-18T12:50:44.300Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · EA · GW

My belief that AMF is a good donation opportunity are based on the belief that a malaria-free world is qualitatively better than one with malaria. It is based on beliefs such as the following (no one of which I probably have hugely rigorous proof for, but I broadly believe to be reasonable beliefs)

  • Deaths, especially of children, cause some sadness

  • Where parents have lots of children, there is less capacity to invest in any of them, so those children tend to be less likely to have a basic level of education

  • To the extent that malaria contributes to adult death, it (somewhat) leads to a society with a surfeit of young men, who are especially prone to be under-educated relative to their potential (see previous point) – this leads to a higher probability of violence and war.

  • To the extent that malaria contributes to adult death, it stops people from fulfilling long-term life plans to build things of value for society (e.g. companies, civil society)

  • (Linked to the previous point) Malaria slows economic growth, and economic growth is probably a good thing for the poorest societies

  • I would be worried about an argument against AMF’s work if I thought it would lead to explosive population growth that was too fast for infrastructure development to keep up – to a certain extent I think there is an element of valid worry here, but there is at least a partial self-regulating element (albeit with a lag) – this is what David Roodman’s post told us (or which we might have guessed by reading, e.g., work by Jeffrey Sachs)

I have reviewed GiveWell’s past CEA analyses with interest, but always imagined that measures like lives saved or QALYs were simply a simplification/proxy to get at the things we really care about – namely the sorts of things I’ve listed above. If my perspective on this is a minority view, this would come as a genuine surprise to me.

Unless I’ve misunderstood, the arguments that Michael has presented shouldn’t update my propensity to donate to AMF. More than happy to be educated if I’ve misunderstood

Comment by sanjay on Contra the Giving What We Can pledge · 2016-12-17T01:11:06.961Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

This post was prompted by some pretty strongly held opinions on a facebook thread. AlyssaVance has posted something here in language I can understand (thank you Alyssa). I would love to see those strongly held opinions from the facebook post shared here

Comment by sanjay on All causes are EA causes · 2016-10-13T12:18:34.635Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks IanDavidMoss, I (unlike many other commenters here) also support the existence of what you call domain-specific EA.

If this "domain-specific EA" involves supporting existing charities to do good better, I would NOT be in favour of the EA community doing this. Not because it's a bad thing, but because there are already people doing this (here's 3 examples off the top of my head:,,

If "domain-specific EA" involves providing guidance on which charities to donate to in a specific field, I agree that there is a gap in the market for this. I wouldn't call it EA, but I think it would be valuable if it were possible. I even tried to do it - and now I'm doubtful about whether it is feasible. I promise I will write up on thoughts on this and share it here before long.

Comment by sanjay on The world is ready for a charity app! (New idea inside, please critique and comment) · 2016-09-27T16:25:48.981Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Andy, would be great to get in touch with you about what you have in mind - there may be scope for collaboration with SoGive too.

Comment by sanjay on The world is ready for a charity app! (New idea inside, please critique and comment) · 2016-09-27T16:23:09.862Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Great to hear from you Mikkel, this is indeed very similar to my project SoGive (as David Nash has already mentioned)

SoGive is a UK-oriented charitable giving app which will enable tracking of donations and allow donors to see the impact of their donations - so very similar to what you've described. A few comments from me:


  • I agree with much of your view that there is a need here
  • I am possibly more bullish than you are about the value of integration with social media - people are influenced by social norms, so I think there is potential here if it's done right. For example, "nudging" donors to publish their donations could lead to positive feelings of pride, and allowing people to follow the donations of celebrities could be exciting features (if properly handled, of course)
  • I found getting buy-in from charities to be mostly easy


  • I question whether it makes sense to consider this an app for EAs (not sure if that's what you have in mind) - EAs currently constitute a tiny market, and I personally wouldn't build a project on the assumption that the EA movement will become mainstream
  • If you make this app more mainstream, then it will need to cover lots of charities - this is an important challenge. My (incomplete) research suggests that the UK is a better jurisdiction than most for access to charity data (but still not as good as I would like!) I haven't considered Denmark
  • I agree with your points about heterogeneities between countries
  • You suggest that funding might not be that big a problem. I have not found this to be the case

More than happy to discuss further - I have just tried to connect with you (or someone with the same name as you!) on facebook. There is much I could say to expand on these points, so if you would like to discuss further, let me know.