Posts

Could the crowdfunder to prosecute Boris Johnson be a high impact donation opportunity? 2019-06-05T23:43:10.114Z · score: -3 (11 votes)
Please use art to convey EA! 2019-05-25T10:46:08.885Z · score: 22 (18 votes)
Why you should NOT support Aubrey de Grey's work on ageing. (maybe) 2019-02-24T23:43:29.690Z · score: 6 (9 votes)
Why we have over-rated Cool Earth 2018-11-26T02:29:41.731Z · score: 59 (36 votes)
Nudging donors towards high-impact charities (a request for funding for SoGive) 2018-01-13T10:06:16.605Z · score: 6 (8 votes)
Medical research: cancer is hugely overfunded; here's what to choose instead 2017-08-05T15:41:06.692Z · score: 8 (10 votes)

Comments

Comment by sanjay on Ask Me Anything! · 2019-08-14T19:07:08.876Z · score: 11 (20 votes) · EA · GW

Do you worry that your involvement in utilitarianism.net could exacerbate the existing confusion and lead people to think that EA and utilitarianism are the same thing?

Comment by sanjay on Ask Me Anything! · 2019-08-14T19:05:37.096Z · score: 33 (29 votes) · EA · GW

A significant amount of your effort and the focus of the EA movement as a whole is on longtermism. Can you steelman arguments for why this might be a bad idea?

Comment by sanjay on Age-Weighted Voting · 2019-08-14T05:57:59.125Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the nudge Aaron. I'm still working on it. Have had a bit more higher-quality data added in, so incorporating that. I'll add it to the EA Forum when I get round to it.

Comment by sanjay on Age-Weighted Voting · 2019-07-15T22:20:37.624Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'm also very excited about this idea. The format of the ultimate judgement (i.e. the retrospective evaluation) seems important. A straightforward survey of the population suffers from the problem that teasing out an answer about the quality of a policy is hard, and most people won't have put the time or effort in (even assuming they don't have a hidden agenda, as John_Maxwell_IV highlights). But a survey of experts has its own problems too.

That said, I suspect these issues are surmountable, and would be keen to see this idea turn into action.

Comment by sanjay on Age-Weighted Voting · 2019-07-15T07:03:50.382Z · score: 44 (13 votes) · EA · GW

David Moss and I recently conducted a study with about 500 participants looking at the extent to which people place moral weight on the far future.

The study found that older people give much less moral weight to the future.

The study included the following questions:

  • Is it better to save (A) 1 person now or (B) 1/2/1,000/1,000,000 people 500 years from now? (This is 4 different questions, one after the other, with differing numbers of people stated in option (B))
  • How far do you disagree or agree (on a 7-point scale) that:
  • “Future generations of people, who have not been born yet, are equal in moral importance to people who are already alive”
  • “We should morally prioritise helping people who are in need now, relative to those who have yet to be born”
Comment by sanjay on Crowdfunding for Effective Climate Policy · 2019-07-10T21:41:00.840Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Your point about advanced economies having already moved energy intensive industries abroad was really interesting. I hadn't thought about that. I wonder whether regulation that covers imports in advanced economies could be way to tackle that?

Comment by sanjay on Crowdfunding for Effective Climate Policy · 2019-07-01T13:09:01.064Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

If regulators don't think about the unintended consequences, then yes, I agree we risk unintended consequences. But surely the solution is to do regulation well?

With proper consultation with industry, regulation could induce innovation as Khorton suggested. With proper thought, it could set the right incentives and not encourage outcomes that are only marginally help. Indeed part of the point of lobbying should be to help governments see where they might go wrong and help them to get it right.

Re your comment:

"However, the basic economic fact remains that if you have two countries, one with regulation, one with less tight regulation, then, all else being equal, there is the potential for carbon leakage and that's why many people worry about economic competitiveness. "

A large company cannot move to a different jurisdiction at the drop of a hat. If the regulation is done well, with proper consultation, firms would rather work towards a regulation with a proper lead time than move countries.

Comment by sanjay on Crowdfunding for Effective Climate Policy · 2019-06-23T23:49:34.540Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks very much for your replies.

Re research on climate change. Let's assume that we're at a stage where we'll shortly be seeing diminishing marginal returns on this sort of research (as you claim) and that a small amount of extra research might be more valuable than a small amount of extra research of clean energy. Might that not (maybe) be a better thing to campaign for? E.g. if $1bn of climate change research outperforms $10bn of clean energy research (obviously these are made-up numbers) then campaigning for $1bn of extra government spend might be easier than campaigning for $1obn of extra spend.

Re regulation. I worry that your arguments are defeating a strawman of "campaigning for better regulation". Regulation which pushes industry to move to another country is just poor execution -- it's an outcome which neither government nor industry nor climate activists want. If done well, regulation should stimulate *the private sector* to perform research (e.g. clean energy research) in order to attain the regulatory targets. E.g. the regulation might look like: "industry must attain certain standards of climate footprint/cleanliness by (say) 2035", where the timelines/standards have been negotiated with industry and are at the ambitious end of what is attainable.

Comment by sanjay on Crowdfunding for Effective Climate Policy · 2019-06-01T17:57:14.770Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Great work Hauke! Love to see this sort of project supported with this sort of analysis! Some questions:


(1) Better understanding the relative rankings I would be interested to know: For "Research on climate change", you say in your spreadsheet that neglectedness is only 2 because "Much research funding already in this area and returns are probably diminishing" Do we know how much? (or any other reason for thinking that returns are diminishing here but not in the clean energy arena?) For Regulation, why is importance smaller than it is for research on clean energy? (or research on climate change, for that matter?) For Regulation, why is tractability scored lower than governments funding research when regulation costs (roughly) no money? For Regulation, when I read section 8 of your document, I wasn't sure how to interpret some of your comments. You pointed out ways that current approaches to regulation are sub-optimal. Does that mean you think there's an opportunity to campaign for regulations to be done differently? It seemed to me like a write-up that was very positive about regulation.

(2) Can clean energy R&D actually benefit from more funding?

You said in your piece:

"According to recent analyses, public energy R&D can productively absorb large amounts of additional funding and should increase 5-fold to be socially optimal."

The source for that says that the fivefold increase is based on "simple calculations". I've copied and pasted that below (see PS), but it seems that this is based on raw economics. In other words, it assumes (if I understand correctly) equal tractability in each of the research areas. If so, it begs the question, to my mind.

I think resolving this for me could be done quite simply. It would be sufficient to have someone who is an expert researcher say something like: "Yes, if there were billions more dollars thrown into this field that would be great because we have loads of leads to follow and I could list out a load of them off the top of my head if you wanted me to"  and not "To be honest, if we had loads more resource thrown at this, we would be scraping the barrel for useful things to research"

Alternatively, in your section on research on climate change, you say

"Funding more research on such topics might be even be more cost-effective than clean energy R&D funding. However, the overall funding gap is likely much lower (perhaps in the hundreds of millions) than for clean energy R&D (which is in the tens of billions) and so diminishing returns will set in earlier" -- Perhaps expanding on the rationale for this claim might (perhaps) be sufficient to satisfy my question mark on this.

(3) A couple of other questions

I also had a look at this 2016 paper from Nature energy which you linked to: https://www.nature.com/articles/nenergy201620

That
paper raised a couple of concerns which I don't think were covered in your piece (sorry if they were there and I didn't spot it)
- the discussion section suggests that the constraints for funding are likely to come from there being an adequate pool of scientist and engineering personnel available. 
- it also raises the possibility of government funding crowding out private sector funding

PS Source of the 5-fold increase estimate:

http://jacquelynpless.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Pless-et-al.-Inducing-and-Accelerating-Clean-Energy-Innovation-with-%E2%80%98Mission-Innovation%E2%80%99-and-Evidence-Based-Policy-Design.pdf


"Our own calculations based on 2016 net generation and average electricity price data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicate that these findings imply that U.S. government clean energy R&D spending should be about $5.2 billion, comprising $3.8 billion on wind/other R&D subsidies and $1.4 billion on solar R&D subsidies. By comparison, others have estimated that actual U.S. 5 government spending on renewable energy R&D in 2016 was only $1.0 billion (FSUNEP, 2017). If these numbers are correct, government support should increase by roughly five times current levels. This increase perhaps should occur gradually in order to avoid high adjustment costs, however recent evidence suggests that adjustment costs may not be a pressing concern considering current levels of public energy R&D support (Popp, 2016)."

Comment by sanjay on Please use art to convey EA! · 2019-05-30T10:55:28.635Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Aaron, I have removed the written out text of the table. Expanding them was useful, thank you for doing that.

Forum owners may be interested to know that I had assumed that clicking the corner of the image and dragging to expand would be possible, but after many many attempts I gave up.

Comment by sanjay on Does climate change deserve more attention within EA? · 2019-05-27T22:48:57.690Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

In your piece you said "John Halstead <...> argues that more emissions and warming might create destabilisation and nuclear war, but it's hard to see exactly how."

In case it helps, this Economist article may add some more colour on this: https://www.economist.com/international/2019/05/25/how-climate-change-can-fuel-wars

Comment by sanjay on Why did three GiveWell board members resign in April 2019? · 2019-05-22T20:59:28.694Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

You may also be interested to see the thread about this on the EA facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/2209495562440122/

Comment by sanjay on Non-Profit Insurance Agency · 2019-05-16T18:40:24.045Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for thinking about how you can use your insurance background to make the world a better place, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I have c 15ish years’ experience in the insurance arena, having worked as an insurance actuary, financial (ratings) analyst specialising in insurance, and a strategy consultant for the insurance space. I’ve also been on the board of several (>5) charities in the UK and consulted for ~10 more charities globally.

I’ll give some opinions about

  • What can you do to maximise impact through your work
  • Long-term business prospects for an insurance brokerage firm
  • How should you position your firm to maximise success
  • About structuring as a non-profit

First comment – you didn’t state your location, but I’m assuming you’re in the US.

What can you do to maximise impact through your work

  • You mentioned helping seniors navigate medicare. This is no doubt a good outcome, however I expect that focusing on wealth management and encouraging clients to donate more is likely to be higher impact, taking into account replaceability. As a quick calc, assume you have $10million of assets under administration (not an aggressive target for an established adviser); if you can get 1% of that to be donated per annum that otherwise wouldn’t have been, that could easily outperform your donations (unless you’re particularly profitable/frugal)
  • Note that financial advisers are currently short on tools to help them make more effective donations. My organisation SoGive is working on this in the UK, and Agora was doing this in the US (although I think they no longer are)

Long-term business prospects for insurance brokerage firms

  • Financial advisers in the UK and several other European countries is have often (until a few years ago) had a fairly low-stress, moderately high-income life. Which suggests that you might be onto something.
  • Some argue that this is because insurance providers paid them loads of commission, and this was only possible because commission is not transparent
  • Several European regulators, led by the UK, introduced new rules which banned commission (UK Retail Distribution Review 2012), introduced penal new training requirements, and broadly made a financial adviser’s business more regulation-heavy and painful. I don’t know how likely this is to happen in the US, but American regulators will certainly be aware of it.
  • The insurance intermediary sector is also at risk from disintermediation (especially if the commission payments are made more transparent) Having said that, your comment about a well-run online platform suggests that maybe you may be interested in actually *being* one of the disruptors, in which case you would stand to benefit from this risk. If you are going down this route, I don’t anticipate that it will be the easy life that some brokers have had.

How should you position your firm to maximise success

  • For a vanilla financial advice service, I am sceptical about the value of advertising the non-profit nature of your business. It risks creating confusion about the positioning of your service
  • However, if you provided financial advice covering ethical investments, structuring your business as some kind of non-profit may have some brand value. Even then I’m doubtful.
  • Note that “some sort of non-profit” includes options which are much cheaper/easier than a full-blown 501(c)(3), see below for more
  • Offering ethical investment advice could also (maybe) make sense from an impact perspective; if you advertise yourself as offering ethical investment advice, you could, as part of the advice, explain why donating is likely to outperform (i.e. because of counterfactuals).
  • If you are focusing on providing investment advice, I would encourage you to position yourself as a “holistic” adviser or “financial planner”, or failing that, at least a “tax specialist”; I would encourage you away from “investment specialist”. (Let me know if you would like me to expand on this point; also not sure if these terms transfer well across the Atlantic)

About structuring as a non-profit

  • As mentioned by other commenters, it’s unlikely for you to want to structure your organisation as a 501(c)(3) – lots of cost/effort and little upside. If your donations are going to tax-exempt (501(c)(3)) organisations, there’s no real tax benefit from you doing this
  • I haven’t checked if other commenters have covered this, but other options include a straightforward ltd company with adjustments to the constitution to stipulate that the profits must be donated, or maybe even just a non-legally-binding pledge. (I know this is possible in the UK, I imagine it’s possible in the US too). You could also be a B Corp. In the UK there is also the option to be a Community Interest Company (or CIC) – I don’t know of any similar option in the US (B Corp might be the closest thing you have to this)

Lastly, if you’re open to more wacky ideas, I’m more positive about micro-insurance than earning to give in the US. Your personal circumstances may not allow for this, but a few years working as a broker in the US, saving (not donating much) and then a few years selling insurance to the very poor (or trying to!) is likely to enable you to have more impact than this plan, assuming you have flexible skills and are able to learn lots of new skills quickly. (note: I can’t promise that everyone will agree with me on this) This attempt may fail, however it would likely teach you about what is needed to make insurance sales work better for the bottom billion, which may then make you better placed to work in micro-insurance sales for a micro-finance institution or become an entrepreneur.

Finally I’ll mention that I only check the forum occasionally, so apologies if I forget to look back soon and therefore provide slow responses to any more questions on this.

Comment by sanjay on Is preventing child abuse a plausible Cause X? · 2019-05-08T10:14:19.289Z · score: 15 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I have been on the board of one charity which focused on child sexual abuse, and another which tackled sexual abuse (not specific to children). I'll share some thoughts based on child sexual abuse (CSA) because that's the area I'm familiar with (even though I appreciate that the question is broader).

The TL;DR is that the area has caused a large scale of suffering; it's hard to tackle, but I'm optimistic that there might be tractable options out there.

  • Prevalence: I've heard people mention CSA prevalence rates that are disturbingly high (e.g. %age rates in the teens or twenties or even higher). I found this surprising. There seems to be some evidence to support this (e.g. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518746/ ) however this is not a universally held view (e.g. Radford (L) et al 2011 give a figure of 5%, although even "only" 5% is horrible).
  • How bad is it per person: Through some of my other volunteering I have encountered many people whose lives have been made dramatically worse because of their CSA, with sequelae including dramatically lowered self-esteem, deliberate self-harm, suicidal ideation/intent and major depressive disorder. In short, there can be grave life-long consequences. However that's just the people I've encountered; how often do people survive relatively unscathed? (I know such people exist)
  • Tractability: Some factors will make it difficult to tackle this topic, including the fact that over 90% of sexually abused children were abused by someone they knew (again from Radford (L) et al 2011); this introduces complex family/social dynamics. Furthermore, it's hard to identify those at elevated risk of perpetrating CSA. Past behaviour is hard to use a predictor because it's disturbingly easy to perpetrate CSA and get away with it. Also, anywhere from one-fifth to two-thirds of sexual abuse is committed by other children and young people (source: Hackett, S (2014)). Educating potential victims (i.e. everyone) may be more fruitful, but I haven't looked into this.
  • Neglectedness: The ratio of (annual spend on issue by larger charities) / (number of sufferers of issue) seems to be middling for child abuse (not specific to CSA); i.e. probably higher spend (i.e. less neglected) than international aid but less spend (more neglected) than more popular causes such as homelessness and veterans. Note that this is a very rough-and-ready calc

Happy to support/ be involved if anyone wants to look into this further

Comment by sanjay on $100 Prize to Best Argument Against Donating to the EA Hotel · 2019-04-04T17:39:35.047Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I think this concern becomes much less of an issue if the EA Hotel didn't have "EA" in its name

Comment by sanjay on Review of Education Interventions and Charities in Sub-Saharan Africa · 2019-03-10T22:14:46.139Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I spotted this sentence: "GiveWell (2018) for instance does not assign any intrinsic value to education itself, nor to improved attendance or test scores." Do you have a source for this? (As far as I'm aware, I don't think they have ever said that.)

Comment by sanjay on Impact Prizes as an alternative to Certificates of Impact · 2019-02-25T00:04:50.704Z · score: -1 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I think this idea is similar to alice.si (see https://alice.si/ or for more detail https://github.com/alice-si/whitepaper/blob/master/Alice%20white%20paper%20-%20FV%200.9.pdf)

I know the founder of alice.si (not very well, but we've met up a couple of times).

(Note that alice is on the blockchain and I'm not convinced there's much benefit apart from the fact that some people don't trust charities and the blockchain might help with that)

Also, I haven't read this very carefully, so apologies if the two ideas are not as similar as I think

Comment by sanjay on Why you should NOT support Aubrey de Grey's work on ageing. (maybe) · 2019-02-24T23:48:57.198Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I accidentally made this a linkpost for Aubrey de Grey's TED talk. I then tried to undo this, but it didn't seem to work.

Comment by sanjay on Three Biases That Made Me Believe in AI Risk · 2019-02-17T08:52:30.142Z · score: 18 (8 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 https://www.kindergifts.co.uk/, 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.

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: "Lets-Fund.org: 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: "Lets-Fund.org: 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 http://sogive.org 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: 3 (3 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. http://effective-altruism.com/ea/1t9/ea_grants_applications_are_now_open/fq9

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: http://goodnewsshared.com/ 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: 10 (6 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)

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.

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: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/ea-has-a-lying-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