Posts

The best places to donate for COVID-19 2020-03-20T10:47:26.308Z · score: 21 (20 votes)
Conflict and poverty (or should we tackle poverty in nuclear contexts more?) 2020-03-06T21:59:40.219Z · score: 13 (3 votes)
Microcredit may sometimes be effective, but perhaps shouldn’t be funded by donations 2020-02-19T15:30:25.623Z · score: 20 (10 votes)
Climate discounting: How do you value one tonne of CO2eq averted today versus (say) 30 years from now? 2020-02-12T16:41:21.092Z · score: 15 (5 votes)
Clean cookstoves may be competitive with GiveWell-recommended charities 2020-02-10T18:00:57.512Z · score: 30 (20 votes)
Update on CATF's plans for 2020 2019-12-24T09:21:45.875Z · score: 12 (6 votes)
Why we think the Founders Pledge report overrates CfRN 2019-11-04T17:54:13.171Z · score: 47 (22 votes)
Older people may place less moral value on the far future 2019-10-22T14:47:39.330Z · score: 27 (15 votes)
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: 24 (20 votes)
Why you should NOT support Aubrey de Grey's work on ageing. (maybe) 2019-02-24T23:43:29.690Z · score: 4 (11 votes)
Why we have over-rated Cool Earth 2018-11-26T02:29:41.731Z · score: 67 (38 votes)
Nudging donors towards high-impact charities (a request for funding for SoGive) 2018-01-13T10:06:16.605Z · score: 7 (9 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 What's the best platform/app/approach for fundraising for things that aren't registered nonprofits? · 2020-03-27T23:16:03.925Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

alexrjl is correct, SoGive can do this.

SoGive includes:

  • a "progress bar" of how much has been raised and what the target is
  • a section showing other people who have donated (and options to anonymise name or amount or both)
  • customisable sections for the person running the fundraiser, including ability to customise images and text

Here's an example: https://app.sogive.org/#fundraiser/sanjay.DRHEz44p.ccdce9

If you want minimal clicks from seeing the fundraiser to having donated, you could simply include one of these links and once you're on that page you have a donate button right there.

If this is of interest to you let me know on sanjay@sogive.org. Also, might be worth checking where you are based. This was originally designed for the UK, and then adapted for overseas (e.g. USA)

Comment by sanjay on What posts do you want someone to write? · 2020-03-24T09:58:46.262Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

This commented was pointed out to me by someone who thought I may be extremely well qualified to answer this.

I have been on the trustee boards of about half a dozen charities and performed short term consulting stints (about a month at a time) for another 10(ish) charities globally, and have seen how each of those engages with its donors.

I'm also know people people/organisations surveying charities about questions like how much more valuable is unrestricted than restricted funding.

I would be happy to put something together on this topic, however I'm snowed under with other things for the time being, but could add it to the list and tackle it later?

Comment by sanjay on synthetic indices used to rate all charities: What kind of star ratings exist? · 2020-03-21T21:45:05.964Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Roughly speaking, organisations that rate/assess charities fall into two categories:

Those that include thoughtful, impact-oriented, cost-effectiveness-aware analysis tend not to use a formulaic or index-based or scalable approach. Examples of this sort of organisation include GiveWell. I created this chart some time back, since then Founders Pledge could probably added to this category.

In the opposite corner is those organisations whose methodology is more formulaic/scalable.

At the time I created this chart, there was a gap for analysis that was scalable, but also impact-oriented and cost-effectiveness-aware.

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Since then I've set up SoGive to resolve this gap. You can have a look on https://app.sogive.org/ and search for charities or cause areas there. Some charities are assessed as Gold, Silver, or Bronze. We are still working through the charities, so not all of them have a rating. If you click through to a charity's page, you'll see a tab called analysis. Lots (but not all) major UK charities are covered her. In the US the closest organisation to SoGive (in terms of approach) is Impact Matters.

Comment by sanjay on The best places to donate for COVID-19 · 2020-03-21T12:59:09.770Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Sean_o_h. In case it's not coming across clearly in the write-up, some donation opportunities considered are directly relevant to COVID-19, and some are less directly relevant (e.g. they cover pandemics generally, which may be an appealing donation idea for those inspired to donate because of COVID-19).

An indication of whether the project is directly or indirectly relevant is given in the table in section '0. Exec Summary' (see the table with the purple header)

Comment by sanjay on The best places to donate for COVID-19 · 2020-03-20T15:58:54.667Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

"I must admit I am confused. I don't know why you are making recommendations for COVID-19 donations if you'd also prioritize the neglected needs of the developing world? "

This is to answer the question of where to donate if the donors *specifically* wants to donate to something COVID-19-relevant.

"I am skeptical that anything in Categories 1 and 2 are cost-competitive with existing EA work - and at the minimum this cost-effectiveness is still far from being established. "

Lots of the organisations in categories 1 and 2 would be considered to actually *be* existing EA work. The first-mentioned organisation (Johns Hopkins CHS) is recommended by Founders Pledge.

" What kind of criteria were you using to generate these recommendations? "

The criteria are: where the organisation falls into a category which is more positively viewed *and* which already has some analysis to support it.

"1.) If the response is likely not enough, wouldn't it be worthwhile to help? "

Yes, it would be worthwhile to help. The question isn't whether it would achieve something and not nothing. The contention is that the higher rated donation opportunities would outperform.

"2.) I also very much doubt there won't be an affect on Trump's re-election chances, but I don't think it is relevant. "

The reason why I consider it relevant is that it gives the Trump administration a stronger incentive to help those affected by the COVID-19 crisis. This means that the cause of helping those in the US is unlikely to be neglected, and substantially less neglected than supporting those in sub-Saharan Africa

Comment by sanjay on The best places to donate for COVID-19 · 2020-03-20T08:36:33.625Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

This appears to belong to Category 4: crowding out the work of government.

GiveDirectly counters that the government response will likely not be enough. That may well be correct, but it will probably be enough to ensure that it doesn't damage Trump's re-election chances.

If ever there's a time when focusing on the neglected needs of the developing world applied, it's now. I don't know to what extent African governments will be advocating social distancing, but it will be very hard to implement for people who don't have savings, and the risk that the current instability could spark inter-state conflict is much higher in the developing world than in the US.

Giving cash to people in the US would not be recommended.

Comment by sanjay on The best places to donate for COVID-19 · 2020-03-20T08:27:11.262Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I actually never looked at them until the COVID-19 situation, when I started to refer to them. So that does seem to support your suggestion

Comment by sanjay on Is nanotechnology (such as APM) important for EAs' to work on? · 2020-03-12T21:39:40.408Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I asked a related question on the EA facebook page a few months back. Here's the question I asked: https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/2592010687521939/

I copy below the question I asked, and the response which I thought was most useful. (I've tried to include the image, but if it didn't work, click through to the fb page)

MY QUESTION

The 80,000 hours article on extinction risk includes a table from an FHI survey in 2008 (scroll down for source) (edited to clarify not necessarily current views of 80k)
As molecular nanotech weapons top the list, this makes me wonder what is being done about this?
The only organisation that I'm aware of in this space is the Foresight Institute (https://foresight.org/) featuring Eric Drexler. I also found the Center for Responsible Nanotech http://www.crnano.org, but I couldn't tell if the website was out of date.
I'm interested in discussion along the lines of:
![]( https://i.imgur.com/swpETg7.jpg )

Notes:Here's the 80k article: https://80000hours.org/articles/extinction-risk/The ultimate source of the table is this survey: https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/reports/2008-1.pdfFurther reading:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_nanotechnology#Riskshttp://www.crnano.org/dangers.htmhttps://www.realclearscience.com/lists/top_methods_human_extinction/molecular_nanotech_weapons.htmlhttps://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/17/mini-nukes-and-inspect-bot-weapons-being-primed-for-future-warfare.html

A PARTICULARLY USEFUL ANSWER (from Howie Lempel):

[Disclaimer: I was working on GCRs at Open Phil when the below page was written but I did not write it and don't have any interesting inside information on Open Phil's views on the topic. The views below are my own only.]

Open Phil put out a (very) shallow investigation of risks from atomically precise manufacturing (i.e. nanotech) back in 2015. One thing they found is:

"Unless APM is developed in a secret “Manhattan Project”—and there is disagreement about how plausible that is —the people we spoke with believe it would be extremely unlikely for an observer closely watching the field to be surprised by a sudden increase in potentially dangerous APM capabilities."
https://www.openphilanthropy.org/.../atomically-precise...

This suggests we might expect risk reduction work to naturally ramp up if/when the tech starts developing and that it may be more efficient for risk reduction work to be done once the field makes some progress.

More on this:
“People who are watching the field and know what to look for would be unlikely to be caught off guard even by rapid developments in atomically precise manufacturing. While development could be surprisingly fast, it would be possible to observe the substantial advances in various capabilities of nanosystems (e.g., mechanical stiffness of various types of nanostructures, number of moving parts of mechanical systems, and lattice sizes of materials used to build intricate systems) that would come before the technology reaches its mature form. Hypothetically, surprise could come if there were a secret project aimed at developing the technology, but that would be implausible in the present climate.”
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Eric Drexler, October 8, 2014.
https://files.givewell.org/.../Eric%20Drexler%2010-08-14...

See also:
https://files.givewell.org/.../Adam%20Marblestone%208-27...

[Note - I haven't thought about the issue recently enough or deeply enough to have my own view on how valuable work on APM risk might be today.]

Comment by sanjay on Quantifying lives saved by individual actions against COVID-19 · 2020-03-07T20:20:21.545Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Presumably the benefit comes from flattening the curve. I.e. if we don't introduce control measures, the demands on the healthcare system will be unmanageable, whereas if we spread them out, then the healthcare system can cope with the demand.

I don't know how to add images in comments, so here's a link to a relevant image: https://imgur.com/ckt0ujv

And this is the article the image came from: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2020/3/6/21161234/coronavirus-covid-19-science-outbreak-ends-endemic-vaccine

Comment by sanjay on Are there good EA projects for helping with COVID-19? · 2020-03-05T12:43:19.665Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I have a maths background, qualified as an actuary in half the industry average time, and am comfortable with stochastic models, including markov chains and monte carlo methods. Are you able to provide more information? In case you don't want to do so in public, I have sent you a direct message via the forum.

Comment by sanjay on Against anti-natalism; or: why climate change should not be a significant factor in your decision to have children · 2020-02-26T23:06:42.289Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I actually think that a true measure of the climate impact of having a child should not just factor in the extra carbon they will be responsible for over their lives, but also the very small probability that they will be responsible for doing something awesome (e.g. "solving climate change"), which may be enough to offset the expected carbon footprint.

(Of course, this only makes sense if you think that the tail positive risk of them doing something amazingly positive outweighs the tiny probability that they will do something stunningly negative!)

Comment by sanjay on Biases in our estimates of Scale, Neglectedness and Solvability? · 2020-02-26T22:53:42.640Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for giving this some thought. The impression I have from this is that the concerns you raise relate to either spurious levels of accuracy or edge cases.

But maybe my impression is wrong. If you could provide some specific examples where either 80k or another org has made a wrong decision because of these considerations, I would find this piece much more interesting.

Comment by sanjay on Clean cookstoves may be competitive with GiveWell-recommended charities · 2020-02-16T18:32:56.738Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the encouragement. I think that aiming for a "perfect" write-up has been a barrier to publishing content, so I intend for us to publish more shallow reviews to address this.

To answer your question, I think the best focus areas would be the six bullet points highlighted near the start of the article, with a particular focus on the first two (are the stoves actually used, and are they actually clean?) and the last (what is the best way to fund this work?).

Also, we would further investigate the very useful comments made by MatthewDahlhausen (which seemed very useful and was upvoted by me) and look further at the GiveWell analysis as mentioned by cole_haus (I was aware of this, but had not had the capacity to review it properly)

Comment by sanjay on How do you feel about the main EA facebook group? · 2020-02-14T10:55:31.858Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you to JanBrauner for raising this. I have had similar concerns.

However I don't think stronger moderation is the answer, especially since it's hard to moderate the comments, which is where most of the poor quality content arises.

Instead, it perhaps needs more concerted efforts from those who have thought about EA ideas more carefully to (nicely and constructively) help to improve the quality of the discussion.

This means participating in the EA facebook group more actively, rather than spending less time on it and just paying attention to the forum (which candidly, is what I've found myself doing)

Comment by sanjay on Climate discounting: How do you value one tonne of CO2eq averted today versus (say) 30 years from now? · 2020-02-13T15:29:31.875Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Note: this question was also cross-posted to the Facebook effective environmentalism group https://www.facebook.com/groups/effectiveenvironmentalism/permalink/2306369839662729/

Comment by sanjay on Nathan Young's Shortform · 2020-02-04T21:32:12.079Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

HaukeHillebrandt has recommended supporting Prof Chris Chambers to do this: https://lets-fund.org/better-science/

Comment by sanjay on Consequences of animal product consumption (combined model) · 2020-01-04T18:48:04.839Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I too imagined that downloading it and viewing it MS Excel might be better, but as far as I can tell there doesn't seem to be a way of downloading it. Unless I've just not found the way to download?

Comment by sanjay on Consequences of animal product consumption (combined model) · 2019-12-30T16:21:38.386Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for sharing this. Unfortunately the model shared appears to be a values-only version of the model (i.e. when I go to any cell in the spreadsheet, the formula bar just shows a number, not a formula). This makes it very hard to work out how you came to your conclusions.

I don't know whether it's showing this way because of the way One Drive operates or because you deliberately removed the formulae before uploading the spreadsheet, however I would certainly find it useful if you could find a way to share the full model. Thank you.

Comment by sanjay on Is being vegan the most moral option when it comes to eating animal products? · 2019-12-30T16:02:32.557Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Under certain assumptions, it is possible for eating animal products to be morally better than eating vegan food. In particular, you would have to believe that positive impacts on the animal's life outweigh the negative aspects, also outperform the net effect of wildlife that would have been on that land no longer being there, and the sustainability impact. I've explored this in this blog post, and I suggest in that post that it is possible for eating meat to be the better option, but it probably isn't: https://interestingthingsiveread.blogspot.com/2018/12/veganism-may-be-net-negative-but-we.html

Comment by sanjay on Helping the poorest without managing birth control creates vicious circle · 2019-12-30T14:00:50.508Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

As KHorton has alluded to, there is a well-established body of literature which indicates that development leads lower Total Fertility Rates. Examples include the books Common Wealth by Jeffrey Sachs and Factfulness by Hans Rosling et al. The following online resources also explore this:

Comment by sanjay on Important EA-related questions EA would like to know from general public · 2019-12-14T14:48:10.796Z · score: 10 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Great that you're doing this, thanks so much for raising this here!

Not sure if you're already aware of this, but you might want to be aware of other studies that have looked at similar questions. In particular the Money For Good study in the US and the equivalent in the UK were interesting, albeit somewhat dated. (I have the raw data for the UK study). You might want to have a look so that you can use consistent question wording whether the questions overlap.

Some questions that we at SoGive would be interested to know more about:

  • The last time you gave to charity, what triggered you to give? (a) someone asked me (b) I decided myself [could break (a) down further, perhaps] [Note, this has been studied before, but to my knowledge not recently. Also I've never seen an analysis of the correlates of self-driven giving]
  • For the donor population, I'd like to understand the split between what we at SoGive call Organisation-loyal, Cause-specific, and Open-minded donors (hopefully the labels are self-explanatory but if not please ask). We would be interested to know specifically to what extent are those preferences moderate preferences (defined as: if the person is choosing a charity to donate to, they will follow that preference) and to what extent are they strong preferences (i.e. if someone else asks them to donate, they will say no unless the donation target is consistent with their preference). We at SoGive currently have some thoughts on this, which I can expand on if you're interested.
  • In terms of cause areas, it would be useful to know whether moral-circle thinking is a good model for explaining cause preferences. E.g. if someone is happy to support people in the developing world, are they more likely to support animals? Or those in the far future? (see also the research we conducted on attitudes to the far future)
  • A deeper understanding of why people never donate would be interesting. Self-reported answers tell us something, but there is some evidence that donors (at least some of the time) are non-donors because they just don't want to give and are looking for excuses ("motivated reasoning"). I wrote about this here, and referenced some studies, e.g. this, this and this (which were mentioned to me by a contact at Rethink Charity). Something which tried to quantify this (i.e. how many non-donors will never give, and how many non-donors would give if their needs were better met) would be really interesting, but possibly too hard for the scope of your study.

Some researchers are doing some interesting work on how people give -- the names Beth Breeze and Cat Walker spring to mind, although there are others as well. But you may well be too time-constrained to wade through all their work, in which case I suggest you just take a look at the Money for Good studies mentioned earlier.

More generally, very happy to discuss further. If you are willing to have a chat, let me know: sanjay [at] sogive.org

Comment by sanjay on A corrected model suggests climate change interventions may be within a factor of two of direct cash transfers · 2019-11-28T14:46:58.373Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

And is it fair to say that if it applies to the GD impact, then applying it differentially across countries no longer makes sense? (i.e. Hauke's original approach does make sense after all?)

Comment by sanjay on A corrected model suggests climate change interventions may be within a factor of two of direct cash transfers · 2019-11-27T10:50:04.435Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for your reply, and sorry that my reply is rushed.

Re: " Also, I'm not sure I follow your claim that no income adjustment is happening in the GDvCC model. Even your new tab has a row labelled "income adjustment" with the number 1260 which is consequential in the final result " my claim isn't meant to be that there is no income adjustment, but rather that there is no income adjustment to the SCC figures -- there is income adjustment to the cash transfer figures. (Sorry, can't remember how I phrased this before, so might not have been clear)

Comment by sanjay on A corrected model suggests climate change interventions may be within a factor of two of direct cash transfers · 2019-11-26T22:36:23.487Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you very much to cole_haus for doing this. I definitely value it when people take the time to challenge analysis done by others.

As I understand it, the original analysis done by HaukeHillebrandt was correct.

Here's my understanding:

  • In his earlier post, HaukeHillebrandt set out a calculation for the ratio of the impactfulness of climate change interventions versus GiveDirectly, which can be found in this spreadsheet.
  • This spreadsheet included a (potentially somewhat confusingly labelled) row called "Social cost of carbon per tonne (relative to cash transfers)"
  • The analysis done here by cole_haus is, as I understand it, based on the assumption that we need to take the social cost of carbon and apply an income adjustment to it
  • However, I don't believe that this is necessary -- I believe that the existing social cost of carbon figures are already on a consistent basis and don't need to be adjusted further
  • What's more, the original spreadsheet doesn't seem to have actually been doing this (although it looked it did). To see this, take a look at this copy of the spreadsheet that I created. I created a new tab called " SJ CC v GD " which recreates the original calcs, but shows that there is no income adjustment to the social cost of carbon.

Happy to have my understanding corrected if I've misunderstood.

Comment by sanjay on The Economic Lives of the Poor · 2019-11-26T09:29:37.570Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

+1 to this, I definitely found Portfolios of the Poor a great way of actually understanding the lives of the globally poor

Comment by sanjay on What areas of maths are useful across disciplines? · 2019-11-18T11:23:15.200Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I would say probability and statistics.

If you want to do evidence-based things, you will want to be able to read an academic paper, including the maths. So you will want to be able to not just understand what is meant by a p-value, but also be able to have thoughts like:

  • this paper used a normal distribution, but really a students t / logit / whatever distribution would have been better, I wonder how big a difference that makes?
  • they used a normal approximation for a binomial here -- and I do/don't think that seems like a reasonable approximation
  • The paper claims this looks like a fairly good fit -- they could have used a chi squared test here; I wonder why they didn't?

This sort of ability wouldn't be useful if the existing body of research consistently used statistics well, but I don't think that's the case.

Final caveat: answering this question is hard because it's so broad. I'm extrapolating from my own experience, but what's useful for you might be different.

Comment by sanjay on Applying EA to climate change · 2019-11-18T11:10:02.143Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

"Which is better from an individual perspective: stop driving and take the bus to work, or cut food waste from 35% to 0%?"

The drawdown project seems to suggest that cutting food waste is better, because it's rated third on its list whereas mass transit is 37th. However I hesitate to suggest people follow the guidance of Drawdown. I contacted them a few years ago (before the big media splash) with some questions about their methodology and got no reply. So I don't feel willing to endorse (or condemn) their work.

Comment by sanjay on Applying EA to climate change · 2019-11-18T11:02:00.268Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

"I wonder where most of the waste happens?"

Most of the business-driven elements of the food supply chain are quite efficient, I'm told. I.e. each of manufacture, transport, and retail management. The waste comes almost entirely from customers buying things they don't need and then throwing them away.

If so, the most likely downside, if any, is the risk of people consuming food after its use-by date.

My source for this claim is a pitch from a food-waste charity. I consider this to be a slightly better source than a person chosen at random, however I didn't get the impression that the charity was rigorous about fact-checking its claims, so I can't promise this is correct.

Comment by sanjay on Why we think the Founders Pledge report overrates CfRN · 2019-11-17T11:12:55.261Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, we understand that both of those have happened (i.e. money for REDD+ coming from climate change buckets or development buckets), and, indeed, are common -- especially for it to come from money already earmarked for climate change

Comment by sanjay on Why we think the Founders Pledge report overrates CfRN · 2019-11-06T12:52:14.511Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Max_Daniel is on the nose about what we were trying to convey.

Let's imagine another hypothetical example from global development:

  • imagine that the Fairly Good Charity is 50% as good as AMF
  • and imagine that Warm Fuzzy Fundraising encourages current AMF donors to donate to Fairly Good Charity instead of AMF

Would we consider Fairly Good Charity to have negative impact because the funds could have gone to AMF? Arguably we could do, but in practice we don't.

What about a donation to support the operations of Warm Fuzzy Fundraising? I think this is a negative impact. (there's a parallel with Max_Daniel's vegetable example)

And coming back to climate change, if we thought that funds going to REDD+ were displacing higher-impact uses of the money, then CfRN too would have net negative impact.

Comment by sanjay on Can the EA community copy Teach for America? (Looking for Task Y) · 2019-11-05T18:25:19.263Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

To follow on from alexrjl's point about doing charity analysis for SoGive, most volunteers do this from the in-person events in London (see https://www.meetup.com/Charity-data-analysis-with-SoGive/ )

However it is also possible to do this remotely (and some volunteers have done this from home before)

Comment by sanjay on Americans give ~4%, not 2% · 2019-11-04T21:28:47.324Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Those interested in this sort of data might also be interested in seeing this compared internationally. I often refer to CAF for this; they produce a World Giving Index.

Here's a link to the 2018 report. Unfortunately their data on giving money is based on the proportion of the population that gives, rather than the proportion of gdp or total salary given.



Comment by sanjay on Why we think the Founders Pledge report overrates CfRN · 2019-11-04T19:39:33.373Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Good question. The section towards the end entitled "How material are these concerns" is intended to address this.

In reality it's hard to say.

The risks to the future of the REDD+ scheme seem unlikely to move the dial by one or two orders of magnitude on their own, I believe -- after all it's baked into the Paris agreement, so a 90%+ chance of failure seems pessimistic.

However the opportunity costs might be that bad, although there's a lot of uncertainty here.

Comment by sanjay on Aligning Recommender Systems as Cause Area · 2019-10-29T17:03:25.304Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for writing this; the forum is richer for having people investigate areas of work and analyse them in this way.

I don't believe that replaceability has been sufficiently considered here (I read this quickly, so sorry if I missed it). By encouraging people with the relevant skills to work on this, what do we achieve? Would they replace someone who otherwise wouldn't get that there is a problem with recommender systems not being aligned with what society wants?

If anything, it seems that this issue has had a huge amount of attention, and it's likely that all those who are already working in this area are very conscious of this issue.

I would change my mind if I heard that someone surveyed several people working in this area and many of them said that they were ignorant of or overly pollyanna-ish about the risks to wellbeing from these systems.

Comment by sanjay on Be the Match: a volunteer list for bone marrow donation · 2019-10-27T11:24:34.368Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I considered joining the UK equivalent of this some years ago. I opted not to:

  • the website suggested that I should plan on the assumption that I may experience serious fatigue for 5 days after donating
  • in order to do this I would need to inform my employer that I was on the list
  • I already had a reputation at this stage for having an "extreme" interest in charitable activity

I had to weigh up definitely strengthening my employer's impression that I cared more about altruistic endeavours than my career against a 1-in-800 probability of doing something of value.

Comment by sanjay on Older people may place less moral value on the far future · 2019-10-25T09:56:51.815Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I think I share your concern. I don't know to what extent people are discounting people in the far future for epistemic reasons ("do we really know that those lives will be saved 500 years from now?") and to what extent it's for moral reasons ("I just think that people who haven't been born yet and are in no way linked to me or my grandchildren shouldn't be given much moral value compared to people who are alive today").

Interestingly this point didn't come up in the so-called qual research that I mentioned in another comment, but perhaps with more discussion with more people it might have.

Comment by sanjay on Older people may place less moral value on the far future · 2019-10-25T09:52:02.080Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA · GW

First I conducted what might grandiosely be called qualitative research. To be totally transparent about the nature of this "qualitative research", I approached some strangers in coffee shops or similar venues and asked them a series of questions about their values, in some cases (from memory, n=4) this resulted in an in-depth discussion of the moral value of those in the far future. At the time I thought of this as supporting a different project, although in reality it informed my choice of question wording for the initial study.

Even by the standards of qual research this is a small sample size, but it gave me the impressions that

  • talking explicitly about discount rates is meaningless (I couldn't bring myself to even try)
  • 100 years from now feels closer to today than 500 years from now, because you could imagine your grandchildren being alive then, and you care about them (the people I spoke to seemed too young to have grandchildren). But 500 years from now feels like the far future, and doesn't feel any different than, say, 1,000 years from now or 5,000 years from now.
  • discussions about values in the abstract were difficult, and subjects asked me for more information because they felt unable to answer questions about the amount of value they place on lives in the far future when the questions were posed in the abstract.
  • The trade-off questions (would you rather save 1 life today or X lives 500 years from now) were meaningful, and people felt able to answer those questions.

In the follow-up nationally representative study, Rethink formulated a different wording of question, and they may be better able to comment on those.

Comment by sanjay on Effective Altruism and International Trade · 2019-10-16T21:43:57.871Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I think the $300m comes from an article in the Hindu Business Line, which says that "Trump’s decision [to end preferential trade status for India] will cost American businesses over USD 300 million in additional tariffs every year." So this suggests that there is indeed an opportunity cost to the $300m; firstly because the $300m hasn't been magicked up, the $300m could have been spent on something else. This opportunity cost doesn't seem so bad, but another opportunity cost is that without the preferential treatment, the US may trade with other nations. We don't know who those other nations are, so the value of the lost trade is not clear.

Comment by sanjay on The ITN framework, cost-effectiveness, and cause prioritisation · 2019-10-15T21:29:22.373Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for this! I think this sort of challenge and thinking is really valuable and exactly what the EA community needs.

For comparison, the SoGive method of analysing charities advises focusing marginal cost-effectiveness, and not on the ITN framework. I absolutely welcome this thoughtful analysis of the framework.

(Full disclosure: I developed the SoGive method of analysing charities; it's essentially inspired by EA thinking, but not particularly focused on the ITN framework)

Comment by sanjay on Effective Altruism and International Trade · 2019-10-15T20:53:51.893Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Lucy, thank you for contribution to the EA forum. I'm sorry it's been a frustrating experience for you.

Some questions that came to my mind when reading your post were:

  • Agreed that there is no straight line from money to wellbeing, but if it *is* possible to invest a relatively small amount of money to generate a relatively large amount of money for the global poor, then that surely seems like a good thing?
  • I don't recognise your characterisation of GiveWell's views on the importance of money vs life. As I understand it, GiveWell's moral weights consider saving the life of an infant to be around 50x more valuable than doubling consumption for one person for one year, and that rises to 80x if the life saved is of someone aged over 5. (source: GiveWell CEA, August 2019 version, 'Moral Weights' tab)

I do agree with your assertion that improving wealth is not sufficient or necessary to improve wellbeing, and wellbeing is what we should care about. However I think I'm missing something about how this comment is adding something of value to this post. (note that I have not downvoted this post, and can't promise that those who have downvoted have been thinking the same thing as me)


Comment by sanjay on Effective Altruism and International Trade · 2019-10-15T20:25:50.492Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for exploring an interesting area. I may be misunderstanding, but I think section 1 is saying:

Donate $200k LEADS TO $300m for India LEADS TO 300,000 QALYs

If this is correct, it would indeed be stunningly good. Apologies if I'm being too sceptical, but I'd like to raise two doubts:

(1) I would be surprised if paying $200k is sufficient to bring about a bill, except perhaps in fairly favourable circumstances. I tried following the sources, but I don't have access to the book, and I didn't listen through the half-hour podcast. If you were able to explain this, that would be very much appreciated.

(2) I also didn't see a consideration of the opportunity costs. I.e. the bill does not magic up $300m worth of value, so without the bill, the $300m would have been used on something else. If so, what? And how much value do we place on that?

Comment by sanjay on Effective Altruism and International Trade · 2019-10-15T20:15:46.249Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I would like to understand the sentence: "I rely on literature estimates that value a QALY as 50% of GDP per capita of that nation" -- would it be possible to explain and/or provide an updated link to a source? (I tried following the link, but it said "doi not found")

Comment by sanjay on What to know before talking with journalists about EA · 2019-10-14T14:39:00.371Z · score: 17 (8 votes) · EA · GW

To expand on "I've seen this in a heading of an otherwise favorable article", I was told in my media training that typically

  • the body of the article is written by one person (a journalist)
  • The heading is typically written by a different person (the sub-editor)

Even if you have a good relationship with the journalist, who may well *want* to write a balanced article, the sub-editor is typically unwilling to compromise on the power they have in deciding a heading, and this choice is quite important for how readers perceive the whole piece.



Comment by sanjay on Making Donating Fun · 2019-10-14T13:32:21.286Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I like this! For my social enterprise SoGive, I have thought about multiple ways to get people involved in donating, and something like this has crossed my mind before. I'll message you directly, happy to discuss further.

Comment by sanjay on Altruism Coach · 2019-10-03T12:17:39.576Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · EA · GW

This is great! Have you considered mentioning this on the EA facebook group too? (No worries if you prefer not to for whatever reason, just thought I would mention it)

Comment by sanjay on Effective Pro Bono Projects · 2019-09-16T21:46:47.551Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I run http://sogive.org, which produces analysis on charities. We have run many volunteer events by now, occasionally in-house in a company when the company wants to run a team/group volunteering event. We teach them the SoGive method of analysing charities, and then get them to work through a bunch of charities. If you think this might be of interest to you, feel free to contact me on sanjay [at] sogive.org

Comment by sanjay on I Estimate Joining UK Charity Boards is worth £500/hour · 2019-09-16T21:31:35.475Z · score: 25 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for raising the profile of trusteeship as a volunteering opportunity. I agree that it's widely overlooked, and I think I have gained a lot from my past trusteeships.

Trustee boards are typically also short of resource, so increasing the pool of applicants is likely to be a good outcome. I'm glad you're doing this.

Other resources:

Some points on which skills people can use to add value:

  • I think the charity sector's perceived skills shortage is in finance, which is both essential and the people with the right skills are scarce. (Source: conversations with many people in the sector)
  • I'm not convinced that digital marketing is a top priority for the sector - for some charities their intervention may be about operating digitally, in which case this is more useful, although they are also likely to be the charities which already have this savvy. For fundraising, I'm doubtful that digital marketing is that useful in most contexts
  • As a trustee, it's unlikely that you can add much value with project management skills, unless it's a very small charity. For medium to larger charities, a trustee should keep their involvement more strategic, so they wouldn't actively manage projects. Knowledge of Prince2/lean/etc may have some marginal value

Finally, I would question the value of the £500 estimate:

  • The model does nothing to consider the variability in impactfulness of charities. Many people think that the majority of charitable interventions achieve nothing, and it seems odd to ascribe value to a charity whose work isn't achieving anything.
  • Not only is the impact of the charity variable, so is the impact of the trustee. It's entirely possible for a key trustee to double a charity's impact or have no impact at all. Given that this is so variable, modelling this as a flat percentage seems like the model is glossing over a key input.

Comment by sanjay on Ask Me Anything! · 2019-08-14T19:07:08.876Z · score: 16 (21 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: 36 (31 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.