Posts

Surveys related to animal advocacy 2020-08-12T19:38:27.013Z
Collection of good 2012-2017 EA forum posts 2020-07-10T16:35:58.229Z
How much do Europeans care about fish welfare? (An analysis of relevant surveys) 2020-06-22T15:08:05.604Z
A cause can be too neglected 2020-04-03T16:41:55.283Z
Estimates of global captive vertebrate numbers 2020-02-18T17:05:36.160Z
Accuracy issues in FAO animal numbers 2019-12-02T14:56:47.306Z
Effective Animal Advocacy Resources 2019-10-24T10:41:12.057Z
Corporate commitments breakdown 2019-08-28T16:53:06.105Z
List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading 2019-08-20T18:05:03.872Z
saulius's Shortform 2019-08-13T15:04:34.562Z
Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent 2019-07-08T08:01:43.368Z
35-150 billion fish are raised in captivity to be released into the wild every year 2019-04-02T13:16:07.994Z
Rodents farmed for pet snake food 2019-02-20T19:54:28.356Z
Will companies meet their animal welfare commitments? 2019-02-01T10:24:26.297Z
List of possible EA meta-charities and projects 2019-01-09T11:28:29.773Z
Fish used as live bait by recreational fishermen 2018-08-08T20:56:25.455Z
A lesson from an EA weekend in London: pairing people up to talk 1 on 1 for 30 mins seems to be very useful 2018-06-12T11:38:39.913Z
Fact checking comparison between trachoma surgeries and guide dogs 2017-05-10T22:33:21.864Z

Comments

Comment by saulius on SoGive's moral weights -- please take part! · 2021-04-06T09:03:44.306Z · EA · GW

I feel it was valuable to me to think about the questions in the survey, made me reconnect a bit with why I became an altruist in the first place. There seem to be some issues in the second survey though. The question with button seven and button eight has some typos (button seven is referred to as button A and then the question asks to compare button seven to button A). And then after I answered a question about education and higher income, I just see a blank screen, and I'm not sure if my answers were recorded.

Comment by saulius on Why Hasn't Effective Altruism Grown Since 2015? · 2021-03-10T12:08:01.625Z · EA · GW

It's probably unnecessary but I tried to think of a metaphor that would help to visualize this as that helps me to understand things. Here is the best one I have. You want to maximize the number of people partying in your house. You observe that the number of people in the landing room is constant and conclude that the number of people partying is not growing. (Landing room in this metaphor is EA). But that is only because people are entering the landing room, and then going to party in different rooms (different rooms are different cause areas). So the fact that the number of people in the landing room is constant might mean that the party is growing at a constant rate. Or perhaps even the growth rate is increasing, but we also learnt how to get people out of the landing room into other rooms quicker which is good.

Comment by saulius on Why Hasn't Effective Altruism Grown Since 2015? · 2021-03-10T11:59:50.758Z · EA · GW

Interesting observations. I only have one thought that I don't see mentioned in the comments.

I see EA as something that is mostly useful when you are deciding how you want to do good. After you figured it out, there is little reason to continue engaging with it. [1] Under this model of EA, the fact that engagement with EA is not growing would only mean that the number of people who are deciding how to do good at any given time is not growing. But that is not what we want to maximize. We want to maximize the number of people actually working on doing good. I think that EA fields like AI safety and effective animal advocacy have been growing though I don't know. But I think this model of EA is only partially correct.


  1. E.g., Once someone figures out that they want to be an animal advocate, or AI safety researcher, or whatever, there is little reason for them to engage with EA. E.g., I am an animal advocacy researcher and I would probably barely visit the EA forum if there was an effective animal advocacy forum (I wish there was). Possibly one exception is earning-to-give, because there is always new information that can help decide where to give most effectively, and EA community is a good place to discuss that. But even that has diminishing returns. Once you figured out your general strategy or cause, you may need to engage with EA less. ↩︎

Comment by saulius on Dutch anti-trust regulator bans pro-animal welfare chicken cartel · 2021-02-25T15:34:10.889Z · EA · GW

It’s interesting that this article was from 2015, so it preceded all the broiler welfare campaigns that are happening now. I think it’s good for animal activists to learn from successes and failures of those who tried to achieve similar goals before us, like the one in the linked article.

Speaking of which, this paper called Market barriers for welfare product innovations describes some other previous efforts to improve chicken welfare in the Netherlands that also failed in interesting ways. Here is one interesting excerpt:

Consumers may find it difficult to interpret welfare attributes. Animal welfare is a so-called credence attribute, i.e., it cannot be verified by the consumer - not even after consumption. Consumers will use certain cues (such as labels and package) and associations (Keller, 1993). Such associations may not always be correct: wrong links could be activated in the consumer's mind, and incorrect information could become associated with a product. An example of this is the failure of the introduction of slow-growing chicken meat in the Netherlands in the 1980s: consumers were not aware that regular chickens only live 42 days, and thought the 56-day grown chickens were slaughtered too young.

Finally, product image may inhibit the growth of welfare initiatives. The Dutch word for barn eggs, 'scharrel' eggs, may evoke an idyllic image of happy animals that live in small couples with a cock and roam around freely on the farmyard pecking about a bit (as suggested by Van Leeuwen, 2005). This perception is actually incorrect as hens are kept indoors. Yet, there is little knowledge amongst Dutch consumers about welfare labels on eggs (Burrel & Vrieze, 2003). Whereas 40% of the Dutch consumers state that they buy outdoor eggs (Anon., 2005c), the actual market share of outdoor systems is less than 4% (Anon., 2005a).

Consider the situation in Germany, where barn eggs are called 'Bodenhaltung' eggs (literally translated: floor-produced eggs) and free-range eggs are called 'Freiland' eggs (literally translated: freeland, 'open-air' eggs). One could argue that the positive and better fitting associations of the Freiland eggs in Germany translated into a better market share: 18.0% in 1999, compared with 2.5% for the free-range outdoor eggs in the Netherlands (Tacken & Van Horne, 2002). This illustrates the potentially powerful role of a positive and fitting image.

(sorry, this is a bit off topic. I wanted to share this stuff anyway but didn’t think it deserved its own post and thought that posting it here would be better than nothing as it might reach the same kind of people I wanted to reach).

Comment by saulius on Dutch anti-trust regulator bans pro-animal welfare chicken cartel · 2021-02-25T15:07:16.629Z · EA · GW

Interesting. The text is not very clear about this, but my understanding is that the anti-competitive aspect of this was an agreement between different retailers and producers to stop selling and producing cheaper low-welfare chicken on the condition that everyone else will do the same. When companies commit to the Better Chicken Commitment or a cage-free commitment, these commitments are not conditional on anyone else doing the same thing. So at least anti-competitive laws are not relevant in these situations, right?

Comment by saulius on Corporate commitments breakdown · 2021-01-29T12:22:08.803Z · EA · GW

I just want to say that a week ago I updated this spreadsheet to include newer commitments

Comment by saulius on The ten most-viewed posts of 2020 · 2021-01-13T14:32:47.493Z · EA · GW

These are total pageviews, not unique views, right? So if I view the same article five times, it counts as five views, not one view, right?

Comment by saulius on The ten most-viewed posts of 2020 · 2021-01-13T14:23:13.304Z · EA · GW

How long does it take to research and develop a new vaccine? was probably viewed so much because it was cited by The New York Times article in 2018 to back up a claim that "it takes 10 years and more than $1 billion to develop a vaccine" (which obviously wasn't talking about the kind of situation were are in now). And I imagine that the New York Times article got some reads in 2020 as it became very relevant.

Comment by saulius on How much (physical) suffering is there? Part II: Animals · 2021-01-13T09:17:18.436Z · EA · GW

It's an interesting project, thanks for doing it. But if you are measuring suffering in DALYs, shouldn't you look at the number of animals alive at any time, rather than the number slaughtered every year? Because most slaughtered chickens live for only about 6-8 weeks, while some animals like diary cows can live for years. I don't see where in the write-up you account for this difference. You can see estimates of how many captive animals of each species are alive at any time here or here. If you want estimates for specific fish species, they can be found here.

Comment by saulius on Big List of Cause Candidates · 2020-12-27T13:36:44.797Z · EA · GW

I feel it should be pointed out that there already is a similar standalone wiki causeprioritization.org and until recently there was another similar website PriorityWiki but I think that neither of them have received much traffic.

Comment by saulius on Physical Exercise for EAs – Why and How · 2020-12-26T13:05:09.759Z · EA · GW

I just want to add that if the above gym programs seem a bit too intense or time-consuming, I recommend this beginner gym workout routine. I personally do a similar program at home with some substitutions. E.g. pushups instead of bench press.

I'd add some core exercises to this, like situps and planks

I just want to note that multiple sources I trust don't recommend situps in particular. E.g. this

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-19T17:21:33.559Z · EA · GW

Good to know. I've talked to Gautier who wrote the French article I linked to, and he said he had already tried to figure out the scale of the industry in France, but didn't manage to find stats on it. However, he said that there are indications that it is a small industry compared to the U.S. He said there was work on it mostly due to legal precedent reasons rather than direct impact.

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-18T12:18:19.998Z · EA · GW

Thank you very much William for your comment! I will follow up with you in private but there are few things that I thought would be suitable to say/ask here as well.

It was very recently brought to my attention that baitfish seems to also be farmed in France and that there is an animal advocacy organization that has a petition on it (see here and here). I don’t know what is the scale of baitfish farming in France or in any country other than the U.S., so I don’t yet know if it is an issue I would recommend tackling in France. I just thought I should mention that in case you or someone else could be interested in doing some lobbying on this issue there.

Also, at Rethink Priorities we try to track any possible impact we had on the projects of animal welfare organizations. So I wanted to ask, do you think you would have worked on fish restocking if this article was never written? And please don’t hesitate to say that you knew about the industry and its size independently of that article and it had nothing to do with it, if that is the case :)

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-16T19:39:00.153Z · EA · GW

Thanks for suggestions Micheal. Haven from FWI is actually helping me to do research on this in his free time. He said that FWI would be open to putting someone who would work on this under their organization if given funding, but not to redirecting the time of the current staff towards the project. This makes sense because they want to continue with the work that they have started doing, and they are not experts on lobbying and I think few if any of them are located in the U.S. I haven’t talked about this with ALI yet (you are right, I should), but from what I hear, I think that they also don’t have expertise in U.S. lobbying, are mostly not located in the U.S., and would probably not want to redirect current staff time to new projects. I don’t know how much previous lobbying experience is important here but my sense is that it is. I feel that what is needed is a person (or two) who would be suitable for leading this, and then we could figure out all the organizational and funding stuff.

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-16T18:52:41.805Z · EA · GW

If one is only concerned w/ preventing needless suffering, prioritising the most extreme suffering, would donating to Rethink Priorities be a good investment for them, and if so, how so?

Contrary to organizations like OPIS, Center for Reducing Suffering, and Center on long-term risk, we don't have reducing extreme suffering set as our only priority. We sometimes work on reducing suffering that may not be classified as extreme (arguably, our work on cage-free hen campaigns fall into this category). And perhaps some other work is not directly about reducing suffering at all. Since preventing extreme suffering is not our only priority, I think that we are unlikely to be the best donation opportunity for this specific goal. That said, when I look at the list of our publications, I think that almost all the articles we write contribute to the goal of preventing needless and extreme suffering in some way, although in many cases it is quite indirect. In the end, we are not able to compare whether or not Rethink Priorities is a better donation opportunity for this purpose than other organizations in an unbiased way.

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-16T18:42:50.548Z · EA · GW

What are the biggest mistakes Rethink Priorities did?

I can’t speak for the entire organization, but I can talk about what I see as my biggest mistakes since I started working at Rethink Priorities:

  1. Writing articles about interventions I think are promising and thinking that my work is done once the article is published. Examples are baitfish (see the comment above), fish stocking, rodents farmed for pet snake food. The way I see things now, if I think that something should be done, I should express that opinion very clearly and with fewer caveats, find funders who want to fund it, find activists that want to do it, and connect them. Or something like that. And that is the kind of work I am doing at the moment, even though I think I am much better at writing articles than at doing this.
  2. Avoiding expressing opinions too much. It’s related to the point above. I think that in the past I was too afraid of writing something that could later turn out to be wrong. Hence, I wrote articles in such a way that sometimes the reader could not even know what I think about a problem I am writing about, how important I think it is in the context of other things, etc. I wanted decision makers to read my articles and form their own opinions based on what I said. I now think that this is not ideal because decision makers may not have the time to form nuanced opinions based on subtle details in my long articles. But someone has to form actionable opinions, and it is me who has the context and the time for that. So I want to try to write more articles of the “This is what I think you should do and I’m going to explain why” type, rather than the “Here is a 40 page summary of everything I've ever read on this topic” type. I sometimes want to write articles of the former type because then my managers, funders and myself can all clearly see what I’ve been working on for all this time. But my end goal is making an impact so I try to not think about that too much. Note that if I pledged to only ever write articles that are purely of the former kind, I might end up not writing a single paragraph all year. I don’t think I should go that far.
  3. Spending too much time on finishing articles that I know won’t have that much impact. In some cases, it’s better to just drop them, admit to yourself that you wasted some time, and move on to the next project. That said, there were some articles that I had strongly considered abandoning, but in the end I was happy I finished them.
  4. Spending any time on details that I know right away won’t be that important. There are some examples of this in Estimates of global captive vertebrate numbers article. Did I really need to write about pets, civet farming, and other relatively minor problems that I know effective altruists won’t work on? I guess I wanted the list to be complete, but I don’t know why. It wasted not only my time, but also the time and the attention of the readers.
  5. Being too frugal. In the beginning of working at Rethink Priorities, I wanted to either take a low salary, or spend as little money as I can and donate the rest. But the problems that it caused made me less productive and possibly decreased my impact. Now I allow myself to spend more and I think I'm better off because of it.
  6. Not doing more to address some of my productivity problems, especially negative self-talk about myself and my work. Almost every day I hate myself for not doing enough work. It is exhausting, and it tires me out more quickly and hence I become even less productive. I still haven’t found a good way to deal with it. I tried therapy multiple times but I never emphasized this specific issue so that is on my to-do list. I also want to try more meditation, maybe that can help.
Comment by saulius on Global cochineal production: scale, welfare concerns, and potential interventions · 2020-12-16T13:47:24.591Z · EA · GW

I just wanted to inform that I looked into the possibility of doing public campaigns against carmine and decided that it would not be a good idea. The main source of suffering in carmine production seems to be due to farmers adding many cochineal juveniles that suffer from natural deaths early in their life, just as they would in uncontrolled wild populations. However, around 80% of carmine is wild-harvested and I found out that they actually harvest pregnant females before they lay most of their eggs. Hence, wild harvesting prevents the very same type of suffering that farming introduces. And I think it prevents more suffering because the scale is bigger. I am not totally sure about all this, it wasn't easy to find reliable information about the industry, but based on what I found I decided to not look any deeper. I also didn't manage to come up with any way to decrease the number of farmed cochineals but not wild-harvested cochineals. If someone wanted to look into this industry deeper, please contact me and I can share sources that I found.

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-15T20:39:01.504Z · EA · GW

I also tried organizing some brainstorming sessions with members of the EA community. It was a bit useful, though I'm not sure it was wroth it (despite great participants), mostly because I get stressed about running events and then overprepare. And also because it would have taken too much time to explain all the relevant context in which I needed ideas. I think that in the right hands and the right situation, this is a tool that could be used productively though.

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-15T20:34:22.573Z · EA · GW

I did try it on some occasions with people who wanted to do research similar to the kind of research that I do. I think that it saved me less time than the time it took me to think of good questions to outsource and explain everything, and so on. This might be partly because there is a skill in outsourcing that I haven't mastered yet. I don't know if it helped anyone to decide whether they should pursue this type of career. If it did, then it was very much worth it.

One way I used volunteers (and friends whom I forced to volunteer) productively was making them read texts that I wrote and asking to comment aloud (not in writing) on everything that is at least slightly unclear. Then I didn't explain, but rewrote that part, and asked them to read again and asked if they understand it now. I found that this is important for texts that contain some complicated ideas/reasoning. E.g., it was very useful for the explanation of optimizer's curse and other things in this article. Not important for simple texts.

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-15T20:07:27.021Z · EA · GW

I haven’t read that report in full, but I imagine that it's such a big issue in the X-risk research because it grew very quickly from an obscure field, to a field with a lot of funding available and a lot of people wanting to work in it. I think it’s a rare situation, and I don't feel that it's a significant problem in the kind of research that I do (farmed animal welfare). I remember hearing that it is a problem in cultured meat R&D though, and it makes sense, the situation is similar.

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-15T18:53:21.284Z · EA · GW

What do you think individuals could do to become skilled in this kind of research and become competitive for these jobs?

There are some relevant answers in here and here.

Comment by saulius on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-15T18:43:56.610Z · EA · GW

What new charities do you want to be created by EAs?

For me it's a lobbying organization against baitfish farming in the U.S. I wrote about the topic two years ago here. Many people complimented me on it but no one did anything. I talked with some funders who said they would be interested in funding someone suitable pursuing this, but I haven’t found who could this be. The main argument against it used to be that the industry is declining. But the recently released aquaculture census suggests that it is no longer declining (see my more recent thoughts on numbers here).

Using fish as live bait is already prohibited in some U.S. states (see the map in Kerr (2012)). Many other states have import and movement restrictions (see this table). It seems that all of this happened due to environmental concerns. And the practice is banned in multiple other countries. To me this shows that it is plausible to make progress on this.

Take a look at this graph I made of the number of animals farmed in the U.S. at any time.

graph

I used yellow and black colours to represent ranges. So for example, I think that there are between 1 billion and (5+1=)6 billion baitifsh farmed in the U.S. at any time. It’s more likely to be closer to 1 billion than to 6 billion though. Still, if we wanted to decrease the number of vertebrates farmed for the U.S. consumption by say 500 million, it would seem very difficult to make Americans decrease their chicken and egg consumption by 25%, or decrease their farmed fish consumption by 13%-42%. Decreasing baitfish production by a 500 million might also be difficult but I think it is much more easily achievable.

I am doing a bit more research on this right now (in parallel with other projects), and I might make another EA forum post about it at some point but I don’t know if that is what is needed to make this happen. I think that at this point someone should just try to do it.

If anyone is interested, please schedule a meeting with me here or write to me at saulius at rethinkpriorities dot org .

Comment by saulius on Estimates of global captive vertebrate numbers · 2020-12-14T14:21:24.403Z · EA · GW

Someone asked me to estimate how many animals are fed to crocodilians, snakes, and stingrays farmed for their skin. I thought that a comment under this article would be a good place to share what I found in case anyone else also would find it useful. Note that I didn’t spend much time on this and I am not confident in what I claim.

CROCODILIANS

For crocodilians, I made this model that estimates how many kilograms of food are fed to farmed crocodiles globally. If we assumed that all they were fed were broiler chickens, then I estimate that they would eat between 20 million and 70 million broilers per year. Since they seem to be mostly fed various waste from farms and various other food (see my notes on that here), I think that eliminating the demand of crocodile skin would spare the lives of fewer farmed animals than 20-70 million per year. How many animals are killed to be fed to crocodiles depends heavily on how much fishmeal they are fed because fishmeal is made from small wild-caught fishes. But I haven’t found any information on that. While some videos talk about large portions of food fed to adult crocodilians, it seems to me that on average they eat maybe 2 pounds per week. I think this is because farmed crocodiles are smaller through most of their lifetime. For alligators bred for watch bands who are killed when small, it would be even less than 2 pounds.

SNAKES

With snakes, I think that tables below from this report show that relatively few animals are farmed specifically to feed them, at least when it comes to Pythons:

graph

graph

Baby chickens and baby quail are probably male chicks from the egg industry, which is a by-product. I suspect that whole chickens and whole ducks are spent hens from the egg-laying industry. But if they are broilers, then there are some animals farmed to be fed to snakes. According to the text in the report, most rats seem to be caught, but it mentions one farm in Thailand that breeds its own rats. If more farms do that, then there could be many animals farmed to be fed to snakes. But most of the feed animals seem to be not specifically farmed for the purpose of feeding pythons, it seems. Of course, any profit from by-products helps to sustain the factory farming industry. Number of animals fed to snakes would be quite large based on the tables above, but I think that citing it would be misleading as most of them are by-products so I did not estimate it.

Based on the same report, it seems that pythons are farmed for 1-2 years before they are slaughtered.

Various sources also seem to disagree on whether a large portion of snake skins that are labelled as farmed actually come from wild-caught snakes but more serious sources seem to say that most of those snakes actually are farmed.

Some snakes seem to be killed in extremely cruel ways. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/oct/03/fashion.animalwelfare (trigger warning, the next paragraph should not be read by sensitive people):

“Larger captured snakes are often first starved to loosen their skin and then stretched by being forcibly pumped with water. Snakes are routinely nailed to a tree and skinned alive, their bodies thrown on to heaps where they can take two days to die.”

STINGRAYS

I’m unsure if stingrays are even really farmed for meat and skin in significant quantities. There is surprisingly little information about it, just a few mentions that they are commercially bred. When exotic animals like that are farmed, there usually is some media coverage. Now, I just see a few articles mentioning in passing that they are farmed, without any evidence. Some sellers also claim that they use farmed stingray skin (https://www.paulinwatches.com/products/shagreen-stingray-leather-watch-strap, https://hugodegroot.co.uk/finishes-shagreen/). Maybe they are lying to avoid concerns about the environment or something, although stingrays are not a threatened species so I don’t see why they would do that. I saw some videos about them being bred to be pets. In those cases, they are fed a significant amount of shrimp. But I imagine that it would be too expensive to feed stingrays farmed for skin and food with an expensive feed like that. So if the industry exists at all, I have no idea what they are fed. This screenshot from FAO yearbook suggests that stingrays are only caught from the wild not farmed.

graph

This page also claims that stingrays are not farmed, that they caught from the wild only. And that stingrays are caught for their meat, and leather is only a by-product. But the page does not look at all dependable. But we know from FAO stats above that stingrays are caught from the wild, so it seems likely that at least some of the stingray skin comes from wild-caught stingrays, because why wouldn’t they use that (perhaps there is a reason, I don’t know)

Comment by saulius on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-09T10:57:23.992Z · EA · GW

You seem to assume that if (and only if) you do well in a good college, then you will almost certainly be good at direct work. I'm not convinced that there necessarily is that much of a correlation because these things are so very different. I myself did quite badly in a mediocre university but people seem to think that I have been doing well working as a researcher at an EA organization.

Comment by saulius on Cost-effectiveness analysis of a program promoting a vegan diet · 2020-11-17T11:30:54.095Z · EA · GW

Some more thoughts: If someone were to look into the program deeper, maybe it is possible to run an RCT. You could randomly assign some participants who sign up to the program to the control group. You could just send a document to these people explaining how to be vegetarian or something, and not make them join any groups. And then you could send them the same questionnaire to them as to others. This has some flaws but would be better than nothing. But it’s pretty clear that the program should continue so I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

Another mildly useful thing to do would be to check if meat consumption in Israel has gone down in general, and use that as a control group. It could be mildly useful because it would make you dismiss hypotheses that they consumed less meat because of unrelated reasons that apply to all Israelis like increased meat prices, or increased availability of plant-based options, or meat-related health scare.

Comment by saulius on Cost-effectiveness analysis of a program promoting a vegan diet · 2020-11-17T11:28:09.859Z · EA · GW

Hey, thanks for doing this! I think you did a good job at considering most of the uncertainties. My main disagreement would be that this is a moderate limitation: graph

I think that it is a major limitation. In general, since it seems that most of the work is done by volunteers, the situation reminds me of an example I gave in this article:

Imagine many volunteers collaborating to do a lot of good, and having a small budget for snacks. Their cost-effectiveness estimate could be very high, but it would be a mistake to expect their impact to double if we double their funding for snacks.

You could imagine that program being run without any paid staff and any expenses, and having an infinite cost-effectiveness. But it wouldn’t follow that this is a good opportunity for donors. If volunteer involvement is the major reason for cost-effectiveness, I don’t see a reason to think why the cost-effectiveness of related activities like expanding advertising and accelerating the development of an app would be at all similar to the cost-effectiveness of the program so far. These seem to be totally different activities.

That said, the cost-effectiveness estimate does inform us that expanding the program into more geographic locations, cultures and languages could be promising. But if this is what you use the cost-effectiveness estimate for, maybe you shouldn’t adjust the estimates of future costs towards the lower present day costs, because in that case the set up costs are relevant. Also, in that case I wouldn’t feature the cost-effectiveness figures so prominently in this analysis if the target audience is Israelis wanting to donate to local charities.

Another thing is that if participants switched to a vegetarian diet and started eating more eggs to get enough protein instead of eating beef or lamb, the program might have caused more suffering than it prevented (see http://ethical.diet/). I imagine that they were encouraged to get their proteins in other ways though, but it is still something to consider.

Comment by saulius on Introducing Animal Ask · 2020-11-12T16:51:27.829Z · EA · GW

Congratulations on the new organization!

I hope you guys have talked with the Aquatic Life Institute or the Aquatic Animal Alliance because I see some overlap. If I recall correctly, they are also working on an ask.

Comment by saulius on Factors other than ITN? · 2020-09-26T13:10:09.619Z · EA · GW

I feel I should also mention that I personally find the framework unnecessary and limiting. My opinion is that we don't need any framework here. I find that it's easier and more productive to simply think about what actions I can take and what consequences those actions will lead to. But this is a bit off-topic and I will explain my view in full another time.

Comment by saulius on Factors other than ITN? · 2020-09-26T13:05:08.083Z · EA · GW

Other factors

If you are thinking about what cause you should work on, you may also consider personal fit. 80,000 hours explain why they didn’t include it as a factor here. Also, none of us is 100% altruistic, so you may also want to consider the personal benefit of working on the cause, although I guess that can go under personal fit as well.

Is it exhaustive?

You could say that there are two ITN frameworks: informal and quantitative. It’s easier to talk about the quantitative framework, so that’s what I will talk about, even though people usually use the informal one.

The quantitative framework cancels out to Good done / extra person or $. If you are a pure consequentialist, I think that this is exhaustive by definition. It doesn’t capture non-consequentialist concerns. E.g., maybe making cost-effective progress on this cause would involve morally questionable means like lying or blackmail. However, you can incorporate these by redefining tractability to something like “tractable with only using means I am comfortable with”. Or you can just assume that in the long run, using these means is bad from a consequentialist point of view anyway, which usually seems to be the case.

Also, it’s exhaustive only if Good done includes all things you intrinsically value like personal benefit, equity, etc. Usually when people use the framework, they assume pure utilitarianism and don’t include these.

Comment by saulius on Propose and vote on potential tags · 2020-08-07T08:06:29.910Z · EA · GW

When tags were introduced, the post said to "submit new tag ideas to us using this form." I made a bunch of suggestions (don't remember what they were) and probably some other people did too. Could someone who has access to results of that form paste all those suggestions here?

Comment by saulius on List of possible EA meta-charities and projects · 2020-08-05T13:42:17.712Z · EA · GW

I've encountered some other similar lists of ideas:

Comment by saulius on What is the most effective intensive farming video to convert meat eaters? · 2020-07-17T10:18:42.272Z · EA · GW

Also, I just want to share my experience that I tried to convert my family members as well when I first became vegan but then I realized that the chance of succeeding is low and that this isn't at all a good use of my time because I could help animals much more and with less effort by e.g. donating money to effective animal charities. Your situation might be different, but if your brother doesn't seem receptive right away, I'd recommend not pushing it too much. Vegans have a bad reputation of being too pushy in this way and I think that it's important to not reinforce it. Nowadays, I almost never bring up the topic of veganism myself, and I am very casual about it, and I only talk about it if people ask me about it. Ironically, I feel that this may be more effective. E.g., I noticed that multiple people I dated just happened to go vegan while we were together, despite me hardly ever talking about it. I think that my quiet example may have been an influence. Maybe it just showed to them that it is possible and no big deal. That said, I've heard at least one story of a son arguing a lot with his father and in the end convincing him to go vegan.

Also, I see that you want to convert them to vegetarianism. I think vegetarianism is not great from animal welfare perspective because conventional eggs might be one of the worst commonly-consumed foods for animals. E.g. see http://ethical.diet/ It could be argued that beef less bad than eggs. Hence, I think it makes more sense to advocate for lacto-vegetarianism which excludes eggs, but includes diary products, or something else.

I don't know if any of these things needed to be said to you, but I thought I would say them just in case.

Comment by saulius on What is the most effective intensive farming video to convert meat eaters? · 2020-07-17T10:15:50.048Z · EA · GW

Vegfund has some recommendations here. Personally, I always thought that What Cody Saw was very good, and I heard it being recommended by some animal advocates. I showed it to a friend once and she was moved by it and considered going vegan but didn't in the end. However, this was a while ago and now I see that Mercy For Animals have taken down the original video so maybe there is a reason not to use it.

Comment by saulius on Annotated List of EA Career Advice Resources · 2020-07-13T10:16:25.025Z · EA · GW

Somewhat relatedly, two years ago I listed all EA career workshop materials that I knew of. Here they are:

Comment by saulius on If you value future people, why do you consider near term effects? · 2020-07-02T15:18:32.337Z · EA · GW

I just want to mention one more post that has some relevance here: Why I'm skeptical about unproven causes (and you should be too)

Comment by saulius on EA Forum feature suggestion thread · 2020-07-01T12:41:48.947Z · EA · GW

It's not just about ranking. It's also about how much karma individual users have and (most importantly) about how worthy-of-reading a post looks when you open it based on its karma. I think that the situation where all votes made before the new system are worth one karma point is no less confusing than a system where they are worth two karma points.

Comment by saulius on EA Forum feature suggestion thread · 2020-07-01T08:41:15.430Z · EA · GW

Do you mean to do this to comments written by other people? Because you can already do this for your own comments by editing them and making more comments. But even that is problematic if anyone already voted on the comment.

Comment by saulius on EA Forum feature suggestion thread · 2020-07-01T08:36:58.119Z · EA · GW

Double the karma weight of votes made before the new karma system was implemented. All votes used to be worth one point. For example, let's take an old post like this. It currently has 43 karma and 43 votes (probably all of them are upvotes). For comparison, my newest post has 53 karma and 16 upvotes. If you think about it, that old post is clearly more endorsed by the community. There were fewer readers when it was posted and a very high percentage of them chose to upvote it and probably many would have strongly upvoted if that was an option. Nowadays, even a regular upvote by high-karma users is worth two points. Posts like that old post do not appear in forum favourites and other places like that but they should. If you doubled the karma of such old posts, the karma for that old one would be 86 instead of 43 - a much better representation of how much the community endorses that post. Ah, maybe you should even triple the karma weight. Posts like this would then actually make forum favourites and I think they should.

Comment by saulius on saulius's Shortform · 2020-06-29T12:01:14.700Z · EA · GW

There was an interesting discussion on whether EA organizations should reveal the authors of posts they publish here. You may want to check it out if this is relevant to you (not just the linked comment, but also the replies.)

Comment by saulius on Helping wild animals through vaccination: could this happen for coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2? · 2020-06-29T11:55:01.462Z · EA · GW

Thank you very much for this thoughtful reply. You made some good points that made me think about the question differently.

Comment by saulius on How much do Europeans care about fish welfare? (An analysis of relevant surveys) · 2020-06-26T12:58:48.316Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this comment, it's very useful. I agree that there are many other factors that determine whether campaign is successful, I just chose to analyze one of them because I've heard people bringing it up and things they were saying disagreed with these survey results. I didn't realize that there was this much effort behind wins for fish in Poland. My impression is that in Lithuania it didn't require nearly as much effort but I don't really know.

Comment by saulius on Is it suffering or involuntary suffering that's bad, and when is it (involuntary) suffering? · 2020-06-23T10:33:31.471Z · EA · GW

Buddhism would say that if you experience sadness without craving that the sadness go away, you continue to feel sadness but you don't suffer from it. This corresponds to my personal experience. There can actually be richness in the sadness that I enjoy. I know that many other people enjoy it too because there are so many sad songs and movies. When something sad happens to me, I try to prolong it as it is a pleasant and positive experience for me. I think that a Buddhist would say that this is bad as well because I feed a craving and the goal is to get rid of all cravings. But I think it's no worse from the Buddhist perspective than trying to prolong a happy experience. However, I noticed that in the past I (not fully consciously) subtly caused some bad things to happen out of my desire to feel sad. I guess you should look out for that if you start enjoying sadness too much. The things I was doing were bad for me from the long-term perspective.

In contrast, I haven't yet conquered guilt, remorse, and jealousy. When I feel these emotions, I suffer and want them to go away. When a relatable character in a TV show does something predictably bad or cringe-worthy or embarrassing, I hate it and turn off the TV because it causes me suffering. Most people feel more comfortable with these emotions but less comfortable with sadness.

I'm a bit confused about depression though. When you are depressed, maybe you don't want to be happy because you don't remember what it's like to be happy anymore? Or maybe you want to experience calm positive emotions, you just don't want to be artificially cheerful?

Comment by saulius on [deleted post] 2020-06-22T08:59:51.818Z

There already is a linkpost for this: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/xGSw8gho7CJNXrPtf/relevant-pre-agi-possibilities

Comment by saulius on 35-150 billion fish are raised in captivity to be released into the wild every year · 2020-06-17T18:19:19.746Z · EA · GW

A documentary about salmon stocking was made recently and it is available for free on YouTube. It's called Artifishal (Full Film) | The Fight to Save Wild Salmon. Amongst other things, it argues that salmon stocking reduces wild salmon populations and is driving salmon to extinction (which is kind of the opposite of what the purpose of the activity is). On the other hand, some people in the documentary argue that current fishing rates can't be sustained without stocking. The movie also claims that salmon farming is causing the decline of natural salmon population and has some gruesome footage of sick fish in a salmon farm. The movie is well made but slow-paced, I only recommend it for those who are very interested in the topic.

Comment by saulius on Forum update: Tags are live! Go use them! · 2020-06-03T19:41:49.094Z · EA · GW

These things were discussed in more detail here.

Comment by saulius on Forum update: Tags are live! Go use them! · 2020-06-02T15:33:24.020Z · EA · GW

I also think this would be useful. Right now tags seem like a great feature for power users. But I feel that there is still the problem that people who are not yet engaged with EA and have specific interests may only see posts that are not relevant to them on the first visit to the forum and not come back. E.g., a biosecurity expert may not see any biosecurity posts and may not be interested in the three posts that they see after searching "biosecurity". Having tags in a prominent place could help with that.

Comment by saulius on Examples of people who didn't get into EA in the past but made it after a few years · 2020-06-02T12:59:20.400Z · EA · GW

I didn't do cost-effectiveness estimates for each of the activity I tried but I had a feeling of how such estimates would have turned out if I tried to do them. There is nothing special about this, everyone has such intuitions. E.g., organizing EA events in Lithuania was stressful and required a lot of work. Despite that, I felt that few if any people will change anything based on what I said to them. I felt that the main accomplishment was possibly convincing one person to donate something like $2,000 a year to AMF rather than to some other charity. In contrast, after writing one article, I felt that there was a decent chance that animal advocates might help millions or billions of animals that otherwise would not have been helped. Writing that article took less time and was less stressful than organizing EA events in Lithuania. Based on stuff like this, I decided that I should write articles. Note that someone who had a better personal fit for being a community builder and worse fit for being a researcher might have had an opposite experience. But this kind of stuff is also based on luck so the evidence that experimenting provides is not conclusive.

Comment by saulius on Influencing pivotal Individuals · 2020-06-02T12:39:26.937Z · EA · GW

There is also Generation Pledge.

Comment by saulius on Forum update: Tags are live! Go use them! · 2020-06-02T11:51:45.066Z · EA · GW

This is great, thank you so much for doing this! I see that another experimental feature that's been experimental for quite a while is sequences. For those who don't know what it is, you can see an example of it here. Actually, EA handbook is also a sequence but users who haven't opted in experimental features don't seem to be able to create them. I'm curious if there are plans for sequences to go fully live.

Comment by saulius on Social reward and cost/impact effectiveness · 2020-06-02T11:36:45.862Z · EA · GW

I just wanted to say that thanks to your question, I added the following bullet point to my article List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading:

  • Ease of fundraising / counterfactual impact of donations. Let’s say you are deciding which charity you should start. Charity A could do a very cost-effective intervention but only people who already donate to cost-effective charities would be interested in supporting it. Charity B could do a slightly less cost-effective intervention but would have a mainstream appeal and could fundraise from people who don’t donate to any charities or donate to ineffective charities. Other things being equal, you would do more good by starting Charity B, even though it would be less cost-effective. Firstly, Charity B wouldn't take funding away from other effective charities.. Secondly, Charity B could grow to be much larger and hence do more good (provided that its intervention is scalable).

I think that this is an important point that you raised, so thank you!