Posts

Corporate commitments breakdown 2019-08-28T16:53:06.105Z · score: 27 (12 votes)
List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading 2019-08-20T18:05:03.872Z · score: 132 (55 votes)
saulius's Shortform 2019-08-13T15:04:34.562Z · score: 4 (2 votes)
Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent 2019-07-08T08:01:43.368Z · score: 94 (30 votes)
35-150 billion fish are raised in captivity to be released into the wild every year 2019-04-02T13:16:07.994Z · score: 81 (33 votes)
Rodents farmed for pet snake food 2019-02-20T19:54:28.356Z · score: 64 (26 votes)
Will companies meet their animal welfare commitments? 2019-02-01T10:24:26.297Z · score: 112 (46 votes)
List of possible EA meta-charities and projects 2019-01-09T11:28:29.773Z · score: 57 (35 votes)
Fish used as live bait by recreational fishermen 2018-08-08T20:56:25.455Z · score: 52 (39 votes)
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 · score: 16 (16 votes)
Fact checking comparison between trachoma surgeries and guide dogs 2017-05-10T22:33:21.864Z · score: 32 (31 votes)

Comments

Comment by saulius on Linch's Shortform · 2019-09-20T20:46:10.063Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

After a bit more googling I found this which maybe shows that there have been philosophical problems solved recently. I haven't read about that specific problem though. It's difficult to imagine a short paper solving the hard problem of consciousnesses though.

Comment by saulius on Linch's Shortform · 2019-09-20T20:37:52.218Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Honest question: are there examples of philosophical problems that were solved in the last 50 years? And I mean solved by doing philosophy not by doing mostly unrelated experiments (like this one). I imagine that even if some philosophers felt they answered a question, other would dispute it. More importantly, the solution would likely be difficult to understand and hence it would be of limited value. I'm not sure I'm right here.

Comment by saulius on [Link] What opinions do you hold that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of effective altruists? Anonymous form. · 2019-09-15T17:16:40.546Z · score: 10 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Even though it may be presented this way, I think it would be valuable if people explained their statements more. E.g., three people wrote that "we should evaluate reducing abortions as an EA cause" or something along those lines, but none of them explained why they think it's promising. If someone could write an elevator pitch for it as an answer to the form (or this comment), I'd be interested to read.

Comment by saulius on List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading · 2019-09-12T22:03:50.033Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, the distinction is important for people who want to make sure they had at least some impact (I’ve met some people like that). Also, after reading GiveWell’s CEA, you might be tempted to say “I donated $7000 to AMF so I saved two lives.” Interpreting their CEA this way would be misleading, even if it’s harmless. Maybe you saved 0, maybe you saved 4 (or maybe it’s more complicated because AMF, GiveWell, and whoever invented bednets should get some credit for saving those lives as well, etc.).

Another related problem is that probabilities in CEAs are usually subjective Bayesian probabilities. It’s important to recognize that such probabilities are not always on equal footing. E.g., I remember how people used to say things like “I think this charity has at least 0.000000001% chance of saving the world. If I multiply by how many people I expect to ever live… Oh, so it turns out that it’s way more cost-effective than AMF!” I think that this sort of reasoning is important but it often ignores the fact that the 0.000000001% probability is not nearly as robust as probabilities GiveWell uses. Hence you are more likely to fall for the Optimizer’s Curse. In other words, choosing between AMF and the speculative charity here feels choosing between eating at a restaurant with one 5 star Yelp review and eating at a restaurant with 200 Yelp reviews averaging 4.75 star (wording stolen from Karnofsky (2016). I'd choose the latter restaurant.

Also, an example where the original point came up in practice can be seen in this comment.

Comment by saulius on Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent · 2019-09-09T14:53:56.360Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I do think that the follow-through rate for different sectors and countries will be predictably different. I don't think that making a more detailed model to take this into account would have much impact on the final result.

Comment by saulius on Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent · 2019-09-09T14:31:28.910Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

When making the distribution, I imagined that these projects would continue, despite the fact that I didn't include their future costs. However, if I recall correctly, until recently, there was only one employee working on EggTrack, so I don't expect these costs to be very high. Hence, I think that for the purpose of this very rough estimate, these future costs can be ignored. I think that this is outweighed by the fact that the estimate includes some of the costs, but none of the benefits of corporate campaigns that were ongoing as of the end of 2018.

Comment by saulius on Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent · 2019-09-09T14:17:50.879Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

You are right. I’ve just deleted the phrase “and reduce the estimated cost-effectiveness” from the article.

Also note that while I did exclude the costs of ballot initiatives in the main estimation, I did include their costs but not impact in a pessimistic estimation in Appendix 1. That’s because including the impact of ballot initiatives would have obscured the point I wanted to make in that appendix.

Comment by saulius on JP's Shortform · 2019-09-09T11:25:33.005Z · score: 17 (10 votes) · EA · GW

Also, I feel that as the author, I get more credit than is due, it’s more of a team effort. Other staff members of Rethink Charity review my posts, help me to select topics, and make sure that I have to worry about nothing else but writing. And in some cases posts get a lot of input from other people. E.g., Kieran Greig was the one who pointed out the problem of fish stocking to me and then he gave extensive feedback on the post. My CEE of corporate campaigns benefited tremendously from talking with many experts on the subject who generously shared their knowledge and ideas.

Comment by saulius on JP's Shortform · 2019-09-08T22:44:59.330Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks JP! I feel I should point out that it's now basically my full time job to write for the EA forum, which is why there are quite many posts by me :)

Comment by saulius on English as a dominant language in the movement: challenges and solutions · 2019-09-05T21:34:44.099Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I'm thinking that maybe losing an accent is less important for white males, as we already get an unfair advantage. In those cases, the accent might be making it fairer. But this doesn't apply to people whose job involves communicating in English with people outside of the movement.

Comment by saulius on Who has done the most good? · 2019-09-03T11:48:52.822Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

The problem with answering this question is that it's very difficult to know what would have happened if some person did not exist. Some reasoning among similar lines can be found here.

This section from 80,000 hours career guide might also be relevant. I should note that a recent EA forum post questions whether Stanislav Petrov made the difference that 80,000 hours assume here. Some other people who plausibly saved many lives include Louis Pasteur, Maurice Hilleman, and Norman Borlaug. But increasing human population has many indirect effects and it's very difficult to evaluate them.

Comment by saulius on Has anyone analyzed the trade-offs between mosquito and human welfare? · 2019-09-03T10:14:21.495Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Brian Tomasik wrote about it here. I should note that linking to this doesn't mean that I endorse what is written. It is written from a negative utilitarian perspective and with an assumption that invertebrate lives are net-negative, therefore it's good to reduce their population. Personally, I'm unconvinced that this assumption is correct, I think that we simply don't know. Also, I think it is likely that indirect effects of reducing invertebrate populations dominate direct effects. E.g., it seems that insect populations are already declining at an absurdly fast pace, and (pure speculation) this could maybe decrease the probability of the long-term survival of humanity in some way.

Brian also put AMF in his donation recommendations, seemingly for the sole reason that it "plausibly reduces invertebrate populations" (by increasing human population).

You might also be interested in a discussion about AMF's indirect effects here.

Comment by saulius on Uncertainty and sensitivity analyses of GiveWell's cost-effectiveness analyses · 2019-09-01T14:20:31.594Z · score: 21 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I’d find it useful if you could summarize your main takeaways from the analysis in nontechnical language.

Comment by saulius on List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading · 2019-08-27T20:25:52.186Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I haven't read the articles you linked, but I'm wondering:

(a) If the outcome of a CEA is a probability distribution like the one below, we can see that there is a 5% probability that it costs less than $1,038 to avert a death, 30.1% probability that it costs less than $2,272, etc. Isn’t that the same?

CI

(b)

sometimes the most cost-effective intervention has lower expected value than an alternative, because the distribution of benefits is skewed.

Is that because of the effect that I call “Optimizer’s curse” in my article?

Please don’t feel like you have to answer if you don’t know the answers off the top of your head or it’s complex to explain. I don’t really need these answers for anything, I’m just curious. And if I did need the answers, I could find them in the links :)

Comment by saulius on List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading · 2019-08-27T18:11:05.778Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

No need to apologize Derek, I should've given you a deadline or at least tell you that I'm about to publish it. Besides, I don't think anyone shared a link to the article in those 10 hours so no harm done. Thank you very much for all your suggestions and comments.

Comment by saulius on List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading · 2019-08-23T10:32:38.351Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Not really. I just think that we should be careful when using CEEs. Hopefully, this post can help with that. I think it contains little new info for people who have been working with CEEs for a while. I imagine that these are some of the reasons why GiveWell and ACE give CEEs only limited weight in recommending charities.

Maybe I’d like some EAs to take CEEs less literally, understand that they might be misleading in some way, and perhaps analyze the details before citing them. I think that CEEs should start conversations, not end them. I also feel that early on some non-robust CEEs were overemphasized when doing EA outreach, but I’m unsure if that’s still a problem nowadays.

Comment by saulius on List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading · 2019-08-20T22:20:49.132Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Good point, thanks! :)

Comment by saulius on List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading · 2019-08-20T18:14:16.411Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I first published this post on August 7th. However, after about 10 hours, I moved the post to drafts because I decided to make some changes and additions. Now I made those changes and re-published it. I apologize if the temporal disappearance of the article lead to any confusion or inconvenience.

Comment by saulius on Seeking feedback on Cause Prioritization Platform · 2019-08-13T17:02:19.092Z · score: 27 (10 votes) · EA · GW

Some quick thoughts:

  1. There is no way to say that I think the problem is not big/neglected/solvable. Hence ratings provide little information. It could be that only 1 in 10 people think that a problem is solvable, but if enough people think about voting on the cause, it will have a higher solvability rating than a problem that is in a less prominent place within the website. And if you sort problems by "most attention required", then problems that received most votes initially will continue receiving more votes. Instead of a checkbox, I would put a slider so we could vote how solvable a problem is.

  2. People who know very little about problems can vote, and their votes will weight the same as people who know a lot about arguments for and against the issue. If someone mentions the website in some animal discussion group, you might get many people voting favourably for animal causes and skew the results. Hence, as it is, it's currently more of a popularity contest rather than something that could be helpful prioritise. And the EA survey might be better for gauging popularity of various causes.

  3. Scale-neglectedness-solvability framework needs to be applied with care and not all the readers will do that. Maybe a different phrasing of questions would help. E.g. instead of "think this is a solvable problem" you could have something like "if we doubled the resources dedicated to solving this problem, what fraction of the problem would we expect to solve?" (taken from here). Also, it's unclear whether this is the best framework for prioritizing causes, it's been criticised. And we already have ratings for scale-neglectedness-tractability at the 80,000 hours website, I'm not sure this will give more accurate ratings.

I like how the website looks, how it's organized, and how fast it is though. I think that it could be a good idea to have a website for cause prioritization discussions. Although I think there would be a big chance that it wouldn't become popular, even if you do it well. One way to make such website that I imagine could maybe be useful is if you could post various arguments for and against a cause area, and other people could upvote/downvote/comment on these arguments, or propose different ways to phrase them. I remember that a couple of years ago some Scandinavian EA wanted to make a platform that was similar to this but I can't find it now.

Also, in case you didn't know, there are two wikis about cause prioritisation: http://priority.wiki/ and https://causeprioritization.org/ Maybe information in them could be used in some way.

Comment by saulius on saulius's Shortform · 2019-08-13T15:04:34.701Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · EA · GW

I sometimes meet people who claim to be vegetarians (don't eat meat but consume milk and eggs) out of the desire to help the animals. If appropriate, I show them the http://ethical.diet/ website and explain that the production of eggs likely requires more suffering per calorie than most of the commonly consumed meat products. Hence, if they care about animals, avoiding eggs should be a priority. If they say that this is too many food products to give up, I suggest that perhaps instead of eating eggs, they could occasionally consume some beef (although that is bad for the environment). I think that the production of beef requires less suffering per calorie, even though I'm unsure how to compare suffering between different animals. In general, I'm skeptical about dietary change advocacy, but my intuition is that talking about this with vegetarians in situations where it feels appropriate is worth the effort. But I'm uncertain and either way, I don't think this is very important.

Comment by saulius on Are China and India the most promising countries for animal advocacy? A systematic country comparison · 2019-08-11T19:16:04.771Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Many of these countries have a relatively limited animal charity presence and a small chance of developing it, which gives us more confidence there is room for additional counterfactual impact-focused charities to be founded.

Is this an explanation why you use “Presence of animal advocacy organization(s)” as a criteria? It would make sense to focus on such countries if you were founding charities that are good for breaking ice in animal advocacy, and kick-starting the movement. But as I understand it, you are considering where to found new types of charities, advocating for things like fish welfare. I think there is room for such charities in any country. If anything, for new types of charities, the fact that these countries have “a relatively limited animal charity presence and a small chance of developing it” seems like a disadvantage rather than advantage. It’s an indicator that maybe animal advocacy is less tractable in these countries. Also, you would have no local activists who could help you to understand the specifics of the country and give support in other ways. Overall, maybe I’m just confused about what decisions this report should inform.

Comment by saulius on Are China and India the most promising countries for animal advocacy? A systematic country comparison · 2019-08-11T17:59:50.139Z · score: 22 (11 votes) · EA · GW

That’s because almost always, the relative impact of work in a given country is not going to be capped because we reach the maximum scale of animals that can be affected, but because it is going to be slowed down or stopped by other factors much faster than they will by the total capacity of the problem. For example, if in China there is only $100,000 of total funding for animal activism, it doesn't really matter how big the animal production is from the scale perspective as long as it’s much larger than we are likely to help effectively with $100,000.

In the short term, I agree. But spending on China now increases the capacity to spend more on it later. So if we fill that hypothetical $100,000 funding gap now, in a couple of years it could be $300,000, and then it could increase further, maybe even exponentially. Snowball effect. Hence, if we think about where we want the animal advocacy movement to be in 30 years, furthering the movement in China is much more important than furthering the movement in countries like Lithuania.

Also note that cage-free campaigns in the U.S. and some European countries were capped out by the number of animals that are raised or sold in these countries.

Comment by saulius on Are China and India the most promising countries for animal advocacy? A systematic country comparison · 2019-08-11T17:50:40.581Z · score: 15 (8 votes) · EA · GW

One factor that I don’t see mentioned, is how much national or regional progress would build global momentum for change elsewhere. E.g., I’ve heard that when it comes to corporate commitments, companies in many Eastern countries look at what companies in the U.S. (and maybe some European countries) are doing when making decisions, but not the other way around.

Comment by saulius on Global basic education as a missing cause priority · 2019-08-10T10:08:10.319Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

We value oxygen because of its consequences (help us stay alive), not intrinsically. If, for example, we would modify ourselves to survive without oxygen, we wouldn't care about it, hence it's not an intrinsic value. We care about global development because of its consequences too. E.g., we want fewer people to suffer from poverty and its consequences (hunger, easily preventable diseases, etc.). The core intrinsic value here is minimizing suffering.

Comment by saulius on Global basic education as a missing cause priority · 2019-08-09T15:22:10.423Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thinking that education has intrinsic value is might be more rare than you expect. Spencer Greenberg tried to "make a fully comprehensive list of intrinsic values that people report having" here and none of 112 items mention education, although few are related (e.g. "humanity continues to makes progress discovering things that weren't previously known", "people all around the world believe the truth rather than false things"). Are you sure that you value education intrinsically? That is, do you really value education for itself, not merely for its consequences? Would you continue to value it even if it were to cause nothing else? See more on what that means here.

Comment by saulius on Global basic education as a missing cause priority · 2019-08-08T06:35:18.364Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

GiveWell wrote about education in developing countries here. Also, Giving What We Can wrote about education in a more accessible manner here. However, Giving What We Can's report is from 2013 and may be outdated.

Comment by saulius on The EA Forum is a News Feed · 2019-08-03T10:51:23.756Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

it wouldn't need to be a continuous volunteers commitment, they would only be needed for old posts, authors would be encouraged to add tags for new posts themselves.

Comment by saulius on The EA Forum is a News Feed · 2019-08-01T13:20:34.582Z · score: 9 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I've been searching for EA articles on some issues lately and discovered so many old posts that were made even before I knew about the EA forum, but are just as relevant today. If volunteers would add tags for old posts, they could be rediscovered by newer EAs and I think there is a lot of value in that. And I think you could easily find volunteers for this task because they would learn a lot about EA when browsing and tagging old posts.

Comment by saulius on The EA Forum is a News Feed · 2019-07-29T22:27:41.052Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

hmm, I think it does! :)

Comment by saulius on The EA Forum is a News Feed · 2019-07-29T20:38:09.002Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

sub-forums would cause the specializations to ossify and remove valuable cross-pollination of ideas

I really don't think this is a problem, I think there is already so much cross-pollination between people in different unrelated cause-areas within EA at EA Globals, other EA events, friendship groups created by these events, facebook groups, etc. And I'm not sure it's useful, there's too little overlap between topics like AI safety and animal welfare.

Comment by saulius on The EA Forum is a News Feed · 2019-07-29T20:18:10.049Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Regarding making it less intimidating to post. I remember reading somewhere on the forum that one suggested solution if you have a more casual post is to ask moderators to classify it as a "Personal Blogpost" (or to write that you want your post to be classified as such in the post). Instead of this, there could be a checkbox "I want this to be a Personal Blogpost" with an explanation what that means. Posts that are classified this way do not appear in the front page and can only be seen by clicking on "All posts".[1]

I don't think this would solve much but it is a low-touch change. Despite being aware of this, I myself have been hesitant to post some of my casual thoughts on the forum. I think it's because it's not obvious when something is classified as a personal blogpost and what does that mean. I'm afraid that my "I worked on this for three months, here are my conclusions" posts will lose legitimacy if I start making "I thought about this for 15 min" posts. It's a bit weird that we are trying to use the same website for both of these.

Also, this post is slightly relevant for this topic.


  1. BTW, it's inconvenient that I can only see them amongst all the other posts, and I'd like it to be possible to filter for them in "All Posts" page so I could see what I missed by looking at the front page. ↩︎

Comment by saulius on [deleted post] 2019-07-29T20:16:14.688Z

Regarding making it less intimidating to post. I remember reading somewhere on the forum that one suggested solution if you have a more casual post is to ask moderators to classify it as a "Personal Blogpost" (or to write that you want your post to be classified as such in the post). Instead of this, there could be a checkbox "I want this to be a Personal Blogpost" with an explanation what that means. Posts that are classified this way do not appear in the front page and can only be seen by clicking on "All posts".[1]

I don't think this would solve much but it is a low-touch change. Despite being aware of this, I myself have been hesitant to post some of my casual thoughts on the forum. I think it's because it's not obvious when something is classified as a personal blogpost and what does that mean. I'm afraid that my "I worked on this for three months, here are my conclusions" posts will lose legitimacy if I start making "I thought about this for 15 min" posts. It's a bit weird that we are trying to use the same website for both of these.

Also, this post is slightly relevant for this topic.


  1. BTW, it's inconvenient that I can only see them amongst all the other posts, and I'd like it to be possible to filter for them in "All Posts" page so I could see what I missed by looking at the front page. ↩︎

Comment by saulius on What posts you are planning on writing? · 2019-07-26T15:40:16.972Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks. I think I'm afraid to publish posts if I'm unsure they are good/useful. But I will consider publishing some these, especially ways that cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading.

Comment by saulius on What posts you are planning on writing? · 2019-07-25T15:02:55.264Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Relatedly, I put some of my posts that I decided are not good enough to go on the EA Forum on a wordpress site here (I’ve never advertised this website before).

Comment by saulius on What posts you are planning on writing? · 2019-07-25T14:59:45.185Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I included links to my working drafts to help understand the projects better, but please keep in mind that they contain statements that I will change my mind on after further research or contemplation. Also, they are not very tidy.

Year-by-year analysis of corporate campaigns (~50% done, draft)

This is basically an appendix to my cost-effectiveness estimate of corporate cage-free and broiler campaigns. Will contain graphs that will show how many animals were affected by campaigns each year, how cost-effectiveness has changed, and why we shouldn’t overreact to the analysis.

Numbers of animals slaughtered (~40% done, draft)

A collection of estimates of how many animals are kept in captivity for various purposes. E.g., meat, fur, wool, experiments, zoos, fish stocking, silk, etc.

Numbers of wild animals affected by humans in various ways (~30% done, draft)

Another collection of estimates. E.g. how many wild fish we catch, how many animals are killed by domestic cats, how many birds die after colliding with man-made objects, etc.

Surveys about veg*ism in the U.S. (not started)

I previously examined surveys about veganism and vegetarianism in the U.S. here. Results were conflicting. Now I want to conduct my own surveys to try to figure out what’s happening. This SSC post provides a hypothesis about why 2-6% of people claim to be vegetarians in surveys but then >60% of them report eating meat on at least one of two days for which they were asked to fill a dietary recall survey. I want to test it by seeing how many people will claim that they eat a breatharian diet (eat no solids at all). I think that ~3% of people will claim that they do it because they answer questions without reading, or purposefully answer incorrectly, or misunderstand the question. This would explain why surveys that simply ask people “Are you a vegan?” find such unreasonably high percentages. I also want to test other survey designs in a similar way and then make a better survey on the subject.

Trends of vegetarianism and veganism in the UK (not started)

Similar to what I wrote for the U.S. (link) but for the UK. I want to see if there will be similar patterns.

Comment by saulius on What posts you are planning on writing? · 2019-07-25T11:18:31.709Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Is it a list of blog posts that explain why people made the donations they made? Or just a list of donors and their donations similar to this?

Comment by saulius on What posts you are planning on writing? · 2019-07-25T10:50:43.902Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I feel I should note that there is an opposite problem happening as well. Robert Wiblin once wrote:

It's a problem for 80,000 Hours that people range from wildly overconfident in themselves to wildly under-confident in themselves. The extent of people's inaccurate self-assessments has surprised me and might surprise you too.

As a result, almost anything we say to help people figure out whether they can plausibly pursue a given career path will still lead to some combination of confident but unsuitable people pushing ahead, and under-confident but suitable people not even bothering to try. Both of these are significant costs.

The ideal is to give objective measures like test scores, but i) many roles have no such clear entry criteria, ii) even those that do usually also require some softer skills that are harder to measure, iii) most people won't have done the test, so we're back to people's guesses about how well they would do, and iv) some people have such strong positive and negative convictions about themselves even this wouldn't help.

Anyway, the bottom line is that if you could all go and achieve perfect self-knowledge it would make my job slightly easier, thank you.

Comment by saulius on [deleted post] 2019-07-25T10:50:09.176Z

I feel I should note that there is an opposite problem happening as well. Robert Wiblin once wrote:

It's a problem for 80,000 Hours that people range from wildly overconfident in themselves to wildly under-confident in themselves. The extent of people's inaccurate self-assessments has surprised me and might surprise you too.

As a result, almost anything we say to help people figure out whether they can plausibly pursue a given career path will still lead to some combination of confident but unsuitable people pushing ahead, and under-confident but suitable people not even bothering to try. Both of these are significant costs.

The ideal is to give objective measures like test scores, but i) many roles have no such clear entry criteria, ii) even those that do usually also require some softer skills that are harder to measure, iii) most people won't have done the test, so we're back to people's guesses about how well they would do, and iv) some people have such strong positive and negative convictions about themselves even this wouldn't help.

Anyway, the bottom line is that if you could all go and achieve perfect self-knowledge it would make my job slightly easier, thank you.

Comment by saulius on Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent · 2019-07-23T19:10:12.510Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA · GW

TL;DR: Nobody seems to know what the value of mean years of impact should be, and I don't see how this uncertainty could be reduced. I think that indirect effects are more important and it would be better to research them.

Good points and I'm happy you brought it up.

Firstly, I know you know this, but Lewis wrote that in his view, "the assumption that these campaigns only accelerated pledges by five years is very conservative." It makes sense to use a conservative value when doing a point estimate like he did. And I did use a similar value (4 years) in my conservative estimate in Appendix 1. ACE did not really describe their choice for the value so I didn't pay much attention to it. There's also Capriati (2018) which assumed that THL's cage-free and broiler campaigns moved policies forward by only one year (I just added the description. But this assumes that other organizations would have still done everything they did. And even then, I don't think it is reasonable.

To be honest, I think that nobody has a clue about what value to use here. Hence, everybody uses random conservative values in order for the end result to be more believable, because the estimated cost-effectiveness of campaigns is unbelievably high even with a conservative values. I did that to a degree as well. I asked some people who work on corporate campaigns what value would they use for mean years of impact. They thought that my range was reasonable, but I think they would have said that about many different ranges because it's difficult to think about. Only one person was able to say what range for mean years of impact would they use without looking at my range, and they said 40 to 100 years. If I weren't anchored by other estimates and didn't want to be a bit conservative to be more convincing to skeptics, I think I would have chosen a higher value as well, especially for the upper bound. In general, my impression is that all these "estimates" (including mine) are basically guesses that look more legitimate than they should because they are surrounded by neatly formatted text. We just can't predict the future.

I also don't see how to do more research on this topic. Perhaps seeing how long corporate commitments in other domains lasted could give a little bit information on that but only a little bit because situations are so different. If you have any ideas, I'd be interested to hear them.

But I'm uncertain if it's worthwhile to put more effort into cost-effectiveness estimates of corporate campaigns. I don't know what decisions depend on whether it's 7.5-24 years or 9-120 years. I think it would be more decision-relevant to research indirect effects, or in which regions corporate campaigns are more cost-effective, or how corporate campaigns compare with legislative campaigns for welfare reforms.

your model and ACE's model should be more uncertain about it.

I use a subjective confidence interval of 4 to 36 years with a log-normal distribution, so it's already very uncertain. Perhaps I should have used a flatter custom distribution, but after experimenting, it seems that it wouldn't change the answer much.

Additionally, I'd like to see reports like this contain a short display of which input parameters have the largest effect with the result. I think it can be the important information for seeing how robust the result is!

Interesting, I will consider it. Do you know of any report that I could use as an example of how to write such a thing?

Comment by saulius on [deleted post] 2019-07-23T14:03:38.342Z

aaaaa

Comment by saulius on Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent · 2019-07-20T15:06:08.876Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Glad you liked it :) I added a sentence about indirect effects in the first paragraph. I see your point about the title but I chose to leave it as it is because:

  1. I think that people don’t expect cost-effectiveness estimates to take all the indirect effects into account anyway. That said, I am afraid of it being misinterpreted as an estimate of what an additional donated dollar would achieve.
  2. However, anyone who would make important decisions based on this estimate would hopefully read more than just the title anyway.
  3. I wanted to grab the attention of some EAs who would not consider helping welfare reforms otherwise (and hence wouldn’t open an article called “Cost-effectiveness estimate of corporate animal welfare campaigns”).
  4. I wanted the result to be prominently featured because I'd rather the common knowledge within EA would be "it affects 9-120 years per dollar but there are many complications and indirect effects" rather than "it's unclear what the cost-effectiveness is". The former at least let’s people compare the scale of the effects with other interventions.
  5. I don’t want to change the title now because it could confuse some forum readers into thinking this is a new article, and make the article more difficult to find for readers who remember the old title.
Comment by saulius on Sperm sorting in cattle · 2019-07-16T00:00:30.026Z · score: 16 (9 votes) · EA · GW

If I were you, I would try to somehow talk to the kind of farmers you would target, and ask if they would grow more cows if all calves were born female, preferably without making it clear why you are asking. I think that no amount of armchair theorizing can substitute that. You might find out about other indirect effects this way as well.

Comment by saulius on Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent · 2019-07-10T17:27:25.973Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

my assumption is that improving welfare will raise costs, and higher costs will cause customers to switch providers. Are you at all worried about companies that follow through going out of business?

The value of Mean years of impact is smaller because I considered companies going bankrupt, but I didn’t think about them being more likely to go bankrupt (or decrease their market share) because of commitments. Note that companies that don’t follow-through (or don’t commit in the first place) will eventually have to face campaigns from animal advocates, which also puts them at a disadvantage. It’s not like animal advocates stop once half of a country is using higher welfare products. However, if a period between campaigns against different competitors is long, this can be a concern. I haven’t heard of anyone complaining about this though.

I wonder if companies that follow-through would be interested in sponsoring legislation that forces their competitors to also improve welfare? That could help solve this problem maybe?

I actually asked someone about this. They said that companies that made commitments stop campaigning against such legislation, but they haven’t heard about food companies sponsoring such legislation. I imagine that it would only make sense for very big food companies and I’m unsure if any company is big enough.

In any case, this might be an argument for people interested in farm animal welfare to concentrate their efforts on improving welfare for one animal product in one country at a time.

Animal activists are focusing on one issue at the time and indeed, Bollard (2017a) claims that this as one of the primary reasons why corporate campaigns are so successful. But we have enough resources to do it in multiple countries at the same time. Also, animal advocates that live in different countries can’t all work on one country at a time, they are better at achieving success in their own country.

people will probably substitute chicken meat with beef & pork to some degree as chicken prices rise

Good point. One could argue that this still would be a win from an animal welfare perspective (although a smaller one) because chicken requires many more hours of suffering per calorie than beef or pork (see http://ethical.diet/) and because broilers arguably live in worse conditions. On the other hand, cows and pigs are more complex animals. Also, maybe some people would substitute chicken with fish, which could be even worse. Thinking about this also makes me less excited about campaigns/legislation against veal crates and gestation crates for pigs because they might increase the consumption of chicken. I don’t know how much these reforms increase prices though.

Additionally it might make sense to concentrate on particular industries, e.g., hotels, high-end restaurants, fast food restaurants, etc. Presumably, McDonald’s is more worried about being undercut by Burger King than Marriot.

Also a good point. I don’t know if animal advocates do that.

Comment by saulius on Did corporate campaigns in the US have any counterfactual impact? A quantitative model · 2019-06-27T01:53:12.342Z · score: 23 (9 votes) · EA · GW
Wholesale - the term seems to be synonymous with free-range - egg prices were in the $1.25 per dozen

Wholesale is not synonymous with free-range. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wholesaling I already pointed it out when you published this article on your website three weeks ago but I thought that I should point it out here as well because your cage-free egg prices (and consequently the results) could be incorrect because of this mistake.

Comment by saulius on 35 Independent Pieces of Evidence for Why New Corporate Campaigns Might (or Might Not) Work · 2019-06-06T20:13:42.095Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW
I think I’m less concerned about an error in one of the parameters than you seem to be because of the different goals of the research.

Just to be clear, I wasn't concerned about the error, I saw that deleting the cell and then making other appropriate changes increases the estimated probability by only 3%. I only commented about it because I thought that it is easy to fix. I agree that the approach you chose has its benefits.

Comment by saulius on 35 Independent Pieces of Evidence for Why New Corporate Campaigns Might (or Might Not) Work · 2019-05-29T20:49:33.533Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW
Of course, I feel fully confident that the true outcome will be somewhere between 0% and 100%, but this result is not that informative when we need to make a call.

If your 90% CI is between 0% and 100%, it can be a little bit informative to put that in the model (preferably with a custom probability distribution), because it would help to distinguish between interventions that help 0-2 animals per dollar spent, and interventions that help 1 animal per dollar spent. You should of course prefer the latter to avoid the optimizer's curse. If you end up not having actual 90% subjective confidence intervals because you want to make things simpler, I guess you should keep that in mind when filling the column for the strength of evidence in your Priority Asks table.

Comment by saulius on 35 Independent Pieces of Evidence for Why New Corporate Campaigns Might (or Might Not) Work · 2019-05-29T14:35:08.420Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · EA · GW

There is one part of the model that I disagree with:

When looking closely at the US cage-free campaigns, only one (Whole Foods) out of
the 20 companies affecting the highest number of hens has switched to cage-free
(though most deadlines are for planned for 2025). Those companies account for
66% of hens that, in theory, would be affected by the campaign. Which means that
companies that met their deadline (average of 54% rate globally, across different
issues), had a smaller impact that the 20 that didn’t follow through. 5% of pledges is
going to affect 66% of hens. That might suggest that enforcement will become more
difficult as reforms become more significant for the animals and more costly to the
industry.

You then use this in the model as a piece of evidence about the expected follow-through rate of all corporate commitments:
model
All other top 20 companies (with a possible exception of Costco which seems to be close to being cage-free anyway) have their deadlines set in the future, as you say, mostly 2025. You can’t say that they did not follow-through, we just have to wait until 2025 and see if they will, nobody expected them to be 100% cage-free this early. If I were you, I would remove this cell from the model.

Comment by saulius on 35 Independent Pieces of Evidence for Why New Corporate Campaigns Might (or Might Not) Work · 2019-05-24T17:05:45.983Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · EA · GW

This is very interesting and useful, thank you!

I’m a little puzzled about how to interpret the results though, and it’s related with a maths problem that I’ve been confused about for a while. However, I have to warn that this is confusing and it might be counterproductive to think about it because of that.

Do you mean that if you start a new campaign for a new ask, then you expect 39% - 50% of companies that make commitments to follow through? If that is the case, the confidence interval seems to be very narrow. My 90% Subjective Confidence Interval (SCI) for that would be 0% - 100%. For example, there can be commitments like stopping chick culling which depend on the creation of new technologies. Scientists might fail to create such technologies in which case it’s 0%. Or they might make them very cheap and then everyone fulfils their commitments (100%).

Another way to interpret the result is that it is your subjective probability that a given company will follow through. But then I’m not sure it makes sense to have a 90% SCI of what your own subjective probability is. What would that even mean? How would you check that the true value is in the confidence interval?

But even if in your cost-effectiveness estimate you would use a point estimate (44%) instead of a SCI (39% - 50%) for the probability, I wouldn’t be sure about how to interpret the results. The result would still be a SCI because you will probably use SCIs in other parts of your calculations. But then that wouldn’t be a 90% SCI of the number of animal affected. It would be a 90% SCI of the expected value of the number of animals affected. But then again, I don’t know how to interpret a 90% SCI of an expected value.

I think that one way to model cost-effectiveness in a way that makes mathematical sense is to have a probability distribution of the percentage of companies that will follow through. The distribution would have some weight on 0%, some weight on 100% and some weight in between. Another way would be to use point estimates everywhere and say that it is an expected value. Of course, no one will die if you mix these two things, but the result might be difficult to interpret.

If anyone thinks that my reasoning here is wrong, I’d be very curious to hear because I encounter this problem quite often nowadays. And currently I am making a cost-effectiveness model of corporate campaigns myself, and I don’t quite know what to do with the uncertainty about following through...

Comment by saulius on 35 Independent Pieces of Evidence for Why New Corporate Campaigns Might (or Might Not) Work · 2019-05-24T13:00:38.387Z · score: 20 (8 votes) · EA · GW

More space per chicken is just one of the requirements. Probably the most important requirement is to use higher welfare breeds, which generally grow more slowly. But there are more requirements regarding lighting, enrichments, etc. You can see the full ask in the European Chicken Commitment. Asks for other regions are similar and can be seen here.

Comment by saulius on EA Forum: Footnotes are live, and other updates · 2019-05-21T08:57:18.171Z · score: 12 (10 votes) · EA · GW

This[1] will save me so much time, thank you!


  1. When I say this, I mean the footnote thing. You are seeing an example of it right now. The bios thing is cool too though :) ↩︎