Posts

A cause can be too neglected 2020-04-03T16:41:55.283Z · score: 85 (42 votes)
Estimates of global captive vertebrate numbers 2020-02-18T17:05:36.160Z · score: 116 (40 votes)
Accuracy issues in FAO animal numbers 2019-12-02T14:56:47.306Z · score: 56 (24 votes)
Effective Animal Advocacy Resources 2019-10-24T10:41:12.057Z · score: 94 (45 votes)
Corporate commitments breakdown 2019-08-28T16:53:06.105Z · score: 29 (14 votes)
List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading 2019-08-20T18:05:03.872Z · score: 155 (69 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: 101 (36 votes)
35-150 billion fish are raised in captivity to be released into the wild every year 2019-04-02T13:16:07.994Z · score: 83 (35 votes)
Rodents farmed for pet snake food 2019-02-20T19:54:28.356Z · score: 71 (28 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: 59 (37 votes)
Fish used as live bait by recreational fishermen 2018-08-08T20:56:25.455Z · score: 53 (40 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 What posts you are planning on writing? · 2020-04-06T18:34:31.670Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, it made me a bit more willing to post here. But I put another week of work into that post before publishing. And I worked 2 more days on that post that I posted a couple of days ago which is also from my blog. I'm sure that some other posts from that blog are worth publishing after I put more work into them but I'm unsure if this is what I should be spending my time on. E.g., I don't want to post Cost-effectiveness of trap-neuter-return programs for cats on the EA forum without doing more to make sure it's correct (e.g. reading recent related research by other EAs). I'm unsure if I want to post Should you donate to a fund-raising meta-charity? without looking into the current situation of these charities (e.g. if there is room for more funding) and just generally thinking more about the topic. I guess it would be fine to still post it with a disclaimer but I would be afraid of giving people the wrong advice and also hurting my credibility. And I don't think posting it on the shortform would make much impact but I'd still care about saying the right things so I don’t want to bother with that.

Comment by saulius on A cause can be too neglected · 2020-04-04T15:34:10.062Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Also, I think the definition is different from how EAs casually use the model and I was making this point for people who are using it casually.

Comment by saulius on A cause can be too neglected · 2020-04-04T15:32:56.880Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, the formula cancels out to good done / extra person or dollar, so the framework remains true by definition no matter what. Although if we are talking about a totally new cause, then % increase in resources is infinity and the model breaks.

But the way I see it, the framework is useful partly it’s because it’s easy to use intuitively. Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m now trying to think about newish causes with accelerating returns in terms of the model, I find it confusing. It’s easier just to think directly about what I can do and what impact it can end up having. Perhaps the model is not useful for new and newish causes.

Comment by saulius on A cause can be too neglected · 2020-04-04T14:23:46.796Z · score: 16 (10 votes) · EA · GW

Yeah, probably someone mentioned it before. Before posting this, I wanted to read everything that was written about neglectedness to make sure that what I’m saying is novel. But there is a lot of text written about it, and I got tired of reading it. I think that’s why I didn’t post this text on the EA forum when I initially wrote it a year ago. But then I realized that it doesn’t really matter whether someone mentioned it before or not. I knew that it’s not a very common knowledge within EA because the few times I mentioned the argument, people said that it’s a good and novel point. So I posted it.

Comment by saulius on A cause can be too neglected · 2020-04-04T13:11:03.263Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I think there are some transferable set-up costs. For corporate campaigns to work, you need an involvement of public-facing corporations that have at least some customers who care about animal welfare, and an ask that wouldn't bankrupt them if implemented. I don't think that any corporations involved in baitfish or fish stocking are at all like that. Maybe you could do a corporate campaign against pet shops to stop selling pet snakes. But snakes are also sold at specialized reptile shops and I don't think that such a campaign against them would make sense.

However, animal advocates also do legislative outreach and that could be used for these issues as well. Also, they have an audience who cares about animals and that could be very useful too.

Comment by saulius on Managed Honey Bee Welfare: Problems and Potential Interventions · 2020-04-04T12:19:28.409Z · score: 14 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I estimate that at any given time in 2017 there were between 1.4 and 4.8 trillion adult managed honey bees

I want to draw attention to just how huge these numbers are. In animal advocacy we often talk about how many farmed chickens there are. E.g., that there are 3.6 times more farmed chickens at any time than farmed cows, pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, turkeys and rabbits combined. But there are between 59 and 202 adult managed honey bees for every farmed chicken.* To help remember just how big is this difference, I created this graphic: graph

*The number of chickens here includes both, egg-laying hens and meat chickens. All numbers and estimations can be seen here.

Comment by saulius on A cause can be too neglected · 2020-04-03T16:53:53.442Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I didn’t mention it in the post because I wanted to keep it short but there was a related discussion on a recent 80,000 hours podcast with WillMacAskill with some good points:

Will MacAskill: So take great power war or something. I’m like great power wars are really important? We should be concerned about it. People normally say, “Oh, but what would we do?”. And I’m kinda like, I don’t know. I mean policy around hypersonic missiles is like one thing, but really I don’t know. We should be looking into it. And then people are like, “Well, I just don’t really know”. And so don’t feel excited about it. But I think that’s evidence of why diminishing marginal returns is not exactly correct. It’s actually an S curve. I think if there’d never been any like investment and discussion about AI and now suddenly we’re like, “Oh my God, AI’s this big thing”. They wouldn’t know what to do on Earth about this. So there’s an initial period of where you’re getting increasing returns where you’re just actually figuring out like where you can contribute. And that’s interesting if you get that increasing returns dynamic because it means that you don’t want really spread, even if it’s the case that–

Robert Wiblin: It’s a reason to group a little bit more.

Will MacAskill: Exactly. Yeah. And so I mean a couple of reasons which kind of favor AI work over these other things that maybe I think are just as important in the grand scheme of things is we’ve already done all the sunk cost of building kind of infrastructure to have an impact there. And then secondly, when you combine with the fact that just entirely objectively it’s boom time in AI. So if there’s any time that we’re going to focus on it, it’s when there’s vast increases in inputs. And so perhaps it is the case that maybe my conclusion is perhaps I’m just as worried about war or genetic enhancement or something, but while we’ve made the bet, we should follow through with it. But overall I still actually would be pretty pro people doing some significant research into other potential top causes and then figuring out what should the next thing that we focus quite heavily on be

Robert Wiblin: I guess especially people who haven’t already committed to working on some other area if they’re still very flexible. For example, maybe they should go and think about great power conflict if you’re still an undergraduate student.

Will MacAskill: Yeah, for sure and then especially different causes. One issue that we’ve found is that we’re talking so much about biorisk and AI risk and they’re just quite weird small causes that can’t necessarily absorb large numbers of people perhaps who don’t have… Like I couldn’t contribute to biorisk work, nor do I have a machine learning background and so on, whereas some other causes like climate change and great power war potentially can absorb just much larger quantities of people and that could be a strong reason for looking into them more too.

Comment by saulius on saulius's Shortform · 2020-04-02T10:29:08.929Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

If I were to read one of EA-related books (e.g. Doing Good Better, The Most Good You Can Do, The Life You Can Save, The Precipice, Superintelligence, etc.), I would consider writing/improving a summary of the book in wikipedia while reading it, in a way that conveys main points well. It could help you to digest the book better and help others to understand the ideas a bit. You could do it in english as well as maybe in some other language. To see whether it’s worth putting in the effort, you can check out Wikipedia pageview statistics of the books I mentioned and others here (it doesn’t include some views that come from redirects though). It seems that the page Superintelligence is the most viewed one out of these with an average of 4,597 monthly visitors.

Comment by saulius on Should Longtermists Mostly Think About Animals? · 2020-03-31T17:24:20.092Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

There isn’t yet reason to believe that overall animal populations are decreasing.

WWF claims that "on average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years." I don't know how they arrived at this estimate though.

Comment by saulius on Suggestion: EAs should post more summaries and collections · 2020-03-26T13:33:20.306Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

an interesting/useful term or concept is discussed but never clearly defined, or is used/defined in various somewhat different ways

I think that EA Concepts did a good job mitigating this problem regarding concepts, although I'm unsure how many people read it. In general, it seems that it would be better if these sort of collections would be in one place (e.g., like they are in EA Concepts), in addition to being scattered throughout the EA Forum. Maybe an EA wiki (which is already in the works) could solve such a problem, provided enough people use it. Or maybe EA concepts could be expanded. Or maybe we should also post collections of summaries/collections on the Forum.

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-19T14:50:15.230Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Note that ACE does write about their criteria here. But I'm interested in which factors are the most impacful. E.g. if charities that seem to be cost-effective often don't get recommended because of a lack of plans for growth or an unhealthy culture.

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T14:25:58.893Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Are you concerned about any negative effects of ACE's charity recommendations (e.g. over-optimizing, unhealthy competition etc.)? If yes, do you do anything to mitigate these effects?

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:51:38.375Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW

In https://animalcharityevaluators.org/transparency/financials/ you claim that

From 2014–2019, we have influenced more than $26 million to our recommended charities and our Effective Animal Advocacy Fund, while only spending $3 million on our own programs and operations.

What do you think is the counterfactual of these influenced donations? How much of this $26 million do you think would have been not donated to any animal charities, and how much to less effective animal charities?

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:46:18.879Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Do you think that for remote organizations staff retreats are worth the costs and staff time? How confident are you in your opinion?

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:43:13.508Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This is answered here

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:41:49.418Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

What would you say to someone who is undecided between donating to ACE and one of ACE's top charities?

(note: this does not apply to me but I thought that it may apply to some of the listeners)

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:35:45.759Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Do you think that EAA should increase or decrease the proportion of resources that are spent on research rather than action?

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:33:50.974Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Roughly, what percentage of ACE’s staff-time and money is spent on each of the following charity evaluations, foundational research, communications, management, staff retreats and travelling?

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:29:23.619Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

How do you see ACE changing and evolving in the future?

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:28:42.295Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I sometimes worry that if in a given year charity's funding significantly depends on whether they are recommended by ACE, it might be difficult for them to make long term plans and hiring. Because of this, I considered donating to charities that ACE has stopped recommending at any given year so that they wouldn't have to lay off people. Do you think this is a significant concern? (P.S. people other than Leah are also free to answer in a comment).

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:19:52.587Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

What are the most important factors that determine which charities get recommended?

Comment by saulius on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-18T13:18:58.448Z · score: 15 (7 votes) · EA · GW

How much disagreement there is within ACE about which charities to recommend?

Comment by saulius on What are some 1:1 meetings you'd like to arrange, and how can people find you? · 2020-03-18T12:42:03.604Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Who are you?

Hey, my name is Saulius Šimčikas. I work as a researcher at an EA think tank Rethink Priorities, focusing on topics related to animals.

People can talk to me about:

  • Happy to answer questions to people who are new to EA, especially about animal welfare but also about cause prioritization, EA principles, community, etc.
  • I can help you with finding whatever effective animal advocacy research that would be useful to you
  • Anything related to topics I wrote about, which include:
  • If some animal-related research would help you to help animals, please tell me, and I or one of my colleagues may research it at some point.
  • Was there any research in the past that helped you to help animals?
  • Some people come to me if they want someone to give them an honest and frank opinion or feedback. I’m happy to be used this way.

I'd like to talk to other people about:

  • I’m always very interested in hearing professional and personal criticism. For example, please tell me if you think that:
    • I would have more impact if I was doing something different with my life,
    • I should write articles in a different way,
    • I should research different topics than I do,
    • I should do something differently when I communicate with people.
  • Theory of change for research. How can I make my research have more impact?
  • What the future of animal advocacy should look like?
  • Suggest me research topics that you think could end up making a big difference for animals.
  • I'm interested in how the work of various people in animal charities looks day-to-day
  • Tell me if you can put me in contact with someone who works in the egg industry (owning some backyard hens or a very small farm doesn’t count)

How to get in touch:

Comment by saulius on Virtual EA Global: News and updates from CEA · 2020-03-18T10:52:16.445Z · score: 9 (7 votes) · EA · GW

This link should convert the event start time to your local time automatically (unless you use a VPN)

Comment by saulius on Open Thread #46 · 2020-03-13T22:51:46.555Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

ok then, nevermind :)

Comment by saulius on April Fool's Day Is Very Serious Business · 2020-03-13T17:30:47.729Z · score: 14 (9 votes) · EA · GW

I'm now thinking that the EA forum is a strange place. It's literally my day job to spend months writing these long articles with hundreds of references. These articles are then reviewed by multiple people and I spend days copy-editing them. But at the same time we do want people to spontaneously post their ideas without spending days researching them in the very same place where me and my colleagues post these long and serious research articles. Maybe this forum is trying to be too many things at once. Or maybe we should post our research articles elsewhere so that people would feel more free to play with new ideas here. The existence of shortform does help to alleviate this problem though.

Comment by saulius on Open Thread #46 · 2020-03-13T17:11:03.422Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for posting these open threads John, I think that they were very valuable in the past. But now that we have shortform, I'm less sure we need these Open Thread posts.

Comment by saulius on April Fool's Day Is Very Serious Business · 2020-03-13T16:46:37.350Z · score: 41 (20 votes) · EA · GW

Interesting idea but maybe you should ask a question on the April Fool's Day about what new cause areas there should be and other people would write their pitches as answers to that question. I think this would be better for multiple reasons than making many top-level posts because:

  • I'd find it much less scary to post a funny answer or a comment, rather than a top-level post because it feels like taking less space. And my intuition is that you'd get more answers this way.
  • If a newcomer comes to the forum and see the title of one of these posts, they would probably not think much about the EA movement. The moment they see a title like "New Top EA Cause: fair rides for chickens", they might close the page and not come back to the EA forum. Note that they could see one of these posts on google searches or by going to a user profile. I'd not make such a post because I'd be afraid that someone might not take me seriously after seeing the title of such post after visiting my profile.
  • All answers would be in one place and easier to find. Otherwise posts about new cause areas would probably not be promoted to be neither community or frontpage posts, so few people would notice them.
  • It would be easier to navigate the forum to find new information because the forum wouldn't be full of these posts
Comment by saulius on COVID-19 brief for friends and family · 2020-03-07T02:24:54.308Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I know next to nothing about this stuff, but I was thinking that it would be good to at least avoid the virus in the period when there might not be enough hospital beds and the health system is very overwhelmed. So it might make sense to take more extreme precautions in that time.

Comment by saulius on Effective Animal Advocacy Resources · 2020-02-21T13:34:05.317Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I added it and corrected the RP website, thanks!

Comment by saulius on Estimates of global captive vertebrate numbers · 2020-02-18T20:06:07.678Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, table support would have been nice, but no worries :) Is the new editor coming any time soon?

Comment by saulius on Estimates of global captive vertebrate numbers · 2020-02-18T19:13:32.743Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Good point, I forgot about them. I've heard that they purchase frozen mice to feed animals at these clinics. So these clinics may also increase the number of farmed rodents by increasing the demand for them.

EDIT: I've edited the article so now it mentions wildlife rehabilitation clinics

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T22:21:11.664Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA · GW

But organizations did leafleting for a while, realized there were more effective uses of resources, and then stopped leafleting [...] It was only after that that evidence that leafleting was not very effective emerged in the research literature.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that it’s accidental that things happened in this order. If the same research about leafleting was done earlier, it could’ve had an impact by making organizations deprioritize leafleting earlier. I don’t think that we can trust organizations always to realize what is a more effective use of their resources without any research. There are too many biases in human nature, and it’s often just not obvious enough.

I also feel that so far, animal welfare research didn’t have that much impact. And I do feel more skeptical about it because of it. However, I’m not sure there was enough animal advocacy research to conclude that we should deprioritize it. Research is a hit-based endeavor. Just because we (EAA researchers) haven’t had many hits in our very short history, doesn’t mean that they will never happen. Note that it’s also possible that some of the research we already did will become a hit and make an impact in the future (e.g., our work on invertebrate sentience or fish stocking).

The situation in animal advocacy seems to be that we have very many options about what to do, and we don’t know which options are the best. That does sound like a situation that could be improved by research.

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T22:09:49.474Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

How do you engage with the animal welfare advocacy groups who might act on your research?

We talk to them, try to understand what they do and why, ask what research they would find useful, and ask whether our research has influenced their decisions (we did it via a survey and informally).

Or alternatively, how do you counteract any negatives from not being an advocacy organization, and not getting feedback directly (e.g. advocacy that responds to research because they are done in conjunction)?

What do you think are the main relevant differences between the team being in-house versus a separate organization? The way I see it, all of us in the EAA movement are a part of the same team, working towards the same goals. A president of an animal charity can go to us and ask us to research a particular topic in a similar way they could go to their in-house research team. I guess one difference is that if they go to us, it’s up to us to decide whether to pursue the suggested topic but I don’t see why that would necessarily be worse.[1] Of course, I’m unsure about this as I’ve never worked for an in-house team.


  1. So far, I haven’t pursued any of the research topics that were suggested by people from animal charities because they didn’t seem very tractable. However, I will probably try to make progress on some of these topics in the future. ↩︎

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T21:23:18.699Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Ethics: some years ago I was utilitarian and I pushed myself to do utilitarian things. Then I realized that there are other values that I care about and I tried to specify what they are. Eventually I realized that it’s impossible because there are too many. I then still tried to specify what actions should I push myself to do in order to achieve my vaguely-defined long-term goals. Now I abandoned even that and I just do whatever I want. It didn’t really change much in terms of behaviour. E.g., I still want to never lie. I just don’t think about it in terms of ethics. Also, my mindset is different, more easy-going. Some ethical stances did change though. For example, past-me would’ve pressed a button to create an utilitronium shockwave because it’s a logical conclusion to utilitarianism. Now I wouldn’t press such button because I don’t want to. I don’t claim that this approach to life and ethics is better or correct in any way though, and I don’t know if I should stick to it. If anyone has reasons why I should change it, I’d be curious to read.

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T18:59:36.868Z · score: 20 (12 votes) · EA · GW

Some more reasons why I think I keep working on EA stuff:

  • EA forum's karma system and comments make it motivating to participate here, I'm slightly addicted to it.
  • I'm embarrassed to admit it but I have a desire to impress other people and I try to do that by writing EA forum posts. I enjoy social status it gives me in some social situations, etc.

I'm afraid that in some cases these motivations lead me to work on things that are not the most impactful and I try to watch out for that.

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T18:30:37.164Z · score: 21 (12 votes) · EA · GW

This is the story that I tell myself about myself but I’m really unsure about the accuracy of it.

I was utilitarian since I was a teen (way before I knew the term). I decided to earn-to-give and found out about GiveWell and ACE when researching where to give. I got really interested when I discovered Brian Tomasik’s website after googling something about utilitarianism. Shortly after that I began participating in EA facebook group, I don’t remember how. I saw some people discussing donations and salaries there and they were much higher than mine because I was living in Lithuania. In 2015 I decided to emigrate to London so that I could earn and donate more money. In London, I went to an EA meetup. It was a shock because up until that point I haven’t met anyone who is altruistic and most of the people in my life were alienated by my altruism and tried to talk me out of donating my money. Making friends with other EAs at meetups in London has greatly increased my motivation to do EA stuff. Soon I was spending most of my free time on EA-related activities. Combined with other factors, this has led me to burn out in 2017. I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered from it.

I think I keep working on EA stuff now because:

  • It’s my job and it would be difficult to find a better job even from a purely selfish perspective
  • I still care about making the world a better place (though not as much as I used to before burning out)
  • It feels easy and natural to work on EA stuff because my brain is used to think in the utilitarian way and because I hang out with other EAs all the time

However, I have little faith in humans knowing why they do anything so maybe these are not the real reasons.

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T16:55:22.898Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I plan to contact people in Asia and talk to them about research priorities and other things after I finish my current project. I already began collecting some contacts.

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T16:04:18.852Z · score: 34 (21 votes) · EA · GW

To me, the main disadvantage of being funded through a fund is that I would be tied to a research topic and a timeframe in which I would have to complete the project (or at least that’s how I imagine it). Working at an organization allows me much more flexibility. I can begin researching a topic, see that it’s not as tractable as I thought, and then drop it. Alternatively, I can increase the scope of the project, or change it into something different, depending on what I feel will be more impactful. All of these scenarios happen often because the more I work on the project, the more informed I am about the most promising directions of that project.

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T12:30:43.062Z · score: 15 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Understanding how research can influence decision makers or have an impact in some other ways. Similarly, understanding how charities and funders make decisions. Even though I talked with funders and heads of charities quite a lot, I still feel that I only have a very incomplete picture of what factors end up influencing their decisions, I can't quite put myself in their shoes.

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T12:25:34.386Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Hands-on experience and understanding how charities operate, what problems they face, etc. I think I'd be a better researcher if I worked in an animal charity before in some very generalized role where I have to do almost everything (there are fewer such roles nowadays because there is a lot of specialization)

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T12:24:53.111Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Good research topics that could influence decision-makers (feel free to suggest them!)

Comment by saulius on We're Rethink Priorities. AMA. · 2019-12-13T11:49:47.111Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · EA · GW

It's really hard to know. At first I'd take a career break. Maybe eventually I'd start applying to some similar researcher jobs. Or some other kinds of jobs in animal welfare. Or I would get a programming job and save enough money for another career break. I'd also consider finding some job that doesn't require much logical thinking like circling instructor.

Comment by saulius on Should we use wiki to improve knowledge management within the community? · 2019-12-10T12:14:18.028Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Similarly to EdoArad, I am afraid that without some incentive/gamification structure, there would be a lack of motivation for users to edit an EA wiki. I haven’t read any science on motivations but I want to share my personal point of view. Personally, I don’t feel very motivated to edit the priority wiki because:

  • I will probably receive no comments or feedback on what I wrote
  • I don’t know who and when will read whatever I write there
  • Even if someone reads it, it’s unlikely that they will notice that it was me who wrote it. That means that writing there won’t improve my career prospects or social status.[1] No one will come to me at the EAG or something to talk about this thing that I wrote.

Note that none of these problems apply to the EA forum which is why it feels much more motivating to write here.

I used to edit Lithuanian Wikipedia and these things didn’t apply there either because:

  • I knew that many people were reading pages I was editing. It was very useful and motivating to check pageview statistics.
  • There was a community, editing wikipedia felt like a collaborative project because:
    • There were often discussions on talk pages and a skype channel
    • I knew that admins and some other users on the Lithuanian wikipedia are looking at the recent changes page (which is much less eventful for smaller wikis) and that my new contributions will not go unnoticed. It was irrational for me to try to impress these people whom I have never met in real life but the human brain is wired to care about this kind of stuff (or at least my brain).
    • People would give other people “awards” which were just pieces of html that you could put on your user page. E.g. see awards for this random wikipedia user. Receiving such awards made me feel like my effort was appreciated.
    • We also had an “article of the week” which was a new article written that week that would be featured on the frontpage. I often tried to get my article featured and then it would get a lot of views. It’s almost like gamifying contributions
    • Best articles on wikipedia are marked as featured or good. It was motivating to try to get my articles one of these statuses.

I’m not sure if I’m suggesting to have any of these motivation structures for an EA wiki though. It would probably not reach the critical mass where doing some of this stuff would start making sense. If it did reach the critical mass, I’d be afraid to put too many of these motivation structures in place. We don’t want EAs are spending too much time editing an EA wiki instead of doing more direct things to help the world. But maybe there is some middle ground here.


  1. It’s probably obvious but I feel like I should clarify here that I’m not saying that I contribute to the EA forum only to get social status, etc. I do want to make an impact. But it’s difficult to motivate myself every day just by the thought that what I do might make an impact. Hence it’s good to put myself in situations where I care to do the same things that make an impact for other reasons. It’s like going to an exercise class because you know that you will be ashamed to not do exercise there when everyone around you is doing it. It’s not like you do exercise to impress those strangers, you do it to get fit, but it’s difficult to motivate yourself by the thought of getting fit alone. ↩︎

Comment by saulius on Should we use wiki to improve knowledge management within the community? · 2019-12-10T00:06:09.542Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Do you know approximately how many monthly visitors the old wiki had?

Comment by saulius on Accuracy issues in FAO animal numbers · 2019-12-06T19:47:31.518Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I fixed it, thanks

Comment by saulius on List of EA-related email newsletters · 2019-10-09T11:09:07.212Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · EA · GW

For animal welfare, I also recommend But Can They Suffer newsletter It's a monthly newsletter that contains links to new research and effective animal advocacy content, news and updates, job openings, upcoming events and conferences. The last three newsletters can be seen here.

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: 2 (3 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: 17 (11 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.