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MichaelPlant comments on Are You Sure You Want To Donate To The Against Malaria Foundation? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: MichaelPlant 06 December 2016 10:49:27AM 0 points [-]

hello Julia.

Replacement really just refers to the idea that one person's death causes another person to be born. This can go the other way too - saving a life causes someone else not to be born - which is what seems to happen with AMF. I don't know if these should have different names or something.

But no, replacement doesn't say anything about the parents. Total utils should account for that too, but note how much of the value of the intervention replacement removes. You thought you were giving a child 35+ years of life and preventing parental suffering, but now you're just (in effect) doing the former. If parental suffering is equivalent to taking away 1 year of happy life away from each parent (IMO, v unlikely), then AMF is equivalent to 2 happy years rather than 37+.

I run through some calculations here http://www.plantinghappiness.co.uk/the-questionable-importance-of-saving-lives/

I'm not sure about the other stuff they include either.

Comment author: Julia_Wise 06 December 2016 03:23:24PM *  5 points [-]

You thought you were giving a child 35+ years of life and preventing parental suffering, but now you're just (in effect) doing the former.

Do you mean the latter?

If parental suffering is equivalent to taking away 1 year of happy life away from each parent

I think we have very different intuitions here. I'd instantly give a year of my life to not watch my two-year-old daughter die, because I expect that 50 more years as a bereaved parent is worse than 49 years as the parent of a living child. I expect most parents would say the same (though of course social acceptability bias makes it more likely that parents will say that.) Also we may be getting into preference vs. hedonic utilitarianism here, not sure where I stand on that.

In general, though, this post does change the way I think about saving lives; thank you for writing it up.

Comment author: Jeff_Kaufman 07 December 2016 02:34:33AM 3 points [-]

I'd instantly give a year of my life to not watch my two-year-old daughter die, because I expect that 50 more years as a bereaved parent is worse than 49 years as the parent of a living child.

I would also do that, and probably be willing to do it at worse ratio (5 years, say).

There are also many situations where parents have given their lives to save their children, which is not coming from a "prefer shorter time with kids to longer time bereaved" assessment of their future.

Comment author: Brian_Tomasik 07 December 2016 05:07:55AM 2 points [-]

I'd instantly give a year of my life to not watch my two-year-old daughter die

That's plausible from an evo-psych perspective as well. Ignoring the parenting that you can do while pregnant, a pregnancy costs a woman 3/4 of a year of life, plus various health risks and increased nutritional demands. Child care during the first year of the baby's life is also pretty costly. That probably adds up to more than 1 year of total cost just for the mother, and then some extra for the father, relatives, etc.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 07 December 2016 11:22:50AM 1 point [-]

in response to your first point, yes I did mix those up.

And for the 2nd, I'm thinking hedonically and am leaning on the literature on hedonic adaptation. I'm not sure how to think about re-doing the calculations if I was using preferences util. So I think it's consistent to say "I would give up much more than a year of life to keep my child alive" whilst recognising that few (any?) events have a long term impact on happiness, either positive or negative.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 08 December 2016 06:42:41PM *  3 points [-]

I think the results on 'hedonic adaption' are much less straightforward than you think they are. In general I'd caution against making strong claims that completely go against common sense about people's preferences based on just reading a few studies.

Comment author: Buck 09 December 2016 09:59:48PM 1 point [-]

Note that the GiveWell 2016 calculations allow us to take the amount of parental suffering into account--you can put your intuitions into the spreadsheet directly if you want.