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Jess_Riedel comments on Introducing the EA Funds - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Jess_Riedel 09 February 2017 10:43:33PM 14 points [-]

I am on the whole positive about this idea. Obviously, specialization is good, and creating dedicated fund managers to make donation decisions can be very beneficial. And it makes sense that the boundaries between these funds arise from normative differences between donors, while putting fund managers in charge of sorting out empirical questions about efficiency. This is just the natural extension, of the original GiveWell concept, to account for normative differences, and also to utilize some of the extra trust that some EAs will have for other people in the community that isn't shared by a lot of GiveWell's audience.

That said, I'm worried about principle-agent problems and transparency, and about CEA becoming an organization receiving monthly direct debits from the bank accounts of ten thousand people. Even if we assume that current CEA employees are incorruptible superhuman angels, giving CEA direct control of a firehose of cash makes it an attractive target for usurpers (in a way that it is not when it's merely making recommendations and doing outreach). These sorts of worries apply much less to GiveWell when it's donating to developing-world health charities than to CEA when it's donating to EA start-ups who are good friends with the staff.

Will EA Fund managers be committed to producing the sorts of detailed explanations and justifications we see from GiveWell and Open Phil, at least after adjusting for donation size? How will the conflicts of interest be managed and documented with such a tightly interlinked community?

What sorts of additional precautions will be taken to manage these risks, especially for the long term?

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 10 February 2017 11:38:02PM 3 points [-]

These sorts of worries apply much less to GiveWell when it's donating to developing-world health charities than to CEA when it's donating to EA start-ups who are good friends with the staff.

Part of the reason that CEA staff themselves are not fund managers is to help with this kind of conflict. I think that regardless of who we choose as fund managers, there is potential for recipients to develop personal connects with the fund managers and use that to their advantage. This seems true in almost any funding scheme were evaluating the people in charge is part of the selection process. Do you think EA Funds will make this worse somehow?

Will EA Fund managers be committed to producing the sorts of detailed explanations and justifications we see from GiveWell and Open Phil, at least after adjusting for donation size?

We will definitely require some level of reporting from fund managers although we haven't yet determined how much and in what level of detail. As I mentioned in a different comment, I'd be interested in learning more about what people would like to see.

How will the conflicts of interest be managed and documented with such a tightly interlinked community?

Having Nick as a fund manager is a good test case since there's a conflict given that he's a CEA trustee. Our plan so far has been to make sure that we make the presence of this conflict well known. Do you think this is a good long term plan or would you prefer something else?