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MichaelPlant comments on How can we best coordinate as a community? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: MichaelPlant 08 July 2017 09:02:57PM 1 point [-]

Very much enjoyed this. Good to see the thinking developing.

My only comment is on simple replacability. I think you're right to say this is too simple in an EA context, where someone this could cause a cascade or the work wouldn't have got done anyway.

Do you think simple replacability doesn't apply outside the EA world? For example, person X wants to be a doctor because they think they'll do good. If they take a place at med school, should we expect that 'frees up' the person who doesn't get the place to go and do something else instead? My assumption is the borderline medical candidate is probably not that committed to doing the most good anyway.

To push the point in a familiar case, assume I'm offered a place in an investment bank and I was going to E2G, but I decide to do something more impactful, like work at an EA org. It's unlike the person who gets my job and salary instead would be donating to good causes.

If you think replacability is sometimes true and other times not, it would be really helpful to specify that. My guess is motivation and ability to be an EA play the big role.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 09 July 2017 03:42:20AM 0 points [-]

Hi Michael,

I'm writing a much more detailed piece on replaceability.

But in short, simple replaceability could still be wrong in that the doctor wouldn't be replaced. In general, a greater supply of doctors should mean that more doctors get hired, even if it's less than 1.

But yes you're right that if the person you'd replace isn't value-aligned with you, then the displacement effects seem much less significant, and can probably often be ignored.

If you think replacability is sometimes true and other times not, it would be really helpful to specify that. My guess is motivation and ability to be an EA play the big role.

We did state this in our most recent writing about it from 2015: https://80000hours.org/2015/07/replaceability-isnt-as-important-as-you-might-think-or-weve-suggested/ It's pretty complex to specify the exact conditions under which it does and doesn't matter, and I'm still working on that.