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ThomasSittler comments on Effective Altruism Grants project update - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: ThomasSittler 30 September 2017 09:34:52AM *  3 points [-]

Thanks for this post, Roxanne! I found the grants spreadsheet especially interesting.

My guess would be that the main cost of EA grants was CEA staff time, not the £500,000. Would you agree? And what do you think the ratio is, very roughly?

When it comes to the CEA staff time counterfactual, you write:

Had CEA staff not worked on this program, we would have accelerated progress on writing collated EA content, built out the EA events infrastructure, and worked on plans for EA academic engagement.

This is a description of the counterfactual; not an evaluation. Would you like to venture a guess as to whether spending time on EA grants was better than this counterfactual? :)

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 30 September 2017 03:33:07PM *  2 points [-]

My guess would be that the main cost of EA grants was CEA staff time, not the £500,000. Would you agree? And what do you think the ratio is, very roughly?

It depends on the value you place on CEA staff time. Internally we value the average CEA staff hour at ~$75 ($50-$150, depending on the nature of the work), so 840 * £56 = £47,040 in opportunity cost, plus real staff costs. This suggests that staff time wasn't the main cost, unless you think the counterfactual uses of time would have been far more impactful than our average.

This is a description of the counterfactual; not an evaluation. Would you like to venture a guess as to whether spending time on EA grants was better than this counterfactual? :)

Really tricky for me to say, especially because I have incentive to think this was the right choice. That being said, it does seem right to me, primarily because of the haste consideration: https://80000hours.org/2012/04/the-haste-consideration/.

As I noted elsewhere in the piece, "about one quarter of the projects wouldn’t have happened at all, and the rest would have received less time." This makes the immediate multipliers pretty high. We spent about 0.42 years of CEA staff time and gained (really rough guess) 10 years of counterfactual EA time. Since a lot of people we sponsored are doing movement-building work in some form, I expect their activities to have multipliers, too.

The counterfactual activities are higher risk but vie for long-run value similar to that we expect the recipients to produce. (e.g. Theron Pummer is writing introductory EA content and trying to engage academics.)

Comment author: ThomasSittler 30 September 2017 09:00:14PM *  3 points [-]

Internally we value the average CEA staff hour at ~$75

This is $75 roughly in "EA money" (i.e. OpenPhil's last dollar), yes? It's significantly lower than I thought. However, I suspect that this intuition was biased (upward), because I more often think in terms of "non-EA money". In non-EA money, CEA time would have a much higher nominal value. But if you think EA money can be used to buy good outcomes very cost-effectively (even at the margin) then $75 could make sense.

Comment author: Paul_Christiano 01 October 2017 04:33:18PM 2 points [-]

However, I suspect that this intuition was biased (upward), because I more often think in terms of "non-EA money". In non-EA money, CEA time would have a much higher nominal value. But if you think EA money can be used to buy good outcomes very cost-effectively (even at the margin) then $75 could make sense.

Normally people discuss the value of time by figuring out how many dollars they'd spend to save an hour. It's kind of unusual to ask how many dollars you'd have someone else spend so that you save an hour.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 01 October 2017 12:50:13AM 1 point [-]

All this was hard to follow.

Comment author: Larks 07 October 2017 02:49:31PM 1 point [-]

EA money is money in the hands of EAs. It is argued that this is more valuable than non-EA money, because EAs are better at turning money into EAs. As such, a policy that cost $100 of non-EA money might be more expensive than one which cost $75 of EA money.

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 02 October 2017 10:15:34AM 0 points [-]

Something we can do to clarify?

Comment author: ThomasSittler 01 October 2017 11:49:58AM 0 points [-]

I tried hard, but I agree it's still hard to follow :/

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 02 October 2017 11:34:15AM 1 point [-]

For what it's worth, Owen thinks I should use at least double $75/hour, given the experience of the staff working on the project and the nature of the work.