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EricHerboso comments on Announcing the 2017 donor lottery - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 21 December 2017 08:19:30PM *  1 point [-]

I can't help but notice that one of the lottery entrants is listed as anonymous. According to the rules, entrants may remain anonymous even if they win, so long as they express a strong objection to their name being public before the draw date. (No entrants to the 2016 donor lottery were anonymous.)

I realize that which charitable cause the winner chooses to fund doesn't change the expected value of any entrant's contribution to the lottery. As Carl Shulman points out, the lottery's pot size and draw probability, as well as entrants' expected payout, are all unaffected even if the eventual winner does nothing effective with their donation.

Nevertheless, donor lotteries like this would seem to rely strongly on trust. Setting aside expected value calculations, there seems to be a strong cultural norm in my country against allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous. In the United States, only seven states allow this without an exemption being made—of course, that only applies to standard lotteries, not donor lotteries. But the point remains: there exists a common understanding in the US and Canada that lottery winners should not be allowed to remain anonymous without good reason.

This is not the case in Europe, where it is far more common for lottery winners to remain anonymous.

When the rules for anonymity were being drafted, was any thought given to this issue? Or was it just decided by default because the rules were drafted by people in a country for which this is just their cultural norm?

(I'm not necessarily against allowing anonymous winners; it just initially feels weird to me because of the cultural norm of the society in which I was raised, and I'm interested in knowing how much thought went into this decision.)

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 21 December 2017 10:06:12PM 2 points [-]

there seems to be a strong cultural norm in my country against allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous... This is not the case in Europe, where it is far more common for lottery winners to remain anonymous. When the rules for anonymity were being drafted, was any thought given to this issue?

If a lottery organization is conducting a draw itself, and could rig the draw, publishing the winner's identity allows people to detect fraud, e.g. if the lottery commissioner's family members keep winning that would indicate skulduggery. I think this is the usual reason for requiring publicity. Did you have another in mind?

In the case of CEA's lottery (and last year's lottery), the actual draw is the U.S. National Institute of Science and Technology public randomness beacon, outside of CEA's control, which allows every participant to know whether their #s were drawn.

When the rules for anonymity were being drafted, was any thought given to this issue?

Someone raised the possibility of people who didn't want publicity/celebrity being discouraged from making use of the option, as part of the general aim of making it usable to as many donors as possible.