Milan_Griffes comments on How to get a new cause into EA - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: MichaelPlant 12 January 2018 12:11:13AM *  6 points [-]

I worry you've missed the most important part of the analysis. If we think what it means for a "new cause to be accepted by the effective altruism movement" that would proably be either:

  1. It becomes a cause area touted by EA organisations like Give Well, CEA, or GWWC. In practice, this involves convincing the leadership of those organisations. If you want to get a new cause in via this route, that's end goal you need to achieve; writing good arguments is a means to that end.

  2. you convince individuals EA to change what they do. To a large extent, this also depends on convincing EA-org leadership, because that's who people look to for confirmation a new cause has been vetted. This isn't necessarily stupid on the part of individual EAs to defer to expert judgement: they might think "Oh, well if so and so aren't convinced about X, there's probably a reason for it".

This seems as good as time as any to re-plug the stuff I've done. I think these mostly meet your criteria, but fail in some key ways.

I first posted about mental health and happiness 18 months ago and explained why poverty is less effective than most will think and mental health more effective. I think I was, at the time, lacking a particular charity recommendation though (I now think Basic Needs and Strong Minds look like reasonable picks); I agree it's important new cause suggestions have 'shovel ready' project.

I argued you, whoever you are, probably don't want to donate the Against Malaria Foundation. I explain it's probably a mistake for EAs to focus too much on 'saving lives' at the expense of either 'improving lives' or 'saving humanity'.

Back in August I explain why drug policy reform should be taken seriously as new cause. I agree that lacks a shovel ready project too, but, if anything, I think there was too much depth and rigour there. I'm still waiting for anyone to tell me where my EV calcs have gone wrong and drug policy reform wouldn't be more cost-effective than anything in GiveWell's repertoire.

Comment author: Milan_Griffes 12 January 2018 06:02:41AM *  4 points [-]

I'm still waiting for anyone to tell me where my EV calcs have gone wrong

For what it's worth, we had some back & forth regarding modeling assumptions around drug policy reform cost-effectiveness:


Comment author: MichaelPlant 12 January 2018 11:08:23AM 0 points [-]

I remember. I don't think we quite got the bottom of the issue however and couldn't agree what the right counterfactual was.

Comment author: Milan_Griffes 12 January 2018 04:32:42PM 2 points [-]

Sure, but I don't think the right summary here is "no one has told me how my EV calc is wrong."

A better summary probably includes something like "EV calcs are complicated and their outputs are very sensitive to the modeling assumptions used."

Comment author: MichaelPlant 12 January 2018 05:43:32PM 2 points [-]

Yes. I think I was over-selling my point and that was a mistake. Our back and forth was useful and I'll have to think about it again when I look at DPR again.

By way of explanation, I think I was venting my frustrationg at the ratio of "time I spend researching and writing about drug policy reform:serious interest it received"