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Peter_Hurford 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: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 12 January 2018 04:05:09PM 4 points [-]

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.

One thing I'd note here is that the rigor of GiveWell analysis versus your EV calcs is very different. There are other EV calcs out there with similar rigor that promise significantly higher $/good stuff, such as most stuff in the far future cause-space.

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'.

I'd also note that GiveWell replied to your argument here: https://blog.givewell.org/2016/12/12/amf-population-ethics/

Comment author: MichaelPlant 12 January 2018 05:49:14PM 2 points [-]

the rigor of GiveWell analysis versus your EV calcs is very different

Sort of a side question, but could you say what sort of thing you had in mind? i.e. the particular sense in which GW's calc are rigorous. I ask because I find their assumptions odd/pretty disatisfying and think they leave out loads of stuff. I mean to write about when I find time.

This isn't to say my calculations are more rigorous than theirs. GW have loads more detail.