Joey 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 *  8 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: Joey 15 January 2018 01:51:43AM 3 points [-]

So I think we agree on some things and disagree on others. I think that getting large EA organizations to adopt the cause definitely helps but is but is not necessary. Animal rights as a whole, for example, is not mentioned at all on GiveWell or GWWC and it’s listed as a 2nd tier area by 80,000 Hours (bit.ly/2DdxCqQ), but it is still pretty clearly endorsed by EA as a whole. If by EA orgs you mean EA orgs of any size, I do think that most cause areas that are accepted by the EA movement will get organizations started in it in time. I think that causes like wild animal suffering and positive psychology are decent examples of causes that have gotten some traction without major pre-existing organizations endorsing them. It might also come down to disagreements about definitions of “in EA”.

I almost put your blogs into this post as a positive example of what I wish people would do, but I wanted to keep the post to a lower length. In general, I think your efforts on mental health have updated more than a few EAs in positive directions towards it, including myself. There has been some related external content and research on this topic in part because of your posts and I would put a nontrivial chance on some EAs in the next 1-5 years focusing exclusively on this cause area and starting something in it. In general, I would expect adoption to new causes to be fairly slow and start with small numbers of people and maybe one organization before expanding to be on the standard go-to EA list.

I think if I were to guess what is holding back mental health / positive psych as a cause area it would be having a really strong concrete charity to donate to. By strong charity, I mean strong CEA but also focus on narrow set of interventions, decent evidence base/track record, strong M&E, and decently investigated by an external EA party (would not have to be an org. Could be an individual.) Something like Strong Minds might be a good fit for this.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 16 January 2018 03:07:28AM *  0 points [-]

I made this same point in the 'Effective Altruism' Facebook group a while ago if anyone wanted to follow for other public conversation on the topic. I wonder if a post on the EA Forum summarizing these kinds of points and requesting evaluations or reviews of charities based on effective positive psychology interventions rigorously implemented would be a good idea.