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Dunja comments on Announcing Rethink Priorities - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Dunja 02 March 2018 10:14:05PM 6 points [-]

This all sounds really great, glad to hear you actually have a whole project on this! :)

Do you plan to use the empirical info you've gathered as guidelines for funding, or what is your idea of how your results could be employed for charity issues?

I'm also curious which factors you plan to investigate when it comes to the EA movement building?

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 03 March 2018 05:34:50PM 2 points [-]

We do plan to potentially use the research to inform grantmaking and the formation of charities. We hope that charity grantmakers (e.g., OpenPhil) and rankers (e.g., GiveWell, ACE) may find our research useful for their own decision making.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 March 2018 01:42:19PM *  2 points [-]

I'm curious if you've considered applying to work at these organisations and doing the research with them instead?

We might ask: what is the shape of the returns to scale curve on this type of research? If there are economies of scale, people like Peter and Marcus would be more productive working inside bigger organisations. If there are diseconomies of scale, we would want lots of very small research teams.

My guess is that there are massive economies of scale in translating research into action (e.g. research done inside GiveWell has a clear path to influencing millions of $ per year, research of similar quality done by me is unlikely to influence many donations beyond my own). Less clear about quality of research itself, though I'd still guess teams of 10+ inside a single office, with a management structure, is better than very small teams of 1-3.

Of course this is a very simple model. There are, for instance, transition costs.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 06 March 2018 07:49:05PM *  7 points [-]

We did consider applying to join these organizations. I (Peter) am personally constrained more in what I can do as long as I want to keep my full-time data science job, as I doubt existing orgs would want to hire me for just 10hrs/week. Marcus is working full-time and has more flexibility to join an organization, but has decided not to.

Broadly, we think working at an organization (we've considered OpenPhil and ACE) has a lot of benefits and resources, but it also has a lot of costs. If we do research on our own, we are free to explore whatever we wish without restriction. Avoiding constraints early makes a lot of sense while we still figure things out and while we're not yet sure which organizations' research agenda we agree with and want to constrain ourselves to.

We're also worried about the slow publication cycle of existing organizations and the lack of public discussion that occurs around EA cause prioritization content. Broadly, we're in an early period where we want to experiment and fail fast, and if we fail, joining an existing organization may be an attractive way to keep going. We're not sure yet if this project is the best path forward, and we're committed to following up and shutting down if it doesn't work out.

Lastly, we think doing this project could be a good way of building up our track record and CV for if and when we do apply to other organizations.