Comment author: RyanCarey 26 March 2017 06:33:01AM 4 points [-]

You could do unconditional basic income but why would you start with that when we haven't even created a facility for people to fund credible proposals yet? Seems better to reboot EA Ventures or Impact Certificates first (given that the EA community is a bit bigger, and that some of the reasons for previous failure were related to circumstance).

Comment author: AGB 26 March 2017 10:04:11AM 11 points [-]

I'm sympathetic to this view, though I think the EA funds have some EA-Ventures-like properties; charities in each of the fund areas presumably can pitch themselves to the people running the funds if they so choose.

One difference that has been pointed out to me in the past is that for (e.g.) EA Ventures you have to put a lot of up-front work into your actual proposal. That's time-consuming and costly if you don't get anything out of it. That's somewhat different to handing some trustworthy EA an unconditional income and saying 'I trust your commitment and your judgment, go and do whatever seems most worthwhile for 6/12/24 months'. It's plausible to me that the latter involves less work on both donor and recipient side for some (small) set of potential recipients.

With that all said, better communication of credible proposals still feels like the relatively higher priority to me.

Comment author: AlasdairGives 08 March 2017 09:06:19PM *  3 points [-]

One thing I am disappointed about is that this has just been announced - there was no public process or call for comment on the advisory council, its role or what criteria should have been used to choose its members - to the extent that happened all of that was in private as far as I can tell. So all of the power in this situation was held by the CEA and people close to you in informal networks. To get wider views you have chosen a team of 4- 3of whom are or have previously been employed by CEA.

To the extent this is about opening CEA to wider views I can't see how it does that. Perhaps to mitigate my meandering can the members of the council give one example of something the CEA has done in the last 12 months they are willing to publicly disagree with?

Comment author: AGB 09 March 2017 08:11:43PM *  1 point [-]

Hi Alasdair

Perhaps to mitigate my meandering can the members of the council give one example of something the CEA has done in the last 12 months they are willing to publicly disagree with?

Well, I'm far from sold on the principles and panel being a good idea in the first place. But everything in the linked comment is low confidence, some of it doesn't apply given the actual implementation, and certainly it's not obvious to me that it's a bad idea (i.e. I have a small positive but extremely uncertain EV).

For something that happened that I more robustly disagree with, a lot of the marketing around EA Global last year concerned me. I didn't go, so I only heard about it secondhand, and so I didn't feel best-placed to raise it directly, but from a distance I think pretty much everything Kit said in this thread re. marketing was on point.

With that said I think there is definitely some version of what you are saying that I would agree with; I certainly would consider myself very much an EA 'insider', albeit one who has no particular personal interest in CEA itself doing well except insofar as it helps the community do well. I'm not sure what the best way for CEA (or EA in general for that matter; this isn't just their responsibility) to hear from people who are genuinely external or peripheral to EA is, except that I think a small panel of people is probably not it.

Comment author: Daniel_Eth 14 February 2017 06:03:55AM 2 points [-]

Obviously different people have different motivations for their donations. I disagree that it's a straw man, though, because I wasn't trying to misrepresent any views and I think risk aversion actually is one of the main reasons that people tend to support causes such as AMF that help people "one at a time" over causes that are larger scale but less likely to succeed. MIRI's chance of success wasn't central to my argument - if you think it has basically zero net positive then substitute in whatever cause you think actually is positive (in-vitro meat research, CRIPSR research, politics, etc). Perhaps you've already done that and think that AMF still has higher expected value, in which case I would say you're not risk averse (per se), but then I'd also think that you're in the minority.

Comment author: AGB 14 February 2017 08:28:10PM 3 points [-]

For a third perspective, I think most EAs who donate to AMF do so neither because of an EV calculation they've done themselves, nor because of risk aversion, but rather because they've largely-or-entirely outsourced their donation decision to Givewell. Givewell has also written about this in some depth, back in 2011 and probably more recently as well.

Key quote:

"This view of ours illustrates why – while we seek to ground our recommendations in relevant facts, calculations and quantifications to the extent possible – every recommendation we make incorporates many different forms of evidence and involves a strong dose of intuition. And we generally prefer to give where we have strong evidence that donations can do a lot of good rather than where we have weak evidence that donations can do far more good – a preference that I believe is inconsistent with the approach of giving based on explicit expected-value formulas (at least those that (a) have significant room for error (b) do not incorporate Bayesian adjustments, which are very rare in these analyses and very difficult to do both formally and reasonably)."

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 09 February 2017 09:13:51PM *  10 points [-]

Hi Richard,

Thanks a lot for the feedback. I work at CEA on the EA Funds project. My thoughts are below although they may not represent the views of everyone at CEA.

Funding new projects

I think EA Funds will improve funding for new projects.

As far as I know small donors (in the ~$10K or below range) have traditionally not played a large role in funding new projects. This is because the time it takes to evaluate a new project is substantial and because finding good new projects requires developing good referral networks. It generally doesn't make sense for a small donor to undertake this work.

Some of the best donors I know of at finding and supporting new projects are private individuals with budgets in the hundreds of thousands or low millions range. For these donors, it makes more sense to do the work required to find new projects and it makes sense for the projects to find these donors since they can cover a large percentage of the funding need. I think the funds will roughly mimic this structure. Also, I think Nick Beckstead has one of the better track records at helping to get early-stage projects funded and he's a fund manager.

Donor centralization

I agree with this concern. I think we should aim to not have OpenPhil program officers be the only fund managers in the future and we should aim for a wider variety of funds. What we have now represents the MVP, not the long-term goal.

EA Ventures

I was in charge of EA Ventures and it is no longer in operation. The model was that we sourced new projects and then presented them to our donors for potential funding.

We shut down EA Ventures because 1) the number of exciting new projects was smaller than we expected; 2) funder interest in new projects was smaller than expected and 3) opportunity cost increased significantly as other projects at CEA started to show stronger results.

My experience at EA Ventures updated me away from the view that there are lots of promising new projects in need of funding. I now think the pipeline of new projects is smaller than would be idea although I'm not sure what to do to solve this problem.

Comment author: AGB 13 February 2017 07:13:04PM 9 points [-]

Just to give a perspective from the 'other' (donor) side:

I was excited about EA Ventures, partly because of the experimental value (both as an experiment in itself, and it's effect on encouraging other people to experiment). I also agreed with the decision to cease operation when it did, and I think Kerry's read of the situation basically concurs with my own experience

Also, as Kerry said, I think a large part of what happened here was that "the best projects are often able to raise money on their own without an intermediary to help them". At the time EA Ventures was running, EA was (and may still be) a close-enough community that I was finding out about several of the opportunities EAV was presenting via my own network, without EAV's help. That's not at all to say EAV was providing zero value in those cases since they were also filtering/evaluating, but it meant that the most promising charity (in my opinion) that I heard about via EAV was something I was already funding and keen to continue to fund up to RFMF/percentage-of-budget constraints.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 28 December 2016 10:15:34AM 2 points [-]

The way your fundraising page represents how much money CEA is trying to raise confused me. First of all, you switched between representing amounts in either dollars or pounds. This isn't a big deal, but I thought I'd just let you know it's momentarily jarring when the amount being requested switches so much. I think readers can convert currencies well by themselves if need be.

Anyway, it says the CEA is seeking $3.1 million as its 'Minimum Target' for how much its seeking to raise. But that's the minimum target CEA is seeking to expand beyond its current scope of activity. It says in the budget summary the amount CEA needs to raise to cover the continuation of its regular suite of activities in 2017 is £ 1,860,517. As of this writing, that comes out to $2,277,905. It took me a while to figure out the ~$2.3 million figure was to continue ongoing operations, and guessed the ~$900k USD remaining would be for the ambitious expansion of more speculative but successful projects, like marketing, EAGx grants, and EA chapter grants. But I noticed that's already accounted for in the budget summary as well.

So, pardon me for saying so, but I'm confused as to what CEA's intentions are with the 'Minimum Target' and 'Growth Target' for Growth(?). I think I'm missing something, or the document doesn't make clear, which items in CEA's 2017 budget would the funding from these targets, if reached, be used for. Could you please clarify?

Comment author: AGB 28 December 2016 08:58:26PM 2 points [-]

Second this. I'm guessing part of what's going on in the $3.1 versus £1.8 is to do with reserves, but would be useful to get confirmation. Also, the google sheet linked doesn't have numbers that I can line up with anything else in the blog post, I think because it has numbers for CEA UK only and ignores CEA US (but that's speculation)?

Comment author: AGB 24 December 2016 01:42:00PM *  16 points [-]

Thank you for the top level post. It's much easier to engage here than on the various comment threads.

I have some clarifying questions about your claims, and in particular I would like to have a better understanding of where and why you disagree with Givewell's/AMF's read of the situation. You say that they are simply ignoring these issues, implying that they would agree with you if they paid attention. I don't think this is true, as detailed on a point-by-point basis below.

However hard they work, they can’t make enough nets to combat the malaria-carrying mosquito. Enter vociferous Hollywood movie star who rallies the masses and goads Western governments to collect and send 100,000 mosquito nets to the affected region, at the cost of a million dollars. The nets arrive, the nets are distributed, and a ‘good’ deed is done.

It seems the implied premise here is that 100,000 nets is more than that region actually needed? For example if the region needs 200,000 nets per year, only currently has 50,000 being manufactured per year, and some foreign donors distribute 100,000 nets per year, then I would have thought there was a lot of room for the local factory. This goes double if the donated nets are targeted to the poorest areas, while the factory presumably will prefer to sell to the richer areas.

Far from Givewell ignoring this issue, they pay a lot of attention to how many more nets affected regions can usefully absorb in their analysis of AMF's Room For More Funding. They conclude that there is huge scope for more nets that AMF is unlikely to get close to filling any time soon, see below quote. If you disagree with them on this concrete level, it would be worth saying why.

I agree that if we get anywhere close to filling local net gaps, it's likely not worth displacing local capacity, or at the very least we should seriously weigh the downsides of doing so. Though unless I'm missing something the most obvious solution to this would be for AMF (or whoever) to buy the nets locally, it seems like the origin of the donations isn't actually the problem here, just where the nets are manufactured.

Dr. Renshaw roughly estimated that there will be a funding gap for 100 million nets in 2018-2020. She estimated that the gap in Nigeria would account for a quarter of the total gap, or about 25 million nets. This assumes that funders other than the Global Fund (including AMF) will maintain their current level of support for LLINs in this period. Dr. Renshaw believed that less funding from the Global Fund would be available for LLINs because of changes in the way it is structuring its funding.

I'm not sure what you're trying to get at with your planners versus searchers quote. AMF does a lot of things that sound like a 'searcher' in your dichotomy. They look for local distribution partners whose methods vary by country, and also follow-up to check whether the nets are actually being used. Nor does it pick countries and areas at random, but rather on the basis of its assessment of need and in at least one major case in response to a request. Can you clarify more why you consider this a 'planning' approach?

The NMCP has been working with AMF for a relatively short period of time. Their working relationship has proceeded relatively smoothly thus far, especially since AMF has shown willingness to negotiate and compromise on some areas to conform with the country's specific scenario

AMF told us that it has been receiving more funding requests since it started funding larger distributions,8 and notes that its largest commitment so far—10.6 million LLINs in Uganda in 2017—was made in response to an in-bound request.

Finally, reading your first two criticisms I was inclined to suggest Give Directly as something you might be willing to support. So I read your third section with interest, but I don't think I understand it.

[Give Directly] simply [does] the work for a community, instead of building capacity and increasing autonomy and dependence. This is great for the organization, since it ensures that the community will need aid forever, by destroying the infrastructure that the community previously used to make a living. If you get rid of the need for structures which produce food, or organizations which provide jobs, they will go out of business, so that when the community will be unable to return to them when the aid money eventually dries up.

I'm very confused by this section. For instance, by what mechanism do you propose Give Directly gets 'rid of the need for structures which produce food'? Unsurprisingly, giving people extra cash increases the amount of money they spend on food (among many other things):

Treatment households consumed about $51 more per month (95% CI: $32 to $70) than control households.209 About half of this additional consumption was on food.210 This additional consumption also included increased spending on social expenditures and various other expenditures.

Comment author: rohinmshah  (EA Profile) 22 December 2016 07:36:26PM 0 points [-]

I think the arguments in favor of meta are intuitive, but not easy to find. For one thing, the org's posts tend to be org-specific (unsurprisngly) rather than a general defense of meta work.

Huh, there is a surprising lack of a canonical article that makes the case for meta work. (Just tried to find one.) That said, it's very common when getting interested in EA to hear about GiveWell, GWWC and 80K, and to look them up, which gives you a sense of the arguments for meta.

Also, I would actually prefer that the arguments against also be org-specific, since that's typically more decision-relevant, but a) that's more work and b) it's hard to do without actually being a part of the organization.

Anyway, even though there's not a general article arguing for meta (which I am surprised by), that doesn't particularly change my belief that a lot of people know the arguments for but not the arguments against. This has increased my estimate of the number of people who know neither the arguments for nor the arguments against.

Comment author: AGB 23 December 2016 06:56:46AM 0 points [-]

Sure, I think we're on the same page here.

I'm hoping/planning to plug both of those holes (a lack of org-specific criticism, and the uncomplied general arguments in favour) in the next few weeks, so did want to double-check that there wasn't a canonical piece that I was missing.

Comment author: rohinmshah  (EA Profile) 22 December 2016 05:14:43PM 0 points [-]

I've had conversations with people who said they've donated to GWWC because of high leverage ratios, and my impression based on those conversations is that they take the multiplier fairly literally ("even if it's off by an order of magnitude it's still worthwhile") without really considering the alternatives.

In addition, it's really easy to find all of the arguments in favor of meta, including (many of) the arguments that impact is probably being undercounted -- you just have to read the fundraising posts by meta orgs. I don't know of any post other than Hurford's that suggests considerations against meta. It took me about a year to generate all of the ideas not in that post, and it certainly helped that I was working in meta myself.

Comment author: AGB 22 December 2016 06:18:54PM 0 points [-]

I think the arguments in favor of meta are intuitive, but not easy to find. For one thing, the org's posts tend to be org-specific (unsurprisngly) rather than a general defense of meta work. In fact, to the best of my knowledge the best general arguments have never been made on the forum at the top level because it's sort-of-assumed that everybody knows them. So while you're saying Peter's post is the only such post you could find, that's still more than the reverse (and with your post, it's now 2 - 0).

At the comment level it's easy to find plenty of examples of people making anti-meta arguments.

Comment author: rohinmshah  (EA Profile) 21 December 2016 07:03:54PM 0 points [-]

At a glance, it seems like most of the meta-traps don't apply to stuff like promotion of object-level causes. That's why Peter Hurford distinguished between second-level and first-level meta, and focused his criticism on the second-level.

I mostly agree, but I think a lot of them do apply to first-level meta in many cases. For example I talked about how they apply to GWWC, which is first-level meta (I think).

80,000 Hours and GiveWell are both mainly doing first-level meta (i.e. we promote specific first order opportunities for impact)

Yes, and I specifically didn't include that kind of first-level meta work. I think the parts of first-level meta that are affected by these traps are efforts to fundraise for effective organizations, mainly ones that target EAs specifically. Even for general fundraising though, I think several traps still do apply, such as trap #1, #6 and #8.

One other quick point is that I don't think coordination problems arise especially from meta-work.

I agree, I think it's just disproportionately the case that donors to meta work are not taking into account these considerations. GiveWell and ACE take these considerations into account when making recommendations, so anyone relying on those recommendations has already "taken it into account". This may arise in X-risk, I'm not sure -- certainly it seems to apply to the part of X-risk that is about convincing other people to work on X-risk.

The points you list under "coordination problems" seem more like examples of why the counterfactuals are hard to assess, which is already under trap 8.

Well, even if each organization assesses counterfactuals perfectly, you still have the problem that the sum of the impacts across all organizations may be larger than 100%. The made-up example with Alice was meant to illustrate a case where each organization assesses their impact perfectly, comes to a ratio of 2:1 correctly, but in aggregate they would have spent more than was warranted.

Comment author: AGB 22 December 2016 07:15:32AM *  2 points [-]

I agree, I think it's just disproportionately the case that donors to meta work are not taking into account these considerations.

What makes you think this? I found this post interesting, but not new; it's all stuff I've thought about quite hard before. I wouldn't have thought I was roughly representative of meta donors here (I certainly know people who have thought harder), though I'd be happy for other such donors to contradict me.

Comment author: HenryMaine 11 December 2016 10:02:02AM 2 points [-]

I think your objections are fair, unlike many of the other skeptics in this thread. But what I am not seeing is you, or the other skeptics, fully updating on the implications of Rotherham (and Cologne, Sharia demonstrations, violence between nationalists and Muslims, etc…).

If events like Rotherham are able to happen, and it’s not an isolated incident, then this hints at the shape of the probability distribution of Muslim immigrant criminality. Additionally, it indicates that the shape of the distribution of police efficacy, and the probability of cities covering up Muslim crime. If you imagine these distributions as bell curves, then Rotherham is at the right tail, but this means that lesser crimes (and police failures) are likely occurring in high Muslim areas across the UK. And in fact, this is occurring: the Wikipedia Rotherham article lists sex gangs in 10 other cities.

I think it’s a mistake to overly focus on particular flawed crime statistics without trying to actually understand what is going between these two cultures. This is why I am emphasizing qualitative measures like video.

I will also advance another argument: my case about European destabilization does not hinge on a national increase in crime rates. I believe that local conflicts are sufficient enough to be a problem. I am basing this view on studying the breakup of Yugoslavia and the wars in Kosovo and Bosnia, a history that I don’t think anyone else here has studied.

One of the catalyzing events of the Bosnian war was a wedding attack on Serbs by Muslims:

Serbs consider Nikola Gardović, a groom's father killed at a wedding procession on the second day of the Bosnian independence referendum, 1 March 1992, in Baščaršija, to have been the first victim of the war.[40] The Sijekovac killings of Serbs took place on 26 March and the Bijeljina massacre (of mostly Bosniaks) on 1–2 April. Some Bosniaks consider the first casualties of the war to be Suada Dilberović and Olga Sučić, both shot during a peace march on 5 April at a hotel under the control of the Serbian Democratic Party.

The conflict started with small-scale violent events, which turned into a genocidal war that killed over 100k people. The EU is much bigger than Yugoslavia, it contains nukes, and it is much more strategically relevant between the US and Russia.

Utilitarians don’t understand rule-of-law, because they are focused on blunt measures of the number of people affected, without taking into account the second-order effects of reprisals, feuds, and tribal tensions reaching a boiling point.

So it’s not just the crime rate across the country that matters, it’s also local intensity of crime. Could this lead to large-scale sectarian conflict or civil war? I think it’s less likely in the UK, but more likely in other European countries like Germany, France, or Sweden.

But back to crime stats. You are right that crime rates in general have been falling in the UK, but you agreed that statistics of crime reports have flaws. So let’s try to find some other data to resolve this, since it’s data you want.

Rather than looking just at homicide, or at all crime, this article claims that sexual offense were up 36% and violent crime was up 27% in 2015.

However, this is still crime reports, and these are sensitive to police recording methodology, size of police force, and policing effort. Furthermore, Muslim immigrations are still a minority of the UK population, so trends among non-Muslim groups might mask Muslim crime.

A better approach would be to try to find crime by ethnicity, crime by religion, or crime by immigrant nationality. Unfortunately, I can’t find those exact stats (probably because they would be incendiary), but we do have some proxies.

  • Muslims are 20% of the inmates in maximum security prisons in the UK, but 5% of the population, overrepresented at a factor of 4. In France, Muslims are 70% of the prison population and 8% of the general population, overrepresented nearly by factor of 8.

  • We have stats from some countries for crime by immigrant nationality. Muslim countries top these charts.

This article takes data from Scandinavian government reports and finds that foreign-born individuals, particularly from Africa and West Asia, committed several times more crime. For example, here is Sweden:

A report studying 4.4 million Swedes between the ages of 15 and 51 during the period 1997-2001 found that 25% of crimes were committed by foreign-born individuals while and additional 20% were committed by individuals born to foreign-born parents. In particular, immigrants from Africa and South & Western Asian were more likely to be charged of a crime than individuals born to two Swedish parents by a factor of 4.5 and 3.5 respectively. In regard to rape, the report revealed that immigrants were 5.5 times more likely to be charged of rape than individuals born in Sweden to two Swedish parent, although the category of immigrant was not broken down by country of origin in this report

This article which I linked to took official Denmark statistics and constructed this chart, where Somalians were found to commit rate at 16x the rate of the native population.

Let’s take stock:

  • Initial priors were towards integration problems for Muslim immigrants due to Western/Muslim history of conflict (e.g. Barbary Slave Trade), cultural differences, and ethnic cleansing during breakup of Yugoslavia. Many people in this thread have no sense of the history of Western and Muslim relations.

  • High profile criminal events and clashes (Rotherham, Cologne, Sharia demonstrations, no-go zones, terrorist attacks) reinforce these priors. We both agree that these events are happening, though we’ve quibbled over the details of no-go zones.

  • Your experience in Tower Hamlets and falling UK crime rates was weak evidence against my hypothesis.

  • Muslim overrepresentation in prisons in Europe, and disproportionate offense rates elsewhere in Europe show that indeed Muslims immigrants are committing higher levels of crime, and nearly an order of magnitude higher than native for some subgroups. This makes the UK crime trends look confounded.

So there the overall direction of this evidence is in favor of the priors of Western-Muslim conflict. And I’ve only summarized a small amount of the evidence.

My arguments about elevated Muslim immigrant crime rates fueling destabilization in the UK are still in play, though I will concede that Germany, France, and Sweden are likely at much higher risk. The best argument against my case would be that European governments are strong enough, and European nationalism is weak enough, that a cycle of reprisals and civil unrest can never get started (unlike Yugoslavia): native European just learn to live with high rates of crime, eventually becoming persecuted minorities in their own countries.

What would falsify my argument? Since my argument is drawn from a wide variety of evidence, it would take a wide variety of evidence to contradict it, ideally evidence that isn’t tainted by the state trying to hide the egg on its face. Examples: Farage recants, or some of the videos I’ve linked to were shown to be staged.

When you are in a society with rape gangs attacking thousands of young girls, you have an uphill battle to rescue its image. I think a lot of people in this thread, would benefit from reflecting more on what it means when this can happen in a society. It took me more than a year to process this information, so I totally understand why lots of people in this thread are having trouble grappling with it.

Anyway, I hope this long comment will convince serious readers that this is a nontrivial subject that deserves further investigation. I would highly encourage people to do their own research. If indeed governments engage in risky large-scale social engineering, and then cover it up when it goes wrong, then that has pretty serious consequences for EA.

Comment author: AGB 18 December 2016 05:01:07PM *  1 point [-]

I just wanted to reply to deal with one factual claim:

A better approach would be to try to find crime by ethnicity, crime by religion, or crime by immigrant nationality. Unfortunately, I can’t find those exact stats (probably because they would be incendiary).


We have stats from some countries for crime by immigrant nationality. Muslim countries top these charts.

Um, no? Here's from the link above:

Poland: 4742

Romania: 3952

Lithuania: 2561

Ireland: 2503

Jamaica: 2323

India: 1902

Somalia: 1384

France: 1384

Italy: 1357

Portugal: 1202

Not a lot of Muslim countries there, in particular Pakistan and Bangladesh are notably absent. Yet here's the top 10 countries for overall population of foreign nationals in London from Wikipedia.

India: 262,247

Poland: 158,300

Ireland: 129,807

Nigeria: 114,718

Pakistan: 112,457

Bangladesh: 109,948

Jamaica: 87,467

Sri Lanka: 84,542

France 66,654

Somalia: 65,333

And in another entertaining example of MSM bias against immigrants, note how the Mail describes one in four London crimes being committed by foreign nationals as an 'immigrant crimewave', even though over 35% of London's population is foreign-born. Also, even that claim was originally exaggerated; see the correction at the bottom.

That's likely the true reason you were struggling to find these stats by the way; incendiary stats about immigrants are easy to find, the more prosaic ones highlighting that they are less likely to commit crime than native-born people tend to be buried in government reports (until an outlet like the Mail decides to report them and just deliberately mislead people about their relevance).

View more: Next