Comment author: Ben_Todd 13 January 2017 04:43:01PM 2 points [-]

Hey Peter,

Quick comments on the value of a vote stuff.

First, the figures in our post should not be taken as "estimates of the value of a vote". Rather, we point to various ways you could make such an estimate, and show that with plausible assumptions, you get very high figures. We're not saying these are the figures we believe.

Second, the figures were in terms of "US social value", which can be understood as something like "the value of making a random American $1 wealthier.

You seem to be measuring the value of your time in "GiveWell dollars" i.e. the value of donations to top recommended GiveWell charities.

To convert between the two is tricky, but it's something like:

  • How much better is it to make the global poor wealthier vs. Americans (suppose 30x)
  • How much better is SCI than cash transfers? (suppose 5x)

In total that gives you 150x difference.

So $1m of US social value ~ $6700 GiveWell dollars.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 12 January 2017 07:19:44PM 19 points [-]

I strongly agree with the points Ben Hoffman has been making (mostly in the other threads) about the epistemic problems caused by holding criticism to a higher standard than praise. I also think that we should be fairly mindful that providing public criticism can have a high social cost to the person making the criticism, even though they are providing a public service.

There are definitely ways that Sarah could have improved her post. But that is basically always going to be true of any blog post unless one spends 20+ hours writing it.

I personally have a number of criticisms of EA (despite overall being a strong proponent of the movement) that I am fairly unlikely to share publicly, due to the following dynamic: anything I write that wouldn't incur unacceptably high social costs would have to be a highly watered-down version of the original point, and/or involve so much of my time to write carefully that it wouldn't be worthwhile.

While I'm sympathetic to the fact that there's also a lot of low-quality / lazy criticism of EA, I don't think responses that involve setting a high bar for high-quality criticism are the right way to go.

(Note that I don't think that EA is worse than is typical in terms of accepting criticism, though I do think that there are other groups / organizations that substantially outperform EA, which provides an existence proof that one can do much better.)

Comment author: Ben_Todd 12 January 2017 09:17:08PM 8 points [-]

though I do think that there are other groups / organizations that substantially outperform EA, which provides an existence proof that one can do much better

Interesting. Which groups could we learn the most from?

Comment author: capybaralet 07 January 2017 02:05:59AM 1 point [-]

Do you have any info on how reliable self-reports are wrt counterfactuals about career changes and EWWC pledging?

I can imagine that people would not be very good at predicting that accurately.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 11 January 2017 09:25:30PM 0 points [-]

Hi there,

It's definitely hard for people to estimate.

When we "impact rate" the plan changes, we also try to make an initial assessment of how much is counterfactually due to us (as well as how much extra impact results non-counterfactually adjusted).

We then to more in-depth analysis of the counterfactuals in crucial cases. Because we think the impact of plan changes it fat tailed, if we can understand the top 5% of them, we get a reasonable overall picture. We do this analysis in documents like this:

Each individual case is debateable, but I think there's a large enough volume of cases now to justify that we're having a substantial impact.

Comment author: BenHoffman 11 January 2017 06:07:06AM *  0 points [-]

Do you disagree with the first bullet point? Or do you disagree with the second? Or do you disagree that they jointly imply something like the bit you quoted?

Comment author: Ben_Todd 11 January 2017 12:43:20PM 0 points [-]

I disagree with several parts. Most importantly, I don't think criticising GWWC publicly is harmful in expectation, just that it has costs, so is sometimes harmful.

Second, I think a policy of discussing criticisms with GWWC before making them public reduces these harms, so is a reasonable policy for people to consider. But, I'm not saying you need GWWC's permission to post criticism.

Comment author: Larks 27 August 2016 01:06:31PM 2 points [-]

I for one would find it much psychologically easier to live on 25% of my current comp than to donate 50% of it.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 05 January 2017 06:26:45PM 0 points [-]

Are you considering the greatly reduced financial security? With etg, if you run into a problem you can just cut back your donations. That's not true if your income is 4-times less.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 04 January 2017 03:36:04AM 1 point [-]

This is really interesting and I wondered about suggesting something like this as quite high value, especially when targeted personally and non-confrontationally to people new to EA. I wondered whether GWWC was doing this and I'm glad that they are and are getting good results.

I'd be curious to know more about how people to message were selected and how the messages were crafted. This seems harder to reproduce among people like myself who have very few EA friends. 10% of messages converting to pledges is incredible, but potentially so incredible as to be suspicious. 0.667 pledges per hour is a very good hourly rate, much higher (though depending on the value of a pledge) than the hourly rates I found via other kinds of fundraising efforts!

Comment author: Ben_Todd 05 January 2017 05:22:52PM 1 point [-]

One factor is that not all the costs are included, so it's not directly comparable to other fundraising ratios. There is lots of low hanging fruit because GWWC has done so much work in the past to get people interested – it only takes a small amount of extra time to push these people over the edge.

If you added in all the costs, then I'd expect to get back to something like GWWC's regular multiplier of $1:100 (or perhaps a little better because most people have a couple of friends they can persuade unusually easily).

This isn't to dispute the basic point: making the effort to go the last mile with all these people is really worthwhile.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 03 January 2017 10:36:34AM 1 point [-]

I think a big factor is simply that we don't promote the forum. There's little attempt to get new EAs to use it (e.g. no prominent links on or 80k), and there's little attempt to market the forum more broadly (e.g. content marketing strategies).

We could easily grow the forum's traffic if we made it a focus.

I think the point about a lack of evergreen content that's not highly internal to the EA movement is a good one, and a shame. If we had more content like that then I would expect to see more growth. On the other hand, it's difficult to make. Major 80k pieces can easily take a week.

Comment author: vipulnaik 28 December 2016 11:09:46PM 0 points [-]

As further evidence, a survey of meta-charity donors carried out by Open Phil and 80,000 Hours found that they expect to give about £4.5m this year, and not all will go to meta-charities. Given that CEA is aiming to raise £2.5m-£5m alone, the capacity of meta-charity donors is going to be used up this year. This means we need new meta-charity donors, or good meta opportunities will go unfunded.

Is there more information about this survey currently available, and/or are there plans to release more information? This is the first I am hearing about the survey, and it sounds like something that deserves standalone coverage.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 30 December 2016 12:07:50AM 1 point [-]

Hi Vipul,

I was planning to write up the results, but haven't been able to fit it in yet. Most of the information is confidential, so it needs some care.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 29 December 2016 12:32:16PM 6 points [-]

Would love to see more write-ups like this. Great work.

Comment author: rohinmshah  (EA Profile) 25 December 2016 06:36:06PM 3 points [-]

Yes. Though where it gets tricky is making the assessment at the margin.

I was wondering about this too. Is your calculation of the marginal cost per plan change just the costs for 2016 divided by the plan changes in 2016? That doesn't seem to be an assessment at the margin.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 27 December 2016 04:28:38PM 2 points [-]

Hi Rohin,

For the multipliers, I was trying to make a marginal estimate.

For the costs, there's a lot more detail here (it's not simply 2016 costs / 2016 #):

However, like I say in the post, I'd caution against focusing too much on the marginal multiplier since I think more of our impact over 2017 will come from long-term growth rather the 2017 plan changes.

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