Comment author: Carl_Shulman 13 April 2018 06:43:25PM 9 points [-]

Other person affecting views consider people who will necessarily exist (however cashed out) rather than whether they happen to exist now (planting a bomb with a timer of 1000 years is still accrues person-affecting harm). In a 'extinction in 100 years' scenario, this view would still count the harm of everyone alive then who dies, although still discount the foregone benefit of people who 'could have been' subsequently in the moral calculus.

Butterfly effects change the identities of at least all yet-to-be conceived persons, so this would have to not be interested in particular people, but population sizes/counterparts.

Comment author: rjmk 30 March 2018 12:58:58PM 1 point [-]

This post is excellent. I find the historical work particularly useful, both as a collation of timelines and for the conclusions you tease out of it.

Considering the high quality and usefulness of this post, it is churlish to ask for more, but I'll do so anyway.

Have you given any thought to how donors might identify funding opportunities in the AI safety space? OpenPhil have written about how they found many more giving opportunities after committing to give, but it may be difficult to shop around a more modest personal giving budget.

A fallback here could be the far future EA fund, but I would be keen to hear other ideas

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 01 April 2018 02:36:14AM 1 point [-]

If you find your opportunities are being constrained by small donation size, you can use donor lotteries to trade your donation for a small chance of a large budget (just get in touch with CEA if you need a chance at a larger pot). You may also be interested in a post I made on this subject.

Comment author: Milan_Griffes 13 January 2018 11:46:20PM 2 points [-]

The probability that the initiative succeeds is given on row 73. Our best-guess is 80% chance of success, conditional on raising enough funding & future polling remaining good.

Our best-guess here is informed by private polling we have seen that suggests a drug liberalization initiative would be very popular in most US states.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 14 January 2018 06:46:34PM 2 points [-]

Did you collect base rate information for other initiatives before campaigns (which tend to lower approval relative to pre-campaign polling) for that parameter?

Comment author: Jan_Kulveit 01 January 2018 10:43:37PM *  2 points [-]

After thinking about it for a while I'm still a bit puzzled by the rated-100 or rated-1000 plan changes, and their expressed value in donor dollars. What exactly is here the counterfactual? As I read it, it seems based just on comparing "the person not changing their career path". However, with some of the examples of the most valued changes, leading to people landing in EA organizations it seems the counterfactual state "of the world" would be "someone else doing a similar work in a central EA organization". As AFAIK recruitment process for positions at places like central EA organizations is competitive, why don't count as the real impact just the marginal improvement of the 80k hours influenced candidate over the next best candidate?

Another question is how do you estimate your uncertainty in valuing something rate-n?

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 03 January 2018 03:17:15AM *  1 point [-]

Here is 80k's mea culpa on replaceability.

Comment author: RyanCarey 29 December 2017 12:20:20AM 12 points [-]

Re page 9, I think the talk of a civilization maintaining exponential growth is unconvincing. The growth rate of a civilization should ultimately be bounded cubically (your civ grows outward like a sphere), whereas the risk is exponential. Exponentials in general defeat polynomials, giving finite EV in the limit of t, regardless of the parameters.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 29 December 2017 12:45:42AM *  9 points [-]

That's our best understanding.

But there is then an argument on this account to attend to whatever small credence one may have in indefinite exponential growth in value. E.g. if you could build utility monsters such that every increment of computational power let them add another morally important order of magnitude to their represented utility, or hypercomputers were somehow possible, or we could create baby universes.

Comment author: Simon_Jenkins 21 December 2017 04:15:17PM 2 points [-]

1) The winner of the last lottery, Tim, wrote several paragraphs explaining his choice of where to send the winnings. Is this required/expected of future winners? I can understand that a winner selecting a non-EA cause might end up having to convince CEA of their decision, but if I win and just want to give the money to a bona fide EA cause, do I have to say anything about my thought process?

2) Are there advocacy-related reasons for donating directly to charities instead of joining such a lottery? For example, if I'm trying to increase my impact by convincing others to join EA, and someone asks where I donate, there seems to be a cost associated with describing a complicated lottery scheme that may end up with my money going to a cause that I think is ineffective or possibly even bad. It seems likely that people would be confused by the scheme and put off, or even think that I was being swindled.

2b) Relatedly, while I personally trust that the complexities of the scheme arise from a desire to optimise it for fairness and other considerations, I worry that the explanations may be off-putting to some. I appreciate that they are in beta, so I will try to be constructive: I would like to see something like an interactive page with colourful buttons and neat graphics that explains how the scheme works. The boxes (A,B,C,G) are a great start, but I think that for example the equations would be best kept behind an expanding box, or even on another page. The headers as they are are good (though might be better framed as questions like "how will the winner be chosen?"). My take-home point here is that having all of the information on one page is intimidating. These are suggestions largely based on my personal experience of looking through the page.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 21 December 2017 10:18:22PM 1 point [-]

I can understand that a winner selecting a non-EA cause might end up having to convince CEA of their decision,

See Sam's comment below:

"to emphasise this, as CEA is running this lottery for the benefit of the community, it's important for the community to have confidence that CEA will follow their recommendations (otherwise people might be reticent to participate). So, to be clear, while CEA makes the final call on the grant, unless there's a good reason not to (see the 'Caveats and Limitations' section on the EA.org Lotteries page) we'll do our best to follow a donor's recommendation, even if it's to a recipient that wouldn't normally be thought of as a strictly EA."

Are there advocacy-related reasons for donating directly to charities instead of joining such a lottery?

One data point: last year Jacob Steinhardt put a majority of his donations into the lottery for expected direct impact, and then allocated the remainder himself for practice donating and signaling value.

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 21 December 2017 08:19:30PM *  1 point [-]

I can't help but notice that one of the lottery entrants is listed as anonymous. According to the rules, entrants may remain anonymous even if they win, so long as they express a strong objection to their name being public before the draw date. (No entrants to the 2016 donor lottery were anonymous.)

I realize that which charitable cause the winner chooses to fund doesn't change the expected value of any entrant's contribution to the lottery. As Carl Shulman points out, the lottery's pot size and draw probability, as well as entrants' expected payout, are all unaffected even if the eventual winner does nothing effective with their donation.

Nevertheless, donor lotteries like this would seem to rely strongly on trust. Setting aside expected value calculations, there seems to be a strong cultural norm in my country against allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous. In the United States, only seven states allow this without an exemption being madeā€”of course, that only applies to standard lotteries, not donor lotteries. But the point remains: there exists a common understanding in the US and Canada that lottery winners should not be allowed to remain anonymous without good reason.

This is not the case in Europe, where it is far more common for lottery winners to remain anonymous.

When the rules for anonymity were being drafted, was any thought given to this issue? Or was it just decided by default because the rules were drafted by people in a country for which this is just their cultural norm?

(I'm not necessarily against allowing anonymous winners; it just initially feels weird to me because of the cultural norm of the society in which I was raised, and I'm interested in knowing how much thought went into this decision.)

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 21 December 2017 10:06:12PM 2 points [-]

there seems to be a strong cultural norm in my country against allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous... This is not the case in Europe, where it is far more common for lottery winners to remain anonymous. When the rules for anonymity were being drafted, was any thought given to this issue?

If a lottery organization is conducting a draw itself, and could rig the draw, publishing the winner's identity allows people to detect fraud, e.g. if the lottery commissioner's family members keep winning that would indicate skulduggery. I think this is the usual reason for requiring publicity. Did you have another in mind?

In the case of CEA's lottery (and last year's lottery), the actual draw is the U.S. National Institute of Science and Technology public randomness beacon, outside of CEA's control, which allows every participant to know whether their #s were drawn.

When the rules for anonymity were being drafted, was any thought given to this issue?

Someone raised the possibility of people who didn't want publicity/celebrity being discouraged from making use of the option, as part of the general aim of making it usable to as many donors as possible.

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 21 December 2017 02:24:21AM 3 points [-]

I'd be interested in learning your general thought process, though probably you should only answer these after you've allocated the entire lottery amount, and only if you feel that it makes sense to answer publicly.

  1. How much time would you say that you invested in determining where to give?
  2. How many advisors did you turn to in order to help think through these decisions? In retrospect, do you think that you took advice from too many different people, not enough, or just the right amount?
  3. Was The Chapter among the first potential causes you thought of?
  4. How many different organizations did you seriously consider? Of these, how many reached the stage where you interviewed them?

The Chapter sounds like an excellent giving opportunity for a gift of this size, since it's directly paying for a position that they would need to maintain their current level of effectiveness. I'm glad to know that my portion of the donor lottery funds are being used in such a positive manner.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 21 December 2017 04:01:24AM *  1 point [-]

I'm glad to know that my portion of the donor lottery funds are being used in such a positive manner.

I would add, though, that participation doesn't affect the expected payout to any player's recommendations (and in the CEA lottery setup, it doesn't affect the pot size or draw probability). I.e. if other donor lottery players planned to donate their funds to something completely useless, that doesn't make any difference for you (unless hearing that they had made that donation outside the lottery context would have changed your own charity pick).

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 18 December 2017 04:18:24AM 0 points [-]

Could you explain your first sentence? What risks are you talking about?

Also, how does one lottery up further if all the block sizes are $100k? Diving it up into multiple blocks doesn't really work.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 18 December 2017 05:40:50AM 0 points [-]

Could you explain your first sentence? What risks are you talking about?

Probably the risks of moving down the diminishing returns curve. E.g. if Good Ventures put its entire endowment into a donor lottery (e.g. run by BMGF) for a 1/5 chance of 5x endowment diminishing returns would mean that returns to charitable dollars would be substantially higher in the worlds where they lost than when they won. If they put 1% of their endowment into such a lottery this effect would be almost imperceptibly small but nonzero. Similar issues arise for the guarantor.

With pots that are small relative to the overall field or the guarantor's budget (or the field of donors the guarantor considers good substitutes) these costs are tiny but for very big pots they become less negligible.

Also, how does one lottery up further if all the block sizes are $100k?

Take your 100k and ask Paul (or CEA, to get in touch with another backstopping donor) for a personalized lottery. If very large it might involve some haircut for Paul. A donor with more resources could backstop a larger amount without haircut. If there is recurrent demand for this (probably after donor lotteries become more popular) then standardized arrangements for that would likely be set up (I would try to do so, at least).

Comment author: RyanCarey 17 December 2017 02:32:48PM *  4 points [-]

Ideally, non-EAs can enter and win. As Carl said, on a first cut analysis, what you're doing doesn't depend on what other people do. You're simply buying a 1/m chance of donating m times your contribution, and if other EAs or non-EAs want to do the same, then all power to them.

In practice, CEA technically gets to make the final donation decision. But I can't see them violating a donor's choice.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 17 December 2017 06:44:59PM 2 points [-]

Right, non-EAs entering the lottery get to improve their expected donation quality but don't change the expected payouts for anyone else (and we generally don't have reason to worry about correlating donation sizes via the lottery with them, unless you would otherwise want to switch your donation depending on slight changes in the amount of non-EA donations in whatever area).

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