Comment author: Denise_Melchin 06 May 2018 09:15:30AM *  16 points [-]

I’m curious what kind of experiences people in the dedicated group actually had that put them off if you could elaborate on that.

I share the impression that dedication is less encouraged in EA these days than five years ago. I’m also personally very disappointed by that since high dedication felt like a major asset I could bring to EA. Now I feel more like it doesn’t matter which is discouraging.

My guess is that this is because high dedication is a trait of youth movements and the age of the median and perhaps more importantly the most influential EAs has gone up in the mean time. EA has lost its youth movement-y vibe.

I’m also interested whether the other movements you’re comparing EA to are youth movements?

Comment author: [deleted] 03 May 2018 07:51:06PM *  3 points [-]

Thanks for the post :)

If we make any kind of reasonable assumptions about renting, house price increases and mortgage repayments, it makes a lot of sense for people to save to purchase their own home as soon as possible.

Could you provide a source for this claim? If this were true, we would expect that it's possible to make a lot of money by buying property and renting it out. This would imply that the market for housing is hugely inefficient.

In response to comment by [deleted] on Giving Later in Life: Giving More
Comment author: Denise_Melchin 03 May 2018 08:11:09PM 4 points [-]

I think this claim is often true if someone wants to stay in the same location - however, that is very expensive for someone’s career.

Considering EA’s focus on ‘having a good career’ for which the willingness to move is important, buying a property seems much less likely to be a good call compared to the average person. Unless being willing to move whenever a better opportunity arises is not something you’re willing to do anyway, of course.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 02 May 2018 05:34:51PM 4 points [-]

Maybe my view of the landscape is naive, but it appears to me that a lot of spaces these days have effectively just one or two funders that can actually fund a project (e.g., Elie for poverty interventions, Lewis + ACE for nonhuman animal interventions, Nick for AI interventions, and Nick + CEA for community projects and I imagine these two groups confer significantly). I don't think we need dozens of funders, but I think the optimal number would be closer to three or four people that think somewhat differently and confer only loosely, rather than one or two people.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 02 May 2018 10:58:34PM 1 point [-]

We do not disagree much then! The difference seems to come down to what the funding situation actually is and not how it should be.

I see a lot more than a couple of funders per cause area - why are you not counting all the EtGers? Most projects don’t need access to large funders.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 02 May 2018 10:24:25AM 1 point [-]

I don’t think of having a (very) limited pool of funders who judge your project as such a negative thing. As it’s been pointed out before, evaluating projects is very time intensive.

You’re also implicitly assuming that there’s little information in the rejection of funders. I think if you have been rejected by 3+ funders, where you hopefully got a good sense for why, you should seriously reconsider your project.

Otherwise you might fall prey to the unilateralist’s curse - most people think your project is not worth funding, possibly because it has some risk of causing harm (either directly or indirectly by stopping others from taking up a similar space) but you only need one person who is not dissuaded by that.

Comment author: Joey 24 April 2018 09:59:41PM 5 points [-]

I agree regarding implementation difficulties, particularly long term ones (e.g. losing a visa for a place you were living in with a big EA community) can muddy the waters a lot. It's hard to get into the details, but I would generally consider someone not drifted if it was a clearly capacity affecting thing (e.g. they got carpal tunnel) but outside of that they are working on the same projects they would have wanted to in all cases.

A more nuanced view might be break it down into: “Value change away from EA” - defined as changing fundamental ethical views, maybe changing to valuing people within your country more than outside of it.. “Action change away from EA” - defined as changing one of the fundamental applications of your still similarly held values. Maybe you think being veg is good, but you are no longer veg due to moving to a different, less conducive living situation.

With short and long term versions of both and with it being pretty likely that “value change” would lead to “action change” over time, I used value drift as a catch-all for both the above. It’s also how I have heard it commonly used as, but I am open to changing the term to be more descriptive.

“As the EA community we should treat people sharing goals and values of EA but finding it hard to act towards implementing them very differently to people simply not sharing our goals and values anymore. Those groups require different responses.”

I strongly agree. These seem to be very different groups. I also think you could even break it down further into “EAs who rationalize doing a bad thing as the most ethical thing” and “EAs who accept as humans that they have multiple drives they need to trade off between”. Most of my suggestions in the post are aimed at actions one could take now that reduce both “action change” and “value change”. Once someone has changed I am less sure about what the way forward is, but I think that could warrant more EA thought (e.g. how to re-engage someone who was disconnected for logistical reasons).

On ii)

Sorry to hear you have had trouble with the EA community and children. I think it's one of the life changes that is generally updated too strongly on by EAs and assuming that a person (of any gender) will definitely value drift upon having children is clearly incorrect. Personally I have found the EAs who I have spoken to who have kids to be unusually reflective about its effects on them compared to other similar life changes, perhaps because it has been more talked about in EA than say partner choice or moving cities. When a couple who plans to have kids has kids and changes their life around that in standard/expected ways, I do not see that as a value drift from their previous state (of planning to have kids and planning to have life changes around that).

I also think people will run into problems pretty quickly if they assume that every time someone goes through a life change that the person will change radically and become less EA. I think I see it intuitively as more of a bayesian prior. If someone has been involved in EA for a week and then they are not involved for 2 weeks, it might be sane to consider the possibilities of them not coming back. On the flip side, if an EA has been involved for years and was not involved for 2 weeks, people would think nothing of it. The same holds true for large life changes. It’s more about the person's pattern of long term of behavior and a combined “overall” perspective.

My list of concerns about a new trend of EA’s “relaying information about opportunities only informally” is so long it will have to be reserved for a whole other blog post.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 27 April 2018 01:33:40PM 7 points [-]

I still think you're focussing too much on changed values as opposed to implementation difficulties (I consider lack of motivation an example of those).

With short and long term versions of both and with it being pretty likely that “value change” would lead to “action change” over time

I think it's actually usually the other way around - action change comes first, and then value change is a result of that. This also seems to be true for your hypothetical Alice in your comment above. AFAIK it's a known psychology result that people don't really base their actions on their values, but instead derive their values from their actions.

All in all, I consider the ability to have a high impact EA-wise much more related to someone's environment than to someone's 'true self with the right values'. I would therefore frame the focus on how to get people to have a high impact somewhat differently: How can we set up supportive environments so people are able to execute the necessary actions for having a high impact?

And not how can we lock in people so they don't change their values - though the actual answers to those questions might not be that different.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 24 April 2018 05:20:55PM *  14 points [-]

Thanks for collecting the data Joey! Really useful.

i) I'm not sure whether 'value drift' is a good term to describe loss of motivation for altruistic actions. I'm also not sure whether the data you collected is a good proxy for loss of motivation for altruistic actions.

To me the term value drift implies that the values of the value drifting person are less important to them than they used to be, as opposed to finding them harder to implement. Your data is consistent with both interpretations. I also wouldn't call someone who still cares as much about their values but finds it harder to be motivated having 'value drifted'.

If we observe someone moving to a different location and then contributing less EA wise, then this can have multiple causes. Maybe their values actually changed, maybe they lost motivation or EA contributions have just become harder to do because there's less EA information and fewer people to do projects with around.

As the EA community we should treat people sharing goals and values of EA but finding it hard to act towards implementing them very differently to people simply not sharing our goals and values anymore. Those groups require different responses.

ii) This is somewhat tangential to the post, but since having kids came up as a potential reason for value drifting, I'd like to mention how unfortunate it can be for people who have had kids if other EAs assume they have value drifted as a result.

I've had a lot of trouble within the last year in EA spaces after having a baby. EAs around me constantly assume that I suddenly don't care anymore about having a high impact and might just want to be a stay at home parent. This is incredibly insulting and hurtful to me. Especially if it comes from people whom I have known for a long time and who should know this would completely go against my (EA & feminist) values. Particularly bitter is how gendered this assumption is. My kids' dad (also an EA) never gets asked whether he wants to be a stay at home parent now.

I really had expected the EA community to be better at this. It also makes me wonder on how many opportunities to contribute I might have missed out on. The EA community often relays information about opportunities only informally, if someone is assumed to not be interested in contributing the information about opportunities is much less likely to reach them. Thus the belief that EAs will contribute much less once they have kids might turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 13 April 2018 05:07:28PM 8 points [-]

I've been saying to people that I wish there was a post series about all the practical implications of different philosophical positions (I often have the unflattering impression philosophy EAs like to argue about them just because it's their favourite nerd topic - and not because of the practical relevance).

So special thanks to you for starting it! ;-)

Comment author: MichaelPlant 12 April 2018 10:16:26AM 16 points [-]

However, we can also err by thinking about a too narrow reference class

Just to pick up on this, a worry I've had for a while - which I'm don't think I'm going to do a very job explaining here - is that the reference class people use is "current EAs" not "current and future EAs". To explain, when I started to get involved in EA back in 2015, 80k's advice, in caricature, was that EAs should become software developers or management consultants and earn to give, whereas research roles, such as becoming a philosopher or historian, are low priority. Now the advice has, again in caricature, swung the other way: management consultancy looks very unpromising, and people are being recommended to do research. There's even occassion discussion (see MacAskill's 80k podcast) that, on the margin, philosophers might be useful. If you'd taken 80k's advice seriously and gone in consultancy, it seems you would have done the wrong thing. (Objection, imagining Wiblin's voice: but what about personal fit? We talked about that. Reply: if personal fit does all the work - i.e. "just do the thing that has greatest personal fit" - then there's no point making more substantive recommendations)

I'm concerned that people will funnel themselves into jobs that are high-priority now, in which they have a small comparative advice to other EAs, rather than jobs in which they will later have a much bigger comparative advantage to other EAs. At the present time, the conversation is about EA needing more operations roles. Suppose two EAs, C and D, are thinking about what to do. C realises he's 50% better than D at ops and 75% better at research, so C goes into Ops because that's higher priority. D goes into research. Time passes the movement grows. E now joins. E is better than C at Ops. The problem is that C has taken an ops role and it's much harder for C to transition to research. C only has a comparative advantage at ops in the first time period, thereafter he doesn't. Overall, it looks like C should just have gone into research, not ops.

In short, our comparative advantage is not fixed, but will change over time simply based on who else shows up. Hence we should think about comparative advantage over our lifetimes rather than the shorter term. This likely changes things.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 12 April 2018 06:58:00PM 5 points [-]

I completely agree. I considered making the point in the post itself, but I didn't because I'm not sure about the practical implications myself!


Comparative advantage in the talent market

The concept of comparative advantage is well known within the Effective Altruism community. For donations, it is reasonably well known and implemented, think of donor lotteries or donation trading across countries to take better advantage of tax exemptions. In this post I’m outlining how the idea of comparative advantage can... Read More
Comment author: HoldenKarnofsky 26 March 2018 06:18:40PM 1 point [-]

Yes, I mean statutory holidays like Thanksgiving.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 27 March 2018 05:25:39PM 1 point [-]

It is still unclear to me whether the statutory holidays are supposed to be included in the 25 days paid days off or in addition to.

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