Animal Charity Evaluators Introduces the Recommended Charity Quiz

[ Cross-posted from the ACE blog ] The following post was published on the Animal Charity Evaluators blog earlier this month . We've just released a new recommended charity quiz that allows users to enter in their specific preferences and outputs the best animal charities that correspond to those values.... Read More
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 made—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: TimothyTelleenLawton 20 December 2017 06:34:06PM *  10 points [-]

I’d like to give a quick update on my plans for the 2016 Donation Lottery winnings.

Of the $45,650, I’ve decided to give $21,000 to the Czech Association for Effective Altruism so they can hire one full time staff (or equivalent) for one year to manage the organization. I have not yet transferred that money, nor decided how to allocate the other $24,650.

I decided to support the Czech Association for Effective Altruism because I am impressed with their ability to execute difficult projects, I believe their projects have the potential to make a large positive impact (including via the impact on the chapter members executing them), I believe they will be able to execute substantially more and higher-quality projects with employed leadership than without one, and I believe funding is the limiting factor for the chapter hiring leadership staff.

I became aware of the Czech Association for Effective Altruism (The Chapter) when they hosted 2 CFAR workshops near Prague in October 2017; CFAR hired me to be one of a handful of instructors for those workshops. Some observations and beliefs from spending time with a few of the leaders from the chapter:

  • The Chapter successfully caused there to be CFAR workshops in Europe in 2017 that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The demand for the workshops was high enough to justify two workshops in rapid succession. Hosting these workshops was one of a few major priorities for The Chapter in 2017.
  • The Chapter handled virtually all of the operations for the two workshops (~10 staff and ~30 participants each workshop), including finding a venue with relatively narrow specifications and providing lodging, food, local transportation, supplies, and instructor support. While there were some hiccups in the operations, it generally went very well, and better than I (and most CFAR staff with whom I discussed it) had expected from a first-time crew. At least one CFAR instructor believed that the operations at the Prague workshops were even better than they are for the typical CFAR workshop in the Bay Area, where they are generally managed by a CFAR employee with support from volunteers.
  • The leaders of The Chapter seem to be observant, thoughtful, self-critical, and dedicated. These attributes make me much more confident that they will be successful, particularly for their ability to observe problems and make adjustments accordingly over time.
  • The Chapter seems less well connected to the global EA movement and possible funders than other equivalently talented EAs with which I’m familiar. I also expect that the global movement would benefit from The Chapter being more influential within it.

Some expectations related to the donation:

  • Much of the success of The Chapter in 2017 seems to be attributable to having a Director that was spending approximately full-time on the chapter (despite very little compensation). The past Director recently left to acquire a paid full-time job, and I expect The Chapter’s effectiveness to drop substantially if they are not able to hire replacement leadership.
  • The Chapter believes that the staff they hire with this donation will be able to lead fundraising efforts to support their own salary and the rest of The Chapter budget for future years.
  • I intend to only make this donation if I can do so legally. The donation process may involve donating the money to another non-profit (with 501(c)3 tax advantaged status) that would in turn consider supporting The Chapter. If not all of the money is passed on to The Chapter, it will reduce the efficiency of the donation. I hope for The Chapter to receive about $20k, since that is what they estimate they need to hire leadership for one year (and they believe other donations can cover their other budgetary needs). I expect I will need to allocate about $21k in order for The Chapter to likely receive $20k.

I’m planning to post audio of my last interview with The Chapter, as well as budgetary and strategic information that The Chapter has shared with me.

Edits: inserted the organization's official name, "Czech Association for Effective Altruism", and corrected bullet formatting.

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.


[LINK] AMA by Animal Charity Evaluators on Reddit

Animal Charity Evaluators is currently doing an Ask Me Anything session  on the /r/vegan subreddit. If you have any questions about ACE's 2017 charity recommendations, this would be an ideal place to directly ask the researchers at ACE. Even if you come across this link after the AMA concludes, you... Read More
Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 31 August 2017 09:26:11PM 3 points [-]

I work for ACE, but below are my immediate personal thoughts. This is not an official ACE response.

There is also a further option, that we consider whether EAs could prioritise meta-evaluation projects for ACE and other EA related groups. If we desire to optimise evidence based (rather than more ideologically weighted) opportunities for donors, it could be argued that we ought to limit donations until these criteria are met…

Just to be clear, you are proposing that EAs stop donating to ACE and ACE’s top charities and instead use the money to fund an external review of ACE. This is a dramatic proposition.

ACE believes transparency is extremely important. It would not be difficult for an external reviewer to go through ACE’s materials privately. We welcome such criticism, and when we find that we’ve made a mistake, we publicly announce those mistakes.

If you’re serious about performing an evaluation of ACE, you should be aware of our most recent internal evaluation as well as GiveWell’s stance on external evaluation.

With that said, I don’t believe that the effort/expense of going through an external review is warranted. Below I will explain why.

Like some others I was a little surprised…

In your opening line, you linked to Harrison Nathan’s essay “The Actual Number is Almost Surely Higher”. I and other staff members at ACE strongly disagree with the criticism he has made in this and other essays. Last year, we responded to his claims, pointing out why we felt they were inaccurate. Later, he gave an interview with SHARK, where we yet again responded to his criticism. When he continued to give the same critiques publicly, we gave an in-depth response that goes into full detail of why his continued claims are false.

If you share any of the criticisms Nathan made in his essays, I highly recommend reading our latest response.

…it would seem reasonable that EAs might choose not to fund GFI or the other top ACE charities, primarily because these are not neglected groups.

When ACE recommends a charity, the concept of neglectedness is already baked into that recommendation. One of the criteria ACE uses when evaluating charities includes checking to make sure that there is room for more funding and concrete plans for growth. This factor takes into account funding sources from outside of ACE.

The OPP’s grant to GFI was taken into account when making GFI a top charity. Bollard’s statement that he thought OPP would take care of GFI’s room for more funding in the medium term is from April 2017, after our latest recommendations were made. I’m not on ACE’s research team, so I don’t know the exact details behind this. But I can assure you that as ACE is updating our yearly recommendations in December 2017, this is exactly the kind of thing that will be taken into account, if they haven't already done so.

…it may well be the case that EAs ought to invest in developing more inclusive frameworks for intervention, and concentrate more resources on movement theorising. It is my belief that undertaking work to further explore these issues through a system of meta-evaluation could in turn create a stronger foundation for improved outcomes.

I agree that exploring more is particularly impactful when it comes to effective animal advocacy. But I disagree with your proposal on how to do this.

I’m most excited about additional research into potential intervention types, such as the work being done by the ACE Research Fund and ACE’s new Experimental Research Division. I think it makes a lot of sense for us to focus on more research, and my personal donations are geared more toward this area than the direct advocacy work that the top charities perform.

Your alternative proposal is to fund groups like Food Empowerment Project, Encompass, and Better Eating International specifically because “they tend to fall outside the welfare / abolition paradigm favored by EAA, ACE and Open Phil”, and thus presumably are relatively neglected. I strongly disagree with this line of thinking, even though I personally like these specific organizations. (I’ve personally donated to Encompass this year.)

80k Hours points out that being evidence-based doesn’t have nearly as large an impact as choosing the right cause area. When it comes to the welfare/abolition paradigm, avoiding welfare organizations is costly.

This isn’t to say that abolitionism isn’t a worthy goal; I personally would love to see a world where speciesism is eradicated and no animals are so callously harmed for food. But to get from here to there requires a welfare mindset; abolitionist techniques lack tractability.

One of the reasons why ACE likes being transparent is that we recognize that our philosophy might not correspond exactly to those of everyone else. By making our reasoning transparent, this makes it easier for others to insert their own philosophical underpinnings and assumptions to choose a more appropriate charity for them. This is one reason why we list so many standout charities; we believe that there are donors out there who have specific needs/desires that would make it more appropriate for them to fund a standout charity than any of our top charities. We are currently in the process of making it even easier to do this by creating a questionnaire that allows users to answer a few philosophical questions, allowing us to customize a recommendation specifically tailored to them.

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 28 August 2017 03:45:41PM 7 points [-]

While I certainly don't want to argue against other EAs taking up this example and choosing to live more frugally in order to achieve more overall good, I nevertheless want to remind the EA community that marketing EA to the public requires that we spend our idiosyncrasy credits wisely.

We only have so many weirdness points to spend. When we spend them on particularly extreme things like intentionally living on such a small amount, it makes it more difficult to get EA newcomers into the other aspects of EA that are more important, like strategic cause selection.

I do not want to dissuade anyone from taking the path of giving away everything above $10k/person, so long as they truly are in a position to do this. But doing so requires a social safety net that, as Evan points out elsewhere in this thread, is generally only available to those in good health and fully able-bodied. I will add that this kind of thing is also generally available only when one is from a certain socio-economic background, and that this kind of messaging may be somewhat antithetical to the goal of inclusion that some of us in the movement are attempting with diversity initiatives.

If living extremely frugally were extremely effective, then maybe we'd want to pursue it more generally despite the above arguments. But the marginal value of giving everything over $10k/person versus the existing EA norm of giving 10-50% isn't that much when you take into account that the former hinders EA outreach by being too demanding. Instead, we should focus on the effectiveness aspect, not the demandingness aspect.

Nevertheless, I think it is important for the EA movement to have heroes that go the distance like this! If you think you may potentially become one of them, then don't let this post discourage you. Even if I believe this aspect of EA culture should be considered supererogatory (or whatever the consequentialist analog is), I nevertheless am proud to be part of a movement that takes sacrifice at this level so seriously.

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 12 August 2017 01:09:14AM *  1 point [-]

notacleverthrow-away on Reddit points out that there's an even earlier usage of the term on the SL4 wiki by Anand from way back in January 2003! Here's the page on EffectiveAltruism on sl4.org.

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 22 March 2017 07:47:51AM 0 points [-]

It may be worthwhile to change the banner image at the top of this forum to an image that informs people of upcoming EA Global dates. That way the information stays visible even when lots of other topics begin pushing this post down on the homepage.

Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 23 February 2017 05:27:30PM 5 points [-]

Please try to announce specific EAG dates soon.

My original plan was to prioritize EAG over any other conferences happening at the same time. But early bird pricing and limited ticket availability on other conferences has forced me to purchase tickets to three separate conferences in June, July, and August. I am hoping that these will not conflict with EAG, but, if they do, now I will have to skip EAG rather than these other conferences.

I'm sure I'm not the only one in this position. EAG is likely losing out on attendees because it is taking so long to finalize dates.

In response to Why I left EA
Comment author: EricHerboso  (EA Profile) 20 February 2017 06:49:10AM 26 points [-]

Thank you, Lila, for your openness on explaining your reasons for leaving EA. It's good to hear legitimate reasons why someone might leave the community. It's certainly better than the outsider anti-EA arguments that do tend to misrepresent EA too often. I hope that other insiders who leave the movement will also be kind enough to share their reasoning, as you have here.

While I recognize that Lila does not want to participate in a debate, I nevertheless would like to contribute an alternate perspective for the benefit of other readers.

Like Lila, I am a moral anti-realist. Yet while she has left the movement largely for this reason, I still identify strongly with the EA movement.

This is because I do not feel that utilitarianism is required to prop up as many of EA's ideas as Lila does. For example, non-consequentialist moral realists can still use expected value to try and maximize good done without thinking that the maximization itself is the ultimate source of that good. Presumably if you think lying is bad, then refraining from lying twice may be better than refraining from lying just once.

I agree with Lila that many EAs act too glib about deaths from violence being no worse than deaths from non-violence. But to the extent that this is true, we can just weight these differently. For example, Lila rightly points out that "violence causes psychological trauma and other harms, which must be accounted for in a utilitarian framework". EAs should definitely take into account these extra considerations about violence.

But the main difference between myself and Lila here is that when she sees EAs not taking things like this into consideration, she takes that as an argument against EA; against utilitarianism; against expected value. Whereas I take it as an improper expected value estimate that doesn't take into account all of the facts. For me, this is not an argument against EA, nor even an argument against expected value -- it's an argument for why we need to be careful about taking into account as many considerations as possible when constructing expected value estimates.

As a moral anti-realist, I have to figure out how to act not by discovering rules of morality, but by deciding on what should be valued. If I wanted, I suppose I could just choose to go with whatever felt intuitively correct, but evolution is messy, and I trust a system of logic and consistency more than any intuitions that evolution has forced upon me. While I still use my intuitions because they make me feel good, when my intuitions clash with expected value estimates, I feel much more comfortable going with the EV estimates. I do not agree with everything individual EAs say, but I largely agree with the basic ideas behind EA arguments.

There are all sorts of moral anti-realists. Almost by definition, it's difficult to predict what any given moral anti-realist would value. I endorse moral anti-realism, and I just want to emphasize that EAs can become moral anti-realist without leaving the EA movement.

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