Comment author: Joey 24 April 2018 04:53:53PM 2 points [-]

Social ties seem quite important, particularly close ones (best friends, partners, close co-workers).

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 24 April 2018 06:57:06PM 0 points [-]

What's your impression of how positively correlated close social ties are with staying altruistic among those individuals you surveyed?

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 23 April 2018 11:01:37PM 3 points [-]

Do you have any opinion on the role of community or social ties in preventing value drift in addition to individualized commitment mechanisms, like the GWWC Pledge.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 23 April 2018 06:35:55PM *  -1 points [-]
Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 23 April 2018 11:00:40PM *  1 point [-]

This doesn't add much to the conversation. Obviously people get over-excited by EA and the personal and philosophical opportunities it provides to make an impact will lead lots of people being overconfident in their long-term commitment, and they'll turn out not to be as altruistic as they think. The OP is already concerned about a default state of people becoming less altruistic over time, and focuses on how we can keep ourselves more altruistic than we'd otherwise tend to be, long-term, through things like commitment mechanisms. So theories of psychology which don't specify the mechanisms by which commitment devices fail aren't precise enough to be useful in answering the question of what to do about value drift to our satisfaction.

Comment author: RandomEA 23 April 2018 03:24:41PM 1 point [-]

It seems to me that this passage is conflating two distinct issues:

1) whether your decision not to purchase one pound of chicken will shift the demand curve for chicken by one pound i.e. whether it will cause producers to know that there is now one fewer pound of demand for chicken at the current price

2) how much that shift in the demand curve will change the quantity produced i.e. how much the production of chicken will decrease given that producers will lower the price of chicken and that the demand for chicken will be greater at that lower price (thus partially offsetting the reduction in demand that you caused)

The argument that MacAskill makes is related to the first issue, but the evidence he cites from Compassion for the Pound is related to the second issue. I think MacAskill is correct on the first issue, but I do not think that the evidence he cites supports his position.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 23 April 2018 10:52:10PM 0 points [-]

Is there other evidence supporting or falsifying Will's position from another source.

Comment author: turchin 19 April 2018 08:48:09PM 1 point [-]

I am puzzled by the value of non-born animals in this case. Ok, less chicken will be born and later culled, but it means that some chickens will never be born at all. In extreme case, the whole species of farm chicken could go extinct if there will be no meet consumption.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 20 April 2018 09:47:13PM *  0 points [-]

That some chickens will never be born at all is the goal, as:

  1. it's believed those chickens born would have lives of only suffering, not redeemed by happiness;

  2. the degree and constancy of the suffering is so great considerations of preferences the chicken may have, like a 'will to live', are overridden by the preference/desire to be free of suffering;

  3. the expected consensus is we know enough about animal minds to conclude they have preferences like the instantaneous desire to be free of suffering in any given moment, but we don't have sufficient reason to believe they abstractly think of the future, and meaningfully have a 'will to live';

  4. the collective experience of the farm animal rights movement has been decades of reforms of factory farms remain unenforced or are insufficient to overcome the above considerations about how the lives of chickens on factory farms will never be worth living.

So the goal of some effective altruists focused on present and near-term future non-human animal well-being isn't to advocate for the animal's rights so much as it is to mitigate factory farming as an industry. This is from a perspective of EA from years ago, when Doing Good Better was published. There has been an empirical revolution within effective animal advocacy since then. The evidence has borne out employing messaging focused on systemic change over individual dietary/behavioural change, and not splitting hairs in messaging based on ideological differences internal to the animal welfare/rights movement. So if one cares about the rights of species to not go extinct, one doesn't have to fear the movement strategy implied by the OP, as effective animal advocacy (EAA) organizations are mostly not pursuing that strategy anymore. Given how expansive factory farming is in developed Western countries, and how it's expanding in developing countries, it appears factory farming, and thus the species of farm chicken, isn't going away soon. That stated, I've no reason to think effective animal advocates would object to preserving the genome of the farm chicken, or rearing individual farm chickens under humane conditions, e.g., at an animal shelter or hobby farm.

Of course peers of EA outside the movement have weighed on the topic, disagreeing with the consensus EA position on either side. An argument against vegetarianism and for the continuation of factory farming exists in the logic of the larder, as laid out by Robin Hanson and others. On the other side, another animal liberation movement called Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) thinks EAA doesn't go far enough. While I haven't followed them closely, and so I find their end goals confusing, I believe DxE's strategy is to mitigate factory farming isn't to have them not be born into net-negative lives, but raising sufficient public consciousness global human civilization will at some point in the future literally directly liberate all presently factory-farmed animals, presumably to freely roam the Earth.

*"effective animal advocacy" is the term for the interstitial movement emerging from the combination of effective altruism and the conventional animal welfare/rights movement.

Comment author: Benito 04 April 2018 06:46:26PM *  10 points [-]

On trust networks: These are very powerful and effective. YCombinator, for example, say they get most of their best companies via personal recommendation, and the top VCs say that the best way to get funded by them is an introduction by someone they trust.

(Btw I got an EA Grant last year I expect in large part because CEA knew me because I successfully ran an EAGx conference. I think the above argument is strong on its own but my guess is many folks around here would like me to mention this fact.)

On things you can do with your money that are better than EA funds: personally I don’t have that much money, but with my excess I tend to do things like buy flights and give money to people I’ve made friends with who seem like they could get a lot of value from it (e.g. buy a flight to a CFAR workshop, fund them living somewhere to work on a project for 3 months, etc). This is the sort of thing only a small donor with personal connections can do, at least currently.

On EA grants:

Part of the early-stage projects grant support problem is it generally means investing into people. Investing in people needs either trust or lot of resources to evaluate the people (which is in some aspects more difficult than evaluating projects which are up and running)

Yes. If I were running EA grants I would continually be in contact with the community, finding out peoples project ideas, discussing it with them for 5 hours and getting to know them and how much I could trust them, and then handing out money as I saw fit. This is one of the biggest funding bottlenecks in the community. The place that seems most to have addressed them has actually been the winners of the donor lotteries, who seemed to take it seriously and use the personal information they had.

I haven’t even heard about EA grants this time around, which seems like a failure on all the obvious axes (including the one of letting grantees know that the EA community is a reliable source of funding that you can make multi-year plans around - this makes me mostly update toward EA grants being a one-off thing that I shouldn’t rely on).

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 14 April 2018 12:25:25AM *  2 points [-]

On trust networks: These are very powerful and effective. YCombinator, for example, say they get most of their best companies via personal recommendation, and the top VCs say that the best way to get funded by them is an introduction by someone they trust.

(Btw I got an EA Grant last year I expect in large part because CEA knew me because I successfully ran an EAGx conference. I think the above argument is strong on its own but my guess is many folks around here would like me to mention this fact.)

That trust networks work well, and that according to your experience with the EA Grants there is an effective trust network within EA, just begs the question why trust networks within EA have failed to work for the EA Funds, since so little has been allocated from them.

Yes. If I were running EA grants I would continually be in contact with the community, finding out peoples project ideas, discussing it with them for 5 hours and getting to know them and how much I could trust them, and then handing out money as I saw fit. This is one of the biggest funding bottlenecks in the community. The place that seems most to have addressed them has actually been the winners of the donor lotteries, who seemed to take it seriously and use the personal information they had.

I haven’t even heard about EA grants this time around, which seems like a failure on all the obvious axes (including the one of letting grantees know that the EA community is a reliable source of funding that you can make multi-year plans around - this makes me mostly update toward EA grants being a one-off thing that I shouldn’t rely on).

FWIW, nothing I've heard about the EA Funds leads me to believe your impression is at all incorrect.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 14 April 2018 12:21:47AM 2 points [-]

Whether this discount rate is accurate is another question – given the relative abundance of cash available to EA orgs (through OpenPhil and Good Ventures), a rate as high as this is surprising.

I think the EA community has a limited data-set regarding availability of funding from EA orgs, and we try inferring more than we realistically can. OpenPhil's relationship to EA is rapidly changing, and OpenPhil is rapidly changing the EA movement. OpenPhil has established relationships with EA orgs of all majorly represented causes that as long as things keep going along an optimistic trajectory for them, they can expect up to 50% of their room for more funding per year to be filled by OpenPhil. OpenPhil has begun these relationships with EA orgs in the last year or two. Prior to that, OpenPhil as an organization was still finding its feet, and was more reticent about how large grants EA organizations might expect. I haven't worked at an EA org, but knowing people working at several, my sense is during giving season things are fraught for young(er) EA orgs who aren't sure if they'll have enough to keep the lights on for the next year. Knowing OpenPhil might clear anywhere between 0-50% of an org's budget doesn't do enough to reduce uncertainty. So it doesn't surprise me in spite of the apparent abundance of available funding from OpenPhil organizations rate donations today as worth so much more than the same amount donated a year from now.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 13 April 2018 11:04:39PM 1 point [-]

The economic impact of vegetarianism or veganism is only one factor in the decision of whether one should become a vegetarian or vegan, but an important one

I'm confused by this. If you genuinely think your purchase decisions will make no difference to what happens to animals, then you might as well go ahead and order the big bucket at KFC with a guiltless conscience.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 13 April 2018 11:27:42PM 2 points [-]

I'm referring to effective altruists who aren't (yet) veg-n but are considering becoming so, and are open-minded about but currently unconvinced by the argument veg-nism has a genuine economic impact.

Comment author: saulius  (EA Profile) 07 April 2018 02:58:01PM *  5 points [-]

I partially agree with you but I'll focus on what I disagree with :)

“those who're enthusiastic about EA and/or willing to contribute in a certain way will do so anyway. For them online information, or a single talk may even be enough.”

Personally, hanging out with EAs makes me A LOT more enthusiastic about EA and I work on my EA projects much more as a result. I basically forget about EA when I’m away from the community for long periods of time. I might be an outlier here but I’m sure that the same is true for others to a lesser degree. And it’s these kind of events that not only energise me but also help me find EA friends with whom I can hang out, co-work or even live. Which, by the way, makes such events more valuable when they are for people from one city.

Also, I know from first-hand experience that online information is not enough for cause prioritisation, making career decisions or deciding where to donate. I read a lot but when I started going to EA meetups some gaps in my knowledge and flaws in my thinking were soon exposed. Discussions hit diminishing returns after a while though.

But maybe both goals can be achieved with simple socials at a lesser cost.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 11 April 2018 03:32:43AM 3 points [-]

Personally, hanging out with EAs makes me A LOT more enthusiastic about EA and I work on my EA projects much more as a result. I basically forget about EA when I’m away from the community for long periods of time. I might be an outlier here but I’m sure that the same is true for others to a lesser degree. And it’s these kind of events that not only energise me but also help me find EA friends with whom I can hang out, co-work or even live. Which, by the way, makes such events more valuable when they are for people from one city.

This was true for me until hanging out with EAs worked so well I became an EA community organizer, and now I can't stop thinking about EA, because I'm always in touch with the community and am trying to constantly facilitate EA events.

Comment author: Dunja 06 April 2018 11:44:53AM *  2 points [-]

Thanks for this, great info and presentation and a very well planned event! That said, I'm in general rather skeptical of the impact such events have on anything but the fun of the participants :) I don't have any empirical data to back this claim (so I might as well be completely wrong), but I have an impression that while such events help like-minded people to get to know each other, in terms of an actual, long-term impact on the goals of EA they don't do much. And here is why: those who're enthusiastic about EA and/or willing to contribute in a certain way will do so anyway. For them online information, or a single talk may even be enough. And the other way around: those who aren't much into it will rarely become so via such an event.

I am aware that this may be quite an unpopular view, but I think it would be great to have some empirical evidence to show if it's really wrong.

My guess is that events organized for an effective knowledge-building in the given domain (including concrete skills required for a very concrete tasks in the given community, some of which were a part of your event) would be those that would make more of a difference. Say, an EA community realizes they lack the knowledge of gathering empirical data or the knowledge of spreading their ideas and attracting new members. In that case, one could invite experts on these issues to provide concrete intensive crash-courses, equipping the given community so that it can afterwards put these skills to action. This means a hard-working event, without much extra-entertainment activities, but with a high knowledge gain. I think networking and getting to know others is nice, but not as essential as the know-how and the willingness to apply it (which may then spontaneously result in a well networked community).

(Edit: I once again checked the primary goal of your event and indeed, if you want to provide a space for people to get to know one another, this kind of retreat certainly makes a lot of sense. So maybe my worries were misplaced given this goal, since I rather had in mind the goal of expanding the EA community and attracting new members).

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 11 April 2018 03:31:01AM 4 points [-]

Are you skeptical of the impact of these retreat-style events, or large congregations of effective altruists in general? Conferences like EAG faced similar skepticism of their impact early on. While there is a sense of hype at EAG events, especially if they're primarily attended by fresher community members, the expected value of EAG events is high. The value per person is high-variance, and the median impact per attendee may be low, but the mean impact of EAG per attendee is high. This is because for those high-impact individuals who weren't connected to EA before attending an EAG conference who then got highly involved, they transform the movement. For example, I know several EAs who within a few months of attending EAG, and hardly having heard of EA before then, became key staffers at EA organizations. I expect several EA organizations could attest the same. Given surveys of EA organizations place the value of identifying and hiring the best candidate for a new position as equivalent to >$100k USD; each EAG event likely results in multiple such outcomes; and EAG events don't themselves cost that much, at the least I expect every EAG conference breaks even in expected value. That's not an impressive outcome, but the networking and coordination value EAGs add to the EA movement are a crucial institution. We haven't found an alternative process which satisfies the same goals as well. We can't predict very well in advance exactly which individuals will generate the greatest value by attending EAG events, but that from the pool of people who attend EAG tons of value is undeniably generated justifies the costs of organizing and hosting these events.

Of course EAG events are professional conferences the Centre for Effective Altruism and others optimize for maximizing impact as a result of networking between EAs. Local/regional EA retreats are a different kind of event: more casual, and less goal-oriented. I don't think local EA groups without the assistance of professional EA organizations often have the capacity to organize an event as big and impactful as an EAG conference.

So that leaves the question of the expected value of retreats, i.e., whether its worth local EA communities trying to host them. The direct financial costs (assuming the 75 Euro/person/weekend price is typical, that isn't high) aren't high, as the time spent organizing these events probably primarily comes from volunteers. I figure the primary cost of organizing EA retreats would be the opportunity cost. That is, could the time spent organizing a local EA retreat by all EAs involved be better spent on something else?

While I think local EA groups could identify better uses of their time, that's not the same as saying they will identify better uses of their time. If that's free time that'd otherwise go unused, I expect organizing retreats is worthwhile.

I hope these thoughts help frame thinking about evaluating the EV of EA retreats.

My guess is that events organized for an effective knowledge-building in the given domain (including concrete skills required for a very concrete tasks in the given community, some of which were a part of your event) would be those that would make more of a difference. Say, an EA community realizes they lack the knowledge of gathering empirical data or the knowledge of spreading their ideas and attracting new members. In that case, one could invite experts on these issues to provide concrete intensive crash-courses, equipping the given community so that it can afterwards put these skills to action. This means a hard-working event, without much extra-entertainment activities, but with a high knowledge gain. I think networking and getting to know others is nice, but not as essential as the know-how and the willingness to apply it (which may then spontaneously result in a well networked community).

As an aside, I've wanted to do more things like this with EAs in Canada, but there hasn't been a good opportunity to do so. A highly focused, goal-oriented retreat is something I hadn't thought of trying, but might be a great idea. Thanks for the inspiration.

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