Comment author: Daniel_Eth 10 February 2017 07:41:56AM 0 points [-]

I'm assuming people who donated to the fund would get periodic notifications about where the money's being used.

Comment author: Giles 10 February 2017 11:29:59PM 1 point [-]

That's great, but the less actively I'm involved in the process the more likely I am to just ignore it. That might just be me though.

Comment author: Giles 10 February 2017 06:48:50AM 6 points [-]

This is great!! Pretty sure I'd be giving more if it felt more like a coordinated effort and less like I have to guess who needs the money this time.

I guess my only concern is: how to keep donors engaged with what's going on? It's not that I wouldn't trust the fund managers, it's more that I wouldn't trust myself to bother researching and contributing to discussions if donating became as convenient as choosing one box out of 4.

Comment author: liquid-snake 25 September 2016 04:13:03PM *  2 points [-]

Additional reason that applies to me and probably other EA engineers: Earning to Give lets your impact be more liquid and therefore better directed.

E2G lets you donate money to whichever organization in whichever cause area you think is best. Signing on to work at CEA means you think (impact at CEA) + (donating ?5-15k to Best Charity) is better than (donating 30-60k to Best Charity).

If you think CEA (or New Incentives, or Wave or whatever) is The Most Optimal Charity, easy decision. But it's not clear why the math would work out if you think X-risk, animal charities, or basic science is the right cause area... or even if you're into global health/poverty but think GiveWell is better at charity evaluation than you are.

Comment author: Giles 10 October 2016 02:28:35PM 0 points [-]

This by the way is what certificates of impact are for, although it's not a practical suggestion right now because it's only been implemented at the toy level.

The idea is to create a system where your comparative advantage, in terms of knowledge and skills, is decoupled from your value system. Two people can be working for whichever org best needs their skills, even though the other best matches their values, and agree to swap impact with each other. (As well as the much more complex versions of that setup that would occur in real life).

Comment author: Ervin 27 September 2015 03:55:59PM 1 point [-]

I was also hesitant about CFAR ... Good point regarding GPP .... Not sure about 80K

Its meta in Hurford's sense, which is different from Todd's - it's indirect, and has a chain of causality to impact that has extra points of failure. That's what many of Hurford's arguments spoke to. GPP and 80K also count as meta by this definition.

Anyway, taking all this into consideration I get $3.2m meta, $62m non-meta for a ratio of 5%. (Plus $2.1 million in "grey area")

Are you counting donations from people who aren't EAs, or are only relatively loosely so? They can correct me if I'm wrong but Hurford didn't seem concerned about those.

Regarding the survey, do you feel that it's biased specifically towards those who prefer meta, or just those who identify as EA?

I don't know about the Oxford line, but the general feeling where I am and among international EA's I've talked to is that the survey tells us more about the people who are more engaged in the international community, identify more as EA's and participate online, are more dedicated, etc. Most other sources confirm that these people do particularly favour meta, that many came from the large old LessWrong community, that they're heavily consequentialist, etc.

Naturally finding out about and establishing contact with as many other people as possible would also be valuable, including less engaged random GWWC and even GW donors. I don't know about GWWC Central, but my local chapter plans to help get next survey to as many people as possible.

Comment author: Giles 27 September 2015 05:47:48PM 0 points [-]

Are you counting donations from people who aren't EAs, or are only relatively loosely so?

Yes. Looking at the survey data was an attempt to deal with this.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 27 September 2015 05:44:41AM 3 points [-]

Nice data.

I'm a bit unsure about whether CFAR should be classed as "EA meta". You could see it as a whole other cause which is improving decision making. Only part of what it's doing is trying to improve the EA movement.

Also note that we're undercounting the amount of direct work being influenced if we just look at this year's direct charity budget. e.g. GPP (part of CEA) mainly advises policy makers rather than helping the direct charities. e.g.2. 80k helps people choose careers which normally aren't at direct charities. e.g.3. Some of GiveWell's research will likely be used by people outside of those working at direct charities. e.g.4. GWWC is also raising money that will be donated in the future.

Did you also include all of Open Phil's grants in your direct charity estimate? You should do that, or only include the proportion of GiveWell's funding that's spent on "traditional GiveWell".

I think the EA survey likely has a strong selection bias in favor of those who prefer meta. There's lots of random GiveWell and GWWC donors who'll never fill that out.

Comment author: Giles 27 September 2015 02:42:52PM 1 point [-]

I was also hesitant about CFAR, although for a slightly different reason - around half its revenue is from workshops, which looks more like people purchasing a service than altruism as such.

Good point regarding GPP: policy work is another of those grey areas between meta and non-meta.

Not sure about 80K: their list of career changes mostly looks like earning to give and working at EA orgs - I don't see big additional classes of "direct work" being influenced. It's possible people reading the website are changing their career plans in entirely different directions, but I have my doubts.

Not sure what you mean by e.g.3.

I totally get the point regarding GWWC and future earnings, but I'm not sure how to account for it. GWWC do a plausible-looking analysis that suggests expected future donations are worth 10x total donations to date. But I'm not sure that we can "borrow from the future" in this way when doing metaness estimates, and if we do I think we'd need a much sharper future discounting function to account for exponential growth of the movement.

Good point regarding OPP: My direct charity estimate only included the top recommended charities by GW,GWWC and ACE. The OPP grants come to an additional $7.8m in 2014 ("additional" because it's not direct charities I've already considered and isn't meta either).

Anyway, taking all this into consideration I get $3.2m meta, $62m non-meta for a ratio of 5%. (Plus $2.1 million in "grey area"). So we're getting close to agreement!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1PMw_q7vZ0oQgPbY3vrie3Xb0n_wifCidYzpxSDCTbPE/edit#gid=608881848

Some other caveats:

  • It doesn't measure non-financial contributions, such as running local chapters or volunteering for EA orgs.
  • Some of the money going to direct charities comes from people with no connection whatsoever to the EA movement (i.e. not influenced by GiveWell etc.)

Regarding the survey, do you feel that it's biased specifically towards those who prefer meta, or just those who identify as EA?

Comment author: Giles 27 September 2015 04:49:53AM 6 points [-]

I'm helping prepare a spreadsheet listing organizations and their budgets, which at some point will be turned into a pretty visualization...

Anyway, according to this sheet, meta budgets total around $4.2m (that's $2.1m GiveWell, $0.8m CEA and $0.8m CFAR, plus a bunch of little ones). That's more than "a couple", but direct charities' budgets total $52m so we're still shy of 10%.

(Main caveats to this data: It's not all for exactly the same year, so anything which is taking off exponentially will skew it. Also I haven't checked the data particularly carefully).

I've also been counting x-risk organizations as not meta. That one's a bit ambiguous - on the one hand they do a lot of "priorities research and marketing", but on the other hand there isn't really an object-level tier of organizations beneath them that works in the same areas.

As to what self-identified effective altruists are up to: a quick look at the 2014 EA survey only yields number of donations to each organization, not amount of money... but if we go with that, 20% of the donations are to organizations I've counted as "meta".

So my working conclusion would be that if you favour a 50% split across the community, you're looking good for putting all your eggs in meta. If you favour a 10-20% split, you may need to look a bit more carefully.

A final note of caution: you can only push in one direction. If you favoured a 20% meta split, and (just suppose it turned out that) only 5% of donations in your reference class went to meta, it doesn't automatically mean that you should donate to meta. There might be some other category, e.g. direct animal welfare charities, which were also under-represented according to your ideal pie. It's then up to you to decide which needs increasing more urgently.

Comment author: Giles 27 September 2015 05:10:41AM 4 points [-]

I can't emphasize the exponential growth thing enough. A look at the next page on this forum shows CEA wanting to hire another 13 people. Meanwhile GiveWell were boasting of having grown to 18 full time staff back in March; now they have 30.

But the direct charities are growing like crazy too! It all makes it very easy to be off by a factor of 2 (and maybe I am in my above reasoning) simply by using out of date figures. Anyone business-minded know about the sort of reasoning and heuristics to use under growth conditions?

Comment author: Giles 27 September 2015 04:49:53AM 6 points [-]

I'm helping prepare a spreadsheet listing organizations and their budgets, which at some point will be turned into a pretty visualization...

Anyway, according to this sheet, meta budgets total around $4.2m (that's $2.1m GiveWell, $0.8m CEA and $0.8m CFAR, plus a bunch of little ones). That's more than "a couple", but direct charities' budgets total $52m so we're still shy of 10%.

(Main caveats to this data: It's not all for exactly the same year, so anything which is taking off exponentially will skew it. Also I haven't checked the data particularly carefully).

I've also been counting x-risk organizations as not meta. That one's a bit ambiguous - on the one hand they do a lot of "priorities research and marketing", but on the other hand there isn't really an object-level tier of organizations beneath them that works in the same areas.

As to what self-identified effective altruists are up to: a quick look at the 2014 EA survey only yields number of donations to each organization, not amount of money... but if we go with that, 20% of the donations are to organizations I've counted as "meta".

So my working conclusion would be that if you favour a 50% split across the community, you're looking good for putting all your eggs in meta. If you favour a 10-20% split, you may need to look a bit more carefully.

A final note of caution: you can only push in one direction. If you favoured a 20% meta split, and (just suppose it turned out that) only 5% of donations in your reference class went to meta, it doesn't automatically mean that you should donate to meta. There might be some other category, e.g. direct animal welfare charities, which were also under-represented according to your ideal pie. It's then up to you to decide which needs increasing more urgently.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 28 July 2015 07:55:54AM *  4 points [-]

I agree with Jay; most accessible essay in the series yet. Keep it up! Suggestions for building a moral market:

  • Encourage more potential donors to post what sort of research they'd seek to fund. If they then end up with multiple candidates coming forward, that can be resolved through a competitive hiring process.

  • Also encourage more potential donees to post their aspiring research agendas, to attract potential donors more easily.

Note: the prior suggestions might not be practical to enact until basic infrastructure of a direct funding moral market is set up.

  • Approach EA Ventures about vetting and normalizing direct funding. This could be one institution itself that doesn't receive funding from the direct funding market, which could generate trust in EA Ventures as an evaluator. It could also serve as a light version of Givewell or GWWC responsible for assessing the viability of individuals. EA Ventures could make clear in reports their assessments are their own opinions, and other donors and donees are by all means free to make their open funding arrangements.

  • Multiple donors could form coalitions to fund a single donee. For donors, this could decrease salient feelings of risk aversion otherwise preventing funding, because not one single donor takes on all risk. For donees, being funded by a coalition of multiple donors could increase security in two ways. Firstly, if one donor stops contributing funds, one or more funders are still around to provide funding. Hopefully, partial interim funding would be sufficient to meet living costs for the donee until full funding is restored. Anyway, secondly, funding coalitions of more members can seem more trustworthy and reliable to potential new donors. A new donor will be more likely to fill an existing funding gap if they can see one or more other donors already trust the donee enough to carry out the desired work.

Comment author: Giles 28 July 2015 08:31:34PM 1 point [-]

Multiple donors could form coalitions to fund a single donee

Or to fund multiple donees.

Comment author: Giles 28 July 2015 05:46:31PM 1 point [-]

Let me know if you're expecting a surge of Facebook joins (as a result of the Doing Good Better book launch and EA Global) and want help messaging people.

Comment author: Giles 24 July 2015 11:17:50PM 1 point [-]

I'm guessing that for these to work, the ownership of certificates should end up reflecting who actually had what impact. I can think of two cases where that might not be so.

Regret swapping:

  • Person A donates $100 to charity X. Person B donates $100 to charity Y.
  • Five years later they both change their minds about which charity was better. They swap certificates.

So person A ends up owning a certificate for Y, and person B ends up owning a certificate for X, even though neither of them can really be said to have "caused" that particular impact.

Mistrust in certificate system

  • Foundation F buys impact certificates. It believes that by spending $1 on certificates, it is causing an equivalent amount of good as if it had donated $2 to charity X.
  • Person A is skeptical of the impact certificate system. She believes that foundation F is only accomplishing $0.50 worth of good with every $1 it spends on certificates (she believes the projects themselves are high value, but that if foundation F didn't exist then the work would have got done anyway).
  • Person A has a $100 budget to spend on charity.
  • Person A borrows $50 from her savings account and donates $150 to charity X. She sells the entire certificate to foundation F for $50 and deposits this back in her savings account.

Why would person A do this? She doesn't care about certificates, just about maximizing positive impact. As far as she is concerned, she has caused foundation F to give $50 to charity X, where otherwise that money would only have accomplished half as much good.

Why would foundation F do this? It believes in certificates, so as far as F is concerned, it has spent $50 to cause a $150 donation to charity X, where the other certificates it could have bought would only be equivalent to a $100 donation.

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