Comment author: HaydnBelfield 09 February 2017 06:22:44PM 7 points [-]

Very interesting idea, and potentially really useful for the community (and me personally!).

What's the timeline for this?

I'm presuming that the Funds would be transparent about how much money is in them, how much has been given and why - is that the case? Also as a starter, has Nick written about how much is/was in his Fund and how its been spent?

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 10 February 2017 06:59:25PM 2 points [-]

The list of donation recipients from Nick's DAF is here:

I don't believe there's been any write-ups or dollar amounts, except the above list is ordered by donation size.

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 09 February 2017 10:43:33PM 14 points [-]

I am on the whole positive about this idea. Obviously, specialization is good, and creating dedicated fund managers to make donation decisions can be very beneficial. And it makes sense that the boundaries between these funds arise from normative differences between donors, while putting fund managers in charge of sorting out empirical questions about efficiency. This is just the natural extension, of the original GiveWell concept, to account for normative differences, and also to utilize some of the extra trust that some EAs will have for other people in the community that isn't shared by a lot of GiveWell's audience.

That said, I'm worried about principle-agent problems and transparency, and about CEA becoming an organization receiving monthly direct debits from the bank accounts of ten thousand people. Even if we assume that current CEA employees are incorruptible superhuman angels, giving CEA direct control of a firehose of cash makes it an attractive target for usurpers (in a way that it is not when it's merely making recommendations and doing outreach). These sorts of worries apply much less to GiveWell when it's donating to developing-world health charities than to CEA when it's donating to EA start-ups who are good friends with the staff.

Will EA Fund managers be committed to producing the sorts of detailed explanations and justifications we see from GiveWell and Open Phil, at least after adjusting for donation size? How will the conflicts of interest be managed and documented with such a tightly interlinked community?

What sorts of additional precautions will be taken to manage these risks, especially for the long term?

Comment author: tyleralterman 30 January 2016 05:23:20AM 4 points [-]

Very much support the thrust of this post. Oliver Habryka on the EA Outreach team is currently chatting with the Good Judgment Project team about implementing a prediction market in EA.

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 12 July 2016 11:19:46PM 0 points [-]

Update: the Good Judgment Project has just launched Good Judgement Open.

Comment author: Jay_Shooster 17 May 2015 07:10:55PM *  9 points [-]

I'm so excited by all the recent public discussion about movement building. It's really encouraging to see so many brilliant people investing their time and energy into this neglected area.

That being said, I am concerned that we are reinventing the wheel, and ignoring a substantial body of empirical and theoretical work that has already been done on the subject.

Why are we starting from scratch and developing novel theories of social change? Why are we focusing on mathematics and philosophy instead of academic sociology research? I'm not an expert but, I'm familiar enough to know that lots of other smart people have studied the issues addressed in this paper. Lots of people are interested the growth and strategy of social movements.

If we were talking about ending global poverty, we would not be postulating new models of economic development. Why should we demand any less empirical/academic rigor in the context of movement building? Why are we so willing to trust our intuitions here?

I think there are two common reasons for ignoring academic sociology research here (but both of them are pretty weak): 1. The research on movement building is extremely shallow and of poor quality 2. The EA commitment to cause neutrality is so unique that analogies to other movements (and to existing academic research) are not very useful

To address the first point, I think that we have to consider "EA expert overconfidence" bias. As Rob Wiblin has pointed out, people who are experts in one area are often radically overconfident in other areas. I think EAs succumb to this pretty severely: we are all so shocked (rightly so) at how much cause prioritization is neglected by smart people that we think we have to basically do everything from scratch. But this isn't quite right. We need to distinguish between "effective means" and "effective ends." EA's might be world leaders when it comes to thinking about effective ends (i.e. worthwhile causes like global poverty, animal suffering, far future suffering etc.) but we have no reason to think we are superior when it comes to effective means. Smart people have been trying to understand the spread of ideas and the grow movements for a long time. We should be shocked if there isn't at least some good work done on the subject. My own shallow research has left me convinced that there is a lot of good stuff out there. Even though sociology has the reputation for being less rigorous than economics, there is a lot of serious, rigorous empirical and theoretical work out there.

I think the second point is also not a huge issue. First, lots of other social movements have faced the problem of maintain a broad base of support in the face of ever-changing goals/priorities (political parties and religions seem like good examples). But more importantly, even if we are unique in this regard, it seems that many of the big questions in movement building apply equally well to either case.

Ultimately, if I was GPP, I would try to convene a working group of non-EA academic experts on social movements before trying to do any more original thinking on the issue.

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 24 May 2015 07:40:00PM 4 points [-]

I mostly agree with this. No need to reinvent the wheel, and armchair theorizing is so tempting, while sorting through the literature can be painful. But I will say your reason #1 (the typical sociological research is of very poor quality) leads to a second effect: scouring the literature for the useful bits (of which I am sure there is plenty) is very difficult and time consuming.

If we were talking about ending global poverty, we would not be postulating new models of economic development. Why should we demand any less empirical/academic rigor in the context of movement building?

I can tell you that when financial quants want to make money, they spend some time reading the academic literature on the market, but they are often very critical of its quality and usefulness for real-life decisions.

So what we really need are people to say "this particular topic was already addressed by this particular reference". Too often, the criticism to reinventing the wheel is "you should just read this vaguely defined body of work, most of which is inapplicable".

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 04 March 2015 01:55:03PM *  5 points [-]

I am mildly worried that connecting strangers to make honor-system donation trades could lead to a dispute. There are going to be more and more new faces around if the various EA growth strategies this year pan out. The fact that donation trading has been going on smoothly until now means folks might get overly relaxed, and it only takes one publicized dispute to really do damage to the culture. Even if no one is outright dishonest, miscommunication could lead to a someone thinking they have been wronged to the tune of thousands of dollars.

I don't think that communication between the donors, as Brian mentions, is fully satisfactory. Even if everyone promises to send receipts afterwards, you still have Byzantine generals' problems. One idea is that we find someone at CEA who, at the least, can be listed as an email contact to which two donors can send their agreement before they execute, just so there's a records and so the CEA person can point out any obvious confusion. I think this could be a very efficient use of CEA time, especially if it increases trust and therefore makes more trades possible.

Comment author: AGB 22 December 2014 10:59:44PM 0 points [-]

I strongly expect to give a large amount of money to AMF (>$10000) over the next few months. Happy to help.

I'm from the UK.

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 06 January 2015 09:29:18PM 0 points [-]

Howdy, I'm trying to make a donation to CEA of about $4,000 this month from Canada. Would be very glad to swap with you for AMF. If you're still up for this, please shoot me an email.

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 12 December 2014 01:57:03PM 2 points [-]

Worth noting that it can still be worth posting to your personal blog if only to increase how many people see it.

In response to comment by Jess_Riedel on Open Thread
Comment author: RyanCarey 20 September 2014 04:01:06AM *  2 points [-]

(1) I don't think minor posts like "Here's an interesting article. Anyone have thoughts?" fit very well in the open thread. In particular, it's not clear when something new has been added. One possibility is to create a second tier of posts which do not appear on the main page unless you specifically select it.

I agree that the links might not fit well in an open thread. An alternative might be to bundle up a bunch of links into a "links for November" type thread like State Star Codex. Then, people can put more links in the comments if appropriate.

However, learn against improving discussion by subdividing discussion fora. The main/discussion distinction was one of LessWrong's most unpopular features. In the effective altruism community, we already have a subreddit, many facebook groups, many personal blogs, many Twitters, many Tumblrs, LessWrong, here and many other online locations. Moreover, given limited programmer resources, we're not currently looking for new features. Having said that, I'll look into the feasibility highlighting new comments because that seems like it would be useful.

(2) I've talked to at least a couple of other people who think EAs need a place to talk that's more casual in the specific sense that comments aren't saved for all eternity on the internet. (Or, at the very least, aren't indexed by search engines.)

A private Facebook group is best for this. There's no straightforward way to prevent public pages from being indexed by sites like

In response to comment by RyanCarey on Open Thread
Comment author: Jess_Riedel 20 September 2014 04:18:32AM 1 point [-]

Very reasonable. Thanks Ryan.

In response to Introduce Yourself
Comment author: godshatter 20 September 2014 03:35:46AM 4 points [-]

I'm a physics PhD student working in quantum computing. My introduction to EA has been through Lesswrong, where I'm reasonably active (under a different name).

When I first heard about EA, it immediately struck a chord with me, as it did two things: (1) it pinpointed exactly what it was about your average charity that annoyed me so much; and (2) proposed a way to fix it.

I very recently started donating a small amount, $50, monthly to GiveDirectly.

While I support giving from what you earn, I'm still quite on the fence about earning to give. That is, I'm not sure that it is a good idea to consciously optimize your career around earning more simply so that you can donate more. I haven't, yet, clearly formulated my intuitive discomfort with this concept into arguments.

Comment author: Jess_Riedel 20 September 2014 04:17:32AM *  3 points [-]

Hey, I'm a postdoc in q. info (although more on the decoherence and q. foundations side of things). I'm interested to know more about where you're at and how you found out about LessWrong. Shoot me an email if you want. My address is my username without the underscore .

In response to comment by MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) on Minor Updates
Comment author: RyanCarey 19 September 2014 02:41:52AM *  4 points [-]

Thanks for the suggestions, Michael.

So far every comment I've seen has been insightful and thoughtful. I would like to see the karma requirement lowered soon to make it easier to get new users.

I want more users too. In terms of article creation, there are some good ones on the way so we're not yet constrained. In terms of new user-created aricles, we haven't yet had any, and so it might be useful to see some before we make a comparison. Comparing based on comments is a good start, though it's not quite the same. I think it's unlikely that I would need to decrease the karma requirement before the stated timeframe of October 10 but I think it's good to think of creative ways to increase participation.

Feature request: The ability to tag people in posts like on Twitter and Facebook

This would be an interesting feature, and I think I would like it. So far, we've prioritised bugs and I've tried not to impose excessively on the time of Trike Apps (they have made a large and entirely voluntary contribution). So far, they've done an awesome job creating the site with basic functionality. I think that before we install any new features, it would either be necessary for the code to be made public to allow other volunteer contributions, or for the site to demonstrate a lot of usage over a period of months so that we could go to Trike with a case that further development was of high value.

Feature request: Separate sections for serious in-depth writings and incomplete thoughts or discussion prompts.

I lean against creating multiple fora. Even if it was a good idea in the long run, I think that it's better to start with one forum so that it's easier to achieve a critical mass. It's no exaggeration to say that LW's Main/Discussion distinction was one of the most hated features of the site. I also think that fragmenting an online community and decreasing its usability are two of the most damaging things you can do to a budding community website. I think that we can bridge the gap by making main a bit more lenient to short questions. If the open threads are too big, and some high quality comments are being lost, then we can move whichever kinds of posts were most successful in the open threads to the main page to make more space. We could also create more specific open threads e.g. a careers open thread.

Lastly, for future reference, if you have multiple suggestions, it's often good to post them in separate comments so that users can give feedback on them independently.

In response to comment by RyanCarey on Minor Updates
Comment author: Jess_Riedel 20 September 2014 04:06:29AM 1 point [-]

I lean against creating multiple fora. Even if it was a good idea in the long run, I think that it's better to start with one forum so that it's easier to achieve a critical mass. It's no exaggeration to say that LW's Main/Discussion distinction was one of the most hated features of the site. I also think that fragmenting an online community and decreasing its usability are two of the most damaging things you can do to a budding community website.

This was interesting to me.

Here's one more idea to throw out there: Divide the posts into "major" and "minor" tags and then include a checkbox for signed-in users that says something like "filter for major posts" that would only show the important/major/fleshed-out posts. If you wanted to make sure the minor posts didn't get neglected by apathy, you could have that box become unchecked the next time the person visits. In order to maintain an impressive appearance to visitors, they would only see the major posts.

This should significantly reduce the chance that minor posts are neglected (except by people who shouldn't or don't want to see them) and would be expandable to a more extensive tagging system in the future.

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