Comment author: Jamie_Harris 28 September 2018 10:41:24PM 1 point [-]

I wanted to echo all of Saulius' points (including the thanks for doing this!).

To clarify your response here: all of the rankings are essentially subjective judgements, based on whatever evidence you have available in that category? So in the example above, if those cortisol tests were somehow your only evidence in the "index of biological markers" category, you would just decide a score that you felt represented the appropriate level of badness for the wild rat "index of biological markers" score?

I'm also wondering if you're going to use the method to compare humans to non-human animals? Some of the biological measures we could use fall down when we think about how humans fit in, e.g. neuron count. Including humans in comparative measures seems valuable for reflecting on/testing intuitions we might otherwise have about cross-species comparisons.

Comment author: Joey 01 October 2018 05:01:50PM 1 point [-]

Re:biological markers, the ideal situation would be multiple markers in both the animal in an ideal life vs their current life vs a perfectly unideal life, then scores would be given based on how their current life compares. In practice, sometimes we have found data on a happy life vs a standard life for an animal and can get some sense of how far away these are from each other, but often we have found no applicable data at all for this section. Our reports are very time capped (5 hours or less depending on the importance of the animal), so we do not dive deep into the mechanisms.

Humans from different situations will be ranked as well. I agree having them as a comparative measure for cross-species comparison allows for much easier intuition checks.

Comment author: Naryan 18 September 2018 03:49:55PM 4 points [-]

Great to see this being looked at. Do you have any examples of this method in use? I'd be interested to see various animals and situations ranked using this method - as it could provide a baseline to quantify the benefits of various interventions.

I also attempted to create my own method of comparing animal suffering while I was calculating the value of going vegetarian. I'll provide a quick summary here, and would love to hear if anyone else has tried something similar.

The approach was to create an internally consistent model based upon my naive intuitions and what data I could find. I spent a while tuning the model so that various trade-offs would make sense and didn't lead to incoherent preferences. It is super rough, but was a first step in my self-examination of ethics.

  1. I created a scale of the value of [human/animal] experience from torture (-1000) to self-actualization (+5) with neutral at 0.
  2. I guessed where various animal experiences fell on the scale, averaged over a lifetime. This is a very weak part of the model - and where Joey's method could really come in handy.
  3. I then multiplied the experience by the lifespan of the animal (as a percentage of human life).
  4. Finally, I added a 'cognitive/subjectivity' multiplier based on the animal's intelligence. This is contentious, but helps so I don't value the long-lived cicada (insect) the same as a human. This follows from other ethical considerations in my model, but some people prefer to remove this step.

The output of this rough model was to value various animal lives as a percentage of human lives - a more salient/comparable measure for me.

This model was built over about 5 hours and is still updating as I have more conversations around animal suffering. Would love to hear if anyone else tried a different strategy!

Comment author: Joey 18 September 2018 05:22:38PM 4 points [-]

Examples coming soon. We are currently aiming to have ~15 done and published by 10/7/18. Our full goal of this project is to create a consistent systematic baseline to quantify the benefits of various interventions which would then allows us to compare specific charity ideas and rank what might be the best few to found within the animal movement. is the closest thing to calculating the value of going vegetarian that I know.

Comment author: saulius  (EA Profile) 18 September 2018 08:45:24AM *  10 points [-]

Thank you for tackling a very important problem. But currently I feel I’d be lost when trying to apply this model because there is more explanation needed for many factors. For example, how does the cortisol level weight against the dopamine level? And what levels are good? How to measure and weight various listed factors to assess anxiety? Etc.

Some examples of this model being applied would be very helpful for understanding the model. Is that the next step in your research?

Comment author: Joey 18 September 2018 05:22:23PM 5 points [-]

Yes indeed, that is the next step. We plan on applying this system to ~15 animal situations and doing a 1-5 hour report on each. This would be both for different animals (e.g. wild rat and factory farmed cows) and different welfare situations for the same animal (e.g. a report each for battery caged laying hens vs enriched cage laying hens)

On biological markers specifically, from the research we have done so far, it's very hard to find any consistent biological markers, not to mention situations where we have a bunch that we can cross compare on the same animal. Generally a good score might look like “some cortisol tests have been done on rats in an ideal living situation vs wild rats and the cortisol levels are about the same” where if the same study was done but the cortisol levels were much higher in the wild rats, that would be an indication of lower wild rat welfare.

Comment author: saulius  (EA Profile) 18 September 2018 08:49:59AM 2 points [-]

Also, I think the link "WAS research had a great summary" does not link to where you intended.

Comment author: Joey 18 September 2018 05:22:09PM 1 point [-]

Thanks. Fixed.

Comment author: zdgroff 03 September 2018 06:55:08AM 1 point [-]

I'm curious how you determined how utilitarian/EA people you spoke with were?

I think it's remarkable how much EAA has changed in the past several years. When people first started these effective animal advocacy online discussion spaces, veg outreach was the most-talked about intervention. It's a pretty resounding shift.

Comment author: Joey 03 September 2018 04:32:30PM 1 point [-]

Self-identification and stated values. e.g. some people I spoke for said they were and EA/read Singer etc, others mentioned rights-focused ethics.

Comment author: Jross 27 August 2018 07:28:00AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for doing this survey and write up, Joey.

A question I had that was prompted by the title and use of "AR" is to what degree do the survey respondents identify with "Animal Rights" vs. animal welfare, animal advocates, etc.

Was this 'AR' position something clarified in terms of identifying the individuals to survey, and were they asked what degree they identify with that terminology? I suspect it may have implications for the WAS related questions so I am more curious about that process.


Comment author: Joey 27 August 2018 06:09:28PM 2 points [-]

I have changed the word "rights" to "advocacy" to better reflect the content of the post. The survey was not targeted at rights or welfare particularly. It was just getting a sense of the broad EA animal space.

Comment author: Joey 15 August 2018 08:48:21PM 19 points [-]

Just wanted to chip in on this. Although I do not think this addresses all the concerns I have with representativeness, I do think CEA has been making a more concerted and genuine effort at considering how to deal with these issues (not just this blog post, but also in some of the more recent conversations they have been having with a wider range of people in the EA movement). I think it's a tricky issue to get right (how to build a cause neutral EA movement when you think some causes are higher impact than others) and there is still a lot of thought to be done on the issue, but I am glad steps are happening in the right direction.

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 03 August 2018 09:19:32PM 17 points [-]

[I'm a CEA staff member, but writing as an individual and a local group founder/organizer]

"EA chapter building is currently fairly tightly controlled" - what aspect of this do you see as tightly controlled? Funding? Advising?

As someone who helped start a local group before there were funds, written resources, or other advising for starting or running an EA group, I see how those things would be helpful, but don't see them as essential. The only request I can remember to focus on a particular cause area was back when GWWC was solely focused on global poverty and invited the Boston group to affiliate, which we decided not to do.

I'm all for EA movement-building orgs doing a better job at supporting local groups and people who are thinking of starting one. But I wouldn't want people to come away from this post with the understanding that they're somehow restricted from starting a group, or that they'll only be able to do so if they support the right cause. My guess is that most EA groups were founded by people who saw a gap and decided to start something, not people who were tapped on the shoulder by a movement-building organization.

Comment author: Joey 03 August 2018 10:38:55PM 13 points [-]

So my personal experience starting a chapter was a long time ago, but what I have heard from people more involved in chapters currently is that there has been social pressure towards focusing on certain cause areas and funding pressure along with it. For example, a sense that chapters are much more likely to get funding, attention, etc, from movement building organizations if they are more far future focused. I think chapters can of course run without any support of any major organization, but the culture of chapters will change if support is more conditional over the long term. As far as I know, no one has been specifically told not to run a chapter based on a different cause focus and I agree this is not the reason most groups start (but it can be a big difference in which groups grow).

Tightly controlled also is in reference to what competing chapter building / movement building organizations would go through to work in the space. For example, the recent post on Leverage is explicitly aimed at caution towards a conference being run under a different organization. I have heard from other organizations about similar frustrations and coordination problems when trying to work in the outreach space.

Comment author: Telofy  (EA Profile) 08 June 2018 08:00:30AM 1 point [-]

Awesome! Do you also have plans to assist EA founders of for-profit social enterprises (like e.g. Wave)?

Comment author: Joey 25 June 2018 06:14:17PM 2 points [-]

It is possible we will focus on this in one of our future years.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 June 2018 03:53:56PM 0 points [-]

Out of charities founded I expect about 50% of them would be GiveWell incubation/ACE recommended.

Is there anything more you can say about why you think this? (Feel free to ignore the question - I don't have anything substantial to say about why this seems high to me.)

Comment author: Joey 25 June 2018 06:14:03PM 2 points [-]

Hey sorry for the slow response on this. I was waiting for some information to be published. I think my estimate would have been much lower before Charity Science Health and Fortify Health both becoming GiveWell incubated. Fortify Health in particular, I think is fairly representative of the program I plan on running, although the future program will likely provide more support than what I was able to give to their team.

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