Comment author: AviN 10 September 2018 12:49:02AM 3 points [-]

On human poverty, GiveWell is one among several very serious actors. It engages very thoroughly in discussions and explanations when diverging views emerge.

The diverging views in the case of the GiveWell example you gave are from respected research organizations Campbell and Cochrane, with all parties arguing in good faith. This was very different from the case of Nathan's criticisms of ACE.

So again I see a small dissenting voice in the otherwise rather monopolistic position of ACE which is being dismissed without due consideration.

But ACE did reply to Nathan Harrison's criticisms:

But again, I want to pause and think about the bigger picture for a while. The fact is that at the time of writing this argument, the organisation Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) had put up a rather comprehensive report explaining that they had come up with the opposite conclusion! (That cage-free reform is actually detrimental to animal wellfare.) I will refrain from discussing it at length here because this comment is already long, but this report of DxE was, in my opinion, dismissed with precious little good argument.

My understanding is that ACE did in fact take DxE's arguments into consideration, and that their relatively pessimistic estimate that cage-free represents a ~5% improvement is informed by many different views, including DxE's arguments that cage-free is harmful. (This is from conversations I've had and I'm not sure if ACE has published this. I agree it would be helpful if ACE published their reasons for this estimate.)

But we have to realize that when it comes to animal suffering, as far as I know ACE is the only game in town.

I'm not sure how you define "the only game in town." There are currently a number of other organizations who do research on effective animal advocacy, including Open Philanthropy, Sentience Institute, Rethink Charity, Faunalytics, Humane Society of the United States, Humane League Labs, Animal Welfare Action Lab, Wild Animal Suffering Research, etc.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 11:52:05AM -1 points [-]

Wouldn't referring to other groups likely confirm that it is the only game in town? If they were working on similar issues then there would be cross referencing and a greater degree of accountability. But it seems that hasn't happened at least in some cases and it may or may not be the case there are further issues to be examined elsewhere. In my view there are around moral theory (particularly managing more polarising issues), whilst i would disagree with Jc that meta evaluation isn't useful. Likely it would provide some useful information to consider in one sweep if other organisations aren't doing that work or people too time constrained or just willing to trust in the process. I think it would at least be worthwhile seeing whether it has value in this context and it could also give people more confidence in the process.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 27 August 2018 08:17:36AM -2 points [-]

I wonder whether it would also be useful to take a broader movement view on these issues alongside EA professionals, because effectiveness considerations are likely to be weighted toward organisations rather than movements. For instance one concern for me is that saying animal rights in the generic way overlooks animal rights theory and immediately minimises those considerations. This for me is a survey more related to animal welfare, which is to centre use within a system of exploitation whereas rights is focussed on freedom from exploitation and justice and would relate to thinking effectively in relation to that theory.

Taking the above approach could be indicative of the strong belief that vegan outreach is a poor strategy, and i would agree with that, i believe it is a poor strategy for EA animal organisations because it is difficult to take a position against animal exploitation and then reify various forms of exploitation through welfarism or reduction through speciesism. Various attempts to neutralise vegan advocacy for pragmatic / strategic or effectiveness reasons have also had negative consequences for rights advocates, particularly through the authentic representation of those ideas.

It may at the end of the day suit EA to have a generic system for core ideas but it will also likely result in limiting diversity and creativity within EA and animal organisations more broadly. So this could be specifically addressed with animal related EA surveys. At the very least it would give researchers the opportunity to consider different viewpoints, frameworks and value systems, some of which could at times function as more insightful than more generic identifiable animal related EA.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 15 August 2018 09:01:16PM 4 points [-]

The biggest open questions are:

1) In general, how can we build a community that is both cause impartial and also representative? 2) If we want to aim for representativeness, what reference class should we target?

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 21 August 2018 11:29:52AM 0 points [-]

In terms of representation then my own opinion in relation to the animal welfare cause area is that it could relate to moral theory. At present the dominant ideology (rational pragmatism) favoured by many utilitarians has functioned as a way for people to associate with one another, and offers a fairly easy way to become part of EAA through adopting certain organisations and ideas. This is an ideology which in my view has been dismissive of rights based approaches by diminishing their value / relevance to effectiveness thinking.

To address this issue i believe rights based thinking ought to be valued and represented at various levels rather than dismissed in favour of the preferred ideology. This isn't to say anything about which organisations or approaches are "most" effective but dismissing moral theory in favour of an ideology seems to be weak at both representativeness and integrity (particularly where it hasn't been agreed upon but is more unilateral).

I tend to think that addressing issues of representation in cause areas will have better follow on results in the community at large (informed from below rather than from above). However, the problem here is that unrepresentative cause areas are more likely to be resistant to representation, because they are likely to gravitate toward that norm rather than away from it unless significant efforts are made, particularly where it has become institutionalised. Whilst it is unclear whether some EAA leaders would think that a lack of representativeness (as i am stating it) or plurality would be a bad or concerning thing anyway as it can instead be associated with increasing utility, particularly through simplifying the cause area.

Comment author: AmyLabenz 08 August 2018 02:44:36PM 2 points [-]

I agree that our selection process for animal-focused speakers in 2015 and 2016 left a lot to be desired. In 2017 we began working with advisors from specific fields to be sure we’re reaching out to speakers with expertise on the topics that conference attendees most want to hear about. This year we’ve expanded to a larger advisory board with the hope that we can continue to improve the EA Global content.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 08 August 2018 03:09:22PM 1 point [-]

I think what conference attendees most want to hear about but also worth considering what potential attendees would want to hear about. Personally i would prefer more diversity within the cause area to look at various challenges to conventional EAA whilst focussing more on philosophy and demandingness. I think in this way people could become somewhat more familiar with the broader cause area rather than in my view a tendency to focus on a fairly narrow group of organisations and individuals.

Would it be possible to say who is on the advisory board?

Comment author: HaydenW 05 August 2018 01:18:53PM *  5 points [-]

I'd add one more: having to put your resources towards more speculative, chancy causes is more demanding.

When donating our money and time to something like bednets, the cost is mitigated by the personal satisfaction of knowing that we've (almost certainly) had an impact. When donating to some activity which has only a tiny chance of success (e.g., x-risk mitigation), most of us won't get quite the same level of satisfaction. And that's pretty demanding to have to give up not only a large chunk of your resources but also the satisfaction of having actually achieved something.

Rob Long has written a bit about this -

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 05 August 2018 02:07:23PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for that link, it's an interesting article. In the context of theory within the animal movement Singer's pragmatism isn't particularly demanding, but a more justice oriented approach is (along the lines of Regan). In my view it would be a good thing not least for the sake of diversity of viewpoints to make more claims around demandingness rather than largely following a less demanding position. Though i do think that because people are not used to ascribing significant moral value to other animals then it follows that anything more than the societal level is therefore considered demanding, particularly in regard to considering speciesism alongside other forms of human discrimination.

Comment author: AviN 26 July 2018 11:50:37PM 0 points [-]

Open Phil hired a Senior Associate, Farm Animal Welfare in March 2018.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 27 July 2018 01:27:18PM 1 point [-]

Yeah, this was a good step but i think probably not enough, particularly in relation to having two former HSUS staff members which is useful for implementing the current programme but less so when considering or assessing the value of different areas of the animal movement.

Comment author: Jeff_Kaufman 23 July 2018 12:46:54PM *  6 points [-]

My (guessing) model is that through his work for OpenPhil Bollard often has additional grants he wants to make, while Beckstead can more often convince OpenPhil to make his intended grants and so is rarely in this position. Hence Bollard has more use for supplementary funding.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 23 July 2018 02:04:23PM 1 point [-]

I would agree, there's more scope beyond how the Open Philanthropy Welfare Fund presently operates so EA Funds has more potential utility there, but my own view is that the full range of possibilites aren't presently explored / considered because of time constraints alongside the low value of some disbursements alongside potentially having to spend more time justifying fairly unconventional grants.

In some ways i think it is the unconventional / marginal organisations which need more consideration as bringing potential value to the table over what is generally considered. Particularly in the way that a narrow funding focus could develop associations with particular organisations / ideas and so there could be issues of gravitating toward type.

I'm not sure what the solution is, perhaps another project worker at the Open Philanthropy Welfare Fund, maybe a small set of volunteers could be managed / empowered to work on building cases. It's difficult to know, but i do sympathise with the time constraints.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 14 June 2018 11:41:53AM 0 points [-]

I think it depends somewhat on the concept of giving effectively. Whilst i think it can be argued that people could give more effectively by shifting their giving from animal shelters to farmed animal advocacy, it depends somewhat on precision. For people who are already donating to animal organisations which aren't shelters then it isn't necessarily better to give to "effective" organisations as put forward by ACE because there aren't sufficient comparisons that can be made between organisations they are already supporting, and there is also the issue of further marginalising organisations which aren't deemed a more mainstream fit (something which seems somewhat at odds with effective altruism).

As an example, I continue to wonder why someone would necessarily believe it is better to give to GFI over an organisation doing pluralistic work in the animal movement? One is well supported by various foundations and is far from underconsidered or neglected, whilst others that work on more meta level questions of plurality and inclusivity tend to be marginalised, particularly through not reflecting a favoured "mainstream" ideology. Another issue is that ACE doesn't account for moral theory in relation to rights or utilitarianism thus largely presenting a fairly unfortunate picture in the animal movement in terms of utilitarian = effective and rights = ineffective. This isn't something which would be reflective of effective altruism. (I'm aware that NHRP is a "standout" charity and could be seen as an exception, yet their legal work is fairly separate from the more mainstream charities that work within / tend to reify speciesism in various ways).

As a general matter at least some of my time is spent on social media informing people of the reasons why they ought to be sceptical of "top charity" recommendations when they have shared them from ACE, because non-EAs sometimes have a tendency to accept them at face value because they haven't particularly looked into the issues or wondered about ACE reasoning or process. However, the same can also be said of many EAs who likely somewhat give to ACE on the basis of its EA association. I support the idea of evaluation by ACE but i'm sceptical that the claims that ACE tend to make sufficiently reflect the work that has taken place, or that there is enough transparency in terms of the underlying values and beliefs that ACE tend to represent. I continue to believe that some form of external meta-evaluation would be useful for ACE in order to thoroughly consider this type of issue, whilst donation matching and the sharing of cute animals could form a part of that.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 07 June 2018 09:31:17AM *  0 points [-]

Interesting. It would be useful to know what people did instead. So in the AE study if people are eating less pork then what are they doing instead? If people are reducing animal flesh consumption across the board in the reducetarian study then what are they consuming instead? Whilst some sort of comparison with industry promotion could be interesting. So how does the cost / impact of reduction messaging compare to increase messaging of the industry? For example.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 31 May 2018 09:34:53AM 0 points [-]

Connections in the field seems to be quite an important foundational issue, but whilst it may be a weak area generally, i think it can be an area where insufficient time is spent considering the importance of plurality. So if a certain group of people were asked to be part of the experts in the field then it could become fairly self recommending from there on in, particularly if it were resourced / various benefits flowed from it. I tend to view this as a bit of an issue within EAA, particularly at both ACE and the Open Philanthropy Project where approaches have a tendency to not be given equal consideration, instead some are valued highly (particularly those aligned with direct utilitarianism) over others.

I think this can then lead to other issues in terms of internal evaluation. So in-group bias wouldn't be challenged because external evaluation has been devalued. Creating a bit of a problematic loop.

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