Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 10 July 2017 09:47:05PM -1 points [-]

I don't think that'd be the case as from inside the perspective of someone already prioritizing x-risk reduction, it can appear that cause is at least thousands of times more important than literally anything else. This is based on an idea formulated by philosopher Nick Bostrom: astronomical stakes (this is Niel Bowerman in the linked video, not Nick Bostrom). The ratio x-risk reducers think is appropriate for resources dedicated to x-risk relative to other causes is arbitrarily high. Lots of people think the argument is missing some important details, or ignoring major questions, but I think from their own inside view x-risk reducers probably won't be convinced by that. More effective altruists could try playing the double crux game to find the source of disagreement about typical arguments for far-future causes. Otherwise, x-risk reducers would probably maintain in the ideal as many resources as possible ought be dedicated to x-risk reduction, but in practice may endorse other viewpoints receiving support as well.

Comment author: Linch 13 July 2017 05:56:57AM 0 points [-]

This seems like a perfectly reasonable comment to me. Not sure why it was heavily downvoted.

In response to Open Thread #36
Comment author: Linch 25 April 2017 04:04:22AM *  0 points [-]

Do you live in the South Bay (south of San Francisco?).

Did you recently move here and want to be plugged in to what EAs around here are doing and thinking? Did you recently learn about effective altruism and want to know what the heck it's about? Well, join South Bay Effective Altruism's first fully newbie-friendly meetup!

We'll discuss cause prioritization, what causes areas YOU are interested in, and how we can help each other do the most good!

The actual meetup will be this Friday at 7pm, but you can also comment here or message me at email[dot]Linch[at]gmail[dot]com to be in the loop for future events.

Comment author: Daniel_Eth 30 March 2017 06:16:38PM 5 points [-]

Regarding “But hold on: you think X, so your view entails Y and that’s ridiculous! You can’t possibly think that.”

I agree that being haughty is typically bad. But the argument "X implies Y, and you claim to believe X. Do you also accept the natural conclusion, Y?" when Y is ridiculous is a legitimate argument to make. At that point, the other person either can accept the implication, change his mind on X, or argue that X does not imply Y. It seems like the thing you have most of a problem with is the tone though. Is that correct?

Comment author: Linch 31 March 2017 02:04:37AM 2 points [-]

I've noticed this before, and I think it's a wrong truth-seeking device on a technical level.

Basically, I'm really leery of reductio ad absurdums with statements that are inherently probabilistic in general, but especially when it comes to ethics.

A straightforward reductio ad absurdum goes: 1. Say we believe in P 2. P implies Q 3. Q is clearly wrong 4. Therefore, not P.

However, in philosophical ethics it's more like 1. Say we believe in P 2. A seems reasonable 3. B seems reasonable 4. C seems kind of reasonable. 5. D seems almost reasonable if you squint a little, at least it's more reasonable than P 6. E has a >50% chance of being right. 7. P and A and B and C and D and E implies Q 8. Q is an absurd/unintuitive conclusion. 9. Therefore, not P

The issue here is that most of the heavy lifting is done by appeals to conjunctions, and conflating >50% probabilities with absolute truths.

In response to comment by Linch on Open Thread #36
Comment author: ZachWeems 15 March 2017 02:27:59PM 6 points [-]

| It just seems rather implausible, to me, that retirement money is anywhere close to being a cost-effective intervention, relative to other likely EA options.

I don't think that "Give 70-year-old Zach a passive income stream" is an effective cause area. It is a selfish maneuver. But the majority of EAs seem to form some sort of boundary, where they only feel obligated to donate up to a certain point (whether that is due to partially selfish "utility functions" or a calculated move to prevent burnout). I've considered choosing some arbitrary method of dividing income between short term expenses, retirement and donations, but I am searching for a method that someone considers non-arbitrary, because I might feel better about it.

In response to comment by ZachWeems on Open Thread #36
Comment author: Linch 16 March 2017 05:56:38AM *  5 points [-]

Apologies, rereading it again, I think my first comment was rude. :/

I do a lot of selfish and suboptimal things as well, and it will be inefficient/stressful if each of us have to always defend any deviation from universal impartiality in all conversations.

I think on the strategic level, some "arbitrariness" is fine, and perhaps even better than mostly illusory non-arbitrariness. We're all human, and I'm not certain it's even possible to really cleanly delineate how much you value different satisfying different urges for a meaningful and productive life.

On the tactical level, I think general advice on frugality, increasing your income, and maximizing investment returns is applicable. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any special information specifically to the retirement/EA charity dichotomy. (Maybe the other commentators can think of useful resources?)

(Well, one thing that you might already be aware of is that retirement funds and charity donations on two categories that are often tax-exempt, at least in the US. Also, many companies "match" your investment into retirement accounts up to a certain %, and some match your donations. Optimizing either of those categories can probably save you (tens of) thousands of dollars a year)

Sorry I can't be more helpful!

In response to Open Thread #36
Comment author: Linch 15 March 2017 04:33:49AM *  4 points [-]

My personal opinion is that individuals should save enough to mitigate emergencies, job transitions, etc. (, but no more.

It just seems rather implausible, to me, that retirement money is anywhere close to being a cost-effective intervention, relative to other likely EA options.

Comment author: marjorie 10 March 2017 03:43:39PM 0 points [-]


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Comment author: Linch 11 March 2017 09:52:58AM 0 points [-]

The quality of this intervention has already been discussed elsewhere on this forum:

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 02 March 2017 11:11:54PM 4 points [-]

March 2 Update: We have a volunteer who is taking on this project. As a result, Joey and I broke down the project more to the following questions:

1.) What were the top twenty foreign aid foundations (including government agencies) from 1975 to 2000 in terms of total grant dollars given to foreign aid (e.g., DFID, USAID, Gates/GAVI)? Scoring them relative to each other, how would you score them on a 1-5 scale with 5 being most accurately described as "hits based" and 1 being most accurately described as "proven evidence-backed"? (Also, is this a useful dichotomy?) Please try to provide justification for rankings.

2a.) Looking back at the list of top twenty orgs by size, pick the top five orgs by size that are more "hits based" and the top five orgs by size that are more "evidence-backed".

2b.) From each of these orgs, look at their top 10 grants by grant size. Of these, pick two grants that are likely to be the highest impact and two grants that are likely to be of average impact (relative to the ten grants from that org). You can look at there website, wiki page, and stated granting strategies to get a sense of this. (There will be 40 grants considered total.) Briefly describe the outcomes of the grant and the grant size. Present these grants shuffled and as blinded as possible (no org name) to Joey and me so that we can independently rank them without knowing whether they came from hits based orgs or not.

2c.) Using your own research, as best as possible, try to quantify the impact of these grants.

2d.) Combining our judgments, come to an overall assessment as best as possible as to the relative success of "hits-based" and "evidence-based" orgs.

We also have a bonus question that is much lower priority but might be of potential interest down the road:

3.) Can VC firms be described as pursuing a "hits based" strategy? How much due diligence do they put into their investments before making them? How does this due diligence compare to OpenPhil? Is there anything from learning about VC strategy we can use to inform EA strategy?


Joey and I separately estimated how long it would take to do (1) + (2). We then averaged our estimates together and then multiplied by 1.5 to adjust for the planning fallacy. We came up with a total of 70 hours. Since this is more than we originally thought, we decided to up our pay from $1500 to $2000.

Comment author: Linch 03 March 2017 07:04:38AM 0 points [-]

Congratulations! This is very exciting and I'm looking forward to hearing about future updates.

Comment author: AGB 14 February 2017 08:28:10PM 3 points [-]

For a third perspective, I think most EAs who donate to AMF do so neither because of an EV calculation they've done themselves, nor because of risk aversion, but rather because they've largely-or-entirely outsourced their donation decision to Givewell. Givewell has also written about this in some depth, back in 2011 and probably more recently as well.

Key quote:

"This view of ours illustrates why – while we seek to ground our recommendations in relevant facts, calculations and quantifications to the extent possible – every recommendation we make incorporates many different forms of evidence and involves a strong dose of intuition. And we generally prefer to give where we have strong evidence that donations can do a lot of good rather than where we have weak evidence that donations can do far more good – a preference that I believe is inconsistent with the approach of giving based on explicit expected-value formulas (at least those that (a) have significant room for error (b) do not incorporate Bayesian adjustments, which are very rare in these analyses and very difficult to do both formally and reasonably)."

Comment author: Linch 17 February 2017 10:53:27AM 1 point [-]

An added reason to not take expected value estimates literally (which applies to some/many casual donors, but probably not to AGB or GiveWell) is if you believe that you are not capable of making reasonable expected value estimates under high uncertainty yourself, and you're leery of long casual chains because you've developed a defense mechanism against your values being Eulered or Dutch-Booked.

Apologies for the weird terminology, see: and:

Comment author: Linch 15 February 2017 12:39:21PM *  3 points [-]

The GiveWell Top Charities are part of the Open Philanthropy Project’s optimal philanthropic portfolio, when only direct impact is considered. There’s not enough money to cover the whole thing. These are highly unlikely to both be true. Global poverty cannot plausibly be an unfillable money pit at GiveWell’s current cost-per-life-saved numbers. At least one of these three things must be true:

GiveWell’s cost per life saved numbers are wrong and should be changed.

The top charities’ interventions will reach substantially diminishing returns long before they’ve managed to massively scale up.

A few billion dollars can totally wipe out major categories of disease in the developing world.

I don't think I understand the trilemma you presented here.

As a sanity check, under-5 mortality is about 6 million worldwide. Assuming that more than 2/3 is preventable (which I think is a reasonable assumption if you compare with developed world numbers on under-5 mortality), this means there are 4 million+ preventable deaths (and corresponding suffering) per year. At $10000 to prevent a death, this is already way more money than Open Phil has in a few months. At $3500 to prevent a death, this is still more money than Open Phil has in even a single year.

We would expect the numbers to also be much larger if we're not prioritizing just deaths, but also prevention of suffering.

Comment author: RyanCarey 09 February 2017 07:02:04PM 0 points [-]

I trust that you can explain Bayes theorem, I'm just adding that we now can be fairly confident that the intervention has less than 10% effectiveness.

Comment author: Linch 10 February 2017 12:08:02AM 0 points [-]

Yeah that makes sense!

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