Comment author: praline 13 June 2017 01:55:12PM 1 point [-]

Hoping to secure PhD study and have an EA-related research proposal. I've noticed the application characters limit is quite strict, so quite likely won't be able to explain much of the proposal in that. Should I attach it to my CV or should I just explain it very very briefly in the application?

Comment author: Maxdalton 13 June 2017 01:58:46PM 3 points [-]

You should write it briefly in the application. As the form mentions, the character limit is deliberately strict to encourage you to focus on the most important issues.

Comment author: joshjacobson  (EA Profile) 13 June 2017 07:14:52AM 1 point [-]

Have you already raised the funds for this? EA Ventures failed a while back primarily because there was not the money, and those in charge of it found that they had a much more difficult time raising funds than they expected.

Comment author: Maxdalton 13 June 2017 11:14:21AM 1 point [-]

Yes, this project is fully funded, from donations from a large donor given for this purpose.

Comment author: Denkenberger 11 June 2017 01:45:24AM 3 points [-]

Great idea! Do you want a 16 page CV or a 2 page resume? If CV, how do you want one to anonymize publications?

Comment author: Maxdalton 12 June 2017 07:21:16AM 1 point [-]

Thanks! Please use the resume.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 09 June 2017 11:52:17AM 4 points [-]

This is all very exciting and I'm glad to see this is happening.

A couple of comments.

  1. The deadline for this is only three weeks, which seems quite tight.

  2. Could you give examples of the types of things you wouldn't fund or are very unlikely to fund? That avoids you getting lots of applications you don't want as well as people spending time submitting applications that will get rejected. For instance, would/could CEA provide seed funding for any for altruistic for profit organisations, like start-ups? Asking for a friend...

Comment author: Maxdalton 09 June 2017 01:50:18PM *  3 points [-]
  1. We have set a tight deadline in order to allow us to process applications before the start of the academic year, since we see funding for study as one of the main use cases. If the project is successful, we will set more generous deadlines in the future.

  2. CEA may not be able to fund for-profit organisations, because we have to use money to further our charitable objects. However, we encourage applications from for-profits. We may then, with the applicant's permission, share information about the projects with private donors who might provide funding. In general, there aren't classes of projects that we won't consider: we want to cast the net wide. However, if others are unsure, I recommend that they email to clarify on a case-by-case basis.


Announcing Effective Altruism Grants

I'm announcing a new project from the Centre for Effective Altruism: Effective Altruism Grants . Effective Altruism Grants aims to provide grants of up to £100,000 (~$130,000) to help individuals work on promising projects. We hope to fund a wide range of effective projects that will directly or indirectly contribute to... Read More
Comment author: Sindy_Li 24 May 2017 12:42:39PM *  2 points [-]

Max, thanks for the post!

For someone like GiveWell that spends a lot of time investigating charities, they may have enough information about the charity's budget to tell when there is (something similar to) a discrete jump in the derivative of the returns function. E.g. the way they talk about "capacity-relevant funding" and "execution funding" in the post you linked to ("incentive funding" is for a completely different purpose that has no direct relationship with returns).

Also, to fix ideas it helps to think what we represent by the funding axis on the impact against funding graph, i.e. returns function. Is the function specifying the relationship between total impact, and total funding the charity expects to receive for a time period (i.e. next year), or we are looking within a time period and plotting what the charity does as (unexpected) new money comes in? In the latter case, diminishing returns seems most likely. In the former case, increasing returns is possible (but diminishing returns is as well).

Ben Todd has written about increasing returns in small organizations here. I wrote here that "Whether returns are increasing or decreasing in additional funding depends on how the funding is received. Expecting a large chunk of funding (either in the form of receiving such amounts at once, or even expecting a total large amount received in small chunks if there is no lumpy investment or borrowing constraint) could enable an organization to do more risk taking, while getting unanticipated small amounts of funding at a time -- even if the total adds up to more -- will probably just lead the organization to use the marginal dollar to “fund the activity with the lowest (estimated) cost-effectiveness”. ... The scenario Ben Todd has in mind probably applies more when a large funder is considering how much to give to an organization. This may be another argument to enter donor lottery or donate through the EA fund: giving a large and certain amount of donations to a small organization enables them to plan ahead for more risky but growth enhancing strategies, hence could be more valuable than uncoordinated small amounts even if the latter add up to the same total (because the latter may be less certain). ... This mechanism is articulated in “5.2 The funding uncertainty problem” on this page about the EA fund.” (There are probably some analogous economic model of firm investment under liquidity constraint and uncertainty, but I don't have one on the top of my head.)

In practice it may not be a big deal: even if the charity receives random small amounts of money during the year, it is probably at least as good as receiving the total amount all at once at the beginning of next year when they do the next round of planning. But for small organisations where earlier growth is much better, it could be much more preferable to have small amounts of donations be coordinated and committed at the same time to help with more ambitious planning and growth. (Of course we are assuming the charity is borrowing constrained; otherwise if earlier growth is much better they'd borrow to achieve it and repay with later donation. Also, if the market is efficient and earlier growth is really much better, then some donors should capture the opportunity ... but of course market may not be!)

Comment author: Maxdalton 25 May 2017 01:49:44PM 2 points [-]

In response to your first paragraph, I think it's true that GiveWell will have more information about any changes in the returns function. For the reasons given the in the second post, I think it's unlikely that GiveWell charities do have inflection points in their returns functions. I'm not sure from GiveWell's writing whether they think that there are inflection points or not (In particular, I don't think they take a clear stance on this in the linked post).

I think your second paragraph is answered by footnote 1 of the first post. I don't fully understand how your third and fourth paragraphs relate to the posts. Are you simply arguing that a fuller analysis would incorporate the size of individual donations, not the total level of funding? This seems like a plausible extension.

Comment author: adom_hartell 25 May 2017 02:10:14AM 2 points [-]

Hey Max, thanks for linking these.

I have a question about an argument for the benefit of reserves made in the second link:

Assuming that core programmes are roughly as effective next year, additional funding mostly reduces the funding needs of the organisation next year, thereby freeing up money for those donors who would have given next year. Assuming those donors still donate that money somewhere else, then their alternate donations are likely to produce at least almost as great value as this organisations’ core programmes.

I read this as saying that the benefit of donating to Organization A this year is that it will free up money for Organization B next year. But if Organization B is almost as good (as assumed in the quoted text), then why not donate to them directly this year?

On this reading, it seems like the impact of reserves for Organization A is whatever benefit Org A draws from the other arguments you offer (potential for capacity-building, freeing up staff-time from fundraising efforts next year) minus something like a discount rate / the cost of Organization B getting resources one year later. It's not obvious to me that this will always, or usually, be positive.

Am I missing something here?

Comment author: Maxdalton 25 May 2017 01:38:48PM *  2 points [-]

To disagree slightly with my co-author here... As I understand you, you are conditioning on A being able to expand capacity.

I think what is going on is that you are asking "Should we give to Organization A or Organization B?". I think your analysis is roughly right as a response to this question. We are not claiming that Organization A is more effective than Organization B.

Instead, what we're asking at this stage in the paper is more like "Is the total counterfactual impact of giving to Organization A steeply declining at any point?". We think that the answer is probably "No" for the reasons given. But note that this doesn't imply that one should always give to Organization A: if A starts off more effective, but returns gradually diminish, then there will still be some point at which it makes sense to start donating to organization B.

Overall, I think there isn't a disagreement here (although I may have misunderstood), but this is a sign that we should have been clearer in this section - I'll think about a rewrite.


Returns Functions and Funding Gaps

As organisations receive more funding, the value of extra funding changes. This is relevant for donation decisions. People have used various concepts to discuss this feature: Room for more funding Funding gaps Diminishing (marginal) returns  In this pair of posts I discuss what people might mean by these different terms:... Read More
Comment author: Maxdalton 13 April 2017 04:15:40PM *  21 points [-]

[My views, not my employer's]

I appreciate the spirit in which this was written, and I think we should all be looking out for more ways to help each other, especially in ways that directly improve skills - e.g. through the advice and mentorship you generously offer.

However, some of this feels a little deceptive to me. If people see 'speaking at a top law school' as impressive, that's probably because they think that I was invited because I'm a great speaker/have expertise that lots of people in the law school value. If in fact I was invited just because I was involved in effective altruism, and I only gave a 10 minute talk, I might be giving someone a misleading impression of my talents. Similarly, people might think that receiving the award you describe would require a higher bar of achievement than the one you suggest.

I'm probably overreacting here - this is the sort of thing that people do on CVs all of the time, and so perhaps people automatically downgrade such claims on CVs. However, I think that it's valuable for our internal culture, and for the community's reputation, to hold ourselves to high standards, and I think this article would have been better if it had noted these issues. I'm not sure whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

Comment author: RyanCarey 11 February 2017 07:56:16PM *  5 points [-]

Great to see this!

My 2c on what research I and others like me would find useful from groups like this:

  • Overviewing empirical and planning-relevant considerations (rather than philosophical theorizing).
  • Focusing on obstacles and major events on the path to "technological maturity" I.e. risky or transformative techs.
  • Investigate specific risky and transformative tech in detail. FHI has done a little of this but it is very neglected on the margin. Scanning microscopy for neural tissue, invasive brain-computer interfaces, surveillance, brain imaging for mind-reading, CRISPR, genome synthesis, GWAS studies in areas of psychology, etc.
  • Help us understand AI progress. AI Impacts has done a bit of this but they are tiny. It would be really useful to have a solid understanding of growth of capabilities, funding and academic resources in a field like deep learning. How big is the current bubble compared to previous ones, et cetera.

Also, in its last year, GPP largely specialized on tech and long-run issues. This meant it did a higher density of work on prioritization questions that mattered. Prima facie, this and other reasons would also make Oxford Prioritization Project want to specialize on the same.

Lastly, you'll get more views and comments if you use a (more beautiful) Medum blog.

Happy to justify these positions further.

Good luck!

Comment author: Maxdalton 12 February 2017 06:36:03AM 1 point [-]

Hey Ryan, I'd be particularly interested in hearing more about your reasons for your first point (about theoretical vs. empirical work).

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