Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 01 August 2018 05:50:31AM 7 points [-]

Hi Nick. Thanks for your response. I also appreciate the recent and quick granting of the EA Funds up to date. One thing I don't understand is why most of the grants you wanted to make could have been made by the Open Philanthropy Project, is why:

  • the CEA didn't anticipate this;
  • gave public descriptions of how the funds you managed would work to the contrary;
  • and why, if they learned of your intentions contrary to what they first told the EA community, they didn't issue an update.

I'm not aware of a public update of that kind. If there was a private email list for donors to the EA Community and Long-Term Future Funds, and they were issued a correction to how they were prior informed the money in the funds would be granted, I'd like to know. (I'm not demanding to see that update/correction published, if it exists, as I respect the privacy inherent in that relationship. If any donor to these funds or someone from the CEA could inform me if such an update/correction exists, please let me know.)

Regarding my concerns as you outlined them:

(i) delay between receipt and use of funds, (ii) focus on established grantees over new and emerging grantees, and (iii) limited attention to these funds.

That's an accurate breakdown.

Based on how the other two EA Funds have provided more frequent updates and made more frequent grants in the last year, I expect a lot of donors or community members would find it unusual the EA Community and Long-Term Future Funds granted all the money all at once. But in April you did give an update to that effect.

However, donors to the EA Community and Long-Term Future Funds were initially given the impression new and emerging grantees would be the target over established grantees. This was an impression of the EA Funds initially given by the CEA, not yourself as fund manager. But the CEA itself never corrected that. While based on the updates donors could have surmised the plan had changed, I would have expected a clearer update. Again, if such was privately provided to donors to these funds in some form, that would be good to know. Also, based on the redundancy of the EA Funds as you intended to manage them regarding your other role as a program officer at Open Phil, it seems clear you didn't expect you'd have to pay much attention to either of these funds.

However, it appears again donors were given the different impression by the CEA more attention would be afforded to the EA Funds. Had donors been given the rationale for why there were less frequent updates from the two funds you've been managing earlier, that would have been better. To receive updates on what amount of attention the EA Funds would receive was a suggestion on how to improve the EA Funds from Henry Stanley's last EA Forum post on the subject.

That's great news about BERI. I haven't had a chance to look over everything BERI has done up to date, but based on their early stuff I've looked at and the people involved, that sounds promising. Unfortunately, information on the EA Grants has been scarce. I know others have asked me about the EA Grants, and I've seen others share concerns regarding the uncertainty of when public applications will open again.

It appears at least there was a communication breakdown from the CEA initially and publicly told the EA community (which I imagine would include most of those who became donors to the funds), and, at a later stage, how you intended to manage them. Regarding this, and: * further questions regarding the EA Grants; * the possibility of (an) additional fund manager(s); I will try following up with the Centre for Effective Altruism more directly. I can't think of anything else I have to ask you at this time, so thanks for taking the time to respond and provide updates regarding the EA Funds.

Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 02 August 2018 06:24:06PM 17 points [-]

Hi Evan, let me address some of the topics you’ve raised in turn.

Regarding original intentions and new information obtained:

  • At the time that the funds were formed, it was an open question in my mind how much of the funding would support established organizations vs. emerging organizations.
  • Since then, the things that changed were that EA Grants got started, I encountered fewer emerging organizations that I wanted to prioritize funding than expected, and Open Phil funding to established organizations grew more than I expected.
  • The three factors contributed to having fewer grants to make that couldn’t be made in other ways than was expected.
  • The former two factors contributed to a desire to focus primarily on established organizations.
  • The third opposes this, but I still see the balance of considerations favoring me focusing on established organizations.

Regarding my/CEA’s communications about the purposes of the funds: It seems you and some others have gotten the impression that the EA Funds I manage were originally intended to focus on emerging organizations over established organizations. I don’t think this is communicated in the main places I would expect it to be communicated if the fund were definitely focused on emerging organizations. For example, the description of the Long-Term Future Fund reads:

“This fund will support organizations that work on improving long-term outcomes for humanity. Grants will likely go to organizations that seek to reduce global catastrophic risks, especially those relating to advanced artificial intelligence.”

And “What sorts of interventions or organizations might this fund support?” reads:

"In the biography on the right you can see a list of organizations the Fund Manager has previously supported, including a wide variety of organizations such as the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Future of Life Institute and the Center for Applied Rationality. These organizations vary in their strategies for improving the long-term future but are likely to include activities such as research into possible existential risks and their mitigation, and priorities for robust and beneficial artificial intelligence."

The new grants also strike me as a natural continuation of the “grant history” section. Based on the above, I'd have thought the more natural interpretation was, "You are giving money for Nick Beckstead to regrant at his discretion to organizations in the EA/GCR space."

The main piece of evidence that these funds were billed as focused on emerging organizations that I see in your write-up is this statement under “Why might you choose not to donate to this fund?”:

“First, donors who prefer to support established organizations. The fund manager has a track record of funding newer organizations and this trend is likely to continue, provided that promising opportunities continue to exist.”

I understand how this is confusing, and I regret the way that we worded it. I can see that this could give someone the impression that the fund would focus primarily on emerging organizations, and that isn’t what I intended to communicate.

What I wanted to communicate was that I might fund many emerging organizations, if that seemed like the best idea, and I wanted to warn donors about the risks involved with funding emerging organizations. Indeed, two early grants from these funds were to emerging orgs: BERI and EA Sweden, so I think it's good that some warning was here. That said, even at the time this was written, I think “likely” was too strong a word, and “may” would have been more appropriate. It’s just an error that I failed to catch. In a panel discussion at EA Global in 2017, my answer to a related question about funding new vs. established orgs was more tentative, and better reflects what I think the page should have said.

I also think there are a couple of other statements like this on the page that I think could have been misinterpreted in similar ways, and I have regrets about them as well.

Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 23 July 2018 07:53:59PM *  41 points [-]

Thanks for sharing your concerns, Evan. It sounds like your core concerns relate to (i) delay between receipt and use of funds, (ii) focus on established grantees over new and emerging grantees, and (iii) limited attention to these funds. Some thoughts and comments on these points:

  • I recently recommended a series of grants that will use up all EA Funds under my discretion. This became a larger priority in the last few months due to an influx of cryptocurrency donations. I expect a public announcement of the details after all grant logistics have been completed.

  • A major reason I haven’t made many grants is that most of the grants that I wanted to make could be made through Open Phil, and I’ve focused my attention on my Open Phil grantmaking because the amount of funding available is larger.

  • I am hopeful that EA Grants and BERI will provide funding to new projects in these areas. CEA and BERI strike me as likely to make good choices about funding new projects in these areas, and I think this makes sense as a division of labor. EA Grants isn’t immediately available for public applications, but I’m hopeful they’ll have a public funding round soon. BERI issued a request for proposals last month. As these programs mature, I expect that most of what is seen as funding gaps in these areas will be driven by taste/disagreement with these grantmakers rather than lack of funding.

For now, I don’t have any plans to change the focus or frequency of my grantmaking with these funds from what was indicated in my April 2018 update.

I think it’s probably true that a fund manager who has more time to manage these funds would be preferable, provided we found someone with suitable qualifications. This is a possibility that’s under consideration right now, but progress toward it will depend on the availability of a suitable manager and further thinking about how to allocate attention to this issue relative to other priorities.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 27 March 2018 05:25:39PM 1 point [-]

It is still unclear to me whether the statutory holidays are supposed to be included in the 25 days paid days off or in addition to.

Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 27 March 2018 06:49:58PM 2 points [-]

In addition to, 35 days total. (I work at Open Phil.)

Comment author: Ben_Todd 27 March 2018 04:35:31AM 2 points [-]

Surely rent is much higher than Oxford on average? It's possible to get a great place in Oxford for under £700 per month, while comparable in SF would be $1300+. Food also seems about 30% more expensive, and in Oxford you don't have to pay for a commute. My overall guess is that $80k p.a. in SF is equivalent to about £40k p.a. in Oxford.

Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 27 March 2018 05:47:57PM 0 points [-]

I don't mean to make a claim re: averages, just relaying personal experience.

Comment author: branperr 26 March 2018 04:39:30PM 1 point [-]

How do you enjoy living in/near and working San Francisco? How's the commute, the expensive housing, and all that affected your lives?

Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 26 March 2018 06:33:12PM *  2 points [-]

I am a Program Officer at Open Philanthropy who joined as a Research Analyst about 3 years ago.

The prior two places I lived were New Brunswick, NJ and Oxford, UK. I live in a house with a few friends. It is 25-30m commute door-to-door via BART. My rent and monthly expenses are comparable to what I had in Oxford but noticeably larger than what I had in New Brunswick. I got pay increases when I moved to Open Phil, and additional raises over time. I’m comfortable on my current salary and could afford to get a single-bedroom apartment if I wanted, but I’m happy where I am.

Overall, I would say that it was an easy adjustment.

Comment author: RyanCarey 19 May 2015 09:41:05PM *  3 points [-]

I think there are plausibly contrary explanations for some of these observations. for senior staff moving to Open Phil, it could be because Open Phil is younger, and its tasks are less structured. For top charities running out of room for more funding, this is only the top couple of GiveWell charities, and this needn't apply to intergenerationally-altruistic charities. GiveWell has mentioned a couple of organisations that they would like to see, but it's not as though finding such opportunities has yet become their main activity.

I think the general point is right though: Good Ventures has most of the cash that we need, and EA Ventures has some also, as do Jaan Tallin, Sam Harris, edit: Matt Wage and others. Most of the people who are clever enough to want to make epic charities are also clever enough to know that they can have a more secure and conventional life elsewhere. This can be solved by just starting epic charities anyway, and by accumulating more funding to push more marginal individuals to do the same.

What charity would you start?

Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 20 May 2015 12:45:47AM 3 points [-]

To avoid confusing people: my own annual contributions to charity are modest.

Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 01 December 2014 10:02:25PM 2 points [-]

You might consider having a look at http://www.flamingswordofjustice.com/ . It's a podcast of interviews with activists of various types (pretty left-wing). I've listened to a few episodes and found it interesting. It was the closest thing I could think of that already exists.

Comment author: DavidRooke 18 September 2014 08:40:47AM *  14 points [-]

I am a committed Christian also committed to the principles of effective altruism. I am very frustrated with the level of apathy in the church, given that we are all called to tithe 10% of our income, like the rest of the population Christians have really lost sight of how rich they are now. I am also frustrated by the focus on differences between religions, and between religion and the non religious, when common values of love and concern for our planet giving how utterly amazing it is we are here should prevail. Altruism is at the heart of Christianity and of course it should be effective. I would be happy to work with other EAs in develop an outreach/link strategy into churches.

My wife is head of fundraising for a charity that is like a mini version of Christian aid - donating to poverty alleviating projects in a Christian context. Making this more effective would be a good place to start.

1 billion Christians should be able to make a real dent in the problems of the world if they focussed less on the coffee rota and more on what our faith actually calls us to do.

In response to comment by DavidRooke on Open Thread
Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 21 September 2014 04:25:27PM *  1 point [-]

I would love to see some action in this space. I think there is a natural harmony between what is best in Christianity--especially regarding helping the global poor--and effective altruism.

One person to consider speaking with is Charlie Camosy, who has worked with Peter Singer in the past (see info here). A couple other people to consider talking with would be Catriona Mackay and Alex Foster.

In response to Cosmopolitanism
Comment author: Toby_Ord 10 September 2014 03:08:03PM 8 points [-]

"When they do, they call it “impartiality,” which is too vague. Judges, juries, journalists, and so on (to limit myself to the “j”s) are expected to be impartial in a sense, but only in specific domains."

Philosophers would say 'impartial benevolence', which is more clear about the domain of impartiality. I think we have found the 'benevolence' part to be unnecessary to add given that the topic is altruism, which is roughly equivalent to benevolence (i.e. helping others). I think 'impartiality' works OK, so long as it is understood as one of the properties that define what is different about our type of altruism.

In response to comment by Toby_Ord on Cosmopolitanism
Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 11 September 2014 04:18:26PM *  8 points [-]

One attractive feature about cosmopolitanism in contrast with impartial benevolence is that impartial benevolence is often associated with denying that loved ones and family members are worthy targets of special concern, whereas I don't think cosmopolitanism has such associations. Another is that I think a larger fraction of educated people already have some knowledge about cosmopolitanism.

Comment author: Nick_Beckstead 11 September 2014 04:13:03PM 2 points [-]

Niel, thanks for writing up this post. I think it's really worthwhile for us to discuss challenges that we encounter while working on EA projects with the community.

I noticed that this link in this sentence is broken:

Creating more disaster shelters to protect against global catastrophic risks (too weird)

View more: Next