Comment author: RandomEA 15 June 2018 01:55:55AM *  2 points [-]

But what if it were chicken?

A key part undermining the cost-effectiveness is that each pig produces so much pork. If we re-run the numbers assuming that the study was talking about chicken instead of pork and had the same results, but adjusted all the other numbers to be about chicken, we get $5.70 per chicken spared (90% interval: $0.71 to $32) and $50 per chicken year (90% interval: 6.3 to 280). This is better, but presumably still not as good as helping humans (even from a complete species-neutral point of view). This is summarized in this additional Guesstimate model.

It appears that your model for chickens assumes that the amount of chicken eaten each time is the same as the amount of pork eaten each time and that the reduction in the number of times per month that chicken would be eaten is the same as the reduction in the number of times per month that pork was eaten. One potential problem with this assumption is that people each more chicken than pork: according to USDA statistics, in 2015, people ate, on average, 51.1 pounds of chicken but 'only' 31.4 pounds of pork. For your model to be accurate, it would have to be the case that showing videos of animal mistreatment reduces the amount eaten by a similar magnitude across different products regardless of the baseline amount eaten. It seems more likely to me that videos would reduce amount eaten by a similar proportion such that the reduction would be greater for products with a higher baseline amount eaten. If this is correct, then the reduction in the amount of chicken eaten would be 1.627 times what you estimated [51.1 pounds / 31.4 pounds].^^ This means that the cost per chicken spared and the cost per chicken year spared should be multiplied by 0.615 [1 / 1.627] to account for people reducing their consumption of chicken more (in absolute terms).

^^You might think the ratio should be set higher if you think that the Animal Equality audience has a higher than average chicken consumed to pork consumed ratio.

We also have to account for the model using the carcass weight of chickens^^^ as the number of fewer pounds people have to eat to spare one chicken. As noted above (with respect to pigs), this approach seems wrong in that each fewer pound of chicken eaten likely results in more than one fewer pound of chicken carcass being produced. According to USDA statistics, in 2015, 103.9 pounds of chicken carcass were produced per person while only 51.1 pounds of chicken were eaten per person, meaning that 2.033 pounds of chicken carcass were produced per pound of chicken eaten [103.9 pounds / 51.1 pounds]. Assuming that one fewer pound of chicken being eaten resulted in 2.033 fewer pounds of chicken carcass being produced, the cost of sparing one chicken and the cost of sparing one chicken year need to be multiplied by 0.492 [1 / 2.033].

^^^I assume that "Amount of meat per chicken (lbs)" in your model refers to carcass weight as it does in the pig model. I make this assumption for two reasons. First, the phrase you used in the chicken model is similar to what you used in the pig model ("Amount of meat per pig (lbs)"), where that phrase refers to carcass weight. Second, the source you use for the pig model says that chickens have a mass of 2.5 kilograms and that their carcass after slaughter retains 75% of that mass, meaning that a chicken carcass is around 1.875 kilograms (4.134 pounds); 4.134 pounds is roughly the midpoint of your range of 3 pounds to 5 pounds, which makes me think that your number was based on the carcass number from that source.

Thus, to account for videos reducing chicken consumption by more than they reduce pork consumption (due to people eating more chicken) and to account for each fewer pound of chicken being eaten resulting in more than one fewer pound of chicken carcass being produced, your estimates should be multiplied by 0.303 [0.615 * 0.492]. This results in the cost of sparing a chicken being $1.73 [0.303 * $5.70] with a 90% interval from $0.22 [0.303 * $0.71] to $9.70 [0.303 * $32] and the cost of sparing a chicken year being $15.15 [0.303 * $50] with a 90% interval from $1.91 [0.303 * $6.30] to $84.84 [0.303 * $280].

You might also think that showing people a video about the treatment of chickens would reduce the amount of turkey eaten by the same proportion as it reduces the amount of chicken eaten. According to USDA statistics, Americans ate, on average, 7.9 pounds of turkey, which is 0.155 times how much chicken they ate [7.9 pounds / 51.1 pounds]. If only 0.155 times as many pounds of turkey are being saved per viewer, then you would have to show the video to 6.452 times as many viewers to save the same number of pounds of turkey [1 / 0.155].

Additionally, since turkey carcasses weigh 23.603 pounds (0.75 * 31.47 pounds) (compared to 3.9 pounds for chickens^^^^), you would have to show the video to 6.052 times as many viewers to spare the same number of turkeys [23.603 pounds / 3.9 pounds].^^^^^ This means that it costs 39.048 times as much to spare a turkey [6.452 * 6.052], which means that the cost of sparing one turkey is $67.55 [39.048 * $1.73] with a 90% interval from $8.59 [39.048 * $0.22] to $378.77 [39.048 * $9.70].^^^^^^

^^^^I use 3.9 pounds because that is what is used in the Guesstimate model for chickens and I am deriving the estimates for turkeys from the estimates for chickens.

^^^^^The percent of turkey carcass that is ultimately eaten (49.6%) is similar to the percent of chicken carcass that is ultimately eaten (49.1%).

^^^^^^I am assuming that the cumulative elasticity factor for turkey is similar to the cumulative elasticity factor for chicken. The Animal Charity Evaluators spreadsheet you cite reports similar estimated cumulative elasticity factors for chicken and turkey.

And since turkeys live around four months on factory farms, the cost of sparing one turkey year is $202.65 [3 * $67.55] with a 90% interval from $25.77 [3 * $8.59] to $1,136.31 [3 * $378.77].

Combining the chicken and turkey numbers, we get that the cost of sparing one bird is $1.69 [1 / (1 / $1.73 + 1 / $67.55)] with a 90% interval from $0.21 [1 / (1 / $0.22 + 1 / $8.59)] to $9.46 [1 / (1 / $9.70 + 1 / $378.77)] and the cost of sparing one bird year is $14.10 [1 / (1 / $15.15 + 1 / $202.65)] with a 90% interval from $1.78 [1 / (1 / $1.91 + 1 / $25.77)] to $78.77 [1 / (1 / $84.64 + 1 / $1,136.31)].

Finally, if you accept Halstead's argument that assuming persistence of 1 to 12 years is too optimistic (with a point estimate of 68 months) and that a more reasonable point estimate would be 6 months, then you would think that it costs 11.333 times the above estimates to spare an animal and to spare an animal year [68 / 6]. This would result in the cost of sparing a pig being $841.48 [11.333 * $74.25] with a 90% interval from $129.08 [11.333 * $11.39] to $3,141.51 [11.333 * $277.20] and the cost of sparing one pig year being $1,739.05 [11.333 * $153.45] with a 90% interval from $263.72 [11.333 * $23.27] to $6,170.82 [11.333 * $544.50]. It would also result in the cost of sparing a chicken being $19.61 [11.333 * $1.73] with a 90% interval from $2.49 [11.333 * $0.22] to $109.93 [11.333 * $9.70] and the cost of sparing a chicken year being $171.69 [11.333 * $15.15] with a 90% interval from $21.65 [11.333 * $1.91] to $961.49 [11.333 * $84.84]. It would additionally result in the cost of sparing a turkey being $765.54 [11.333 * $67.55] with a 90% interval from $97.35 [11.333 * $8.59] to $4,292.60 [11.333 * $378.77] and the cost of sparing a turkey year being $2,296.63 [11.333 * $202.65] with a 90% interval from $292.05 [11.333 * $25.77] to $12,877.80 [11.333 * $1,136.31]. Lastly, it would result in the cost of sparing a bird being $19.15 [11.333 * $1.69] with a 90% interval from $2.38 [11.333 * $0.21] to $107.21 [11.333 * $9.46] and the cost of sparing a bird year being $159.80 [11.333 * $14.10] with a 90% interval from $20.17 [11.333 * $1.78] to $892.70 [11.333 * $78.77].

[Throughout this comment and the parent comment, I've adjusted point estimates and 90% intervals simply by multiplying them by the adjustment factor. I'm unsure whether this approach is correct for 90% intervals.]

Comment author: RandomEA 15 June 2018 07:45:22AM *  2 points [-]

It's also interesting to compare the results from this Animal Equality study to the results from the previous Reducetarian Labs MTurk Study.

In the Reducetarian Labs study, you found that respondents reduced their consumption of chicken by an average of 1.127 servings a month [0.26 * 52 / 12]. (The estimate for the Animal Equality study is slightly higher at 1.399 servings a month [0.86 * 1.627].)

Assuming that the effect lasted six months, respondents ate, on average, 6.762 fewer servings of chicken [6 * 1.127 servings]. This means they ate, on average, 25.019 fewer ounces of chicken [3.7 * 6.762 ounces] (or 1.564 fewer pounds of chicken [25.019 ounces / 16]). Since any reduction in consumption is partially offset by others increasing their consumption (due to the reduction in consumption lowering prices), the net reduction in amount eaten was 0.594 pounds [0.38 * 1.564 pounds]. Making the same assumption I made in the parent comment, this reduction results in 1.208 fewer pounds of chicken carcass being produced [2.033 * 0.594 pounds]. This means that, on average, each respondent spared 0.292 chickens [1.208 pounds / 4.134 pounds] and 0.035 chicken years [0.12 * 0.292 chickens]. (By comparison, respondents in the Animal Equality study spared, on average, 0.362 chickens [0.292 / 1.127 * 1.399] and 0.043 chicken years [0.035 / 1.127 * 1.399].)

[The numbers used in the above paragraph are borrowed from the parent comment or your Guesstimate model.]

Assuming that it costs $0.35 to reach one person through leafletting or online ads (which seems to be the number you used in reporting the Reducetarian Labs study), it would cost $1.20 to spare a chicken [$0.35 * 1 / 0.292] and $10.00 to spare a chicken year [$0.35 * 1 / 0.035].

Why are these numbers so much lower than the numbers reported for the Animal Equality study? All numbers used for the estimate were the same except for consumption reduction per respondent and cost per respondent. Additionally, consumption reduction per respondent was very similar between the two studies. Thus, the difference is almost entirely due to cost per respondent: it costs $0.35 to reach a person through leafletting or online ads while it costs $3.30* to reach a person through in-person videos. Perhaps there's a lesson here: if two interventions have a roughly similar effect size but significantly different costs per person reached, choosing the lower cost intervention can greatly increase impact per dollar.

*In your Guesstimate model for pigs, you use a cost per person of $2.80 for 2D video and $2.90 for VR video. Why is the cost per person higher for chickens?

Finally, it's worth noting that the above analysis of the Reducetarian Labs study is limited to the respondents' reported reduction in consumption of chicken. (The respondents also reported reducing consumption of other animal products.)

Comment author: RandomEA 15 June 2018 01:52:51AM *  2 points [-]

How much pig is not eaten?

But how many pigs are saved when people eat pork 58 times less? Well, if we assume that each time someone eats pork they are eating 2 to 6 ounces of it and that a typical pig produces 200-230 pounds of meat, that means the typical person eating pork 58 less times will be eating one sixteenth less of a pig in their life (90% interval: 0.013 to 0.21).

...

Given that a typical pig lives about six months, each person in the treatment group is thus sparing ~1 week of pig suffering (90% interval: 1.3 days to 23.7 days).

...

So what’s the cost-effectiveness?

Given that a person can be reached for ~$2 and that they spare ~1 pig week, that works out to $150 per pig saved (90% interval: $23 to $560) and, again assuming that each pig has a ~6 month lifespan, that works out to $310 per pig year saved (90% interval: $47 to $1100). To put this in context, Against Malaria Foundation can avert a year of human suffering from malaria for $39[4], this does not look very cost-effective.

This is all summarized in this Guesstimate model.

The source that you cite for the amount of meat produced by a typical pig notes that the number it is using is the carcass weight.

There are four different weights:

  1. Primary weight: the weight of the carcass (part of which is non-edible)

  2. Retail weight: the weight of what is sold at the retail level

  3. Consumer weight: the weight of what is purchased by consumers (including institutions and food service establishments)

  4. Loss-adjusted availability: the weight of what is eaten by consumers

If I understand your model correctly, it assumes that 200 to 300 fewer pounds of pork would have to be eaten in order to spare one pig. This seems wrong to me because eating x pounds fewer meat means consumers purchasing x + y fewer pounds of meat which means retailers purchasing x + y + z fewer pounds of meat which means x + y + z + w fewer pounds of pig carcass produced. To correct for this, we have to figure out how many fewer pounds of pig carcass are produced for each fewer pound of pork that is eaten. For purposes of this comment, I will assume that the ratio of the reduction in the amount of pig carcass produced to the net^ reduction in the amount of pork eaten is the same as the ratio of the amount of pig carcass produced (per person) to the amount of pork eaten (per person).

^I say net reduction because a person who purchases less pork (due to eating less of it) will cause the price of pork to decrease which will cause others to purchase (and eat) more pork which will partially offset the reduction.

According to USDA statistics, during the year 2015, 63.5 pounds of pig carcass were produced per person while only 31.4 pounds of pork were eaten per person, meaning that 2.022 pounds of pig carcass were produced per pound of pork eaten [63.5 pounds / 31.4 pounds]. Assuming that one fewer pound of pork being eaten results in 2.022 fewer pounds of pig carcass being produced, the cost of sparing one pig and of sparing one pig year is 0.495 times what you originally estimated [1 / 2.022]. This means that the cost of sparing one pig is $74.25 [0.495 * $150] with a 90% interval from $11.39 [0.495 * $23] to $277.20 [0.495 * $560] and the cost of sparing one pig year is $153.45 [0.495 * $310] with a 90% interval from $23.27 [0.495 * $47] to $544.50 [0.495 * $1,100].

Comment author: RandomEA 15 June 2018 01:55:55AM *  2 points [-]

But what if it were chicken?

A key part undermining the cost-effectiveness is that each pig produces so much pork. If we re-run the numbers assuming that the study was talking about chicken instead of pork and had the same results, but adjusted all the other numbers to be about chicken, we get $5.70 per chicken spared (90% interval: $0.71 to $32) and $50 per chicken year (90% interval: 6.3 to 280). This is better, but presumably still not as good as helping humans (even from a complete species-neutral point of view). This is summarized in this additional Guesstimate model.

It appears that your model for chickens assumes that the amount of chicken eaten each time is the same as the amount of pork eaten each time and that the reduction in the number of times per month that chicken would be eaten is the same as the reduction in the number of times per month that pork was eaten. One potential problem with this assumption is that people each more chicken than pork: according to USDA statistics, in 2015, people ate, on average, 51.1 pounds of chicken but 'only' 31.4 pounds of pork. For your model to be accurate, it would have to be the case that showing videos of animal mistreatment reduces the amount eaten by a similar magnitude across different products regardless of the baseline amount eaten. It seems more likely to me that videos would reduce amount eaten by a similar proportion such that the reduction would be greater for products with a higher baseline amount eaten. If this is correct, then the reduction in the amount of chicken eaten would be 1.627 times what you estimated [51.1 pounds / 31.4 pounds].^^ This means that the cost per chicken spared and the cost per chicken year spared should be multiplied by 0.615 [1 / 1.627] to account for people reducing their consumption of chicken more (in absolute terms).

^^You might think the ratio should be set higher if you think that the Animal Equality audience has a higher than average chicken consumed to pork consumed ratio.

We also have to account for the model using the carcass weight of chickens^^^ as the number of fewer pounds people have to eat to spare one chicken. As noted above (with respect to pigs), this approach seems wrong in that each fewer pound of chicken eaten likely results in more than one fewer pound of chicken carcass being produced. According to USDA statistics, in 2015, 103.9 pounds of chicken carcass were produced per person while only 51.1 pounds of chicken were eaten per person, meaning that 2.033 pounds of chicken carcass were produced per pound of chicken eaten [103.9 pounds / 51.1 pounds]. Assuming that one fewer pound of chicken being eaten resulted in 2.033 fewer pounds of chicken carcass being produced, the cost of sparing one chicken and the cost of sparing one chicken year need to be multiplied by 0.492 [1 / 2.033].

^^^I assume that "Amount of meat per chicken (lbs)" in your model refers to carcass weight as it does in the pig model. I make this assumption for two reasons. First, the phrase you used in the chicken model is similar to what you used in the pig model ("Amount of meat per pig (lbs)"), where that phrase refers to carcass weight. Second, the source you use for the pig model says that chickens have a mass of 2.5 kilograms and that their carcass after slaughter retains 75% of that mass, meaning that a chicken carcass is around 1.875 kilograms (4.134 pounds); 4.134 pounds is roughly the midpoint of your range of 3 pounds to 5 pounds, which makes me think that your number was based on the carcass number from that source.

Thus, to account for videos reducing chicken consumption by more than they reduce pork consumption (due to people eating more chicken) and to account for each fewer pound of chicken being eaten resulting in more than one fewer pound of chicken carcass being produced, your estimates should be multiplied by 0.303 [0.615 * 0.492]. This results in the cost of sparing a chicken being $1.73 [0.303 * $5.70] with a 90% interval from $0.22 [0.303 * $0.71] to $9.70 [0.303 * $32] and the cost of sparing a chicken year being $15.15 [0.303 * $50] with a 90% interval from $1.91 [0.303 * $6.30] to $84.84 [0.303 * $280].

You might also think that showing people a video about the treatment of chickens would reduce the amount of turkey eaten by the same proportion as it reduces the amount of chicken eaten. According to USDA statistics, Americans ate, on average, 7.9 pounds of turkey, which is 0.155 times how much chicken they ate [7.9 pounds / 51.1 pounds]. If only 0.155 times as many pounds of turkey are being saved per viewer, then you would have to show the video to 6.452 times as many viewers to save the same number of pounds of turkey [1 / 0.155].

Additionally, since turkey carcasses weigh 23.603 pounds (0.75 * 31.47 pounds) (compared to 3.9 pounds for chickens^^^^), you would have to show the video to 6.052 times as many viewers to spare the same number of turkeys [23.603 pounds / 3.9 pounds].^^^^^ This means that it costs 39.048 times as much to spare a turkey [6.452 * 6.052], which means that the cost of sparing one turkey is $67.55 [39.048 * $1.73] with a 90% interval from $8.59 [39.048 * $0.22] to $378.77 [39.048 * $9.70].^^^^^^

^^^^I use 3.9 pounds because that is what is used in the Guesstimate model for chickens and I am deriving the estimates for turkeys from the estimates for chickens.

^^^^^The percent of turkey carcass that is ultimately eaten (49.6%) is similar to the percent of chicken carcass that is ultimately eaten (49.1%).

^^^^^^I am assuming that the cumulative elasticity factor for turkey is similar to the cumulative elasticity factor for chicken. The Animal Charity Evaluators spreadsheet you cite reports similar estimated cumulative elasticity factors for chicken and turkey.

And since turkeys live around four months on factory farms, the cost of sparing one turkey year is $202.65 [3 * $67.55] with a 90% interval from $25.77 [3 * $8.59] to $1,136.31 [3 * $378.77].

Combining the chicken and turkey numbers, we get that the cost of sparing one bird is $1.69 [1 / (1 / $1.73 + 1 / $67.55)] with a 90% interval from $0.21 [1 / (1 / $0.22 + 1 / $8.59)] to $9.46 [1 / (1 / $9.70 + 1 / $378.77)] and the cost of sparing one bird year is $14.10 [1 / (1 / $15.15 + 1 / $202.65)] with a 90% interval from $1.78 [1 / (1 / $1.91 + 1 / $25.77)] to $78.77 [1 / (1 / $84.64 + 1 / $1,136.31)].

Finally, if you accept Halstead's argument that assuming persistence of 1 to 12 years is too optimistic (with a point estimate of 68 months) and that a more reasonable point estimate would be 6 months, then you would think that it costs 11.333 times the above estimates to spare an animal and to spare an animal year [68 / 6]. This would result in the cost of sparing a pig being $841.48 [11.333 * $74.25] with a 90% interval from $129.08 [11.333 * $11.39] to $3,141.51 [11.333 * $277.20] and the cost of sparing one pig year being $1,739.05 [11.333 * $153.45] with a 90% interval from $263.72 [11.333 * $23.27] to $6,170.82 [11.333 * $544.50]. It would also result in the cost of sparing a chicken being $19.61 [11.333 * $1.73] with a 90% interval from $2.49 [11.333 * $0.22] to $109.93 [11.333 * $9.70] and the cost of sparing a chicken year being $171.69 [11.333 * $15.15] with a 90% interval from $21.65 [11.333 * $1.91] to $961.49 [11.333 * $84.84]. It would additionally result in the cost of sparing a turkey being $765.54 [11.333 * $67.55] with a 90% interval from $97.35 [11.333 * $8.59] to $4,292.60 [11.333 * $378.77] and the cost of sparing a turkey year being $2,296.63 [11.333 * $202.65] with a 90% interval from $292.05 [11.333 * $25.77] to $12,877.80 [11.333 * $1,136.31]. Lastly, it would result in the cost of sparing a bird being $19.15 [11.333 * $1.69] with a 90% interval from $2.38 [11.333 * $0.21] to $107.21 [11.333 * $9.46] and the cost of sparing a bird year being $159.80 [11.333 * $14.10] with a 90% interval from $20.17 [11.333 * $1.78] to $892.70 [11.333 * $78.77].

[Throughout this comment and the parent comment, I've adjusted point estimates and 90% intervals simply by multiplying them by the adjustment factor. I'm unsure whether this approach is correct for 90% intervals.]

Comment author: RandomEA 15 June 2018 01:52:51AM *  2 points [-]

How much pig is not eaten?

But how many pigs are saved when people eat pork 58 times less? Well, if we assume that each time someone eats pork they are eating 2 to 6 ounces of it and that a typical pig produces 200-230 pounds of meat, that means the typical person eating pork 58 less times will be eating one sixteenth less of a pig in their life (90% interval: 0.013 to 0.21).

...

Given that a typical pig lives about six months, each person in the treatment group is thus sparing ~1 week of pig suffering (90% interval: 1.3 days to 23.7 days).

...

So what’s the cost-effectiveness?

Given that a person can be reached for ~$2 and that they spare ~1 pig week, that works out to $150 per pig saved (90% interval: $23 to $560) and, again assuming that each pig has a ~6 month lifespan, that works out to $310 per pig year saved (90% interval: $47 to $1100). To put this in context, Against Malaria Foundation can avert a year of human suffering from malaria for $39[4], this does not look very cost-effective.

This is all summarized in this Guesstimate model.

The source that you cite for the amount of meat produced by a typical pig notes that the number it is using is the carcass weight.

There are four different weights:

  1. Primary weight: the weight of the carcass (part of which is non-edible)

  2. Retail weight: the weight of what is sold at the retail level

  3. Consumer weight: the weight of what is purchased by consumers (including institutions and food service establishments)

  4. Loss-adjusted availability: the weight of what is eaten by consumers

If I understand your model correctly, it assumes that 200 to 300 fewer pounds of pork would have to be eaten in order to spare one pig. This seems wrong to me because eating x pounds fewer meat means consumers purchasing x + y fewer pounds of meat which means retailers purchasing x + y + z fewer pounds of meat which means x + y + z + w fewer pounds of pig carcass produced. To correct for this, we have to figure out how many fewer pounds of pig carcass are produced for each fewer pound of pork that is eaten. For purposes of this comment, I will assume that the ratio of the reduction in the amount of pig carcass produced to the net^ reduction in the amount of pork eaten is the same as the ratio of the amount of pig carcass produced (per person) to the amount of pork eaten (per person).

^I say net reduction because a person who purchases less pork (due to eating less of it) will cause the price of pork to decrease which will cause others to purchase (and eat) more pork which will partially offset the reduction.

According to USDA statistics, during the year 2015, 63.5 pounds of pig carcass were produced per person while only 31.4 pounds of pork were eaten per person, meaning that 2.022 pounds of pig carcass were produced per pound of pork eaten [63.5 pounds / 31.4 pounds]. Assuming that one fewer pound of pork being eaten results in 2.022 fewer pounds of pig carcass being produced, the cost of sparing one pig and of sparing one pig year is 0.495 times what you originally estimated [1 / 2.022]. This means that the cost of sparing one pig is $74.25 [0.495 * $150] with a 90% interval from $11.39 [0.495 * $23] to $277.20 [0.495 * $560] and the cost of sparing one pig year is $153.45 [0.495 * $310] with a 90% interval from $23.27 [0.495 * $47] to $544.50 [0.495 * $1,100].

Comment author: RandomEA 27 May 2018 07:11:35PM 2 points [-]

For example, suppose Victoria hears about EA through GWWC and wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise. She makes the pledge and gives $1m to ACE charities, which she wouldn’t have found otherwise (and otherwise would have donated to a non-effective animal charity let’s suppose). Who counterfactually produced the $1m donation benefit: Victoria, GWWC or ACE? Each of them is a necessary condition for the benefit: if Victoria hadn’t acted, then the $1m wouldn’t have been donated; if GWWC hadn’t existed, then the $1m wouldn’t have been donated; and if ACE hadn’t existed then the $1m wouldn’t have been donated effectively. Therefore, Victoria’s counterfactual impact is $1m to effective charities, GWWC’s counterfactual impact is $1m to effective charities, and ACE’s impact is $1m to effective charities.

Apparent paradox: doesn’t this entail that the aggregate counterfactual impact of Victoria, GWWC and ACE is $3m to effective charities? No. When we are assessing the counterfactual impact of Victoria, GWWC and ACE acting together, we now ask a different question to the one we asked above viz. “if Victoria, GWWC and ACE had not acted, what benefit would there have been?”. This is a different question and so gets a different answer: $1m.

A good way of seeing this is to think about a single actor taking three actions. Suppose that you come across a child drowning in a pond. You pull the child out, call emergency services, and perform CPR until an ambulance arrives. While it may be the case that each of your actions saved the child's life (in the sense that the child would have died if any one of the actions had not been taken), it is certainly not the case that your three actions collectively saved three lives. And if that's true of three actions taken by a single person, it should also be true of three actions taken by three separate people.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 21 May 2018 02:55:42PM 2 points [-]

Like you, at 80,000 Hours we view the relative impact of money vs talent to be specific to particular problems and potentially particular approaches too.

First you need to look for what activities you think are most impactful, and then see what your money can generate vs your time.

Comment author: RandomEA 21 May 2018 07:26:51PM 1 point [-]

First you need to look for what activities you think are most impactful, and then see what your money can generate vs your time.

This statement could be interpreted as suggesting that people should use a two-step process: first, choose a problem based on how pressing it is and then second, decide how to contribute to solving that problem.* That two-step approach would be a bad idea because some people may be able to make a greater impact working on a less pressing problem if they are especially effective at addressing that problem. Because of this, information about how pressing different problems are relative to each other should not be used to choose a single problem; instead, it should be used as background information when comparing careers across problems.

*I doubt that's what you actually meant since you wrote the linked article that discusses personal fit. But I figured some people might be unfamiliar with that article, so I thought it'd be worthwhile to note the issue.

Comment author: RandomEA 21 May 2018 12:28:43AM *  11 points [-]

Here's what Lewis Bollard had to say about the talent vs. funding issue when asked about it on the 80,000 Hours podcast (in September 2017):

Robert Wiblin: My impression is that fa …. animal welfare organisations, at least the ones that I’m aware of, they are associated with Effective Altruism are often among the most funding constrained. That they often feel like they’re most limited by access to money. Does this suggest that people who are concerned with animal welfare should be more inclined to do earning to give and, perhaps, rather than work in the area, instead make money and give it away?

Lewis Bollard: I don’t think so. I think that that was true until two years ago, or it was true until eighteen months ago when we started ground making in this field. I think the situation has dramatically improved in terms of funding largely because of Open Phil. Entering this field, but also because there are a number of other very generous donors who’ve either entered the field or significantly increased their giving in the last two years.

Right now I think there is a bigger talent gap than financial gap for farm animal welfare groups. That’s not to say it will always be that way, and I certainly do think that someone whose aptitude or inclination is heavily toward earning to give, it could still well make sense. If someone has great quantitative skills and enjoys working at a hedge fund, then I would say earn to give. That could be still a really powerful way and we will more and more funders over time to continue scaling up the movement, but all things equal, I would encourage someone to focus more on the talent piece now because I do think that things have really flipped in the last few years, and I’m pretty optimistic that the funding will continue to grow in this space for animal welfare.

Robert Wiblin: What makes you confident about that? You don’t expect to be fired in the next few years?

Lewis Bollard: First, I hope I won’t be fired, but I think there’s a deep commitment from the Open Philanthropy Project to continue strong funding in this space, to continue funding on at least the level we’re funding currently and hopefully more.

I’ve also just seen a number of new large-ish funders coming online. Just in the last two years I would say the number of funders giving more than two hundred thousand dollars a year has doubled, and I’ve started to see real interest from some other major potential funders.

I think it’s natural that, as this issue has gained public prominence, so were there a lot of potential donors, or people who have great wealth, have realised that this is something important and this is something that they can make a great difference.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 13 May 2018 11:05:26PM 13 points [-]

I appreciate the write up and think founding charities could be a really effective thing to do.

I do wonder if this might be an overly rosey picture for a couple of reasons.

  1. Are there any stories of EAs failing to start charities? If there aren't, that would be a bit strange and I'd want to know why there were no failures. If there are, what happened and why didn't they work? I'm a bit worried about a survivorship effect making it falsely look like starting charities is easy. (On a somewhat releated note, your post may prompt me to finally write up something about my own unsuccessful attempt to start a start up)

  2. One is that some of the charities you mention are offshoots/sister charities of each other - GWWC and 80k, Charity Science Health and Fortify Health. This suggests to me it might be easier to found a second charity than a first one. OPP and GiveWell also fit this mold.

  3. Including AMF is, in some sense a bit odd, because it wasn't (I gather) founded with the intention of being the most effective charity. I say it's odd because, if it hadn't existed, the EA world would have found another charity that it deemed to be the most effective. Unless AMF thought they would be the most effective, they sort of 'got lucky' in that regard.

Comment author: RandomEA 14 May 2018 04:56:20AM 6 points [-]

One is that some of the charities you mention are offshoots/sister charities of each other - GWWC and 80k, Charity Science Health and Fortify Health. This suggests to me it might be easier to found a second charity than a first one. OPP and GiveWell also fit this mold.

It's also worth noting that Animal Charity Evaluators started as an 80,000 Hours project and that the Good Food Institute was the brainchild of the Mercy for Animals leadership team.

Comment author: RandomEA 13 May 2018 06:42:10PM 2 points [-]

This is somewhat off-topic but it's relevant enough that I thought I'd raise it here.

What is the most impactful volunteering opportunity for a non-EA who prioritizes more conventional causes (including global poverty) and who lacks specialized skills? Basically, I'm seeking a general recommendation for non-EAs who ask how they can most effectively volunteer. I recognize that the recommended volunteering for a non-EA will be much less impactful than the recommended volunteering for an EA, but I think it can sometimes be worthwhile to spread a less impactful idea to a larger number of people (e.g. The Life You Can Save).

The standard view seems to be that volunteering in a low-skill position produces as much value for an organization as donating the amount necessary for them to hire a minimum wage worker as a replacement. While this may be correct as a general matter, I think there are likely exceptions:

  1. An organization may feel that volunteer morale will greatly decrease if there are some people doing the same work as the volunteers for the same number of hours who are paid.

  2. An organization may be unwilling to hire people to do the work for ideological reasons.

  3. An organization may be unwilling to hire people to do the work because doing so would look bad to the public.

  4. An organization may feel that passion about the cause is extremely important and that the best way to select for passion is to only accept people who will work for free.

  5. An all-volunteer organization may lack the infrastructure to pay employees meaning that it would have to pay a high initial cost before hiring its first employee.

Thus, it seems plausible to me that there is some relatively high impact organization with appeal to non-EAs where a person without specialized skills can have a significant impact. Does anyone know of a volunteering opportunity like this?

Comment author: RandomEA 13 May 2018 02:48:20PM 3 points [-]

The Humane League (THL) is an ACE-recommended charity. THL runs the Fast Action Network, an online group which sends out easy, one-minute actions two or three times per week, including signing petitions, posting on social media, or emailing decision makers, as part of campaigns to mitigate factory farming. You can sign up to join the Fast Action Network in the United States here, in the United Kingdom here and for a Spanish version of the Fast Action Network here.

Mercy for Animals (which was ACE-recommended for 2014, 2015, and 2016) runs a similar program called Hen Heroes.

Comment author: Joey 06 May 2018 06:11:43PM 3 points [-]

Say a person could check a box and commit to being vegan for the rest of their lives, do you think that would be a ethical/good thing for someone to do? Given what we know about average recidivism in vegans?

Comment author: RandomEA 07 May 2018 11:03:07AM *  4 points [-]

It could turn out to be bad. For example, say she pledges in 2000 to "never eat meat, dairy, or eggs again." By 2030, clean meat, dairy, and eggs become near universal (something she did not anticipate in 2000). Her view in 2030 is that she should be willing to order non-vegan food at restaurants since asking for vegan food would make her seem weird while being unlikely to prevent animal suffering. If she takes her pledge seriously and literally, she is tied to a suboptimal position (despite only intending to prevent loss of motivation).

This could happen in a number of other ways:

  1. She takes the Giving What We Can Further Pledge* intending to prevent herself from buying unnecessary stuff but the result is that her future self (who is just as altruistic) cannot move to a higher cost of living location.

  2. She places her donation money into a donor-advised fund intending to prevent herself from spending it non-altruistically later but the result is that her future self (who is just as altruistic) cannot donate to promising projects that lack 501(c)(3) status.

  3. She chooses a direct work career path with little flexible career capital intending to prevent herself from switching to a high earning career and keeping all the money but the result is that her future self (who is just as altruistic) cannot easily switch to a new cause area where she would be able to have a much larger impact.

It seems to me that actions that bind you can constrain you in unexpected ways despite your intention being to only constrain yourself in case you lose motivation. Of course, it may still be good to constrain yourself because the expected benefit from preventing reduced altruism due to loss of motivation could outweigh the expected cost from the possibility of preventing yourself from becoming more impactful. However, the possibility of constraining actions ultimately being harmful makes me think that they are distinct from actions like surrounding yourself with like-minded people and regularly consuming EA content.

*Giving What We Can does not push people to take the Further Pledge.

View more: Next