Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 01 September 2017 07:05:27PM *  1 point [-]

To reduce future confusion I think that ACE's charity evaluation criteria page should be edited to acknowledge the fact that ACE is increasingly open to 'hits based' charity recommendations, and rightly so: http://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/hits-based-giving

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 01 September 2017 07:00:21PM 2 points [-]

There's a discussion about the most informative way to slice and dice the cause categories in next year's survey here: https://www.facebook.com/robert.wiblin/posts/796476424745?comment_id=796476838915

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 01 September 2017 06:47:50PM *  6 points [-]

For next year's survey it would be good if you could change 'far future' to 'long-term future' which is quickly becoming the preferred terminology.

'Far future' makes the perspective sound weirder than it actually is, and creates the impression you're saying you only care about events very far into the future, and not all the intervening times as well.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 31 August 2017 04:59:42PM 7 points [-]

After reading this post I'm still a bit confused as to why you doubt GFI specifically is a cost-effective target for donations relative to alternatives. Maybe you can try putting it in really simple terms in the comments? :)

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 30 August 2017 04:53:48AM 4 points [-]

I don't think there is a difference between a moral duty and an obligation.

I admit that I'm personally confused about this too.

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In 2015, there were more than 2000 respondents, right? Does this mean EA is getting smaller?

Yes, the 2015 survey had 2352 EAs, whereas we had only 1837 responses this year. Keen eye for catching that! It's something we've been thinking a lot about. I do not yet know whether this is a significant finding or indicative of EA getting smaller. I think we intend to write more about this soon.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 30 August 2017 08:39:33PM 2 points [-]

The difference is that the term obligation has a more negative valence than duty.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 29 August 2017 01:46:14PM 4 points [-]

Every hour of Holden's time is worth ~thousands of dollars in marginal donations, so virtually any time he uses to save money isn't worth it.

I'm skeptical of this reasoning.

First, Holden is an extreme example, and many EAs (even some "key figures of the EA movement") are thinking overly highly of themselves if they think their time is consistently worth "~thousands of dollars in marginal donations".

Second, the time you spend thinking about frugality may not trade directly off of productive time. I know it doesn't for me. (Though I'm also not all that frugal.)

Third, it may be possible to save thousands of dollars with an hour of thinking about frugality (especially if you are already spending a million a year).

To be clear, I'm of the opinion that frugality in EA is supererogatory -- I'd rather see most people think about improving other aspects of their effectiveness first. However, I definitely call BS on 95%+ of arguments of the "I can't be frugal/vegetarian/etc. because it would harm my productivity" type. I think we should just own up to having room to improve on the frugality angle and just not wanting to make that sacrifice. That's how I feel, at least.

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I would feel fine if Holden were spending a million a year to eke out every moment of his time and happiness and never give a second thought to money.

I would agree that I still would think positively about Holden and still judge him to be very high performing from an EA perspective even if he spent $1M, but I am skeptical that there really are $1M in such improvements.

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Because I'm optimistic about the work Joey is doing leading an innovation anti-poverty organisation, I suspect he would do more good for the world if he took a higher salary and used it to buy more time and attention, even at expensive hourly rates.

I can confirm that Joey does spend money to buy time and I can't think of any other things he should be doing in this area.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 30 August 2017 03:57:44AM *  3 points [-]

I agree with all of this in principle so we're now down to an empirical question.

Holden is the most extreme single case I can think of, for the purposes of demonstration. There are a handful of other managers who generate bottlenecks who I think might generate an expected $1,000+ worth of donations with an hour of extra work. But yes they're not the typical case.

I doubt Holden could find ways to spend $1m usefully to save time. But $200k? Probably.

Options include:

  • Live next to your office in the centre of town (not an issue for Joey as he works at home).
  • Get an executive assistant to manage your house and personal life so you never have to think about it or buy anything yourself.
  • Always fly direct in a seat you can work in. Always catch UberX wherever you're going.
  • Update you phone and laptop, etc to the best equipment each year.

In SF this stuff could easily run in to the hundreds of thousands, and I'd be psyched to see Holden spending that kind of money so he can work every hour God gives without any other stressors in his life.

"However, I definitely call BS on 95%+ of arguments of the "I can't be frugal/vegetarian/etc. because it would harm my productivity" type. I think we should just own up to having room to improve on the frugality angle and just not wanting to make that sacrifice. That's how I feel, at least."

I suspect that many EAs doing direct work are committing the reverse moral error of undervaluing their time in order to seem i) humble, ii) morally dedicated by being conspicuously frugal. They would be more moral people if they spent more on themselves. I didn't used to think this, but seeing how time-effective direct work can be I have changed my mind.

"Second, the time you spend thinking about frugality may not trade directly off of productive time"

In my experience during the middle of the workday I think it translates close to 1:1. Hence I get UberX if I'm moving between work tasks. During random evenings, or weekends it's more like 3:1 (i.e. a third of the time I save goes towards extra work). So I often use Uber Pool if I'm just relaxing. But YMMV.

I don't want to tell Joey he has opportunities he thinks he doesn't. His circumstances are a bit unusual - my impression is that people working in professional positions in the centre of expensive cities (e.g. high up positions in government) can easily spend up to $100k on sensible things to free up their time, and even more importantly, their attention. And I admire them for figuring out how to do it so they can fully apply themselves to their comparative advantage.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 29 August 2017 04:33:31AM 1 point [-]

As Geoffrey suggests below, the 'political economy' (to use the term loosely) of robot armies seems quite bad. See for example the argument here: https://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-robot-lords-and-end-of-people-power.html .

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 28 August 2017 05:54:31PM *  13 points [-]

As with Eric, I'd like to express praise for your altruism, respect for your choice, but raise some cautions about the idea of a global human mean income as global norm.

I think it makes sense to think about this in terms of market compensation (including wages and nonpecuniary benefits) and explicit and implicit donation thereof. Depending on people's opportunity costs that salary could represent a large boost in income relative to their outside prospects, a 10% donation rate, 50%, or 99%+. I'd also think about to what extent the change in donation affects your impact (positively and negatively). The degree of sacrifice and magnitude (and sign) of impacts will be enormously different across cases.

This approximate world average has a very strong intuitive appeal to us, because it’s what somebody would get paid if there was complete equality.

Some thoughts on this:

  • If you include nonhuman animals then mean income is orders of magnitude less; even adjusting for cost of living, that would imply low subsistence wages, i.e. absolute poverty and <$200 for humans (which would be clearly highly counterproductive)
  • Equal allocations of income would leave no extra for those expensive needs, e.g. health conditions that require hundreds of thousands of dollars per to survive, young vs old
  • If equality meant bringing up productivity and conditions for poor people, then total and per capita output could rise several fold; if it meant everyone allocating their efforts altruistically optimally then per capita wealth could explode (or collapse alongside skyrocketing total wealth)
  • Conversely, if equality were achieved by taxation at 100% rates and transfers then incomes would collapse, ceteris paribus
  • Median income is dramatically lower than mean, but has a plausible better claim re living high while others die
Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 29 August 2017 03:18:39AM *  9 points [-]

I'll put Carl's third sentence in stronger terms.

Such very low salaries are fine and may be the most moral lifestyle for people whose direct altruistic efforts aren't that time-effective.

If applied to the key figures of the EA movement - take for example someone like Holden - who is generating the equivalent of millions of dollars (perhaps tens of millions) worth of additional EA-style donations each year via their direct work, it would be highly destructive. Every hour of Holden's time is worth ~thousands of dollars in marginal donations, so virtually any time he uses to save money isn't worth it. I would feel fine if Holden were spending a million a year to eke out every moment of his time and happiness and never give a second thought to money.

Because I'm optimistic about the value of the work Joey is doing leading an innovative anti-poverty organisation, I suspect he would do more good for the world if he took a higher salary and used it to buy more time and attention, even at expensive hourly rates. But I'm only weakly confident about that as he surely knows his personal circumstances better than me.

All of the rational analysis aside, I find the intensity of commitment to personal sacrifice in the name of a moral ideal demonstrated here highly admirable and wish more people shared it.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 03 July 2017 03:14:36PM 2 points [-]

I think you and Ben have picked up the part of the problem I wasn't focusing on. I'm less concerned about the totalist version: I think you can spin a version of the story where you should donate the end of time, and that's just the best thing you can do.

My point was that, given you accept the totalist philanthropist's paradox, there's an additional weirdness for person-affecting views. That's the bit I found interesting.

Although, I suppose there's a reframing this that makes the puzzle more curious. Totalists get a paradox where they recognise they should donate at the end of time, and that feels odd. Person-affecting views might think they dodge this problem by denying the value of the far future, but they get another kind of paradox for them.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 05 July 2017 12:29:00AM 1 point [-]

Yeah not saying anything in contradiction to you, just adding my own two cents on the thing.

Comment author: MichaelStJules 03 July 2017 09:21:04PM 0 points [-]

In this scenario you could (mathematically) save your wealth for an infinite number of periods and then donate it, generating infinite utility.

How is there anything (i.e. "and then") after an infinite amount of periods (taking altogether an infinite amount of time)? Are you introducing hyperreals or nonstandard analysis? Are you claiming this is just a possibility (from our ignorance about the nature of time) or a fact, conditional on the universe lasting forever?

I think it's extremely unlikely that time works this way, but if you're an EU maximizer and assign some positive probability to this possibility, then, sure, you can get an infinite return in EU. Most likely you'll get nothing. It's a lot like Pascal's wager.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 05 July 2017 12:28:36AM 0 points [-]

I'm almost certain time doesn't work this way in our universe! But for the paradox to exist we have to imagine a universe where an infinite amount of time really can pass. I'm not an expert in these expected value paradoxes for different kinds of infinity - might be worth asking Amanda Askell who is.

Either way, the mixed strategy of saving and donating some gives us a way out.

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