In response to Open Thread #38
Comment author: WillPearson 22 August 2017 10:04:51AM 2 points [-]

Drawdown a book on possible climate change solutions seems EA relevant. It is interesting that it only allows peer reviewed data/models in it and systematically surveys all the solutions they could find.

Comment author: Sanjay 24 August 2017 10:10:49PM 3 points [-]

I contacted the authors with some questions a few months back because their website included some apparently interesting info, but with inadequate explanation of how they had defined things, and it looked like the numbers didn't stack up (but I couldn't be sure because things weren't defined clearly enough)

They didn't reply.

Comment author: Sanjay 22 August 2017 10:50:34PM *  2 points [-]

Some useful contacts in case you're interested (I could probably get you an intro if you like)

Comment author: Sanjay 22 August 2017 10:48:56PM *  1 point [-]

I have some background in the drugs space (in fact you'll see my face in the Channel 4 documentary about drug decriminalisation that was made about 7 years ago!)

The question I've never seen answered is this: - Alcohol is legal, and it gets used a lot. If other drugs were legal, might they also get used more, meaning that if even if the quality of the drugs were better and the support available were better, the number of people addicted may go up. If we believe that addiction is really bad (I do!) this is a worry. (Sorry if you've answered this, I haven't read everything fully)

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 06 August 2017 07:33:43PM *  2 points [-]

Cancer research may not be so bad at far as developed world interventions go.

The Wellcome Trust, a UK-based medical research charity funding research into human and animal health, estimated that “total expenditure on cancer-related research [in the UK] from 1970 to 2009 was £15 billion” and that “over the period 1991–2010, the interventions included in the study produced 5.9 million quality-adjusted life years”. This would imply a return of £2542.37 per DALY at the time of the study, or ~$4195 per DALY in 2016 US dollars.

Separately, Holden Karnofsky at the Open Philanthropy Project estimated the cost-effectiveness of cancer research in the US to be ~$2800 per DALY.

Notably, none of these estimates compare well to the best developing world interventions (~$80 per DALY), but they are far more cost-effective than the average medical intervention at $30K per DALY in 2016 US dollars (Tengs, et. al., 1994, p371).

Of course, that these estimates are not robust and comparisons with figures from other sources are not apples-to-apples.

Comment author: Sanjay 09 August 2017 12:07:30PM 0 points [-]

Agreed. I think that medical research is probably a pretty decent choice for the reasons you give, but that cancer is likely to be the worst choice within the medical research space.

Comment author: Sanjay 10 July 2017 04:29:01PM 0 points [-]

This post may add grist to the mill that any such gap is a problem: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/ea-has-a-lying-problem/

(The post doesn't quite cover the same issues that Michael talks about here, but there's a parallel)

Comment author: Sanjay 10 July 2017 04:13:49PM *  10 points [-]

Thanks for this post, I used to work for a strategy consultancy that specialised in this sort of area, so I'm quite interested in this.

You state your value-add comes from (a) reducing fees to zero (b) tax-efficiency (e.g. donations of appreciated securities) (c) higher-performing investment strategies

I'm interested to know whether Antigravity investments is really needed when EAs have the option of using the existing investment advice that's out there. In particular:

-- (a) you also ask if people are willing to fund you. Does this mean that an alternative model for you would be to charge your clients and then allow your funders to donate to high-impact charities? If so, doesn't that mean that the zero-cost element of your model isn't actually a big advantage after all? (not meaning to be critical, I just don't know enough about your funding model)

-- (b) is it fair to say that donations of appreciated securities is a well-known phenomenon in tax-efficient donating, and anyone getting any kind of half-decent advice would get this anyway?

-- (c) (I understand you provide no guarantees) How many years of past performance do you have? Would you agree that in general, if a fund manager of any non-passive sort (smart beta or outright active) has a strong first few years, it's much more likely to be luck than an underlying advantage?

Sorry if the questions sounds sceptical, I'm conscious that I don't understand all the details about how you work.

Comment author: Sanjay 02 July 2017 04:05:45PM *  2 points [-]

If I understood your post correctly, this resolves the paradox:

  • if you invest the money, you get a return (say of r1%)
  • if you donate, this is also an investment, which may get a return of (say) r2%

So the give now / give later problem is more or less about estimating which is better out of r1 and r2.

I think of donating as also being an investment because money donated now may (or may not) have an immediate effect, but there should also be knock-on positive impacts trickling on into the future. I.e. - an investment is make-payment-now-and-get-a-series-of-(uncertain)-future-cash-flows - a philanthropic "investment" is make-payment-now-and-get-a-series-of-(uncertain)-future-hedon-flows

If this doesn't resolve paradox, it may be that I have misunderstood the post

Comment author: Sanjay 02 July 2017 04:07:18PM 0 points [-]

Have just looked through the comments, and I think Ben Todd's post may be expressing a similar idea to mine

Comment author: Sanjay 02 July 2017 04:05:45PM *  2 points [-]

If I understood your post correctly, this resolves the paradox:

  • if you invest the money, you get a return (say of r1%)
  • if you donate, this is also an investment, which may get a return of (say) r2%

So the give now / give later problem is more or less about estimating which is better out of r1 and r2.

I think of donating as also being an investment because money donated now may (or may not) have an immediate effect, but there should also be knock-on positive impacts trickling on into the future. I.e. - an investment is make-payment-now-and-get-a-series-of-(uncertain)-future-cash-flows - a philanthropic "investment" is make-payment-now-and-get-a-series-of-(uncertain)-future-hedon-flows

If this doesn't resolve paradox, it may be that I have misunderstood the post

Comment author: Sanjay 11 March 2017 12:27:23PM 3 points [-]

Will this be publicly available on the internet? eg on https://www.effectivealtruism.org/?

Comment author: Sanjay 16 February 2017 11:55:54PM 1 point [-]

There's plenty in this post that I agree with, in particular "Political organizing is a highly accessible way for many EAs to have a potentially high impact". I also appreciate that many EAs would like to use their spare time effectively, and this may provide a potential avenue for that.

However I question whether "moral obligation" is really right here. When Toby Ord wrote about the Moral Imperative towards cost-effectiveness, he was arguing for actions which I think were almost certain to be right (i.e. almost certain to make the world a better place) - hence the moral imperative.

However there are lots of ways that lobbying or other political actions could have unforeseen consequences, and could lead to net negative outcomes.

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