Comment author: Jamie_Harris 20 March 2018 11:14:32PM 1 point [-]

All points make sense. I find that when introducing the idea, however, people seem slightly confused by the idea of "doing as much good as possible" (I tend to use nearly identical phrasing). I think the idea seems too abstract to them, and I feel compelled to give some kind of more concrete example to help explain. Although I haven't really tried it out as an alternative, the idea of EA aiming to "benefit others" seems that it might be slightly clearer / more imaginable?

If you agree, this then raises the question of whether we should distinguish a definition of EA for "academic" and "outreach" / explanatory purposes. I'd argue that we should probably avoid separating a definition out for different contexts, so might need to keep thinking about how to word a definition which is clear, but also allows for nuance?

Comment author: Sanjay 21 March 2018 12:49:11PM 0 points [-]

Really? "doing as much good as possible" is confusing people? I tend to use that language, and I haven't noticed people getting confused (maybe I haven't been observant enough!)

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 13 January 2018 07:15:00PM 2 points [-]

What is SoGive? It looks like an online platform where you look up the impact per dollar of different charities?

Comment author: Sanjay 14 January 2018 09:04:09AM 1 point [-]

Yes, that's right! SoGive also makes it easier for users to find high-impact charities by leveraging a mixture of our own analysis (based on our unique database) and analysis done by others such as GiveWell (mostly the latter at the moment)

Comment author: Sanjay 02 November 2017 02:05:29AM *  1 point [-]

Excellent to see some challenge to this framework! I was particularly pleased to see this line: "in the ‘major arguments against working on it’ section they present info like ‘the US government spends about $8 billion per year on direct climate change efforts’ as a negative in itself." I've often thought that 80k communicates about this oddly -- after all, for all we know, maybe there's room for $10 billion to be spent on climate change before returns start diminishing.

However, having looked through this, I'm not sure I've been convinced to update much against neglectedness. After all, if you clarify that the % changes in the formula are really meant to be elasticities (which you allude to in the footnotes, and which I agree isn't clear in the 80k article), then surely lots of the problems actually go away? (i.e. thinking about diminishing marginal returns is important and valid, but that's also consistent with the elasticity view of neglectedness, isn't it?)

Why I still think I'm in favour of including neglectedness: because it matters for counterfactual impact. I.e. with a crowded area (e.g. climate change), it's more likely that if you had never gone into that area, someone else would have come along and achieved the same outcomes as you (or found out the same results as you). And this likelihood drops if the area is neglected.

So a claim that might usefully update my views looks something like this hypothetical dialogue:

  • Climate change has lots of people working on it (bad)

  • However there are sub-sectors of climate change work that are high impact and neglected (good)

  • But because lots of other people work on climate change, if you hadn't done your awesome high-impact neglected climate change thing, someone else probably would have since there are so many people working in something adjacent (bad)

  • But [some argument that I haven't thought of!]

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:

(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

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