Comment author: William_MacAskill 08 March 2017 01:59:04AM *  10 points [-]

In my previous post I wrote: “The existence of this would bring us into alignment with other societies, which usually have some document that describes the principles that the society stands for, and has some mechanism for ensuring that those who choose to represent themselves as part of that society abides by those principles.” I now think that’s an incorrect statement. EA, currently, is all of the following: an idea/movement, a community, and a small group of organisations. On the ‘movement’ understanding of EA, analogies of EA don’t have a community panel similar to what I suggested, and only some have ‘guiding principles’. (Though communities and organisations, or groups of organisations, often do.)

Julia created a list of potential analogies here:


The closest analogy to what we want to do is given by the open source community: many but not all of the organisations within the open source community created their own codes of conduct, many of them very similar to each other.


Introducing CEA's Guiding Principles

Over the last year, I’ve given a lot of thought to the question of how the effective altruism community can stay true to its best elements and avoid problems that often bring movements down. Failure is the default outcome for a social movement, and so we should be proactive in... Read More

[CEA Update] Updates from January 2017

Hi everyone,   Last month, CEA started Y Combinator. This has already had a very positive impact on the team. We’re getting a lot of advice and attention from the partners, and we’re feeling excited about building CEA.   January has been our best month ever in terms of growth... Read More
Comment author: William_MacAskill 11 February 2017 12:07:00AM 4 points [-]

One thing to note, re diversification (which I do think is an important point in general) is that it's easy to think of Open Phil as a single agent, rather than a collection of agents; and because Open Phil is a collective entity, there are gains from diversification even with the funds.

For example, there might be a grant that a program officer wants to make, but there's internal disagreement about it, and the program officer doesn't have time (given opportunity cost) to convince others at Open Phil why it's a good idea. (This has been historically true for, say, the EA Giving Fund). Having a separate pool of money would allow them to fund things like that.

Comment author: LukeDing 10 February 2017 11:51:24AM 21 points [-]

Even though I have supported many EA organisations over the years (both meta, ex-risks and global poverty and some at quite early stages) and devote a great deal of time to try to do it well, I feel the EA funds could still be really useful.

There is a limit to how much high quality due diligence one could do. It takes time to build relationships, analyse opportunities and monitor them. This is also the reason I have not supported some of the EA Venture projects not necessarily because of the projects but because I did not have the bandwidth.

I am really impressed with some of the really high leverage, high impact work that Nick Beckstead supported through his donor group, I remember his catalysing the formation of CSER and early support to Founders Pledge. The possibility to participate in Elie's work not limited to top charities also sounds exciting. I have not had the time to analyse animal charities and and this will help too.

I think donating to EA funds alongside my existing donations will provide diversification and allow me to support projects that I do not have direct access to or I do not have time and/or resources to support on a standalone basis.

The EA funds could also have benchmarking and signalling values (especially on less well known projects) if they publish their donation decisions.

Comment author: William_MacAskill 10 February 2017 11:45:05PM 8 points [-]

Thanks so much for this, Luke! If someone who spends half their working time dedicating to philanthropy, as you do, says "There is a limit to how much high quality due diligence one could do. It takes time to build relationships, analyse opportunities and monitor them" - that's pretty useful information!

Comment author: Mac- 09 February 2017 12:31:50PM 9 points [-]

In the first instance, we’re just going to have four funds...If the initial experiment goes well...running the Donor Lottery fund...we could potentially use this platform to administer moral trades between donors

FWIW, I am lukewarm on the funds idea, but excited about the Donor Lottery and most excited about the moral trade platform. I hope that if the funds idea fails, the Donor Lottery and moral trade platform are not scrapped as a result. I've never donated to CEA, but I would donate to support these two projects.

Comment author: William_MacAskill 10 February 2017 07:45:25AM *  2 points [-]

Thanks! That's really helpful to know. The Funds are potentially solving a number of problems at once, and we know there's some demand for each of these problems to be solved, but not how much demand, so comments like this are very useful.

Comment author: Richard_Batty 10 February 2017 12:00:52AM 6 points [-]

Thanks, that clarifies.

I think I was confused by 'small donor' - I was including in that category friends who donate £50k-£100k and who fund small organisations in their network after a lot of careful analysis. If the fund is targeted more at <$10k donors that makes sense.

OpenPhil officers makes sense for MVP.

On EA Ventures, points 1 and 2 seem particularly surprising when put together. You found too few exciting projects but even they had trouble generating funder interest? So are you saying that even for high-quality new projects, funder interest was low, suggesting risk-aversion? If so, that seems to be an important problem to solve if we want a pipeline of new potentially high-impact projects.

On creating promising new projects, myself and Michael Peyton Jones have been thinking a lot about this recently. This thinking is for the Good Technology Project - how can we create an institution that helps technology talent to search for and exploit new high-social-impact startup opportunities. But a lot of our thinking will generalise to working out how to help EA get better at exploration and experimentation.

Comment author: William_MacAskill 10 February 2017 07:43:48AM 4 points [-]

"On EA Ventures, points 1 and 2 seem particularly surprising when put together. You found too few exciting projects but even they had trouble generating funder interest?"

This isn't surprising if the model is just that new projects were uniformly less exciting than one might have expected: there were few projects above the bar for 'really cool project', and even they were only just above the bar, hence hard to get funding for.


Introducing the EA Funds

Update: The EA Funds has launched !  This post introduces a new project that CEA is working on, which we’re calling the Effective Altruism Funds. Some details about this idea are below. We’d really appreciate community feedback about whether this is the kind of thing they’d like to see CEA... Read More
Comment author: William_MacAskill 07 February 2017 12:06:05AM *  7 points [-]

Thanks for this. Hauke Hillebrandt has been thinking about this concept of what he calls 'mission hedging' for a while, hopefully he'll weigh in.

In my view, the most potentially compelling example of this is shorting Facebook stock. From publicly available information, it seems that the large majority of Dustin Moskowitz and Cari Tuna's wealth is still in Facebook. If Facebook were to go under (unlikely, but possible), then the large majority of explicitly EA money would disappear. Given strongly diminishing returns, if you're interested in funding the areas that Open Phil funds that have a small gap (like AI or EA community growth), you'd therefore have a much bigger impact in the world in which Facebook decreases in value.


CEA is Fundraising! (Winter 2016)

The Centre for Effective Altruism has begun its 2016 fundraising round. We’ve put together a document that summarises our activities, impact and mistakes in 2016, and plans for 2017. You can read it here (there’s an option to download it as a PDF file); we’ve also reproduced the executive summary... Read More

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