Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 06 June 2018 11:41:17PM 11 points [-]

I’m really curious which description of EA you used in your study, could you post that here? What kind of attitudes towards EA did you ask about?

+1. There's a big gap, I'd guess, between "your dollar goes further overseas" and "we must reduce risk from runaway AI".

while many more people than now might agree with EA ideas, fewer of them will find the lived practice and community to be a good fit. I think that’s a pretty unfortunate historical lock in

Serious question: Could we start a new one?

Comment author: arikagan 07 June 2018 03:14:04PM 5 points [-]

As Nick said, it would be wonderful to see follow-up studies here that try to flesh out these different aspects. We don't think we're covering everything in EA (although the description Nick posted below is from effectivealtruism.org, so it seemed like a decent first attempt). But that certainly seems correct, you could have very different answers to "who likes extreme altruism", "who likes AI safety", etc.

The community question is particularly interesting one because it might be more of a historical artifact than a necessary trait of the movement. There could be people who would be a perfect fit for ideas of EA (however defined: x-risk, donating 50%, etc), but still might not like the current community. How to actually deal with that finding would be a different question, but it seems like that would be worth knowing.

Comment author: SiebeRozendal 07 June 2018 10:10:53AM 0 points [-]

I really admire that you did a study about this, but I think that this study shows much less than you claim to. First of all, you studied support for effective giving (EG), which is different from effective altruism as a whole. I would suspect at least the following three factors to really be different between EG and EA:

  • Support for cause impartiality, both moral impartiality (measuring each being according to their innate characteristics like sentience or intelligence, rather than personal closeness) and means impartiality (being indifferent between different means to an end, e.g. donating money or choosing a career with direct impact
  • Dedication. I believe that making career changes or pledging at least 10% of your income to donate is quite a high bar and much fewer people would be inclined to that.
  • Involvement in the community. As you wrote the community is quite idiosyncratic. Openness to (some of) its ideas does not imply people will like the movement.

Of course, not all of this implies that the study is worthless, that getting people to donate their 1 or 2% more effectively is useless, or that we shouldn't try to make the movement more diverse and welcoming (if this can be done without compromising core values such as epistemic rigor). I think there is a debate to be held how to differentiate effective giving from EA as a whole, so that we can decide whether or not to promote effective giving seperately and if so, how.

Comment author: arikagan 07 June 2018 02:58:56PM *  3 points [-]

Thanks Siebe - while I certainly agree that we don't take the most extreme form of effective altruism, I don't think it's actually as focused on narrow Effective Giving as you suggest. We used that language in the original write up because we wanted it to be accessible to a non EA audience. But if you look at the language of the actual description (Nick posted it above), we took that from effectivealtruism.org, and it actually focuses pretty broadly on trying to do good, not just on donating.

But as we mention, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg, I don't think this research is at all the end of the story. We've been working on a follow-up study that includes cause neutrality, but it would be great to see people study similar questions on more extreme forms of effective altruism, and maybe even include an element of the community.

Comment author: arikagan 06 June 2018 06:31:20PM 1 point [-]

I really like the approach behind this post - too often EAs are hesitant to think about ways we can make use of our own psychology for pursuing altruism. It appears to some EAs that tricks like donating to a cause area (to avoid identifying too strongly in opposition to it) should not be part of a rationalist's toolkit. But accepting that we are all biased, and doing what we can to overcome those biases in favor of what we would rationally, reflectively endorse as the unbiased viewpoint, can only help us increase our effectiveness in pursuing our altruistic goals.

Comment author: arikagan 06 June 2018 06:22:08PM 8 points [-]

Very nice - I've had people ask me before how to make a charity more effective, and it's always been somewhat uncomfortable to have to say that EA focuses more attention on evaluating the existing effectiveness of charities than on trying to help charities to become more effective. But this is one step better than just helping existing charities to become more effective, this is creating effective charities from the ground up. Bravo.

Comment author: arikagan 06 June 2018 01:09:29AM 3 points [-]

This is terrific - thanks for taking steps to make this a reality! Excited to see what wonderful things come out of the people who are staying there.

Comment author: Jamie_Harris 20 March 2018 11:14:32PM 3 points [-]

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: arikagan 06 June 2018 01:06:38AM 1 point [-]

I'd agree with being hesitant to distinguish definitions of EA for "academic" and "outreach" purposes. It seems like that's asking for someone to use the wrong definition in the wrong context.

Comment author: Chosh 28 April 2018 03:59:32PM 1 point [-]

For the (bonus) question on comparing impact of an "average" charity with the best one, it would probably be worth specifying whether we mean mean or median, as I know some people here expect (I think myself included) a very significant difference between mean and median.

Comment author: arikagan 06 June 2018 12:57:36AM 1 point [-]

It could also be useful to specify a few other things about the question, such as whether charities saving future lives are legitimate to include in the calculation and whether the language about helping the world's poorest people was specifically intending to restrict the set to global poverty charities.