Comment author: jamie_cassidy 02 December 2017 02:01:41PM 1 point [-]

Very interesting and I like the central point that cash transfers aren't an automatic win and are therefore worth studying, which I hadn't considered to the same extent before. On the education stuff, it seems like a lot of these problems could be solved if jobs were allocated based on the results of a standardized exam rather than years of schooling or some similar metric. I'm not talking about one run by schools, because it's likely the process wouldn't be trustworthy, I'm talking about when you advertise a job that requires reading, writing, or filing skills, you test for these skills with a written exam. Encouraging governments and other large employers to act in this way would surely encourage students (and parents) to actually learn rather than simply attend school as a box-ticking exercise.

Comment author: jserv 01 December 2017 05:44:42PM *  1 point [-]

Thanks for sharing this. As a previous volunteer I understand where you're coming from completely. Unfortunately the scene you described in the woman's house is one that occurs even in the United Kingdom. The conversation you had with the site visitor is quite moving, if you remember anything more specific about her answers I'd be interested to read them.

I have been doing some research on volunteer programmes, especially those that take volunteers abroad and the 'voluntourism' industry. Like Liam, I'm wondering if there is scope for EA to compile a list of the more effective volunteer organisations.

From what I can tell, the key difference seems to be in whether the charity is searching specifically for volunteers with skills that are not locally available.

I am considering taking a voluntary placement with VSO in 2018, one that I have selected for its emphasis on skills and anti-poverty goals. Any other recommendations or comments would be very welcome.

Comment author: jamie_cassidy 01 December 2017 11:04:45PM 1 point [-]

I want to be careful not to put words in her mouth here, as it's been a while now, but I can share more detail on what I took out of the conversation. Basically, to have any large impact you need to change the whole chain of events rather than focus on one particular area. Taking an extreme example, consider a mining town in Britain in the 19th century, where after primary school, working class children go to work in the mines and remain there for the rest of their lives. Improving the standard of primary education they achieve will have very little direct impact on their lives, if they still end up with the same probability of ending up in the mines. This is an extreme example, and I imagine that some (more) of the kids in the schools we contributed will progress further in education and employment. Even for those that don't, it's likely better reading and writing skills will stand to them over the course of their lives. Still, there is a reality here that needs to be faced, there were 3 young girls who spoke at the 'closing ceremony', thanking us deeply for helping them in their dream of becoming doctors, which all 3 of them were determined to do and confident they would achieve. However, from speaking to this lady it seems very unlikely that any of these three most promising students from the school will actually make it all the way through university and medical school.

Comment author: Liam_Donovan 25 November 2017 03:08:57PM 0 points [-]

Are there, in fact, any such trips organized by EA charities?

Comment author: jamie_cassidy 01 December 2017 10:50:45PM 1 point [-]

Not that I'm aware, although I do remember reading that Philipp Gruissem went to Uganda, and the Givewell guys have been on site visits. I imagine that if you are a frequent or large donor one of them would facilitate, but it would be interesting to explore an organised EA trip.

Comment author: Kieranhammmond20 24 November 2017 10:46:30AM *  4 points [-]

Thanks for this, I found it interesting. Many of your experiences resonate with mine, in charge of a charitable organisation dealing with many volunteers whose motivations seemed unclear or dubious. I found it difficult to convert people to effective donating or to get them excited about effective altruism, even though those I was working with were highly intelligent, rational and mostly vibrant people.

There is certainly something to be said for trying to influence charities towards more effective interventions, rather than focusing on cause prioritisation. Often charities don't focus on this simply because they lack the tools to measure the effectiveness of interventions, not because they lack resources, have a narrow mission statement or don't think that impact is important. At the moment, I am working on a project to automate randomised control trials to make them more affordable for charities wanting to evaluate their impact in a more rigorous way.

Overall I think the realist perspective you have outlined here quite refreshing. Charities do, and will continue to, work in areas that are not typically regarded as the most impactful by EA organisations. People are, and will continue to be, motivated strongly by their emotions. What can we do within those parameters to make things more effective?

Comment author: jamie_cassidy 01 December 2017 10:46:05PM 0 points [-]

As you say, people are and will be driven by emotion for the forseeable future. Therefore there will always be demand to give to charities which cater to this need, so their will always be charities that target relatively ineffective solutions. Within that though, I think charities understand that they have some scope for discretion as to how exactly to spend their budget. I'd be hopeful by nudging the right people at the right time, and by making EA a thing that people have heard about, we can have a positive impact on effectiveness.


Volunteering for a non-EA charity - a write up

This is long, so first paragraph is an abstract. I did a week of volunteering for a non-EA charity, mainly for personal reasons. I was glad I did it as I found it a worthwhile experience and I hope that seeing poverty first hand will further motivate me while earning... Read More
Comment author: jamie_cassidy 25 February 2017 07:19:05AM 1 point [-]

The idea of trying to come up with a minimum level of giving to fulfill your moral obligation is a nice one, and one Singer tries to address in his 'Life You Can Save Pledge by varying the % of donation with income. However, you are going to need a lot more logical rigour when attempting to construct a framework.There is no direct logical link between point 6. and the previous points, which you seem to be framing as the assumptions required to reach your conclusion.

I would also ask you to question your assumptions. Consider for example assumption 1; some people find it extremely onerous to live a frugal lifestyle, while others find it onerous to work long hours or in stressful jobs. Imagine you have a job where you can always choose to work over-time. I would argue that if you choose to work 60 hours a week, spend more than you need to on yourself, (multiple vehicles etc.) and donate $2k a month to charity then that is certainly no worse than choosing to work 40 hours a week and donating $1.5k a month. While I generally find truth in the idea that those with more disposable income have a greater relative obligation to help others, I see nothing inherently wrong with living well.

In response to Why I left EA
Comment author: jamie_cassidy 20 February 2017 12:39:03PM *  3 points [-]

Every so often this sort of thing happens to me - deep down I wonder if philosophy is much more interesting than it is useful! As you say I think trying to get a human (ie myself) to figure out how they make decisions and then act in a fully rational manner is a task that's too difficult, or at least too for me.

However, what I come back to is that I don't need to make things complicated to believe that donating to AMF or GiveDirectly is fundamentally a worthwhile activity.

Comment author: jamie_cassidy 19 February 2017 08:06:00AM *  3 points [-]

I like the pledge in it's current form and I think it strikes an excellent balance. However, I'm a little uncomfortable with the GWWC Pledge 'Drive' in it's current form.

I like the analogy of marriage that you've used above Julia, but I this further clarifies to me something that the Pledge is a very serious, long-term decision. Such decisions require a lot of thought and planning and the specifics of an individual's situation are important, and even then they don't always work out, particularly if taken at a young age. As such, I worry it is inappropriate to actively encourage a person to take such a decision, particularly in a short time frame. I would prefer to see advocacy focus initially on getting people excited about the concepts of EA, doing their own reading etc. Once they've decided they want to participate by donating, I think the GWWC website is a great resource and encouraging people to sign up for the 'Try Giving' section is good too because it seems like a really useful tool to track your giving and make sure you hold yourself accountable to the actions you believe to be correct. Hopefully, this will eventually lead to many of them making their own decision to take the Pledge in their own time.

Let's say the focus of the Drive switched from new 'Pledges' to new 'Try Givers'. It seems likely to me that each of these Try Givers will take the Pledge in their own time or they'll realize the commitment was too much for them and not take it. In the case of the former, the outcome of switching is the same. In the case of the latter, it's likely that these people would have regretted taking the Pledge pre-maturely and likely will default on it at some stage. Perhaps guilt will lead them to donate more or try harder to stick with it, but I'm not sure that's really a winning outcome.

Comment author: jamie_cassidy 18 February 2017 02:24:11PM *  2 points [-]

A very interesting piece, my initial reaction to GiveWell's splitting approach was similar to yours. Via the comments in that Dec 15 blogpost on the GiveWell website we narrowed the point of disagreement between myself and Holden to the effectiveness of Good Ventures' future giving opportunities.

At some time GV hope to (and I believe will) have made themselves experts in donation, having much more information than they do now about how to give best. However, given the pace at which the world is improving through economic growth and the impact of other charitable donations, I am concerned/hopeful that there will not be such low hanging fruit as exists and has been identified by GW right now. However, I also believe the people within GW/GV/OPP have considered this and have more information than me to make the decision. Still, until convinced I remain in the belief that GV should look to contribute Z - Y to GW's top charities, where Z is the total room for more funding (in the top 5 categories of priority) and Y is the total expected amount from other donors.

Holden, to put it your terms I agree with your 'broad market efficiency' assumption, and I don't doubt your ability to be able to beat the market in time given the work you are putting in. However, I do believe that the market rate of return changes over time. As more competing capital flows in to Effective Altruism and the number of opportunities to cheaply saves lives diminish, the market rate is likely to be lowered dramatically. Therefore, you could end up dramatically beating the market in a number of years time, and still end up with a rate of effectiveness which is lower than the current market rate.

Ben, to point 2) I would echo what Holden says and add the following: Aside from the direct impact GiveWell has by influencing donations in the short term, I think it is also adding a huge amount of value by the way it is changing the whole way in which people think about philanthropy and charitable donation. The most important thing Good Ventures can do for GiveWell is provide it with a stable funding base and positive signalling, by donating large amounts to the top rated charities. This I think is an excellent argument for GV's current approach even if they believe they will have better opportunities to give in future, comparing purely on direct impact.

Comment author: AGB 13 December 2015 08:31:24PM 7 points [-]

I'm also pretty sceptical about our ability to expand beyond our 'core constituency' of people who were basically on board in advance. But it's worth noting that that constituency would be many times larger than what we currently have; looking at differences in participation between relatively similar countries (e.g. England versus France) or very similar universities (e.g. Cambridge versus Imperial) really highlights this.

Comment author: jamie_cassidy 14 December 2015 09:38:23PM 0 points [-]

While it's likely true that many people are currently beyond convincing, a movement has to start somewhere if it's ever going to become mainstream. This was true for the abolition of slavery early in the 19th century, women's suffrage in the early 20th century and to some extent gay marriage in the recent past. One reasonable explanation for this is that older people are much more difficult to convince than those who are still in their formative years. So while there will be many > 30 who will be drawn immediately to the movement, it is likely that broader success will be slower. It's also unlikely that it will simply happen, but with perseverance from those within the movement, outreach focused in the right areas, and the passage of time, Effect Altruism will hopefully some day become a social norm.

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