Comment author: Owen_Cotton-Barratt 25 March 2017 03:10:04PM *  5 points [-]

I think that the value of this type of work comes from: (i) making it easier for people entering the community to come up to the frontier of thought on different issues; (ii) building solid foundations for our positions, which makes it easier to go take large steps in subsequent work.

Cf. Olah & Carter's recent post on research debt.

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 27 March 2017 05:48:25PM *  0 points [-]

For what it's worth, I do agree that's where most of the value comes from, though I think the value is much lower than the value of similar empirical/bold writing, at least for this example.

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 18 March 2017 05:38:04PM 14 points [-]

While I see some value in detailing commonly-held positions like this post does, and I think this post is well-written, I want to flag my concern that it seems like a great example of a lot of effort going into creating content that nobody really disagrees with. This sort of armchair qualified writing doesn't seem to me like a very cost-effective use of EA resources, and I worry we do a lot of it, partly because it's easy to do and gets a lot of positive social reinforcement, to a much greater degree than empirical bold writing tends to get.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 30 July 2016 01:42:45AM 6 points [-]

I noticed a contrast between the framing of a couple different parts of the survey results:

[T]he median donation was $333. Certainly good, [...]

It’s clear that EA has a significant problem with gender diversity

I think it would be more reasonable to say that the median donation is a "significant problem", and the gender ratio is suboptimal but I'm not terribly concerned about it. I believe we as a movement should generally be less concerned about how many of us are men and more concerned about how much people are donating.

Certainly many people have good reason for only donating a little, but on average, I'm sure we can donate more than $333, and we should encourage ourselves to do better.

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 31 July 2016 05:26:15PM 1 point [-]

I agree with the caveat that the $333 figure is much less worrisome if it's due to a high number of student or people working for nonprofits.

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 31 January 2016 02:52:47AM 5 points [-]

The lives saved by [sic] AMD occur early in life, so AMF saves about 60 QALYs per life.

I'm not sure why people use this estimate, given that the effect of anti-malarial nets is primarily on avoiding the disease itself, the grief of family members, economic costs, and other downsides of having malaria, rather than on creating more years of happy life. This is because population tends to adjust for the death rate, i.e. "I think the best interpretation of the available evidence is that the impact of life-saving interventions on fertility and population growth varies by context, above all with total fertility, and is rarely greater than 1:1."

http://davidroodman.com/blog/2014/04/16/the-mortality-fertility-link/

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 05 June 2016 11:20:59AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: redmoonsoaring 10 May 2016 03:35:48AM *  7 points [-]

I think the difference in cost per pledge could also be from a large number of existing vegetarians who just wanted the additional information. Also the former vegetarians probably consumed fewer animal foods, which would make converting one to vegetarianism less impactful.

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 31 January 2016 02:52:47AM 5 points [-]

The lives saved by [sic] AMD occur early in life, so AMF saves about 60 QALYs per life.

I'm not sure why people use this estimate, given that the effect of anti-malarial nets is primarily on avoiding the disease itself, the grief of family members, economic costs, and other downsides of having malaria, rather than on creating more years of happy life. This is because population tends to adjust for the death rate, i.e. "I think the best interpretation of the available evidence is that the impact of life-saving interventions on fertility and population growth varies by context, above all with total fertility, and is rarely greater than 1:1."

http://davidroodman.com/blog/2014/04/16/the-mortality-fertility-link/

Comment author: Stefan_Schubert 24 January 2016 02:30:06PM 2 points [-]

The post arguing that EA should be "elitist" got lots of upvotes, even though it presumably belongs in the latter category.

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 25 January 2016 06:46:58PM 1 point [-]

I'd say it belongs in the former because it strongly "flatters a large share of readers." Namely, by saying they are better than most other people =P Of course, that's a controversial form of flattering, which is why the 79% upvote makes sense.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 11 December 2015 05:54:36PM 2 points [-]

The EA community could be extraordinarily valuable in the future

The term ‘Effective Altruism’ has only existed for around four years and was popularized two and a half years ago. In a short time, the EA community has accomplished a tremendous amount of good. So far we’ve built a community of thousands, donated millions of dollars to effective charities saving thousands of lives, pledged billions of dollars in future support and have attracted some of the most influential people in the world.

If we project into the future this trend may continue or even accelerate. We may develop more insights into how to do good in the world and we may attract increasingly more influential people.

If this claim were false, a plausible reason would be that the beneficiaries of the movement are different from the people in the movement. Traditionally, social movements include people who directly benefit if the movement succeeds. This is true of the civil rights movement, feminism, the disability rights movement, Marxism and many others. The EA movement currently benefits the poorest people in the world, non-human animals and future people. It could be that a social movement that is not focused on benefiting those in the movement cannot succeed.

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 11 December 2015 09:04:00PM 7 points [-]

Another reason this claim could be false (which seems more worrisome to me):

Most of the effective altruism movement's success to date has involved helping people already inspired to do good effectively to do it somewhat better, especially by providing a community for them. On Facebook, polls have shown most current EAs immediately latched onto the idea, sought it out on their own, and/or were already working to do the most good.

We have a fairly limited track record of convincing people to do EA things when they weren't otherwise going to do anything close. It's possible that EA just is a very hard thing to get many more people involved with beyond the low-hanging fruit we've already captured or would capture without additional resources put into outreach.

Comment author: satvikberi 19 May 2015 09:05:19PM *  15 points [-]

To play devil's advocate (these don't actually represent my beliefs):

I can’t remember any EA orgs failing to reach a fundraising target.

This doesn't necessarily mean much, because fundraising targets have a lot to do with how much money EA orgs believe they can raise.

Open Phil has recently posted about an org they wish existed but doesn’t and funder-initiated startups.

It's pretty hard to get funding for a new organization, e.g. Spencer and I put a lot of effort into it without much success. The general problem I see is a lack of "angel investing" or its equivalent–the idea of putting money into small, experimental organizations and funding them further as they grow. (As a counter-counterpoint, EA Ventures seems well poised to function as an angel investor in the nonprofit world.)

Also, to address the general point that EA is talent-constrained, the problem might be that there are very few people with the skills needed, and more funding can be used to train people, like MIRI is doing with the summer fellows program. In that case earning to give is still a good solution to the talent constraint.

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 20 May 2015 01:04:06AM *  5 points [-]

It's pretty hard to get funding for a new organization, e.g. Spencer and I put a lot of effort into it without much success. The general problem I see is a lack of "angel investing" or its equivalent–the idea of putting money into small, experimental organizations and funding them further as they grow.

I agree with this. Moreover, I think there's a serious lack of funding in the 'fringe' areas of EA like biosecurity, systemic change in global poverty, rationality training, animal rights, or personal development. These areas arguably have the greatest impact, but it's difficult to attract the major funders.

For example, I think the Swiss EA groups are quite funding-constrained, but they aren't well-known to the major funders and movement-building lacks robust evidence.

Comment author: Tom_Ash  (EA Profile) 17 May 2015 07:23:14AM 0 points [-]

I'd love to believe that, but that source doesn't seem very reliable or persuasive (one small point: aren't the %s it cites significant overestimates?) Do you have other evidence for it? And do you disagree that suggestions that meat is murder and people are morally obliged to stop eating it provoke massive defensiveness and opposition?

Comment author: redmoonsoaring 17 May 2015 06:25:06PM *  0 points [-]

Just to be clear, my comment was disagreeing with this claim:

In addition, veg*nism is associated with strong negative judgements of people.

But to your questions, there's not very robust evidence in either direction that I know of. And I think there's an important distinction between defensiveness and negativity. An example to illustrate this is military service. Most people think highly of military people, but would react with great defensiveness if you suggested they had a moral obligation to join the military. If veganism is similar, then we might expect that people would be excited about a high number of military people in EA but would only become defensive if you brought it up as a moral obligation.

More importantly, however, EA brings up a lot of moral obligations. I mean, donating 10% of your income is pretty widespread, as is being willing to reject your current altruistic endeavors if they're ineffective. I rarely see anyone in EA bring up concerns about these things being offputting, but it comes up almost every time veg*nism is discussed. I think this is an example of motivated reasoning.

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