Comment author: vollmer 13 November 2017 09:38:31PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for sharing!

Do you have recommendations for tools to manage reading lists? Especially doing the things that you describe in your flowchart (list types/categories/tags, dragging items around and reordering them, etc.). Mobile apps would be a plus. I've experimented with several tools (e.g. Pocket / Instapaper) but will probably stick with Google Docs / Evernote.

Comment author: Tee 30 August 2017 03:54:52PM 0 points [-]

I don't think there is a difference between a moral duty and an obligation.

I'm not entirely sure that I would agree with this. I'm supposed to be publishing more survey content on the Forum at the moment, so parsing this out may have to wait, but obligation to me feels relatively more guilt-driven, and being duty-bound seems to invoke a more diverse set of internal and external pressures

At any rate, if it's not clear here, it's certainly not good as a survey question.

In 2015, there were more than 2000 respondents, right? Does this mean EA is getting smaller??

Could be! May also be indicative of year-on-year survey fatigue though. We'll be revamping the survey for 2018 to make it a better experience in general

Comment author: vollmer 20 September 2017 02:03:02PM 1 point [-]

As a non-native speaker, I find it particularly difficult to understand the difference between "moral duty" and "obligation". And I've travelled in the US for half a year and have taken some extra English classes, so I'd expect that many/most other non-native speakers won't see any difference between the terms.

Comment author: vollmer 12 August 2017 05:09:03PM 1 point [-]

This paper by Butera and Houser (2016) seems relevant and interesting (emphasis mine):

Philanthropy, and particularly ensuring that one’s giving is effective, can require substantial time and effort. One way to reduce these costs, and thus encourage greater giving, could be to encourage delegation of giving decisions to better-informed others. At the same time, because it involves a loss of agency, delegating these decisions may produce less warm-glow and thus reduce one’s charitable impulse. Unfortunately, the importance of agency in charitable decisions remains largely unexplored. In this paper, using a laboratory experiment with real donations, we shed light on this issue. Our main finding is that agency, while it does correlate with self-reported warm-glow, nevertheless seems to play a small role in encouraging giving. In particular, people do not reduce donations when giving decisions are made by algorithms that guarantee efficient recipients but limit donors’ control over giving allocations. Moreover, we find participating in giving groups − a weaker form of delegation − is also effective in that they are appealing to donors who would not otherwise make informed donations, and thus improves overall effective giving. Our results suggest that one path to promoting effective giving may be to create institutions that facilitate delegated generosity.

In response to EA Funds Beta Launch
Comment author: vollmer 12 August 2017 05:08:41PM 0 points [-]

This paper by Butera and Houser (2016) seems relevant and interesting (emphasis mine):

Philanthropy, and particularly ensuring that one’s giving is effective, can require substantial time and effort. One way to reduce these costs, and thus encourage greater giving, could be to encourage delegation of giving decisions to better-informed others. At the same time, because it involves a loss of agency, delegating these decisions may produce less warm-glow and thus reduce one’s charitable impulse. Unfortunately, the importance of agency in charitable decisions remains largely unexplored. In this paper, using a laboratory experiment with real donations, we shed light on this issue. Our main finding is that agency, while it does correlate with self-reported warm-glow, nevertheless seems to play a small role in encouraging giving. In particular, people do not reduce donations when giving decisions are made by algorithms that guarantee efficient recipients but limit donors’ control over giving allocations. Moreover, we find participating in giving groups − a weaker form of delegation − is also effective in that they are appealing to donors who would not otherwise make informed donations, and thus improves overall effective giving. Our results suggest that one path to promoting effective giving may be to create institutions that facilitate delegated generosity.

Comment author: vollmer 25 April 2017 07:13:40AM *  10 points [-]

Some of those charities are developed-world charities and would likely be seen as ineffective by most EAs. However, he might not give to those charities if he was running an EA Fund (similar to how many GiveWell staff are donating to charities not recommended by GiveWell), or maybe multiple people could run the fund together.

One thing I like about Blattman's work is that he has done a lot of research on armed conflict and violence and how to prevent it (with high-quality RCTs). This area seems to be very neglected in EA:

http://www.poverty-action.org/study/peace-education-rural-liberia

http://www.poverty-action.org/study/ex-combatant-reintegration-liberia

EAs seem to focus on health most of the time (e.g. Charity Entrepreneurship almost exclusively evaluated health programs). There are lots of good reasons for focusing on health, and maybe the goal of EA is not to find all the best charities/programs but only some of them such that there's enough RFMF for the EA community as a whole. However, I'm skeptical and still think non-health approaches are very neglected in EA because:

1) There has been hardly any analysis of other program areas (e.g. so far I haven't seen any kind of back-of-the-envelope analysis focusing on peace and security, nor any kind of "fact post" on the EA forum, nor anything similar),

2) there might be a lot of additional funding available for such alternative approaches (by donors who tend to be more skeptical of GiveWell's health focus, or by donors whose funds are restricted in some way),

3) it would demonstrate to the outside world that EAs are really doing their homework instead of being easily satisfied with some easy-to-measure approaches, and this might accelerate EA movement growth and strengthen its impact and credibility in society at large (which could also increase total funding for top charities).

For these reasons, I would very much like someone like Chris Blattman to be involved with the EA Funds in some way (maybe not as a fund manager). Or some external review of GiveWell's work by someone like Blattman.

EDIT: Actually Open Phil wrote a bit about aid in fragile contexts: http://www.openphilanthropy.org/research/cause-reports/fragile-states

Comment author: vollmer 20 June 2017 01:59:38PM *  0 points [-]

I left a similar comment in GiveWell's June 2017 open thread – let's see what they say:

http://blog.givewell.org/2017/06/15/june-2017-open-thread/#comment-943609

Comment author: vollmer 12 June 2017 12:06:19PM 2 points [-]

Important follow-up to this post: Supportive scepticism in practice

Comment author: vollmer 11 May 2017 07:30:20PM *  5 points [-]

I agree with those concerns.

In addition, some people might perceive the "guide dogs vs. trachoma surgeries" example as ableist, or might think that EAs are suggesting that governments spend less on handicapped people and more on foreign aid. (This is a particularly significant issue in Germany, where there have been lots of protests by disability rights advocates against Singer, also more recently when he gave talks about EA.)

In fact, one of the top google hits for "guide dog vs trachoma surgery" is this:

The philosopher says funding should go toward prevention instead of guide-dog training. Activists for the blind, of course, disagree.

For these reasons, I suggest not using the guide dog example at all anymore.

The above article also makes the following, interesting point:

Many people are able to function in society at a much higher level than ever before because of service dogs and therapy dogs. You would think that’s a level of utility that would appeal to Singer, but he seems to have a blind spot of his own in that respect.

This suggests that both guide dogs and trachoma surgeries cause significant flow-through effects. All of these points combined might decrease the effectiveness difference from 1000x to something around 5x-50x (see also Why Charities Don't Differ Astronomically in Cost-Effectiveness).

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 25 April 2017 04:44:56AM *  3 points [-]

Another thing that would be encouraging would be if at least one of the Funds were not administered entirely by an Open Philanthropy Project staffer, and ideally an expert who doesn't benefit from the halo of "being an EA." For instance, Chris Blattman is a development economist with experience designing programs that don't just use but generate evidence on what works.

Chris Blattman has put together some of his principles on giving and says he personally ranks GiveDirectly #1, but otherwise believes the "means and end to human well being is good government and political rights and freedoms" and therefore gives to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Democratic National Committee, Planned Parenthood, the National Immigration Law Center, and the International Rescue Committee.

Comment author: vollmer 25 April 2017 07:13:40AM *  10 points [-]

Some of those charities are developed-world charities and would likely be seen as ineffective by most EAs. However, he might not give to those charities if he was running an EA Fund (similar to how many GiveWell staff are donating to charities not recommended by GiveWell), or maybe multiple people could run the fund together.

One thing I like about Blattman's work is that he has done a lot of research on armed conflict and violence and how to prevent it (with high-quality RCTs). This area seems to be very neglected in EA:

http://www.poverty-action.org/study/peace-education-rural-liberia

http://www.poverty-action.org/study/ex-combatant-reintegration-liberia

EAs seem to focus on health most of the time (e.g. Charity Entrepreneurship almost exclusively evaluated health programs). There are lots of good reasons for focusing on health, and maybe the goal of EA is not to find all the best charities/programs but only some of them such that there's enough RFMF for the EA community as a whole. However, I'm skeptical and still think non-health approaches are very neglected in EA because:

1) There has been hardly any analysis of other program areas (e.g. so far I haven't seen any kind of back-of-the-envelope analysis focusing on peace and security, nor any kind of "fact post" on the EA forum, nor anything similar),

2) there might be a lot of additional funding available for such alternative approaches (by donors who tend to be more skeptical of GiveWell's health focus, or by donors whose funds are restricted in some way),

3) it would demonstrate to the outside world that EAs are really doing their homework instead of being easily satisfied with some easy-to-measure approaches, and this might accelerate EA movement growth and strengthen its impact and credibility in society at large (which could also increase total funding for top charities).

For these reasons, I would very much like someone like Chris Blattman to be involved with the EA Funds in some way (maybe not as a fund manager). Or some external review of GiveWell's work by someone like Blattman.

EDIT: Actually Open Phil wrote a bit about aid in fragile contexts: http://www.openphilanthropy.org/research/cause-reports/fragile-states

Comment author: vollmer 21 April 2017 10:05:23AM *  6 points [-]

What percentage of funds was raised from people who are part of the EA community / identify as EAs, and what percentage of funds from people outside the community (e.g. Hacker News)?

(The launch post said that you'll be "seeing how the concept is received outside of the EA community" so it would be nice to learn about that, too.)

Comment author: vollmer 06 February 2017 01:11:44PM *  3 points [-]

GiveWell has made several big research-related grants, e.g. a $2M grant to IDinsight, part of which funds impact evaluations (which probably includes RCTs): http://www.givewell.org/charities/IDinsight/june-2016-grant

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