EA Blogging Carnival: My Cause Selection

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Recently I have talked to a few people about the importance of publicly discussing cause selection, and we agreed that we generally don't do it enough. So I've decided to host September's EA blogging carnival with the topic "My Cause Selection." Write a post (on the EA forum or on your own blog) explaining which cause you currently believe is best and why. If you're confused about which is best (I know I am), explain the strengths and weaknesses of the causes you think might be the best. If you want, discuss your thinking on other causes that you think are promising, or that are popular in EA but you don't think are promising. You should write in sufficient detail that readers have a good understanding of why you support the cause(s) you do.

If you post on the EA forum, please use the title "My Cause Selection: <Your name or username>", and tag your post with "my-cause-selection". If you post outside the EA forum, please write a comment here with a link to your post.

You can structure your post however you like, but if you want an idea of what you could do, this is how I'm structuring mine. I explain what I value and some general considerations, and then list out every major cause area I think is plausibly the best (which includes malaria nets, deworming, animal advocacy, research on animal advocacy, AI safety, and a few others). I explain what I see as the strengths and weaknesses of each cause area and then weigh them against each other.

It's not September yet, but this is a big topic, so we could use the extra couple of weeks. Feel free to publish before September starts. Happy blogging!

20 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 7:51 AM
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Peter Hurford and I have planned to write a defence of global poverty as a cause for over a year now. All we have so far are a dozen or so conversations and my notes from representing this perspective at the cause selection debate at the 2013 CEA weekend away. So I'm posting this comment to increase the pressure on us to get it done by the end of September! And also to see if anyone else would like to contribute to it: if so, I've created a publicly editable Google doc for drafting this and contributing notes and suggestions (open to all, but a work-in-progress draft, not something we'd want to widely publish).

Public admission of failure:

My attempt at self-imposed pressure didn't work - Peter and I have once again not had time to write our defence. Since I'm the one who imposed the pressure with the above comment, I'm the one who should have egg on my face, not him. Perhaps given another year we'll be able to get it done. ;)

Beeminder instead?

Heh. I think this was a case of reasonable prioritisation rather than weakness of the will, so I'm not sure I want to put a lot of money on the line. However, Peter and I do plan to free up enough time to get it done by the end of the year somehow.

Note to others: just because Tom and Peter plan to write a defense of prioritizing global poverty doesn't mean you don't need to, can't, or shouldn't write your own defense of the same cause if it's the one you favor as well. More publishing of cause selection rationale can only lead to a more robust defense of that cause! Even if you inadvertently make some of the same points Tom and Peter do, you'll probably phrase or put them differently, and having different angles on the same premise can help a wider diversity intuit its validity better.

Very much looking forward to the full write-up, Tom!

Can't wait. I drifted from global poverty toward animal activism but am rife for reconsidering!

I might contribute to it. I don't prioritize global poverty as a cause right now, but I don't prioritize any cause. I'm very uncertain, but it's more "every opportunity seems so good" rather than "so bad". That doesn't mean I can't help out, learn more, and maybe speed up my prioritization process by getting these essays up faster. This offer to help edit or draft extends to anyone.

Should the authors of these posts restrict themselves to cause selection or can they go so far as to select specific interventions and charities?

Because often I prioritize a cause lower if I have no idea what charity might be doing effective work in that area and suspect that the effectiveness of interventions varies widely.

Good question! You should totally talk about specific interventions as well. If you think a cause area looks promising but you don't see any good giving opportunities, definitely mention that in your writeup.

Will do. Thanks.

Michael's goal is to get as many people as they can to post these as we can, so I think the criteria are as loose as you need them to be get the essay up. I myself might write my own essay not talking about which cause I've already selected, but the bottlenecks and major questions, plus best strengths, of the causes I can't pick between, and then ask readers for help answering my remaining questions.

Perfect. My post if halfway done, but I’ll need some more information from ACE and then I’ll need some more time as well. I might only be able to finish it in September. Good luck with yours!

What info do you need from ACE? I can help you source it if you like. The best person I can think of to direct requests for info form ACE to for this purpose is Jacy Anthis.

I found the information this morning in their online ad impact calculator spreadsheet. I needed the quantitative estimate broken down by species to determine the years of life saved. Not only do I now have that breakdown, the spreadsheet even contained the life spans too!

But I’ll have EA speeches and fundraising the next two weekends, so it’ll still take a while longer.

There is some relevant discussion on the Cause Prioritization Discussion Group.

FYI for everybody: you can browse articles by tag by going to effective-altruism.com/tag/tag-name, or by clicking on article navigation and then the tag or the arrows.

I think someone was also planning to organize links to the posts in a single article for easy reference, probably towards the end of the event!

Yes I was going to do that.

Great idea, that's what's happened at the end of past blogging carnivals here.