Open and Welcome Thread: September 2020

by Aaron Gertler1 min read1st Sep 20209 comments


Open Thread

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Something that I haven't seen discussed in EA circles is the potential East African Federation. This is the idea of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan forming a unified country. These are the countries of the East African Community, which to my untrained eye seems to have already made some impactful steps to further economic integration. The Wikipedia page for the Federation says:

In September 2018, a committee was formed to begin the process of drafting a regional constitution, and a draft constitution for the confederation is set to be written by 2021, with implementation of the confederacy by 2023.

I don't know how likely this is to happen. That being said, if it did happen, it seems to me that this would potentially be a big deal regarding poverty alleviation and economic development in that part of the world. As such, I'd imagine it's worth some people's time to forecast whether or not it will happen, and think about ways to influence (a) whether or not it does happen, and (b) the outcome - for example, by providing expertise in constitutional construction. That being said, I don't follow the global poverty space in EA very much, so I could be missing detailed discussion, or background knowledge that this doesn't really matter.

Epistemic status: former geopolitical analyst focused on East Africa (for 2 years), but haven't kept myself much informed in the last 4 years and haven't read anything about the East Africa Federation.

I would have very little hope in this (estimate: < 1% chance of a federation with all of these countries being formed in the coming 25 years). Many (all?) of these countries have disputes of power along ethnic lines, so the idea of relinquishing power towards a supranational government seems very unlikely to me. E.g., South Sudan can barely form a government for its own country, so the idea of joining a federation seems hopeless.

I would find it more relevant to simply foster economic growth among the East Africa Community, or to work on improving governance within each of these countries (except perhaps Rwanda, which instead can work on securing good governance once President Kagame leaves power).

Happy to further detail my views or discuss this in more depth with anyone interested :)

For reference, the population of the Federation would be ~180 million, less than Nigeria but well over Egypt, Ethiopia, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while the largest constituent state, Tanzania, has a population of ~60 million.

Hi All! I have been following the community from a distance for a while, but I am slowly getting more acquainted. Looking forward to going through the Motivation Series and learning more about ongoing discussions in the community.

At the moment, I am especially interested in the problem of growing impact-oriented thinking as a whole, especially ways that could possibly reach outside of the existing EA community. I am excited about a future where the kinds of discussions that are occurring here are being had in more contexts and are an integral part of our communal thinking. Please reach out to me if there are any efforts in that space or if you share my interest!

Hi everyone!

I wanted to ask if you could help me with something, or point me in the right direction. I teach economics at an international school. We have about two dozen different student-led charities in the high school section. I pitched an idea to start an after-school activity based on the study of effective altruism. I got the response that it may be a possibility for next year, but this year they wanted me to introduce all the existing charities to some of the principles of effective altruism. I am struggling to come up with good material and discussion topics for the 30-45 minutes that I am allocated. Do you have any suggestions?

I wanted something that examines important concepts in effective giving, such as marginal benefits vs marginal costs, neglected causes, examples of ineffective vs effective charities, scaling, solvability, crowding, etc, through easy to understand examples. If it is interactive (polling, questions, etc) it would be even better. I planned on letting the students prepare for the meeting by watching the TED-talk by William McAskill about the most important problems. I may also give them a few pages to read from his book afterwards. I wanted to deal with career choices at a later meeting, and have this one focus on having them think critically about the focus and methods of their respective charities.

Any ideas?



Hi, I am new here, and a complex systems scientist looking at solving humanity's and Earth's large-scale issues. I would ask that as you are an economist, pls don't forget to discuss opportunity cost, as well as externalities and intangibles ( which require more research on metrics), to help ppl reframe the issues and their mindset. Also, for future researchers, the research itself that remains undone in establishing standards and metrics is critical. Things like ecosystem services are still under a banner of "invisibles " for most ppl, yet maintaining this core infrastructure is critical to all other services and infrastructures. Metrics on this are, imo, way underestimated, yet their cascade effect and high impact due to effects on entire cities, countries,civilizations, is extremely high. So for students, paths of research that will intrinsically aid EA metrics and arguments are very high value. Glad to see all this info, and amazing ppl!

Welcome to the forum!

Hey, Dan!

I just came across this comment. I'm curious -- did you end up running the activity? If so, how did it go?

If anyone reading this has read anything I’ve written on the EA Forum or LessWrong, I’d really appreciate you taking this brief, anonymous survey. Your feedback is useful whether your opinion of my work is positive, mixed, lukewarm, meh, or negative. 

And remember what mama always said: If you’ve got nothing nice to say, self-selecting out of the sample for that reason will just totally bias Michael’s impact survey.

(If you're interested in more context on the survey, I give that here.)