All of Aaron__Maiwald's Comments + Replies

A list of EA-related podcasts

There is a German EA Podcast that Lia Rodehorst and I created, called "Gutes Einfach Tun". 
Here is the link.

Also, Sarah Emminghaus recently launched a German EA Podcast called "WirklichGut" (link here).

On GiveWell's estimates of the cost of saving a life

Hey Pablo,

Thanks a lot for the answer, I appreciate you taking the time! I think I now have a much better idea of how these calculations work (and much more skeptical tbh because there are so many effects which are not captured in the expected value calculations that might make a big difference).

Also thanks for the link to Holdens post!

1pmelchor1moThere is no perfect calculation of all the effects of a program but I think GiveWell's effort is impressive (and, as far as I can tell, unmatched in terms of rigor). I think the highest value is in the ability to differentiate top programs from the rest, even if the figures are imperfect.
How valueable are external reviews?

Hi Johannes!

I appreciate you taking the time.

"Linch's comment on FP funding is roughly right, for FP it is more that a lot of FP members do not have liquidity yet"

I see, my mistake! But is my estimate sufficiently off to overturn my conclusion?

" There were also lots of other external experts consulted." 

Great! Do you agree that it would be useful to make this public? 

"There isn't, as of now, an agreed-to-methodology on how to evaluate advocacy charities, you can't hire an expert for this." 

And the same ist true for evaluating cost-effectiven... (read more)

How valueable are external reviews?

"The way I did my reviewing was to check the major assumptions and calculations and see if those made sense. But where a report, say, took information from academic studies, I wouldn't necessarily delve into those or see if they had been interpreted correctly. "

>> Thanks for clarifying! I wonder if it would be even better if the review was done by people outside the EA community. Maybe the sympathy of belonging to the same social group and shared, distinctive assumptions (assuming they exist), make people less likely to spot errors? This is pret

... (read more)
2MichaelPlant1moI can't immediately remember where I've seen this discussed before, but I concerned I've heard raised is that's it's quite hard to find people who (1) know enough about what you're doing to evaluate your work but (2) are not already in the EA world. Hmm. Well, I think you'd have to be quite a big and well funded organisation to do that. It would be a lot of management time to set up and run a competition, one which wouldn't obviously be that useful (in terms of the value of information, such a competition is more valuable the worse you think your research is). I can see organisations quite reasonably thinking this wouldn't be a good staff priority vs other things. I'd be interested to know if this has happened elsewhere and how impactful it had been. That's right. People who were suspicious of your research would be unlikely to have much confidence in the assessment of someone you paid.
How valueable are external reviews?

Hi Michael!

"You only mention Founders Pledge, which, to me, implies you think Founders Pledge don't get external reviews but other EA orgs do."

> No, I don't think this, but I should have made this clearer. I focused on FP, because I happened to know that they didn't have an external, expert review on one of their main climate-charity recommendations, CATF and because I couldn't find any report on their website about an external, expert review. 
I think my argument here holds for any other similar organisation. 

"This doesn't seem right, because ... (read more)

2MichaelPlant1moGotcha I mean, how long is a piece of string? :) The way I did my reviewing was to check the major assumptions and calculations and see if those made sense. But where a report, say, took information from academic studies, I wouldn't necessarily delve into those or see if they had been interpreted correctly. Re making things public, that's a bit trickier than it sounds. Usually I'd leave a bunch of comments in a google doc as I went, which wouldn't be that easy for a reader to follow. You could ask someone to write a prose evaluation - basically like an academic journal review report - but that's quite a lot more effort and not something I've been asked to do. In HLI, we have asked external academics to do that for us for a couple of pieces of work, and we recognise it's quite a big ask vs just leaving gdoc comments. The people we asked were gracious enough to do it, but they were basically doing us a favour and it's not something we could keep doing (at least with those individuals). I guess one could make them public - we've offered to share ours with donors, but none have asked to see them - but there's something a bit weird about it: it's like you're sending the message "you shouldn't take our word for it, but there's this academic who we've chosen and paid to evaluate us - take their word for it".
How valueable are external reviews?

I'm not sure, but according to Wikipedia, in total ~3 billion dollars have been pledged via Founders Pledge. Even if that doesn't increase and only 5% of that money is donated according to their recommendations, we are still in the ballpark of around a hundred million USD right? 

On the last question I can only guess as well. So far around 500 million USD have been donated via FoundersPledge. Founders Pledge exists for around 6 years, so on average around 85 million $ per year since it started. It seems likely to me that at least 5% have been allocated... (read more)

2Linch1moI'd be interested in having someone from Founder's Pledge comment. Many EA orgs are in a position where there is a lot of dollars committed but people don't know where to give to so they hold off, hence why the EA movement as a whole has double-digit billions of dollars but only gave ~400M last year [] .
What actually is the argument for effective altruism?

I actually think there is more needed. 

If “its a mistake not to do X” means “its in alignment with the persons goal to do X”, then I think there are a few ways in which the claim could be false.

I see two cases where you want to maximize your contribution to the common good, but it would still be a mistake (in the above sense) to pursue EA:

  1. you are already close to optimal effectiveness and the increase in effectiveness by some additional research in EA is so small that you would be maximizing by just using that time to earn money and donate it or have
... (read more)
What actually is the argument for effective altruism?

I'd say that pursuing the project of effective altruism is worthwhile, only if the opportunity cost of searching C is justified by the amount of additional good you do as a result of searching for better ways to do good, rather then go by common sense A. It seems to me that if C>= A, then pursuing the project of EA wouldn't be worth it. If, however, C< A, then pursuing the project of EA would be worth it, right?

To be more concrete let us say that the difference in value between the commonsense distribution of resources to do good and th... (read more)

5Benjamin_Todd1yI like the idea of thinking about it quantitatively like this. I also agree with the second paragraph. One way of thinking about this is that if identifiability is high enough, it can offset low spread. The importance of EA is proportional to the multiple of the degree to which the three premises hold.
How you can contribute to the broader EA research project

Do you still recommend these approaches or has your thinking shifted on any? Personally, I'd be especially interested if you still recommend to "Produce a shallow review of a career path few people are informed about, using the 80,000 Hours framework. ".

Making decisions under moral uncertainty

Hey, thank you very much for the summary!

I have two questions:

(1) how should one select which moral theories to use in ones evaluation of the expected choice worthiness of a given action?

"All" seems impossible, supposing the set of moral theories is indeed infinite; "whatever you like" seems to justify basically any act by just selecting or inventing the right subset of moral theories; "take the popular ones" seems very limited (admittedly, I dont have an argument against that option, but is there a positive one for it?)

(2)... (read more)

3MichaelA1y(I'll again just provide some thoughts rather than actual, direct answers.) Here I'd again say that I think an analogous question can be asked in the empirical context, and I think it's decently thorny in that context too. In practice, I think we often do a decent job of assigning probabilities to many empirical claims. But I don't know if we have a rigorous theoretical understanding of how we do that, or of why that's reasonable, or at least of how to do it in general. (I'm not an expert there, though.) And I think there are some types of empirical claims where it's pretty hard to say how we should do this.[1] For some examples I discussed in another post [] : * What are the odds that “an all-powerful god” exists? * What are the odds that “ghosts” exist? * What are the odds that “magic” exists? What process do we use to assign probabilities to these claims? Is it a reasonable process, with good outputs? (I do think we can use a decent process here, as I discuss in that post; I'm just saying it doesn't seem immediately obvious how one does this.) I do think this is all harder in the moral context, but some of the same basic principles may still apply. In practice, I think people often do something like arriving at an intuitive sense of the likelihood of the different theories (or maybe how appealing they are). And this in turn may be based on reading, discussion, and reflection. People also sometimes/often update on what other people believe. I'm not sure if this is how one should do it, but I think it's a common approach, and it's roughly what I've done myself. [1] People sometimes use terms like Knightian uncertainty, uncertainty as opposed to risk, or deep uncertainty for those sorts of cases. My independent impression [] is that those terms often imply a sharp binary where reality is more continuo
3MichaelA1yGlad you found the post useful :) Yeah, I think those are both very thorny and important questions. I'd guess that no one would have amazing answers to them, but that various other EAs would have somewhat better answers than me. So I'll just make a couple quick comments. I think we could ask an analogous question about how to select which hypotheses about the world/future to use in one's evaluation of the expected value of a given action, or just in evaluating what will happen in future in general. (I.e., in the empirical context, rather than the moral/normative context.) For example, if I want to predict the expected number of readers of an article, I could think about how many readers it'll get if X happens and how many it'll get if Y happens, and then think about how likely X and Y seem. X and Y could be things like "Some unrelated major news event happens to happen on the day of publication, drawing readers away", or "Some major news event that's somewhat related to the topic of the article happens soon-ish after publication, boosting attention", or "The article is featured in some newsletter/roundup." But how many hypotheses should I consider? What about pretty unlikely stuff, like Obama mentioning the article on TV? What about really outlandish stuff that we still can't really assign a probability of precisely 0, like a new religion forming with that article as one of its sacred texts? Now, that response doesn't actually answer the question at all! I don't know how this problem is addressed in the empirical context. But I imagine people have written and thought a bunch about it in that context, and that what they've said could probably be ported over into the moral context. (It's also possible that the analogy breaks down for some reason I haven't considered.)