Ben Millwood

1207Joined Dec 2015


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I think some adjustment is appropriate to account for the fact that people in the US are generally systematically different from people in (say) Uganda in a huge range of ways which might lead to significant variation in the quality of existing care, or the nature of their problems and their susceptibility to treatment. As a general matter I'm not necessarily surprised if SM can relatively easily achieve results that would be exceptional or impossible among very different demographics.

That said, I don't think these kinds of considerations explain a 95% cure rate, I agree that sounds extreme and intuitively implausible.

Something to be careful not to do here is: if you have people who are either earning a lot or doing equivalently valuable non-earning work, consumption can boost productivity, both:

  • in very obvious direct ways, e.g. if you order takeaway, you don't have to spend time on meal prep, if you can improve your sleep by buying a fancy bed that might be worth it, etc
  • in a more indirect sense, being frugal is hard work and will wear you down. If you find that attention or mental effort is a limited resource for you, trying hard to minimise costs may be false economy. In general, it may be easier to get $X of value by increasing your income / useful work by $X than by decreasing your costs by $X. All else equal, you should prioritise these two things the same.

I'm not saying this is obviously incompatible with the levels of consumption or saving that you suggest, just that the best level of consumption is dependent on local circumstances, and I don't think there's any particular reason to expect it to line up with per capita GDP particularly well.

You can't always turn more money into more researchers. You need people who can mentor and direct them, and you need to find people who are good fits for the position, and most of the people who are most interesting to you are also interesting to other employers. In general, I don't think finding salaries for such people was the bottleneck.

Perhaps more EA orgs - like GiveWell, ACE, and FHI - should have their own publicity arms that operate independently of CEA

I think GiveWell (at least, and maybe ACE too) is already very independent of CEA. The fact that they also haven't done mass media outreach is probably a result of an independent assessment that it isn't particularly in their interests to do so. They do have significant marketing and media outreach, e.g. I've seen YouTube sponsorships, and I know they're on podcasts sometimes, so I feel safe guessing that media exposure they haven't had is because they haven't pursued it rather than because they don't have the expertise to do so.

(some of) Kathy's accusations were false

just to draw some attention to the "(some of)", Kathy claimed in her suicide note that her actions had led to more than one person being banned from EA events. My understanding is that she made a mixture of accusations that were corroborated and ones that weren't, including the ones you refer to. I think this is interesting because it means both:

  • Kathy was not just a liar who made everything up to cause trouble. I would guess she really was hurt, and directed responsibility for that hurt to a mixture of the right and wrong places. (Maybe no-one thought this, but I just want to make clear that we don't have to choose between "she was right about everything" and "she was wrong about everything".)
  • Kathy was not ignored by the community. Her accusations were taken seriously enough to be investigated, and some of those investigations led to people being banned from events or groups. Reddit may talk shit about her, but the people in a position to do something listened.

(I should say that what I'm saying is mostly based on what Kathy said in her public writings combined with second-or-third hand accounts, and despite talking a little to Kathy at the time I'm missing almost all the details of what actually happened. Feel free to contradict me if something I said seems untrue.)

Maybe you women should put your heads together on this

I'm sure they'll discuss it at the next big meeting.

Discussion can be compassionate. Disagreement can be compassionate. In fact, I'd argue that failing to have compassion and empathy for someone making a point is going to pretty seriously impair your ability to engage with the point, and even if you do you're going to have a hard time communicating about it in a way that will be heard. I think seeing these things as in tension is a mistake.

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