All of Bernadette_Young's Comments + Replies

EA Survey 2017 Series: Demographics II

That's still a very important point that doesn't seem to have been made in the analysis here: the demographic questions were not included in the questions put to all respondents. Since there are good reasons to think that people taking the "full" and "donations only" survey will differ systematically (e.g. more likely to have been involved with EA for longer). If the non responses are not random that's an important caveat on all these findings and very much limits any comparisons that can be done over time. I can't seem to see it discussed in the post?

0Peter Wildeford5y
Yeah. I personally think that offering the donations only survey was a bad idea for the reason that you said and a few other reasons. Even if everyone took the full survey, the non-response would still be pretty non-random -- you still have to have the tenacity to persist to page seven, which I imagine correlates with being more involved in EA and you also have to have taken the survey in the first place, which we also know is not random. It would have been nice to not make this worse, though.
Fact checking comparison between trachoma surgeries and guide dogs

Thanks for responding!

I think it's laudable to investigate the basis for claims as you've done. It's fair to say evidence appraisal and communication really is a specialist area in its own right, and outside our ares of expertise it's common to make errors in doing so. And while we all like evidence confirms what we think, other biases may be at play. I think some people in effective altruism also put a high value on identifying and admitting mistakes, so we might also be quick to jump on a contrary assessment even if it has some errors of its own.

I think... (read more)

Fact checking comparison between trachoma surgeries and guide dogs

The mention of the specific errors found in DCP2 estimates of de-worming efficacy, seem to be functioning here as guilt by association. I can't see any reason they should be extrapolated to all other calculations in different chapters of a >1000 page document. The figure from DCP2 for trachoma treatment directly references the primary source, so it's highly unlikely to be vulnerable to any spreadsheet errors.

The table Toby cites and you reference here (Table 50.1 from DCP2) says "trichiasis surgery". This means surgical treatment for a late s... (read more)

Thank you very much for writing this. Ironically, I did not do enough fact-checking before making public claims. Now I am not even sure I was right to say that everyone should frequently check facts in this manner because it takes a lot of time and it's easy to make mistakes, especially when it's not the field of expertise for most of us. Trichiasis surgery then does seem to be absurdly effective in preventing blindness and pain. I am puzzled why GiveWell hasn't looked into it more. Well, they explain it here []. The same uncertainty about "Number Needed to Treat". I want to ask if you don't mind: * When literature says that surgery costs ~$20-60 or $7.14, is that for both eyes? * Do you think that it's fair to say that it costs say $100 to prevent trachoma-induced blindness? Or is there too much uncertainty to use such number when introducing EA?
Update on Effective Altruism Funds

I'm pleased to see the update on GWWC recommendations; it was perturbing to have such different messages being communicated in different channels.

However I'm really disappointed to hear the Giving What We Can trust will disappear - not least because it means I no longer have a means to leave a legacy to effective charities in my will (which I'll now need to change). Previously the GWWC trust meant I had a means of leaving money, hedging against changes in the landscape of what's effective, run by an org whose philosophy I agree with and whose decisions I h... (read more)

Hi Bernadette,

We’re sorry that our communication on this has not been clear enough. We were waiting on some technical details so that we could infor Trust users of the exact changes and what they needed to do in advance but now I’ll communicate what we can today while Larissa Hesketh-Rowe is also going to email Giving What We Can members to make sure everyone is included.

In terms of the Trust we are moving all of the functionality the Trust had over to EA Funds which we believe will ultimately be a much better platform both for users and for us in terms of... (read more)

Proposed methodology for leafleting study

Ethics approval would probably depend on not collecting identifying data like name, so it would be important to build that into your design. College name would work, but pseudo-randomising by leafleting some colleges would introduce significant confounding, because colleges frequently differ in their make up and culture.

Yes I mention the issues associated with college-based randomization in section 3.1. Good point about not collecting identifying data, it should just be possible to ask for whatever information was used to decide who to leaflet, such as first letter of last name, which should avoid this issue.
.impact updates 3 of 3: Impact Missions, peer-to-peer fundraisers, matching donations

Thanks Georgie - I see where we were misunderstanding each other! That's great - research like this is quite hard to get right, and I think it's an excellent plan to have people with experience and knowledge about the design and execution as well as analysis involved. (My background is medical research as well as clinical medicine, and a depressing amount of research - including randomised clinical trials - is never able to answer the important question because of fundamental design choices. Unfortunately knowing this fact isn't enough to avoid the pitfalls. It's great that EA is interested in data, but it's vital we generate and analyse good data well.)

.impact updates 3 of 3: Impact Missions, peer-to-peer fundraisers, matching donations

Unless you have a specific hypothesis that you are testing, I think the survey is the wrong methodology to answer this question. If you actually want to explore the reasons why (and expect there will not be a single answer) then you need qualitative research.

If you do pursue questions on this topic in a survey format, it is likely you will get misleading answers unless you have the resources to very rigorously test and refine your question methodology. Since you will essentially be asking people if they are not doing something they have said is good to do... (read more)

Ah sorry Bernadette I misunderstood your first question! I think 'pin down an explanation' was probably too strong on my part, because I definitely don't think it'd be conclusive and I do hope that we have some more qualitative research into this. We do have professionals working on the survey this year (is that what you meant by professional involvement?) and I've sent your comment to them. They're far better placed to analyze this than me!
.impact updates 3 of 3: Impact Missions, peer-to-peer fundraisers, matching donations

The median EA donation ($330) was pretty low. There could be various reasons for this, but we can only really pin down an explanation when .impact conduct the next EA Survey. I

According to the reports, the first survey of 2014 (ie reported in 2015) found a median donation of $450 in 2013, with 766 people reporting their donations.

The next survey of 2015 (ie reported 2106) found a mediant donation of $330 in 2014, with 1341 people reporting their donations.

Repeating the survey has gathered more data and actually produced a lower estimate. I'm interested how the third survey will help understand this better?

Me too! We're in the process of creating the survey now and will be distributing it in January. This is one thing we're going to address, and if you have suggestions about specific questions, we'd be interested in hearing them.
Setting Community Norms and Values: A response to the InIn Open Letter

I didn't down vote it, but I suspect others who did were - like me - frustrated by the accusation of not engaging with you on the substantive points that are summarised in Jeff's post. This post followed a discussion with literally hundreds of comments and dozens of people in this community discussing them with you.

I could explain why I think the term astroturfing does apply to your actions, even though they were not exactly the same as Holden's activities, but the pattern of discussion I've experienced and witnessed with you gives me very low credence that the discussion will lead to any change in our relative positions.

I hope the break is good for your health and wish you well.

Concerns with Intentional Insights

No "exchange" has been disclosed. Michelle has disclosed her own words and that she said them to you. Are you claiming people can not report their own speech without the permission of their audience?

Concerns with Intentional Insights

I have down-voted this comment because I think as a community we should strongly disapprove of this sort of threat

"If this post gets significant downvotes and is invisible, I’ll be happy to post it as a separate EA Forum post. If that’s what you want, please go ahead and downvote."

The criticisms have been raised in an exceptionally transparent manner: Jeff made a public post on Facebook, and Gleb was tagged in to participate. Within that thread the plans to make this document were explained and even linked to: anybody (Gleb included) could r... (read more)

Concerns with Intentional Insights

Thank you - this represents a very conscientious follow-up to serious concerns and a very complicated discussion. I appreciate the presentation of considered evidence and the opportunity given for a) members of the community pool their concerns and b) InIn to give their response.

On making spaces friendlier to parents

The post doesn't claim that having children makes you "good" or "particularly noble", and there's no moral connotation inherent in something being "a pretty basic part of human life".

You're entitled to think what you like, but there's no reason to be nasty about it.

On making spaces friendlier to parents

What an incredibly unfriendly thing to say 12 months later to somebody you've never met in person. Given the context above I'm not sure if you are writing it to say I did not competently parent our child at EAG? The EAG I attended happened 8 months after I wrote that comment. In 8 months young children develop and their needs and behaviour change. What a shock.

Our daughter (14 months old at the time of EAG) was present in the lecture theatre for parts of 2 talks. She did not cry during in any of the lectures. She babbled loudly and I removed her when that ... (read more)

Effective Altruists really love EA: Evidence from EA Global

Agreed, and though this good evidence about people in EA having a positive experience, it has almost no chance of detecting the people who don't, since participation is conditional on 1.) The subjects choosing to invest significant time and money in attending EAG & 2.) The subjects' applications being approved to attend the conference by the organisers.

I'm not meaning to suggest that the application process was actively weeding out negative people, but pointing out there are a number of significant selective processes before people were asked this qu... (read more)

Agree 100%.
50% every 5 years > 10% every year

Neil I believe that's true for the UK. For two reasons

  1. No such thing as a standard deduction
  2. Donations up to the higher tax threshold are not 'deductible' but the 20% tax paid on these pounds goes to the charity as an extra donation.
  3. It's only above the 20% tax rate (higher tax bracket) that you get a refund (if you pay the 40% rate you get 20% back and 20% goes to the charity as above).

So this approach would be counter productive if you earn moderately above the higher tax threshold. The exception would be if you earn so far above the higher tax brack... (read more)

Effective Legacies have arrived!

That seems reasonable. The advice we've had both specifically and generally from legal people is that a will which appears not to take into account your life circumstances is open to challenge. Certainly in the UK, charitable legacies have been successfully challenged for not taking children into account (even when that appears to have been deliberate).

I guess my observation is that almost all people would expect to be in that more complex po... (read more)

Absolutely. I've come across similar stories in my research. Quite unfortunate and sad. It seems like it would be a good idea to update around once every two years even if that just means changing the document so it's dated more recently. I would imagine having a recently updated document opens it up to less scrutiny. We're also quite aware that the service we offer provides more of a foundation for one's estate planning that someone would have to build on over time. One benefit is that you can download your completed will as an editable doc so that you can change, print and sign multiple times as necessary, though major life events likely require more attention than self-editing. Great observations, Bernadette! Thanks! :)
Yep. Would also be keep on the more comprehensive one 😊 well done though
Effective Legacies have arrived!

This is a really interesting topic, and I certainly encountered more complications that I expected in making legacies to charity in my will.

Reading the CS site, it directs you away from the will writing process if you are over 40 or have one of: a spouse, children, property (home ownership?), a business

Does that mean that if someone has written a will with this product, but changes to being one of these categories (over 40, married, a parent, a homeowner or a business owner) then their will would not be valid?

Hi Bernadette, great question! Thanks for bringing it to my attention that this isn't immediately clear. I'll try to make it more clear on the website. The reason we have that section there is because oftentimes (based on our previous experience) these characteristics determine the complexity of the document that must be procured. In other words, the more possessions and benefactors a person has, the more paperwork needs to be done, and the more careful they must be about making sure it's done right. We are therefore in the process of securing partnerships with companies that could provide a more comprehensive service so that those with complex estates can be sure they have everything they need. I should also add that this element of our Effective Legacies service is still under construction, so we're recommending that people utilize the primary service for now. The one that can be found here: [] I can't comment on the legality of, for example, a married person's will that was written when they were single, as I believe the laws vary based on location, but I can say it's a good idea to update the document after any major life event. Hope this answers your question! Let me know if you have any others. :)
End of year celebration thread!

Thanks for being so kind Sean. I think you work harder than just about anybody I know: no excuses needed for you!

End of year celebration thread!

My own little victory dance:

When I set my threshold for my pledge in 2009, I pledge both an absolute percentage and a threshold of £25000 above which I would donate all money. I had done my research and tried to set a level that would cover both my own needs and that allow for having a family.

This is the first year we have had to pay any real costs for our daughter. For the first year of her life I was on maternity leave, so the cost was an opportunity cost of reduced salary. When I returned to work last May I had two new pretty huge expenses: full time c... (read more)

Congratulations, great work! I really appreciate the intentionality with which you approached your donations, and integrated them into the rest of your life :-)
This is incredibly impressive Bernadette - not just the efficient use of money and level of philanthropy, but the overall incredible balancing of commitments and lifestyle. I'm always particularly humbled when hearing what EAs with young families are achieving; a reminder of how easy those of us without such commitments have it, so no excuses for us!
Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism

Your comment above indicated you had measured it at one time but did not plan to do so on an ongoing basis: "However, we can't control that, and it would not be helpful to assess that on a systematic basis, beyond that base rate" That approach would not be sensitive to the changing effect size of different methods.

That's a good point, I am updating toward measuring it more continuously based on your comments. Thanks!
Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism

Not really I'm afraid. That reasoning seems analogous to the makers of glipizide saying: we know lowering blood sugar in diabetics decreases deaths (we do indeed have data showing that) and their drug lowers blood sugar, so they don't need to monitor the effect of their drug on deaths. Your model can be faulty, your base statistics can be wrong, you can have unintended consequences. Glipizide does lower blood sugar, but if you take it as a diabetic, you are more likely to die than if you don't.

It would also be like the Against Malaria Foundation neglecting... (read more)

Bernadette, I'm confused. I did say we measured the rate of conversion from the people we draw to the website of charity evaluaters like TLYCS. What I am saying is what we take credit for, and what we can control. I want to be honest in saying that we can't take full credit for what people do once they hit the TLYCS website. Taking credit for that would be somewhat disingenuous, as TLYCS has its own marketing materials on the website, and we cannot control that. So what we focus on measuring and taking credit for is what we can control :-)
Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism

We may have different perspectives on academic readers: I'm a relatively junior medical researcher. Three of my papers have over 100 citations. The view I expressed here is the one shared by my Principal Investigator (a professor at Oxford University who leads a multi-million pound international research consortium, and has an extensive history of publishing in Nature and Science). Humanities and medical research are likely to have some differences, but when fewer than 20% of humanities papers are thought to be cited at all, I'm not sure that supports huma... (read more)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Maybe there's a difference between our academic backgrounds. I come from the perspective of a historian of science at the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, philosophy, and other disciplines. I have a couple of monographs out, and over 20 peer-reviewed articles (over 60 editor-reviewed pieces). Since my field intersects both social sciences and humanities, I speak from that background. Regarding website visitors, it's important to measure what is under our organization's control. We can control what we do, namely get visitors to the websites of effective charities. We know that getting such visitors there is crucial to those visitors then converting into donors, and we can have statistics showing that. For instance, 12% of the visitors to The Life You Can Save website from InIn articles then become donors to effective charities through TLYCS website. However, we can't control that, and it would not be helpful to assess that on a systematic basis, beyond that base rate. The importance of constant measurement is to show us what we can do better, and the only thing we can control is whether we get people to TLYCS website or to other charities. Does that make sense?
Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism

I agree that maximising the good done with every effort is the essence of EA; I disagree that the wording and structure of your piece communicated that, even with those words included.

There's a tendency for people who do a lot of academic writing to assume that every sub-clause and every word will be carefully read and weighed by their readers. We agonise for months over a manuscript, carefully selecting modifiers to convey the correct levels of certainty in our conclusions or the strength of a hypothesis. In reality even the average academic reader will ... (read more)

I think we might have different perspectives about academic readers This seems a bit contradictory to your previous statement about the average reader. I propose that if someone actually takes the time to click to GiveWell etc., this indicates a measure of interest and willingness to pay the resource of attention and time. In fact, InIn measures its effectiveness in marketing EA-themed ideas about effective giving to a broad audience through its success in drawing the awareness of non-EA members to: EA ideas, such as researching charities, comparing their impact before donating, and expanding their circles of compassion; EA meta-charities that provide evaluations of effective charities; finally, effective direct-action charities themselves. In doing so, InIn works on a relatively neglected area of the EA nonprofit sales funnel [] , the key first stage of potential donor awareness of the benefits of EA ideas and charities. We then hand off the donors to EA meta-charities and direct-action charities for the latter stages of the sales funnel, which they have more capacity and expertise to handle. The metrics we use here are the exposure of people to our content, the number of those who are exposed who then click from our content to the websites of EA meta-charities and direct-action charities, the number of those people who then engage actively with the nonprofit by signing up to their newsletter, and finally donating. Naturally, each step is progressively harder to track, and the EA charities themselves are responsible for the last two steps. The EA charities are grateful for the hard work we do, and applaud our efforts. Hopefully, that gives you some more context. My apologies for not sharing this context earlier :-)
Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism

I don't think it's about mismatched expectations so much as I have a different assessment than you do of how much this piece is likely to promote effective giving.

If your intention was to promote consideration of impact, or recipient focussed donation behaviour, then I think this article misses that mark. Sure, the information might be there 15 paragraphs deep in one of a dozen links, but it's not conveyed to me - even as an interested reader versed in effective altruism ideas.

If indeed your article was intended by you to promote Charity Navigator style r... (read more)

I think there's a miscommunication somewhere. In the sixth paragraph of the article, I stated that people should "take the perspective of a savvy investor and research donation options to make sure you do the most good per dollar donated." To me, that's the essence of EA. Would you disagree? If so, I guess we will have to agree to disagree then. Fortunately, there is an easy way of figuring out whose opinion is closer to the mark. One of the metrics Intentional Insights tracks is whether people clicked from our article to the website of the direct action charities described in the piece. If your opinion is correct, then we will not see clicks, as people will not be persuaded that EA-style effective giving is a worthwhile area. If my take is correct, then there will be some clicks, since people will be persuaded of the value of AMF and GiveDirectly. I'll check with AMF and GiveDirectly in a couple of weeks to see what the click-through numbers were, and we'll find out. Stay tuned! Another piece of evidence supporting the fact that EA is a key take-away from the piece is how The Chronicle of Philanthropy described my piece: []
Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism

Owen I think these are important caveats.

One further risk is that message you are trying to convey has to be stretched or even distorted to be made relevant to the original story. This is a result of the "hijacking" approach, and unfortunately I think it's evident in this piece.

The problem with Wounded Warriors as I understand it, is not that their proposed projects were not likely to be helpful (I haven't seen evidence that would help me answer that), but that people in the organisation mis-spent funds, and did not use them according to the cha... (read more)

Bernadette, these are excellent points, and the risk of distortion is real. However, I think what you saw in this column is not a bug, but a feature :-) First, the Wounded Warrior Project was indeed not focused on creating effective interventions, but instead on creating Potemkin-like programming that was more oriented toward getting good numbers for reports that assisted fundraising efforts rather than helping veterans, as shown in this piece [] . For instance, here's a quote from the piece: I think it's a bit unfair to read my comments about effective altruism groups as simply organizations "pushing the nonprofit sector to become more transparent and accountable." This was a shorthand description based on the limited number of words allowed in any op-ed. It should be read in light of my earlier comments in the article about what it means to be transparent and accountable, namely "take the perspective of a savvy investor and research donation options to make sure you do the most good per dollar donated." This is the essence of EA, and makes it quite distinguishable from Charity Navigator and others. I hope this clarifies the situation, and I see how that misunderstanding can arise if there was a lack of awareness about the word limitations on the piece :-) I also think there might be a mismatch of expectations. The piece itself aims to bridge the inferential gap [] between people who right now might not even bother to do research on their donations, and persuade them to considering effective giving. It's really important to remember that what I'm doing here, and what Intentional Insights does as a whole, is less about explicitly promoting EA but about promoting EA-themed effective giving [], to prevent the danger of flooding the EA
Against segregating EAs

AGB reiterates a good suggestion he'd previously made on the facebook group: that no modification is needed for people who participate in EA without being a maximal sacrificer, and it's entirely appropriate to call those people effective altruists. If we want a term for people who are hugely involved, or sacrifice a great deal of their own well-being (I'm not convinced self-sacrifice is a good metric here, but that's another conversation), can't we just find a modifier for those people? Dedicated/devoted may be less problematic when you don't have to search for a counterpart that isn't dismissive.

Sure, but then how do you you refer to the group that are effective altruists but not 'full-time' (or whatever term)? 'Effective altruists who aren't full time' is very cumbersome. People want to refer to this group when speaking and if they don't have a nice term to hand, will use one that isn't nice.
Against segregating EAs

Thanks for pasting that comment here - I was sure there had been a really good discussion on this, with a general consensus that "softcore" needed to disappear. Perhaps I was just really persuaded by your comment and assumed others were likewise.

I agree there's less an issue a designation for "very involved" being a bit negative, but I'm moderately opposed to "hardcore" because although it is used as you describe, I think its strongest association is with porn.

5AGB6y [] I think Will Macaskill and I both advocated for the same position and got a lot of likes, so I understand your impression. I was sort of surprised to see the word wheeled out again, especially given I don't think 'softcore' was ever really intended for widespread use in the original post, just to contrast to the (more widely used) word 'hardcore'. And fair enough re. hardcore. I don't have that association at all really (I recognise it, but it's far from the first example-usage I think of), but I'm not averse to ditching the term or at least using it selectively based on audience if multiple people have that association given this is all a PR/perception question in the first place. So....'full-time' it is?
Against segregating EAs

Thanks for this post Julia.

I know lots of people have been seeking alternatives to the 'hardcore vs softcore' terms that seem to have sprung up, and I agree that alternative terms are preferable to those two for many reasons. However I think you've addressed a much more important issue, that any binary categorisation is artificial and likely to be counterproductive.

EA is elitist. Should it stay that way?

Seeking donations from high net worth individuals/ financial 'elites' is a crowded market. The giving pledge is just one campaign targeting these people, which is already connected to networks of very wealthy person. Do we have good reasons to think that EA would have a comparative advantage in such a crowded market?

Another significant disadvantage I see to becoming another group that concentrates targeting high net worth individuals is that we would be perpetuating the myth that only very wealthy people can make a difference, which more moderately wealthy... (read more)

I would need to think about this more, but one argument for thinking we have a comparative advantage is that we've already demonstrated a surprising amount of headway in getting HNW people, particularly in Silicon Valley, on board. Plus there are some notable people in that group who weren't recruited in any meaningful sense but who have strikingly similar goals, e.g. BIll Gates. Prima facie I think it's plausible that very large donors tend to give more time to the question of where they should donate and do it on less personal grounds. Neither of these is a knockdown argument, but the 'crowded market' claim has its own nuances. For instance, presumably the reason that the market is so crowded is because charities find it relatively easier to raise money from HNW's despite the crowdedness (or at least not significantly harder).
Celebrating All Who Are in Effective Altruism

Also, any new pledger has some non-zero chance of breaking the pledge (see the GWWC fundraising prospectus for their current estimates, though some people have argued these are under-estimates). The chance of different people is probably largely independent. If this is true, then at the margin, two 10% pledgers have a lower chance of both defaulting and would probably lead to more money being moved (ie narrower 95% confidence interval on the amount moved).

"If this is true, then at the margin, two 10% pledgers have a lower chance of both defaulting and thus have a higher expected value." I don't think this is true, at least not taken naively. Ie, 70%20%=70%10%*2. Decreasing variance isn't quite the same thing as expected value, and there are so many problems in the world that needs money that decreasing variance just isn't that important relatively to channeling as much (expected) income as possible to the most effective causes.
Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption

If you use the search function in the main facebook group it's quite straightforward to find plenty of discussion.

Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption

"If people make bad decisions then that's unfortunate, but all other things being equal more information leads to better decisions and EA is the last movement which needs to have its strings pulled. "

To be clear: I am not advocating censorship. I'm advocating putting information in a context that makes its scope and importance apparent. It would be naive to ignore that some ideas have mimetic pull, particularly if you're being counter-intuitive by advancing an argument that aid is bad.

"I don't have the time to write about everything."

N... (read more)

I put my argument in a good enough context for someone who was interested in reading and understanding my point of view to fully understand my scope and assumptions. I trust people on this forum to be rational enough about the issue, and I believe I clearly did make the scope and importance of this issue apparent by explicitly stating the many limits of my analysis and drawing zero conclusions or speculation about whether "aid is bad", so I suppose we're at an impasse about that. It's possible that the issue of meat consumption in the developing world has overly strong "memetic pull", but I don't see why I should be more worried about that than the "memetic pull" of pro-aid arguments (which, for the longest time, EAs have been deliberately trying to make more emotionally appealing) as well as the memetic pull of x-risk arguments (which have earned accusations of being cultish and ridiculous because of their memetic appearance) and so on and so forth. Yes, because in many months/over a year of watching this forum, the EA subreddit, many EA blogs/organizations/websites, and multiple EA facebook groups, I have never once seen someone bring it up. So as far as I could tell, it's been comparatively under-recognized. Whatever flame wars broke out about this in 2012 and 2013, I haven't seen them, and I suspect that many others on this forum haven't either.
Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption

I think the phrasing of the 'problem' is bad, but the title really isn't the only issue.

"Considerations entirely outside the model: impact of development on wild animal suffering, climate change, technological progress, global economic development, etc."

I'm afraid this really doesn't read to me as being clear about how narrowly a focus this argument takes. I have literally seen people say "Now I've heard about the poor meat eater problem I've stopped donating to SCI", so simply saying you don't draw any conclusion is not, I think, suff... (read more)

If people make bad decisions then that's unfortunate, but all other things being equal more information leads to better decisions and EA is the last movement which needs to have its strings pulled. I would expect that giving more information about different aspects of issues is always good and I would be happy to see people weigh in on those issues. I don't have the time to write about everything. Personally I had no idea that anyone in the movement had even mentioned this at all within the past few years and I had never seen someone object to it, so I didn't expect there to be this problem. I didn't say anything yet about the impact on x risk of developing countries. Again, that's outside the bounds of what I'm looking at. If you'd like to have a broad discussion of cause prioritization then I'd be happy to, but it would have to start with me laying down a full set of ideas, as opposed to having my priorities be extrapolated from a very narrow analysis.
Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption

Hi kbog, I appreciate you've done a lot of work here, but I've downvoted because I have a strong ethical and practical objection to this issue being discussed as 'the poor meat eater problem'. These objections have been hashed out every time this topic comes up. It makes me very sad that the meme persists, and I think it's terrible for it to be associated with EA discussion.

I think the so-called 'poor meat eater problem' is based on 2 fallacies, at least one of which appears somewhat prejudiced: 1.: the decision to focus on only one long term consequence o... (read more)

Hey Bernadette, I think your general argument: is a good one. But I think you could present it better. At the moment some of your examples are very partisan - in a US context you have two very anti-right-wing examples, and no anti-left-wing examples. Thinking about Politics is the Mindkiller [], this is likely to make it hard for right-wing readers to appreciate your point. Their instinctive reaction to your post will be hostility and defensiveness: Now, these responses would miss the point of your argument. Your argument doesn't depend on which policies would make people in the first world poorer. Ideally, your right-wing reader would instead substitute * Support political parties that promote pointless regulation (reducing economic growth) * Support minimum wages (unemployed people can't afford meat) * Support mandatory contraception and abortion (people who are never born can't eat meat) for your suggested examples and then come to agree with your substantive point. But I think in practice this is unlikely - it takes substantial effort to overcome the instinctive negative response But you can avoid this reaction, and make it easier for people from diverse political backgrounds to agree with you, by either including political examples from a variety of perspectives - say, swap out one of the anti-right-wing examples for an anti-left-wing one - or better yet by simply not using any directly political examples at all. Your first and last examples do this well - sufficiently concrete that people can understand what they mean, but sufficiently abstract that readers can think of examples consistent with their other views. edit: formatting
I also support renaming this the 'rich meat eater problem', or something like that. It's absurd to have to focus be on the very poor in this regard when the problem is on what happens when people are no longer poor. It is also bizarre to focus on only this one long-term effect when there are so many others that seem as significant, or more so. To start with, a richer world means more researchers working on better meat-replacements, and a bigger market for any business that succeeds in developing such a novel product.

Hi kbog, I appreciate you've done a lot of work here, but I've downvoted because I have a strong ethical and practical objection to this issue being discussed as 'the poor meat eater problem'. These objections have been hashed out every time this topic comes up. It makes me very sad that the meme persists, and I think it's terrible for it to be associated with EA discussion.

Ok, I didn't put any thought into the title, if that's a potential issue then I have no problem changing it.

Fallacy: the decision to focus on only one long term consequence of adva

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The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread - 15 December 2015

I don't think 'we can't know it's not a problem' is a helpful guide to deciding if something needs action. Have you seen any evidence of voting being used by cartels or sock puppets? As you say, it's just as possible for up-votes to be done for nefarious reasons (though I have serious doubts as to whether that's the case) - but requiring comments for up-voting would also be onerous and reduce people's interactions on the forum.

I think the suggested policy would make the forum worse by raising the bar to participation. Greg has explained the problems with it quite articulately above, so I won't recapitulate his comment.

I haven't seen evidence of this, but just because there isn't evidence doesn't mean it's not there :-) I have experience on other forums of this being the case. I also have worries about what would happen as new people enter the EA forum who are used to downvoting on venues like Reddit or LW, which have much more harsh approaches to downvoting. I'm concerned about setting up good structures for how we are going forward, considering that the EA movement is growing quickly. I'd like to consider a system of focusing on upvoting rather than downvoting - that way, we still get the signal about good posts, but don't have the downsides of downvoting.
The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread - 15 December 2015

But by the same token everybody in this movement has competing priorities and calls on their time. Their feedback might be helpful to you, but why should they be obliged to give it as the price of participating?

Bernadette, I hear you, and that's a good point. However, without verbal feedback there is a danger of negative dynamics around popularity and politics. For example, I can imagine someone who values winning as opposed to finding the truth creating what are known as "sock puppet" accounts and doing multiple downvoting - or even upvoting. This is a problem that plagues many forums with an upvote/downvote system, such as Reddit and LessWrong, and we can't be sure it is not already happening here. If we create structures to prevent it, wouldn't we be better off?
Yes, it's definitely a matter of striking the right balance. Well chosen downvotes have value, and losing some of them would be a cost.
Promoting Effective Giving Using List-Style Articles

You misunderstand me. I don't think the person is down voting because they disagree, but the fact they are down voting without commenting is an indication they disagree that a down vote requires a comment. That's not ironic.

Ah ok, gotcha. Sorry for misunderstanding.
Promoting Effective Giving Using List-Style Articles

Not really ironic - just clearly someone who disagrees.

Should people downvote just because they disagree? I'm not saying they shouldn't, just that it'd be good to have a discussion of this. :) I've just started one in the latest open thread [] . I've heard people argue that they shouldn't, and the text that appears when you other over the upvote/downvote icons suggests as much.
CEA is launching a winter fundraising round

There are indeed great questions there with extensive responses, many of which point to information that was already publicly available.

I think it's awesome for people to ask questions: in the GWWC fundraising post there's been a really productive discussion. But here, as on a previous occasion, you seem to be suggesting there is some deception going on. You've suggested in another post that you see these responses as 'punching up', but by keeping it vague it also looks a lot like mud-slinging (as opposed to an airing of your concerns, which I hope everybody would be keen to have happen).

Hopefully you'll have time to elaborate on your concerns soon.

The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread - 23 November 2015 Edition

I'd find it weird if people who chose their careers based on what they thought was of the greatest benefit didn't advocate for that work to other people with similar priorities.

And in response to the suggestion of self-serving behaviour or even corruption raised by this post, it should be made absolutely clear that the trustees of CEA are legally barred from being employed by or financially profiting from its operations.

CEA is launching a winter fundraising round

The GWWC fundraising prospectus sets out in quite extensive detail the observations and assumptions that underlie the figures, as well as providing the spreadsheets to let you explore how your own probability estimates would change them.

What further information do you think should be included?

I'll give my own answer when I get time but the questions at [] look like a decent start.
Pitfalls in Diversity Outreach

Your statement here suggests we have nothing to learn from other movements, which seems an unhelpful position to take.

Sorry for sounding so negative! I should have said that I thought the post was well-written overall and made many good points about how we can learn from other movements. However, I still think the specific quotes used were unhelpful.
Why effective altruism used to be like evidence-based medicine. But isn’t anymore

Sorry for being slow to reply James.

The methods of EBM do absolutely favour formal approaches and concrete results. However - and partly because of some of the pitfalls you describe - it's relatively common to find you have no high quality evidence that specifically applies to inform your decision. It is also relatively common to find poor quality evidence (such as a badly constructed trial, or very confounded cohort studies). If those constitute the best-available evidence, a strict reading of the phrase 'to greatest extent possible, decisions and policie... (read more)

Not to imply that you were implying otherwise, but I don't think that the 'evidence camp' generally sees itself as maximising the minimum you achieve, or as disagreeing with maximising expected good. Instead it often disagrees with specific claims about what does the most good, particularly ones based on a certain sort of expected value calculation. (In a way this only underscores your point that there isn't that sharp a divide between the two approaches, and that we need to take into account all the evidence and reasons that we have. As you say, we often don't have RCTs to settle things, leaving everyone with the tricky job of weighting different forms of evidence. There will be disagreements about that, but they won't look like a sharp, binary division into two opposed 'camps'. Describing what actually happens in medicine seems very helpful to understanding this.)
Charity Science Updates

Yes, but a very specific one. After our experience I would generally recommend getting a solicitor to write your will.

Pitfalls in Diversity Outreach

I think anybody wanting to raise a potentially divisive or negative discussion should think carefully about how likely a given discussion is to be self-defeating, or to yield negative results that outweigh the benefits.

The setting matters a lot to this: if you post on Facebook, the discussion gets published in lots of people's feeds in a manner that posters don't control (I find 'likes' on comments I make in the EA FB group from friends I know are not members of that group). Also, the FB policy of only allowing 'upvoting' means that the degree to which peo... (read more)

3Kelsey Piper7y
I really agree here - other factors that make Facebook conversations particularly inflammatory include Facebook's lack of threading, so you can't easily see who a person is responding to and if the tone of the response is appropriate to the original post, the way Facebook comment threads rapidly stack up with hundreds of comments, some only tangentially related to the original post, and the wide variance in moderation schemes. I've been disillusioned by some of the conversations on Facebook, but this comment made me more optimistic that is a platform issue, not a problem with open discussion of EA concerns.
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