Brad West

438Joined Nov 2021


I think outreach from EA to other organizations is great. Part of EA growing bigger is going to be showing that we are not contemptuous of others who are trying to do good that are not within our umbrella... Maybe we won't be able to get the dog shelter volunteer to switch to studying AGI alignment, but maybe he or she might consider expanding empathy to farmed animals and donating to effective charities that address factory farming.

Meeting people where they are at with empathy and respect is a powerful way of being. If we can connect with the altruism and compassionate of a broader set of people, we may be able to nudge them to channel some of their efforts in an EA way.

Answer by Brad WestNov 23, 20223

I have been donating about 80% of my income (about $1k/week) to the Consumer Power Initiative because the cause area of enabling consumers to discriminate in favor of effective charities is has extreme impact potential (trillions annually to effective charities could be transformative), is tractable (we can create companies that work for charities that can offer similar products at the same prices), and neglected (very little efforts and resources is being expended in this area).

If you want to learn more about our organization, feel free to check out my EA forum post and I'll link to a draft of our upcoming newsletter.

I didn't vote in any way on the comment, but it's plausible you could have different strategic choices. You could try to shift a large donor to cause areas outside of existing preferences to more effective ones (as is the EA "truism") or you could try to discover and endorse the most effective charities within existing preferences. The latter seems to be discussed by Ozzie Gooen in this thread.

Perhaps disagree votes were along the lines that they did not think lobbying for different cause areas would work with Bezos.

Thanks for having the courage to write this. Regardless of whether it's correct, it is good to have the position represented and it is much easier in the current environment to take the other side on this.

I agree... Was very bothered by the categorical proscriptions against "ends justifying the means" as well as the seeming statements that some kinds of ethical epistemology are outside of the bounds of discourse. Seemed very contrary to the EA norm of open discourse on morality being essential to our project.

If that is the state of the law and they have a legal obligation to return it, they should. I just would not endorse returning if not legally obligated to.

Well argued.

For me, it comes down to whether the retention contributes to the social corrosion in a similar manner to the underlying fraud. My intuition is that it does not, and thus the question should be evaluated from the first order utility differences.

I do not think if there was some determination that a grantee had the right to retain the funds that(a) voluntarily relinquishing them to FTX victims would remedy much at all the social corrosion caused by the underlying fraud or (b) that exercising the right to retain would cause further social corrosion. I suppose if I am wrong on either of the points that I might be persuaded.

We estimate that several thousands of dollars saves a life with Global Health and Development charities... Many of these grantees are exploring potentially transformative areas that EAs consider higher EV than these GH&D charities... To unnecessarily defund them is what is immoral.

These grantees did not participate in fraud. They do not need to atone. Perhaps SBF and some other actors engaged in criminal or fraudulent activity and they should be dealt with accordingly. The movement is not compromised by innocent grantees retaining benefits for important work.

We are an applied ethics movement... And the right thing to do here is not to disempower what we have identified as extremely promising efforts to make a better today and tomorrow.

I think what jeopardizes us is if we do not value the work we do. Reflexively neutering our projects without good reason is the path to a worse world.

It is very different from the kind of reasoning that leads to fraud.

Fraud and many other kinds of other criminal behavior corrodes at the fabric of trust that enables our communities, large and small, to operate effectively. Thus, when you diminish the trust that members of society can place in each other, you do immense damage. Thus, in an EV calculation incorporating these kinds of activities, they are seldom justified because the harm risked is colossal.

A retention of a benefit in these circumstances where the grantee is not complicit and is not legally required to return it does not cause or risk the above harm in the least.

If a grant recipients'use of resources is extremely high EV, which it should be, the unnecessary defunding of it is obscenely immoral.

Exactly, just as charities might unintentionally do harm, so can for-profit entities. Will's statement erred in assuming financial viability for companies is the only dimension on which they can be assessed.

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