Physician with the US Public Health Service. Medical school at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Residency in Family and Preventive Medicine with training in tropical medicine and public health.


Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

If you had to choose just three long-termist efforts as the highest expected value, which would you pick and why?

Investing to Give: FP Research Report

I dont think that all flow through effects are (or even can be) quantified by this sort of analysis. It is surely much easier to measure the growth from an investment account than to quantify the impact of a human life or the downstream effects of improving a human life. As far as I am aware, efforts to quantify this sort of effect are not yet available to the level that I would feel very confident about a side by side comparison. If you are aware of something you believe allows for such comparison, I would be very interested in reading that.

Where are you donating in 2020 and why?

Also donating 10% to honor my GWWC pledge and investing the rest for future giving. This year was a little different than our planned giving as I was able to find several unique opportunities to donate through a social worker contact in India. The economic impact of the pandemic initially created some crisis type situations where migrant workers were unable to work or return home and many of the most vulnerable in urban slums experienced truly critical conditions. Because of our direct contact to people doing work with those people, we were reasonably confident that helping some of these people meet basic needs not being met by other programs was neglected and critical enough to potentially be more impactful than our typical Givewell donations.

These opportunities combined made up more than half of our charitable giving for the year. We continue to donate to AMF monthly and this year have added donations to Wikipedia (after 2020 teaching me the value of open access, accurate information) and ALLFED (for many of the reasons listed in the excellent comment above).

We are still behind on our pledge and are considering trying to get a matched donation on giving Tuesday and still researching high yield options. Suggestions welcome.

Investing to Give: FP Research Report

I find it interesting that "giving opportunities whose primary route to impact is making more financial or human resources available to be “spent” on the highest-impact opportunities at a later point in time," were intentionally excluded. One might argue that from a longtermist perspective that the primary route to impact of most EA interventions (including those typically viewed as short-termist) will manifest most of their impact via flow through effects.  The compounding effects of investing in the untapped human potential of the global poor now is much more difficult to quantify that the returns on  a typical investment portfolio but perhaps that is why it is so neglected.  

Also, curious what Franklin's money was used for 200 years later and whether it was something that would've had more impact than if that money had been spent on high impact causes of his time. 

Addressing Global Poverty as a Strategy to Improve the Long-Term Future

I also think well-being is not the ideal metric for what type of development would reduce x-risk either. When I mention the Gross Nation Happiness metric this is just one measure currently being used which actually includes things like good governance and environmental impact among many other things. My point was that growth in GDP is a poor measure of success and that creating a better metric of success might be a crucial step in improving the current system. I think a measure which attempts to quantify some of the things you mention would be wonderful to include in such a metric and would get the world thinking about how to improve those things. GNH is just one step better IMO than just seeking to maximize economic return. For more on GNH: 

Addressing Global Poverty as a Strategy to Improve the Long-Term Future

I already think technology is at a point where welfare does not have to depend on fossil fuel consumption. This is why the efforts to have low carbon or carbon neutral development like the Global Green New Deal and other international efforts are crucial. I don’t think the western world is a model to be followed as much as it is a warning of what not to do in many ways. But yeah, I think we are already at a place where development doesn’t have to require a larger carbon footprint, we may just lack the political willpower to implement those technologies at the scale required due to some perverse global economic incentives around that issue.

I share concerns about religious fundamentalism and radical ideology. I don’t think I’ve seen any data suggesting that development inherently makes these things worse though and my intuition tells me that rationality is more likely to thrive in a world with higher average welfare and/or decreased inequality.

Addressing Global Poverty as a Strategy to Improve the Long-Term Future

I think my point is that we don’t know all that much about what that would look like. I have my own theories but they may be completely off base because this research is fairly uncommon and neglected. I think economic growth may not even be the best metric for progress but maybe some derivative of the Gross National Happiness Index or something of that nature. I do think that there may be bidirectional benefit from focusing at the intersection of x-risk and global development. I love the work ALLFED is doing BTW! 

Addressing Global Poverty as a Strategy to Improve the Long-Term Future

Yes, the US pandemic response in particular is evidence that the wealth of a country does not seem to be the most important factor in effective response to threats. Also, the “boring apocalypse“ scenario seems much more probable to me than any sort of “bang” or rapid extinction event and I think there is a lot that could be done in the realm of global development to help create a world more robust to that kind of slow burn. 

Addressing Global Poverty as a Strategy to Improve the Long-Term Future

This is great! I’m glad these things are at least on the agenda. I will be following with interest to see what comes of this.

Addressing Global Poverty as a Strategy to Improve the Long-Term Future

Yes that is a major risk with this kind of thing and I cited that article in the disclaimer. I think there is almost certainly a real convergence but the strength of that convergence is what is debatable. Finding the bits where these cause areas intersect may really be a great opportunity though which EA is uniquely capable of researching and making a positive impact. So it is good to be skeptical of the convenient convergence phenomenon but that shouldn’t make us blind to ways where real convergence may be a convenient opportunity to have an outsized impact.

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