Charles Dillon

1375 karmaJoined Dec 2018


Experienced quant trader, based in London. Formerly a volunteer at Rethink Priorities, where I did some forecasting research. Interested in most things, donations have been primarily to longtermism, animal welfare and meta causes.


Type 1 diabetic and long time EA here.

Generally when I have donated to help people directly (most of my recent donations have not been of this form, to be clear, in recent years my donations have been focused on research or on helping animals) I am not really thinking about how big the problem is. I am thinking "what will the consequence of this donation be?" If I am donating less than millions of dollars, I'm not likely to solve the whole issue, so the question of if the issue is big or small in a global sense just isn't very important.

For type 1 diabetes, what can a donation of $5k do? I'm not sure, but the baseline for what I can do with $5k in the global health space is "prevent a child from dying of malaria", so I would want to find something I thought was better than that before doing so.

That last bit is the key to the EA mindset to me - given a fixed donation budget, every time we choose to give to something, we are choosing not to give that money to everything else. So we ought to triage, and give to where we think the money or effort can do the most good.

For someone who knows of a really high leverage way to impact the affordability or availability of insulin (or for a researcher with a chance of discovering a cure or improved treatment), it might be that the best place for them to focus their efforts is on that. There are millions of type 1 diabetics, so any one person who could make a meaningful impact there could have enormous impact. But it's still good for them to ask the question and be aware of what other avenue to impact they might have, if their goal is to do the most good.

Did someone say it would be bad? Where?

I think the layout of this post is quite reader unfriendly.

I strongly suggest you start with a full summary rather than just an intro, and don't bury your conclusions midway between the post and some very long appendices which are unlikely to be very useful to 90% of readers.

As it is, anyone wishing to respond in depth would basically have to do the work of summarizing the post themselves, which increases the friction on feedback.

The article gives a magnitude for fish farming. It does not talk about wild fish. Why is the scale of wild fish relevant?

Did you read the article? It is about intensive fish farming, and addresses all your points in detail, which you do not acknowledge.

This conceptually seems similar to the meat eater problem argument against global health interventions.

I think a lot of this coordination is implicit rather than explicit, and I don't think it's very well publicised (and there's room for marginal donations to change whether the org gets funded to their high Vs medium target for example, and signalling value that individuals think this is good, so I do not mean to say that this is the only consequence of a donation).

I think there is a misconception here - when it is said that these charities will be fully funded anyway, what that can mean is that they will try to fundraise for a certain budget (perhaps with high/medium/low targets) and larger donors will often choose to fill the remaining gap in their fundraising late in the fundraising process.

This means you are often not really giving the charity extra on top of their budget, but in practice funging with the largest donors. The largest donors will then often give slightly less to them and give to their next best option instead.

As an individual, you are in this case redirecting funding from an organisation which agree with your priorities to whatever their next best option is.

For example, I personally made some donations to animal welfare charities this year which very likely funged to some extent with the EA Funds animal welfare fund. What that means is that the counterfactual effectiveness of my donation might be equivalent to whatever the last thing they chose to fund was (which I think is probably quite good in expectation).

I think it would follow from this and your radical uncertainty with regard to non long term interventions that you would want to include these donations as positively impactful.

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