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Allocating Global Aid to Maximize Utility

Somewhat related:

The Limitations of Decentralized World Redistribution: An Optimal Taxation Approach

A centralized scheme of world redistribution that maximizes a border-neutral social welfare function, subject to the disincentive effects it would create, generates a drastic reduction in world consumption inequality, dropping the Gini coefficient from 0.69 to 0.25. In contrast, an optimal decentralized (i.e., with no cross-country transfers) redistribution has a miniscule effect on world income inequality. Thus, the traditional public finance concern about the excess burden of redistribution cannot explain why there is so little world redistribution.

Actual foreign aid is vastly lower than the transfers under the simulated world income tax, suggesting that voluntary world transfers—subject to a free-rider problem—produces an outcome that is consistent with rich countries such as the United States either placing a much lower value on the welfare of foreigners, or else expecting that a very significant fraction of cross-border transfers is wasted. The product of the welfare weight and one minus the share of transfers that are wasted constitutes the implicit weight that the United States assigns to foreigners. We calculate that value to be as low as 1/2000 of the value put on the welfare of an American, suggesting that U.S. policy is consistent with social preferences that place essentially no value on the welfare of the citizens of the poorest countries, or that implicitly assumes that essentially all transfers are wasted.

How do ideas travel from academia to the world: any advice on what to read?

I know one of the examples I've heard of is neoliberalism and the Mont Pelerin society. You may be able to use that as a case study.

Aligning Recommender Systems as Cause Area

From Optimizing Engagement to Measuring Value is interesting and somewhat related:

Most recommendation engines today are based on predicting user engagement, e.g. predicting whether a user will click on an item or not. However, there is potentially a large gap between engagement signals and a desired notion of "value" that is worth optimizing for. We use the framework of measurement theory to (a) confront the designer with a normative question about what the designer values, (b) provide a general latent variable model approach that can be used to operationalize the target construct and directly optimize for it, and (c) guide the designer in evaluating and revising their operationalization. We implement our approach on the Twitter platform on millions of users. In line with established approaches to assessing the validity of measurements, we perform a qualitative evaluation of how well our model captures a desired notion of "value".

Take care with notation for uncertain quantities

Note that the significant figures conventions are a common way of communicating the precision in a number. e.g. indicates more precision than .

What are examples of EA work being reviewed by non-EA researchers?

In addition to Will MacAskill's critique of functional decision theory (MIRI-originated and intended to be relevant for AI alignment), there's this write-up by someone that refereed FDT's submission to a philosophy journal:

My recommendation was to accept resubmission with major revisions, but since the article had already undergone a previous round of revisions and still had serious problems, the editors (understandably) decided to reject it. I normally don't publish my referee reports, but this time I'll make an exception because the authors are well-known figures from outside academia, and I want to explain why their account has a hard time gaining traction in academic philosophy.

What are examples of EA work being reviewed by non-EA researchers?

Here's a thread in which a World Bank economist critiques GiveWell on research/publication methods. (GiveWell responds here.)

AMA: "The Oxford Handbook of Social Movements"

I just feel like it's hard to come away with much of long-term value. I sort of nod along as I read thinking, "That's plausible," and that's about it. (To be concrete: I make Anki cards for most nonfiction I read and I've only made around 1o or 12 across 200 pages which is way fewer than normal for me.) I think I generally want my non-fiction to have at least one of:

  1. Solid empirical findings (i.e. widely and repeatedly attested within the field)
  2. Falsifiable models with some explanatory depth (i.e. not just mindless curve fitting or a listing of all possible causal factors)
  3. Insightful conceptual analysis (e.g. mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive taxonomies)

Regarding 1, several empirical studies are mentioned but they don't seem to add up to a coherent or even non-contradictory whole.

There's basically none of 2.

The book is probably closest to achieving number 3, but still not great. I would have liked, for example, if they talked about why the classic agenda of "collective action frames", "mobilizing structures", and "political opportunities" is a better organizational scheme than the alternatives.

The book also focuses more on apportioning credit and on the history of the thinking in the field than I'd prefer.

All that said, I understand different readers are looking for different things.

Lant Pritchett's "smell test": is your impact evaluation asking questions that matter?

I remain pretty confused by this line of argument. I basically parse it as: we should strive to make the actions of developing countries similar to the (best) actions of developed countries. But actions seem of merely instrumental interest and what we actually care about is states (conditions) that are conducive to development.

The recommendations from these two perspectives (actions vs states) converge only insofar as the best actions are invariant across states. But this is quite a big claim and contradicted by e.g. Rodrik who insists that "Institutional innovations do not travel well".

It seems like the development interventions we commonly see can be readily justified by the state-based view. For example, no, we didn't see widespread deployment of insecticidal nets in the US, but, yes, we did see deliberate effort to achieve and good returns from achieving a low burden of infectious disease in the US. No, we didn't have women's self-help groups, but, yes, we did achieve a state of increased gender equality and of increased integration of women into the formal economy.

TL;DR: Why would we expect the same actions to produce the same end state given different starting states?

AMA: "The Oxford Handbook of Social Movements"

Another book in this area is Handbook of Social Movements Across Disciplines. Unfortunately, I'm most of the way through and it's a bit underwhelming.

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