davidc

143Joined Jan 2015

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35

It still doesn't fully entail Matt's claim, but the content of the interview gets a lot closer than that description. You don't need to give it a full listen, I've quoted the relevant part:

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/THgezaPxhvoizkRFy/clarifications-on-diminishing-returns-and-risk-aversion-in?commentId=ppyzWLuhkuRJCifsx

When I listened to the interview, I briefly thought to myself that that level of risk-neutrality didn't make sense. But I didn't say anything about that to anyone, and I'm pretty sure I also didn't play through in my head anything about the actual implications if Sam were serious about it.

I wonder if we could have taken that as a red flag. If you take seriously what he said, it's pretty concerning (implies a high chance of losing everything, though not necessarily anything like what actually happened)!

Seems worthwhile to quote the relevant bit of the interview:

====

Sam Bankman-Fried: If your goal is to have impact on the world — and in particular if your goal is to maximize the amount of impact that you have on the world — that has pretty strong implications for what you end up doing. Among other things, if you really are trying to maximize your impact, then at what point do you start hitting decreasing marginal returns? Well, in terms of doing good, there’s no such thing: more good is more good. It’s not like you did some good, so good doesn’t matter anymore. But how about money? Are you able to donate so much that money doesn’t matter anymore? And the answer is, I don’t exactly know. But you’re thinking about the scale of the world there, right? At what point are you out of ways for the world to spend money to change?

Sam Bankman-Fried: There’s eight billion people. Government budgets run in the tens of trillions per year. It’s a really massive scale. You take one disease, and that’s a billion a year to help mitigate the effects of one tropical disease. So it’s unclear exactly what the answer is, but it’s at least billions per year probably, so at least 100 billion overall before you risk running out of good things to do with money. I think that’s actually a really powerful fact. That means that you should be pretty aggressive with what you’re doing, and really trying to hit home runs rather than just have some impact — because the upside is just absolutely enormous.

Rob Wiblin: Yeah. Our instincts about how much risk to take on are trained on the fact that in day-to-day life, the upside for us as individuals is super limited. Even if you become a millionaire, there’s just only so much incrementally better that your life is going to be — and getting wiped out is very bad by contrast.

Rob Wiblin: But when it comes to doing good, you don’t hit declining returns like that at all. Or not really on the scale of the amount of money that any one person can make. So you kind of want to just be risk neutral. As an individual, to make a bet where it’s like, “I’m going to gamble my $10 billion and either get $20 billion or $0, with equal probability” would be madness. But from an altruistic point of view, it’s not so crazy. Maybe that’s an even bet, but you should be much more open to making radical gambles like that.

Sam Bankman-Fried: Completely agree. ...

(Same comment as gcmm posted at the same time... Won't delete mine but it's basically a duplicate.)

Seems like it's counterfactual in the same sense as the Facebook match: all of this money is going to charities one way or another, but mostly won't go to charities EAs find plausible so you're moving money from some random charity to something you think is especially good.

I realize this is a bit hypothetical but it does seem like the numbers matter a bit, so I want to ask:

Is there some basis on which you're imagining 50% of folks in an animal welfare EA group think that if factory farmed animals are moral patients, it's more likely that they have net-positive lives?

That surprised me a bit (I'd imagine it close to 0%, but I'm not too active in any EA groups right now, especially not any animal-focused ones so I don't have much data).

This subject would benefit from making distinctions among software projects, and some example projects.

There's huge variation in comp for programmers (across variables like location, and the kind of work they can do), and also huge variation in complexity across projects and what they need. I think this post understates those distinctions, and therefore somewhat overstates the risk of a cheap engineer of the needed sort leaving for high pay.

Do you have any more details on the opinions you've gotten from legal experts? I'd be interested in hearing more about the reasoning for why it's okay.

I think Paul Christiano explained well here why it might be questionable:

If you make an agreement "I'll do X if in exchange you do Y," ... Obviously the tax code will treat that differently than doing X without any expectation of reciprocity, and the treatment depends on Y. ...

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