Wiki Contributions


What would you do if you had half a million dollars?

I would unrestrictedly give it to individual EAs you trust. 

Why should we be effective in our altruism?

When I was small I needed help. Instead, I was treated very badly. Many people and animals need help right now. We have to help as many of them as possible. 

Earlier in our relationship, I told my wife that we should legally marry other people so they could move to the USA. She is usually quite open-minded but she very much hated the plan so we never did it. 

I am very big on living out your values. If you are a citizen of a highly desired country you can help make open borders a reality. I encourage you to consider this in who you legally marry. This is especially relevant if you are poly. There are a lot of versions that differ quite a bit in terms of risk. 

Good luck.

Vitalik Buterin just donated $54M (in ETH) to GiveWell

Groups are not public. Here is an example from 'EAs in crypto'.  The original thread was in 'highly speculative EA investing'. The EAs in crypto thread got the most engagement.

note: Anthony Deluca is me, Greg is a well-known EA.

Vitalik Buterin just donated $54M (in ETH) to GiveWell

Multiple people connected to the lesswrong/ea investing groups tried to contact him. We both contacted him directly and got some people closer to Vitalik to talk to him. I am unsure how much influence we had. He donated less than two days after the facebook threads went up.

We definitely tried!

Being Vocal About What Works

I am not sure Effective Altruism has been a net hedonic positive for me. In fact, I think it has not been. 

Recently in order to save money to donate more, I chose to live in very cheap housing in California. This resulted in many serious problems. Looking back arguably the biggest problem was the noise. If you cram a bunch of people into a house it's going to be noisy.  This very badly affected my mental health. There were other issues as well. My wife and I could have afforded a much more expensive place. That would have been money very well spent. I was really quite miserable. 

During the 2017 crypto bull run, I held a decent amount of ETH. Pretty close to the top I gave away half since I felt like I had hit a huge windfall. Of course, ETH crashed to around 87 from a high of 1400. So I ended up not as rich as I thought. It didn't help that I handled the bear market poorly. Maybe it was good that I donated the ETH instead of selling it for far less. But maybe I would have handled the bear market better had I kept more ETH or cashed some out for myself. 

 In the end, things went fine for me. But the decision to donate so much at the top really haunted me for years. Of course, I did not donate 10%. A 10% donation threshold would mean donating 10% of the ETH I cashed out (potentially 0 dollars). Until you sell you don't have any taxable income. I have again donated all the crypto I cashed out. But this time I have donated a much smaller percentage of my bankroll. 

I am also quite terrified of the singularity. It has not been easy for me to deal with the 'singularity is near' arguments I hear in the rationality and EA communities.

Of course, I think my involvement with EA has been positive for the world. In addition to donations, I gave some money to some poorer friends. They certainly appreciated it. But effective altruism has not been an easy road.

Should you do a PhD in science?

It is hard for me to think of much advice that has gone worse for rationalists/EAs on average than 'Get a PHD'.  I know dozens of people in the community who spent at least some time in a PHD program. There is a huge amount of people expressing strong regret. A small number of people think their PHD went ok. Very few people think their PHD was a great and effective idea. Notably, I am only counting people who have already left grad school and had some time to reflect. 

The track record is incredibly bad in the community. The opportunity cost is extremely high. I very strongly urge people to reconsider. 

Another angle is that it is just a very unhealthy environment on average. Here is Ben Kuhn explaining the data:

First I looked for a bigger survey of graduate student depression and anxiety rates. It wasn’t too hard to find one, and the numbers were almost the same: 41% of graduate students had “moderate to severe” anxiety compared to 6% of the general population; 39% had moderate to severe depression compared to 6% of the general public.

deluks917's Shortform

I don't like when animal advocates are too confident about their approach and are critical of other advocates. We are losing badly, meat consumption is still skyrocketing! Now is time to be humble and open-minded. Meta-advice: Don't be too critical of the critical either!

What does failure look like?

My biggest mistake was not buying, and holding, crypto early. This was an extremely costly mistake. If I bought and held I would have hundreds of millions of dollars that could have been given as grants. I doubt I will ever make such a costly mistake again.

Going to graduate school was a very bad decision too. After 2.5 years I had to take my L and get out. It was very painful to admit I had been wrong but that is life.

Mundane trouble with EV / utility

The problem is real. Though for 'normal' low probabilities I suggest biting the bullet. A practical example is the question of whether to found a company. If you found a startup you will probably fail and make very little or no money. However, right now a majority of effective altruist funding comes from Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovich. The tails are very thick. 

If you have a high-risk plan with a sufficiently large reward I suggest going for it even if you are overwhelming likely to fail. Taking the risk is the most altruistic thing you can do. Most effective altruists are unwilling to take on the personal risk.

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