Board secretary at Animal Charity Evaluators. Involved with the EA movement since 2011. More info at Blog at

EricHerboso's Comments

EA Forum feature suggestion thread

...and literally thirty seconds later, I appear to have found the bug report submission form is intended to be the Intercom on the side of every single page. I feel a little bit ashamed about this, but it just didn't occur to me that I should give bug reports there.

EA Forum feature suggestion thread

When performing a search, the search results page uses "LW Search - EA Forum" as the contents of the title tag. I doubt this is an intentional reference to this forum being a fork of the lesswrong forum, so I assume the "LW" part should be removed.

By the way, I looked for 60 seconds to find where to post this small bug report, but the only options I saw was the unlisted contact us page, which seems to send a message to content people rather than the people that work on the codebase of the forum. This page is the only place where I could quickly find a way to get a message to whomever does the technical side of the forum.

So I suppose my feature request is: Provide a new place for users to quickly submit bug reports; or, if such a place already exists, make it more prominent.

A list of EA-related podcasts

Luke Muehlhauser's Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot had an episode interviewing Toby Ord back in January 2011. This is from before the term "effective altruism" was being used to describe the movement. I think it may be the first podcast episode to really discuss what would eventually be called EA, with the second oldest podcast episode being Massimo Pigliucci's interview with Holden Karnofsky on Rationally Speaking in July 2011.

(There was plenty of discussion online about these issues in years prior to this, but as far as I can tell, discussion didn't appear in podcast form until 2011.)

The Importance of EA Dedication and Why it Should Be Encouraged

I believe there is a threshold difference between passionate and self-disciplined EAs. As excited EAs become more dedicated, they tend to hit a wall where their frugality starts to affect them personally much more than it previously have. This wall takes effort to overcome, if it is overcome at all.

Meanwhile, when an obligatory EA becomes more dedicated, that wall doesn't exist (or at least it has less force). So it's easier for self-disciplined EAs to get to more extreme levels than for passionate EAs.

Harvard EA's 2018–19 Vision

Please feel free to steal the html used for footnotes in EA forum posts like this one.

  • In-page anchor links: <a id="ref1" href="#fn1">&sup1;</a>
  • Linked footnote: <p id="fn1">&sup1; <small>Footnote text.</small></p>
  • Footnote link back to article text: <a href="#ref1">↩</a>
The EA Community and Long-Term Future Funds Lack Transparency and Accountability

While I personally have trust that Nick Beckstead has been acting in good faith, I also completely understand why donors might choose to stop donating because of this extreme lack of regular communication.

It's important for EAs to realize that even when you have good intentions and are making good choices about what to do, if you aren't effectively communicating your thinking to stakeholders, then you aren't doing all that you should be doing. Communications are vitally important, and I hope that comments like this one really help to drive this point home to not just EA Funds distributors, but also others in the EA community.

EA Hotel with free accommodation and board for two years

Not all EAs are on board with AI risk, but it would be rude for this EA hotel to commit to funding general AI research on the side. Whether all EAs are on board with effective animal advocacy isn't the key point when deciding whether the hotel's provided meals are vegan.

An EA who doesn't care about veganism will be mildly put off if the hotel doesn't serve meat. But an EA who believes that veganism is important would be very strongly put off if the hotel served meat. The relative difference in how disturbed the latter person would be is presumably at least 5 times as strong as the minor inconvenience that the former person would feel. This means that even if only 20% of EAs are vegan, the expected value from keeping meals vegan would beat out the convenience factor of including meat for nonvegans.

Effective Advertising and Animal Charity Evaluators

You raise a number of points; I’ll try to respond to each of them.

For people who are already donating to animal organisations which aren't shelters then it isn't necessarily better to give to "effective" organisations as put forward by ACE because there aren't sufficient comparisons that can be made between organisations they are already supporting.

We do not believe this is true. We explicitly rank our top charities as being better targets for effective giving than our standout charities, and we explicitly rank our standout charities as better targets than organizations not on our Recommended Charity list.

This doesn’t mean that more effective EAA charities necessarily don’t exist. We’re currently expanding our focus to several organizations across the world to which we hadn’t previously looked. (There's still time to submit charities for review in 2018.) There are also some charities that we were not able to evaluate last year for one reason or another. These charities may or may perform better than our current Top Charities. We encourage you to learn more about how we evaluate charities.

As an example, I continue to wonder why someone would necessarily believe it is better to give to GFI over an organisation doing pluralistic work in the animal movement? One is well supported by various foundations and is far from underconsidered or neglected, whilst others that work on more meta level questions of plurality and inclusivity tend to be marginalised, particularly through not reflecting a favoured "mainstream" ideology.

GFI rates well on all of our criteria. If you want to compare them to another group doing pluralistic work, then you’d need to directly compare our reviews of each organization. Alternatively, you are free to perform your own analysis to compare relative potential effectiveness; if performed well, such analyses could then be used in future reviews by ACE.

Keep in mind that we explicitly believe a pluralistic approach is best overall. It's just that individual charities working on pluralistic approaches may have wildly different levels of effectiveness, and, given limited resources, we should prioritize whatever results in the most good.

Another issue is that ACE doesn't account for moral theory in relation to rights or utilitarianism thus largely presenting a fairly unfortunate picture in the animal movement in terms of utilitarian = effective and rights = ineffective.

We are quite transparent about the philosophical foundations of our work. We explicitly maintain that the most effective approach is probably a pluralistic one, and we hope that a diverse group of animal charities will continue pursuing a wide range of interventions to help all populations of animals. However, we will continue to recommend that marginal resources support the most effective tactics.

This is not an issue of rights vs utility. Whether you believe in rights or in utility, presumably you would want to do twice as much good with limited resources if you get the chance.

(A quick aside on deontology vs consequentialism as it relates to cause prioritization: Let's say you're a deontologist who believes murder is wrong. You're given a coupon that you can redeem at one of two locations. If you redeem at the first, you prevent a murder. If you redeem at the second, you prevent two murders. Can you honestly say that, even as a deontologist, you wouldn't prefer to redeem at the second location?)

The suffering of all animals is important, whether those animals are companion animals, animals in a lab, animals used in entertainment, or farmed animals. But when you have limited resources, you should prioritize helping those animals for which you can effectively reduce suffering. This is true whether you're talking about a rights organization or a utilitarian organization (to use your terminology).

I support the idea of evaluation by ACE but i'm sceptical that the claims that ACE tend to make sufficiently reflect the work that has taken place, or that there is enough transparency in terms of the underlying values and beliefs that ACE tend to represent. I continue to believe that some form of external meta-evaluation would be useful for ACE.

If there are specific claims that you believe do not reflect the work that we do, you are always welcome to give feedback. We also strive to be as transparent as possible in everything that we do. With regard to outside evaluation, we have explicitly asked for external reviewers and have a public list of external reviewers on our site.

I hope that these responses help to alleviate some of your concerns.

Effective Advertising and Animal Charity Evaluators

sidenote: I’d be interested to what extent ACE now uses Bayesian reasoning in their estimates, e.g. by adjusting impact by how likely small sample studies are false positives.

Our current methodology uses an alternative approach of treating cost-effectiveness estimates as only one input into our decisions. We then take care to "notice when we are confused" by remaining aware that if a cost-effectiveness estimate is much higher than we would expect based on the other things we know about an intervention or charity, that may be due to an error in our estimate rather than to truly exceptional cost effectiveness.

We admit that Bayesian techniques would more accurately adjust for uncertainty, but this would require additional work in developing appropriate priors for each reference class, and this process may not generate worthwhile differences in our evaluations, given our data set. See this section of our Cost-Effectiveness Estimates page for details on our thinking about this.

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