All of freedomandutility's Comments + Replies

Has anything in the EA global health sphere changed since the critiques of "randomista development" 1-2 years ago?

I second the need to focus on growth in LMICs, partly on the grounds of more money better translating to happiness for poorer people than for richer people.

But also, it seems like HICs benefit from more think tanks and people working on policy specific to their country, whereas LMICs seem to have fewer think tanks based in their own countries working on policy specific to that country, but I might be wrong about the numbers of think tanks and the benefits they provide.

3John G. Halstead2dGrowth research is also a global public good so we should expect it to be underprovided, and for more of it to be a very good thing
EA megaprojects continued

Even then it would seem preferable to me to fund something like a “department of AI safety” at an existing university, since the department (staff and graduates) could benefit from the university’s prestige. I assume this is possible since FHI and GPI exist.

EA megaprojects continued

Compared to the other ideas here, I think the benefits of an explicitly EA university seem small (compared to the current set-up of EA institutes at normal universities, EAs doing EA-relevant degrees at normal universities and EA university societies).

Are there other major benefits I’m missing other than more value-alignment + more co-operation between EAs?

One downside of EA universities I can think of is that it might slow movement growth since EAs will be spending less time with people unfamiliar with the movement / fewer people at normal universities will come across EA.

1simeon_c2dMy guess is that it can help converting non-EAs into people who have roughly EA-aligned objectives which seems highly valuable ! What I mean is that a simple econ degree is enough to have people who think almost like EAs so I I expect an EA university to be able to do that even better

I think this is one of these things that are a bit hard to judge unless you have contextual knowledge of, e.g. how things work out at EA-dominated research university institutes. I think more abstract considerations will only take you so far.

The same point also pertains to the other comments in this thread.

6SamuelKnoche3dI have argued for [] a more "mutiny" (edit: maybe "exit" is a better word for it) style theory of change in higher education so I really like the idea of an EA university where learning would be more guided by a genuine sense of purpose, curiosity and ambition to improve the world rather than a zero-sum competition for prestige and a need to check boxes in order to get a piece of paper. Though I realize that many EAs probably don't share my antipathy towards the current higher education system. Though if it becomes really successful and prestigious, it could also raise the profile of EA.

I would be surprised if it were worthwhile building an entire university with all the normal departments, but I could see value if it offered specialist masters degrees that you can't obtain elsewhere such as a Masters of AI Safety.

Does anyone have a list of summer internship opportunities that are a particularly good fit for EAs?

I'm in college, looking at global health / pandemics / biomedical research, but I thought it might be useful to have general list of EA relevant summer opportunities for EAs in college.

3aogara4dOh cool cool, thought you were looking for personal advice but a general resource would definitely be useful. I don’t know too much about bio, but here’s one internship that somebody I know did and enjoyed: The Nuclear Threat Initiative runs internships every semester (spring / fall / summer) for college undergraduates and grad students. They’re a top think tank in DC on not only nuclear issues, but also biosecurity, energy, and science and technology policy more broadly. In the 12 week internship, you can choose to specialize in any of these fields. Here’s the application link: []
What Small Weird Thing Do You Fund?

This opinion is mine and doesn't represent EA:

I would fund Soch (, a Vox-like Indian YouTube channel which sometimes presents a technocratic / academic perspective on Indian politics and news so that they can do more of that, and AltNews, an Indian anti-fake-news fact-checking website to expand their work.

This would be with the idea of decreasing populism in India.

I think this is suited to small donors because the effects of these seem ridiculously hard to measure or estimate, even with back of the envelope calculations. B... (read more)

Don’t wait – there’s plenty more need and opportunity today

I agree with most of your comment.

However, given that GiveWell want to use a bar of 5-7x GiveDirectly, I think accounting for a study that at best will demonstrate that GiveDirectly is 2.6 times more effective than previously thought, will not influence GiveWell’s decision to wait for better opportunities, since it still doesn’t meet the 5-7x GiveDirectly bar.

New Effective Thesis services and opportunities to get involved

Hi, amazing to see that Effective Thesis is expanding its services! 

Personally I think Effective Thesis could become one of the highest impact EA initiatives, since hundreds of thousands of theses and dissertations are written every year, and steering these towards pressing global problems seems to have very high expected value.

I may start an EA society at my university in the future, and I was wondering whether you actively collaborate with university EA societies to promote Effective Thesis to students, and the extent to which you do this?

Initial thoughts on malaria vaccine approval

Thanks for the reply, that answers my question perfectly :)

Initial thoughts on malaria vaccine approval

Apologies if I’ve missed this in the post, but I don’t think it discusses a potential decrease in the marginal value of LLINs and SMC due to RTS,S, instead focusing on a comparison between LLIN and SMC vs RTS,S.

Do GiveWell intend to explore the effect on marginal value at a later point in time / in more detail? It seems plausible to me that despite LLIN and SMC being more cost effective than RTS,S, a decrease in their marginal value could mean that donors would prefer to donate to other GiveWell top charities over AMF.

5CatherineHollander2moThanks for your question! I work at GiveWell. The initial calculation we shared in the blog post is a simple one, intended to give a rough sense of the cost-effectiveness of each opportunity given the current limited investigation we’ve done of RTS,S. You're correct that it doesn't account for how RTS,S might interact with LLINs and SMC and the funding needs for those interventions; it's possible that interventions will be layered atop one another, rather than an "either/or" situation. We expect we would estimate the marginal value if we were deeply investigating an opportunity to fund RTS,S or if it seemed likely that the rollout of RTS,S was going to impact the cost-effectiveness of LLINs or SMC. Going forward, we're also incorporating lower expected malaria rates in some locations in our SMC cost-effectiveness analysis due to the expectation of higher LLIN coverage in the future than the past. We’re doing the same where we’re funding LLINs to be delivered in areas where SMC is expanding.
remittances:wave as immigration:startup x?

I’m not very well versed on what good methods would be to increase migration, but I think there’s need for an international organisation that advocates for / researches policy change towards more lenient immigration policies, focused on making it easier to migrate from the poorest to the richest countries.

For example, such an org could try to identify which rich country would be the best within which to push for more lenient immigration rules.

I hope to do a post about this at some point after having given the idea more thought.

The expected value of funding anti-aging research has probably dropped significantly

In my opinion, the public seems to dislike the idea of rejuvenation biotechnology, but doesn't dislike it enough that public opinion would significantly hamper the progress of this field.

I think the billionaire space race may be a good example of the public disliking weird stuff that billionaires are doing, but public opinion not significantly impacting their ability to do the weird stuff.

I am also not too worried about bad PR keeping good scientists away since I think high salaries should help to overcome their fears / misunderstandings surrounding anti-ageing research.

2AppliedDivinityStudies3moBut what if they could be doing way more? If being a civilian space tourist was seen as the coolest person anyone could do, there would probably be even more of a market incentive for Branson. I think that's true for now, but 1. If longevity research was high-status, maybe salaries would be lower and you could have twice as many scientists 2. Many you end up with fewer smart young people going into longevity research and the field starts to dry up
The expected value of funding anti-aging research has probably dropped significantly

Thanks for your comment.

I'm agnostic  (EDIT) I personally do not think funding certain types of research within anti-ageing research could still have similar EV to EA priorities despite the EV being lower than it was before, but I think this is plausible.

I'm also hopeful that Altos Labs is more open and collaborative than Calico Labs.

While I'm seeing some criticism of the idea that billionaires want to live longer, I think it's unlikely to be widespread enough or draw enough attention to noticeably damage Altos Labs, or cause much further damage to anti-ageing research in general.

The expected value of funding anti-aging research has probably dropped significantly

Yes you're right, now that I think about Harrison's comment, I think both a) "the industry is already/now getting lots of money from billionaires, so the marginal value of donating additional money is smaller" and b) donating money to anti-ageing research will lead to billionaires donating less money to anti-ageing research.

The expected value of funding anti-aging research has probably dropped significantly

The first! (And not the second). I’m not 100% sure if ‘subsidising billionaires’ is the correct term but I mean that money donated towards aging is probably going to be donated by billionaires anyway.

9Stefan_Schubert3mo"Subsidising billionaires" seems to imply the second interpretation. This also seems to suggest the second interpretation.
More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

Same! I think neglectedness is more useful for identifying impactful “just add more funding” style interventions, but is less useful for identifying impactful careers and other types of interventions since focusing on neglectedness systematically misses high leverage careers and interventions.

1Sarah H3moI totally agree! You articulated something I've been thinking about lately in a very clear manner; I think you're absolutely right to distinguish the value of neglectedness for funding vs. career choice--it's such a useful heuristic for funding considerations, but I think it can be used too indiscriminately in conversations about career choice.
What EA projects could grow to become megaprojects, eventually spending $100m per year?

Technological developments in the biotech / pharma industry are notoriously expensive, and my (fairly subjective) impression is that the industry is riddled with market failures.

Especially when applied to particularly pressing problems like pandemic prevention / preparedness, infectious diseases in LMICs, vaccines, ageing and chronic pain, I think EA for-profits and non-profits in this industry could absorb 100 million dollars of annual funding while providing high expected value in terms of social impact.

What is the closest thing you know to EA that isn't EA?

FWIW, I do think Reddit neoliberalism has important differences to EA (mainly that it has a strong preference for free markets and deregulation), but I think this is still compatible with considering Reddit neoliberalism to be “close to EA but not EA”.

How students, groups, and community members can use funding

Hi, thank you for your post!

As a student involved with some community building work and some other voluntary EA-aligned work, I’m still a bit reluctant (perhaps irrationally so) to apply for “converting energy to time” funding and thought that I’d share what I think my reservations are.

  1. I think it feels too self-centred to consider things like healthy ready meals and Ubers for me to be worth EA funding when this could theoretically go to AMF instead.

  2. I’m worried that I won’t end up using the time saved for EA work.

  3. I’m worried that getting funding w

... (read more)
Should someone start a grassroots campaign for USA to recognise the State of Palestine?

That’s great to hear! I too am quite skeptical about finding many good interventions in this area for the reasons you describe, I think most good interventions here would be along the lines of “improving the efficiency with which resources are being used” rather than “adding more resources”

EA cause areas are just areas where great interventions should be easier to find

Hi, thanks for providing those reasons, I can totally see the rationale!

One general point I'd like to make is if a proposed intervention is "improving the efficiency of work on cause X", a large amount of resources already being poured into cause X should actually increase the EV of the proposed intervention (but obviously, this is assuming that the work on cause X is positive in expectation, and as you say, some may not feel this way about some pro-Palestinian activism).

8jackva5moFWIW, this is pretty much the rationale behind the climate recs of FP, we recommend orgs we think can leverage the enormous societal resources poured into climate into the most productive uses within the space. In line with your reasoning we also think that events that increase overall allocation to climate might improve the cost-effectiveness of the climate recs (e.g. Biden's victory leading to higher returns). I would also think (though don't know for certain) that OPP's recent bid to hire in global aid advocacy would draw on a similar theory of change, improving resource allocation in a field that is, comparatively speaking, not neglected.
EA cause areas are just areas where great interventions should be easier to find

I think the interventions would be very specific to the domain. I mentioned an intervention to direct pro-Palestinian activism towards a tangible goal, and with redirecting western anti-racism work towards international genocide prevention, this could possibly be done by getting western anti-racism organisations to partner with similar organisations in countries with greater risk of genocides, which could lead to resource / expertise sharing over a long period of time.

EA cause areas are just areas where great interventions should be easier to find

So in both of the examples provided, EAs would be funding / carrying out interventions that improve the effectiveness of other work, and it is this other work that would improve well-being / preserve lives in expectation.

Because I suspect that these interventions would be relatively cheap, and because this other work would already have lots of resources behind it, I think these interventions would slightly improve the effectiveness with which a large amount of resources are spent, to the extent that the interventions could compare with GW top charities in terms of expected value.

3Matt_Lerner5moWhile I’m skeptical about the idea that particular causes you’ve mentioned could truly end up being cost effective paths to reducing suffering, I’m sympathetic to the idea that improving the effectiveness of activity in putatively non-effective causes is potentially itself effective. What interventions do you have in mind to improve effectiveness within these domains?
7Matt_Lerner5moNow that you’ve given examples, can you provide an account of how increased funding in these areas can lead to improved well-being / preserves lives or DALYs / etc in expectation? Do you expect that targeted funds could be cost-competitive with GW top charities or likewise?
What are some examples of successful social change?

The 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement used non-partisan, non-violent civil disobedience to get an anti-corruption bill passed in Parliament

Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

Some people argue that we not only need to prevent further greenhouse gas emissions, but that it should also be a priority to reduce the current amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

Do they share this position, and if so, do they think that it could be more effective to fund the development of greenhouse gas absorbing technologies (which could potentially reduce the current amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) than to fund initiatives to reduce further GHG emissions, which do not share this potential.

1jackva6moYes, I (and I think we?) very much agree with that -- that's why we (FP) are supporting Carbon180 as the key advocacy org focused on this solution:
Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

How do they think funding the development of alternative proteins might compare to donations to the Clean Air Task Force?

How do other EAs keep themselves motivated?

I'm not comfortable sharing an excerpt publicly on the forum since it could compromise my anonymity, but I'm happy to send it to anyone who's interested over the forum's messaging function.

Should someone start a grassroots campaign for USA to recognise the State of Palestine?

I'm going to a more detailed post on this when I have time, but I think we should be more stringent in thinking of EA's priority cause areas as problems with cost-effective interventions that are easier to find, and other areas as problems with  cost-effective interventions that are harder to find.

I think some people might have downvoted on the basis of "the Israel-Palestine conflict doesn't seem like it should be a priority EA cause area" (which I'd agree with), rather than "this intervention doesn't seem cost-effective".

Why should we be effective in our altruism?

There is a very large amount of suffering in the world. It is morally good to alleviate this suffering. But alleviating suffering costs resources of some kind, like money or effort. 

So if there are opportunities to alleviate more suffering using the same amount of resources, it makes sense to seek out these opportunities, and take them.

How do other EAs keep themselves motivated?

I'm a student, and I have a Google document that I refer to whenever I feel demotivated in terms of my goals or don't feel like studying.

It's essentially my personal EA 'theory of change' - it covers the sequence of events from me studying now / working on EA stuff now, all the way to lots of people suffering a lot less and lots of people being far happier.

I think it really helps me and I'd definitely recommend it! 😀

1AndyMorgan6moHi freedomandutility, I'd really like to hear more about this if you'd be happy to expand on it a bit and perhaps give examples etc. I tend to lose sight/forget the greater 'why' for why I'm pursuing certain things.
ESG investing needs thoughtful trade-offs

Thanks for your posts about ESG!

One thing I'm unclear on is "To judge whether ESG investing is actually having an impact, we need to look at scenarios where there is a tension between ESG factors and profitability factors."

In my view, given that businesses / investors aren't perfect at profit maximisation, it seems like situations where ESG  increases profits compared to no ESG should still be thought of as part of ESG's impact. 

2Sanjay6moThanks for this, good question! I agree with your point that investors have some blind spots, in particular that some areas of finance are not good at incorporating long term considerations. So I think you're right, the ESG concept probably could achieve some impact by helping address that sort of blind spot. I probably should have said something more like "To judge whether I, as someone working in ESG investing, is having material impact, we need to see if I'm actually having an influence on scenarios where there is a tension/trade-off". This is because ESG-related work is already working to address that blind spot.
Working in Parliament: How to get a job & have an impact

Thank you for writing this! 

One question I have for you:

How do you think a UK parliamentary assistant role compares to a role doing policy work at an NGO working at a more international level /  in a less affluent country?

3DavidZhang6moHey! I'm not sure I have the right experience or knowledge to make the comparative claim, but it would certainly be worth considering the following: * I've heard that international diplomacy (e.g. at the UN) is difficult for an individual to influence, and lots of big decisions come down to domestic considerations anyway * In terms of NGOs, I think advocacy can be a great route, though more impactful if it is aimed at an influential government (the US, EU, UK) * In global terms the UK is a significant player, especially in some priority cause areas - e.g. global health policy, international development, military / great power conflict. You are probably more likely to have influence over these issues from London than from a developing country's political system. * Whether or not you go for UK or another political system is probably 99% determined by whether you are from the UK. It is very difficult for French people to break into UK politics, and vice versa. Hope that's helpful!

I think it'd be harder to scale up

1adamaero6moWhat do you mean? There would be a net gain from half the rent/mortgage alone.

My opinion is no, but a related initiative I might make a more detailed post on in the future would be something along the lines of making it easier to adopt children from abroad (or even in the same country) / advocating for more adoptions

1adamaero7moWhy no?
A Happier World: An EA inspired YouTube channel

Great! I'd also recommend reaching out to leaders of university EA groups who might be able to share the videos on social media

A Happier World: An EA inspired YouTube channel

I think this is a brilliant idea! I'd like to recommend a video on how the news tends to focus on novel and infrequent problems, and how this systematically misses some of the worst problems which are happening far more frequently, which messes with our ideas of what the worst problems are.

2Jeroen_W7moI like this, added it to my list of possible episodes!
Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’

I didn't downvote this comment, but 

a) This may have not been your intention, but even in context,  the "white supremacy" claim in the e-book does read as your claim

b) I don't think "poorer countries should transfer their wealth to richer countries" supports "a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources". The richest countries include many countries that aren't majority white such as Singapore, Qatar, UAE, Taiwan etc, so I don't think the 'overwhelmingly' criterion is met here.

c) I'... (read more)

HIPR: A new EA-aligned policy newsletter

I think this is a great idea and personally I think it's relevant enough for the forum

5EdoArad7moI agree. Generally, we are not at a point where anyone should be concerned with cluttering the forum - the Karma and tag system helps to take care of that
Ending The War on Drugs - A New Cause For Effective Altruists?

I think this is still a good cause area for EAs:

  1. I think the potential positive effects of global drug legalisation on opioid access in LMICs adds massively to the expected value
  2. I agree that this area is probably not neglected in absolute terms, but I suspect that it might be neglected relative to the expected value of global drug legalisation
  3. I think a global angle (which might have more of a focus on working with WHO and the UN) might not even be neglected in absolute terms
5G Gordon Worley III7moMy model is the that the global angle is kind of boring: the drug war was pushed by the US, and I expect if the US ends it then other nations will either follow their example or at least drift in random directions with the US no longer imposing the drug war on them by threat of trade penalties.