All of guyi's Comments + Replies

EA and the current funding situation

What did I say warranted this comparison? I am not saying anything anyone has said is irrelevant to EA. I am saying argument Will made that for-profit businesses can't do much harm because their worst outcome is bankruptcy is misleading. I am also saying that encouraging people to earn to give without considering that harm can by done by earning is one of the ways the EA movement could end up having a net negative impact.

1Linch2mo
At first I thought you genuinely misread his comment, and politely corrected you. And then your next comment (which did not thank me, or acknowledge the correction) suggested you deliberately misread it so you can get on your hobbyhorse about something else. So I tried to illustrate why this is not an appropriate strategy with an analogy. Perhaps my issue was that I being too metaphorical and insufficiently direct earlier. In that case I'm sorry for the lack of clarity in communication.
EA and the current funding situation

To be clear, stating that I was confused was a polite way of indicating that I think this reasoning itself is confused. Why should we evaluate for-profit businesses only from a profit-maximizing perspective? Having profitability as the primary goal of enterprise doesn't preclude that enterprise from doing massive amounts of harm. If a for-profit enterprise does harm in its attempts to make profit should we ignore that harm simply because they've succeeded in turning a profit? If you interpretation of Will's reasoning is what he intended, then he is asking ... (read more)

5jacksondc2mo
The way I read it, Will is comparing the challenge of doing good to the challenge of earning money (for its own sake). Not, as you assume, to the challenge of doing good by earning money. The point is that if we try to learn any lessons from people who are optimizing to earn money, we'll need to keep in mind that we have reason to be more risk-averse than they are.
5Linch2mo
If someone from High-Impact Athletes [https://highimpactathletes.org/] writes a post outlining what we can learn from deliberate practice in professional sports, and mentions salient differences between how metrics work in sports training and EA training as a caveat to this advice, I do not think the correct takeaway is "this whole discussion is irrelevant to EA because sports are of ~0 impact for the world, and probably net negative anyway."
2Charles He2mo
But we're talking about the relative harm of a bad new charity compared to a harmful business. I think you agree it doesn't make sense to compare the effect of our new charity versus, literally all of capitalism or a major global corporation. Let's be honest, we both know perfectly well, that your view and understanding of the world is that, if a business could make significantly more profit being evil, it would already be doing it. That niche would be filled. I probably agree. But if that's true, it must be that even an amoral business person could not make profit by doing the same evil—all the evil capitalists got there first. So there's no evil super harm possible as described in your story. Yes, basically, we sort of both agree this is happening. The difference between our opinions is that, I think in healthy marketplaces, this profit seeking is extremely positive and saves lives (ugh, I sound like Kevin Murphy.) Also, we both know that there's not going to be any way to agree or prove eachother wrong or right about this specific issue. And we're really really far from the point here (and I think it's better addressed by my other comment [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/cfdnJ3sDbCSkShiSZ/ea-and-the-current-funding-situation?commentId=oMj9iRTi3N6suJKZK] ).
EA and the current funding situation

My point wasn't that charities are incapable of doing harm. There are many examples of charities doing harm as you point out. The point is that reasoning that non-profits have more potential to cause harm that for-profit seems to ignore that many for-profit enterprises operate at much larger scale than any non-profits and do tremendous amounts of harm.

In a real business, overwhelming effort is being made to make sure the business is successful. In the hundred trillion dollar world economy, almost no one is paying money to help or harm people.

Yes, most succ... (read more)

2Charles He2mo
You're absolutely right. For profits absolutely do harm. In general "capitalism has really huge harms", almost every EA or reader here would agree (note that I'm not an EA necessarily or represent EA thought). The scale is the point here—you're also exactly right. For many activities, it makes many, many millions to create a situation where we are harming people. To be tangible, it's hard to think of any business you or I could setup that would be that harmful as posing as a fake charity and disrupting medical service or food supply.
EA and the current funding situation

There’s one huge difference between aiming to do good and aiming to make profit. If you set up a company aiming to make money, generally the very worst that can happen is that you go bankrupt; there’s a legal system in place that prevents you from getting burdened by arbitrarily large debt. However, if you set up a project aiming to do good, the amount of harm that you can do is basically unbounded.

 

I am very confused about this reasoning. It seems clear that there is a lot worse harm that can be caused by a for-profit enterprise than simply that ente... (read more)

There’s one huge difference between aiming to do good and aiming to make profit. If you set up a company aiming to make money, generally the very worst that can happen is that you go bankrupt; there’s a legal system in place that prevents you from getting burdened by arbitrarily large debt. However, if you set up a project aiming to do good, the amount of harm that you can do is basically unbounded.

I am very confused about this reasoning. It seems clear that there is a lot worse harm that can be caused by a for-profit enterprise than simply that enterprise

... (read more)
2Charles He2mo
There's several extremely bad outcomes of bad charities: * One example is in the footnotes and where people actually died[1] [#fn41spzy41q9i]. * Another famous example is a pumping system for developing countries that consumed donor money and actively made it more difficult to get water. It's not clear anything would have stopped these people besides their own virtue or self awareness, or some kind of press attention. The effect of first world faculty and wealth is overwhelming and can trample all kinds of safeguards (a American volunteer blew the whistle on the first case, a fact that is thought provoking and informative, after hundreds of children and actual doctors passed through the clinic). In a real business, overwhelming effort is being made to make sure the business is successful. In the hundred trillion dollar world economy, almost no one is paying money to help or harm people. For any given amount of money, you can do tremendous more harm and kill people with the meme of doing good, than running a business, even in situations where there aren't many functioning institutions. 1. ^ [#fnref41spzy41q9i]Here is one example that made it into NPR [https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/08/09/749005287/american-with-no-medical-training-ran-center-for-malnourished-ugandan-kids-105-d] and the New Yorker [https://12ft.io/proxy?q=https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/04/13/a-missionary-on-trial] , Guardian [https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jan/22/us-missionary-renee-bach-faces-new-legal-action-over-child-deaths-at-uganda-health-centre] , etc. I suspect the truth is more complicated than these articles suggest. I think being a woman, blonde, American and blogging/Instagram played a role in the reason this person is being read about on US national media—the implication I'm making is that this might be happening all the time. It's incredibly, deceptively hard to accomplish