harsimony

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On the assessment of volcanic eruptions as global catastrophic or existential risks

Great post!

To reiterate what AppliedDivinityStudies said, I would love to hear more about proposed solutions to this problem. For example, what do you think of this paper on preventing supervolcanic eruptions?

Interventions that may prevent or mollify supervolcanic eruptions

Give Collectively

Of course, EA funds can do all of these things, and I appreciate the work they are doing.

I think it is important to be explicit about the structure of EA funds, meta-charities, and charitable foundations: they typically involve pooling money from many donors and putting funding decisions in the hands of a few people. This is not a criticism! It makes a lot of sense to turn these decisions over to knowledgeable, committed specialists in the EA community. This approach likely improves the impact of peoples donations over the counterfactual where people give directly to charities without considering how other are donating.

While I appreciate this system, I don't see why we shouldn't at least consider other systems of collective donation. It seems worthwhile to explore other approaches before settling on one specific model of collective giving.

Also, it seems like you have more faith than me in the collective wisdom of many non-experts, compared to a team of experts whose job is to work on the questions full-time.

Under the right circumstances, many non-experts can and do outperform experts. Tetlock's Superforcasting and prediction markets are good examples of this. That being said, I am highly uncertain as to whether these conditions hold for charitable donation, so experimentation with different funding models seems valuable.

Give Collectively

I agree that the EA funds (and meta-charities like Givewell), are great opportunities to give and can help balance the flow of donations going to different charities. But I don't think that these funds have entirely solved the collective action problem in charitable giving. Rather, they aggregate money from many donors and turn over funding decisions to a handful of experts. These experts are doing great work, and I really respect them, but it doesn't hurt to consider how we might do things even better!

If we really did have a system for small donors to coordinate their giving like large donors, things would look quite different:

  • Collections of small donors would be able to fund specific research projects, found new charitable organizations, and exert significant control over the day-to-day activities of these organizations.

  • Collections of donors would be able to work with mega-donors, governments, and charitable organizations to pursue much larger projects.

  • Collections of small donors would be able to deliberate amongst themselves and make funding decisions based on their combined knowledge.

Charities and EA funds do this in a roundabout way by acting as representatives for many small donors, but this isn't the only way to organize giving. What about a kickstarter for EA research projects? Or a charitable fund where managers are elected by donors? Or a prediction market on how impactful different interventions are? I'm not claiming that these ideas are going to be better than the current instantiation of EA funds, but I want to encourage exploration and experimentation before we settle on these as the only solution to collective donation.

AMA: Jason Brennan, author of "Against Democracy" and creator of a Georgetown course on EA

Which of your writings (including things like blog posts) do you consider most important for making the world a better place? Assuming many people agreed to deeply consider your arguments on one topic, what would you have them read?

Give in Public Beta is live

Wonderful idea, it looks great so far.

I appreciate that the list of charities one can donate to is relatively restricted since this prevents people from publicly donating to highly political charities for signalling purposes.

I also like that there is a dashboard showing how your donations are being spent.

One thing I find a little strange is the "lives saved" total (whereas the "CO2 Reduced" total seems perfectly normal to me). I don't have a good reason for this, its just a personal feeling. Perhaps instead show the total spent or fraction spent on different causes areas rather than assert the overall impact of the donations?