Henry Howard


I'm begging you to just get a normal job and give to effective charities.

Doctor in Australia giving 10% forever


I think overall this post plays into a few common negative stereotypes of EA: Enthusiastic well-meaning people (sometimes with a grandiose LoTR reference username) proposing grand plans to solve an enormously complex problem without really acknowledging or understanding the nuance.

Suggesting that we simply develop an algorithm to identify "high quality content" and that a combination of crowds and experts will reliably be able to identify factual vs non-factual information seems to completely miss the point of the problem, which is that both of these things are extremely difficult and that's why we have a disinformation crisis.

Many good points:

  • Use of expected value when error bars are enormously wide is stupid and deceptive

  • EA has too many eggs in the one basket that is GiveWell's research work

  • GiveWell under-emphasises the risks of their interventions and overstates their certainty of their benefits

  • EA is full of young aspiring heroes who think they're the main character in a story about saving the world

  • Longtermism has no feedback mechanism and so is entirely speculative, not evidence-based

  • Mob think is real (this forum still gives people with more karma more votes for some reason)

But then:

  • His only suggestions for a better way to reallocate power/wealth/opportunity from rich to poor are: 1. acknowledging that it's complex and 2. consulting with local communities (neither are new ideas, both are often already done)

  • Ignores the very established, non-EA-affiliated body of development economists using RCTs; Duflo and Banerjee won the Nobel memorial economics prize for this and Dan Karlan who started Innovations for Poverty Action now runs USAID. EA might be cringe but these people aren't.

Sounds very difficult when deadly drugs like fentanyl, midazolam and propofol can easily be injected through an intravenous line. You can't get an IV line on a baby in-utero, I think that's why injection into the heart is done in that case.

  1. The massive error bars around how animal well-being/suffering compares to that of humans means it's an unreliable approach to reducing suffering.

  2. Global development is a prerequisite for a lot of animal welfare work. People struggling to survive don't have time to care about the wellbeing of their food.

Aside from impossibility of quantifying fetal suffering with any certainty and the social and political intractability of this idea: potassium chloride is often directly injected into the fetal heart, not the veins, so the comparison to lethal injection or animal euthanasia might be wrong

Doesn't pass the sniff test for me. Two concerns:

  1. Every vegetarian I've met or heard of is vegetarian because of either a) animal welfare, b) climate change or c) cultural tradition. It seems very unlikely that any of these factors could be strongly genetic.
  2.  They're determining genetic heritability by comparing identical twin pairs with non-identical twin pairs (i.e. if the identical twins are more similar in their preferences than non-identical twins, they assume that there's more of a genetic component). I imagine that there could be lots of confounders here. Growing up as an identical twin is a different experience to being a non-identical twin. There could be different environmental factors between the two situations (e.g. maybe identical twins tend to feel closer and more closely mimic each other's behaviours/choices).


If any of these think tanks had good evidence that their strategy reliably affected economic development, the strategy would quickly be widely adopted and promoted by the thousands of economic development researchers and organisations striving to find such a strategy. Economic development is not a neglected or underfunded field.

Development economics is a full-fledged academic field. Very intelligent people have been working very hard on finding way to improve economic development for many years. Unlikely that outsiders on an internet forum will see neglected solutions.

Would be ecstatic to be proven wrong. In the meantime this sort of post makes the community look arrogant and out of touch.


The error bars on the Rethink Priorities' welfare ranges are huge. They tell us very little, and making calculations based on them will tell you very little.

I think without some narrower error bars to back you up, making a post suggesting "welfare can be created more efficiently via small non-human animals" is probably net negative, because it has the negative impact of contributing to the EA community looking crazy without the positive impact of a well-supported argument.

I think you could say this about any problem. Instead of working on malaria prevention, freeing caged chickens or stopping climate change should we just all switch to working on AI so it can solve the problems for us?
I don't think so, because:

a. I think it's important to hedge bets and try out a range of things in case AI is many decades away or it doesn't work out


b. having lots more people working on AI won't necessarily make it come faster or better (already lots of people working on it).

Load more