All of HStencil's Comments + Replies

Becoming an EA Architect: My First Month as an Independent Researcher

This group isn’t exactly EA-aligned, but they’re working on questions that are very relevant to a number of the topics you raised, so you might want to give them a look.

https://forhealth.org/

2Tereza_Flidrova1mo
Thanks a lot, that's exactly the type of thing I might want to check out. I did not know about them, will dive deeper into what they do! I like the clarity of their web design and resources!
Where should I donate?

Hey, sorry, I totally forgot about this until I stumbled across this recent discussion on donating to help with the situation in Ukraine earlier this week. I've pasted a bibliography of relevant papers below.

Aker, Jenny C., Paul Collier, and Pedro C. Vicente. “Is Information Power? Using Mobile Phones and Free Newspapers during an Election in Mozambique.” The Review of Economics and Statistics 99, no. 2 (May 2017): 185–200. https://doi.org/10.1162/REST_a_00611.

Armand, Alex, Alexander Coutts, Pedro C. Vicente, and Inês Vilela. “Does Information Break t... (read more)

College Public Service Pipeline

[To clarify in case this was unclear: I am just a random outsider and have no association with this Amherst student group.]

I’m a bit skeptical that just trying to get more nonprofits to recruit on campus is a winning strategy here. Among other things, the vast majority of nonprofits don’t have dedicated recruiting staff, and the people responsible for hiring don’t have the time to travel to college campuses to recruit for entry-level positions. The same is going to be true of most public sector openings at the entry level, too. (I do think there are except... (read more)

College Public Service Pipeline

"Public service" is obviously a huge and diverse category, but my strong impression is that many public interest jobs (including at the entry level) offer substantially better exit opportunities within public service than nearly any  management consulting gig (and I think this is true to an even greater extent if the comparison is with entry-level roles at investment banks or hedge funds). The problem, I think, is that at least in the U.S., there are very few public interest jobs that are 1) entry-level, 2) open to generalists without prior experience... (read more)

1Mason Quintero5mo
I would totally agree and that's why we're trying to push more people towards it. I think all of the concerns you bring up are entirely valid but I think one huge piece of why people don't go into public service after college is visibility of these jobs. Private sector companies advertise all of their internships and jobs super well whereas non profits don't nearly as well. There is also the clear recruiting timeline for finance and consulting that takes advantage of college student's general lack of information on future opportunities.
1Luke Eure5mo
Very clear, thank you! Out of curiosity, what type of achievable and potentially-leading-to-high-impact roles are you going to try to push people towards? If you have stuff online somewhere I can look at that so you don't have to type out an answer. Best of luck with this!
Where should I donate?

Yeah, I’d be happy to, but I may not get around to it until next week, if that’s alright.

Announcing our 2021 charity recommendations

New Harvest is also listed as a standout charity in spite of (my impression is) an even narrower focus on cell-cultured product innovation than GFI (which also supports plant-based meat substitutes). I too would love some clarity from ACE on this.

New Harvest, which I think is great, also discontinued what I consider to be their major program (research grants) this year, so it's a head scratcher.

Where should I donate?

In the vein of “democracy promotion” and “longer-term/less measurable global development interventions,” you might consider donating to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and/or Partnership for Transparency Fund. I know more about ICIJ than Partnership for Transparency, but both strike me as a very strong organizations with impressive track records in fighting corruption in low- and middle-income countries. In addition to anecdotes of their achievements, there is also a growing body of evidence in economics showing that local investi... (read more)

2evelynciara7mo
Can you link to some studies on the political effects of local investigative journalism?
There's a role for small EA donors in campaign finance

Answering the question of whether a candidate is “good,” might well (at least on certain EA world views) be sufficient to answer the question of whether donating to the candidate would be (sufficiently) cost-effective (given evidence that 1) donations matter for getting elected, and 2) getting elected allows one to influence policy). Consider the case of a candidate running on a longtermist platform. My impression is that when longtermist grantmakers evaluate giving opportunities in existential risk mitigation, their decision process is much closer to “det... (read more)

4Charles Dillon 8mo
If you can point out where I asked for "a Givewell style CEA" I might agree that it was an isolated demand for rigor. I didn't do that, however. Instead, I asked for an attempt to make the case that it could be better than GiveDirectly - I didn't specify how one might make the case or any level of rigor at all. What I was imagining was a basic back of the envelope sketch of how this intervention might be cost effective, which I don't think OP provided. The supposed motivation for the post was EA having a funding overhang - in that context asking how it compares to another intervention which can potentially absorb near limitless amounts of money without diminishing returns seems totally reasonable to me.
There's a role for small EA donors in campaign finance

If the concern is that donations don't have any impact on electoral outcomes, there is a good bit of high-quality social science research indicating that television advertising, at least, does, particularly (as OP notes) in down-ballot races. If the concern is that it nonetheless isn't worth its cost, that's plausible, but I don't think OP said anything to suggest strong grounds to believe campaign donations beat GiveWell's Maximum Impact Fund, nor (I assume) would most readers leap to that conclusion, given the unique depth and rigor  of GiveWell's r... (read more)

I think this is a disingenuous motte-and-bailey argument.

The OPs suggestions aren't to 'look into whether this might be effective, build some models of cost effectiveness, and compare against existing opportunities'.

They are 'donate to some of the candidates Elizabeth Edwards-Appell recommends', 'form lists of good candidates', 'set up an EA funding bloc for candidates' and 'devote resources to training EA candidates'.

Open Philanthropy’s Early-Career Funding for Individuals Interested in Improving the Long-Term Future - New Application Round

Does Open Phil have any plans to re-open applications for early-career funding for work on biosecurity, as well (sometime in the next 12 months, say)?

9Bastian_Stern8mo
We recently re-opened the biosecurity scholarship program for applications (deadline: January 1st 2022) - see here [https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/global-catastrophic-risks/biosecurity/open-philanthropy-biosecurity-scholarships] .
4Bastian_Stern9mo
See this section of the program page linked in the post:
What EA projects could grow to become megaprojects, eventually spending $100m per year?

Yeah, I mean, to be clear, my impression was that Yglesias wished this weren't required and believed that it shouldn't be required (certainly, in the abstract, it doesn't have to be), but nonetheless, it seemed like he conceded that from a practical standpoint, when this is what all your staff expect, it is required. I guess maybe then the question is just whether he could "avoid the pitfalls from his time with Vox," and I suppose my feeling is that one should expect that to be difficult and that someone in his position wouldn't want to abandon their quiet... (read more)

What EA projects could grow to become megaprojects, eventually spending $100m per year?

Yeah, I guess the impression I had (from comments he made elsewhere — on a podcast, I think) was that he actually agreed with his managers that at a certain point, once a publication has scaled enough, people who represent its “essence” to the public (like its founders) do need to adopt a more neutral, nonpartisan (in the general sense) voice that brings people together without stirring up controversy, and that it was because he agreed with them about this that he decided to step down.

2MaxRa1y
Interesting, the Atlantic article didn't give this impression. I'd also be pretty surprised if you had to become essentially the cliche of a moderate politician if you're part of the leadership team of a journalistic organization. In my mind, you're mostly responsible for setting and living the norms you want the organization to follow, e.g. * epistemic norms of charitability, clarity, probabilistic forecasts, scout mindset * values like exploring neglected and important topics with a focus on having an altruistic impact? And then maybe being involved in hiring the people who have shown promise and fit?
What EA projects could grow to become megaprojects, eventually spending $100m per year?

I would be extremely surprised if he had any interest in doing this, given what he’s said about his reasons for leaving Vox.

2MaxRa1y
Thanks, didn't see what he said about this. Just read an Atlantic article about this and I don't see why it shouldn't be easy to avoid the pitfalls from his time with Vox, and why he wouldn't care a lot about starting a new project where he could offer a better way to do journalism. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/substack-and-medias-groupthink-problem/617102/ [https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/substack-and-medias-groupthink-problem/617102/] Also, the idea of course is not at all dependent on him, I suppose there would be other great candidates, Yglesias just came to mind because I really like his work.
MichaelA's Shortform

Yeah, I think it’s very plausible that career RAs could yield meaningful productivity gains in organizations that differ structurally from “traditional” academic research groups, including, importantly, many EA research institutions. I think this depends a lot on the kinds of research that these organizations are conducting (in particular, the methods being employed and the intended audiences of published work), how the senior researchers’ jobs are designed, what the talent pipeline looks like, etc., but it’s certainly at least plausible that this could be... (read more)

2MichaelA1y
Ah, thanks for that clarification! Your comments here continue to be interesting food for thought :)
MichaelA's Shortform

I actually think full-time RA roles are very commonly (probably more often than not?) publicly advertised. Some fields even have centralized job boards that aggregate RA roles across the discipline, and on top of that, there are a growing number of formalized predoctoral RA programs at major research universities in the U.S. I am actually currently working as an RA in an academic research group that has had roles posted on the 80,000 Hours job board. While I think it is common for students to approach professors in their academic program and request RA wor... (read more)

MichaelA's Shortform

For the last few years, I’ve been an RA in the general domain of ~economics at a major research university, and I think that while a lot of what you’re saying makes sense, it’s important to note that the quality of one’s experience as an RA will always depend to a very significant extent on one’s supervising researcher. In fact, I think this dependency might be just about the only thing every RA role has in common. Your data points/testimonials reasonably represent what it’s like to RA for a good supervisor, but bad supervisors abound (at least/especially ... (read more)

3MichaelA1y
Thanks, I think this provides a useful counterpoint/nuance that I think should help people make informed decisions about whether to try to get RA roles, how to choose which roles to aim for/accept, and whether and how to facilitate/encourage other people to offer or seek RA roles. Your second paragraph is also interesting. I hadn't previously thought about how there may be overlap between the skills/mindsets that are useful for RAs and those useful for research management, and that seems like an useful point to raise. Minor point: That point was from the RA I spoke to, not from me. (But I do endorse the idea that such specialisation might be a good thing.) More substantive point: It's worth noting is that, while a lot of the research and research training I particularly care about happens in traditional academia, a lot also happens in EA parts of academia (e.g., FHI, GPI), in EA orgs, in think tanks, among independent researchers, and maybe elsewhere. So even if this specialisation wouldn't yield much productivity gains compared to the current state of affairs in one of those "sectors", it could perhaps do so in others. (I don't know if it actually would, though - I haven't looked into it enough, and am just making the relatively weak claim that it might.)
The despair of normative realism bot

This discussion reminds of a comment R.M. Hare made in his 1957 essay “Nothing Matters”:

Think of one world into whose fabric values are objectively built; and think of another in which those values have been annihilated. And remember that in both worlds the people in them go on being concerned about the same things - there is no difference in the 'subjective' concern which people have for things, only in their 'objective' value. Now I ask, What is the difference between the states of affairs in these two worlds? Can any other answer be given except 'None

... (read more)
Donation multiplier

While not exactly the same, EA researchers are already doing something quite similar: https://givingmultiplier.org/.

1Lucius Caviola1y
Yes, it's a similar idea to the "Matching as donor coordination" idea I describe in this post [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ZuxtR4YpebXQqsjXa/a-new-strategy-for-broadening-the-appeal-of-effective-giving] . (Feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts.)
Careers Questions Open Thread

That makes perfect sense! I agree that CE probably isn't the best fit for people most interested in doing EA work to mitigate existential risks. Feel free to shoot me a DM if you'd ever like to talk any of this through at greater length, but otherwise, it seems to me like you're approaching these decisions in a very sensible way.

Careers Questions Open Thread

Happy to help! Another thing that strikes me is that in my experience (which is in the U.S.), running an academic research team at a university (i.e., being the principal investigator on the team's grants) seems to have a lot in common with running a startup (you have a lot of autonomy/flexibility in how you spend your time; your efficacy is largely determined by how good you are at coordinating other people's efforts and setting their priorities for them; you spend a lot of time coordinating with external stakeholders and pitching your value-add; you have... (read more)

2NoteworthyTrain2y
Thank you for this idea. I should definitely think more about leading a research team. I really don't mean to say that I'm unenthusiastic about Charity Entrepreneurship; I'm just currently unsure whether it's the very best thing to do. There are a lot of things that would very much appeal to me about CE, so I want to be sure not to jump into it too fast. (I think a lot depends on one's moral position about the importance and tractability of shaping the long-term future, and this is something that I'm planning to spend time reading and thinking about during my time out.)
Careers Questions Open Thread

It sounds based on your description that a fairly straightforward step would be for you to try to set up calls with 1) someone on the Charity Entrepreneurship leadership team, and 2) some of the founders of their incubated charities. This would help you to evaluate whether it would be a good idea for you to apply to the CE program at some point, as well as to refine your sense of which aspects of entrepreneurship you’re particularly suited to (so that if entrepreneurship doesn’t work out—maybe you discover other aspects of it that seem less appealing—you’l... (read more)

2NoteworthyTrain2y
Thank you very much for these suggestions. I'm not convinced charity entrepreneurship is for me, partly because I'm unsure whether it's the most impactful thing I could do, but I think it would be great to get a better understanding of what they are doing. The idea of volunteering with a newly launched CE charity is a very good one and not something I had thought of. Thank you!
Careers Questions Open Thread

That seems like a sound line of reasoning to me — best of luck with the rest of your degree!

Careers Questions Open Thread

I think this is a really hard question, and the right answer to it likely depends to a very significant degree on precisely what you’re likely to want to do professionally in the near and medium-term. I recently graduated from a top U.S. university, and my sense is that the two most significant benefits I reaped from where I went to school were:

  1. Having that name brand on my resume definitely opened doors for me when applying for jobs during my senior year. I’m actually fairly confident that I would not have gotten my first job out of college had I gone to a
... (read more)
4UndergradSeekingAdvice2y
Thank you for the thoughtful response! After reading your comment, I’ve updated towards staying at my current school for the following reasons: * While I can see myself having a career in academic research, I’m not super confident that’s the direction I want for my career just yet. I also don’t really see myself entering consulting or finance. Outside of those fields, I’m not sure how much early-career benefit there is to having a brand name degree. There probably is some benefit, but it may not be as pronounced as in consulting or finance. * I think that mental health considerations are very important and I’m glad you pointed that out. I didn’t put much weight to that initially and I can see how transferring could add a lot of stress and potentially hurt GPA. I’m not sure how important peer effects are compared to other factors, but I get what you mean. In high school I had a good group of friends that challenged me academically. So far in college I haven’t had that kind of challenge from my friends, but I am just in my freshman year so that could change as I meet other people. Most of my academic motivation nowadays comes from myself and is less dependent on a healthy competition between me and my friends. I am in the school’s honors college as well, and while the honors students are more academically motivated, for me the challenge from my peers doesn’t feel the same as it did in high school. I will probably get a master’s degree after finishing my undergrad, though I’m not yet sure what field it’ll be in. I think I can aim for a more well-known school once I get my master's. In terms of location, I’m not set on any particular city yet, though if I had to guess where I’ll eventually end up it would be somewhere on the East Coast or West Coast. I think this is mainly because my career path is not super solid right now and I’m mostly exploring different career paths. In terms of mental health, I can definitely see how a transfer could imp
Wholehearted choices and "morality as taxes"

I really like this. To me, it emphasizes that moral reason is a species of practical reason more generally and that the way moral reasons make themselves heard to us is through the generic architecture of practical reasoning. More precisely: Acting in a manner consistent with one's moral duties is not about setting one's preferences aside and living a life of self-denial; it's about being sufficiently attentive to one's moral world that one's preferences naturally evolve in response to sound moral reasons, such that satisfying those preferences and fulfilling one's duties are one and the same.

Incompatibility of moral realism and time discounting

This is a fascinating argument — thank you for sharing it! I think it's particularly interesting to consider it in the context of metaethical theories that don't fall neatly within the realist paradigm but share some of its features, like R.M. Hare's universal prescriptivism (see Freedom and Reason [1963] and Moral Thinking [1981]). However, I also think this probably shouldn't lead most discounting realists to abandon their moral view. My biggest issue with the argument is that I suspect (though I am still thinking this through) that there exist parallel ... (read more)

1wuschel2y
Thanks for that comment and your thoughts! I am unfortunately unfamiliar with the works of Hare, but it sounds interesting and I might have to read up on that. I totally agree with you, that there are statements to which we assign truth values, that depend on the frame of reference (like "Derek Parfit's cat is to my left", or the temporal ordering of spacelike separated events.) I would also not have a problem with a moral theory, that assigns 2 Utilons to an action in one frame of reference, and 3 Utilons in another. I do however believe that there are some statements that should not depend on the frame of reference. We have physical theories to predict the outcome of Measurements, so any sensible physical theory should predict the same outcome to any measurement, whichever frame of reference we use to describe it. We have moral theories to tell us what actions we should do, so any sensible moral theory should prescribe the same actions, whichever frame of reference we use to describe them. If you however do not have that requirement to a moral theory, I see that discounting realists would not have to change their views.
Careers Questions Open Thread

Glad to hear it helped! Of course, usual caveats apply about the possibility that your field is quite different from mine, so I wouldn't stop looking for advice here, but hopefully, this gives you a decent starting point!

Careers Questions Open Thread

Regarding the data-driven policy path, my sense is that unfortunately, most policy work in the U.S. today is not that data-driven, though there's no doubt that that's in part attributable to human capital constraints. Two exceptions do come to mind, though:

  1. Macroeconomic stabilization policy (which is one of Open Philanthropy's priority areas) definitely fits the bill. Much of the work on this in the U.S. occurs in the research and statistics and forecasting groups of various branches of the Federal Reserve System (especially New York, the Board of Governor
... (read more)
Careers Questions Open Thread

I think a lot of the day-to-day feelings of fulfillment in high-impact jobs come from either: 1) being part of a workplace community of people who really believe in the value of the work, or 2) seeing first-hand the way in which your work directly helped someone. I don't really think the feelings of fulfillment typically come from the particular functional category of your role or the set of tasks that you perform during the workday, so I wonder how informative your experiments with data science, for instance, would be with respect to the question of ident... (read more)

1nerdy852y
This rings true to me. I've been struggling a lot with the same sentiments that shicky44 expressed in the original post. I'm 35 and live in the US working in data science/machine learning (recently promoted to team lead, but was doing hands-on technical work before that). The problem that I'm facing is exactly that I don't find my company's work compelling or the culture that exciting. I don't think the company does anything to make the world better and so I have trouble getting excited about it. Sure, there are days where I feel like I accomplished things and enjoyed addressing a particular issue with my team, but the positive feeling tends to wear off quickly. The question that I'm trying to work out for myself is: would I be satisfied if I found a new job where I can earn-to-give, but at least at a company where there is a strong community culture even if the work isn't directly impactful. Or, will I really only be happy in a job where the work is directly impactful. The second path feels trickier for me since my initial research on companies and jobs in this direction has suggested that I probably need a background in a field like economics or public policy. Is there a third way that I'm not considering? I'm glad that the 80000 Hours team started this thread as it's great to hear from others thinking about the same questions on a personal level.
Careers Questions Open Thread

If you're committed to using data science to address public policy questions in the U.S. (either in government or a think tank-type organization), I suspect you'd be best-served by a program like one of these:

https://mccourt.georgetown.edu/master-of-science-in-data-science-for-public-policy/

https://harris.uchicago.edu/academics/degrees/ms-computational-analysis-public-policy-mscapp

https://macss.uchicago.edu/  

2Marisa2y
Agree with these. I'll also throw in Carnegie Mellon's Public Policy and Data Analytics program [https://www.heinz.cmu.edu/programs/public-policy-management-master/data-analytics] . McCourt, Harris, and Heinz (at CMU) are essentially the top three schools offering this track from what I can tell.
2mrp22y
Thank you!
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

This is all fantastic information to have — thank you so much for explaining it! I'm really glad to have improved my understanding of this.

4Jon_Behar2y
Glad it helped! Thanks for the great questions, I'm sure you're not the only one who had them!
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

Yes, that argument for veg*anism is a big part of why I’m a vegetarian, but it does not on its own entail that one should prefer giving to multiplier charities rather than to the GiveWell Maximum Impact Fund. That depends on the empirical question of how the relative expected values weigh out. My argument is that there are sound reasons to believe that in the multiplier charity case specifically, the best-guess expected values do not favor giving to multiplier charities. “Your donation to a multiplier charity might have a big positive impact if it pushes t... (read more)

Careers Questions Open Thread

I don’t know anything about the norms and expectations in CS, but in my field (a quantitative social science), it is basically impossible to get into PhD programs without research experience of some kind, and you would likely be advised, first and foremost, to seek a master’s as preparation, and if it went well, apply to PhD programs thereafter. The master’s programs that would be recommended would be designed for people interested in transitioning from industry to academia, and someone like you would probably have a good shot at getting in. They can be ex... (read more)

3aslickstick2y
Thank you very much for the detailed response. I do want to get into a masters program first so that I can gain some research experience. So, the bottom line is that I need some research experience before I can get into any PhD program. I either do that by going for masters or working as a research staff at some lab or my alma mater. This helped. Thank you once again.
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I really don’t think my argument is about risk aversion at all. I think it’s about risk-neutral expected (counterfactual) value. The fact that it is extraordinarily difficult to imagine my donations to a multiplier charity having any counterfactual impact informs my belief about the likely probability of my donations to such an organization having a counterfactual impact, which is an input in my expected value calculus. You’re right that under some circumstances, a risk-neutral expected value calculus will favor small donors donating to “step-functional” c... (read more)

2MichaelStJules2y
If, as Jon suggests, the average impact scales well (even if historically not smoothly), unless you confirm that your donation won't make a difference, and most donations make little difference, in the unlikely event that it does (because you push them past such a threshold), it can make a huge difference to make up for it, enough so that the expected value looks good even if you don't know whether you'll push them past such a threshold. It's similar to this argument for veg*nism [https://reducing-suffering.org/does-vegetarianism-make-a-difference/]. Have you confirmed this about AMF? In the case of GiveDirectly, they give to whole villages at a time, so maybe the benefactors in the "marginal" village will get more or less, but I imagine there's a cutoff where they won't bother and just wait for more donations instead. Similarly, the school-based deworming charities might wait until they have enough to deworm another whole school. Of course, these villages and schools might be really small, so it might not matter too much unless you're making very small donations.
Careers Questions Open Thread

It sounds like you're doing some awesome work, and these are great questions, but I very seriously doubt you will be able to get good answers to them from anyone without domain expertise in your field, so this may not be best place to look. I personally have some very cursory exposure to biostatistics and health data science (definitely less than you), but I imagine I have significantly more familiarity with the area, especially in the U.S., than most people on the EA Forum, and I have zero clue about the answers to your questions.

1nikvetr2y
Maybe so! Might just be the career questions are a bit too targeted (partner also has had trouble getting advice on how to best leverage her tissue engineering / veterinary background to best serve animal welfare, e.g. working directly with researchers using animal models vs. developing in vitro meat in a more wet bench role). Was just curious to get an outside view, especially from a more "value-aligned" group than might be found in your typical career center or through existing mentors etc. Thank you for your response!
Careers Questions Open Thread

I may be missing or misunderstanding something, but it seems like your worries/roadblocks about your option 1 all pertain specifically to the MBA/MPA component. If that is the case, and you think you really might want to work in tech, I'd encourage you to consider trying to transition directly to a tech company without first getting another degree. Anecdotally, my sense is that MBAs and MPAs are useful mainly for networking and allowing you to command a higher starting salary in many roles, not for what you learn during the degree (though this depends some... (read more)

1RobertDaoust2y
Inferential distance makes discussion hard indeed. Let’s try to go first to this focal point: what ultimate goal is the best for effective altruists. The answer cannot be found only by reasoning, it requires a collective decision based on shared values. Some prefer the goal of having a framework for thinking and acting with effectiveness in altruistic endeavors. You and I would not be satisfied with that because altruism has no clear content: your altruistic endeavor may go against mine (examples may be provided on demand). Some, then, realizing the necessity of defining altruism, appeal to well-being as what must be promoted for benefitting others (with everyone’s wellbeing counting equally, says MacAskill). That is pretty good, except that what constitutes well-being remains in question, as the opening post here states. Your conception of well-being may go against mine (examples may be provided on demand). Some, at last, realizing the necessity of a more precise goal, though of course not perfect, suggest that prioritizing the alleviation of suffering is the effective altruistic endeavor par excellence. I am arguing against well-being and for suffering-alleviation as ultimately the best goal for effective altruists. Now, one of my arguments is simply that suffering-alleviation is better than well-being because “that's ultimately the most effective thing that we can do in terms of our current capacity to act together for a common purpose, this being the case whether that purpose is morally good or not.”, and as I wrote in a previous comment “As to prioritization, the largest common goal ought to be the alleviation of suffering, not because suffering is bad in itself but because we agree much more on what we don't want than on what we want, and the latter can be much more easily subordinated to the former than the contrary.” You invoke that the end goal is more important than such considerations. You are right, of course, but you seem to have overlooked that in or
What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I'm glad to hear you found my reasoning useful, and I appreciate your explanation of where you think it may go astray. I'm a fairly marginal actor in the grand scheme of the EA community and don't feel I am anywhere close to having a clear view on whether the returns to adding further vetting or oversight structures would outweigh the costs. Naïvely, it seems to me that some kinds of organizational transparency are pretty cheap. However, it occurs to me that even though I've spent a fair bit of time on the TLYCS website over the past several years and gave... (read more)

7Jon_Behar2y
I agree there’s a lack of understanding of our work, and hope this discussion helps clarify some things. And we haven’t done a great job of reaching out to the community to explain our work. One difficulty in operating a multiplier charity is that it can be tough to promote your own organization since your whole purpose is to promote other charities. FWIW, I think most (maybe all) multiplier organizations report multipliers well above 4x. Most of the increase was due to the book: expenses were around 300k in 2016 and 2017, ~450k in 2018, and a bit under $1m in 2019 as we ramped up for the book project. The increase in 2018 was due to adding a bit of headcount (by far our largest expense) and rationalizing some very low salaries that had been in place at the outset. Going forward, we’d very much like to be able to grow our operational budget and would do so if we had more confidence in our ability to raise the necessary funds. Off the top of my head (definitely not an official organizational response) I’d say something like 30% annual growth would be manageable. I meant this very broadly- it covers a lot of things, and the cost of those activities likely varies a lot. Over the past few years we’ve done things like: building out a CRM system to manage our donors and leads, personally emailing and/or calling more donors to thank them and build a relationship, have more one on one conversations with large donors/prospects, hold more donor/fundraising events, and add customization to our newsletter/email communications (so that, for example, donors and non-donors receive different newsletters.) The common thread is that this all involves work, and you need to pay someone to do that work. I think there is enormous room to scale this stuff. Salaries account for the vast majority of our budget (meaning increased spending typically means increased headcount). We try to assess if our strategy and execution are working, and the details depend on the project. Sometimes we
Introduction to the Philosophy of Well-Being

I suspect there may be too much inferential distance between your perspective on normative theory and my own for me to explain my view on this clearly, but I will try. To start, I find it very difficult to understand why someone would endorse doing something merely because it is “effective” without regard for what it is effective at. The most effective way of going about committing arson may be with gasoline, but surely we would not therefore recommend using gasoline to commit arson. Arson is not something we want people to be effective at! I think that if... (read more)

2RobertDaoust2y
Excellent response! I'll think about it and come back to let you know my thoughts, if you will.
Introduction to the Philosophy of Well-Being

I’m not sure, but it seemed to me that this was the view that you were defending in your original comment. Based on this comment, I take it that this is not, in fact, your view. Could clarify which premise you reject, 1) or 2)?

1RobertDaoust2y
Hmm... 1) When an individual's life is evaluated as good or bad there may be an ultimate reason that is invoked to explain it, but I would not say that an ultimate reason has an intrinsic value: it is just valued as more fundamental than others, in the current thinking scheme of the evaluating entity. 2) Do we have an overriding moral reason to alleviate suffering? In certain circumstances, yes, like if there is an eternal hell we ought to end it if we can. But in general, no, I don't think morality is paramount: it surely counts but many other things also count, more or less depending on the circumstances. I personally am concerned with the alleviation of suffering because it is a branch of activity that fits with my profile as a worker. But if I suggest that effective altruists should prioritize the alleviation of suffering, it is because that's ultimately the most effective thing that we can do in terms of our current capacity to act together for a common purpose, this being the case whether that purpose is morally good or not.
How have you become more (or less) engaged with EA in the last year?

I also think asking people questions about why they hold a view you think is wrong that suggestively indicate why you think it’s wrong can be a good approach (e.g. “But don’t you think...?”).

What are the most common objections to “multiplier” organizations that raise funds for other effective charities?

I don’t think my reasoning falls neatly into any one of the categories you listed, so I’ll post it as its own comment. I don’t give to “multiplier” charities mainly because I think a huge percentage of the good that they do probably comes from running great websites, but the fixed costs that were necessary to get these websites built and online have already been paid, basically, and while I believe that initial investment probably had a large multiplier, I’m far less convinced that subsequent expenditures by these organizations (other than maintaining thei... (read more)

4MichaelStJules2y
I think this depends on the particulars of the charities. Your donations might only impact them through whether or not they go to an extra region, which might happen only at funding thresholds. Many of their impacts are also random, e.g. most bednets don't save lives, and most deworming pills are used on children without worms. What you seem to be describing is risk-aversion, but GiveWell's cost-effectiveness estimates assume risk-neutrality, too, so this might have implications on how to prioritize between them. I'd guess GiveDirectly would look relatively more attractive than otherwise.

Thank you! This was exactly the sort of thoughtful explanation I was hoping for.

For what it’s worth, in my experience at TLYCS it takes a lot more than just a website to move money. When I look at the things that seem to have driven our growth over the years, a lot of it is simply having the capacity to do basic things like communicate more with donors. And the relative steadiness in TLYCS’s multiplier (between 9x and 13x from 2016-2019) as expenses more than tripled suggests that there’s not a huge difference between the marginal multiplier and the averag... (read more)

My mistakes on the path to impact

This puts to words so many intuitions that have crept up on me—not necessarily so much about EA as about job-hunting as a young generalist with broadly altruistic goals—over the last few years. Like you, earlier this year, I transitioned from a research role I didn’t find fulfilling into a new position that I have greatly enjoyed after a multi-year search for a more impactful and rewarding job. During my search, I also made it fairly deep in the application process for research roles at GiveWell and Open Phil and got a lot of positive feedback but was ulti... (read more)

Introduction to the Philosophy of Well-Being

It’s not clear to me how one can believe 1) that there is nothing that ultimately explains what makes a person’s life go well for them, and 2) that we have an overriding moral reason to alleviate suffering. It would seem dangerously close to believing that we have an overriding moral reason to alleviate suffering in spite of the fact that it is not Bad for those who experience it. You might claim that suffering is instrumentally bad, that it makes it harder to achieve... whatever one wants to achieve, but presumably, if achieving whatever one wants to achi... (read more)

1RobertDaoust2y
Is there anyone who believes 1) and 2)?
What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change?

They explain why they offer offset recommendations (even though, like Founders Pledge, they believe CATF is likely more cost-effective) at some length in their launch post: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/xfN7AwkjYBpEbbz6x/re-launching-giving-green-an-ea-run-organization-directing

2BrianTan2y
Thanks for pointing this out - this makes sense! Copied the part here for anyone that wants to find out where that specific part is:
Idea: Resumes for Politicians

A variety of different organizations have attempted projects like this in the past and have struggled to generate interest in participating among political candidates. For the most well-known, see: https://ballotpedia.org/Survey.

3capybaralet2y
Thanks for that! I'm interested if you have other examples. This one looks similar, but not that similar. The whole framing/vision is different. When I visit their webpage, the message I get is: "hey, do you maybe want to opt in to this thing to tell us about yourself because you can't get any real publicity?" The message I want to send is: "Politicians are job candidates; why don't we make them apply/grovel for a job like everyone else?
Recommendations for prioritizing political engagement in the 2020 US elections

Looks like BlockPower is holding a hackathon tomorrow to help build out the platform they’re using for their GOTV efforts in the Georgia runoffs, if anyone’s interested!

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