I've been lurking / supporting EA from the sidelines since around 2011. This year, my involvement has increased, as I attended EAG London, stayed at the EA hotel, and volunteered a bit for Rethink Priorities. At time of writing, I'm about to do CharityEntrepreneurship's incubation program. Most of my recent activity on the forum is geared to improving my knowledge of things which I think will help me succeed at creating an impact via that avenue. - May 2019

-Ishaan Guptasarma

ishaan's Comments

Help in choosing good charities in specific domains

Charity Entrepreneurship is incubating new family planning and animal welfare organizations, which will aim to operate via principles of effective altruism - potentially relevant to your interests.

Who should give sperm/eggs?

Since you are asking "who" should do it (rather than whether more or less people in general should do it, which seems the more relevant question since it would carry the bulk of the effect), I would wish to replace any anonymous donors with people who are willing to take a degree of responsibility for and engagement with the resulting child and their feelings about it, since looking at opinion polls from donor conceived people has made me think there's a reasonable chance they experience negative emotions about the whole thing at non-negligible rates and it is possible that this might be mitigated by having a social relationship to the donor.

Announcement: early applications for Charity Entrepreneurship’s 2020 Incubation Program are now open!

Spend some time brainstorming and compare multiple alternative courses of action and potential hurdles to those actions before embarking on it, consider using a spreadsheet to augment your working memory when you evaluate actions by various criteria, get a sense of expected value per time on a given task so you can decide how long it's worth to spend on it, enforce this via time capping / time boxing and if you are working much longer on a given task much than you estimated then re-evaluate what you are doing, time track which task you spend your working hours on to become more aware of time in general. Personally I don't think I fully appreciated how valuable time was and how much i was sometimes wasting unintentionally before tracking it (although I could see some people finding this stressful)

Of course this is all sort of easier said than done haha. I think to some degree watching other people actually doing things which one is supposed to do helps enforce the habit.

Growth and the case against randomista development

Any discussion of how much it might cost to change a given economic policy / the limiting factor that has kept it from changing thus far?

(I think this is also the big question with health policy)

Should and do EA orgs consider the comparative advantages of applicants in hiring decisions?

"Rejecting" would be a bit unusual, but of course you should honestly advise a well qualified candidate if you think their other career option is higher impact. I think it would be ideal if everyone gives others their honest advice about how to do the most good, roughly regardless of circumstance.

I've only seen a small slice of things, but my general sense is that people in the EA community do in fact live up to this ideal, regularly turning down and redirecting talent as well as funding and other resources towards the thing that they believe does the most good.

Also, although it might ultimately add up to the same thing, I think it brings more clarity to think along the lines of "counterfactual impact" (estimating how much unilateral impact an individual's alternative career choices have) rather than "comparative advantage" which is difficult to assess without detailed awareness of the multiple other actors you are comparing to.

Announcement: early applications for Charity Entrepreneurship’s 2020 Incubation Program are now open!

I went to the program, was quite impressed with what I saw there, and decided to work at charity entrepreneurship.

Before attending the program, as career paths, I was considering academia, earning to give, direct work in the global poverty space, and a few other more offbeat options. After the program, I'd estimate that I've significantly increased the expected value of my own career (perhaps by 3x-12x or more) in terms of impact by attending the program, thanks to

1) the direct impact of CE itself and associated organizations. I can say that in terms of what I've directly witnessed, there's a formidable level of productive work occurring at this organization. My own level of raw productivity has risen quite a bit by being in proximity and picking up good habits. I'm pretty convinced that this productivity translates into impact, (although on that count, you can evaluate the key assumptions and claims yourself by looking at the cost effectiveness models and historical track record).

2) practical meta-skills I've picked up regarding how to think about personal impact. Not only did I change my mind and update on quite a few important considerations, but there were also quite a few things that I didn't even realize were considerations before attending the program. I think my decision making going forward will be better now.

3) connections and network to other effective altruists, and general knowledge about the effective altruism movement. Prior to attending the program my engagement with the community was on a rather abstract level. Now, if I wanted to harness the EA community to accomplish a concrete action in the global poverty or animal space, I'd know roughly what to do and who to talk to and how to get started.

4) the career capital from program related activities.

Also, I had a good time. If you enjoy skill building and like interacting with other effective altruists, the program is quite fun.

Happy to answer any questions.

Introducing Good Policies: A new charity promoting behaviour change interventions

I'm sure there's a better document somewhere addressing these, but I'll just quickly say that people tend to regret starting smoking tobacco and often want to stop, tobacco smoking reduces quality of life, and that smokers often support raising tobacco taxes if the money goes to addressing the (very expensive!) health problems caused by smoking (e.g. this sample, and I don't think this pattern is unique). So I think bringing tobacco taxes in line with recommendations is good under most moral systems, even those which strongly prioritize autonomy - this is a situation where smokers seem to be straightforwardly stating that they'd rather not behave this way.

Eric Garner died because the police approached him on suspicion of selling illegal cigarettes and then killed him - I don't think that's realistically attributable to tobacco taxation.

List of EA-related email newsletters

For global health, don't forget Givewell's newsletter!

For meta, CharityEntrepreneurship has one as well (scroll to the middle of the page for the newsletter)

[Link] What opinions do you hold that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of effective altruists? Anonymous form.
Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers? If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you're supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn't. Odds are you just think what you're told.

Not necessarily! You might just be less averse to disagreement. Or perhaps you (rightly or wrongly) feel less personally vulnerable to the potential consequences of stating unpopular opinions and criticism.

Or, maybe you did quite a lot of independent thinking that differed dramatically from what you were "told", and then gravitated towards one or more social circles that happen to have greater tolerance for the things you believe, which perhaps one or more of your communities of origin did not.

I Estimate Joining UK Charity Boards is worth £500/hour

I agree that more people trying to do cost effectiveness analyses is good! I regret that the tone seemed otherwise and will consider it more in the future. I engaged with it primarily because I too often wonder about how one might improve impact outside of impact-focused environments, and I generally find it an interesting direction to explore. I also applaud that you made the core claim clearly and boldly and I would like to see more of that as well - all models suffer these flaws to some degree and it's a great virtue to make clear claims that are designed such that any mistakes will be caught (as described here). Thanks for doing the piece and I hope you can use these comments to continue to create models of this and other courses of action :)

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