Jack Malde

3820 karmaJoined Sep 2018



I am a Senior Policy Analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), working on US immigration and workforce policy. I previously worked as an economist and a management consultant.

I am interested in longtermism, global priorities research and animal welfare. Check out my blog The Ethical Economist.

Please get in touch if you would like to have a chat sometime, or connect with me on LinkedIn.


Thank you Arvo, I really appreciate it! I look forward to seeing more work from you and the team.

Well you might need a reasoned response I.e. it seems that when I do X a bad thing happens to me therefore I should endeavor not to do X.

Here is the quote from Richard Dawkins:

“If you think about what pain is for biologically speaking, pain is a warning to the animal, ‘don’t do that again’.

“If the animal does something which results in pain, that is a kind of ritual death – it is telling the animal, ‘if you do that again you might die and fail to reproduce’. That’s why natural selection has built the capacity to feel pain into our nervous systems.

“You could say since pain is there to warn the animal not to do that again… an animal that is a slow learner or less intelligent might need more intense pain in order to deter [them] from doing it again, than a human who is intelligent enough to learn quickly.

“So it’s possible non-human animals are capable of feeling more intense pain than we are.”“You could say since pain,intelligent enough to learn quickly.

In fact, it has been suggested by Richard Dawkins that less intelligent animals might experience greater suffering, as they require more intense pain to elicit a response. The evolutionary process would have ensured they feel sufficient pain.

I’m a bit confused by this. Presumably GiveWell doesn’t need that much money to function. Less Open Phil money probably won’t affect GiveWell, instead it will affect GiveWell’s recommended charities which will of course still receive money from other sources, in part due to GiveWell’s recommendation.

Strong upvoted. I think this is correct, important and well-argued, and I welcome the call to OP to clarify their views. 

This post is directed at OP, but this conclusion should be noted by the EA community as a whole which still prioritises global poverty over all else.

The only caveat I would raise is that we need to retain some focus on global poverty in EA for various instrumental reasons: it can attract more people into the movement, allows us to show concrete wins etc.  

Nice paper!

One interesting result of the paper is that neglectedness seems is key to whether a policy change matters for a long time. For policies that can be expected to attract more interest after the referendum passes, I see less persistence. It is not a hugely dramatic effect, but it could make a difference on the margin or in extreme cases. This seems to lend some support to the EA practice of paying attention to neglectedness.

This is probably me being stupid, but I'm not sure I understand this. Are you saying more neglected areas are those that would typically see less interest after a referendum and, according to your findings, are therefore those that have more persistent effects? So the takeaway is to focus on more neglected policy areas?

If that's the correct interpretation, can we reasonably be sure that more neglectedness = less interest after a referendum? Presumably if there is a referendum, at that point the policy area may no longer be that neglected?

I'm sorry, this doesn't engage with the main point(s) you are trying to make, but I'm not sure why you use the term "existential risk" (which you define as risks of human extinction and undesirable lock-ins that don’t involve s-risk-level suffering) when you could have just used the term "extinction risk".

You say:

If you’re uncertain whether humanity’s future will be net positive, and therefore whether existential risk[1] reduction is good, you might reason that we should keep civilization going for now so we can learn more and, in the future, make a better-informed decision about whether to keep it going.

Reducing extinction risk if humanity's future is net negative is bad. However, reducing risk of "undesirable lock-ins" seems robustly good no matter what the expected value of the future is. So I'm not sure bucketing these two together under the heading of "existential risk" really works.

Previous work has referred to such a risk as 'existential risk'. But this is a misnomer. Existential risk is technically broader and it encompasses another case: the risk of an event that drastically and permanently curtails the potential of humanity. For the rest of this report we characterise the risk as that of extinction where previous work has used 'existential'. 

I was happy to see this endnote, but then I noticed several uses of "existential risk" in this abridged report when I think you should have said "extinction risk". I'd recommend going through to check this.

In theory people will always prefer cash because they can spend it on whatever they want (unless of course it is difficult to buy what they most want). This isn’t really up for debate.

What is up for debate is if people actually spend money in a way that most effectively improves their welfare. It sounds paternalistic to say, but I suspect they don’t for the reasons Nick and others have given.

Yeah I feel that sometimes theories get really convoluted and ad hoc in an attempt to avoid unpalatable conclusions. This seems to be one of those times.

I can give Scanlon a free pass when he says under his theory we should save two people from certain death rather than one person from certain death because the 'additional' person would have some sort of complaint. However when the authors of this post say, for a similar reason, that the theory implies it's better to do an intervention that will save two people with probability 90% rather than one person with probability 100%, I just think they're undermining the theory. 

The logic is that the 'additional' person in the pair has a complaint because you're acting as if they aren't there. But you aren't acting as if they aren't there - you're noticing they have a lesser claim than the single individual and so are (perhaps quite reluctantly) accommodating the single individual's larger claim. Which is kind of the whole point of the theory!

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