All of JeremyR's Comments + Replies

I'm interviewing political scientist Chris Blattman about his new book 'Why We Fight'. What should I ask him?

I haven't read any of Blattman's writings but in case I'm not too late and these aren't being covered, I'd be curious to hear his thoughts on

  1. The impact of international institutions in regard to war (e.g., do they help prevent and/or end wars, are they merely an extension of power by different means, do these examples represent institutionalism and realism respectively which perhaps he thinks we should be "down with")
  2. The impact of nuclear weapons on willingness to fight (do they, in his view, help prevent war)

For what it's worth, I took a course on Causes ... (read more)

[Feedback Wanted] DAF Donation Approach
  1. On the other hand, taxes are not entirely "money lost" - a good part of government spending goes into causes that you may not be entirely averse to - although it's hard to tell what a marginal dollar will do, e.g. whether it will be used to cut the taxes of millionaires, or to provide social benefits to the poor.

To your point on marginal impact - governments certainly don't spend money they take in dollar for dollar, and in fact it seems the correlation between intake and expenditure is quite far from 1:1. US government debt is on the order of trillions of... (read more)

Despite billions of extra funding, small donors can still have a significant impact

Personally, I would donate to the Long Term Future Fund over the global health fund, and would expect it to be perhaps 10-100x more cost-effective (and donating to global health is already very good). This is mainly because I think issues like AI safety and global catastrophic biorisks are bigger in scale and more neglected than global health. Coming up with an actual number is difficult – I certainly don’t think they’re overwhelmingly better. 

Not to pick nits but what would you consider “overwhelmingly better?” 1000x? I'd have said 10x &nbs... (read more)

2Benjamin_Todd7mo
There isn't a hard cutoff, but one relevant boundary is when you can ignore the other issue for practical purposes. At 10-100x differences, then other factors like personal fit or finding an unusually good opportunity can offset differences in cause effectiveness. At, say 10,000x, they can't. Sometimes people also suggest that e.g. existential risk reduction is 'astronomically' more effective than other causes (e.g. 10^10 times), but I don't agree with that for a lot of reasons.
Towards a Weaker Longtermism

Should "reduction" in the quote below (my emphasis) read "increase?" 

"This is  hard to justify intuitively - it implies that we should ignore the near-term costs, and (taken to the extreme) could justify almost any atrocity in the pursuit of a miniscule reduction of long-term value."

2Davidmanheim1y
Yeah, it should read "long-term *risk*" - fixing now, thanks!
EA needs consultancies

Posting as an individual who is a consultant, not on behalf of my employer

Let me start off by saying that's an interesting question, and one I can't give a highly confident answer to because I don't know that I've ever had a conversation with a colleague about truth qua truth. 

That said, my short answer would be: I think many of us care about truth, I think our work can be shaped by factors other than truth-seeking, and I think if the statement of work or client need is explicitly about truth / having the tough conversations, consultants wouldn't find... (read more)

5Linch1y
I do agree with you that client quality and incentives are a serious potential problem here, especially when we consider potential funders other than Open Phil. A potential solution here is for the rest of the EA movement to make it clear that "you are more likely to get future work if you write truthful things, even if they are critical of your direct client/more negative than your client wants or is incentivizing you to write/believe," but maybe this message/nuance is hard to convey and/or may not initially seem believable to people more used to other field norms.
9Linch1y
Thanks for the detailed response! Hmm, on reflection maybe the issue isn't as particular to consulting, like I think the issue here isn't that people by default have overwhelming incentives against truth, but just that actually seeking truth is such an unusual preference in the vast majority of contexts that the whole idea is almost alien to most people. Like they hear the same words but don't know what it means/internalize this at all. I'm probably not phrasing this well, but to give a sense of my priors: I guess my impression is that my interactions with approximately every entity that perceives themself as directly doing good outside of EA* is that they are not seeking truth, and this systematically corrupts them in important ways. Non-random examples that come to mind include public health (on covid, vaping, nutrition), bio-ethics, social psychology, developmental econ, climate change, vegan advocacy, religion, US Democratic party, and diversity/inclusion. Moreover, these aren't limited to particular institutions: these problems are instantiated in academia, activist groups, media, regulatory groups and "mission-oriented" companies. My limited experience with "mission-oriented" consultancies is that they're not an exception. I think the situation is plausiblybetter outside of do-gooders. For example, I sort of believe that theoretical CS has much better publication norms than the listed academic fields, and that finance or poker people are too focused on making money to be doing much grandstanding.** Similarly, I would be surprised but not overwhelmingly so if mission alignment is the issue here, and if we take random McKinsey associates who are used to working in profit-seeking industries with higher standards, things would be okay/great. This seems plausible yeah, though if it's a one-off contract I also don't see a positive incentive to seek truth (To the extent my hypothesis is correct, what you want is consultants who are only motivated by profit + hig
EA needs consultancies

Posting as an individual who is a consultant, not on behalf of my employer

Hi, one such consultant checking in! I had this post open from the moment I saw it in  this week's EA Forum digest, but... I (like many other consultants) work a silly number of hours during the work week so just reading the post in detail now.

I'm a member of, but don't run, the EACN network and my take is it's a group of consultants interested in EA with highly varied degrees of familiarity / interest: from "oh, I think I've heard of GiveWell?" to "I'm only working here because... (read more)

I just want to flag that one sort of "regular" consulting I'd love to see in EA is "really good" management consulting. My read is that many our management setups (leadership training, leadership practices, board membership administration) are fine but not world-class. As we grow it's increasingly important to do a great job here.

My impression is that the majority of "management consultants" wouldn't be very exciting to us, but if there were some that were somewhat aligned or think in similarly nerdy ways, it would be possibly highly valuable. 

7Linch1y
Thanks so much for the comment and congrats for staying on the 80k-suggested job train for 8 years! In your experience as a consultant, how much do people in the field care about truth? As opposed to satisfying what customers think they want, solving principal-agent problems within a company, etc. Put another way, what percentage of the time did consultants in your firm provide results that >70% of senior management in a client company initially disagreed with? I've heard a (perhaps flippant) claim that analysts at even top consulting companies believe that their job is more about justifying client beliefs than about uncovering the correct all-things-considered belief (and have recently observed evidence that is more consistent with this explanation than other nearby ones). So I would like to calibrate expectations here.
Global lead exposure report

Really really impressive write-up; thanks for putting this together and hope it sparks more discussion on lead as well as more of these write-ups!

I'm not sure how to understand this line referring to the International Lead Association. Could you clarify if the expectation is that ILA would be an ally vs. an opponent (or does Pure Earth not yet have a belief either way)? 

"Pure Earth believes them to be an ally or an opponent on a campaign to clean up informal lead battery recycling but we have not spoken to ILA ourselves."

3David Rhys Bernard1y
Thanks Jeremy! That was just a typo. Previously we were unsure whether they would be an ally or an opponent and then Pure Earth told us they considered them to be an ally. I wasn't careful enough when editing that section so I've deleted "or an opponent" now.
A Comparison of Donor-Advised Fund Providers

Vanguard's website does not state that they can accept cryptocurrency, but I confirmed with a representative that they take donations of cryptocurrency if the value of the contribution is at least $50,000. 

 

Schwab also told me (in Nov 2020) that they only accept cryptocurrency if the contribution is >$50,000,  and their vendors charge a 1% fee on Bitcoin and a $3,500 flat fee for Ethereum.  I spoke to Fidelity Charitable who told me they had no minimum contribution for cryptocurrency, but I didn't inquire about fees. 

3kdbscott1y
FYI @MichaelDickens I just heard from Vanguard Charitable: > At this time, Vanguard Charitable only accepts contributions of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash that are valued over $100,000.00. Might be worth mentioning in the post.
EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Yasher Koach - I'm a fan! As an Orthodox Jew myself I've been collecting some EA-relevant halakhic/biblical texts on this "source sheet" to eventually get back around to. It needs a lot of fleshing out, not to mention much clearer structure; perhaps this project will be the kick in the pants I've needed. 

I'm personally still grappling with the same sorts of tension referenced in Raffi's post (linked above). Though I think a number of halakhic texts align quite neatly with an EA  direction, a very well-known / internalized notion in the Ortho... (read more)

2BenSchifman1y
Thanks Jeremy! Great minds think alike -- I've got a collection of sources I've been compiling on this topic as well and we've hit a lot of the same ones. Luckily there are plenty of arguments on all sides of just about every issue addressed in the talmud; so no doubt the concept of helping your community first is present, so too is the preeminent importance of saving a life over other values (pikuach nefesh‎) [https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/232313?lang=bi]; see also Mishneh Sanhedrin 4, etc, [https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Sanhedrin.4.5?lang=bi]. and other concepts that align more with EA principles. Anyway -- I'll shoot you a message and I'd love to discuss further!
1Tony.Sena1y
Hi Jeremy - I am going through a similar process currently and would love to connect and see if there may be ways to combine efforts / share learnings. I wrote more about my project here [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/aBBjMx3Kn7vRRexdF/religious-texts-and-ea-what-can-we-learn-and-what-can-we] .
EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Agree with Josh's take on Jews in EA and Effective Tzedakah (though I'd agree strictly speaking  the concept of tzedakah is at least broader than charitable giving).  I think "Effective Altruism and Judaism" (maybe EAJ?) is my favorite! That said, RE "EA for Jews" - any chance you can ask the folks at EA for Christians how they feel the name has worked out for them? 

2slicedonions1y
I'd be happy to chat about it if helpful, I helped found EA for Christians and have spent a bunch of time thinking about different word choices for our name, though you may already be in contact with members of our team. Our Facebook group is called 'Christians and Effective Altruism' I think this wording allows Christians who don't yet feel comfortable with fully aligning with EA to join and participate which has been useful for us in terms of outreach. Then in terms of the name for our actual org, I see three options (i) 'EA for Christians', (ii) 'Christians in EA' and (iii) some wording like our Facebook group name using 'and'. Whilst (ii) feels the cleanest, as noted above it reads as an affinity group without the outreach edge which is a core part of our org. (iii) is also inoffensive but sounds like it lacks a mission which I think can also be unattractive when doing outreach. I like the fact that in (i) Christianity is spotlighted, which works with the way Christians are encouraged to think about their Christian identity being the most central to them. The downside is that it risks sounding like it's EA being used in support of Christians, which obviously isn't our goal, rather the use of for is meant to imply that EA provides an invaluable toolkit to aid Christians in their God-given mission to serve others.
How to run a high-energy reading group

I've never taken part in a reading group (outside of seminars and the like in undergrad), and have no plans to do so, and yet I really enjoyed reading this piece! Thoughtfully and clearly laid out, with novel ideas I hadn't come across before.  I'll be sure to pass it on to friends who take part.

I'm glad Aaron nudged you to write this and that he included it in his digest email!

Careers Questions Open Thread

Thanks for the thoughtful and detailed reply Ben!

I'm not the most risk-seeking, so I think I'll need to reflect on the trade-off of taking a more indirect route in the hopes of landing an EA role while giving up the "capital" I'm told I have for my first role post-consulting. Will mull over what you've shared!

Careers Questions Open Thread

Thanks! I actually ran through the whole 80k job board a few weeks back, but I like your filters (and am seeing a few new roles already). I'll give the talk a listen (and the article a read); thanks for sharing!

Careers Questions Open Thread

Hi all 

I'm wondering if folks have suggestions for what EA organizations and / or roles could best leverage the skill set of management consultants? There are quite a few of us interested in EA and it's a job with relatively high churn (plenty of folks open to opportunities!), but I'm not sure there's much of a "pipeline" from consulting to EA today. 

Back in the day - when I was already planning to enter the industry  - an 80,000 Hours quiz result suggested management consulting, and I've been doing the job which I've generally enjoyed for t... (read more)

6Benjamin_Todd2y
Hi Jeremy, Glad to hear things have gone well! I'd say it's pretty common for people to switch from management consulting into work at EA orgs. Some recent examples: we recently hired Habiba Islam; GPI hired Sven Herrmann and Will Jefferson; and Joan Gas who became the Managing Director of CEA a year ago. As you can see, the most common route is normally to work in management or operations [https://80000hours.org/articles/operations-management/], but it doesn't need to be restricted to that. If you want to pursue the EA orgs path, then as well as applying to jobs on the job board, follow our standard advice here [https://80000hours.org/career-reviews/working-at-effective-altruist-organisations/#how-can-you-get-these-jobs] (e.g. meet people, get more involved in the community). Just bear in mind that there aren't many positions per year, so even if you're a good fit, it might take some time to find something. For this reason, it's probably best to pursue a couple of other good longer-term paths at the same time. Another common option for someone with your background would to do something in policy, or you could try to work in development. With this strand in particular: There is a need for this, and there's a bit of a philanthropy advisory community building up in London around Founder's Pledge, Veddis and Longview Philanthropy. I'm not sure there's yet something like that in the States you could get involved in. You might be able to start your own thing, especially after working elsewhere in EA or philanthropy for 1-2 years. (Example plan: work at a foundation in SF -> meet rich tech people -> start freelance consulting for them / maybe joining up with another community member.) Either way, I'd definitely encourage you to think hard about which impactful longer-term paths might be most promising, and what those would imply about the best next steps. You already have a lot of general career capital, and big corporate middle management experience is not tha
7Louis_Dixon2y
Hey Jeremy! Myself [https://www.linkedin.com/in/ben-dixon-10918989/] and Joan Gass [https://www.linkedin.com/in/joan-gass-50a11b30/] at CEA, and Markus Anderljung [https://www.linkedin.com/in/markus-anderljung-21369974/]at FHI, all use skills like the ones you mention above, from our consulting backgrounds, at non-profits. I sometimes look at this filter on the 80K job board [https://80000hours.org/job-board/?role-type=operations&role-type=manager] and one example of a role you might like is this one [https://givedirectly.recruiterbox.com/jobs/fk0q8j2/?utm_campaign=80000+Hours+Job+Board&utm_source=80000+Hours+Job+Board] . I also think that working in government is often a good thing to do, and so maybe there could be some US trade/aid organisations which you might find interesting, and also this talk [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7xcrQ_xHrA]. If you think that consulting means you can boost the productivity of companies [https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Good-Economics-for-Hard-Times] and lead to economic growth overall, then that could be interesting.