Jesus de Sivar

30Joined Nov 2022

Comments
9

If OP is interested in volunteers, I can volunteer as well.

I'm not an American but I'm a trained economist and have limited experience in research.

I upvoted because I too suffer from the fact that EA Philosophy was created by people of high-income countries, to convert other people from high-income countries.

However, I disagree completely that EA is 

[...] always going to have a limited audience

In my opinion:

  • It's true that a dollar spent on a developed country does less good than a dollar spent on a "less developed" country.
  • However, a dollar spent on an efficient cause inside your own country does more good than a dollar not spent on EA at all!

So, if the counterfactual for Effective Altruism is... no altruism at all... then it's better for the world  to take a less cosmopolitan worldview and donate mostly  to effective causes inside your own country.

Of course, knowing the wild income disparities between even our "middle-income" countries and those from the most underdeveloped regions, I do think that we have a moral imperative to give ... perhaps not all that we can, but at least some of what we can.

Full-disclosure:

I donated a little to EA causes, but since sharing my donations with my girlfriend, I decided  to save up that money to invest and become an entrepreneur.

My exit plan is for it to become first a source of self-employment and then to sell it. If successful, then I will resume my giving until reaching 10% of profits once I sell the business. 

As many have commented, I absolutely agree with you.

However, I'd like to comment that all of the inputs for us to shape EA in "non-Western" (or at least non-rich) countries are already there.

For example, in Chapter 2 of 80,000 Hours we can find this line:

"[...] once you have more than 150 doctors per 100,000 people [...] almost all developed countries,  additional doctors only have a small impact."

Which should tell us that the examples are from "developed countries" because that is the target audience.

However, it is up to us  from the Global South to adapt it for ourselves.

Thank you.

I'm certain that the disagreement votes comes:

  • Partly from those who believe that SBF acted out of fanaticism for EA ("Scam To Give") and think that researching that should be our priority.
  • Partly from those who feel offended by me suggesting to research whether key EA figures could have been SBF's "partners" in fraud... which I highly doubt.

EA is a trademark belonging to CEA

 

I didn't know that EA was a trademark. And if I (who am involved in EA) didn't know, then the public certainly doesn't know.

What we need is not a trademark but a "certification" or "seal of quality" to certify NGO's that actually fulfill EA principles, and in order to be able to disown future frauds.

I love that you're bringing discussion of the specific proposals.

I don't know about the specific finances of FTX, but I do know about audits. Auditors work based on norms, and those norms get better at predicting new disasters by learning from previous disasters (such as Enron). The same is true of air travel, one of "the safest ways of travel".

My guess is that the only way in which alarms would've ringed for FTX investors was by realizing that there was a "back door" where somebody could just steal all the money. Would a financial auditor have looked into that, the programming aspect of the business? I doubt it, unless specific norms were in place to look for just that.

I think that there are two specific disasters here: 

  • SBF's fraud, and
  • SBF harming the EA "brand"?

If what we want is to avoid future fraud in the Crypto community, then the goal of the Crypto community should be to replicate the air travel model for air safety[1]:

  • Strong (and voluntary) inter-institutional cooperation, and
  • A post-mortem of every single disaster in order to incorporate not regulation but "best practices".

However, if the goal is to avoid harming the EA "brand", then there's a profession for that. It's called "Public Relations".

PR it's also the reason why big companies have rules that prevent them from (publicly) doing business with people suspected of doing illegal activities. ("The wife of the Caesar must not only be pure, but also be free of any suspicios of impurity") 

For example, EA institutions could from now on:

  • Copy GiveDirectly's approach and avoid any single donor from representing more than 50% of their income.
    • Perhaps increase or decrease that percentage, depending on the impact in SBF's supported charities. 
  • Reject money that comes from Tax Havens.
    • FTX was a business based mainly in The Bahamas.
    • I don't know what is the quality of the Bahamas standard for financial audits. In fact, I don't even know if they demand financial audits at all... but I know that The Bahamas is sometimes classed as a Tax Haven, and is more likely that we find criminals and frads with money in Tax Haven than outside of them.
  • Incentivize their own supported charities to reject dependence on a single donor, and to reject money that comes from Tax Havens.
  • Perhaps also...
    • ... Campaign against Tax Havens?
      • Tax Havens crowd out against money given to tax-deductible charities, and therefore for EA Charities.
      • There is an economic benefit to some of the citizens of the Tax Haven countries, but when weighted against the criminal conduct that they enable... are they truly more good than bad?
    • ... Create a certification for NGOs to be considered "EA"?
      • Most people know that some causes (Malaria treatments, Deworming...) are well-known EA causes.
        • They are causes that attract million of dollars in funding.
      • Since there is no certification for NGO0s to use the name "EA", a fraudster-in-waiting can just
        1. Start a new NGO tomorrow.
        2. "Brand" itself as an EA charity
        3. See the donations begin to pour-in, and
        4. Commit fraud in a new manner that avoids existing regulation
        5. Profit
        6. Give the news cycle an exciting new story, and the EA community another sleepless night.

In fact, fraud in NGO's happens all the time. One of the reasons why Against Malaria Foundation had trouble implementing their first Give Well charity is that they were too stringent on the anti corruption requirements for governments.

It's in the direct interest of the EA community to minimize the amount of fraudulent NGO's, and to minimize the amount of EA branded fraudulent NGO's.

  1. ^

    In fact, at the same time that we're discussing this, a tragic air travel accident happened on a Dallas Airshow. Our efforts might be more "effective" by not discussing SBF and instead discussing Airshow Security and their morality.

There was no avoiding of this.

The only way would've been with:

  1. A professional third-party audit, which requires
    1. Regulatory norms for avoiding frauds such as these.
  2. Forbidding SBF from associating himself with EA.

The first option is a non-starter because there are no such crypto regulations.

I don't know about the finances of FTX, but I do know about audits. Auditors work based on norms[1], and those norms get better at predicting new disasters by learning from previous disasters (such as Enron). The same is true of air travel, one of "the safest ways of travel".

The second option is also a non-starter because of ... ¿The First Amendment?

Therefore, we couldn't have "avoided" ... What exactly?

  • ... SBF's fraud? or
  • ... SBF harming the EA "brand"? 

If what we want is to avoid future fraud in the Crypto community, then the goal of the Crypto community should be to replicate the air travel model for air safety[2]:

  • Strong (and voluntary) inter-institutional cooperation, and
  • A post-mortem of every single disaster in order to incorporate not regulation but "best practices".

However, if the goal is to avoid harming the EA "brand", then there's a profession for that. It's called "Public Relations".

PR it's also the reason why big companies have rules that prevent them from (publicly) doing business with people suspected of doing illegal activities. ("The wife of the Caesar must not only be pure, but also be free of any suspicios of impurity") 

For example, EA institutions could from now on:

  • Copy GiveDirectly's approach and avoid any single donor from representing more than 50% of their income.
    • Perhaps increase or decrease that percentage, depending on the impact in SBF's supported charities. 
  • Reject money that comes from Tax Havens.
    • FTX was a business based mainly in The Bahamas.
    • I don't know what is the quality of the Bahamas standard for financial audits. In fact, I don't even know if they demand financial audits at all... but I know that The Bahamas is sometimes classed as a Tax Haven, and is more likely that we find criminals and frads with money in Tax Haven than outside of them.
  • Incentivize their own supported charities to reject dependence on a single donor, and to reject money that comes from Tax Havens.
  • Perhaps also...
    • ... Campaign against Tax Havens?
      • Tax Havens crowd out against money given to tax-deductible charities, and therefore for EA Charities.
      • There is an economic benefit to some of the citizens of the Tax Haven countries, but when weighted against the criminal conduct that they enable... are they truly more good than bad?
    • ... Create a certification for NGOs to be considered "EA"?
      • Most people know that some causes (Malaria treatments, Deworming...) are well-known EA causes.
        • They are causes that attract million of dollars in funding.
      • Since there is no certification for NGO0s to use the name "EA", a fraudster-in-waiting can just
        1. Start a new NGO tomorrow.
        2. "Brand" itself as an EA charity
        3. See the donations begin to pour-in, and
        4. Commit fraud in a new manner that avoids existing regulation
        5. Profit
        6. Give the news cycle an exciting new story, and the EA community another sleepless night.

In fact, fraud in NGO's happens all the time. One of the reasons why Against Malaria Foundation had trouble implementing their first Give Well charity is that they were too stringent on the anti corruption requirements for governments.

It's in the direct interest of the EA community to minimize the amount of fraudulent NGO's, and to minimize the amount of EA branded fraudulent NGO's.

 

 

 

  1. ^

    My guess is that the only way in which alarms would've ringed for FTX investors was by realizing that there was a "back door" where somebody could just steal all the money.

    Would a financial auditor have looked into that, the programming aspect of the business?

    I doubt it, unless specific norms were in place to look for just that.

  2. ^

    In fact, at the same time that we're discussing this, a tragic air travel accident happened on a Dallas Airshow. Our efforts might be more "effective" by not discussing SBF and instead discussing Airshow Security and their morality.

I disagree:

Wherever there is money, there will be fraud. That's why we have financial regulations, and why professional charities have accountants and auditors.

This could  be a fatal blow for any charity that had become dependent on SBF's funds... which is exactly why GiveWell already has a rule that limits any single donor from giving more than (I think) 50% of funding for any one cause.

Rationally, the only way in which the EA community should change is in taking a deeper look at whether the key EA figures that have taken SBF's money could have been his "partners" infraud.

Even if this possibility is small, a professional investigation should happen because there is a non-trivial risk that this had happened

I agree with you.

However, the alternative isn't any better for fostering the EA Community:

  • Given that SBF is a fraud, that
    • Makes anybody who took his money either a criminal, or a fool.
      •  It's only natural that whichever EA public figure that took his money tries to avoid the "fool" label, but... that's what conmen do: They fool people.
    • Makes anybody who gave him money, a fool.
      • This is really damning, because people might begin associating the EA community and the EA causes themselves to fraud. 

In a sense, it's better for the EA causes for people to believe that the SBF fraud was propelled by a misguided fanaticism of SBF himself.