All of Joey's Comments + Replies

Launching a donor circle for mental health

Right now the door is pretty open. The projects we would consider are ones that can make a case for being highly impactful relative to other options in the space. I suspect projects with large funding gaps would be less of a good fit (e.g., people seeking over $500k).

Jobs at EA-organizations are overpaid, here is why

So I think this conversation might be more productive if we clarified some terminology/dove into the specifics. There are a lot of different ways to set salaries in general.

  • Needs of the employee
  • Resources the organization has
  • Market rate including benefits (how desirable the job is - e.g. hedge funds pay loads but are stressful so need to pay more to make up for that)
  • Amount for the employee to be psychologically content
  • Amount that creates the best incentives for the organization/EA movement
  • Market rate replacement (if someone left, what you’d have to pay to g
... (read more)
Deference Culture in EA

Hey Stefan,

Thanks for the comment, I think this describes a pretty common view in EA that I want to push back against.

Let's start with the question of how much you have found practical criticism of EA valuable. When I see posts like this or this, I see them as significantly higher value than those individuals deferring to large EA orgs. Moving to a more practical example; older/more experienced organizations/people actually recommended against many organizations (CE being one of them and FTX being another). These organizations’ actions and projects seem pr... (read more)

On the philosophical side paragraph - totally agree; this is why worldview diversification [] makes so much sense (to me). The necessity of certain assumptions leads to divergence of kinds of work, and that is a very good thing, because maybe (almost certainly) we are wrong in various ways, and we want to be alive and open to new things that might be important. Perhaps on the margin an individual's most rational action could sometimes be to defer more, but as a whole, a movement like EA would be more resilient with less deference. Disclaimer: I personally find myself very turned off by the deference culture in EA. Maybe that's just the way it should be though. I do think that higher deference cultures are better at cooperating and getting things done - and these are no easy tasks for large movements. There have also been movements that have done terrible things in the past, accidentally, with these properties. There have also been movements that have done wonderful things, with these properties. I'd guess there may be a correlation between people who think there should be more deference being in the "row" camp and people who think less in the "steer" camp, or another camp, described here [] .
I worry a bit that these discussions become a bit anecdotal; and that the arguments rely on examples where it's not quite clear what the role of deference or its absence was. No doubt there are examples where people would have done better if they had deferred less. That need not change the overall picture that much. Fwiw, I think one thing that's important to keep in mind is that deference doesn't necessarily entail working within a big project or or org. EAs have to an extent encouraged others to start new independent projects, and deference to such advice thus means starting an independent project rather than working within a big project or org.
Why should I care about insects?

As someone who has been concerned about insects as an area for years, I think the aspect that stops animal-focused people I speak to from engaging with insects as a cause area is not really to do with scale or neglectedness. Many vegans do not eat honey; suggesting a concern for the bees creating it, and SWP ( has gotten quite a lot of support from the animal movement. The issue is pretty directly tied to tractability and concrete actions that can be taken. If the current inventions focused on insects are research-orie... (read more)

In expanding what Joey said, I think another aspect of why insect work may be a bit less tractable is to do with optics. I think in the broader public sphere, insect farming has been seen as a potential solution to food insecurity and a sustainable agricultural solution requiring less land and water etc. This may make it somewhat harder to gain significant traction in the space. That being said, I think one particularly large area where work might be interesting in working on is slowing down insect farming for animal feed, which I imagine would cause less public disagreement than slowing down insect farming for human consumption purposes.
Demandingness and Time/Money Tradeoffs are Orthogonal

I quite like this idea, and many of the most frugal people I know also do a ton of these things as well. I think a bunch of them pretty clearly signal altruism. Interestingly, I would say that things that make EA soft and cushy financially seem to cross apply to non-financial areas as well. E.g. I am not sure the average EA is working more hours compared to what they worked 5 years ago; even with the increases in salary, PAs and time to money tradeoffs.

I also agree there are a lot more that could be listed. I think "leave a fun and/or high-status job for a... (read more)

1Ben Thompson4mo
Thank you! I'll investigate those.
We need more nuance regarding funding gaps

Indeed this is only considering nonprofit funding sources. I think the data would be quite different if also considering for-profit options.

We need more nuance regarding funding gaps

Keen to hear about any data on this topic, James is right it is the number of ~EA funders with unique perspectives. 

LTFF, OP, SFF, FTXF etc. are all keen to fund bio stuff. If they don't do so in practice, it's because nobody pitches them with good proposals, not because they're not interested. Also, some of the bio grants aren't public.

Should EA be explicitly long-termist or uncommitted?

"Organisations should be open about where they stand in relation to long-termism."

Agree strongly with this. One of the most common reasons I hear for people reacting negatively to EA is feeling tricked by self-described "cause open organizations" that really just focus on a single issue (normally AI).

Strongly upvoted. Which organizations are those?
Democratising Risk - or how EA deals with critics

"Please don't criticize central figures in EA because it may lead to an inability to secure EA funding?" I have heard this multiple times from different sources in EA. 

Strongly upvoted, and me too. Which sources do you have in mind? We can compare lists if you like. I'd be willing to have that conversation in private but for the record I expect it'd be better to have it in public, even if you'd only be vague about it.
I think the rationale behind making such a statement is less about specific funding for the individuals making that statement, but for the EA movement as a whole and goes roughly: Most of the funding EA has is coming from a small number of high-net-worth individuals and they think donating to EA is a good idea because of their relationship and trust into central figures in EA. By criticising those figures, you decrease the chance of these figures pulling more high-net-worth individuals to donate to EA. Hence, criticising central figures in EA is bad. (Not saying that I agree with this line of reasoning, but it seems plausible to me that people would make such a statement because of this reasoning.)

This is interesting if true. With respect to this paper in particular, I don't really get why anyone would advise the authors not to publish it. It doesn't seem like it would affect CSER's funding, since as I understand it (maybe I'm wrong) they don't get much EA money and it's hard to see how it would affect FHI's funding situation. The critiques don't seem to me to be overly personal, so it's difficult to see why publishing it would be overly risky. 

Free workspace for EA researchers in London

We (Charity Entrepreneurship) have considered doing something like this. Would love to see the results and to know what locations you are considering. We are in west London.

AMA: Tim Ferriss, Michael Pollan, and Dr. Matthew W. Johnson on psychedelics research and philanthropy

1) Where do you see untapped opportunities for nonprofit entrepreneurs in the space of mental health?

2) What role do you see entrepreneurs (vs. established organizations) play in this field, including incubation programs like that has incubated mental health charities before?

3) How do you assess the potential of new mental health treatments for the Global South? Is this sufficiently prioritized and do you see particular roadblocks to rapid adoption?

Why start a family planning charity? (Founders needed)

Hey Larks, thanks for the great comment. I think it gets at some key assumptions one has to consider when evaluating this as an intervention. We didn’t end up going into that in this post, but happy to cover it below.

I both see the scenario in which the benefits outweigh the costs (the one in which we are happy to incubate this charity), and I also see scenarios where the costs are higher than the benefits (in that case we wouldn't recommend it). Specifically: 

Existing people get the benefit of building relationships with these new people.

When you con... (read more)

Why EA meta, and the top 3 charity ideas in the space
  1. Your intuitions are right here that these skills are not unique to EA, and I am generally thinking of skills that are not exclusive to EA. I would expect this training organization not to create a ton of original content so much as to compile, organize and prioritize existing content. For example, the org might speak to ten people in EA operations roles, and based on that information find the best existing book and online course that if absorbed would set someone up for that role. So I see the advantage as being, more time to select and combine existing re
... (read more)
Lessons from my time in Effective Altruism

I think the majority of unusual empirical beliefs that came to mind were more in the longtermist space. In some ways these are unusual at even a deeper level than the suggested beliefs e.g. I think EAs generally give more credence epistemically to philosophical/a priori evidence, Bayesian reasoning, sequence thinking, etc.

If I think about unusual empirical beliefs Charity Entrepreneurship has as well, it would likely be something like the importance of equal rigor, focusing on methodology in general, or the ability to beat the charity market using research. 

In both cases these are just a couple that came to mind – I suspect there are a bunch more.

Lessons from my time in Effective Altruism

"I now believe that less work is being done by these moral claims than by our unusual empirical beliefs, such as the hinge of history hypothesis, or a belief in the efficacy of hits-based giving. " 

This is also a view I have moved pretty strongly towards. 

2Alex HT1y
Joey, are there unusual empirical beliefs you have in mind other than the two mentioned? Hits based giving seems clearly related to Charity Entrepreneurship's work - what other important but unusual empirical beliefs do you/CE/neartermist EAs hold? (I'm guessing hinge of history hypothesis is irrelevant to your thinking?)

[Responding to the quoted sentence, not specifically your comment]

I definitely agree that empirical beliefs like those listed do a substantial amount of work in leading to EA's unusual set of priorities. I don't have a view on whether that does more of the work than moral claims do. 

That said, I think there are two things worth noting in relation to the quoted sentence.

First, I think this sentence could be (mis?)interpreted as implying that the relevant empirical beliefs are ones where EAs tend to disagree with beliefs that are relatively confidently,... (read more)

Why EA meta, and the top 3 charity ideas in the space

Thanks for this – I checked out the full list when the post went up. 

We will be researching increasing development aid and possibly researching getting money out of politics and into charity as our focus moves to more policy-focused research for our 2022 recommendations. 

We also might research epistemic progress in the future, but likely from a meta science-focused perspective.

We definitely considered non-Western EA when thinking through EA meta options, but ended up with a different idea for how to best make progress on it (see here).

For-pr... (read more)

Why EA meta, and the top 3 charity ideas in the space

Indeed I have seen that post. I would be keen for more than one group to research this sort of area. I can also imagine different groups coming at it from different epistemic and value perspectives. I expect this research could be more than a full-time job for 5+ people.

Five New EA Charities with High Potential for Impact

Good question. We keep the information updated on room for funding on this page.

1Grace G1y
Awesome, thanks! I'll check that out.
Why EA meta, and the top 3 charity ideas in the space

Indeed these sorts of issues will be covered in the deeper reports but it’s still valuable to raise them!

A really short answer to an important question: I would expect the research to be quite a bit deeper than the typical proposal – more along the lines of what Brian Tomasik did for wild animal suffering or Michael Plant did for happiness. But not to the point where the researchers found an organization themselves (as with Happier Lives Institute or Wild Animal Initiative). E.g. spending ~4 FT researcher months on a given cause area. 

I agree that a b... (read more)

What areas are the most promising to start new EA meta charities - A survey of 40 EAs

Our current plan is to publish a short description but not a full report of the top ideas we plan to recommend in the first week of Jan so possible applicants can get a sense before the deadline (Jan 15th).

Great. thank you :)
What areas are the most promising to start new EA meta charities - A survey of 40 EAs

Glad you found it interesting!

  1. It tended to come from people focused on that area but the concerns were not exclusive to technologies (or even xrisk more broadly). 
  2. To put it another way, people were concerned that “EAs tended to help their friends and others in their adjacent peer-group disproportionality to the impact it would cause.” 
  3. Regarding polarization in "Intercommunity coordination and connection," my sense is this came from different perceptions about how past projects had gone. No clear trend as to why for “community member improvement”
  4. I
... (read more)
What areas are the most promising to start new EA meta charities - A survey of 40 EAs

I agree I was expecting a much stronger consensus as well. Sorry to say I told the folks I interviewed the data would remain at this level of anonymity many were fine with sharing their results but some preferred it to be pretty anonymous.

Number scores are based on people ranking the option above or below average with 3 being average. 

What areas are the most promising to start new EA meta charities - A survey of 40 EAs

Sadly not able to share that data I can say it tended to be bigger organizations and bigger chapters. 

No worries, thanks!
An experiment to evaluate the value of one researcher's work

Happy to have my posts used for this. One thing I would love to see integrated would be a willingness to pay metric as we have been experimenting with this a bit in our research process and have found it quite useful. 

5Ozzie Gooen2y
One challenge with willingness to pay is that we need to be clear who the money would be coming from. For instance, I would pay less for things if the money were coming from the budget of EA Funds than I would Open Phil, than I would the US Government. This seems doable to me, but is tricky. Ideally we could find a measure that wouldn't vary dramatically over time. For instance, the EA Funds budget might be desperate for cash some years have have too much others, changing the value of the marginal dollar dramatically.
Thanks! A willingness to pay is an interesting proxy; will keep in mind. In particular, I imagine that it consolidates some intuitions, or makes them more apparent, though it probably won't help if your intuitions are just wrong.
What is a book that genuinely changed your life for the better?
Answer by JoeyOct 22, 202013

Great question. Keen to see other people’s recommendations. We have a list of some of our team’s favorites organized into categories – can be seen on the website here or below. My personal top 5 are Principles, Made to Stick, The Life You Can Save, Algorithms to Live By, and The Lean Startup.

Charity entrepreneurship

Values and ethics


... (read more)
How have you become more (or less) engaged with EA in the last year?

A few examples:
- Introduction of new cause areas (e.g. mental health, WAS) 
- Debates about key issues (e.g. INT framework issues, flaws of the movement)
- More concrete issues vs philosophical ones (e.g. how important is outreach, what % of EAs should earn to give)

I think the bar I generally compare EA to is, do I learn more from reading the EA forum per minute than from reading a good nonfiction book? Some years this has definitely been true but it has been less true in recent years.

Making More Sequences

This could be turned into one quite quickly

Ramiro's Shortform

Hey Ramiro and Thomas,

Thanks for your engagement with this system. I think in general our system has lots of room for improvement - we are in fact working on refining it right now. However, I am pretty strongly in favor of having evaluation systems even if the numbers are not based on all the data we would like them to be or even if they come to surprising results.

Cross species comparison is of course very complex when it comes to welfare. Some factors are fairly easy to measure across species (such as death rates) while others are much more difficult (d... (read more)

Thanks for this clarifying comment. I see your point - and I am particularly in agreement with the need for evaluation systems for cross-species comparison. I just wonder if a scale designed for cross-species comparison might be not very well-suited for interpersonal comparisons, and vice-versa - at least at the same time. Really, I'm more puzzled than anything else - and also surprised that I haven't seen more people puzzled about it. If we are actually using this scale to compare societies, I wonder if we shouldn't change the way welfare economists assess things like quality of life. In the original post, [] the Countries compared were Canada (Pop: 36 mi, HDI: .922, IHDI: .841) and India (Pop: 1.3 bi, HDI: .647, IHDI: .538) [] Finally, really, please, don't take this as a criticism (I'm a major fan of CE), but: First, I am not sure how people from developing countries (particularly India) would rate the welfare of current humans vis-à-vis chimps, but I wonder if it'd be majorly different from your overall result. Second, I am not sure about the relevance of mentioning hunther-gatherers; I wouldn't know how to compare the hypothetical welfare of the world's super predator before civilization with current chimps with current people. Even if I knew, I would take life expectancy as an important factor (a general proxy for how someone is affected by health issues).
How have you become more (or less) engaged with EA in the last year?
Answer by JoeySep 11, 202029

Equally or more focused on doing good but less involved with the EA movement. Broadly I am less sold that engaging with the EA movement is the best way to increase knowledge or impact. This is due to a bit of an intellectual slowdown in EA, with fewer concepts being generated that connect to impact and a bit of perceived hostility towards near-term causes (which I think are the most impactful).

Joey, could you say more what you mean by "concepts...that connect to impact"? I'm interested in examples you're thinking of. And whether you're looking for advances on those examples or new/different concepts?
2020 Top Charity Ideas - Charity Entrepreneurship

Hey Charles, we don’t prioritize long termist projects as we do not think they are the highest impact (for epistemic not ethical reasons). This view is pretty common in EA, but most people who hold this perspective do not engage much on the EA forum. In the future we might write more on it.

We have recommended meta charities in the past (e.g. animal careers) and expect to recommend more in the future. There are some people considering a long-term/AI focused incubator, so this might be a project that happens at some point.

Do research organisations make theory of change diagrams? Should they?
Answer by JoeyJul 22, 202015

Sadly don’t have time to go into much depth on this, but we strongly recommend it to all charities that run through our CE program (including all the research orgs) and create a ToC for each idea we research.

Thanks for that info. Do you think you'd do/recommend the same for charities or research focused on the long-term future? (Feel free to give an answer without explanation, given your time-constraints.)
What should Founders Pledge research?

Here are a few different areas that look promising. Some of these are taken from other organizations’ lists of promising areas, but I expect more research on each of them to be high expected value.

  • Donors solely focused on high-income country problems.
    • Mental health research (that could help both high and low income countries).
    • Alcohol control
    • Sugar control
    • Salt control
    • Trans-fats control
    • Air pollution regulation
    • Metascience
    • Medical research
    • Lifestyle changes including "nudges" (e.g. more exercise, shorter commutes, behaviour, education)
    • Mindfulness educa
... (read more)
Update on the Vancouver Effective Altruism Community

Slight correction: The Charity Entrepreneurship program will be based in London, UK this year.

Thanks, fixed.
A guide to improving your odds at getting a job in EA

When I was writing this, I was mostly comparing it to other highly time consuming activism (e.g. many people are getting a degree hoping it will help them acquire an EA job). In terms of being the optimal thing for EA organizations to look for, I do not really have a view on that. I was more so hoping to level the understanding between people who have a pretty good sense that this sort of information is what you need, and people who might think that this would be worth far less than, say, a degree from a prestigious university.

After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation

Ok given multiple people think this is off I have changed it to 3 hours to account for variation in application time.

After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation

My sense is they already had a CV that required very minimal customization and spent almost all the time on the cover letter.

After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation

The following is a rough breakdown of the percentage of people who were not asked to move on to the next round in the Charity Science hiring process. These numbers assume one counterfactual hour of preparation for each interview and no preparation time outside of the given time limit for test tasks.

~3* hour invested (50%) - Cover letter/resume
~5 hours invested (20%) - Interview 1
~10 hours invested (15%) - Test task 1
~12 hours invested (5%) - Interview 2
~17 hours invested (5%) - Test task 2
~337 hours invested (2.5%) - paid 2-month work trial
Hired (2.5%)

So, ... (read more)

1 hour for Cv/cover letter seems extremely optimistic...

Why we look at the limiting factor instead of the problem scale

Hey Abraham,

The endline goal of any piece of evaluation criteria is to be able to be used to best predict “good done”. I broadly agree that one criteria factor is unlikely to rule in or out an intervention fully (including limiting factor - it was one of four in our system). If we know a criteria that was that powerful there would be no need for complex evaluation.

Although limiting factor is not a pure hard limit I do not think this changes its usefulness much; an intervention might be low evidence, and in theory multiple RCTs could be done to improve thi... (read more)

That makes a lot of sense. Maybe one way of framing scale + cost-effectiveness could be "how long will a particular cost-effectiveness be applicable in the real world?", and then two ways of describing that cost-effectiveness are either incorporating costs to raise these limits or not. In either case, I definitely agree that these should be considered. One other thought - it seems like in certain ways, a donation to a charity will account for their efforts to raise limits, to some extent. I don't know enough about how ACE does cost-effectiveness analysis (and obviously the degree to which this information is incorporated would definitely depend on that), but I could imagine that if you make a statement like "a donation of $100 to The Humane League will help reduce the suffering of X animals", in a complete assessment of that donation, some of that funding would be going to their development department (raising the amount of funding available), some might be going to volunteer cultivation (maybe volunteer capacity is another limiting factor). So the issue is more that while the outcome per dollar we are looking at is based on historical performance, over time that outcome per dollar is actually worse because some of that funding was going towards raising limits, and actually would need to be applied to animals not yet helped, if that makes sense. Either way, I'm really interested in this - since reading it, I've been thinking of how I can incorporate this kind of thinking about cost-effectiveness into my organization - it seems tricky, but definitely worth doing a lot more of. Thanks for posting it!
Answer by JoeyJan 17, 20193

Cause profile: mental health

Really interesting post, but I do want to flag a big concern I have in the comparative calculation. Broadly, estimated effects are almost always just going to be way more positive than well studied effects. For example if you estimated GD’s impact using standard income vs happiness adjustment measures (e.g. the value of double someone's income on their happiness) you end up at a much higher number than the RCT results. I think this sort of thing happens pretty consistently and predictability. For example, it would be really easy to imagine Strong Mind... (read more)

Hello Joey, I may have misunderstood your first comment, but if I had estimated the effects for GiveDirectly it would have been (on my best guess) less effective than the study showed. From the 2016 paper I inferred GD increased life satisfaction (LS) by 0.3/10 per person. In the Origins of Happiness, Clark et al find a doubling of income increase LS 0.12/10 by. IIRC (and I may not), the $750 transfer from GD is less than a doubling of household income. So the estimated effects would have been approx. 3 times smaller for GD. Regarding StrongMinds' treatment, Reay et al. (2012) [] have a 2 year study of how much of the benefits are retained for interpersonal group therapy (which is what StrongMinds delivers). I agree it is more appropriate to use this than using the Wiles et. al (2016) model - which I interpret as a constant effect for 4 years and then nothing thereafter - as Wiles et al. is based on UK CBT, I think delivered individually. To account for this, in my spreadsheet [] , I do two estimates, one where I assume the treatment effect is constant as lasts only 4 years, another where 75% of the benefits are retained annually. This latter estimation method is taken from Halstead and Snowden's Founder's Pledge report on mental health where they also assess StrongMinds. It turns out the estimates give practically identical results so, in this case, the cost-effectiveness is not sensitive to how duration of effect is modeled. I agree with you that the best current mental health charity is probably far less cost-effective, relative to whatever the best possible intervention is, than the best current development or physical health charities, on the grounds more effort has been put into the latter. (As you and I have discussed) I am optimistic about finding/developing even better ways to do provide mental health
Quality of life of farm animals

Our team has fairly recently done pretty similar work to what you are describing. You can see it here

Well thanks that's neat, I would sooner use that than the other estimates, but it seems that you are equally assuming that scales go from equal positive and negative extremes. E.g., no disease is +17 but severe disease is only -17.
From humans in Canada to battery caged chickens in the United States, which animals have the hardest lives: results

When we looked at larger groups like fish or bugs we looked for species that were a) more studied and b) more populous. For example, for bugs this tended to be ants, bees, flies, and beetles. Overall though we tried to get a score that we felt would be consistent with “a random unknown bug is killed by an insecticide. What was the welfare score of that bug?”

We only set aside enough time to cover a certain number of animals, and we did not think looking at most regional differences was as important as covering more animals. We will be releasing a table with... (read more)

Which animals need the most help from the animal advocacy movement?

Wild rat indeed includes rats that live in cities and apartments (as long as they are not domesticated/pet rats). We definitely considered causes of death by humans (which for rats was quite a sizable percentage of their deaths) and our next report is in fact on ethical pest control, including possibilities like more ethical rodenticides and legal changes to move people from sticky to snap traps.

Which animals need the most help from the animal advocacy movement?

So on #1, there have been some discussions of this but out team was not convinced of the arguments enough to include a factor involving it into our analysis. You can see more here and on the links at the bottom of that post. It would change things quite a bit. We have not done the calculation but off the top of my head I would expect it would impact insects most significantly with other animals moving up or down a category e.g. cows might move to mid but I would not expect them to move to high.

Which animals need the most help from the animal advocacy movement?

On #2, indeed our research is mostly focused around which charities should be founded in the animal space. That being said, I do think it cross applies. For example, I would far prefer someone to eat beef and give up chicken than the opposite. For giving up different food categories I think it would go something like Fish > Chicken > Eggs > Pork > Beef > Milk > Cheese in order of importance based on both the animal welfare and the amount of animals it takes to form a meal (e.g. 1 chicken or 0.01 cows).

From humans in Canada to battery caged chickens in the United States, which animals have the hardest lives: results


In terms of other animals that could be quite net positive, large herbivores and predators at the top of their food chain with relative abundance of food (e.g. elephants, moose, whales and dolphins) would be my guess, but we did not go deep into any of those animals. Some domestic animals (e.g. well treated dogs and cats) also seem plausible to have pretty net positive lives.

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