All of John Bridge's Comments + Replies

Critiques of EA that I want to read

Also strong upvote. I think nearly 100% of the leftist critiques of EA I've seen are pretty crappy, but I also think it's relatively fertile ground. 

For example, I suspect (with low confidence) that there is a community blindspot when it comes to the impact of racial dynamics on the tractability of different interventions, particularly in animal rights and global health.[1] I expect that this is driven by a combination of wanting to avoid controversy, a focus on easily quantifiable issues, the fact that few members of the community have a sociolo... (read more)

Snakebites kill 100,000 people every year, here's what you should know

I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but I'd be interested to find out how differential treatment of indigenous groups in countries where snakebites are most prevalent impacts the tractability of any interventions. I don't have any strong opinions about how significant this issue is, but I would tentatively suggest that a basket of 'ethnic inequality issues' should be considered a third 'prong' in the analysis of why snakebites kill and maim so many people, and could substantially impact our cost-effectiveness estimates.


The WHO report ... (read more)

Thanks for the comment, I'd like to know that as well! Since writing the article and diving further into the antivenom crisis, I think I've actually doubled down on cost of treatment being the primary issue. When faced with the following options: 1. long trip to clinic, expensive treatment that may not work. 2. short trip to local healer, inexpensive treatment that may not work I can understand why someone would opt for the latter. My model would be that people would become much more willing to go to the hospital for , when they see acqaintance after acqaintance come back healthy, happy, and with their wallets intact as opposed to in coffins with a bill attached. One way to test this, could be to look how people's willingness to go to the hospital changes when cheap and working antivenom is introduced in an area. Another way could be to look at how prevalence of inefficacious (or outright fraudulent) antivenom affects willingness to go to the hospital, though I suspect there isn't sufficient data to do this analysis. That said I feel very uncertain about my prediction, and I don't think I'd be willing to make a bet with particularly good odds. Frankly I don't know anything about indiginous communities or their circumstances, and I'd trust your judgement more than mine. The fact that WHO's 2030 plan spends such a large proportion of its resources on community engagement suggests it's a bigger deal than I made it to be.
Another Basefund

Nothing to add, I just want to comment that this is a wonderful initiative. Thanks for setting this up!

Announcing a contest: EA Criticism and Red Teaming

I'm currently writing a sequence exploring the legal viability of the Windfall Clause in key jurisdictions for AI development. It isn't strictly a red-team or a fact-checking exercise, but one of my aims in writing the sequence is to critically evaluate of the Clause as a piece of longtermist policy.

If I'd like to participate, would this sort of thing be eligible? And should I submit the sequence as a whole or just the most critical posts?

Sounds to me like that would count! Perhaps you could submit the entire sequence but highlight the critical posts.
How should people spend money to be more productive?

UK/European folks - if you're looking for a second monitor, I recommend you buy one of these. They usually have a  discount code, which makes them some of the best value on the market. 

The only thing to keep in mind is that they eat up your battery pretty fast, which may not be ideal if you plan to use them for long stretches away from a plug socket.

A retroactive grant for creating the HPMoR audiobook (Eneasz Brodski)?

I have no strong opinions on whether this is a good or a bad idea, all things considered. But:

  • I feel uneasy about retrofunding as an idea.
  • Retrofunding feels more like 'so-called philanthropists giving money to their pals' than 'high-impact EA philanthropy'.
  • Retrofunding also feels particularly bad for optics.

If you have an argument for why I should feel different, I'd appreciate if you explain the argument rather than downvoting.

Permissionless economies are much more efficient. For funders: Distributing cash upon results being shown is a lot easier than vetting and modelling who and what will succeed, not to mention involves better incentives. For doers: Barrier to entry is much lower, I just need to do the thing (that i probably enjoy), not this additional labor of getting a permissionful grant (which i will not enjoy). For many doings, doers might require upfront payment or gaurantees. However, in very many cases, probabalistic recognition and payment is sufficient.

I think there is value:

  1. It creates incentives
  2. It helps people who did good (for free? for achieving something they expected would be impactful and get a retro grant?) have more resources


Regarding the downsides:

  1. I agree
  2. But everything has downsides. The question is not if there are downsides,  the question is how does that situation compare to the alternative, which seems to be "people who do really good impactful stuff almost never get funding, and this is a well known fact".
New Sequence - Towards a worldwide, watertight Windfall Clause

Hi Will,

(1) Is a really good point. I will definitely consider this. A few thoughts right now:

Encouragingly, the position here in England for contractual damages comes from Hadley v Baxendale, where damages are given for all losses that 'were in the contemplation of both parties' at the time they contracted. Given the very nature of the agreement is that the Developer has to pay out a colossal sum if they reach a certain % of GDP/market cap, I'd assume that the Developer's future profits would be included here. That said, specific performance seems like a ... (read more)

1Will Greenman3mo
Hi John, Thanks so much for the thoughtful reply. On (1), that's great -- I agree that the Hadley rule supports the desired result when a Developer commits a breach for which its Counterparty can readily prove its damages (e.g., when a Developer fails to pay after recognizing windfall profits). Reflecting on this point a bit more, I'd be interested to understand how different jurisdictions would handle a situation in which a Developer manages to breach in a more subtle way, before its Counterparty suffers such obvious damages. For example, suppose that a sophisticated shareholder in Developer A believes that one of A's business units has a meaningful chance (say, 30%) of developing a product that will trigger the Clause in the near term, but that belief is not widely shared or known. That shareholder might try to force A to sell that business unit to a second corporation, B (which does not have a Windfall Clause) in exchange for stock in B, with the stock in B distributed to A's shareholders on a pro rata basis as a dividend. Developer A's Counterparty could argue that this sale is a fraudulent transfer and a breach of the Clause. However, to recover damages for that breach, the Counterparty might have the burden of proving (i) the value of the business unit as of the time of the transfer, and (ii) that the value was high enough to implicate the Clause. A court might be reluctant to credit an argument that a single business unit will soon be worth >1% of GDP, limiting the Counterparty's recovery. (If enforceable, a liquidated damages provision might help mitigate this concern, but the Counterparty would likely still prefer specific performance.) Thanks again for taking this on. I'm excited to follow the sequence!
Where is the Social Justice in EA?

Strong upvote - this is a really great post and helped me understand the source of many disagreements between myself and my more social justice-oriented friends.

Companies with the most EAs and those with the biggest potential for new Workplace Groups

Sorry for the late comment, but I believe there are 40+ engaged EAs in the UK Civil Service, which is mostly based around Westminster. 

Did you leave them off because you are specifically looking at corporations?

2High Impact Professionals3mo
Hi John, thanks for your comment. Yes, there are indeed many more groups that this, both in the private and public sectors. We only presented here the top 30 orgs according to number of EAs. We are going to publish a list of all workplace and professional groups on our website soon and will post in the forum when we do.
What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

So, your comment here:

’It doesn't predict that being a member of two "oppressed" classes can result in an intersectional "privilege".’

Is referring to the advantage that western Asian women receive on the dating scene. My point is that this is compatible with intersectionality theory, because although the general structure of the power relationships between men/women, majority/minority ethnic groups, and white people/Asians disadvantages western Asian women, none of these relationships are 100% downside.

So, the idea is that on balance the relationship is oppressive, rather than that the relationship is just 100% beneficial/harmful for either side.

Is that more clear?

What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

I also don't think the prior should be 'people of all ethnicities feel the exact same set of charitable obligations' - that seems like a similarly strong claim. 

Still, in the absence of any good data to back up my claim or yours, I think it's appropriate to be very uncertain about any hypothesis we might have about why people do or don't give.

Thanks for improving my thinking on this.

What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

I think you might have misunderstood the scope of this post. I want to emphasise that I endorse none of the following claims:

[a white person can never] understand or model the discrimination or pain faced by a (for example) queer, poor, Black and Muslim individual.

it’s pointless for a male to study female psychology because a male will never understand what it’s like to be female and should instead have no voice in the conversation

diversity and “equity” and “justice” [are] innate, disseminated values, rather than potential or circumstantial instrumental on

... (read more)
What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

That said, your comment has shifted me towards your perspective that intersectionality is unlikely to be useful for EAs, and it's better to start a new language game. I think the word comes with enough baggage that it is hard to use as a neutral tool for analysing issues, and is liable to be misunderstood. 

Thanks for helping to improve my thinking here.

What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

it only predicts it when you are a member of a "privileged" class and an "oppressed" class*. It doesn't predict that being a member of two "oppressed" classes can result in an intersectional "privilege".


I think perhaps we mean different things when we use the words 'privilege' and 'oppression'. Under intersectionality theory, Group X is privileged in respect of Group Y if they are the beneficiaries of the power relationship, all things considered. Similarly, Group Y is oppressed if they are generally disadvantaged by that relationship. That doesn't m... (read more)

2Chris Leong3mo
Could you clarify? Have I used the term "oppression" or "privilege" here to refer to something that isn't a power relationship?
What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

Thanks for your message David. I think this probably depends on your definition of 'discrimination' - in SJ language, discrimination is typically something that happens at a systemic, rather than an individual level. That is to say, a set of policies that systematically disadvantage a particular group can still be discrimination if they reflect a prevailing system in which that group is disadvantaged. This can be true even if there is no bad intent on the part of individuals.

I think this broader definition is not always helpful, particularly because (a) it... (read more)

What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

Thanks for your message Charles. First, to respond to:

By the above, do you mean that focusing on one cause area neglects the other? If so, that observation doesn't seem like a contribution. 

Otherwise, if you meant something else, that seems like "original research" as these speculations and tradeoffs pulls on a vast range of topics. I'm skeptical that this theory helps thinking here.

I don't mean that focusing on one cause area always neglects the other. Rather, I mean that some issues EAs care about could be at the intersection of two types of disadva... (read more)

What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

Hi Chris, I've responded to this somewhat in my response to Jackson above.

FWIW, I'm trying to avoid focusing on race questions here, because I think they're pretty charged and racial equality isn't an EA cause area in any case. Still, I think it's worth responding to your comment that:

... the model doesn't deal very well with the fact that Asians earn more on average than people who are white or an Asian woman may be better off in some ways than an Asian man (such as dating).

I actually think the model deals very well with this, as intersectionality would p... (read more)

What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

I totally agree with you on this Erich; in my opinion, intersectionality is a useful tool to describe the phenomena of overlapping disadvantage, but a problem isn't more important or more effective just because it's an intersectional one.

What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

Hi Tyner, thanks for your message,

I don't have any studies I can point to on this, no, but the idea that privileged white men find it easier to take a universalising, impartial approach to doing good seems intuitively plausible. Admittedly, most of the data I have to support that argument are from private conversations, along with a general lack of demographic diversity in EA.

I'm open to the idea that I could be wrong here - can I ask you to explain in a little more detail why you feel that the PoC case isn't unique?

Hi John, My null hypothesis is that everyone wants to keep donations in their community. Being impartial with regard to time and place and species etc. requires some extra thought or will or persuasion for all of us. I think this is hard for anyone and I am not sure why this would be harder for POC than anyone else. You state it's plausible for the most privileged to find this easier, which I agree is plausible, but I think you could also make the case that the opposite is plausible. "Someone who has known discrimination, who has known what it feels like to be disadvantaged and voiceless, will more keenly be able to observe and sympathize with others who are voiceless." or some such. You're suggesting that they feel a "special obligation" so it seems from my perspective that the burden of evidence would rest with you. You stated you don't have any studies, just conversations. That's fine, I just don't find it very convincing so I think the null stands until more evidence comes forth. Cheers.
To weigh in here as someone who had to read some race studies literature in college: I think that's probably true - the theory I've read is based on the idea that white straight men are positioned as the "norm" under racial/gender hierarchy in Western society. Everyone else is othered and seen in relation to that norm. Some oversimplified examples: * "Unisex" sizing is actually men's sizing. * Fresh Off The Boat is marketed as an ethnic, Asian-American story. Friends is just a show about some people who are friends, and doesn't need to justify its existence by discussing experiences peculiar to the White community. * Car crash dummies are usually shaped to the average man, meaning that women are more likely to die in car crashes. * The whole concept of "ethnic food". Given instances like this, it makes sense to me that white men find it easier to be impartial, and PoC are more likely to be aware of and care about issues special to us communities, because knowledge, culture, and norms seen as "impartial" often exclude us. That being said, I don't know if PoC feel a stronger desire to donate to their communities than Boy Scouts. Personally, I think that's just a reason for EA to figure out ways to appeal to Boy Scouts, not to appeal less to PoC.
What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

Hi evelynciara, thanks for sharing these. Can I ask - are you raising these as an indication that you support my thesis, or just to add to the discussion?

What is Intersectionality Theory? What does it mean for EA?

Thanks for your message Jackson. A few thoughts:

  • First thing is that, if intersectionality seems vague or poorly defined, then that's likely a fault of my writing rather than the idea. To clarify - "intersectionality" is the idea that different individuals encounter overlapping types of disadvantage, and that these disadvantages combine in ways cannot be easily explained by looking at either kind of disadvantage in isolation. This means that finding solutions to issues at the intersection of several axes of disadvantage often requires explicitly considering
... (read more)
$100 bounty for the best ideas to red team

Red-team - "Are longtermism and virtue ethics actually compatible?"

A convincing red-team wouldn't need a complex philosophical analysis, but rather a summary of divergences between the two theories and an exploration of five or six  'case studies' where consequentialist-type behaviour and thinking is clearly 'unvirtuous'. 

Explanation - Given just how large and valuable the long-term future could be, it seems plausible that longtermists should depart from standard heuristics around virtue. For instance, a longtermist working in biosecurity who car... (read more)

5Jay Bailey4mo
I would be interested in this one. To provide a relevant anecdote to the Benjamin Todd thread, (n = 1, of course) I had known about EA for years, and agreed with the ideas behind it. But the thing that got me to actually take concrete action about it was that I joined a group that, among other things, asked its members to do a good deed each day. Once I got into the habit of doing good deeds, (and, even more importantly, actively looking for opportunities to do good deeds) however small or low-impact, I began thinking about EA more, and finally committed to try giving 10% for a year, then signing the pledge. Without pursuing classical virtue, I would be unlikely to be involved in EA now. My agreement with EA philosophically remained constant, but my willingness to act on a moral impulse was what changed. I built the habit of going from "Someone should do something" to "I should do something" with small things like stopping to help a stranger with a heavy box, and that transferred to larger things like donating thousands of dollars to charity. Thus, I am interested in the intersection of EA and virtue and how they can work together. EA requires two things - philosophical agreement, and commitment to action. In my case, virtue helped bridge the gap between 1 and 2.