Luke Freeman

Executive director at Giving What We Can and board member Effective Altruism Australia

Topic Contributions


More funding is really good

FWIW: GiveWell actually already had some opportunities in the pipeline that they were still working on (e.g. Dispensers for Safe Water). Given the funding needs of their top charities right now it's looking very likely they'll have more room for funding than they can fill this year (unless there's unprecedented growth which seems unlikely given current projected economic conditions). At the GiveDirectly bar of funding (10%-30% as cost effective) there's nowhere near enough funding for the foreseeable future.

80k would be happy to see more projects in the careers space

Thanks Michelle for posting this! I think it really helps to clarify what 80K is doing and what it's not and to encourage people to fill the gaps (and even compete, well!).

I love the collaborative nature of the community and this is a great example.

Critiques of EA that I want to read

Thanks for sharing! I'd also love to read some of these critiques more fleshed out! Really appreciate that you posted bullet point summaries instead of either holding off for a more developed critique or just posting a vague list without summaries 😀 

Community builders should focus more on supporting friendships within their group

Thanks for this post! If it weren't for making friends with people in the EA community it's very unlikely I'd have made a career change to the direct work I'm doing and less likely I'd still be donating (certainly not at the level I have).

I like that you have specific suggestions for how community builders can act on this too 😀 

Michael Nielsen's "Notes on effective altruism"

Thanks Erin! I wouldn't say that EA is only about the key question, I just disagree that utilitarianism and an obligation to maximise are required or 'what EA is about'. I do agree that they are prevalent (and often good to have some upwards pressure on the amount we devote to doing good) 😀 

Michael Nielsen's "Notes on effective altruism"

EA is about two things.

[1] belief in utilitarianism or a utilitarian-esque moral system, that there exists an optimal world we should aspire to.

[2] belief that we should try to do as much good as possible

I would say that is a reasonable descriptive claim about the core beliefs of many in the community (especially more of the hardcore members), but IMHO neither are what "EA is about".

I don't see EA as making claims about what we should do or believe.

I see it as a key question of "how can we do the most good with any given unit of resource we devote to doing good" and then taking action upon what we find when we ask that.

The community and research field have certain tools they often use (e.g. use scientific evidence when it's available, using expected value reasoning) and many people who share certain philosophical beliefs (e.g. that outcomes are morally important) but IMHO these aren't what "EA is about".

Announcing a contest: EA Criticism and Red Teaming

I also suspect that making a big deal about the winners would be a good thing. For example, if the winner of the prize was awarded on the main stage at an EA Global and given a fireside chat that'd further encourage good faith criticism and demonstrate that we really care about it.

High Impact Medicine, 6 months later - Update & Key Lessons

Thanks so much for writing this up! I really appreciate hearing more about what's going on inside different groups. I'm especially excited to see the work being done in professional groups.

Hearing ideas without them being exclusively attached to a wider philosophy and in more neutral (rather than persuasive) fashion may help avoid putting people off and allows individuals the freedom to pick aspects they found more meaningful to explore. This helps encourage a ‘truth seeking’ approach that focuses on ‘learning useful tools and asking important questions [... ] and helping [individuals] have the biggest impact they can’ rather than the impression that EA was a large, take-it-or-leave-it all-encompassing philosophy you must be persuaded of. The objective was not to subtly trick people into becoming more EA but to provide information about ideas that we thought were important, worthy of discussion and that people may be receptive to. We found that some of our members did in fact become more involved in EA more broadly, whilst several individuals took on board ideas that are common in EA but felt ambivalently or negatively towards EA as a wider movement. 

I think this is a really great approach. You get to 'have your cake and eat it' by connecting people interested in EA to it and nudging many more people to higher-impact option in a way that encourages a lot of autonomy and agency. I also quite like the approach mentioned in footnote #2.

On being ambitious: failing successfully & less unnecessarily

Thanks Punty!

I take your concern as being, probably rightfully so, these groups working on things without knowing of similar ongoing/completed attempts.

Yep! I agree that competition is sometimes great, but it's the lack of awareness/learning/collaboration that can be a problem.

Would you propose collaborated record keeping between funders and entrepreneurs of ongoing and completed projects, with their potential points of failure? Including, why funding was not approved.

Yep, something like this. For example, I've heard/read many times both these things:

  • The idea seemed good but the team didn't seem like they could execute (knowing this, another team who could be a better fit should definitely apply, and/or the original team could upskill/find new members etc)
  • The idea seems pretty bad (for reasons that might not be immediately obvious) but the team seemed pretty capable (knowing this other people wouldn't pursue the idea, and the team would move onto something else instead of thinking that "they" are the problem).

I also really like the criticism of the "EA is overfunded" meme.  I think emphasising the good that can arise from the donations by the global 1% remains an important part of EA, and saying that "EA is overfunded" is contradictory to this.

Thanks! It's a meme that I think could be incredibly self-defeating.

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