All of MarcSerna's Comments + Replies


Whatever you give a man know that you are just a tiny bit of his life. He is struggling with giants. Try to be the most helpful tiny bit you can, but manage expectations.


Interesting post, I think I agree, but even if we should lower our confidence about almost all future predictions there should be some things that are more likely to happen and some actions that are likely to improve the outcomes of those things.

I would be interested in reflection about what those things might be, one possible example that comes to mind is climate change (which you mention) and another one is economic growth.

I recently became a board member and I was very confused because of many of the issues raised in this post. I have gained great ideas and a bit of clarity.

Thank you.

Thank you for explaining it so well.

I guess EA is interested in getting the best and that justifies giving hope to many people who are between OK and almost the best. But that process has some collateral damage. This post is maybe about options to deal with the collateral.

Are there some good arguments to care about this, even for someone who feels no empathy for invertebrates?

For example the environmental impact of losing so many insects.

I think for such neglected causes focusing in secondary reasons might bring some progress.

It probably depends on the area, but probably non-welfare related impact is going to vary by industry significantly. E.g. I imagine that insecticide use has fairly substantial environmental impacts, but that residential insecticides do not. I haven't looked into this at all, but I'd guess there are many ways in which these industries are bad and also good (they all exist because they provide some useful benefit) besides the welfare implications.

You are right but have you considered you can have more impact elsewhere?

Also 6 applications is a small sample, try 60 or 120 and you will surely get employment.

The question that comes to my mind is:

Could you accept being part of a process that is harmful (and already happening) for the chance to make it less harmful?

...are you just asking whether they accept expected value reasoning, or are you making a different point?

I think this is a great idea, I hope someone is crazy enough to try. 

The key point might be that the most important EA ideas are not partisan (all existential risks, improved quality of aid, caring for the long term future) and could be adopted by more than 90% of parties in the Western world. 

A less radical version would be "EA's who care about politics but don't identify with any party should overcome that shyness and evaluate which parties are they at least slightly aligned with, and which ones present to them the greatest opportunity."

In Euro... (read more)

This seems like a decent pitch to EA Infrastructure Fund, maybe it can be improved if you can get more specific on short term targets.

I hope you get what is needed to start! It sounds like a great project.

I really liked the story. Think of doing more!

Thanks, appreciate the comment! :)

Yes that is the idea!

Great post idea, maybe you can refloat it every year.

Answer by MarcSernaNov 04, 2021120
  1. Collectivize operations of EA organizations eg. do all hiring or Compliance by an operations team that helps many orgs.

  2. found two replicas of Open Philantropy Foundation with teams with slightly different opinions on key issues

  3. an EA humanitarian agency applying reason to respond to the world's worst humanitarian crises. We could call it Emergency Aid.

Chris Leong
Great ideas. I definitely think that EA could gain a lot of credibility by successfully responding to major crises.
Nathan Young
2. This seems like a really good idea that would avoid bad outcomes.
Nathan Young
1. I don't know that I'd want to see complete centralisation but I'd like to see an org which allows EAs to apply once to many application processes at once.

Thank you! Are there any public educative materials you recommend as a base?

Mike Cassidy
Hi Marc,  Clive Oppenheimer's, 'Eruptions that shook the world' is a great introduction to volcanoes and their role on society. Cheers!

Great post and answers I really enjoyed it.

I am concerned about the volcanos that are not being monitored in developing countries. I actually live in a vulcano that is very likely to not be properly monitored (Mt. Cameroun) and that has had activity in recent decades.

Is there anything that small NGOs, local Universities, local governments, and civil society can do to help monitor vulcano activity? what risk mitigation measures can be realistically planned and promoted in low income countries?

Sorry if I am out of topic. I thought of writing privately but someone else might find the answer useful.

Thanks for this question MarcSerna. 

Unfortunately, the lack of monitoring isn't limited to low-income countries, and even countries like the US struggle to maintain monitoring networks due to financial constraits (and changes in office). On increasing our monitoring capacity, the use of satellite technology is greatly enhancing our capabilities but we still have a long way to go for this to be a robust method. Often we must request satellites be flown over volcanoes, rather than it being routinely conducted and imagery can also be expensive. It should... (read more)

Great post.

Has this debate evolved? Did someone try to give the 10 names?

I like efficient altruism, it drops the smugness a bit.

Neoutilitariansm could also make sense. But maybe someone who understands EA better than me points out the differences between what EA has been and utilitarianism.

Change now after 10 years can be really really difficult. But the best time is as soon as possible. Also it is difficult because EA is not a single organization or exact philosophy with one person behind it.

I usually say "I admire/follow the Effective Altruism community" rather than saying I am an Effective Altruist.

This is an interesting post and I have been seeing similar critiques in the past year. I wrote something similar but much less articulate once. I think the community is ready for practical advice, career options, and solutions for the not extremely outstanding masses.

Like advice for EAs with low GPAs and weak CVs, or advice on how to compare any two very specific options.

Your post is a very good starting point.

Thank you so much for your comment.


I also had browsed the same result before writing the post, and although I agree on it not being near 70%, I think the study quoted is not representative and deep enough, that is why I went for my 10-50% estimate (which, with a 40% gap, is not really an estimate ;D).

My observation is that small organisations and smaller donors with less strict financial reporting mechanisms apply systematic cuts from any budget line (creating “blind” budgets, or in Spanish we would say “Budget B”), anything can be gotten cheaper. It... (read more)

These are my most important takes:

1) Informed, low cost advocacy to improve Mobile Money services for the poor and extreme poor might be impactful. This is something my organisation can explore in Cameroon. 

2)Most people who don't have an account, in environments where Mobile Money is available, don't need it or don´t feel they need it. Could it be because they are in fact too poor for it? If this is the case it could be a useful indicator for targeting in cash transfer and humanitarian programs. 

3) Lastly, supporting agents to become agents migh... (read more)

Thank you for this extremely informative response. This was way beyond my expectations!

These are my most important takes: 1) Informed, low cost advocacy to improve Mobile Money services for the poor and extreme poor might be impactful. This is something my organisation can explore in Cameroon.  2)Most people who don't have an account, in environments where Mobile Money is available, don't need it or don´t feel they need it. Could it be because they are in fact too poor for it? If this is the case it could be a useful indicator for targeting in cash transfer and humanitarian programs.  3) Lastly, supporting agents to become agents might be the most promising, I got the same feedback from a fellow development worker. However, I was thinking of a traditional development project, we map out places, find poor people, help them set up Mobile Money booths and give them capital to start, while Brian's reply seems to be about a profit-making venture acting  as a sort of middle men facilitating the process. Which approach is more interesting?

That explains the mixing information I got!

It would be great to know more about their current expansion, and how do they approach countries that already have Mobile Money operators. I hope someone can clarify this, the website does not have much information.

Wave is really amazing, but if I am not getting it wrong, their focus is sending money from abroad to the country in a much cheaper way. But my main concern in this post is stepping up electronic money within country. I think it would be interesting to also promote the expansion of Wave into untouched territory for similar reasons than the ones above (they create wealth for people in developing countries). But note that many of those remittances are sent to people who might not be considered "extreme poor". The extreme poor are less likely to have relative... (read more)

Ben Kuhn
Sorry for the minimalist website :) A couple clarifications: * We indeed split our businesses into Sendwave (international money transfer) and Wave (mobile money). is the website for the latter. * The latter currently operates only in Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire (stay tuned though). * In addition to charging no fees for deposits or withdrawals, we charge a flat 1% to send. All in, I believe we're about 80% cheaper than Orange Money for typical transaction sizes. * We don't provide services to Orange—if you saw the logo on the website it's just because we let our customers use their Wave balance to purchase Orange airtime. This is our goal as well; to quote myself in another comment: Even Orange (which is fairly widespread in Senegal) has only gotten 25% of their own userbase onto mobile money (source []) because they, like most mobile money systems, are executing really badly compared to what's possible. There is a lot of room to make mobile money more accessible even in countries with already-existing mobile money. (Which at this point is nearly all countries AFAIK—it's easy for a telecom to buy an off the shelf mobile money service from something like Ericsson or Huawei—much harder for them to actually execute well on rolling it out.)
My understanding is that this was the old focus of wave (The remittances part of the company is now rebranded Sendwave). IIUC, the current iteration of Wave is focused on making mobile money more popular.


I am Marc Serna, from Reach Out. I want to thank Barbara inmensely for writing this post.

As you can see, we think we have a good project that is giving healthcare to people who otherwise would not have it. But it seems evident we are not collecting data in a convincing enough way for EA standards. That is OK, we have a long way to go and we are committed to improving.

We would deeply appreciate any orientation on what type of data should we begin collecting right now, so that we can present more convincing numbers in the future.

Although we did not ... (read more)

I don't see it as a priority. By following this road, the EA community is at risk of allienating half of humanity which feel conservative and might be great givers and have deep concern for doing good effectively, but feel almost the same urgency you feel about Trump about people on the other side of the spectrum.

Most importantly, this issue has a lot of attention already, so I don't think making a stand from the EA community would make any significant difference.

So I see a great cost (losing conservative altruists for their lifetime) at almost... (read more)