Matt g


The Comparability of Subjective Scales

Thanks for writing this Michael, it seems to be a really important topic to have explored. I particularly respect this conclusion: "Not only does there not seem to be a problem where we feared there might be one, but we may well be able to fix the problem if we later discover it does exist."

 My impression is that it's very rare for academics to do research into a topic and then write a conclusion that says "actually this isn't that important,  and it might not be a problem". In fact, I think academics  might often  overstate the importance of the problem they are working on. I think a few reasons for this could be:

-Academics might feel more satisfied in their own work if they feel they're solving an important problem, and less satisfied working on problems that turn out to be unimportant. 

-Academics gain social and professional credit for working on 'important' problems, and loose it for working on problems that turn out to be not important.

-Academics stand to gain further research funding if they can convince people the problem they're working on is important and pressing.

-Academics often work intensely on one field of research and don't see the 'bigger picture', which leads they genuinely believe whatever they're working on is more important than it is.

Where are you donating in 2020 and why?

This coming year I am setting a target of donating £2000, going to:

  • Around 30%: Eliminating extreme suffering (OPIS):

In my life I have had the misfortune of experiencing extreme pain a few times. This pain  required strong painkillers (e.g. morphine) to kill. These experiences had a hugely outsized impact on my wellbeing in relation to their duration, due to the intensity of the suffering I felt. The thought of not having access to pain relief in these moments of suffering is terrifying, and as such I believe eliminating or reducing extreme suffering should be one of, if not THE top moral priority for humanity. I plan to donate to OPIS (organisation for the prevention of intense suffering). I am a big fan of their work to increase access to morphine in developing countries, and to find effective pain relief for cluster headaches. In particular, their approach of lobbying for institutional change means that any donation to them could have an enduring impact e.g. if they are successful in changing laws preventing access to pain relief.

  • Around 30%: Global health/poverty:

Having grown up in a developing country, it's very easy for me to summon the imaginative empathy required to donate towards this cause area, and doing so motivates me to  keep earning to give. It's also a cause area that I believe  has become more urgent in the last year, with covid-19 and the resulting  blow to the world's economy threatening to undo much of the progress made towards eliminating global poverty over the last few decades. 

-Give Directly: I believe there is a strong argument to the effectiveness of unconditional cash donations, with the term 'cash benchmarks' now being used to define the idea that we should measure any intervention against the equivalent amount of good that could be done simply by giving the recipient an amount of cash equal to the intervention. Another factor that motivates me to donate to Give Directly over other  global health interventions that do no involve unconditional cash transfers is the that it has less of the shadow of Western parochialism. There is a long history of misguided Western interventions in developing countries, and if we are unsure what the most effective way of helping poor people are, it may be simplest to simply give them the money directly, as they are most familiar with their situation and will know best where to use it.  Lastly, unconditional cash transfers appeal to a moral stance around global justice, the immorality of extreme global inequality and the legacy of colonialism, which I am sympathetic to. Lastly, the concept of GiveDrectly is very easy to explain., and I have received supportive responses when explaining it to non-EA friends. I think that by being public about my giving to this charity (e.g. Facebook fundraisers) I maybe be able to raise an additional 30% in donations from people who would otherwise be unlikely to give to effective charities

* Against Malaria Foundation: I have a monthly payment of £10 a month set up to AMF, and I'm very unlikely to change this in the future.Having a steady, predictable stream of income is very useful for charities and this is another reason for me to not change my donations to them. Lastly, I like the dashboard that shows me where the nets I have bought have gone to (this probably counts as 'buying fuzzies', although I know there's also a very good argument to the effectiveness of AMF)


  • Around 10%: Animal Welfare:

I find it hard to feel enough empathy towards animals to donate large amounts of my donation budget towards animal interventions instead of human ones. To what degree this is based on legitimate questions towards how strongly we should weight the experiences of animals, and to what degree this is 'speciesism'  prejudice, I'm not sure. Nevertheless, I plan to donate to the top recommended ACE charity for the following reasons:

-there is good evidence large mammals are sentient

-there is good evidence that factory farming causes lots of suffering to these animals

-you can save the lives/reduce the suffering of many of these animals per £, compared to human interventions

-many in the ea community think this is a good cause area


  • Around 30%: Undecided/opportunistic donations:

I plan to keep a portion of my donation budget undecided where I will spend it. This year I donated £200 to Family Empowerment Media. This was quite a spontaneous decision for me, and was based on the fact that they were recently founded and raising money for a pilot trial. As such, I felt my donation could have a large marginal benefit for reasons of 


-information value

I plan to give this portion of my giving budget to an opportunity(s) that are more speculative or time bound, but potentiality higher-impact that the interventions I have listed above. 

The Subjective Experience of Time: Welfare Implications

(In paragraph 1 of the executive summary): "Based on human reports of alterations in the subjective experience of time ....I estimate there is a ~70% chance that there exist morally relevant differences in the subjective experience of time across species."

Could you expand on what these 'human reports' are? Is this just referring to anecdotal human reports of time sometimes appearing to go faster or slower?

AMA: Rob Mather, founder and CEO of the Against Malaria Foundation

Your website is quite basic but you've recently advertised that you're hiring a web developer. How much/ what kind of value do you expect a new web developer to add to AMF?