Matt g

Wiki Contributions


We're Lincoln Quirk & Ben Kuhn from Wave, AMA!

Hi, could you expand a little more on how using Wave is advantageous to other methods of transferring money? You mention not using bank transfers, what are the advantages, difficulties and disadvantages? Are there any other start ups that offer a similar service to you?

EA views on the AUKUS security pact?

"The precedent set by use of nuclear technologies, and whether this counts as nuclear proliferation given that it is nuclear powered submarines rather than nuclear warheads"

Complicating this, I believe some of the submarines are ballistic missile submarines i.e. they're adding to Australia's strike capability, although they won't have nuclear warheads,which is relevant e.g. in a preemptive attack against a nuclear launch site, with conventional missiles.

Off-topic, but if you're interested in UK policy and non-proliferation, it's worth noting that the UK recently announced an increase in the number of nuclear warheads it has, which seems to me to be a clear breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. I've written about in on the EA forum here

Risks from the UK's planned increase in nuclear warheads

Just coming back to this- thanks for these comments! In light of your and Lark's comments I'd no longer endorse this section: "Some research on nuclear winter...". I'll be very interested to hear your coming

However I'm still very concerned by the precedent this sets for nuclear non-proliferation. This move seems a pretty clear breach of the non-proliferation treaty , and  the risks  it created of a new nuclear arms race remains the central thing that I'm worried about. 

Perhaps more relevant to that since this was published is the new of the new AUKUS security pact. I'm really glad to see that being discussed on the EA Forum here.

AMA: Jeremiah Johnson, Director/Founder of the Neoliberal Project

Thanks for the link. I'm not making any claim on wikipedia a being good or bad source of political information - I'm simply noting that it's the first google result, and may be representative of what the majority of people think when they hear the term 'neoliberal'. Certainly up to this point I'd only heard it used as an anti-capitalism slur.

 So I'm interested to hear whether Jeremiah views this is a conscious decision to reclaim the term (as you said), and what to degree his beliefs actually align with the slur-term definition (which is very loosely defined).

AMA: Jeremiah Johnson, Director/Founder of the Neoliberal Project

How did you come to choose the name 'neoliberal'? The first Google result for the term 'neoliberalism' gives the following Wikipedia definition: 

"Neoliberalism is contemporarily used to refer to market-oriented reform policies such as "eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers" and reducing, especially through privatization and austerity, state influence in the economy.'

Which seems only partially aligned with your stated beliefs and contradictory to 'a robust social safety net' 

(Edited link formatting)

Questions for Howie on mental health for the 80k podcast

Hi Howie,

  • I've noticed in myself a dicotomy between wanting truth at any cost and wanting emotional preservation. For example, it may be true that billions of animals and humans suffer, but it may not bring me happiness to believe that, or at least to think about it a lot. Do you experience this dichotomy, and if so, how do you handle it? -Do you prefer fixed working hours or flexible hours? If your hours aren't fixed, how do you decide how hard/ how many hours to work? How do you know when you've worked too much?
  • Are there any parts of your work that predictably improve your mental health and happiness, and are there any that predictably deteriorate it? If do, do you think these things are unique to you, or do they generalise across different people and jobs?
Risks from the UK's planned increase in nuclear warheads

Thanks for your comment, it has forced my to clarify in my mind a few things, specifically the distinction between 100 nuclear weapons, and the smoke from 100 destroyed cities - in this manner I misinterpreted the report I was quoting.

In this 80 000 hours interview,  Daniel Ellsberg talks about 100 warheads being an upper bound for how many nuclear weapons a country needs to provide an effective nuclear deterrent. Quoting:

"As Herbert York put it...  how many weapons does it take to deter an enemy that is capable of being deterred from a nuclear attack? And he said one or 10, or if you really stretch, a hundred. He got to that by saying 100 weapons give you the capability of one individual to destroy as many people as died in World War 2, 60 million in a day or two. It shouldn’t have more than that.

So he said the number you need for this purpose then is between one to 10 to 100, and closer to one than 100."

If he's correct, the UK doesn't need any more nuclear weapons than it already has to provide an effective deterrent, and it could have less weapons, and still have an effective deterrent. 

some fraction of your warheads could be destroyed prior to use, increasing the ex ante number required for deterrence.

I don't think this is true for the UK's nuclear deterrence strategy. The UK's nuclear warheads are launched only from four Vanguard-class submarines.  Each one carries 8  (but can carry up to 16) Trident nuclear missiles, and at least one is on active service at any one time. This last part is crucial- the deterrence strategy relies on the location of the active submarine and  its' warheads being very hard to detect, and I would argue the number of warheads beyond a certain point is irrelevant to deterrence. 

All this is to say that that I don't think the argument that 'we need more nukes to have a valid deterrent' is valid, and I think we can have a valid deterrent with less nukes that we currently have. Even if I did believe that increasing the UK's number of nukes increased our deterrent, I would think that the additional danger this could cause by triggering a new arms race, would be more dangerous for the UK and the world.

 I must admit I feel a profound disgust reflex to the idea that any one country theoretically has the power to destroy almost all human life on earth, and I strongly dislike the idea of my country being able to do so.  I do not trust our leaders, or any other world leader, to have that power. 

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?

Load More