I'm just a normal, functioning member of the human race, and there's no way anyone can prove otherwise.

Principal Analyst at SoGive

Topic Contributions


The Role of Individual Consumption Decisions in Animal Welfare and Climate are Analogous

We put more effort into reducing harms from dietary animal product consumption than can be justified on a consequentialist basis relative to how little we emphasize individual actions on climate change and policy/technological interventions for animal welfare

Based solely on Gabriel's essay, how do we know this? There are some thoughtful qualitative suggestions why this may be the case, but I would find it more convincing if there were quantitative estimates which backed up these suggestions.

The Role of Individual Consumption Decisions in Animal Welfare and Climate are Analogous

I think I broadly agree with the premise. However, whether this means EAs are not allocating their resources appropriately requires consideration of the marginal cost-effectiveness of:

  1. Policy/tech/campaigning related to climate
  2. Policy/tech/campaigning related to animals
  3. Individual consumption related to climate
  4. Individual consumption related to animals
  5. Everything else

Without discussing or knowing these, I don't think we can make good suggestions about how people should change their behaviour. 

It would be very surprising if any of 1-5 were equally cost-effective as another, so in practice we should expect to move resources from 4 of them towards the most cost-effective one.

You state:

"Should EAs reduce their emphasis on personal meat/dairy/egg consumption? Should they increase their emphasis on their personal carbon footprint? 

I think the answer is probably a bit of both"

You've given some tentative and considered qualitative reasons for this, but not really justified it based on data. It could be the case that both our personal animal consumption and personal carbon footprint matters even less than EAs currently think, or that both matter more, or one matters more and the other less. 

Given this, I think we absolutely do need to "quibble with the precise numbers".  If what Robi Rahman has written is even roughly accurate, then that implies the current emphasis on personal animal consumption  rather than carbon footprint is justified:

2. From Robi Rahman: “A person choosing to eat 1kg less chicken results in 0.6 kg less expected chicken produced in the long run, which averts 20 days of chicken suffering. A comparable sacrifice would be to turn off your air conditioning for 3 days, which in expectation reduces future global warming by 10^(-14) °C and reduces suffering by zero.”

In expectation the reduced suffering from climate change due to this change in behaviour would not be zero, but if it  was still extremely close to zero, then Robi's point holds. 

Of course, that doesn't address how both of these personal consumption decisions compare to supporting either of the policy/tech/campaigning options. For that we'd need further data.

New cause area: Violence against women and girls

While I expect you are correct that violence against women is a much bigger issue than violence against men overall, I would be more convinced if you were able to share some comparative data. The one comparative datapoint we have here, provided by Question Mark, is that men are more likely to be homicide victims. 

Just Say No to Utilitarianism

The use of DALYs and QALYs  is not specifically utilitarian. They can be used in other frameworks. The difference is how they are weighted. For example, a utilitarian may only care about the net gain across the whole population, whereas someone motivated by (say) a Rawlsian perspective would place more moral weight on achieving gains to the worst off.

When did the EA Forum get so good?!

Thanks! I wasn't aware of the bookmarks feature

How do we create a culture of ambition without deteriorating the community’s mental health?

A meta-level issue is ensuring consistency in this "high risk, high reward" approach. 

For example, some grantmakers in EA indicate they take this approach and will support relevant projects. Which is great! 

But if they then decide against funding a project merely because they think it's unlikely to succeed, this implies they actually aren't taking such an approach. Ideally they would provide feedback such as "well you think this project has a 10% chance of succeeding, but we think it's actually more like 1% because you haven't considered X, Y, Z, and this now means the expected value is below other projects we have chosen to fund instead". 

If grantmakers fail to do this, they are failing to even give people the chance to fail. This obviously doesn't have the same consequences as a project failing, but does require coping with rejection that is perceived to be unjustified and inconsistent with the purported approach, and could discourage ambition.

EA needs money more than ever

Yeah, and one thing that often gets lost in the 'EA now has loads of money' claim is the fact that it only has a relatively  large amount of money compared to a few years. 

Compared to total global resources, this new money going to EA causes is really rather tiny. There is huge scope to grow and improve allocation of resources. 

We should be encouraging projects that could bring even more money into the influence of EA thinking.

Why aren't EA funders funding the NTI?

At SoGive we've just recently started looking at anti-nuclear weapon orgs to try to determine whether it makes sense to recommend any of them to donors we work with, precisely because of the MacArthur Foundation's withdrawal.

The MacArthur Foundation has been funding a large number of orgs in the anti-nuclear space. While NTI have a good reputation and are known in the EA community, I don't think it is obvious that it is they who should receive funding rather than other organisations. 

And these orgs aren't necessarily interchangeable. Based on a couple of expert interviews, there doesn't seem to be one widely accepted theory of change as to how to best approach reducing risks, and some approaches appear contradictory. My guess is that some of the big EA funders are also trying to do some research in this area before making any donations?

Concerns about AMF from GiveWell reading - Part 3

I'm not sure I follow your point about volumes. The cost-effectiveness model is for those who receive the net. There's no need to dilute the impact on these people merely because other people don't experience the same impact. You just say 'this is the benefit to these people, achieved at this cost'. 

Concerns about AMF from GiveWell reading - Part 3

Thanks for your response - and more generally, thanks for putting time and effort into scrutinising GiveWell's analysis, and sharing your views here.

 Net distributions cover the whole community, they are not targetted at just under-5s.  Using GiveWell's figures, 16% of the population is under 5.  Scaled up 1.8 people per net this suggests coverage for 1.4m * 16% * 1.8 = 0.4m young children. 

You're of course right. I originally wrote 'people' rather than 'children',  but changed it because the discussion was focused on under 5 mortality. 

That's not going to materially change the mortality rate in a country with c.12m under 5s.  

Sure - but the question is whether it changes the mortality rate of those receiving the bednets.

I can confirm that the 7.7 mortality rate is an unadjusted country-wide mortality rate and 11.9 is the rate GiveWell estimates would occur with no distributions from AMF.

I think you may be right, and it seems like GiveWell may have made a mistake here. But that doesn't mean the mortality rate would be unchanged for those who receive (or would receive) bed nets. Rather, as I suggested before:

  • mortality for those who do have bednets might be lower than the country-wide mortality rate. e.g. if bednets reduce mortality by 17%, then we might assume the mortality rate with bednets goes from 7.7 to ~6.4.
  • then, if the AMF bednets are stopped, we might expect an increase in mortality back up to around the country average (which we presume indicates the mortality rate of those without bednets). So the increase would be 6.4 back to 7.7.
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