All of MaxGhenis's Comments + Replies

Mortality, existential risk, and universal basic income

I think poverty reduction can decrease the risk of unaligned AGI through two channels:

  1. Poverty reduces (or is at least associated with lower) patience, trust, and attitudes around global cooperation. Evidence is of varying quality on these points, as I discuss in the relevant sections above, but if it holds, societies with less poverty will be more cautious around existential risks like AGI.
  2. More egalitarian economies expand access to markets, and since lots of AI is trained on transactions data, they will better represent the diversity of humanity. This
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Mortality, existential risk, and universal basic income

I think it still suggests 37 million in extreme poverty in the US.

I'd also suggest using the Supplemental Poverty Measure for US poverty. Unlike the Official Poverty Measure, it incorporates taxes, non-cash benefits, and variation in local housing costs. The current SPM poverty rate is 9.1%.

Open Thread: November 2021

Hi everyone! I'm a longtime EA but I haven't spent much time on the EA Forum, so taking this opportunity to introduce myself.

Professionally, I'm an economist in California focused on tax and benefit policy. I'm the co-founder and CEO of PolicyEngine, a tech nonprofit whose product lets anyone reform the tax and benefit system and see the quantified impact on society and one's own household (we're live in the UK and working on a US model). I'm also the founder and president of the UBI Center, a think tank researching universal basic income policies. Outside... (read more)

3Aaron Gertler18dWelcome, Max! I've been following you on Twitter for a long time, and I'm excited to see you on the site I help to run :-) If you want feedback before you publish your post, I offer that to everyone [] (though it's totally optional).
What are some good charities to donate to regarding systemic racial injustice?

I like Campaign Zero's data-driven prioritization of solutions, but it's not clear to me how they'd use marginal funds. I suspect this gap explains its absence from CEAs and Open Phil recommendation lists.

1warrenjordan1yCEA has a recommendation list for criminal justice reform? I can't seem to find it on their website.
Is running Folding@home / Rosetta@home beneficial?

One element of this I'd like to understand better is the trade-off between donating your own compute (i.e. donating money you're spending on electricity) compared to donating money directly to a protein folding effort that utilizes cloud computing. In general, how do the hardware savings of using an existing device compare to the greater efficiency of cloud computing? Is the key innovation of Folding@Home that they're able to obtain in-kind electricity donations from people who wouldn't otherwise donate money to fund the effort?

Love seems like a high priority

Very interesting analysis! The study on passionate love and cognition might be more about early stage love right? If so, this would be a small cost of the intervention. As an observational data point suggesting positive economic impacts, married men earn up to 70% more than single men (

0Khorton2yOn the other hand, women who marry men die earlier than women who stay single, so marriage doesn't necessarily improve life for everyone
EAs Should Invest All Year, then Give only on Giving Tuesday

How did Facebook's $7 million match in 2019 compare with the probabilities modeled?

I see two reasons to adjust the benefit of this practice downward:

1) Some of Facebook's potential match would otherwise have nonzero benefit, and some (small) fraction would go to EA causes.

2) (More importantly) You can't donate stock through the Facebook Fundraiser platform. Donating stock (or index funds) allows you to not incur capital gains taxes, which for most people would be about 15% LTCG tax * 10% return = 1.5% per year.

Long-term Donation Bunching?

If you expect your income to increase over time (all else equal this is reasonable), that's an extra reason to bunch. However, it throws a wrench in an alternative to front-load bunching, i.e. give 50% in year 1 and then only 10% of your raise since year 1 in the subsequent four years.

Carbon Offsets as an Non-Altruistic Expense

Would you still offset if society enacted a carbon fee-and-dividend, e.g. with the price equal to the social cost of carbon? Such a policy would also internalize the externality without compensating for the specific harm.

In part this may come down to whether you see climate change as a threat separate from other societal problems. I see it as a mechanism that takes its toll on broadly-comparable outcomes like DALYs and economic growth. From that perspective, the harms (and therefore the offsets) are comparable to the harms of, e.g., not providing bednets.

1Davidmanheim2yNo, because given a socially optimal level of carbon, there's no net harm to offset - any carbon emissions are net socially neutral, or positive. (That doesn't imply there are no distributional concerns, but I'd buy the argument that purchasing DALYs generally is better in that case.) I'm not a strict utilitarian, and so the issue I have with offsetting harm A with benefit B is that harms affect different individuals. There was no agreement by those harmed by A that they are OK with being harmed as long as those who benefit from B are happier. This is similar to the argument against buying reductions in meat consumption, or reducing harm to animals in other cost effective ways, to offset eating meat yourself - the animals being killed didn't agree, even if there is a net benefit to animals overall.
Carbon Offsets as an Non-Altruistic Expense

I like half of offsets: It's important to internalize externalities, and if the state has failed to do this with carbon pricing, it makes sense to self-assess a carbon tax to incentivize yourself to reduce emissions.

But once you've raised a certain amount from that self-assessed carbon tax, why limit to climate causes? Conversely, if Coalition for Rainforest Nations is the most cost-effective charity out there (8 metric tons of CO2 averted per dollar), then why only donate to it from your carbon tax bucket and not, say, your Giving What We Can bu... (read more)

5Davidmanheim2yBecause society hasn't chosen to put in place a tax, I see the commitment as not just to self-tax, but rather to offset the harm being done. As I argued above, I don't think that internalizing externalities is an altruistic act. Conversely, I don't think that you can offset one class of harm to others with a generalized monetary penance, unless there is a social decision to tax to optimize the level of an activity. As an optimal taxation argument, spending the self-tax money on global poverty does internalize the externality, but it does not compensate for the specific harm. I certainly agree that donations above the amount of harm done would be an altrustic act, and then the question is whether it's the most effective use of your altruism budget - and like you, I put that money elsewhere.
Candidate Scoring System, Third Release

Someone asked how Hillary Clinton would have fared. Might be a lot of work but she and Obama would make interesting benchmarks.

2kbog3yI didn't want to keep posting each revision here because it felt like filling up the forum. I did CSS4 and it has Clinton, because it seemed vaguely possible that she might enter this race. I should have commented it here though.!At2KcPiXB5rkvRQycEqvwFPVYKHa [!At2KcPiXB5rkvRQycEqvwFPVYKHa]!At2KcPiXB5rkvRJGwOIYZ6dJeSEx [!At2KcPiXB5rkvRJGwOIYZ6dJeSEx] Not including Obama; if I evaluate people who aren't potential candidates then I think I'd like to do a lot of them at a time, perhaps as a separate project.
Candidate Scoring System, Third Release

Would be good to have Bill Weld in a subsequent revision.

2kbog3yHe will be in it.
Candidate Scoring System, Third Release

Donate to Delaney here:

He'll also give $2 to a nonprofit for each donation he gets (none of the options are EA charities).

2kbog3yI gave $1 to him, but does anyone else think this is kinda messed up? Like, he's giving money to get people to help him qualify. It's kind of un-democratic.
Candidate Scoring System, Second Release

Incredible report, bravo! Like probably anyone, I don't agree completely with the ratings, but the structure and research helped me think through my own priorities. I was already interested in supporting Delaney, so this motivates me to ask more people to give him a donation to get on the debate stage.

I have some minor suggestions, which I left in this copy.

Beyond that, my only non-minor suggestion is to consider mentioning domestic poverty as a (potential) priority area, even if it ends up not included due to the thresholds. Depending on the poverty ... (read more)

3kbog3yThanks for giving such detailed feedback. I am now leaning towards separating cash transfers/antipoverty programs away from taxation. When I next put major time into this (I'm not currently, actually) I plan to do that. I'm always looking for other people's ratings, depending on the nature of the disagreement I can compromise between multiple ratings for better accuracy.