Michael_Wiebe's Comments

Growth and the case against randomista development

Do you think that affects the conclusion about diminishing returns?

Growth and the case against randomista development

We should disaggregate down to the level of specific funding opportunities. Eg, suppose the top three interventions for hits-based development are {funding think tanks in developing countries, funding academic research, charter cities} with corresponding MU/$ {1000, 200, 100}. Suppose it takes $100M to fully fund developing-country think tanks, after which there's a large drop in MU/$ (moving to the next intervention, academic research). In this case, despite economic development being a huge problem area, we do see diminishing returns at the intervention level within the range of the EA budget.

Growth and the case against randomista development
there's no guarantee that growth wins

It's not binary, though. Think of the intermediate micro utility maximization problem: you allocate your budget across goods until marginal utility per dollar is equalized. With diminishing marginal utility, you generally will spread your budget across multiple goods.

Similarly, we should expect to allocate the EA budget across a portfolio of causes. Yes, it's possible that one cause has the highest MU/$, and that diminishing returns won't affect anything in the range of our budget (ie, after spending our entire budget on that cause, it still has the highest MU/$), but I see no reason to assume this is the default case.

More here.

Growth and the case against randomista development

Note that RCTs are still a minority in published academic research. I think Pritchett's criticism is that NGOs have been dominated by randomistas; eg, even the International Growth Centre does a lot of RCTs, instead of following his preferred growth diagnostics approach.

Growth and the case against randomista development

I think catch-up growth in developing countries, based on adopting existing technologies, would have positive effects on climate change, AI risk, etc. In contrast, 'frontier' growth in developed countries is based on technological innovation, and is potentially more dangerous.

Formalizing the cause prioritization framework

I guess I'm expecting diminishing returns to be an important factor in practice, so I wouldn't place much weight on an analysis that excludes crowdedness.

Formalizing the cause prioritization framework

Hi Justin, thanks for the comment.

I'm in favor of reducing the complexity of the framework, but I'm not sure if this is the right way to do it. In particular, estimating "importance only" or "importance and tractability only" isn't helpful, because all three factors are necessary for calculating MU/$. A cause that scores high on I and T could be low MU/$ overall, due to being highly crowded. Or is your argument that the variance (across causes) in crowdedness is negligible, and therefore we don't need to account for diminishing returns in practice?

Steelmanning the Case Against Unquantifiable Interventions
That means that we can't conclude afterwords whether the intervention worked. Instead, we need theories of change, and surveys of corruption, and second order estimates of the impact based on that. In short, we won't find out if our work helped.

This seems too strong. We can't conclude with certainty whether the intervention worked, and we won't find out with certainty if our work helped. But we will have some information.

Steelmanning the Case Against Unquantifiable Interventions
But on review the track record doesn't imply these interventions failed, exactly. They were not found to be ineffective or harmful.

Another factor to consider: a cause area could be highly cost-effective, but GiveWell rejected it because the organizations working in that area were not sufficiently transparent or competent.

Why and how to start a for-profit company serving emerging markets
Even if you’re in an Anglophone country, you’ll need to be “bilingual” between local and tech-startup norms. At Wave, our internal culture emphasizes honesty, transparency and autonomy, which is very different from a typical, say, Senegalese work environment.

I'm curious to hear more about this. Can you give some examples of how the norms differ?

More generally, how feasible is it to export Silicon Valley's high product standards?

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