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Metaculus Questions Suggest Money Will Do More Good in the Future

It was an accident. I should have made a post, not a question.

Metaculus Questions Suggest Money Will Do More Good in the Future

I mistakenly submitted this as a question instead of as a post. Is there any way to convert it to a post?

What important questions are missing from Metaculus?

The question is intended to look at tail risk associated with stock markets shutting down. Transformative AI may or may not constitute such a risk; for example, the AI might shut down the stock market because it's going to do something far better with people's money, or it might shut down the market because everyone is turned into paperclips. So I think it should be unconditional.

1Charles_Dillon 2moThat's in pending now, as are a few other questions you may be interested in, though not identical to the ones you list. I'll post a response here in a few weeks once most of the questions I intend to write are actually live with a summary.
Looking for more 'PlayPumps' like examples

In a number of cases, this reduction in hospital admissions and emergency room visits resulted in a cost savings in excess of $10,130, the cost of the average wish. In other words, Make-A-Wish helped, and helped in a cost-effective way.

This doesn't follow. The $10,130 cost savings went into hospital budgets, not into buying bednets, so it doesn't particularly matter that this money was saved.

Also, it seems implausible that Make-A-Wish could meaningfully reduce hospital admissions, so I'm inclined to disbelieve this study.

What important questions are missing from Metaculus?

Just to be clear, you specifically mean to exclude not-yet-EAs who set up DAFs in, say, 2025?

Yes, the intention is to predict the maximum length of time that foundations and DAFs created now (or before now) can continue to exist.

It might be interesting to have forecasts on the amount of resources expected to be devoted to EA causes in the future [...]


What important questions are missing from Metaculus?

I have a doc on my computer with some notes on Metaculus questions that I want to see, but either haven't gotten around to writing up yet, or am not sure how to operationalize. Feel free to take any of them.

Giving now vs. later parameter values

  • "In 2030, I personally will either donate at least 10% of my income to an EA cause or will work directly on an EA cause full time"
    • attempting to measure value drift
    • or maybe ask about Jeff Kaufman or somebody like that because he's public about his donations
      • or make a list of people, and ask how many of them wil
... (read more)
1Charles_Dillon 2moFor this, would you prefer to condition on something like there being no transformative AI, or not? I feel like sometimes these questions end up dominated by considerations like this, and it is plausible you care about this answer only conditional on something like this not happening.
1Charles_Dillon 2moThanks for these! Just to be clear, you specifically mean to exclude not-yet-EAs who set up DAFs in, say, 2025? It might be interesting to have forecasts on the amount of resources expected to be devoted to EA causes in the future, e.g. by more billionaires getting involved. This could be useful for questions like "how fast should Good Ventures be spending their money?" if we expect to have 5 more equally big donors in 2030 that might suggest they should be spending down faster than if they are still expected to be the biggest donor by a wide margin.
A Comparison of Donor-Advised Fund Providers

Where are you getting that info? I thought Fidelity Charitable had no distribution requirement. Distribution requirement is definitely relevant if there is one.

3kyle_fish2mofidelity: their "open an account" page ( []) directs to their program guidelines ( [] ), with the relevant info on page 17. on closer inspection, it looks like disbursement of 5% of net assets per year could be a policy for fidelity charitable as a whole, not necessarily for each individual account. even so, they claim to require active grantmaking and say they will start making grants from any account that hasn't disbursed anything for two years (top of page 18). i don't know if this policy is commonly applied, but at the very least it's a risk. vanguard: their "open an account" page ( []) has a link to their policies and guidelines, with the relevant information under heading "minimums, timing, and amounts", subheading "minimum account activity". i didn't see any minimum activity info on the schwab website and haven't had a chance to check others.
A Comparison of Donor-Advised Fund Providers

Unless you're putting a lot of work into optimizing your DAF investments (like I describe here), Fidelity is pretty much just as good as Vanguard.

Ramiro's Shortform

If wild animals have bad lives on net, then indiscriminately increasing wild animal populations is bad under any plausible theory of population ethics.

7Ramiro4moObviously. But then, first, Effective Environmentalists are doing great harm, right? We should be arguing more about it. On the other hand, if your basic welfare theory is hedonistic (at least for animals), then one good long life compensates for thousands of short miserable ones - because what matters is qualia, not individuals. And though I don't deny animals suffer all the time, I guess their "default welfare setting" must be positive if their reward system (at least for vertebrates) is to function properly. So I guess it's more likely that we have some sort of instance of the "repugnant conclusion" here. Ofc, this doesn't imply we shouldn't intervene on wild environments to reduce suffering or increase happiness. What is at stake is: U(destroying habitats) > U(restoring habitats)
A Comparison of Donor-Advised Fund Providers

Thanks for sharing your experience with Vanguard! That aligns with anecdotes I've heard about Vanguard's brokerage service.

  • Are there any simple ways of making investments in these accounts that offer 2x leverage or more? Are there things here that you'd recommend?

I just published something about DAF investing strategies: In this section, I talk about leveraged ETFs. I believe the only way to invest with leverage in a DAF is through a leveraged ETF or mutual fund, although I've heard conflicting... (read more)

A Comparison of Donor-Advised Fund Providers

Yeah this is for US only. I actually thought I had said that in the post, but looks like I forgot to! I'll edit it.

2Jonas Vollmer4moYou said it in the "My process" section, but not earlier.
MathiasKirkBonde's Shortform

I think a lot of people feel this way, and it's something I've experienced. I don't have any great solutions but I generally do two things:

  1. Set reasonable expectations. The application process has a lot of randomness, and almost all applications will get ignored even if they're good, so I should expect any particular application to have a very low chance of getting a response.
  2. Spend less time on individual applications; apply to a lot of things; use commonalities across applications to copy/paste things I wrote on previous applications.
"Patient vs urgent longtermism" has little direct bearing on giving now vs later

The stock market should grow faster than GDP in the long run. Three different simple arguments for this:

  1. This falls out of the commonly-used Ramsey model. Specifically, because people discount the future, they will demand that their investments give better return than the general economy.
  2. Corporate earnings should grow at the same rate as GDP, and stock price should grow at the same rate as earnings. But stock investors also earn dividends, so your total return should exceed GDP in the long run. (The reason this works is because in aggregate, investors sp
... (read more)
Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists

(These numbers are actually more similar than I expected—I would have predicted the top-10% portfolio to have something like 5x more value factor loading than the top-half portfolio, not 2x.)

Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists

I'm not sure how to calculate it precisely, I think you'd want to run a regression where the independent variable is the value factor and the dependent variable is the fund or strategy being considered. But roughly speaking, a Vanguard value fund holds the 50% cheapest stocks (according to the value factor), while QVAL and IVAL hold the 5% cheapest stocks, so they are 10x more concentrated, which loosely justifies a 10x higher expense ratio. Although 10x higher concentration doesn't necessarily mean 10x more exposure to the value factor, it's probably subs... (read more)

3MichaelDickens6mo(These numbers are actually more similar than I expected—I would have predicted the top-10% portfolio to have something like 5x more value factor loading than the top-half portfolio, not 2x.)
Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists

That could help. "Standard" trendfollowing rebalances monthly because it's simple, frequent enough to capture most changes in trends, but infrequent enough that it doesn't incur a lot of transaction costs. But there could be more complicated approaches that do a better job of capturing trends without incurring too many extra costs. One idea I've considered is to look at buy-side signals monthly but sell-side signals daily, so if the market switches from a positive to negative trend, you'll sell the following day, but if it switches back, you won't buy unti... (read more)

Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists

The AlphaArchitect funds (except for VMOT) are long-only, so they're going to be pretty correlated with the market. The idea is you buy those funds (or something similar) while simultaneously shorting the market.

And I've heard it claimed that assets in general tend to be more correlated during drawdowns.

This is true. Factors aren't really asset classes, but it's still true for some factors. This AQR paper looked at the performance of a bunch of diversifiers during drawdowns and found that trendfollowing provided good return, as did "styles", by which t... (read more)

1ESRogs6moI wonder if it makes sense to rebalance more frequently when volatility (or trading volume) is high.
Where are you donating in 2020 and why?

Monthly is fine, it's probably better for charities. I personally donate annually because it's a lot simpler. I donate appreciated stock, and transferring stock is a substantial amount of work.

Big List of Cause Candidates

At the risk of being overly self-promotional, I have written a few posts on cause candidates that I don't see listed here.

Another potential cause area that's not listed: reducing value drift (e.g., this post).

3NunoSempere7moThanks, I added the first two, as well as reducing value drift. With regards to your four weird ideas. * Nice to see that Humane Pesticides has seen some work since then; I already had it in the list. * Happy Animal Farms / "titling the universe with rats on heroin" / "filling the universe with tiny beings whose minds are specifically geared toward feeling as much pure happiness as possible" sort of feel like the same cause, just a difference in implementation. Do you have a canonical reference for the idea? Also, "universal eudaimonia" is the wrong word to use for this because it sort of implies happiness through higher virtues, maybe "universal euphoria" would be a better fit. * Notes for future reference re: Values spreading / Highly targeted values Spreading: * [] * [] * [] * []
Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists

I only skimmed the linked source but my rough impression is that I'm fairly bearish on art, mainly because there's no expectation that it will appreciate. The linked article doesn't really present evidence to the contrary—the only relevant bit I saw was a graph showing appreciation from 2000 to 2010. 10 years of appreciation is almost meaningless, I'd want to see more like 50 years of data showing an asset class has positive real return.

Perhaps it would be worth buying art if you have some reason to believe you can outperform the market at predicting which... (read more)

Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists

That's an interesting idea, I'm thinking about the best way to model it. I think what you'd want to do is to calculate the safe withdrawal rate for different portfolios and see which is best. The problem is, we don't have enough historical data to get good results, so we'd have to do simulations. But those simulations couldn't assume that returns follow a log-normal distribution, because the fact that assets tend to experience big drawdowns substantially affects the safe withdrawal rate.

Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists

In my experience, when the market is down a lot, the payouts would increase as a percentage, because donors would not want to have inefficient cuts in charities.

This is a good point that I hadn't thought of. This would still reduce donations overall, right? Because if people donate a larger % when markets are down, that means they have less money to donate later. It's not obvious to me off hand how this should be modeled, but that's something to think about.

I do agree that a fully market-neutral position is probably not optimal in practice. That only ma... (read more)

4Denkenberger8moThat is true if you sell more when the market is down, you will have less to donate later. But I would think that the higher expected return would overwhelm this. This is what the Princeton endowment argued-I think their portfolio got cut in half around 2008, and then they did a bigger payout as a percentage. But they said that because they had invested with high expected return, they were still in much better situation than investing cautiously. It would be great in your next project to have some visualizations of how the investments perform over time and what the payouts are. Then we could see how much charity smoothing there would be for the primary donor (given some value function, which I would argue should have a larger downside than logarithmic because of inefficient cutting), and consequently how much more valuable it is for small donors to be uncorrelated. I'm looking forward to reading about your new model.
Where are you donating in 2020 and why?

There's a good chance I will give to the long-term investment fund once it's up and running, depending on how much I like its investment portfolio. I think the optimal altruistic portfolio (on the margin) looks pretty weird, and they might not want to invest like that. (It might be entirely rational for the long-term investment fund not to invest in a way that looks too weird, because that could make it harder to attract donations.)

EDIT: I realized I only answered half of your question. RE my long-term plan, I honestly don't know what to do to reduce the r... (read more)

Where are you donating in 2020 and why?

This year, I am investing to give with 100% of my donation budget. I am moderately convinced by the arguments in favor of giving later. I'm not entirely convinced—in particular, for some types of work (such as foundational research), it seems more important to do early—but the state of knowledge on the question seems to be improving rapidly. If (to simplify) the optimal time to donate is either now or centuries from now, then it seems much less harmful to incorrectly donate a few years too late than to incorrectly donate centuries too early. So the safer c... (read more)

4jackmalde8moWhat's your long-term plan to ensure your invested money goes to good causes? Might you give to a Founders Pledge long-term investment fund [] ?
Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists

If you're long-only, it probably makes more sense to buy VMOT than QVAL/IVAL/QMOM/IMOM. VMOT is a fund that holds those four funds, but also includes a tactical trendfollowing component, so it moves to market neutral under certain market conditions. This tends to reduce correlation to the broad stock market, particularly during downturns.

Here's my basic thinking on the tradeoffs between those three options:

  • I would predict VMOT to have the highest forward-looking risk-adjusted return with moderate correlation to ordinary investments.
  • EDC probably has the
... (read more)
Where are you donating in 2020 and why?

Side note:

I'd previously gotten into a rather weird Feb donation cycle so I'm looking to shift this year back to December.

You might consider keeping with your February donation cycle. I've heard from some charities that they don't like how a disproportionate amount of their funding comes from December donations, because it makes budget planning much harder.

1JoshuaFox7moTo me, an automated monthly payment from your credit card or bank order makes sense. What are the arguments for an annual donation?
4MichaelStJules8moI'm not sure how much this matters if you're giving to funds, depending on their granting schedules.
2AlasdairGives8moI’ve vaguely thought about this but I’m not a significant enough donor that I’m going to register in people’s calculations, and if I’m donating primarily through third party funds then I’m already quite disconnected. (I.e my money isn't arriving at the charity in December/Feb in any case). I think I prefer the "end of the year" feeling and communal discussions like this to improve my donation habits.
A Complete Quantitative Model for Cause Selection

My apologies, I'm not very good at monitoring it, so occasionally it breaks and I don't notice. It should be working now.

The Risk of Concentrating Wealth in a Single Asset

I have no comment on whether it's a good idea to build the global market portfolio with leveraged ETFs, but since you asked:

You can use the screener to find ETFs matching your criteria. I just searched on there and based on the 10 minutes I spent looking, I think this is about the closest you can get:

20% SPXL: 3x leveraged S&P 500
30% EFO: 2x leveraged MSCI EAFE (developed markets, excluding US)
5% EDC: 3x leveraged emerging markets equity
40% TMF: 3x leveraged 20+ year US Treasury bonds
5% UGL: 2x leveraged gold

This is still not really the ... (read more)

If you're aiming for only, say, 1.5x leverage, you can buy some of the above (starting with the ones with the lowest fees) and fill the gaps with correspondingly larger amounts of other asset classes.

Donor-Advised Funds vs. Taxable Accounts for Patient Donors

labor has an opportunity cost of $3 million per year

This seems really high. You could hire an experienced investment manager for a lot less than that. But the general structure of your analysis seems sound.

Another consideration is that you can probably reduce correlation to other altruists' investments (I wrote about this a bit here, and I'm currently writing something more detailed). Uncorrelated investments have much higher marginal utility of returns, at least until they become popular enough that they represent a significant percentage of the altrui... (read more)

2Jonas Vollmer9moThanks, I look forward to your analysis of uncorrelated investments! In particular, I'll be keen to see to what degree they rely on the same assumptions as value/momentum strategies, or if there are opportunities that are independent of that.
Donor-Advised Funds vs. Taxable Accounts for Patient Donors

Yeah, because adding leverage will increase taxes on dividends. My calculator correctly accounts for this, but I didn't account for it in my previous comment. But it doesn't lower the certainty-equivalent rate by much.

Also, do you happen to know how effortful and feasible tax loss harvesting might be for leveraged portfolios in taxable accounts?

It shouldn't be too hard, but I don't think you'd get much benefit from it. I'm not sure though, I'm not too familiar with the mechanics of tax loss harvesting.

2Jonas Vollmer9moThanks, very helpful. If we set this up well, we might get $100 million in investments, and the value added would be ~1% excess certainty equivalent rate, i.e., a certainty equivalent of $1 million per year. If setting up such a DAF takes a year of labor, maintaining it takes 0.25 FTE, and labor has an opportunity cost of $3 million per year, it would take 3/(1-3*0.25) = 12 years to break even (with a plausible range from two years to 'never'). Over a period of ten years, it would return around 10/(1+10*0.25) = $3 million per person-year (with a plausible range from $500k to $5 million). That seems pretty good, but perhaps slightly less valuable than other things EA Funds could be doing. I'd be keen to hear if you think this seems like a reasonable overall takeaway.
Donor-Advised Funds vs. Taxable Accounts for Patient Donors

5% is the geometric mean return, the Samuelson share formula uses the arithmetic mean on the numerator (see here. So the correct formula is (5% + 0.16^2/2)/(0.16^2 * 1) = 2.45.

2Jonas Vollmer9moOh, thanks, I was under the mistaken impression that the Samuelson share formula used the geometric mean!
Donor-Advised Funds vs. Taxable Accounts for Patient Donors

Do you know if it possible to give to an EA Fund from a DAF?

That should definitely be possible.

Donor-Advised Funds vs. Taxable Accounts for Patient Donors

We can estimate how valuable that would be by comparing the certainty-equivalent interest rates (I talked about this here).

Some quick analysis using

Historical long-run global equities have returned about 5% with a standard deviation of about 16% (source). Let's use that as a rough forward-looking estimate.

  • With a relative risk aversion (RRA) coefficient of 1 (= logarithmic utility), the certainty-equivalent interest rate of an un-leveraged portfolio is 5% (logarithmic utility doesn't care about standard deviation as long as geometric return i
... (read more)
2Jonas Vollmer9mo(I don't understand how you arrived at 2.45:1 optimal leverage with log utility. I get 5%/(.16^2*1)= 1.95, and the Samuelson formula in seems to be the same. Same for the other values.)
2Jonas Vollmer9moThanks! The above calculation compares an un-leveraged portfolio to a leveraged one, but at least under log utility and assuming a low risk of value drift, the relevant comparison is probably between a leveraged (tax-free) DAF and a leveraged taxable account? Presumably, that would be lower than 2.7%. Also, do you happen to know how effortful and feasible tax loss harvesting might be for leveraged portfolios in taxable accounts?
Donor-Advised Funds vs. Taxable Accounts for Patient Donors

I wonder if there's scope for circumventing this issue by setting up a registered charity that can take donations from a DAF and then forward on to wherever the donor desires. Even an existing charity like CEA could act as a middle man like this. Is this a completely silly idea or a promising one?

I'm not sure about this, but I don't think charities are allowed to give money to for-profits.

1jackmalde9moThanks that makes sense. I have just remembered about CEA’s EA Funds though which I understand essentially involves people giving money to CEA and CEA then forwarding the money onto various places, which aren’t necessarily other charities. Therefore it seems that my idea is possible? I don’t know if EA Funds actually gives to for-profits. Do you know if it possible to give to an EA Fund from a DAF?
The Risk of Concentrating Wealth in a Single Asset

My thinking is that donating during drawdowns might be particularly bad

This is true, and the standard deviation fully captures the extent to which drawdowns are bad (assuming isoelastic utility and log-normal returns). Increasing the standard deviation is bad because doing so increases the probability of both very good and very bad outcomes, and bad outcomes are more bad than good outcomes are good.

Is it actually the Sharpe ratio that should be maximized with isoelastic utility (assuming log-normal returns, was it?)?

Yes, if you also assume that you ... (read more)

The Risk of Concentrating Wealth in a Single Asset

Thank you, I appreciate the positive feedback, especially from someone as knowledgeable as you!

The Risk of Concentrating Wealth in a Single Asset

Worth remembering that, especially today, there are hundreds of thousands to millions of other highly intelligent and resourceful people trying to do the exact same thing. So you need to have a reason to believe you can do a better job than they can.

4Milan_Griffes9moYes, I think the crux here is how good you think your judgment/taste is relative to that of all the others who are trying.
[Question] Pros/Cons of Donor-Advised Fund

I don't think that's how DAFs work? I believe the DAF legally owns the money and can do anything they want with it. You can ask them to donate the money to a different DAF that you created, but they have the right to refuse to do that.

4Denkenberger8moI confirmed with them that the donor has the control of where the money goes, unless they deem it a hate group. And they are also okay with transferring to another DAF.
The Risk of Concentrating Wealth in a Single Asset

The answer sort of depends on what you mean by moonshot, but under one reasonable definition, it's actually the opposite: investing in potential moonshots would have resulted in worse performance than an index fund. Or to put it another way, boring companies tend to outperform exciting companies.

You can divide stocks into two types: growth stocks and value stocks. Value stocks are cheaply priced relative to their fundamentals (e.g., they have a low price to earnings or price to sales ratio) because the market expects these companies to be "boring" and not ... (read more)

The Risk of Concentrating Wealth in a Single Asset

IMO the ulcer index is the best measure of volatility that matches what people intuitively care about. It essentially measures the frequency and severity of drawdowns (the linked page explains it in more detail).

I didn't discuss the ulcer index in this post because in theory, investors with isoelastic utility should care about standard deviation, not drawdowns, and I lean toward the belief that people's focus on drawdowns is somewhat irrational (although probably somewhat justified by the fact that most asset returns are left-skewed). But broadly speaking... (read more)

2MichaelStJules9moMy thinking is that donating during drawdowns might be particularly bad, both personally and for your longer term donation strategy, since you're selling low and "locking in" large losses in your portfolio. So minimizing drawdown allows you to better plan your budget and donations, and allows you more flexibility in timing your donations. You might find a particularly good donation opportunity during a drawdown period that will only be available during that period, but it'll be extra costly (personally and to future donations) to donate then, so avoiding such drawdowns seems like an especially good thing to do. Also, Sharpe penalizes extreme upside compared to Sortino, which seems weird to me. Is it actually the Sharpe ratio that should be maximized with isoelastic utility (assuming log-normal returns, was it?)? Makes sense.
The Risk of Concentrating Wealth in a Single Asset

Even if you can beat the market by buying a basket of houses (which I'm not sure is true), buying a single house has probably 2-3x the risk of the broad real estate market and 3-4x the risk of the global market portfolio, assuming real estate works similarly to stocks (which is probably a reasonable assumption). So it still seems like a bad idea, for the reasons discussed in the essay.

It might make sense if a bunch of individual EAs buy real estate such that the overall portfolio is well-diversified. I don't expect this to happen in practice, because EAs a... (read more)

3Jonas Vollmer9moYeah, this is what I was trying to say. Perhaps I was unclear. EAs can diversify the overall EA real estate portfolio by thinking about where other EAs are likely to buy houses. E.g., they should avoid buying a house if they moved to an EA hub city, but they should buy (or avoid selling) a house in their hometown, especially if they come from a place that doesn't have a lot of EAs. In addition, buying houses in EA hub cities might be somewhat of a hedge against a change in living costs in those key locations, such that overweighting these could actually be more beneficial than harmful. Anyway, all of this is a bit of a nitpick, I generally agree with the overall direction.
[Question] Pros/Cons of Donor-Advised Fund

One concern I have with the Community Foundation in Boulder is it's not clear how committed they are to letting donors direct money however they want. Unlike the national DAF providers (Schwab, Vanguard, Fidelity), it seems like there's a decent chance they will at some point change their mind and decide you are only allowed to give to the causes that they like. How are you thinking about that risk?

2Denkenberger9moI'm fairly sure I could change custodians if that happened (like people can do with retirement accounts).
Linch's Shortform

I haven't really thought about it, but it seems to me that if an empirical claim implies an implausible normative claim, that lowers my subjective probability of the empirical claim.

[Question] Pros/Cons of Donor-Advised Fund

Cool! Does that mean you're overweighting emerging markets?

[Question] Pros/Cons of Donor-Advised Fund

How did you estimate the expected return in a DAF vs. unconstrained?

4Denkenberger9moCalculate the expected return of the investments based off a 7 year mean reversion (GMO []) or 10 year mean reversion ( Research Affiliates []).
Thomas Kwa's Shortform

Probably the easiest way to do this is to give to a donor-advised fund, and then instruct the fund to give to the EA Fund. Even for charities that can accept stock, my experience has been that donating through a donor-advised fund is much easier (it requires less paperwork).

1Thomas Kwa10moTo clarify, you mean a donor-advised fund I have an account with (say Fidelity, Vanguard, etc.) which I manage myself?
niplav's Shortform

If there is a non-trivial possibility that a zero discount rate is correct, then the case with a zero discount rate dominates expected value calculations. See

5niplav10moYou're right. I had been thinking only about the mean on the distribution over discount rates, not the number of affected beings. Thanks :-)
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