All of Naryan's Comments + Replies

EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020)

A Metamodern Approach to "Leveling-up" Humanity

ThinkBetter was founded by five EAs in Toronto with the mission of creating a scalable rationality training program, and the goal of materially raising the global sanity waterline. Through a series of rapid-prototyping and OODA loops, we ended up 'transcending and including' our initial curriculum and strategy, and are now working with a deeper understanding of the complexity of the challenge.

I'd be interested in starting a discussion to share:

  • Our journey
  • A new approach to learning tha
... (read more)
How we promoted EA at a large tech company

Thanks so much for posting about your experience, I anticipate your tips will help me improve my strategy for incorporating EA concepts at the large corporation I work in. I'll chime in with my own experiences in case they are also helpful to others.

I work in a Canadian company with 50k employees. In early 2019, I reached out to our company's charitable giving team, expressing an interest in helping run events to increase charitable giving engagement within my part of the business. This invitation was met with enthusiasm and support, over 2 co... (read more)

1Jack Lewars2yHi Naryan - this sounds like great work, well done. One for the World may be able to help you with your 2020 plans ( We're a network of people giving 1% of their income to the GiveWell charities and have a couple of chapters in Canada. My email is jack [at] 1fortheworld [dot] org - please do get in touch!
Notes on “The Art of Gathering”

Very cool summary, I've sent this to a few groups I'm a part of. I'm selfishly hoping it will lead to even better gatherings in my circles in the future!

A Happiness Manifesto: Why and How Effective Altruism Should Rethink its Approach to Maximising Human Welfare

Hi Michael and team,

Thanks for thinking about this topic - I agree that this is an important update for the community, and I think you gave it the treatment it required.

I think the puzzle of wealth/income vs SWB is an interesting one. The finding that relative wealth plays a role in SWB made sense - and leads me to hypothesize that countries with lower inequality would be happier.

I found a meta-analysis on the topic which couldn't find a strong correlation. "The association between income inequality and SWB is weak, complex and moderated by the count... (read more)

2MichaelPlant3yIndeed, many people are surprised the relationship with inequality is complicated. I don't work on this, but my understanding it matters whether you see inequality in your society as a sign of unfairness and the system being broken (Europe) or you see it as a sign of opportunity to succeed (developing world). I've heard researchers say that don't find such an affect of inequality in the US because really believe in the American Dream and thus don't mind it. As I say, I'm no expert on this but I'd be keen for someone to look into it in more detail. On your questions 1) the effect will be due to social comparison. Unclear if secret cash transfers would be possible - people buying new roofs for their houses - and whether this would then reduce the increase to the recipients if they can't 'show off'. 2) there is evidence on unemployment. In areas where unemployment is really high (20+%), individuals who are unemployed don't show such a reduction in life satisfaction -there's not such a social penalty if everyone else is unemployed. I'm pretty sceptical on basic income. I would rather use that money - which would be huge - to provide mental health treatment to everyone who needed it. People are atrocious as converting money into happiness.
Is it better to be a wild rat or a factory farmed cow? A systematic method for comparing animal welfare.

Great to see this being looked at. Do you have any examples of this method in use? I'd be interested to see various animals and situations ranked using this method - as it could provide a baseline to quantify the benefits of various interventions.

I also attempted to create my own method of comparing animal suffering while I was calculating the value of going vegetarian. I'll provide a quick summary here, and would love to hear if anyone else has tried something similar.

The approach was to create an internally consistent model based upon my naive intuiti... (read more)

4Joey3yExamples coming soon. We are currently aiming to have ~15 done and published by 10/7/18. Our full goal of this project is to create a consistent systematic baseline to quantify the benefits of various interventions which would then allows us to compare specific charity ideas and rank what might be the best few to found within the animal movement. [] is the closest thing to calculating the value of going vegetarian that I know.
3saulius3yI tried to do something similar when deciding where to donate. The most significant difference was step 4. I used neuron count as a multiplier. For example, according to [] , cows on average have 13.6 times more neurons than chickens. So in my model, one minute of cow's life was 13.6 times more important than one minute of chicken's life of comparable quality. I've seen some people comparing the square root of neuron count instead. [] makes it easy to make these kinds of comparisons for farm animals.
Why are you here? An origin stories thread.

Pretty cool idea - since I'm new to EA, I hope this will become a neat snapshot for me to look back on in a few years to see how far I've come.

Growing up, I believe I was raised to be a decent member of society - be kind to others, don't litter, help those in need. I never really thought explicitly about ethics, or engaged deeply with any causes. Sure, I'd raise money for cancer at "Relay for Life", but it wasn't because I thought the $100 dollars would make a difference - more because it would be fun to have a camp-out with friends.

In my twent... (read more)

A Critical Perspective on Maximizing Happiness

What a coincidence - I just started reading the book "The Happiness Advantage" by Shawn Achor. While I'm only on the second chapter, the gist seems to be: Happiness is not a product of success, but rather a precursor. Happy people are more likely to succeed.

If this premise is true, then I think positive psychology would have an edge over stoicism, when looking forward. Stoicism might be a better technique when thinking about events in the past.

Neutral evaluation of things you cannot change, but a focus on the future states that you prefer. I wish I could have some actual evidence to back this up, but this way of thinking has worked for me so far.

Impact Investing - A Viable Option for EAs?

Hey Jamie, thanks for linking me up with those additional resources - it's a refreshing perspective on the topic after combing through so many non-EA articles.

Continuing the conversation from your blog post on impact investing, I really like the perspective that the appeal of impact investing depends on how funding-constrained a cause or company is. If they have no problem raising money for free or at low cost, they have no need to promise a high return. Inversely, in a place where it is hard to raise capital, companies should be more willing to offer hi... (read more)

Impact Investing - A Viable Option for EAs?

I think you hit the nail on the head - the current offering of impact investment platforms and offerings for a retail investor is fairly uninspiring. Can they stack up against the best EA charitable causes? Odds are against it.

I did allocate some of my retirement funds (currently in equity) towards buying a few acres with World Tree, which I think is a step in the right direction - more impact, and likely higher returns (ask me again in 10 years). I know mental bucketing of finances is some kind of bias, but keeping my charitable donations separate from... (read more)

Impact Investing - A Viable Option for EAs?

I agree that markets are inefficient, but believe that the inefficiency results in opportunities that are both worse than average and better than average. Since I suspect most investors under-value the social impact, this would result in impact investments that are more attractive than average to someone who does value the impact as well as the return.

Generally when was looking to invest, I looked for options that I expected to outperform market average at a set risk level, and I didn't assess social utility in that calculation (assuming I could donate t... (read more)

1kbog3yUnless you assign relatively high priority to the cause that is addressed by the company, I think it's appropriate to suppose that other impact investors are over-valuing the social impact. Also, since other impact investors don't think about counterfactuals, they are likely to greatly overestimate the social impact. They may think that when they invest $1000 in a different company, they are actually making that company $1000 richer on balance... when in reality it is only $100 or $10 or $1 richer in the long run, due to market efficiency. I don't think markets are generally inefficient, just a bit, sometimes, it really depends on how you define it.
The Values-to-Actions Decision Chain: a lens for improving coordination

Fantastic post! It's a significant upgrade from the "terminal/instrumental values" mental model I was previously using.

When I first joined EA, I looked at the annual survey of EAs and was surprised to see so much variation in how EAs ranked the importance of the major causes. I thought that the group would be moving towards a consensus, and that each individual member would be able to trace their actions up towards their understanding of the most important causes.

Personally, I tried to build up my own understanding of the cause priority from s... (read more)

1remmelt3yHi @Naryan, I’m glad that this is a more powerful tool for you. And kudos for working things from the foundations up! Personally, I still need to take a few hours with a pen and paper to systematically work myself through the decision chain myself. A friend has been nudging me to do that. :-) Gregory Lewis makes the argument above that some EAs are moving in the direction of working on long term future work and few are moving back out. I’m inclined to agree with him that they probably have good reasons for that. I’d also love to see the results of some far mode — near mode questions put in the EA Survey or perhaps send out by Spencer Greenberg (not sure if there’s an existing psychological scale to gauge how much people are in each mode when working throughout the day). And of course, how they corellate with cause area preferences. Max Dalton explained to me how ‘corrigiblity’ was one of the most important traits to look for for selecting people you want to work with at EA Global London last year so credit to him. :-) My contribution here is adding the distinction that people often seem more corrigible at some levels than others, especially when they’re new to the community. (also, I love that sentence – “if the exploratory folks at the bottom raised evidence up the chain...”)
Open Thread #40

This field is really interesting, and there is a lot of research out there on it. The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) is a good starting place, but I've spent about a week pulling together stats from several sources to build my view on this space, and the Canadian options in particular.

I do like World Tree in particular, because it both produces high-impact social utility, has a high expected financial return, and I can actually buy-in without being accredited. Unfortunately for people with less than $1M, the options for impact investing are very ... (read more)

Open Thread #40

The key word is "safely". This kind of investment would be considered high risk - this company only started this program three years ago, and the first trees haven't yet produced profit. Additionally, the 10 year duration is unattractive for many investors, and there isn't really a market for this type of wood in North America yet. They need to offer a big reward in order to entice investors to fund their venture at this early stage.

I suspect other early stage ventures would have a similar high-risk, high potential return profile, which is why they are typically limited to accredited investors.

Open Thread #40

Impact Investing from an EA Perspective

This is just a teaser, since I don't have enough karma for a full post yet!

Picture a scale that has charity one one side (good social utility, -100% financial return) and Investing on the other (zero social utility, 7% financial return). Impact investing is a space that can give similar risk-adjusted market returns as traditional investments, but also provides social utility.

In my research, I've found several factors that make me excited about this area:

  • Impact investing is about 5% the size of charitable donations

... (read more)
5Peter Wildeford3yThat's insanely high... social arguments would be irrelevant if you could safely get that kind of return. Every investor would want in.
0Heteric3yI'm a huge fan of this concept. Have you done a lot of research on this? Do you like WorldTree specifically, or are there other Impact Investing orgs you're aware of?