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EA risks falling into a "meta trap". But we can avoid it.

I find that all the EA organizations (GiveWell, GWWC, The Life Your can Save) essentially point to the same 4-5 organizations: AMF, SCI, Evidence Action/DtW, etc. Do we really need so many organizations? if they are reaching out to different audiences (GiveWell = finance industry; GWWC = college students), then there's a reason for all to exist - as they broaden the donor base for AMF for example. But if they are reaching out to the same audience (basic EA giver) but with slightly different perspectives, then it's not as useful as in the end, they are persuading the same donor i.e. taking share from each other.

A couple of suggestions for EAs to track effectiveness and prevent the zero-sum game (apologies if this is already in place)

  1. In addition to looking at money moved, etc, consider who is moving the money - students? hedge fund managers? That will help to see if they are reaching their "target audience". GWWC would have a high base of students who would not be donating a lot now, plan to donate a lot in the future. GW would have a high proportion of people earning >200k+ (they exist!) who would donate at least 20-50k a year. The more a particular person donates, the more information they may need to know (and this is actual money not a pledge). I know when i started donating more than the token amount I was spending on a drink in a restaurant, I suddenly became much more aware of whether I was donating to the right cause.

  2. Depending on the audience, the "marketing" would be different. An investor looking to shift millions would need the kind of lengthy research that GiveWell specializes in (and GW should be tracking that, the average size of money moved through them should be substantially higher than GWWC for instance), GWWC may need higher penetration/lower touch ways of getting in touch. Maybe not the focus on pledges but follow-ups with students 5 years down the line when they have started earning a lot to ensure they are actually following through.

Empathic communication and strategy for Effective Altruism, Part 1

This is great. I have a professional background in marketing and a PhD in behavioral economics/consumer psychology and would be happy to contribute some thoughts on this. Robert Cialdini's "Influence" is a great book about general communications. How can I help?

Thread for discussing critical review of Doing Good Better in the London Review of Books

I actually thought Amia Srinivasan's article was quite thoughtful and (together with Dylan Matthew's criticism) echo some of my own concerns as a beginner/fringe EA.

  1. How do we broaden the movement? As a brown, female, immigrant 40-something mid-career professional who is not a banker or philosopher and has a family (including aging parents who rely on us), math literate but not interested in the detailed calculations that populate the EA pages I don't feel like there are other EAs who share my profile.

  2. How do we work beyond individual donations to talk about systemic change or show how the current donations/recommendations and effective giving actually help reduce inequality in today's world? What other movements should we be supporting (maybe we are and I am just unaware of this) - immigration reform, corporate tax havens, reparations to colonial countries etc. Should we even be looking at this, or do they lose out in the trade-off?

  3. I think there are two parts to EA - giving a significant portion of your income AND ensuring it goes to effective charities. So, for example, donating $100 million of your $200 million income alone may not count as effective altruism. But do we want to focus on the former or latter i.e. get everyone giving 10% or more of their income (and giving it, say, to UNICEF) or giving even a small proportion of their income to effective charities. As a marketing professional, this is the classic penetration vs. frequency argument- do you get volume by having everyone consume your product vs. a small but loyal group consume it more frequently. At least in the consumer packaged goods industry where I work, you first need penetration for scale. So, I would urge us to look at getting everyone on board with the idea, donating even 1-2% of their income but donate it effectively.

  4. How do you combine pure reason with emotion. It is not helpful for most people to shift everything from say, giving a dollar to the homeless person on the street into charities. I find that I tend to give more to effective altruism charities when i give to the person on the street as well (though, living in New York city, arguably, they don't need it as much). In this context, Adam Grant's book "Givers and Takers" (not about charity) is very helpful. He calls it an "otherish" giving strategy - that replenishes the self as well as the givers. The key idea is to if you give something in concrete, tangible terms (e.g. volunteer with some students to see their scores go up) that energizes you to give to much more uphill, abstract concepts (like EA). I think this could be an interesting idea - may dilute the overall idea of EA but would help in the long run.