All of Nekoinentr's Comments + Replies

Empirical data on value drift


If you feel you've become much less EA, I wonder what many others who were very into it must feel. From the outside you seem extremely involved - .impact/Rethink Charity do a huge amount with limited resources, and it seems like you do substantial volunteering with them, which doesn't seem like putting little of yourself into EA. Thanks for what you do.

Empirical data on value drift

Please do share that data when you get a chance. You guys have a lot of fascinating data in those survey results, and while I understand you have limited time/resources, it would be a shame to see them go untapped.

1Peter Wildeford4y
Thanks. Not publishing what I have on this is a 2017 regret of mine and I hope not to repeat it in 2018.
Empirical data on value drift

Maybe your college EA idealistic self expectation's were never that likely, so you shouldn't beat yourself up about them.

3Peter Wildeford4y
Thanks. I don't feel guilty about it. I just chose a different life. EA is still very important to me, but not as important as it once was. I think a lot of it is, like Joey said, the slow build up of small path changes over time.
Opportunities for individual donors in AI safety

It's no big deal, but your formatting is a little different from the normal forum formatting - it might be worth requesting .impact provide a button to clear extraneous formatting via the issues link at

Thanks for the note. I'll file an issue. FWIW I originally wrote this in google docs, then the best way I could find to get it here was to export as an HTML file, then copy and past from there to here.
Viewing Effective Altruism as a System

For example, suppose you see an idea for an effective charity on Charity Science. You contact them and they provide you with advice and link you up with potential cofounders.

Have they done this for anyone?

Yes [], fortify health [] .
2017 LEAN Impact Assessment: Qualitative Findings

Surely if someone gave you a few hundred dollars to sustain a staff member such as yourself to spend a few man days leveraging volunteer tech & design effort, you'd do it? So less a matter of prioritizing things and more a matter of the EA Community Fund covering low hanging fruit like this so you don't have to take time you presumably don't have laboriously convincing someone that this is worth those few hundred dollars.

I mostly agree. However there are definitely some strategic, management-level things that have to be decided when it comes to the Hub. There are an infinite number of fantastic ideas from EAs regarding what things they might want to see, and it's not a straightforward matter to judge how best to go forward. Particularly when it also means making sure we complement the platform that CEA is developing. Some factors include major choices about things like which codebase we continue with, creating a structure that allows highly skilled EAs in tech to contribute to some degree when they want to, and also making sure we don't waste resources making a start with something unless we're confident we'll be able to maintain it appropriately in the long run. Those are just some of the matters involved, and in this regard available bandwidth, both of myself and our tech labour has been a limiting factor for sure. However we've been making a lot of fast gains since we hired our new tech officer, Larissa, in November. We also have the guidance of seasoned EAs working in tech, and I'm very optimistic about 2018!
Donation Plans for 2017

For more speculative things, we want to put part of the money towards a project that a friend we know through the Effective Altruism movement is starting. In general I think this is a good way for people to get funding for early stage projects, presenting their case to people who know them and have a good sense of how to evaluate their plans.

Agreed. Thanks for the work you do supporting things that'd otherwise not happen!

An Argument for Why the Future May Be Good

The Foundational Research Institute site in the links above seems to have a wealth of writing about the far future!

An Argument for Why the Future May Be Good

On premise 1, a related but stronger claim is that humans tend to shape the universe to their values much more strongly than do blind natural forces. This allows for a simpler but weaker argument than yours: it follows that, should humans survive, the universe is likely to be better (according to those values) than it otherwise would be.

Hi, I'm Luke Muehlhauser. AMA about Open Philanthropy's new report on consciousness and moral patienthood

IMO, the philosophers who accept this understanding are the so-called "type-A physicalists" in Chalmers's taxonomy.

I'm not wholly sure I understand the connection between this and denying that consciousness is a natural kind. The best I can do (and perhaps you or thebestwecan can do better? ;-) ) is:

"If consciousness is a natural kind, then the existence of that natural kind is a separate fact from the existence of such-and-such a physical brain state (and vica versa)"

Changes to the EA Forum

Another change:

(3) Tagging users so they get notifications. I tried tagging "Tee", who posted here about moving up to the Executive Director role at .impact, in my previous comment. But I couldn't find a character like @ that allowed me to do this.

(Is there a place to post feature suggestions like this?)

Changes to the EA Forum

I presume CEA tech staff will make the branding changes, but is the plan for them also to make the longer term changes, or would that continue to be the .impact community? I don't understand what roles CEA has taken on as of this announcement and what role .impact continues to have? It sounds from the first paragraph like .impact has decided to transition primary responsibility for forum maintenance and improvements to CEA, but the third last paragraph suggest otherwise - could someone from that community comment?

How can we best coordinate as a community?

One reason this is that, because there are donors with money on the sidelines, if the organisations were able to find someone with a good level of fit, they could fundraise enough money to pay for their salaries.

Can you (very roughly) quantify to what extent this is the case for EA organisations? (I imagine they will vary as to how donor-rich vs. potential-hire-rich they are, so some idea of the spread would be helpful.)

Hey, the most relevant data we have on this is here: [] We hope to do a more detailed survey this summer. In terms of quantifying the amount of money available, we also have some survey results that I'm hoping to publish. But a key recent development is that now the Open Philanthropy Project is funding charities in the community.
Hi, I'm Luke Muehlhauser. AMA about Open Philanthropy's new report on consciousness and moral patienthood

but understanding that consciousness is a contested concept rather than a natural kind is itself a significant leap forward in the debate. (Most philosophers haven't gotten that far.)

Who do and do not agree with that, then? You and thebestwecan clearly do. Do you know the opinions of prominent philosophers in the field? For instance David Chalmers, who sounds like he is amongst these(?)

IMO, the philosophers who accept this understanding are the so-called "type-A physicalists" in Chalmers's taxonomy []. Here [] 's a list of some such people, but they're in the minority. Chalmers, Block, Searle, and most other philosophers of mind aren't type-A physicalists.
Hi, I'm Luke Muehlhauser. AMA about Open Philanthropy's new report on consciousness and moral patienthood

The idea of a natural kind is helpful. The fact that people mean different things by "consciousness" seems unsurprising, as that's the case for any complex word that people have strong motives to apply (in this case because consciousness sounds valuable). It also tells us little about the moral questions we're considering here. Do you guys agree or am I missing something?

I agree that it tells us little about the moral questions, but understanding that consciousness is a contested concept rather than a natural kind is itself a significant leap forward in the debate. (Most philosophers haven't gotten that far.) One thing that makes consciousness interesting is that there's such a wide spectrum of views, from some people thinking that among current entities on Earth, only humans have consciousness, to some people thinking that everything has consciousness.
Hi, I'm Luke Muehlhauser. AMA about Open Philanthropy's new report on consciousness and moral patienthood

I don't think I understand what you mean by consciousness being objective. When you mention "what processes, materials, etc. we subjectively choose to use as the criteria for consciousness", this sounds to me as if you're talking about people having different definitions of consciousness, especially if the criteria are meant as definitive rather than indicative. However presumably in many cases whether the criteria are present will be an objective question.

When you talk about whether "consciousness is an actual property of the world", do you mean whether it's part of ontologic base reality?

A good example of what thebestwecan means by "objectivity" is the question "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" He and I would say there's no objective answer to this question because it depends what you mean by "sound". I think "Is X conscious?" is a tree-falls-in-a-forest kind of question. Yeah, ontologically primitive, or at least so much of a natural kind [], like the difference between gold atoms and potassium atoms, that people wouldn't really dispute the boundaries of the concept. (Admittedly, there might be edge cases where even what counts as a "gold atom" is up for debate.)
Can we apply start-up investing principles to non-profits?

I wouldn't have thought that hits-based giving should be a general strategy, as it's one highly specific way of having an impact. I can understand 80,000 hours developing it as a way to understand their own impact; it fits when you're giving in-depth advice to a few individuals on their whole careers, but that's an atypical case.

The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread – February 2016

What luck have the big EA charities (GiveWell and CEA come to mind as the obvious candidates) had with building up a non-EA donor base? (By which I mean one which wouldn't otherwise donate to what'd generally be considered EA picks, like GiveWell recommendations, meta charities, etc.)

The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread - 23 November 2015 Edition

Not sure if this is the proper place to post.

I think it'd be a good place to post; it's an open thread!

Giving What We Can needs your help this Christmas!

103:1 is an incredible fundraising ratio - how are you able to convince people to donate so much with such a small investment, apparently just a small amount of staff time, and how would others go about replicating this? If people could replicate your methods around the world it'd be highly desirable for them to do so.

Hi Nekoinentr, I think unfortunately the answer isn't in the form of a simple, easily replicable method. It's surprisingly tricky and complex to figure out the various things that lead to people joining and donating. Our activities are described here []. At the moment, one of the outreach methods we're finding most effective and scalable is setting up and supporting chapters [] . If you'd be interested in getting involved in with then, Jon [] would love to hear from you!
September Open Thread

Oh, seems it was David Barry, I should read the whole thread before commenting!

September Open Thread

As for multiple categories, well that was one of the top few criticisms of LessWrong, the site that this forum was built from. At the time of starting the forum, there was a resounding call for all the content to be lumped together into one feed.

My understanding was that the LessWrong split between Main and Discussion led to some undesirable effects, no? I recall hearing someone (maybe Peter Hurford and Tom Ash?) suggest that the Forum is to the FB group as LW Main is to LW Discussion.

Oh, seems it was David Barry [], I should read the whole thread before commenting!
September Open Thread

I don't know if this is a violation of EA Club rules, but I heard there was an 'EA Private' group on FB for this exact purpose

The group I started on Facebook is called "effective altruism editing and review" []. It's closed, and it will stay that way. I don't want to make it secret. I don't want the role of any secret or utterly private groups to expand. The fewer things effective altruism feels the need to keep secret, the better. The new group I maintain shall remain closed so others will remain publicly aware of its existence and can request to join if they like. Ideally, I'd like a diversity of thoughtful people who are experienced in a variety of writing, fields, and causes. That way, if anyone has a piece they want reviewed before publication, they can field particular expertise from within that group. Right now the group only has nine members, so that doesn't cover the full spread of people I'd like to have in the group. However, right now, there are folks like Carl Shulman, David Moss, and Ben Henry, who are think are some of the most critical thinkers in the community, so they're a good start for people who are great for catching mistakes, errors, or misfires in written pieces from effective altruism. The group need not be secret, because requests for editing and review can be fielded, editors and reviewers can respond, and then the writer can give those people private access to the document. This isn't a failure to be transparent either. I wouldn't even call it a secret. If not totally after, then definitely before it's published, a piece of writing is the sole property of its writers, and they have every right to keep private their ideas before publication. Nobody would hold any other type of writer to that standard. The articles of any self-identified effective altruist don't represent the views of the whole of effective altruism. Some pieces will be interpreted that way, and the writer may draft a piece with that in mind. However, a piece of writing from a single (set of) author(s) isn't the collective intellectual property of e
How to get more EAs to connect in person and share expertise?

I'm not sure I agree, that would lose some of the information signal of upvotes.

Efective Altruism Quotes

Someone should do a review of it, for instance on the EA Forum

Efective Altruism Quotes

Has anyone else finished Nick Cooney's book? I thought it was excellent, like his others. I'd recommend it as something to give people new to EA.

I haven't read it yet. However, I've only ever encountered praise for Nick Cooney's writing. At first I was surprised, because he focuses on helping animals, and doesn't necessarily specialize in psychology. Alas, he seems to be a bona fide altruism Renaissance man! I'll buy or borrow his new book as soon as I get the chance, on your recommendation. I'm looking forward to reading it even more than the ones from Dr. Singer or Dr. MacAskill, as a fresh perspective would be pretty cool.
Direct Funding Between EAs - Moral Economics

AFAIC donations within a bounded range can be received by non-US citizens in US soil, even in non-favorable Visa conditions.

I think you mean AFAICT - as far as I can tell. It's normally better to spell these acronyms out for writing of this sort.

While I'm commenting, does this hold in other places EAs might want to move (I suppose this means the UK, Canada, Australia, Switzerland and perhaps Thailand?)

Giving What We Can's response to recent deworming studies

good job beating out GiveWell

Does speed realistically make that much difference? I don't see what good it would do for GiveWell to start rushing to get responses out first.

That was more of a joke. I don't think there's any competition here.
Peter's 2015 Q2 Personal Review

My goal for Q2 was to not get too involved in Charity Science or .impact so I could keep my focus. I succeeded in that goal and both organizations ended up doing very well anyway!

That does appear plausible AFAICT, and focus is good. But they might have done even better with more involvement from you! Perhaps it's predictable that when posting to an EA forum you'd get advice to focus more on EA projects (inevitably at the expense of others). Hacker News would doubtless tell you to drop anything EA in favour of laser-like focus on your top secret startup.... (read more)

Looking for EA work for your spare time? Look at (and add to) this list!

Yeh, anyone could organise this by posting in their Google group and Facebook haunts. I'd be interested to see an objective take on that too.

I wasn't aware of those groups. I know lots of people who run effective altruism groups, so I can help coordinate multiple perspectives on running a local effective altruism group. I could post that in those groups as well as on this forum.
The career questions thread

True, the chances of someone doing a very similar startup aren't 100% (though they're not 0%). I was more thinking that there's more of a shortage of people doing EA movement building than of people doing startups, and partly as a result of this a marginal extra person doing EA work is more valuable.

The career questions thread

As a distant observer, your .impact EA work seems unlikely to get replaced, whereas there are plenty of people doing startups - are you worried that adding a startup to your earning to give might squeeze EA work out?

I'm not sure doing a startup should really be thought of as replaceable. But it is true that the .impact work is EA movement building, whereas doing a start-up isn't, so if you think EA movement building is more pressing, then that's reason against the startup.
The career questions thread

80k advice often seems geared to people with quite a particular educational background. I'm keen on earning to give even if my earnings can only be moderate (a different course seems better if they might end up lower than that). But while I'm unusually smart I don't like school, don't have very good A levels (Bs and Cs), and prefer to be self-directed - so I decided to skip university to do self-employed start-up business work. However I figure I could go back, or perhaps do an accelerated business course. How can someone in my general situation best get an outside view of their expected mean/median earnings, if they're willing to do any job to maximise these?

Hi there, One quick thing is that although our career profiles (currently) focus on those kinds of people, a lot of our advice is more general e.g. our framework, strategy advice, how to choose pages. If you're trying to figure out your next step, then the first thing I'd recommend is working through the process on our how to choose page: [] After you've done that, let me know what your key uncertainties are. Turning to expected earnings directly, there's doesn't really exist a general model for someone's expected earnings. You can get an idea of potential earnings of different jobs with these kinds of resources: [] There's also some literature about whether doing a degree boosts your earnings: []It generally finds that it does, on average, but whether it's worth it for you will depend on your situation. If lack of a degree isn't a blockage with respect to your current set of opportunities, then it might not be an issue. It also depends on what areas you want to enter. It will also depend on which program you could get into and your chances of finishing it. There's also some literature about whether being self-employed boosts your earnings. It finds that on average self-employed people earn less, though those who own incorporated companies earn more. Ben
Well you could start by assuming you become a better than average programmer in your country? Bureau of Labor Statistics is very handy if you're in the US, but there are equivalents. If you decide to make a business, then you might want to look at 80k's research into startup earnings (I helped with this), although beware that the variance is very high and failure is near certain. Other outside views: what are average earnings given your IQ? What did your parents earn?
If you're smart but you don't like school, maybe you have a comparative advantage in doing independent research and blogging about EA topics? Just a thought.
2015 Summer Welcome Thread

What about the books by Nick Cooney (already out I think?) and Larissa MacFarquhar? It's worth everyone remembering to mention them when we're giving lists.

Nick Cooney's book is fantastic, even better than Singer's. (Far from being animal focused, it doesn't mention animal rights much at all.)
Yep, Nick Cooney's book is out. It's available for order (and Larissa MacFarquhar's book is available for preorder) in the Shop for Charity [] Amazon shore, sending 5% commission to SCI: Nick Cooney - How To Be Great At Doing Good: Why Results Are What Count and How Smart Charity Can Change the World * Amazon US [] * Amazon UK [] * Elsewhere [] Larissa MacFarquhar - Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help * Amazon US [] * Amazon UK [] * Elsewhere []
We are living in a suboptimal blogosphere

Posting at Slate Star Codex is not open, so potentially great bloggers are not incentivized to come up with their ideas, but only to comment on the ones there.

Thouht it wasn't open at all?

[Discussion] What have you found great value in not doing?

This seems potentially important advice for etg-ers.

[Discussion] What have you found great value in not doing?

I'm curious as to others experience with this. I check less than once a day but am not sure thats optimal.

I worry that people will be offended if I reply to emails days late, but suspect that in this I might be being a little paranoid.
Giving What We Can needs your help!

Good point, that sounds plausible - I attempted to capture it in my poll in reply to Ben's but it has so far not reached many people who actually gave to GWWC.

Map of Open Spaces in Effective Altruism

Aha cool, that's a helpful explanation, as it's not what I was thinking of as mentoring. It's more like person-to-person introduction or local outreach.

Well, one day I was volunteering at a climate change rally, and I got into a really interesting conversation with an EA who was there. The next day he decided to come to a meeting for the climate change group I was part of, and he added me on FB. He invited me to things such as the LW Canberra meetup and we talked (about EA ideas) pretty regularly on FB. And because of that, I got involved with EA quite quickly :)
Solving donation coordination problems

Here are the figures from Ben's poll so anyone can refer to them:

" how many folks have held off donating to GWWC in order to see whether their fundraiser hits its goal without their donations (so that their donation would have been replaceable/had no counterfactual impact)? "

I donated 0 (0%)

I refrained from donating PRIMARILY for the above reason 1 (3%)

I refrained from donating AT LEAST IN PART for the above reason 13 (45%)

The above reason didn't affect my decision at all 15 (52%)

And here are the figure... (read more)

Thanks for this! Do you know how many respondents there were for each poll?
Giving What We Can needs your help!

It'd be good to hear from more GWWC donors. So far "not being sufficiently convinced" is in the double digits (perhaps predictable given most Effective Altruists appear to donate to the charities that GiveWell thinks do the most good, and this is the most plausible explanation of that). But only 1 person has voted for something else, "I donated money that wouldn't have otherwise have gone to help anyone else". Not that I didn't want to know people's reasons for not donating and wouldn't welcome more about these, but I was equally curious to understand why people did donate.

We would be very interested to hear from the people who are not convinced! Is this a cause selection issue, lack of confidence that we can drive up member numbers cheaply, or something else?
Questions about Effective Altruism in academia (RAQ)

Broadening it out a little, many EA organisations (at the very least GiveWell, CEA and Leverage Research) are heavily research-focused, and in some cases founded and staffed by people who were on the academic track and wanted to be academics or researchers. So it's worth considering them at the same time, partly as a related alternative which will appeal to some of those interested in this thread.

Where I'm giving and why: Peter Hurford

@PETER_HURFORD, seconded. I don't know how to put this properly but I hope you've moved past any analysis paralysis!

On everyday altruism and the local circle

it does strike me that emphasis on things that can be codified and argued over probably means that fora like this don't encompass important aspects of EA, such as the forces that motivate many of us.

Yes the tendency to spend all our energy on ("abstruse"?) intellectual battles which I'm guilty of myself has other problems besides.

Map of Open Spaces in Effective Altruism

That is well worth doing. There are instructions on doing this somewhere on their website .

I've heard talk of mentoring programs in several other parts of the EA community as well. 80,000 Hours has one such program. I do think it would be good to look into doing more mentoring within EA though. (By the way, I actually joined this community after having an EA mentor me!)
Giving What We Can needs your help!

Oh I didn't know you could do polls! Testing them out with one with a fuller set of options:


There are two possible ways of cashing this out. Either of * My donation would cause others to donate less * My donation would cause CEA central to transfer resources away from GWWC but only one of these is what Ben was talking about.
It'd be good to hear from more GWWC donors. So far "not being sufficiently convinced" is in the double digits (perhaps predictable given most Effective Altruists appear to donate to the charities that GiveWell thinks do the most good, and this is the most plausible explanation of that). But only 1 person has voted for something else, "I donated money that wouldn't have otherwise have gone to help anyone else". Not that I didn't want to know people's reasons for not donating and wouldn't welcome more about these, but I was equally curious to understand why people did donate.
Request for Feedback: Researching global poverty interventions with the intention of founding a charity.

Presumably it's not wholly uneducated, given you've been looking into this issue :) Would you have time at some point to share what's feeding into that estimate (even if it's more a partial list of factors rather than being a full defense)?

Impact Purchase: Round 2

It might put people off submitting projects - I think one ought to ask for permission in these cases.

That's fair. Right now the application says: """ Some parts of this application may be published and discussed publicly. We will encourage respectful discussion, but there may nevertheless be critical comments. Do you give us permission to publish the sections "The project" and "Optional information"? The contents may also be the subject of arguments, and may be evaluated erratically or indefensibly. """ Many people marked part or all of their application as private, and we would of course respect that. But it may still be worth asking more specifically.
Should I be vegan?

That seems perfectly reasonable, and like your energy and willpower is plausibly better spent on other things (says I, as a possibly rationalising meat eater).

Load More