Name: Patrick Brinich-Langlois


Ice-cream flavor: raspberry sorbet Toothpaste: Colgate (original) Pronouns: it/its or he/his Elbow count: two

Patrick's Comments

Should EA Buy Distribution Rights for Foundational Books?

In addition to lowering the cost for readers, buying the rights to a book could allow certain improvements to be made.

The paperback version of Reasons and Persons is poorly typeset (the text is small and cramped) and unevenly printed (some parts are too light; others too dark). The form factor is close to that of a mass market paperback (short, narrow, and fat). The cover photo is bleak and blurry. These factors combine to make the book seem dated and unappealing.

On What Matters, a book with the same author and publisher, is a beautiful volume, and an example of what's possible if someone puts some effort into the process and uses modern technologies.

Living High and Letting Die influenced me more than any other book. Unfortunately, it seems not to have been edited. Here's a passage from the first page:

Now, you can write that address on an envelope well prepared for mailing. And, in it, you can place a $100 check made out to the U.S. Committee for UNICEF along with a note that's easy to write.

I count two odd-sounding filler phrases ("well prepared for mailing" and "that's easy to write"), one clearly superfluous comma (following "And" in the second sentence), and a bizarre choice to italicize the name of an organization. The whole book reads like it was dictated but not read. Another problem is that it gives unrealistically low estimates of the cost of saving a life.

Changing the text of a book might not always be feasible (you'd need the author's buy-in, and many authors wouldn't want to spend time helping to re-edit an old book), but it's something worth exploring.

What are good options for giving later?

I've looked a bit at DAFs but the fees look quite high and I wonder if I could assemble something better myself.

By "quite high," do you mean 0.6% per annum in addition to the mutual-fund expense ratio? That's the fee charged by Vanguard, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab on the first $500k. To me, the benefits a DAF offers seem worth the price:

  • immediate tax-deductibility
  • untaxed dividends and interest
  • ease of granting (you don't have to coordinate with the recipient to transfer appreciated assets)
  • pre-commitment (the money must go to a 501(c)(3) charity)

For people looking to invest millions of dollars, 0.6% would seem excessive. But larger accounts have lower fees. Here the fees for Vanguard's "Select" accounts:

| First $500K | 0.60% |
| Next $500K  | 0.30% |
| Next $29M   | 0.13% |
| Next $70M   | 0.05% |

So a $100m account would cost $77,200 in DAF fees, plus the mutual-fund fee. That seems like a steal to me (although high-rollers might prefer something with more-flexible investment options).

The main reason I can think of not to use a DAF is that you think that there's a high chance you'll want to do something with the money other than donate it to a 501(c)(3).

The case for taking AI seriously as a threat to humanity

If you haven't read the article (as I hadn't, since I came by a direct link to this comment), you should know that there's exactly one sentence about algorithmic racial discrimination in the entire article. I was surprised that a single sentence (and one rather tangential to the article) generated this much discussion.

Whatever you think about the claim, it doesn't seem like a sufficient reason not to recommend the article as an introduction to the subject.

Credit Cards for EA Giving

For people spending larger amounts, Citi Double Cash or Alliant Cashback Visa Signature are probably the best options. The Double Cash card has no annual fee and gives 2% back (assuming you pay off your credit-card bill in full). The Alliant card gives 3% cash back and waives the annual fee the first year, and gives 2.5% cash back and charges $99 in subsequent years. So you'd need to spend at least $20k per year for the Alliant card to be a better option in the long run.

Even with 2.5% cash back, it would be a better deal to send a check to the charity if the amount is large (say $10k+), the fees aren't waived, and there's no donation match that requires paying online.

Here's a good summary of the best cash-back credit cards, including most of the ones mentioned in the post.

Funding chains in the x-risk/AI safety ecosystem

I have to say I found this all very funny.

How urgent are extreme climate change risks?

The Future of Life Institute Podcast has some episodes on the risks of climate change. The most relevant one is The Climate Crisis as an Existential Threat. There's also an ongoing series about global warming called Not Cool that has some episodes not yet listed on the FLI Web site.

What new EA project or org would you like to see created in the next 3 years?

A few years ago I lent a total of about $3k to two EAs.

The larger loan was to someone vouched for by a respected member of the community and was to help cover educational expenses. The person wasn't able to find a job, and I didn't get any money back. The smaller loan was not for educational expenses and went to someone not vouched for, and got I got about a third back.

Lending money to students may be a good idea. The standards of hits-based giving may be more relevant than the standards of finance, and a high default rate may be tolerable. I just want people to know that they may not get their money back.

Open Thread #44

The talks from EA Global 2018 in San Francisco have been available on YouTube for a few months. They're now also available in podcast format at EARadio . (The podcast is an aggregation of publicly available talks relevant to EA. It isn't affiliated with the CEA.) The EA Global London talks will be released over the next couple of weeks.

Subscription links:

How to improve EA Funds

I also admit that it isn't "free" to invest the money in bond, in that there's operational overhead involved, but with such a large amount of money held it seems worthwhile.

You said that the funds currently hold $1.1 million and that US Treasury bonds yield 1.7% a year. That's $18,700 a year in foregone revenue. In 80,000 Hours' survey of EA organizations, a new hire was seen as worth something in the neighborhood of a million dollars in forgone donations a year. So it's not surprising to me that the donations are held in cash—I could easily see the overhead of investing exceeding the potential returns.

Similarly, it's not surprising that the funds are slow to be disbursed. If each fund manager's time is valued at millions or tens of millions of dollars a year, the discount rate on the donations held in a fund isn't an overwhelming consideration.

But that raises the question, why create the funds in the first place? Someone at CEA would be best qualified to answer that. But I don't expect a timely answer, as their communication style tends (in my experience and in that of others on this forum) toward reticence and delay. (I suspect this is due to their placing higher priority on other projects rather than due to a desire to keep information private.)

If I were to speculate, I'd say that the CEA sees the funds as an experiment, and that they'll be abandoned if they don't eventually significantly more in donations. But it seems likely that they'll invest some more effort before giving up.

Kidney donation is a reasonable choice for effective altruists and more should consider it

Just a heads-up, many people aren't eligible to become kidney donors. Here are some common disqualifiers (at least in the US):

  • smoking
  • use of illegal drugs (including marijuana) within the past year or so
  • regular use of medicines that may cause kidney damage (this includes common drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen)
  • certain chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure

Criteria vary by transplant center, so if you're interested it's probably worth checking even if you match one of the things I listed. But don't get your hopes up too high.

Here are some of the criteria for one US transplant center.

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