Patrick

Name: Patrick Brinich-Langlois

Website: https://www.patbl.com

Pronouns: they/she/he

Ice-cream flavor: raspberry sorbet

Toothpaste: Colgate (original)

Wiki Contributions

Comments

What would you do if you had half a million dollars?

Re patient philanthropy funds: Spending money on research rather than giving money to a fund does seem more focused and efficient. I think there are limits to how much progress you can make with research (assuming that research hasn't ruled the idea out), so it does make sense to try creating such a fund at some point. Some issues would become apparent with even a toy fund (one with a minimal amount of capital produced as an exercise). A real fund that has millions of dollars would be a better test of the idea, but whether contributing to such a fund is a good use of money is less clear to me now.

What would you do if you had half a million dollars?

In general, it kind of seems like the "point" of the lottery is to do something other than allocate to a capital allocator. The lottery is "meant" to minimise work on selecting a charity to give to, but if you're happy to give that work to another allocator I feel like it makes less sense?

When I entered the lottery, I hadn't given much thought to what I'd do if I won—I was convinced by the argument that giving to the lottery dominated giving to the LTFF (for example), since if I won the lottery I could just decide to give the money to the LTFF. I think you're right that it makes less sense to enter the donor lottery if you think you'll end up giving the money to a regranting organization, but I think it still makes some sense.

Lottery again! You could sponsor CEA to do a $1m lottery. If you thought it was worth it for $500k, surely it would be worth it for $1m!

Someone else suggested that to me a while ago, but I'm not sure how much it would change things—if I don't have interesting ideas about what to do with $500k, I probably wouldn't have interesting ideas about what to do with $1m. There would also be some overhead to setting up another lottery.

Be quite experimental, give largish grants to multiple young organisations, see how they do, and then direct your ordinary giving toward them in the future. This money can buy access to more organisations, and setup relationships for your future giving.

Thanks for suggesting that—it seems like an idea worth considering for at least a portion of the money.

EARadio - more EA podcasts!

velutvulpes, could you update the RSS link to point to https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/1755269.rss? I'm working on migrating to a new podcast host (Buzzsprout). The old feed currently redirects there, but my understanding is that it will stop redirecting after I complete the migration.

Semi-regular Open Thread #35

This isn't your first EA podcast. This is not so much because the content is difficult, but because it has relatively low production value (it's just EA conference talks in podcast format). The 80,000 Hours Podcast, Hear This Idea, and The FLI Podcast are more entertaining and polished while still being similarly informative, and I'd recommend listening to those first.

A case against strong longtermism

I will primarily focus on The case for strong longtermism, listed as “draft status” on both Greaves and MacAskill’s personal websites as of November 23rd, 2020. It has generated quite a lot of conversation within the effective altruism (EA) community despite its status, including multiple podcast episodes on 80000 hours podcast (one, two, three), a dedicated a multi-million dollar fund listed on the EA website, numerous blog posts, and an active forum discussion.

"The Case for Strong Longtermism" is subtitled "GPI Working Paper No. 7-2019," which leads me to believe that it was originally published in 2019. Many of the things you listed (two of the podcast episodes, the fund, and several of the blog and forum posts) are from before 2019. My impression is that the paper (which I haven't read) is more a formalization and extension of various existing ideas than a totally new direction for effective alturism.

The word "longtermism" is new, which may contribute to the impression that the ideas it describes are too. This is true in some cases, but many people involved with effective altruism have long been concerned about the very long run.

What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others?

On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?

—Thomas Babington Macaulay

The good of any one individual is of no more importance, from the point of view (if I may so say) of the Universe, than the good of any other; unless, that is, there are special grounds for believing that more good is likely to be realized in the one case than in the other.

—Henry Sidgwick

Pain is always new to the sufferer, but loses its originality for those around him.

—Alphonse Daudet

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

—Albert Einstein

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

—John Lennon and Paul McCartney

On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us? —Thomas Babington Macaulay

The good of any one individual is of no more importance, from the point of view (if I may so say) of the Universe, than the good of any other; unless, that is, there are special grounds for believing that more good is likely to be realized in the one case than in the other. —Henry Sidgwick

Pain is always new to the sufferer, but loses its originality for those around him. —Alphonse Daudet

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind. —Albert Einstein

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. —John Lennon and Paul McCartney

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).

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