One thing I'd like to highlight: our per-hour pre-tax profits were closer to $150–200/hour than the $500/hour claimed in the post's title. I think the main source of the discrepancy was that the author was significantly faster than us at finding and placing bets.
For my calculation, I factored in things such as trip planning and travel time (scaled by 50% because the trip included leisure activities), financial preparation, getting money out of accounts, taking screenshots of losses, filling out 2022 tax returns, filling out the spreadsheets where we tracked our bets, etc. I don't know how many of these the author took into account in the $500/hour calculation.
Another factor in the lower per-hour figure was, as mentioned by Dmitriy, that the offers were worse.
Here's an excerpt that from an email I sent the post's author:
Some reasons we spent so much time:
- We tried to find bets that satisfied multiple criteria (frequent ones were positive EV, long odds, the bet's being offered by many books [to be more confident in the odds], and acceptance of the full amount of the bet by the sportsbook). If we'd relaxed some of these standards, things would've gone more quickly. Also, we probably could've used parleys more to get long-odds bets (we avoided them early on).
- I didn't feel comfortable making decisions on my own, so I often waited to run things by other people.
- My phone internet connection was super slow (I eventually gave up and used Wi-Fi, which was fine because other people were using their phones).
- It took a while for us to all get the geolocation software working on our computers (it required changing a security setting in macOS). One of us couldn't use certain websites on his work computer because they required this software to be installed, so he had to use his phone instead.
- Two of us used obscure banks, so we had trouble depositing money into certain sportsbooks. The solution we came to was to have someone else send us money on PayPal, since the transfers were instantaneous and our PayPal balances could be used.
- The same two of us had to pay in cash at a 7-Eleven to deposit money into BetRivers .
- We did rather elaborate bookkeeping, partly because we were doing profit sharing, so we needed to record more information than we would've if we'd been doing it on our own.
- People other than me spent a lot of time on arbitrage (though this also increased our earnings, so it's unclear whether it increased or decreased our hourly rate).
- We read and saved the terms and conditions, and sometimes asked customer service for clarification.
- We sometimes had to contact customer service to get our free bets credited or to remove restrictions from our accounts.
- PointsBet's points-betting offer was confusing, and a couple of us spent a significant amount of time modeling it.
I emailed CEA with some questions about the LTFF and EAIF, and Michael Aird (MichaelA on the forum) responded about the EAIF. He said that I could post his email here. Some of the questions overlap with the contents of this AMA (among other things), but I included everything. My questions are formatted as quotes, and the unquoted passages below were written by Michael.
Here are some things I've heard about LTFF and EAIF (please correct any misapprehensions):
You can apply for a grant anytime, and a decision will be made within a few weeks.
Basically correct. Though some decisions take longer, mainly for unusually complicated, risky, and/or large grants, or grants where the applicant decides in response to our questions that they need to revisit their plans and get back to us later. And many decisions are faster.
The application process is meant to be low-effort, with the application requiring no more than a few hours' work.
Basically correct, though bear in mind that that doesn't necessarily include the time spent actually doing the planning. We basically just don't want people to spend >2 hours on actually writing the application, but it'll often make sense to spend >2 hours, sometimes much more than 2 hours, on actual planning.
The funds don't put many resources into evaluation, which is ad hoc and focuses on the most-controversial grants—the goal is to decide whether to make more such grants in the future. (Question: how do you decide whether a controversial grant was successful?) [Author's note: I was unclear here—I was asking about post-hoc evaluation, but Michael's answer is about evaluating grant applications.]
These statements seem somewhat fuzzy so it's hard to say if I'd agree. Here's what I'd say:
The typical grant is small and one-off (more money requires a new application), and made to an individual. Grants are also made to organizations, and these might be a little bigger but still on the small side (probably not more than $300k).
I guess this is about right, but:
Your specific questions:
How many grants come through channels other than people applying unbidden (e.g., referrals/nominations by third parties or active grantmaking by fund managers)? What's the most common such channel?
The LTFF's fund managers all have backgrounds in AI or CS. Is the process for evaluating grants in areas outside the managers' areas of expertise any different?
What's the role of the advisers to the LTFF and EAIF listed on the website? Do managers commonly discuss grants with people not listed on the website (e.g., experts at other nonprofits)?
What's the process for a grant's being approved or rejected? E.g., can a primary grant evaluator unilaterally reject a grant? Do grants have to be unanimously approved by all managers? Do all mangers have a say in all grants?
What are the motivations for having guest managers—increased capacity, identifying or training promising grantmakers, diversity of viewpoints?
I know that sometimes you give feedback to unsuccessful grant recipients. What does this feedback look like—e.g., is it a 3-sentence email, or an arbitrarily long phone conversation with the primary evaluator?
What processes do you have to learn from mistakes or sub-optimal decisions?
So I believe we're simply not judging more recent art works by the same standards, resulting in a huge bias towards older works.
Why is it wrong to credit past art for innovations that have since become commonplace? If a musician's innovations became widespread, I would count that as evidence of the musician's skill. Similarly, Euclid was a big deal even though there are millions of people who know more math today than he did.
Beethoven is only noteworthy because his works are a cultural meme at this point - he was a great musician for his time, sure, but right now there's probably tens of thousands of musicians who could make music of the same caliber straight on their laptops. Today's Beethoven publishes his amazing tracks on SoundCloud and toils in obscurity.
This sounds like an extreme overstatement, at least if applied to classical music. Some modern classical music it is pretty good, and better than Beethoven's less-acclaimed works. And the best of it is probably on par with Beethoven's greatest hits. But much of it is unmemorable—premiered, then mercifully forgotten. The catalog of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project is representative of modern classical orchestral music, and I think most of it falls far short of Beethoven's best symphonies. The concertgoing public strongly prefers the old stuff, to the consternation of adventurous conductors.
One reason it might be a reductio ad absurdum is that it suggests that in an election in which supporters of one side were rational (and thus would not vote, since each of their votes would have a minuscule chance of mattering) and the others irrational (and would vote, undeterred by the small chance of their vote mattering), the irrational side would prevail.
If this is the claim that John G. Halstead is referring to, I regard it as a throwaway remark (it's only one sentence plus a citation):
For instance, a simple threshold or plausibility assessment could protect the field’s resources and attention from being directed towards highly improbable or fictional events.
I would've found it helpful if the post included a definition of TUA (as well as saying what what it stands for). Here's a relevant excerpt from the paper:
The TUA [techno-utopian approach] is a cluster of ideas which make up the original paradigm within which the field of ERS [existential-risk studies] was founded. We understand it to be primarily based on three main pillars of belief: transhumanism, total utilitarianism and strong longtermism. More precisely: (1) the belief that a maximally technologically developed future could contain (and is defined in terms of) enormous quantities of utilitarian intrinsic value, particularly due to more fulfilling posthuman modes of living; (2) the failure to fully realise or have capacity to realise this potential value would constitute an existential catastrophe; and, (3) we have an overwhelming moral obligation to ensure that such value is realised by avoiding an existential catastrophe, including through exceptional actions.
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.
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.
XR: Extinction Rebellion, JSO: Just Stop Oil
(I wasn't familiar with these abbreviations and it took me a minute to figure them out.)