I was actually assuming a welfarist approach too.
But even under a welfarist approach, it's not obvious how to compare campaigning for criminal justice reform in the US to bednet distribution in developing countries.
Perhaps it's the case that this is not an issue if one accepts longtermism. But that would just mean that the hidden premise is actually longtermism.
The reason many volunteering schemes persist is that volunteers are more likely to donate in the future. For instance, when FORGE cut their volunteering scheme to be more effective, they inadvertently triggered a big drop in donations.
This seems somewhat misleading to me. If you click through to the FORGE blog post, it states that "volunteers were each required to raise a minimum of $5,000."
I don't think it's reasonable to extrapolate from 'an organization that required each volunteer to raise a substantial sum saw a large decrease in revenue after d... (read more)
The criticisms of volunteering in this article seem directed at traditional volunteering: structured opportunities that produce direct impact. Under this definition of volunteering, the criticisms seem reasonable.
But a person might be interested in a broader sense of volunteering: unpaid, non-job related ways of using their free time to have an impact. Under this definition, there are many worthwhile volunteering opportunities. For example, a person could do one on one video calls with college EAs interested in their field, provide feedback on draft ... (read more)
Great work! I think it might be a good idea for you to state on the page that the numbers are per kcal of energy. I clicked the link before reading your post and initially assumed it was the impact of eliminating the category from a standard diet. For what it's worth, I think it could be useful to have "impact of category in a standard diet" as an option on the page.
I agree that one word is better but I think this factor is less important than other factors like clarity. Because of this, I think "Helping others" would be better than "Helpfulness."
I also think the placement of "Cause prioritization" and "Collaboration" should be switched in the primary proposal so that "Cause prioritization" is next to "Effectiveness."
And in the alternative proposal, I think "Cause prioritization" should be replaced with "Commitment to others."
I strongly prefer "reasoning carefully" to "rationality" to avoid EA being too closely associ... (read more)
I really like the idea of an acronym! Thank you for taking the time to create one and write a post about it. If I may, I'd like to add another option to the table:
Norms (integrity, inclusion etc.)
I like the word "caring" because it pushes back against the idea that a highly deliberative approach to altruism is uncaring.
Michael Bitton has used this argument as a reductio against longtermism (search "Here's an argument").
It seems it could work as to the medium term but would not work as to the very long term because i) if the fertility rate is above replacement, the initial additional people stop having a population effect after humanity reaches carrying capacity and ii) if the fertility rate is below replacement, the number of additional people in each generation attributable to the initial additional people would eventually reach zero.
Two suggestions for the list of "broad categories of longer-term roles that can offer a lot of leverage" under "Aim at top problems":
Similar changes could be made to the "Five key categories" in the article "List of high-impact careers".
Thanks Luke. Do you know why EA Funds excludes ACE Movement Grants? There is substantial overlap between the recipients of ACE Movement Grants and the recipients of EA Animal Welfare Fund grants, which is why I wanted clarification that exclusion is not meant to imply anything negative about ACE Movement Grants.
Feature request: Create an option for content in the "Recent Discussion" section to be sorted based on the "Magic (New & Upvoted)" formula used for "Frontpage Posts" instead of based solely on recency. This would allow people without time to go through every single piece of new content to still be able to find and engage with important new comments.
For animal suffering:
Comprehensively Evaluated Charities
GiveWell Maximum Impact Fund (allocated between GiveWell Top and Standout Charities at GiveWell's discretion; list of GiveWell Top Charities for 2020 below)
How about just Good Careers?
The two most widely known EA organizations, GiveWell and 80,000 Hours, both have short and simple names.
It seems to me there's a fourth key premise:
0. Comparability: It is possible to make meaningful comparisons between very different kinds of contributions to the common good.
It looks like I'm too late. But here's something I've been wanting to ask.
In your paper "The Definition of Effective Altruism," you distinguish effective altruism from utilitarianism on various grounds, including that:
For me, this points to a broader principle... (read more)
I've completed my draft (now at 47,620 words)!
I've shared it via the EA Forum share feature with a number of GPI, FHI, and CLR people who have EA Forum accounts.
I'm sharing it in stages to limit the number of people who have to point out the same issue to me.
Something else I hope you'll update is the claim in that section that GiveWell estimates that it costs the Against Malaria Foundation $7,500 to save a life.
The archived version of the GiveWell page you cite does not support that claim; it states the cost per life saved of AMF is $5,500. (It looks like earlier archives of that same page do state $7,500 (e.g. here), so that number may have been current while the piece was being drafted.)
Additionally, the $5,500 number, which is based on GiveWell's Aug. 2017 estimates (click here and ... (read more)
Hi Arden and the 80,000 Hours team,
Thank you for the excellent content that you produce for the EA community, especially the podcasts.
There is one issue that I want to raise. I gave serious thought to raising this via your survey, but I think it is better raised publicly.
In your article "The case for reducing extinction risk" (which is linked to in your "Key ideas" article), you write:
Here are some very rough and simplified figures to show how this could be possible. It seems plausible to us that $100 billion spent on reducing extinctio
While I have made substantial progress on the draft, it is still not ready to be circulated for feedback.
I have shared the draft with Aaron Gertler to show that it is a genuine work in progress.
Thanks Ben. There is actually at least one argument in the draft for each alternative you named. To be honest, I don't think you can get a good sense of my 26,000 word draft from my 570 word comment from two years ago. I'll send you my draft when I'm done, but until then, I don't think it's productive for us to go back and forth like this.
Thanks Pablo and Ben. I already have tags below each argument for what I think it is arguing against. I do not plan on doing two separate posts as there are some arguments that are against longtermism and against the longtermist case for working to reduce existential risk. Each argument and its response are presented comprehensively, so the amount of space dedicated to each is based mostly on the amount of existing literature. And as noted in my comment above, I am excerpting responses to the arguments presented.
FWIW I'd still favour two posts (or if you were only going to one, focusing on longtermism). I took a quick look at the original list, and I think they divide up pretty well, so you wouldn't end up with many reasons that should appear on both lists. I also think it would be fine to have some arguments appear on both lists.
In general, I think conflating the case for existential risk with the case for longtermism has caused a lot of confusion, and it's really worth pushing against.
For instance, many arguments that undermine existential risk actually imply we
As an update, I am working on a full post that will excerpt 20 arguments against working to improve the long-term future and/or working to reduce existential risk as well as responses to those arguments. The post itself is currently at 26,000 words and there are six planned comments (one of which will add 10 additional arguments) that together are currently at 11,000 words. There have been various delays in my writing process but I now think that is good because there have been several new and important arguments that have been developed in the past year. My goal is to begin circulating the draft for feedback within three months.
Judging from the comment, I expect the post to be a very valuable summary of existing arguments against longtermism, and am looking forward to reading it. One request: as Jesse Clifton notes, some of the arguments you list apply only to x-risk (a narrower focus than longtermism), and some apply only to AI risk (a narrower focus than x-risk). It would be great if your post could highlight the scope of each argument.
For those who are curious,
Thank you to you and the 80,000 Hours team for the excellent content. One issue that I've noticed is that a relatively large number of pages state that they are out of date (including several important ones). This makes me wonder why it is that 80,000 Hours does not have substantially more employees. I'm aware that there are issues with hiring too quickly, but GiveWell was able to expand from 18 full-time staff (8 in research roles) in April 2017 to 37 staff today (13 in research roles and 5 in content roles). Is the reason that 80,000 Hou... (read more)
Hi there, I think how quickly to hire is a really complex question. It would be best to read the notes on how quickly we think we should expand each of our programmes in our annual review as well as some of the comments in the summary.
Just quickly on the comparison with GiveWell, I think we're on a fairly similar trajectory to them, except that GiveWell started 4-5 years earlier, so it might be more accurate to compare us to GiveWell in 2015. We are planning to reach ~25 staff, though it will take several more years. Another difference is that we allocate
It seems to me that there are two separate frameworks:
1) the informal Importance, Neglectedness, Tractability framework best suited to ruling out causes (i.e. this cause isn't among the highest priority because it's not [insert one or more of the three]); and
2) the formal 80,000 Hours Scale, Crowdedness, Solvability framework best used for quantitative comparison (by scoring causes on each of the three factors and then comparing the total).
Treating the second one as merely a formalization of the first one can be unhelpful when thinking through th... (read more)
In his blog post "Why Might the Future Be Good," Paul Christiano writes:
What natural selection selects for is patience. In a thousand years, given efficient natural selection, the most influential people will be those who today cared what happens in a thousand years. Preferences about what happens to me (at least for a narrow conception of personal identity) will eventually die off, dominated by preferences about what society looks like on the longest timescales.
(Please read all of "How Much Altruism Do We Expect?" for the full context.)
Thanks Lucy! Readers should note that Elie's answer is likely partly addressed to Lucy's question.
What are your thoughts on the argument that the track record of robustly good actions is much better than that of actions contingent on high uncertainty arguments? (See here and here at 34:38 for pushback.)
Should non-suffering focused altruists cooperate with suffering-focused altruists by giving more weight to suffering than they otherwise would given their worldview (or given their worldview adjusted for moral uncertainty)?
Has your thinking about donor coordination evolved since 2016, and if so, how? (My main motivation for asking is that this issue is the focus of a chapter in a recent book on philosophical issues in effective altruism though the chapter appears to be premised on this blog post, which has an update clarifying that it has not represented GiveWell's approach since 2016.)
How confident are you that the solution to infinite ethics is not discounting? How confident are you that the solution to the possibility of an infinitely positive/infinitely negative world automatically taking priority is not capping the amount of value we care about at a level low enough to undermine longtermism? If you're pretty confident about both of these, do you think additional research on infinites is relatively low priority?
What do you think is the strongest argument against working to improve the long-term future? What do you think is the strongest argument against working to reduce existential risk?
(This comment assumes GiveWell would broadly agree with a characterization of its worldview as consequentialist.) Do you agree with the view that, given moral uncertainty, consequentialists should give some weight to non-consequentialist values? If so, do you think GiveWell should give explicit weight to the intrinsic value of gender equality apart from its instrumental value? And if yes, do you think that, in consider the moral views of the communities that GiveWell operates in, it would make sense to give substantially more weight to the views of women t... (read more)
There are many ways that technological development and economic growth could potentially affect the long-term future, including:
Do you think that "a panel of superforecasters, after being exposed to all the arguments [about existential risk], would be closer to [MacAskill's] view [about the level of risk this century] than to the median FHI view"? If so, should we defer to such a panel out of epistemic modesty?
How much uncertainty is there in your case for existential risk? What would you put as the probability that, in 2100, the expected value of a substantial reduction in existential risk over the course of this century will be viewed by EA-minded people as highly positive? Do you think we can predict what direction future crucial considerations will point based on what direction past crucial considerations have pointed?
What do you think of applying Open Phil's outlier opportunities principle to an individual EA? Do you think that, even in the absence of instrumental considerations, an early career EA who thinks longtermism is probably correct but possibly wrong should choose a substantial chance of making a major contribution to increasing access to pain relief in the developing world over a small chance of making a major contribution to reducing GCBRs?
Is the cause area of reducing great power conflict still entirely in the research stage or is there anything that people can concretely do? (Brian Tse's EA Global talk seemed to mostly call for more research.) What do you think of greater transparency about military capabilities (click here and go to 24:13 for context) or promoting a more positive view of China (same link at 25:38 for context)? Do you think EAs should refrain from criticizing China on human rights issues (click here and search the transcript for "I noticed that over the last few ... (read more)
In an 80,000 Hours interview, Tyler Cowen states:
I don't think we'll ever leave the galaxy or maybe not even the solar system.
. . .
I see the recurrence of war in human history so frequently, and I’m not completely convinced by Steven Pinker [author of the book Better Angels of Our Nature, which argues that human violence is declining]. I agree with Steven Pinker, that the chance of a very violent war indeed has gone down and is going down, maybe every year, but the tail risk is still there. And if you let the clock tick out f
What are your thoughts on these questions from page 20 of the Global Priorities Institute research agenda?
How likely is it that civilisation will converge on the correct moral theory given enough time? What implications does this have for cause prioritisation in the nearer term?
How likely is it that the correct moral theory is a ‘Theory X’, a theory radically different from any yet proposed? If likely, how likely is it that civilisation will discover it, and converge on it, given enough time? While it remains unknown, how can we properly hedg
Do you think there are any actions that would obviously decrease existential risk? (I took this question from here.) If not, does this significantly reduce the expected value of work to reduce existential risk or is it just something that people have to be careful about (similar to limited feedback loops, information hazards, unilateralist's curse etc.)?
In the new 80,000 Hours interview of Toby Ord, Arden Koehler asks:
Arden Koehler: So I’m curious about this second stage: the long reflection. It felt, in the book, like this was basically sitting around and doing moral philosophy. Maybe lots of science and other things and calmly figuring out, how can we most flourish in the future? I’m wondering whether it’s more likely to just look like politics? So you might think if we come to have this big general conversation about how the world should be, our most big general public conversation
The GPI Agenda mentions "Greg Lewis, The not-so-Long Reflection?, 2018" though as of six months ago that piece was in draft form and not publicly available.
With respect to the necessity of a constitutional amendment, I agree with you on presidential elections but respectfully disagree as to congressional elections.
For presidential elections, the proposal with the most traction is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which requires compacting states to give their electoral votes to the presidential ticket with a plurality of votes nationwide but only takes effect after states collectively possessing a majority of all electoral votes join the compact. Proponents argue that it is constitutional (with ma... (read more)
The 80,000 Hours career review on UK commercial law finds that "while almost 10% of the Members of Parliament are lawyers, only around 0.6% have any background in high-end commercial law." I have been unable to find any similar analysis for the US. Do you know of any?
This makes me feel more strongly that there should be a separate career advice organization focused on near term causes. (See here for my original comment proposing this idea.)
A near term career advice organization could do the following:
Write in-depth problem profiles on causes that could be considered to be among the most pressing from a near term perspective but that are not considered to be among the most pressing from a long term perspective (e.g. U.S. criminal justice reform, developing country mental health, policy approaches to global poverty, fo
Is It Better to Blog or Formally Publish? by Brian Tomasik
Why I Usually Don't Formally Publish My Writings by Brian Tomasik
Would it be possible to introduce a coauthoring feature? Doing so would allow both authors to be notified of new comments. The karma could be split if there are concerns that people would free ride.
[Criminal Justice Reform Donation Recommendations]
I emailed Chloe Cockburn (the Criminal Justice Reform Program Officer for the Open Philanthropy Project) asking what she would recommend to small donors. She told me she recommends Real Justice PAC. Since contributions of $200 or more to PACs are disclosed to the FEC, I asked her what she would recommend to a donor who wants to stay anonymous (and whether her recommendation would be different for someone who could donate significantly more to a 501(c)(3) than a 501(c)(4) for tax reasons). She told me that s... (read more)
Do you know if this platform allows participants to go back? (I assumed it did, which is why I thought a separate study would be necessary.)