All of redmoonsoaring's Comments + Replies

We're Rethink Priorities. AMA.

That seems right, but I might be more inclined to push back against this kind of norm. I find on Reddit that I can be quite straightforward and brief, and people don't downvote based on their interpretation of the feelings of the commenter. I would like to encourage that sort of norm on the EAF, rather than the norms that (as I see! and I could be wrong) focus on excessive positivity towards established views of the community as it currently stands.

3Ozzie Gooen2yI generally don't like negativity, including negativity about negativity! (Harsh downvotes on cynical-seeming comments). There are other times where harsh comments get a lot of upvotes; like around Leverage Research. I think many people think that those go a bit too far and seem a bit more intense than the individuals mean. Similar to how you didn't mean your comment to be too harsh, the downvoters probably didn't mean to be too harsh in that signal.
We're Rethink Priorities. AMA.

That sounds right to me and seems consistent with my original comment.

Yep, makes sense. One unfortunate and frustrating thing that I've noticed over the last few years is that lots that gets posted on the forum and similar gets amplified and misunderstood by many people online.

I'm quite sure that you were pretty reasonable, but I would flag that I would guess that at least some readers wouldn't understand the nuance, and may just think something like, "I guess this user is using this as a sarcastic-like take at saying they think that Rethink's work is low quality." When I read your post I personally had a lot of uncertainty

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We're Rethink Priorities. AMA.

Thank you. I was just estimating PhDs based on their bios.

We're Rethink Priorities. AMA.

Thank you. I was just estimating PhDs based on their bios.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
We're Rethink Priorities. AMA.

That sounds broadly correct, but just for clarification, my question was about capacity-building impact, not current spending and research output. For example, RP funding contributes to the research experience of their staff, and RP staff might be considerably less likely to stay in the animal welfare cause area than researchers at other animal charities. So there might be more spillover of this long-term impact than is reflected in the current budget breakdown.

This is especially likely if RP itself shifts its funding allocation in the future.

1MichaelStJules2yAh, my mistake. This is an interesting consideration.
We're Rethink Priorities. AMA.

RP seems to err more towards quantity of research over quality than other organizations. Is this your impression as well? Is this a conscious decision? Do you think other EA research organizations should also steer in that direction, or does it reflect RP's niche?

For example, Global Priorities Institute seems to prioritize high-quality research that will help garner momentum for longtermist work in academia, such as journal articles published by PhDs (compare to RP's large number of blog post research and having, I believe, only one PhD on staff ... (read more)

Thanks for the question! To echo Ozzie, I don't think it's fair to directly compare the quality of our work to the quality of GPI's work given we work in overlapping but quite distinct domains with different aims and target audiences.

Additionally, we haven't prioritized publishing in academic journals, though we have considered it for many projects. We don't believe publishing in academic journals is necessarily the best path towards impact in the areas we've published in given our goals and don't view it as our comparative advantage.

All this said, we don'

... (read more)
1MichaelStJules2yMinor correction: Kim and Jason each have a PhD. Daniela is also working on one.

Relatedly, who is the intended audience of RP research products?

Thanks for the comment!

I just wanted to add my 2 cents. I work at FHI (near GPI) and am separately involved with Rethink Charity, so am involved (somewhat) in both.

I'd agree that Rethink Priorities' work is formatted very differently than that of GPI, but am really not sure I'd say it's lower quality on average. I'd have to spend much more time investigating both to be more sure of either side being "higher in quality" to whatever that could be compared (perhaps, differences in the rates of under-inspection-errors).

My impression is that Rethink Priorities

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We're Rethink Priorities. AMA.

How do you think about your role as a research organization working across different cause areas?

Personally, I have considered donating to Rethink Priorities. But I care a lot about capacity-building with organizations, so I tend to donate to the other animal welfare EA research organizations such as Animal Charity Evaluators and Sentience Institute. My impression is that while RP is currently focused on animal welfare, a substantial part of the impact of my donations might spillover too much into cause areas that are personally less of a priority to me, s... (read more)

We welcome cause-specific donations. 100% of any animal-specific funding is always 100% spent on pro-animal research. Many of our grants have been restricted by cause (for animals, longtermism, or meta work).

We do think there are a lot of benefits to working across causes and there is a lot of transfer of knowledge. For example, quantitative methods used in global health and economic development apply very well to analyzing animal-focused interventions. Additionally, work on animal-focused policy informs our approach to longtermist-focused policy and vice-versa. We think a good amount of our impact as a research organization could come from uncovering these cross-cause insights.

(I have no formal ties to RP.)


Currently, our funding gap through the end of 2021 is $1.79M overall. This consists of gaps of $1.27M for animal research, $337k for longtermism research, and $177k for meta / other research respectively. We do accept and track restricted funds by cause area if that is of interest.

Even if you gave unrestricted funding, most of it (70%, if they allocate funding proportionally) would likely end up in research for animals, anyway. With unrestricted funding, if you think donating to the other orgs is at most ~70% as cost-effe... (read more)

An integrated model to evaluate the impact of animal products

>>There is also more optimism about farm animal lives coming from farmers, who are more familiar with them than anyone else.

I believe this familiarity is a much weaker factor than the bias farmers have to think of themselves as ethical and to justify the industry they work in.

3kbog3yWell we have to count countervailing biases among animal activists and utilitarians too.
3trammell3yNeither here nor there, but while we're counting possible biases, it may also be worth considering the possibilities that * people who conclude that farm animals' lives are good may select into farming, and people who conclude that they're bad may select out, making farmers "more optimistic than others" even before the self-serving bias; and, pointing the other way, * people who enter animal advocacy on grounds other than total utilitarianism could then have some bias against concluding that farm animals have lives above hedonic zero, since it could render their past moral efforts counterproductive (and maybe even kind of embarrassing).
Animal Welfare Fund AMA

Thank you for the comment. I didn't reply because I had hoped other Animal Welfare Fund representatives would respond to the substance of the concern (concentration of power). I don't think we need critics of ACE on the fund committee. I simply believe it would be beneficial to have less concentration of funding in the two entities of ACE and OpenPhil. I believe this is a concern even if one believes ACE and OpenPhil are competent.

Animal Welfare Fund AMA

Quite a few people in the animal welfare and EA spaces are concerned that the two parties ACE and OpenPhil, i.e., ACE staff and Lewis Bollard, control the vast majority of funding in the EAA space, and a very large portion of funding in the farm animal space as a whole.

I had hoped that expanding the Animal Welfare Fund to a committee would address this concern, but 3/4 members are with either ACE or OpenPhil. This seems especially disappointing given criticisms of ACE in the EAA community: 1 ,2 , and 3 .

Why were more non-ACE/non-OpenPhil members not added,... (read more)

2LewisBollard3yThanks for the feedback on this. I explained my thinking on selecting ACE staff for the fund here [] . I wrote, in part: "On reflection, I think I made a mistake in delegating two seats on the Fund to ACE, rather than picking Toni and Jamie independently. My intention was to increase the Fund’s ideological diversity (ACE researchers have a range of viewpoints, and I wanted to avoid the natural bias to pick those who shared mine). But I now think this benefit is outweighed by the harm that the Fund could be misperceived as reflecting ACE’s organizational views or being based on ACE research. ... More importantly, I don’t think your criticisms of ACE reflect on Toni and Jamie’s ability to help the Fund accomplish the goals we established: a wider range of views, a deeper resource of time, and more capacity to monitor impact. Both are smart, have different ideas on how to most effectively fund animal groups within an EA framework, and have much more time than I do to identify new giving opportunities. And both have an open-mindedness and commitment to truth that I think is critical for objectively assessing impact. I agree that the Fund benefits from having a diverse team, but disagree that criticism of ACE is the right kind of ideological diversity. Both Toni and Jamie bring quite different perspectives on how to most cost-effectively help animals within an EA framework (see, for instance, the charities they’re excited about here []). The Fund won’t be funding ACE now they’re onboard, and my guess is that we’ll continue to mostly fund smaller unique opportunities, rather than ACE top or standout charities. So I don’t think people’s views on ACE will be especially relevant to our giving picks here. I see less value to bringing in critics of EA, as many (though not all) of ACE’s critics are, as we'd
Problems with EA representativeness and how to solve it

Thank you for the explanation. I still believe the 2017 and 2018 animal welfare and global poverty line-ups left a lot to be desired, but those years might have been better than 2016 at least in the choice of keynote speaker.

Maybe there could be more transparency in regards to the advisory board, because without knowing those details, I don't know how to evaluate the situation. I do feel concern from CEA's history that the advisory board may favor people with close ties to CEA rather than actual meaningful representation from those fields. But I can't be confident in that without knowing the details.

Fish used as live bait by recreational fishermen

This EA Forum post might be a really good example of how EAs interested in blogging and research can support Open Philanthropy Project. If you have any other ideas for topics like this, Lewis, sharing them could help other EAs help you in other ways.

7LewisBollard3yI agree. I'll aim to put together a list of research Q's I'm interested in and share within the next month. Generally posts of this form - providing data and information on a neglected issue - are the most valuable, though I try to read most EA posts re animal welfare ideas.
Problems with EA representativeness and how to solve it

On the topic of Effective Altruism Global, I'm not just concerned about the lower representation of non-x-risk cause areas, but also the speaker selection for those cause areas. In 2016 as an example, the main animal welfare speaker was a parrot intelligence researcher who seemed, I'm sorry to say this, uninformed about animal welfare, even of birds. I think the animal welfare speakers over the years have been more selected for looking cool to the organizers (who didn't know much about animal welfare) and/or increasing speaker demographic diversity (Not that this is a bad thing, but it's unhelpful to just get diversity in one cause area.), instead of actually having the leading experts on EA and animal welfare.

3Amy Labenz3yI agree that our selection process for animal-focused speakers in 2015 and 2016 left a lot to be desired. In 2017 we began working with advisors from specific fields to be sure we’re reaching out to speakers with expertise on the topics that conference attendees most want to hear about. This year we’ve expanded to a larger advisory board with the hope that we can continue to improve the EA Global content.
Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA

I think thoughtful, rationality-focused people (not just EA, but even, say, young software engineers) can often outperform the average 'expert,' with expertise measured by traditional credentials like having a PhD. There are many biases that pervade academia and other fields (e.g. publication bias, status quo bias, publish or perish incentives), and thoughtful people have often done a lot more than traditional experts to understand and overcome these biases. They also get the benefit of going into a field without as many preconceptions and personal investm... (read more)

Hard-to-reverse decisions destroy option value

For what it's worth, I do agree that's where most of the value comes from, though I think the value is much lower than the value of similar empirical/bold writing, at least for this example.

Hard-to-reverse decisions destroy option value

While I see some value in detailing commonly-held positions like this post does, and I think this post is well-written, I want to flag my concern that it seems like a great example of a lot of effort going into creating content that nobody really disagrees with. This sort of armchair qualified writing doesn't seem to me like a very cost-effective use of EA resources, and I worry we do a lot of it, partly because it's easy to do and gets a lot of positive social reinforcement, to a much greater degree than empirical bold writing tends to get.

4Denis Drescher4yWhile enough people are skeptical about rapid growth and no one (I think) wants so sacrifice integrity, the warning to be careful about politicization of EA is a timely and controversial one because well-known EAs have put a lot of might behind Hillary’s election campaign and the prevention of Brexit to the point that the lines behind private efforts and EA efforts may blur.
4RyanCarey4yI doubly agree here. The title "Hard-to-reverse decisions destroy option value" is hard to disagree with because it is pretty tautological. Over the last couple of years, I've found it to be a widely held view among researchers interested in the long-run future that the EA movement should on the margin be doing less philosophical analysis. It seems to me that it would be beneficial for more work to be done on the margin on i) writing proposals for concrete projects, ii) reviewing empirical literature, and iii) analyzing technological capabilities and fundamental limitations, and less philosophical analysis. Philosophical analysis such as in much of EA Concepts [] and these characterizations of how to think about counterfactuals and optionality are less useful than (i-iii) because they do not very strongly change how we will try to affect the world. Suppose I want to write some EA project proposals. In such cases, I am generally not very interested in citing these generalist philosophical pieces. Rather, I usually want to build from a concrete scientific/empirical understanding of related domains and similar past projects. Moreover, I think "customers" like me who are trying to propose concrete work are usually not asking for these kinds of philosophical analysis and are more interested in (i-iii).
5Owen_Cotton-Barratt4yI think that the value of this type of work comes from: (i) making it easier for people entering the community to come up to the frontier of thought on different issues; (ii) building solid foundations for our positions, which makes it easier to go take large steps in subsequent work. Cf. Olah & Carter's recent post on research debt [].
The 2015 Survey of Effective Altruists: Results and Analysis

I agree with the caveat that the $333 figure is much less worrisome if it's due to a high number of student or people working for nonprofits.

MFA Ad Study Targeting Former Vegetarians

I think the difference in cost per pledge could also be from a large number of existing vegetarians who just wanted the additional information. Also the former vegetarians probably consumed fewer animal foods, which would make converting one to vegetarianism less impactful.

1zdgroff5yI think this is especially likely given that they were targeted based on membership in Facebook groups. Belonging to a Facebook group indicates higher identity formation, and the people who are in more groups and hence are more likely to be currently vegetarian are more likely to be picked up.
3jonathonsmith5yIt's definitely possible that some current vegetarians might have requested the the Vegetarian Starter Guide. A follow up study could probably parse out this variable by having a simple required question for obtaining the VSG (along with their email) asking if they are currently veg, former veg and interested in trying again, or never been vegetarian at all.
6David_Moss5yAlso, even assuming that this did successfully target recidivists (rather than just getting vegetarians to download resources on vegetarianism) we should presumably expect recidivists to be more likely to relapse or be less than 100% vegetarian, thus further reducing the impact.
Being a tobacco CEO is not quite as bad as it might seem

The lives saved by [sic] AMD occur early in life, so AMF saves about 60 QALYs per life.

I'm not sure why people use this estimate, given that the effect of anti-malarial nets is primarily on avoiding the disease itself, the grief of family members, economic costs, and other downsides of having malaria, rather than on creating more years of happy life. This is because population tends to adjust for the death rate, i.e. "I think the best interpretation of the available evidence is that the impact of life-saving interventions on fertility and populatio... (read more)

1redmoonsoaring5yRelevant, []
2Linch6yNot all EAs, or even all utilitarians, believe in total utilitarianism. The person-affecting view is much more intuitive for most people, and by that metric, saving QALYs of people already alive is qualitatively distinct from adding more QALYs by popping out more kids (even after adjusting for the second-order effects).
Notice what arguments aren't made (but don't necessarily go and make them)

I'd say it belongs in the former because it strongly "flatters a large share of readers." Namely, by saying they are better than most other people =P Of course, that's a controversial form of flattering, which is why the 79% upvote makes sense.

Effective Altruism Outreach winter fundraiser

Another reason this claim could be false (which seems more worrisome to me):

Most of the effective altruism movement's success to date has involved helping people already inspired to do good effectively to do it somewhat better, especially by providing a community for them. On Facebook, polls have shown most current EAs immediately latched onto the idea, sought it out on their own, and/or were already working to do the most good.

We have a fairly limited track record of convincing people to do EA things when they weren't otherwise going to do anything close.... (read more)

7AGB6yI'm also pretty sceptical about our ability to expand beyond our 'core constituency' of people who were basically on board in advance. But it's worth noting that that constituency would be many times larger than what we currently have; looking at differences in participation between relatively similar countries (e.g. England versus France) or very similar universities (e.g. Cambridge versus Imperial) really highlights this.
1Kerry_Vaughan6yThis seems plausible. Josh Jacobson has been saying a similar thing under the header of crossing the chasm []. It could be that EA will only be able to attract a small group of early adopters and won't be able to grow to the scale we need to be highly effective.
How important is marginal earning to give?

It's pretty hard to get funding for a new organization, e.g. Spencer and I put a lot of effort into it without much success. The general problem I see is a lack of "angel investing" or its equivalent–the idea of putting money into small, experimental organizations and funding them further as they grow.

I agree with this. Moreover, I think there's a serious lack of funding in the 'fringe' areas of EA like biosecurity, systemic change in global poverty, rationality training, animal rights, or personal development. These areas arguably have the gr... (read more)

0Ben_Kuhn6yAlso, Do you have other evidence on this than Satvik's? Have you also tried to get angel funding or something?
6Ben_Kuhn6yHave the Swiss EA groups tried to raise funding from the broader community? I had no idea they were funding-constrained until you mentioned it.
How valuable is movement growth?

Just to be clear, my comment was disagreeing with this claim:

In addition, veg*nism is associated with strong negative judgements of people.

But to your questions, there's not very robust evidence in either direction that I know of. And I think there's an important distinction between defensiveness and negativity. An example to illustrate this is military service. Most people think highly of military people, but would react with great defensiveness if you suggested they had a moral obligation to join the military. If veganism is similar, then we might ex... (read more)

How valuable is movement growth?

It doesn't seem to me that the proportion of vegans with that approach is higher in communities around EA than in other communities. They don't seem particularly vocal either. I could be wrong.

1xccf6yThese people operate in the San Francisco area and have substantial overlap w/ the EA community there: [] My vague impression is that they've been pretty divisive but I don't have much firsthand knowledge.
How valuable is movement growth?

In addition, veg*nism is associated with strong negative judgements of people. It prompts massive defensiveness and rationalisation on the part of meat eaters for this reason. To the extent that EA is associated with veg*nism, that'll bleed over.

Actually, data suggests most people have positive associations of veg*nism. EA actually seems to have some of the most negativity towards veg*nism that I've seen.

1xccf6yThat might be because some vegans associated with the EA community have a hardline "meat is murder" recruiting strategy, contrasting with typical vegans in the population at large.
0Tom_Ash6yI'd also be interested in your expanding on this - though I'd understand if you don't want to, or don't want to here.
0Tom_Ash6yI'd love to believe that, but that source doesn't seem very reliable or persuasive (one small point: aren't the %s it cites significant overestimates?) Do you have other evidence for it? And do you disagree that suggestions that meat is murder and people are morally obliged to stop eating it provoke massive defensiveness and opposition?
You are a Lottery Ticket

Since so much luck is involved in start-up success, does that mean we might be too focused on creating better EAs when we should be focused more on just creating more EAs? This could apply more broadly than just start-ups, to things like politics, academia, or other forms of influence. Maybe we just need a shotgun approach.

How to save more lives today than in a year of earn-to-give

Thus, I propose we build an epic list of every relevant group at every top university and in the world in general.

This seems like it could be automated. I think I recall Students for Education Reform doing this via mass scraping of emails off websites to create chapters at many universities. I also think I recall THINK (The High Impact Network) did this as well.

0jayd6yWhat did THINK do exactly, and how did it go? Are they still doing it?
1tyleralterman6yMass-scraping is great when you've already identified the webpages to scrap from. Identifying these webpages, however, is half the battle. (We've already combined THINK's list with ours, but thanks for the heads up!) If you know someone at SER, I'd love to chat with them about what their strategy was.
The 2014 Survey of Effective Altruists: Results and Analysis

It's worth noting there was also significant domain expertise on the survey team.

The 2014 Survey of Effective Altruists: Results and Analysis

we know it included people who said they not heard of the term.

People will say anything on surveys. Many respondents go through clicking randomly. You can write a question that says, "Please answer C," and >10% of respondents will still click something other than C.

2Tom_Ash7yThis year it might be worth including a mandatory questions saying something like "Check C to promise not to go through clicking randomly", both as a test and a reminder.
$10k of Experimental EA Funding

The example projects link is not working. Thanks!

0Paul_Christiano7yFixed. Thanks for the heads up.
Animal Charity Evaluators is hiring

I think they would do this if they had more funding. Not sure if they have enough this year, but maybe next year.

Supportive scepticism in practice

Great comment! Coming from a background of more mainstream altruistic circles, I've found appearing confident and avoiding hedging is an important aspect of leadership and inspiring others to join me in my goals.

I think one resolution for this trade-off is to adjust based on the subject matter. When making certain basic claims (e.g. the importance of the far future, giving a public speech about effective altruism), we might want to err on the side of confidence, but when making more tenuous claims (e.g. regarding the effectiveness of Against Malaria Found... (read more)

The Privilege of Earning To Give

Additionally, we live in a time when we have particularly great influence over the long-term direction of humanity, which is another aspect of this important privilege.

The Privilege of Earning To Give

Good to hear this sort of discussion in the effective altruism community. One important privilege/unearned advantage that often goes unrecognized is time. We live in a time of where massive suffering from global poverty and factory farming is coupled with also massive stockpiles of resources, which allows us to be particularly helpful by commandeering these resources for ethical purposes through earning to give, accumulating power and influence, or other means. I greatly admire all who recognize this privilege and take it upon themselves to make use of it.

2redmoonsoaring7yAdditionally, we live in a time when we have particularly great influence over the long-term direction of humanity, which is another aspect of this important privilege.