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AMA: Toby Ord @ EA Global: Reconnect

When thinking about the likelihood of different existential risks, how does your thinking process differ for assigning subjective versus objective probabilities? (i.e. how do you think about asteroid impacts vs. AI safety?) Do you have concerns about assigning subjective probabilities to low-probability events that lack clear feedback loops?

Why we should grow One for the World chapters alongside EA student groups

Hi, Brian! Thanks for your great questions! 

  1. According to OFTW's 2020 annual report, 61% of undergraduates, 68% of MBA grads, and 71% of law students activate their pledges. (Or 64% of overall pledges.) One of OFTW's focus for the upcoming year is to reduce the number of pledges dropping off and increase the percentage that donors give on average. Right now, many students are pledging less than 1%. 
  2. I know OFTW has private dashboards so that chapter leaders like me can track how many people have pledged, how much they're giving, etc, but there's no public equivalent to this. Most OFTW chapters instead try to locally create those social incentives through highlighting who takes the pledge on their social media pages or allowing students to add the pledge to their LinkedIn. 
  3. The pledge is essentially a subscription service, so students can modify, delay, or cancel their pledge anytime through the donational platform we use. The pledge is just a verbal commitment as opposed to a legal one. 
  4. I'm not sure but I can try and find out the answer to this question and get back to you! I'd imagine that OFTW will remain focused on global health & development, but there does seem to be some great opportunities either to create alternative cause-area specific pledges in the animal welfare/longtermist spaces or a general cause-neutral pledge. 
Why we should grow One for the World chapters alongside EA student groups

Hi, Vaidehi! Thanks for your response :) 

I agree with your point that helping to grow EA is a much more difficult goal of OFTW and that it'll be difficult to maintain the relationship between EA and OFTW at universities.  

In regard to your first point, the strength and success of any student group is highly variable and dependent on the quality of the group's leader. Particularly when there are two groups involved, the likelihood of one of them having a mediocre/poor leader increases. The main way I can see group leaders mitigating this risk is through ensuring that they have a strong successor identified early on and that the successor is actively involved in maintaining the relationship between EA and OFTW (even better if they're involved in both clubs). 

As far as increasing the risk of misleading impressions, I believe this is something OFTW chapters will have to consider on an individual basis. At Brown, I'm not concerned since we have a  great introductory fellowship program I can direct our OFTW club  members towards. I think this is a lot trickier at universities that have a OFTW chapter but not an EA student group, or where the EA student group is poorly-run. Then more of the responsibility falls on the OFTW leader to reduce those risks. My biggest concern is frankly when the EA student group has poor leadership - in that instance, many people may have negative views or misperceptions of EA independent of their involvement with OFTW. 

Lastly, I hope OFTW/EA can answer your questions soon! To my knowledge, I'm not aware of any ongoing efforts to track the relationship between OFTW and EA student groups. (Maybe this is something OFTW headquarters has looked into or it merits independent research?) Since OFTW has essentially doubled its number of chapters over the last year, I'd guess that many colleges that have both an EA and OFTW club don't yet have strong  relationships. I'm not also aware of what percentage of OFTW organizers are knowledgeable about EA, but I agree that it would be beneficial to have OFTW organizers familiar with EA. 

Why we should grow One for the World chapters alongside EA student groups

I definitely agree that OFTW should encourage students to give at least as much as the average American (if not more). However, I think from the standpoint of getting college students who don't yet have a substantial income to pledge to donate a significant percentage of their income, asking students to pledge ~3% would be significantly harder. Most people I talk to are already very risk averse to committing to give away even 1% of their income.  (I'd imagine this would be different if OFTW is reaching out to young professionals who already have a salary.)

 I believe OFTW headquarters is also in the process of evaluating the best ways to reach out to existing pledges to encourage them to give more. (I'm also only a chapter leader though so I'm not very knowledgeable about this.) Getting people to pledge to give 1% of their income can be a stepping stone on the way to pledge upwards of 10%. As OFTW's small-scale qualitative interviews showed, 5/32 pledges also took the GWWC pledge. Obviously 32 people isn't a very large sample size to determine causation vs. correlation and draw statistically significant conclusions from, but it does point to  OFTW's potential to make people think more seriously about how much and where they give. Hopefully as OFTW grows older and expands, it'll be able to gather better data on longterm pledges and the organization's ability to increase how much individuals give!