SoGive conducts research like this as part of its moral weights process.
Our first such study was last year and focused primarily on how much people value
We invested less effort in, but also explored
We were interested in comparing them against each other, and in a quantitative comparison (i.e. how much is one valued more than another)
We were motivated to conduct this research because our work is intended to serve a broad audience, and we wanted to incorporate the perspective of the population as a whole.
Because the questions we wanted to answer were quantitative, we posed quantitative questions in the survey. We found that several respondents gave answers which did not seem consistent, when consistency checks where included in the survey. This is a key challenge for this type of work, and suggests that a slightly more indirect approach to answering the questions may be more effective.
I believe I had a chat with an EA group at Harvard who said they were doing exactly this. I seem to remember thinking that it would be valuable for RCTs to be made available to NGOs more cheaply. If I remember correctly, this was the group:
In order for us to be safe from future pandemics, it's really important we don't overindex on the pandemics of the past (or the present).
SARS-CoV-2 doesn't really spread through surfaces/fomites much, if at all.
I'm sure the linked post is right to say that this is also true of "several respiratory pathogens".
However I'd be surprised if it were true of all respiratory pathogens, let alone other diseases. Gastric/diarrhoeal diseases such as norovirus, rotavirus, or, indeed, ebola can spread through fomite transmission.
In short, I disagree that airborne transmission of viruses is the only way that pandemics can ever arise.
I would love to see Santa become more longtermist.
I think Santa should be more anti-speciesist.
Santa could do more as an impact investor too.
Santa could also do more in terms of short-termist happiness.
Santa could also do more charity entrepreneurship.
There was a period around 2016-18 when I took this idea very seriously.
This led to probably around 1 year's worth of effort spent on seeking funds from sources who didn't understand why tackling EA issues was so important. This was mostly a waste of my time and theirs.
The formula isn't just:
Impact of taking money from a high-impact funder = impact you achieve minus impact achieved by what they would have funded otherwise
Instead it's :
Impact of taking money from a high-impact funder = impact you achieve minus impact achieved by what they would have funded otherwise plus the amount of extra work you get done by not having spend time seeking funding
SoGive piloted charity gift cards some years ago.
Our charity donations product worked as follows:
The successful bits:
The less successful bits
We then experimented with the model. We tried a different product where the gift recipient receives 50% charity donation, 50% Amazon gift voucher. This was more successful, in that the amount of charity donations generated at least exceeded the advertising costs. However this was not sufficient -- we had set a more demanding goal than this, and it did not reach that target.
We did not target the EA community, as we were aiming for impact, and didn't want to target users whose counterfactuals involved donating to high impact charities anyway.
Hi Iris Amazon, thank you for your interest in helping the Amazon rainforest in the most effective way possible.
I founded SoGive, an organisation which aims to help donors get EA-based answers to questions such as these. We have not done a careful review of this question, so this comment is off-the-cuff.
I suspect that the best way to help the rainforest is probably to support an animal welfare charity.
My best guess is that the Good Food Institute is best charity to donate to for this. In case I haven't made it clear enough thus far, this is a caveated recommendation.
Good Food Institute (GFI)
GFI works to accelerate alternative protein innovation (i.e. plant-based meat or cultivated/lab-made meat). It does this through lobbying, research and other activities.
We have not done a review of GFI. You can find the Animal Charity Evaluators review of GFI here. I cannot vouch for the quality of Animal Charity Evaluators because we haven't reviewed their work carefully enough yet, although we plan to.
A major downside of GFI is that their work will take time, and may not be suitable if you seek immediate impact.
Why GFI and not another animal charity?
As this comment is not a rigorous review, I can't be confident that GFI is the best choice. However, I looked briefly at the Animal-Charity-Evaluators-recommended charities, and observed that their recommendations tend to help animals like chickens, or perhaps fish, but less so cows. This makes sense given that Animal Charity Evaluators focuses on animal welfare, which is much worse for industrially farmed chicken than for most ruminants, such as cows. GFI's work is more systemic and therefore could impact cows as well.
It is certainly possible that another charity is more effective at preventing cattle ranching without me knowing about it. A fuller review would explore this question further.
Is tackling animal product demand definitely the right choice?
Just because we have a chart showing that most of the Amazonian deforestation is caused by cattle ranching, that doesn't necessarily mean that stopping the cattle ranching will stop the deforestation.
For example, it may be that the land will continue to be sought after, but for another purpose (e.g. I understand that palm oil mostly happens in other rainforest-rich countries at the moment, but that there are plans afoot to increase palm oil production in Brazil).
This is yet another area which would need a fuller review in order to have confidence in the recommendation.
If the recommendation turns out to be wrong, I suspect that this is most likely to be the cause.
Why not a charity which works directly to counter deforestation?
It may seem counter-intuitive to suggest a charity which doesn't directly work with rainforests. Below I set out some specific examples of charities working directly with rainforests. We haven't done a full review of all such charities.
However several interventions working with rainforest protection suffer from risks such as leakage (aka displacement; i.e. if you protect one area of rainforest, will the logger simply go elsewhere). Also the weakness of land rights may render some rainforest preservation methods less effective.
This isn't to say that all rainforest conservation work is doomed to failure, only that it's hard, and that we haven't found decent evidence of a rainforest charity overcoming these hurdles.
SoGive has written a shallow, public-information-only review on WWF, which can be found here:
You may find the write-up interesting for its summary of WWF's work, but in short it found that we don't have enough information to form a view on WWF's effectiveness.
An assessment of "more information needed" might sound like it doesn't tell us much, however donors in the EA movement often have a sceptical prior on charity impact (i.e. they believe that achieving impact is hard, and in the absence of evidence we should likely assume that the charity isn't achieving much impact).
Assuming that you too share this sceptical prior, then you may be interested in a charity which is supported by the EA community. The EA community largely supports a recommendation of a donation to GFI, however here are a couple of other EA recommendations:
Founders Pledge (an EA-aligned group whose analysis I have partially reviewed and believe to be generally good) used to recommend donations to Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN). CfRN runs a scheme called REDD+, which allows donors to donate to prevent deforestation.
SoGive wrote a report on why we were more cautious than Founders Pledge about the CfRN recommendation.
Since then, I understand that Founders Pledge no longer recommends CfRN (I'm not claiming that their change is caused by the SoGive report; if you want to know why their opinion changed it's best to ask them).
There are further concerns about REDD+ which were not fully outlined in that report, such as the nuances of determining the reference level / counterfactual (i.e. the thorny question of what would have happened to the forests otherwise).
However it is useful to recognise some positives: there is a real lack of carbon offset schemes that are effective at scale, and REDD+ could be that solution, especially since it's recognised by the UN and built into the Paris Agreement.
Cool Earth used to be recommended by Giving What We Can when they did charity analysis. Cool Earth aims to protect rainforests by supporting the indigenous communities living in the rainforests.
We at SoGive believe that certain elements of the GWWC analysis were not given enough credit, as set out here. For example, it didn't give enough credit to what displacement / leakage.
One might imagine that if Cool Earth expanded enough, there would be so much rainforest protected that loggers would have nowhere to go. The fact that only 20% of rainforest is inhabited by indigenous peoples suggests that for at least some types of logger, this isn't credible.
One thing that confused me about the game/ritual was that I had the power to inflict a bad thing, but there was no obvious upside.
All I had to do was ignore the email, which seemed too easy.
This seems to be a bad model for reality. People who control actual nuclear buttons perceive that they get some upside from using them (even if it's only the ability to bolster your image as some kind of "strong-man" in front of your electorate).
Perhaps an alternative version could allow those who use the "nuclear" codes to get an extra (say) 30 karma points if they use the codes?
When I started thinking about these issues last year, my thinking was pretty similar to what you said.
I thought about it and considered that for the biggest risks, investors may have a selfish incentive to avoid to model and manage the impacts that their companies have on the wider world -- if only because the wider world includes the rest of their own portfolio!
It turns out I was not the first to think of this concept, and its name is Universal Ownership. (I've described it on the forum here)
Universal Ownership doesn't go far enough, in my view, but it's a step forward compared to where we are today, and gives people an incentive to care about social impacts (or social "profits")
As I alluded to in a comment to KHorton's related post, I believe SoGive could grow to spend something like this much money.
SoGive's core idea is to provide EA style analysis, but covering a much more comprehensive range of charities than the charities currently assessed by EA charity evaluators.
As mentioned there, benefits of this include:
Full disclosure: I founded SoGive.
This short comment is not sufficient to make the case for SoGive, so I should probably right up something more substantial.