2371Joined Jun 2015


Answer by SanjayDec 01, 202220

SoGive ran a grants programme earlier this year, and we plan to publish an update explaining how it went (should be published in the next few days). 

We would be happy to:

  • have a chat with funders who want to run their own grants process
  • incorporate funds into our next grants round (which likely won't happen until next summer, assuming it goes ahead)

I've signed up, and I like the idea of having an EA-inspired storybook for my daughter.

This would be more exciting if there were evidence that the values underlying the storybooks that children read influence their attitudes in adulthood. My prior, based on the fact that I remember nothing of the books I read with my parents as a toddler, is that it has minimal impact. I'd also be surprised if evidence of high enough quality existed (i.e. evidence which successfully disentangled the fact that parents who want to read their children books which promote certain values also probably have those values and promote those values in other ways).

Having said that, it didn't stop me from signing up, so I hope you produce lovely books!

I ended up answering "pass/unsure" to almost everything.

Lots of the time, it was because I thought the statement was ambiguous.

There was a space at the bottom where I could add a comment, but I wasn't clear on whether the comment I would add would be attached to the statement I was voting on, or whether it would create a new standalone statement

I've been interested in seeing more research on this, so thank you for writing it.

Your main argument

I'm sympathetic to your claim, namely:

"Population growth is unlikely to be the best way of keeping humanity safe from extinction risks"

From what I remember of reading WWOTF,  I didn't get the impression that MacAskill was claiming that it was the best way. (I might be misremembering) Rather, I thought his argument was:

"In a world where many people having fewer children is better for humanity's longterm future, Will thinks the sign is probably the other way round"

Your 50% model

I thought your claim of a 50% chance of artificial people this millennium was interesting. I tried following your guesstimate model but it was a struggle to review it. Perhaps a separate write-up focusing on this would be of value?

I'm sympathetic to Robi's claim that growth rates may be a superexponential function of population. I suspect that the argument around people bouncing ideas off each other might be just one of the mechanisms.

I don't want to try to articulate all of those mechanisms here, but here's another one:

  • Imagine some proportion (e.g. 1%) of the population has some issue which is holding back their productivity (e.g. an illness or way of working which could be improved with a productivity app)
  • If the total population is small, then resolving that need may be unfeasible because the addressable market is small
  • However in a larger population this issue could be resolved, enabling that proportion of the population to be more productive

I'm pleased to see this sort of policy research happening. Thank you.

This category doesn't seem to fit into the taxonomy you set out, but I'd be interested in subsidies for practices which:

(a) improve animal welfare

(b) are profit-neutral (or even actually more profitable) for farmers

I understand that such things exist (perhaps when it comes to fish welfare, and maybe other animals too?) -- this isn't my area though.

Such subsidies have the advantage that they are more likely to lead to adoption, and are less prone to political whims (e.g. if a new goverment removes the subsidy, farmers are unlikely to undo the practice).


Note that this depends on the "unit of action" for the organisation. E.g. for AMF, it may be that $2,000 is enough to do another distribution of bednets (I haven't checked this). In which case the value of donations probably does scale linearly (at least when comparing a $2,000 donation and a $200,000 donation). But the non-linearity point would be valid if we were comparing $20 with $2,000 (i.e. $2,000 would be more than 100x as valuable as $20).

However for lots of organisations the "unit of action" is the amount of money needed to fund another person's salary, in which case the non-linearity point would apply in the example I gave ($2,000 vs $200,000).

Obviously all of this is assuming favourable Room For More Funding conditions -- i.e. that we have not yet hit diminishing marginal returns on donations.

Also, the point about "money has a time value" hides lots of detail which I haven't gone into here, but can do if someone requests it.

I think this post misses something: the impact of a donation is typically a nonlinear function of donation size. 

Specifically, a donation of (say)  $200,000 typically achieves more than 100x more impact than a donation of $2,000. 


Because with $200,000, a charity can take meaningful actions now, whereas with $2,000 the funds will likely sit in the charity's bank account until the charity has built up enough funds from other sources to use the money meaningfully.  

And money has a time value.

Sorry for the slow reply. I agree with this version of the statement in italics: 

Fiduciary duty seems to be an obstacle, and could be significantly raising the costs of shareholder activism in some circumstances. That said, it needn't make the costs prohibitively high in the right circumstances. Significant shareholder activism still seems to be possible under current laws and norms, at least on climate change.

Indeed, I'd go further and argue that at least for some actions, it can be not only consistent with fiduciary duties (or even a requirement of fiduciary duties; at least according some lawyers). I think it's useful to distinguish between different types of investor/asset owner. If the asset owner is (say) a high net worth individual in the EA movement, or a pension scheme which is culturally particularly interested in impact, then I'd agree with what you said in the original post, at least according to some reports from law firms. However in practice, for most other asset owners (i.e. ~all of the financial system) fiducary duties are a real issue because (a) some trustees will be uncertain about whether impactful actions could contradict fiduciary duties (b) others will have animosity to impactful actions, and will use fiduciary duties as an excuse to oppose them.

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