Executive Director of the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative
Thanks for publishing this! Are you planning to release a list of wishes/bottlenecks to which you didn't have a response?
It's BERI fun to make puns like this, they've always been BERI popular among BERI employees.
In accordance with best practices, BERI will be changing our name from "Initiative" to "Institute" and our acronym from "BERI" to "BERI 1".
There is probably a version of this that works. I know that some orgs have tried something sort of like this. One problem with "hire contractors who aren't value-aligned to do various things" is that you then have to manage those people (whether they're value-aligned or not). This is getting outside the scope of your original question, but I think people underestimate how much it can drag on an organization to hire new people without thinking hard about their onboarding. If you have a very well-defined task, with a clear deliverable, then it can make sense to contract it out. But if you just have a problem and need help, often bringing on a new person to solve that will make things worse in the long run.
One general answer and one specific answer. (Numbering is my own and doesn't correspond to your questions.)
I see, thanks! Any ideas why? Maybe just because you have more clients now, and larger groups tend to have lower response rates for this sort of thing?
Great write-up. Thanks for doing this, and thanks for your work!
You mentioned that "Over the past year and a half, a smaller fraction of people responded to the survey," but I don't think you report what those percentages are? The closest I can see is "200+ clients" and all the various n values, which seem to peak around 60. But you don't report your current number of clients, so I can't take much from these data. Can you report approximately what fraction of people responded in 2020 vs previous years?
I don't consider Open Phil to be an example of Earning to Give. My understanding is that basically all of their funding comes from Dustin Moskowitz's Facebook stock. He completed his work on Facebook before taking the Giving Pledge, so his primary earning activities were not chosen in the spirit of Earning to Give.
It's also not clear to me that the EA Funds are examples of EtG. The EA Funds take frequent donations, and my impression is that they have many donors. At least, I don't see any evidence that the donors are purposefully Earning to Give (i.e. that they chose their jobs as a way to maximize earnings with a plan to donate).
It's possible that you and I have different definitions of EtG. Mark's post doesn't explicitly define it. Wikipedia's definition does not seem to include "normal" donors who give, say, 10% of their not-super-large income.
These examples might not be critical to your first point, but I think you would need to provide other examples of grantmakers that are more obviously funded by EtG (e.g. by evaluating Matt Wage's personal grantmaking).
I think that overall this is a great post, and that you've made serious progress towards concretizing some vague concerns I have about EtG.
For me, the most striking point was:
Given the current lack of infrastructure to make use of unaligned individuals, the benefits of hiring such people is low. This analysis recommends building infrastructure that allows for money to be used more effectively, e.g. increasing the management and training capacity of existing organizations.
I had not heard this before reading your post, and it feels novel and useful to me. I don't think it's true for all roles, but I like it as a way to think about some roles.
Two things in the post confused me.
However, due to communication and managerial overhead, two people will do less than twice the work of one person or cost more than twice as much. One person with twice the talent is more valuable than two people, just like an iPhone 15 is more valuable than two iPhone 12s.
The purpose of hiring two people isn't just to do twice the amount of work. Two people can complement each other, creating a team which is better than the sum of their parts. Even two people with the same job title are never doing exactly the same work, and this matters in determining how much value they're adding to the firm. I think this works against the point you're making in this passage. Do you account for this somewhere else in your post, and/or do you think it affects your overall point?
You use the word "talent" a lot, and it's not clear to me what you mean by that word. Parts of the post seems to assume that talent is an identifiable quantity, in principle measurable on a single scale. I think that many (most?) real world cases don't work like this. To me, "talent" is a vast array of incommensurable qualities. Some are quantifiable, some are not. In practice, the market attempts to rectify this by (implicitly) assigning monetary value to all these quantities and adding them up—your post argues convincingly that it regularly fails to do so.
But if we can't really even measure talent to begin with, what are we even talking about when we talk about talent? What do you mean when you say "talent"?
I am grateful for the internet. Without it, a surprisingly large chunk of my chosen life activities would be either impossible or way harder. Especially in 2020!