Seth Ariel Green

Researcher-Writer @ glodollar.org
Working (6-15 years of experience)

Bio

Devotee of two ATs (the Appalachian Trail and Adventure Time)

Comments
57

Thanks for asking this, the comments surfaced some criticisms of ACE that I wasn't aware of.

I split my 2022 animal welfare contributions between ACE and Direct Action Everywhere, with more going to ACE; I agree with a commenter below that they're the best we have. Still good to be aware of some common criticisms and concerns.

If you’re comfortable with a level of abstraction away from direct aid, JPAL does a lot of work in India implementing and evaluating the interventions that become opportunities for effective giving:

https://www.povertyactionlab.org/

I’m afraid I am giving the obvious answer here, but whether EAs, or anyone, should buy a home is a complex question that is hard to answer in the general case.

I personally might buy a home in a few years if I have access to artificially low interest rates on lines of credit (backed/guarantees by the US government, which is what makes the rates artificially low). It’s possible that that would increase rather than decrease my overall potential spending, and therefore charitable giving budget, relative to continuing to rent. Your mileage may vary.

And that’s precisely the point, your mileage may vary. A lot of questions in this category have an implicit “ceteris paribus” clause, and with a big decision like this, the other things that are not equal between all or even most EAs are really important things like relationship status, where you live, plans for kids, etc.

One of the pleasures of liaising with EAs on Glo's behalf is how quickly the conversations advance to the "frontier" of issues that we are currently debating or have debated extensively. This is a good example.

Section 3 of the previously linked-to Glo EA post outlines the intended stages of Glo's growth, starting with stablecoin use cases and then moving to savings accounts. I wrote that section and I meant it as a chronological roadmap, meaning the DeFi use case would come first in a sequence. As you observed, that nuance has been lost on the Glo homepage. We're in the middle of redesigning the website to be more CTA (call to action)-focused in light of Glo's impending release. If I had my druthers we would focus more on established stablecoin use cases and less on getting new people into crypto for the reasons you outlined.  I didn't feel that way three months ago -- in fact I wrote a Twitter thread on getting started with crypto that we published like two weeks before FTX collapsed. Shows what I know.

 I currently own about $30 of crypto. I am lucky to live in a country with trusted (trustworthy?) third parties, which, as you point out in another comment, is not something everyone can say. But it does mean that stablecoins solve no obvious problem for me.  So once Glo is released, my plan is to buy up to $100 a month. I'll try to spend on groceries and such, with the intent to not hold more than $100 at a time until I think the risk profile is totally negligible and the utility approaches that of regular dollars. If something like that level of commitment makes sense to you, great. If not, no worries. 

As you point out,  Glo's risk profile is partly a function of things Glo (the company) does, but also of how/where Glo is available and how people interact with it. So a different way to approach your question is to ask what safety/risk benchmarks you'd have to see both from Glo and the crypto ecosystem as a whole to feel that the risk profiles of Glo and a "high-yield savings account at an insured bank" were broadly similar? 

I/we have some speculative answers to this but so long as I've got you on the line, I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

As always, thanks for engaging. 

Hi Jason, thanks for the kind words! 

Four separate points here: 1) the stablecoin use case makes sense to you; 2) operating expenses for Glo are low today but likely to be higher in the future after regulation; 3) why crypto versus any other way of implementing the core idea, which is turning some portion of a person's "cash on hand" into an automatically-donating vehicle; and 4) in particular why not an EA-aligned bank (re: credit union) that just donates to GiveDirectly?

RE: 2: We're gonna have to wait and see what specifics shake out. Our overall hope is that by registering as a non-profit, and establishing formal oversight and governance within the established category of 501(c)3, we'll be compliant with whatever comes by default. But this is speculative.

RE: 3-4 We've had this idea and I even wrote up a version of it in a doc called "The case for an effective altruist credit union"  (which I would be happy to share with you if you'd like to DM me an email address). The basic consensus is: stablecoin makes a lot of sense as a first product, because the DeFi market is already huge and, frankly, in need of some better infrastructure (ultimately, stablecoins are infrastructure), so that is a fine beachhead for the overall idea. Second, launching a bank that is broadly available across the world is going to be very, very challenging. Glo the stablecoin is available just about everywhere the moment it's on exchanges.

 But yes, the overall idea of "passive philanthropy" -- generating positive externalities automatically -- has broad implications. We dream of 'philanthriopizing' other sectors of the economy as well (though I'm not sure we'll stick wth the term philanthropize'.)

  Does that make sense?

For what it's worth I think that holding off until Glo is more established is sensible. Others might have a different risk appetite. 

I hope that Glo doesn't come across as trying to ride EA's reputational coattails -- rather I would say that EA-aligned thinking inspired the project and we think that it will be of interest to at least some EAs.

And a note on nomenclature: I think the stablecoin label should only apply to coins that can maintain their peg in the event of a run. It was quite the marketing coup that so many not-so-stable coins got folks to call them stable. I think 'algocoin' would have been more appropriate, but the folks in the  "exchange coordination" signal group have so far failed to consult me on the matter 😃 

I added a caveat about "fully-backed" stablecoins to the comment above in light of your remark, BTW

Hi hi! I think I will respond with the Glo-centric points here and keep my own post more of a personal "my relationship with crypto" story. Thanks for giving the Glo post a close read!

  1. regarding market cap -- as we observe in a previous post, we face a tradeoff in talking about Glo: the entrepreneur class, who we need to keep the lights on, responds well to more maximalist claims (e.g. 11T market cap) and regular folks resonate with more intermediate goals. Were I meeting you at an EA meetup and trying to pitch you on Glo, I'd probably focus on the first of the listed milestones: if Glo became the 4th largest stablecoin at $12B,  we can effectively double GiveDirectly's annual revenue. That feels achievable to me. The top stablecoins out there right now all basically started in the past few years. This is just a matter of competing with the current leaders, and though they have first-mover advantage, at least some of them have glaring drawbacks
  2. Regarding use cases --  I'll touch on this in the post, but I'm more optimistic about future use cases than you are, and less concerned by the lack of anything planetary-scale to date.  And, per my first point, if Glo only becomes a very successful stablecoin for current stablecoin uses (re: DeFi), it would still do a lot of good. So I don't currently worry about this. "Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
  3. I personally struggle with how/if/when we should talk about volatility in the crypto industry. Stablecoins -- so long as they are actually fully-backed! --  are hedges against that volatility.  Plausibly Glo helps ameliorate the overall problem by introducing a stable, fully- and transparently-backed asset into the mix? Though of course the overall volatility, at the tail end, is also a risk to Glo -- something that takes the entire industry out would also take us out. And for sure anyone should go in with eyes open about the quantity and scale of hacks, rug pulls, etc. We talk about this in places but perhaps we can talk about it more.
  4. Regarding reputational risks -- I agree this is a problem. I think it's more fruitful to think about this on a variety of different margins. A non-diversified portfolio is always risky; when EA as a whole suddenly found itself cash-rich because of a small handful of investors, that particular portfolio of reputational associations was extremely risky. With a properly diversified set of investment and reputational associations, associating with a crypto project that's trying to do things right doesn't strike me as especially risky. Your perceptions may vary. But I hope the main point -- it's about the underlying distribution -- makes sense. We've also tried to think through as many of the risks as we can, which we describe in the "Glo smart contracts security and governance" .

Hope this was interesting! I'll follow up when I have my thoughts together about the 'why crypto ain't so bad' thread

Thanks for your fair, candid take on the industry. I agree with some of what you've said and disagree with other parts. 

I work for Glo, an EA-aligned crypto company, so this is near and dear to my heart (or at least to how I spend my working hours! ) I will try to write up a longer response soon, detailing:

1) my personal journey into crypto;

2) how to think about the disconnect between crypto's total value and the comparative dearth of contemporary use cases (we can think of the total market value as representing a distributed bet on future applications, and given how gigantic "money" is as an application, that bet looks good across a pretty wide range of odds);

3)  IMO crypto folks trying to build real things have been all-too-willing to free-ride on the speculation train -- Scott's post argues that the worst thing to ever happen to crypto was for Bitcoin to go up a bajillion percent, and I've been mulling that over for a few days -- and we should collectively try to rein in that mania.

(this essay might change in structure when I actually write it)

Looking forward to engaging further,

Very cool! I did see that and I'd say that was one of the most important wins for reducing animal suffering this past year, which is pretty strong evidence to me that they are an effective charity in the sense of 'gets stuff done'

Plan is 

The total will be about 10% of my annual income.

 the ^ is my approximate probability distribution about what the “right” cause is

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