This looks great! Thanks for setting it up.
Just a heads up, these hyperlinks in the FAQ are broken (and "founderspledge.com" has a typo in the text).
(These are my personal views, not Founders Pledge's.)
I'm out of my depth here too, but there are rules around what DAFs can and can't grant to. My understanding is that once the money is in the DAF, it is committed to the charitable sector at some point.
The DAF-critical people in the NYT article are assuming that it's better to donate money now than in the future. That could be wrong even for people who aren't longtermists, like if you think we're learning more about how to best have an impact in the animal welfare or development space over time. For... (read more)
This might not be a very original question, but how have his views about Big Push approaches to poverty reduction evolved over time? I'd find it interesting to hear a discussion of how (or if) he consciously updates his views as new and often conflicting evidence about such theories emerges over time.
For data on employment programs in poor countries, check out section 2 of this very good review by Blattman and Ralston. They review evaluations of job training programs, a very popular development intervention, and generally find very small or null effects:
“Training” is probably one of the most ubiquitous employment interventions. What is striking, however, is that there are very few examples of evaluated programs that have had positive effects, at least on men. It is even more difficult to find any that pass a cost-benefit test, for men or women. [p. 8]
Y... (read more)
Ogden works with Innovations for Poverty Action (and, incidentally, is on GiveWell's board). I'm not sure he'd identify as a randomista but seems very likely he's favourable to RCTs.
Hi Natasha, I'm really glad you guys are working on this! Thanks for the time and effort you've put in so far.
I wondered if you've discussed things people can do other than emailing MPs - maybe donating to orgs advocating against this change, or getting together to write an op-ed with a public figure?
I bet many people reading this post live in more liberal/urban areas with MPs who are already likely to vote against this measure (e.g. I'm in an incredibly safe Labour seat). I'm also struck and dismayed by the data that a majority of voters from each UK part... (read more)
Some things worth adding might be:
Nice work Devon! This is a great collection of resources. I like the clarity and directness of the document.
I understand that you want to meet people where they are and not push a particular view too hard, but I don't think it would hurt to put more emphasis on the things you think are most impactful. In particular, my guess is that getting a small number of people to change jobs or donate more is more important than getting a larger number of people to become mentors or something like that. So I think it would be good to add a couple of sentences in... (read more)
Thanks for this great comment! I agree with you on neglectedness, I think the field is so broad that by looking at high-level funding we're probably counting a lot of stuff that isn't relevant directly to the question of "would there by impactful work that's currently unfunded?", which is waht we actually care about.
Agree also our list of potential orgs working in the space is a bit random and probably misses some good, relevant funding opportunities. Thanks for the info about ODI and IDinsight, too.
My concern with wading into specific evaluations is less ... (read more)
Hi Marcus, congratulations on the launch of HIA! It looks like you've sourced some of your climate recommendations from us (Founders Pledge). This is great and we're excited for you to use our research, of course! It's worth noting that our 3 current climate recommendations are CATF, Carbon 180, and TerraPraxis. I just want to make sure you're using our most up-to-date research rather than the old report, which is a bit out of date now.
Please do reach out if you have any questions about this, or any of our other recommendations! If you'd like to spea... (read more)
Hi Sanjay, agree this is important. I'll be curious to hear what the NGOs you've reached out to think is the best way to infuence this decision. Given the large Tory majority we'd have to flip quite a few individual MPs to defeat the vote - I wonder if media outreach would also be useful.
I can also think of a few people who are sympathetic to EA, supportive of aid, and might have ideas about waht strategy is best. e.g. might be worth reaching out to Sam Bowman for ideas.
I think that's a bit too pessimistic! Founders Pledge has made some progress on this (link goes to pdf) and I think we can do pretty well by taking a kind of journalistic approach. For example, we can speak to charities, experts, and government officials and see if the charity's claims about who they spoke to and when are true, if the timelines match up, and if it seems like the government would have made changes anway. Check out pp. 8-10 of the linked doc.
I do recognize that this is much more difficult than looking at the results of an RCT. We'll never be... (read more)
Thanks for this thoughtful comment! Thinking about x-risk reduction as giving us more time to grow the economy and alleviate poverty is really interesting.
While I agree the long-term effects are highly uncertain, I think it's important to distinguish catch-up growth from frontier growth. Most growth accelerations in low-income countries bring them from "super poor" to "still pretty poor". People in these countries live more comfortably, but they're usually not getting rich enough to develop geopolitical ambitions that increase x-risk. (China and maybe Indi... (read more)
It also seems like this comment could be made on any post that is not about long-termism, so there doesn't to be anything especially relevant to this post here. If we don't know whether growth is good in the long-term, then we presumably also don't know whether eradicating malaria is either.
Also, I think growth plausibly is good from a long-termist point of view because it shortens the time of perils. It also has lots of beneficial political effects as it prevents zero sum rent seeking and encourages socially valuable activity.
I think it's probably the case that good heuristics for making career decisions are different than good heuristics for making donation decisions. We shouldn't necessarily expect a framework (ITN or otherwise) to be ideal for both.
If someone today decides to work on a certain cause, they strengthen the pipeline of good funding opportunities in that cause. But there's a time lag. Pivoting to work on biosecurity might be a great career decision right now. However funding a person to do that work might not be a great donation until a few years down the road, when they've gained the skills and credentials needed to make an impact.
As another data point, this OECD report says that from 2013-15, half of all philanthropic funding for international development came from the Gates Foundation ($12 billion out of $24 billion total).
Hey Bryan, agree that this is a really interesting cause area in high-income countries. I've written a report on UK planning reform for Founders Pledge. We've recommended London YIMBY, who are working to strengthen Johnson's proposed reforms and design politically-palatable proposals that will actually get through Parliament.
As you know, proper land use reform could have very large welfare benefits so I'm excited to see more work bringing attention to the issue! Now the trick is finding policy proposals that overcome the huge political ... (read more)
NTI is a great choice! I also ran a birthday fundraiser this year. I think there are positive benefits to running public donation campaigns. I'm also a fan of "normalizing" giving by running small fundraisers like this.
Hey Sam, thanks for this. I always appreciate the critical, reflective perspective you bring to these discussions. It's really valuable. I think you're right that we should consider the failure modes to which we're vulnerable and consider adopting useful tools from other communities.
I think perhaps it's a bit premature to dismiss the value of probabilistic predictions and forecasting. One thing missing from this post is discussion of Tetlock's Expert Political Judgement work. Through the '90s and '00s, Tetlockian forecast... (read more)
It could be and I know there's at least one non-profit working in this space (Taimaka Project). One Acre Fund also provides loans to farmers. However I don't think this intervention seems likely to be much better than cash transfers, and could be worse (because less targeted and involves a lot more overhead).
Oh, also Tyler Cowen and Esther Duflo sort of discuss this question in their Conversation (ctrl + f "invest" or "return" to find the discussion). Duflo says:
So there are some people with very high rates of return, as you
This is a really important question, and I agree a bit of a puzzle. Burke, Bergquist, and Miguel sort of address it in "Sell Low and Buy High". Burke et al. test the effect of providing credit to farmers in Kenya. They find that with access to credit, farmers are able to save more of their harvest and sell it at a different time when local prices are higher, raising their income and allowing them to pay back the loan. The return on investment is 29%.
But, as you say, 29% is a big return - why aren't local lenders already providing this opport... (read more)
I'm really happy to see the Animal Welfare Fund is still getting lots of donations. I also think the range of organisations receiving grants is pretty awesome!
I'd be curious to hear someone from the Fund talk a bit about the rationale for providing smaller grants to a large number of organisations, rather than larger grants to a smaller number of the most promising projects. Apologies if this has been addressed before.
Sure! Here are some of my quick(ish) thoughts that don’t necessarily represent those of others on the fund:
The FCO-DFID merger seems pretty anti-EA to me. The stated motivation was to allow the government to leverage the UK's aid budget to advance British interests. In contrast, presumably, an independent DFID was more free to pursue poverty allevation and development as an end goal. It's odd to me that this angle isn't really discussed in the piece.
I also think it would probably be really bad for Cummings to become associated with EA given that he's such a controversial and disagreeable person. And while I've seen him linked with us mu... (read more)
Yeah, I don't blame Linch for passing on this question since I think the answer is basically "We don't know and it seems really hard to find out."
That said, it seems that forecasting research has legitimately helped us get better at sussing out nonsense and improving predictions about geopolitical events. Maybe it can improve our epistemic status on ex risks too. Given that there don't seem to be too many other promising candidates in this space, more work to gauge the feasibility of longterm forecasting and test different techniques for improving it seems like it would be valuable.
Thanks for this! Something that came to my mind as I was reading this was that it might be time for an update of CEA's list of good policy ideas that won't happen (yet).
You wrote that "It seems like, given an already-existing basket of policies we'd be interested in advocating for, we can make lobbying more cost-effective just by allocating more resources to (e.g.) issues that are less salient to the public." This made me think it might be useful be to make a list of EA-relevant policy ideas and start organizing them into a Chari... (read more)
Wow, this is really fantastic work! Thank you for the effort you put into this. Overall I think this paints a more optimistic picture of lobbying than I would have expected, which I find encouraging.
To follow up on a couple specific points:
(1) Just in terms of my own project planning, do you have an estimate of how long you spent on this? If you had another 40 hours, what uncertainties would you seek to reduce?
(2) Your discussion of Bumgartner et al. (2009) is super interesting. You write "Policy change happens over a long time frame." I wonder i... (read more)
Some fun, useful questions with shorter time horizons could be stuff like:
Stuff on global development and glo... (read more)
I'm slightly confused by the part where you say you're struggling to understand effectiveness on an "emotional" level. Are your doubts about the state of our knowledge about charity effectiveness, or are you struggling to feel an emotional connection to the work of the charities we've identified as highly effective?
Lots of EAs seem pretty excited about forecasting, and especially how it might be applied to help assess the value of existential risk projects. Do you think forecasting is underrated or overrated in the EA community?
Most of the forecasting work covered in Expert Political Judgement and Superforecasting related to questions with time horizons of 1-6 months. It doesn't seem like we know much about the feasibility or usefulness of forecasting on longer timescales. Do you think longer-range forecasting, e.g. on timescales relevant to existential risk, is feasible? Do you think it's useful now, or do you think we need to do more research on how to make these forecasts first?
Good forecasts seem kind of like a public good to me: valuable to the world, but costly to produce and the forecaster doesn't benefit much personally. What motivates you to spend time forecasting?
Great post, thanks for this. I'll stop chucking in "antibiotic resistance" as a reason to reduce factory farming. I'll focus on stronger reasons. I think a longer post on this topic would be useful.
On horizontal gene transfer, you write "This last mechanism could potentially be the most important one, but we do not know how common such transfer is or what share of the resistance burden for humans it causes." Without more information this is not particularly reassuring for me. Do we truly know nothing about how common or poten... (read more)
One thing to note about the bounds of the FP cost-effectiveness estimate is that they aren't equivalent to a 95% confidence interval. Instead they've been calculated by multiplying through the most extreme plausible values for each variable on our cost-effectiveness calculation. This means they correspond to an absolute, unimaginably bad worst case scenario and an absolute, unfathomably good best case scenario. We understand that this is far from ideal: first, cost-effectiveness estimates that span 6+ orders of magnitude aren't that helpful ... (read more)
Nice work! This seems like a pretty great overview of our current understanding of a whole range of international development interventions, at least on the micro end of the spectrum. Useful not just for your donors, but the community as a whole.
Two quick points. First, in your appendix you write that it would be interesting to see a rigorous evaluation of Jeff Sachs' Millenium Village Project. DFID did fund a big evaluation of that project which returned pretty negative results. Marginal Revolution discusses that here, plus there's a paper by Ge... (read more)
The assumption is that a policymaker will use these results to shape how strict climate policy is. Stricter climate policies will reduce present-day consumption in the policymaker's jurisdiction. The goal is to have a climate policy that is just strict enough to balance the future utility gain from improved climate with current utility loss from reduced consumption.
For most real world applications it is convenient to have marginal damages expressed in monetary terms, rather than in utility units. In a final step, the marginal damage estimate therefore
This is perhaps a bit off-topic, but I have a question about this sentence:
I do actually think there is value on poverty-reduction like work
Would it be correct to say that poverty-reduction work isn't less valuable in absolute terms in a longtermist worldview than it is in a near-termist worldview?
One reason that poverty-reduction is great is because returns to income seem roughly logarithmic. This applies to both worldviews. The difference in a longtermist worldview is that causes like x-risk reduction gain a lot in value. This makes poverty reduc... (read more)
Thanks for sharing that. It's good to know that that's how the message comes across. I agree we should avoid that kind of bait-and-switch which engages people under false pretences. Sam discusses this in a different context as the top comment on this post, so it's an ongoing concern.
I'll just speak on my own experience. I was focused on climate change throughout my undergrad and early career because I wanted to work on a really important problem and it seemed obvious that this meant I should work on climate change. Learning about EA was... (read more)
It seems to me that this conception of neglectedness doesn't help much with cause prioritization. Every problem EAs think about is probably neglected in some global sense. As a civilization we should absolutely do more to fight climate change. I think working on effective climate change solutions is a great career choice; better than, like, 98% of other possible options. But a lot of other factors bear on what the absolute best use of marginal resources is.
Will and Rob devote a decent chunk of time to climate change on this 80K podcast, which you might find interesting. One quote from Will stuck with me in particular:
I don’t want there to be this big battle between environmentalism and EA or other views, especially when it’s like it could go either way. It’s like elements of environmentalism which are like extremely in line with what a typical EA would think and then maybe there’s other elements that are less similar [...] For some reason it’s been the case that people
I agree that this seems important. It also makes me worry about the equilibrium effects. If producer A switches to a more expensive system and producer B doesn't, then I wonder how many consumers just end up buying more cheap eggs from B.
Thanks Jason! Looking forward to reading the new research.
Nice catch, thanks for the careful read Saulius. I think this is especially important because it means that moral weight considerations creep into our measure of AMF's cost-efficiency even before we try to compare them to THL. GW currently assigns the same value to averting under-5 and age 5+ deaths (100 units), so that's convenient. I'd guess the "Cost per outcome as good as" cell also factors in other benefits from reduced morbidity?
This is one of those findings that, once it's laid out clearly, seems so simple and important that you wonder why no one did this before. So great science.
Is it right that the AI scenario is an extension in the Guesstimate model, and doesn't connect to your extrapolation of cumulative emissions? To me it seems more likely than not that the rapid growth in the AI scenario would result in part from AI-driven technological progress in a swathe of economic sectors, including energy, and that this could substantially drive down carbon intensity.
The model looks great! I think it's well-formulated and the data are well-researched, so it seems informative.
-You might want to add pessimistic guesses for the cost of your advocacy. Intuitively, $100k for 5% attribution seems high when I consider travel costs, salaries, lobbying costs, etc. Generally when we assess policy change, we've considered the benefits to be the benefits of an org's most successful campaigns, and the costs to be the org's total costs because it's inherently hard to predict in advance whi... (read more)
Hi Katherine, I lived and worked in Rwanda for my previous job, so please feel free to message me if you think I can be helpful. It's a wonderful country. A few thoughts:
I would be careful not to generalize too much from Rwanda --> Africa, as Rwanda's culture, history, geography, and economy are unique.
I would also just stay away from questions about the genocide or violence - these are super sensitive and there are v complex social and political norms around them.
Outside of the city, few people speak English, and in the city English-speakers... (read more)
Hi, you might be interested in some of our research at Founders Pledge! Specifically, you might like the charities we recommend in our cause reports on education and women's empowerment.
This sounds like a promising update! Well done, and I'm looking forward to seeing how things progress in the coming months.