All of smclare's Comments + Replies

Inspiring others to do good

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).

1Laurin7moThank you for that feedback! Definitely missed it.
US bill limiting patient philanthropy?

(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)

3DavidBernard7moI know you were explicit about these being your views and not Founders Pledge's, but is there anyone better placed to think through those implications than Founders Pledge? And similarly, it seems like Founders Pledge would be one of the most natural organisations to advocate against limits on patient philanthropy, given the work on the long-term investment fund.
[Podcast] Suggest a question for Jeffrey Sachs

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.

Looking for more 'PlayPumps' like examples

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)

1dspeyer8moI remember a program specifically for young women (possibly in Bangladesh, possibly linked from slatestarcodex) that specifically listed "ambition" as one of the things it wanted to foster. But participants went in wanting to be doctors and left wanting to be administrative assistants. They did not show improvement on any measured axis. Can't seem to find the link
1calebp8moThanks for this, I'll be sure to take a look!
Campaign to protect 0.7% of UK GNI for global poor.

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)

What is going on in the world?

Some things worth adding might be:

  • Several Asian economies are growing rapidly, and China is on track to become a major world power sometime this century (worth including since you mention the apparent decline of the US/West)
  • There is massive global inequality, and while many lower income countries are now growing more steadily they are not projected to narrow the north/south wealth divide anytime soon
  • Humans are raising billions of animals for food in very poor conditions
5Ramiro1y>There is massive global inequality... One could add: "and disparities in power might increase and lead us to some sort of techno-feudalism [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-feudalism]."
Mid-Career Professionals: Impact Landscape - Request for Feedback

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)

1DevonFritz1yNice to hear from you and thanks for the feedback Stephen. You raise some good points and I definitely plan to beef up the document as things progress, especially with regard to the language around career changes as that will often be the biggest lever for impact as you correctly state.
Can we drive development at scale? An interim update on economic growth work

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)

1Sindy_Li1yI see. Let me know if I'm understanding this correctly: Founders Pledge aims to have cost-effectiveness estimate numbers, which involves a lot of work especially for topics like growth and climate change, whereas Open Phil takes a more qualitative approach for such topics with higher uncertainty. (If so, I am also curious about the philosophy behind your approach -- I'm really uncertain which one works better, and that's a bigger conversation.) Re topics to look into, I second Michael's suggestions: labor markets, firms, and monetary policy in developing countries. There's also: trade, infrastructure, industrial policy, legal system, institutions etc. (Nick Bloom whom I mentioned earlier had the hypothesis that improving management practice in LMICs could be pretty impactful, and that requires a type of education/training [https://growthecon.com/blog/should-developing-countries-try-to-create-a-business-elite/] not commonly discussed in LMICs.) One thing tangentially related is Emergent Ventures India. (They don't have a formal website -- all updates seem to be posted on the Marginal Revolution blog.) It's not growth-specific but rather just for innovative ideas that improve welfare. They don't have any rigorous analysis (so I'm not sure whether it will fly with EAs) but the projects look cool and it could be a high-potential model (if expanded to Africa etc.). Happy to keep in touch -- will shoot you a DM!
Introducing High Impact Athletes

 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)

£4bn for the global poor: the UK's 0.7%

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.

Can we drive development at scale? An interim update on economic growth work

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)

Can we drive development at scale? An interim update on economic growth work

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.

Factors other than ITN?

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.

How Dependent is the Effective Altruism Movement on Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna?

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).

Foreign Affairs Piece on Land Use Reform

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)

1bryanschonfeld1yVery interesting report! Thanks for reading.
Planning my birthday fundraiser for October 2020

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.

How to think about an uncertain future: lessons from other sectors & mistakes of longtermist EAs

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)

If a poverty alleviation intervention has a positive ROI, (why) isn't anyone lending money for them?

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
... (read more)
1Mati_Roy1yThanks for the additional info!
If a poverty alleviation intervention has a positive ROI, (why) isn't anyone lending money for them?

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)

1Mati_Roy1yThanks for your answer! If that's all it was (which it might not as you said), then that would be a good opportunity for EA money, it seems to me
Animal Welfare Fund Grants – August 2020

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:

  1. Generally not wanting the fund to be more than ~50% of any group's budget. That could cause over-reliance on the fund, hurt their fundraising efforts with other funders, and possibly disincentivize other funders from contributing to promising groups.
  2. Larger groups often do a variety of programs, some of which may be much less impactful. There’s some reason to be wary of funging less impactful programs and that may generally lean on
... (read more)
Center for Global Development: The UK as an Effective Altruist

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)

4Aaron Gertler1yCummings is known to be a fan of Yudkowsky/SSC, which the media tends to lump together with effective altruism. He's also written about AI safety before [https://dominiccummings.com/2019/03/01/on-the-referendum-31-project-maven-procurement-lollapalooza-results-nuclear-agi-safety/] .
I'm Linch Zhang, an amateur COVID-19 forecaster and generalist EA. AMA

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.

2Linch1yI agree with what you said at a high-level! Both that it's hard and that I'm bullish on it being plausibly useful. FWIW, I still intend to answer this question eventually, hopefully before the question becomes moot!
2MichaelA1yYeah, I share the view that that sort of research could be very useful and seems worth trying to do, despite the challenges. (Though I hold that view with relatively low confidence, due to having relatively little relevant expertise.) Some potentially useful links: I discussed the importance and challenges of estimating existential risk [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSvrxkkxV5U&feature=youtu.be] in my EAGx lightning talk and Unconference talk, provide some other useful links (including to papers and to a database of all x-risk estimates I know of) in this post [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/JQQAQrunyGGhzE23a/database-of-existential-risk-estimates] , and quote from and comment on a great recent paper here [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/vwWfvTSiuQKHC7cZf/quantifying-the-probability-of-existential-catastrophe-a] . I think there are at least two approaches to investigating this topic: solicit new forecasts about the future and then see how calibrated they are, or find past forecasts and see how calibrated they were. The latter is what Muehlhauser did, and he found it very difficult to get useful results. But it still seems possible there’d be room for further work taking that general approach, so in a list of history topics it might be very valuable to investigate [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/psKZNMzCyXybcoEZR/some-history-topics-it-might-be-very-valuable-to-investigate] I mention: Hopefully some historically minded EA has a crack at researching that someday! (Though of course that depends on whether it'd be more valuable than other things they could be doing.) (One could also perhaps solicit new forecasts about what’ll happen in some actual historical scenario, from people who don’t know what ended up happening. I seem to recall Tetlock discussing this idea on 80k, but I’m not sure.)
Informational Lobbying: Theory and Effectiveness

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)

1Matt_Lerner1yI'm replying again here to note that I've struck the salience point from my conclusions. I've noted why up top. I now have a lot of uncertainty about whether this is the case or not, and don't stand by my suggestion that salience is a good guide to resource allocation.
1Matt_Lerner1yI like this spreadsheet idea and think I may kick it off (if you haven't already done so!) I took the project on because I got interested in this topic, went looking for this, couldn't find it, and decided to make it so that it might be useful to others. I wasn't feeling very useful in my day job, so it was easy to stay motivated to spend time on this for a while. I tend to be most interested in generalizable or flexible approaches to improving welfare across different domains, and this seemed like it might be one of those. Some areas I'm thinking about exploring. These are pretty rough thoughts: * Some more exploration of strategies for ameliorating child abuse in light of the well-known ACES Study [https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html]. GiveWell [https://www.givewell.org/united-states/programs/nurse-family-partnership] and RandomEA [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ji5YNqCaRgWAsZHCr/how-much-further-does-your-dollar-go-overseas] have both explored Nurse-Family Partnerships. This problem is just so huge in terms of people affected (and in terms of second-order effects) that I think it's worth exploring a lot more. I'm particularly interested in focusing on child sexual abuse in particular [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6542279/, since although it has ]. * Aggregating potentially cost-effective avenues to improve institutional performance. I'm curious about thinking at a higher level of abstraction than institutional decision-making. It seems worthwhile to put together the existing cross-disciplinary evidence on the question: what steps outside of those explicitly focusing on rationality and decision-making can companies/nonprofits/government agencies take to increase the probability that they make good decisions? A good example of one such step is in the apparent evidence that intellectually diverse teams make better decisions. * Long-term cost-effectiveness
Informational Lobbying: Theory and Effectiveness

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)

4Matt_Lerner1yThanks for your response! (1) I spent something like 100 hours on this over the course of several months. I think I could have cut this by something like 30-40% if I'd been a little bit more attentive to the scope of the research. I decided on the scope (assessing the effectiveness of national-level legislative lobbying in the U.S.) at the beginning of the project, but I repeatedly wound up off track, pursuing lines of research outside of what I'd decided to focus on. I also spent a good chunk of time on the GitHub repo with the setup for analyzing lobbying data, which wasn't directly related to the lit review but which I felt served the goal of presenting this as a foundation for further research. If I had 40 more hours, I'd intentionally pursue an expanded scope. In particular, I'd want to fully review the research on lobbying of (a) regulatory agencies and (b) state and local governments. I explicitly excluded studies along those lines, some of which were very interesting. (2) Thanks for asking for clarification on this. Baumgartner et al mean that it takes a long time for policy change to be observed on any given issue. After starting to pursue a policy goal, lobbyists are more likely to see success after four years than after two. Baumgartner et al include a chapter that is mostly critical of the incrementalist idea of policy change, which they trace to Charles Lindblom's 1959 article The Science of "Muddling Through" [https://faculty.washington.edu/mccurdy/SciencePolicy/Lindblom%20Muddling%20Through.pdf] . Incrementalism is tied to Herbert Simon's idea of "bounded rationality." Broadly, the incrementalist idea is that policymakers face a broad universe of possible policy options, and in order to reduce the landscape to a manageable set, they choose from only the most available options, e.g. those closest to the status quo: "incremental" changes. Frank Baumgartner, with Bryan Jones, is now well-known for their theory of "punctuated equilibrium." This is a
What questions would you like to see forecasts on from the Metaculus community?

Some fun, useful questions with shorter time horizons could be stuff like:

  • Will GiveWell add a new Top Charity to its list in 2020 (i.e. a Top Charity they haven't previously recommended)?
  • How much money will the EA Funds grant in 2020? (total or broken down by Fund)
  • How many new charities will Charity Entrepreneurship launch in 2020?
  • How many members will Giving What We Can have at the end of 2020?
  • How many articles in [The Economist/The New York Times/...?] will include the phrase "effective altruism" in 2020?

Stuff on global development and glo... (read more)

3alexrjl1yHere are the three upcoming questions I've written in response to the ideas on this thread: Who will win the 'worm wars'? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/4919/who-will-win-the-worm-wars/] When will Charity Entrepreneurship help create a new GiveWell top charity? [When will Charity Entrepreneurship help create a new GiveWell top charity?] How many charities will Charity Entrepreneurship help launch in 2021? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/4920/how-many-charities-will-charity-entrepreneurship-help-launch-in-2021/]
8alexrjl1yThese are great questions. Several similar questions are already up which I've linked below (including one I approved after this post was written). I've also written three new questions based on your ideas, which I'm just waiting for someone else to proofread and will then add to this post. Will one of GiveWell's 2019 top charities be estimated as the most cost-effective charity in 2031? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/4628/will-one-of-givewells-2019-top-charities-be-estimated-as-the-most-cost-effective-charity-in-2031/] How much will GiveWell guess it will cost to get an outcome as good as saving a life, at the end of 2031? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/4332/how-much-will-givewell-guess-it-will-cost-to-get-an-outcome-as-good-as-saving-a-life-at-the-end-of-2031/] Will the number of people in extreme poverty in 2020 be lower than the number in 2015? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/3484/will-the-number-of-people-in-extreme-poverty-in-2020-be-lower-than-the-number-in-2015/] Fewer than 375M in extreme poverty by 2030? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/1576/fewer-than-375m-in-extreme-poverty-by-2030/] What will the percentage of the world population in $1.90-a-day poverty be in 2030? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/4851/what-will-the-percentage-of-the-world-population-in-190-a-day-poverty-be-in-2030] How large will the largest single grant made by Open Philanthropy in 2020 be? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/3348/how-large-will-the-largest-single-grant-made-by-open-philanthropy-in-2020-be/] Will the impact of the Effective Altruism movement be picked up by Google Trends in 2030? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/1591/will-the-impact-of-the-effective-altruism-movement-be-picked-up-by-google-trends-in-2030/] Will global malaria mortality rates be reduced by 90% when compared with 2015 rates, by 2030? [https://www.metaculus.com/questions/1332/will-global-malaria-mortality-rates-be-reduced-by-90-when-compared-with-2015-rates-by-2030/]
How do i know a charity is actually effective

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?

I'm Linch Zhang, an amateur COVID-19 forecaster and generalist EA. AMA

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?

I'm Linch Zhang, an amateur COVID-19 forecaster and generalist EA. AMA

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?

3MichaelA1yI think this is a very important question. In case you haven't seen it, here's Luke Muehlhauser’s overview of his post How Feasible Is Long-range Forecasting? [https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/how-feasible-long-range-forecasting] (I'd also highly recommend reading the whole post): (See also the comments on the EA Forum link post [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/s8CwDrFqyeZexRPBP/link-how-feasible-is-long-range-forecasting-open-phil] .)
3Linch2yHi smclare! This is a very interesting question and I've been spending quite a bit of time mulling over it! Just want to let you know that me not answering (yet) is a result of me wanting to spend some time giving the question the gravity it deserves, rather than deliberately ignoring you!
I'm Linch Zhang, an amateur COVID-19 forecaster and generalist EA. AMA

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?

Antibiotic resistance and meat: why we should be careful in assigning blame

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)

6C Tilli2yEdit: I originally made mistakes in the calculation below, have edited to correct this. See comment below by willbradshaw for details of the calculation. Thanks! I completely agree there are other strong reasons to reduce (or eliminate) factory farming. About your other comment – I also don’t think the situation is reassuring at all. I think it’s very plausible that the antibiotic use in agriculture could be an important driver of antibiotic resistance. I think that we need more research on both the jumping of species barriers and on horizontal gene transfer. This [https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev.micro.55.1.709] paper could be interesting if you want to read more on how common horizontal gene transfer is, but I haven’t been able to find anything that gives a good assessment on how important this is for resistance (I will be very grateful for suggestions if you or someone else know good research on this!). I know an analogous problem is that human patients often develop resistant bacteria in the normal gut microbiota when they take antibiotics, and this could also be transferred to pathogens through horizontal gene transfer – again, we don’t know how much it happens. Another thing is that some bacteria can both be living in the environment or on animals or in the normal bacterial flora, and then act as pathogens when they end op in the “wrong” place – for example bacteria that is harmless in the gut flora could cause urinary tract infection. If these develop resistance, they don’t need to do any gene transfer but simply change location to cause problems. Personally, if I try to speculate, I would reason that it’s very unlikely that antibiotic use on animals drives resistance in human infections as much per kg used as antibiotic use on humans. So if we assume that 75% of the kg of antibiotics is used on animals, I would say that it’s unlikely to drive as much as 75% of the resistance burden on humans. It could be that it is 10% as eff
Million dollar donation: penny for your thoughts?

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)

1Huwelium2y@smclare Thanks for giving some background on the Founders Pledge cost-effectiveness scenarios. For TaRL, I'm surprised that you say that the optimistic scenario is the unfathomably best case scenario. Even in that scenario, impacts are assumed to last 20 years, and the impact of test scores improvements on earnings does not use the most optimistic cases mentioned in the Founders Pledge education report. It seems fathomable impacts could last a whole career (say 40 years). As you can see from my cost-effectiveness estimates for TaRL, my unfathomably best case scenario is significantly more optimistic than the one from Founders Pledge (I included in the cost-effectiveness spreadsheet a worksheet using the worksheet from Founders Pledge as a starting point, but with my own scenarios in there). And in both cases, we only include the impact on income. It seems quite plausible that education would have impacts beyond that which aren't taken into account.
Million dollar donation: penny for your thoughts?

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)

2Huwelium2y@smclare: I'm glad you liked the report :) I definitely hope it can be helpful to others, since alot of work went into it! If it can save others some time, that would be great! I'll check out the Marginal Revolution post on Millenium Villages and see if I can include a few sentences about that in the report. As for TaRL Africa, alot of what they are doing is directly implementing TaRL in different African countries with partners and trying to ensure that the scale up there is a success. So I don't think of it as being mainly advocacy. You're right that there's no guarantee that it will work. I think there is a tension between the donors' goal of backing things that have been shown to work and having a long term and transformative impact, since the evidence on long term impacts is generally lacking (beyond say 7 years or so at most, in the case of the graduation approach). I tried to find a middle ground between their different goals. One of the reasons I included various charities in Table 1 was a recognition that different interpretations of their goals might lead to different recommendations.
2samcart2yInitially, I had a similar thought while reading this - my understanding is that, at the outset, a large part of TaRL Africa's work focused on advocating for the TaRL approach and identifying partners who would be interested in adapting and implementing the approach in their contexts. However, TaRL Africa's work does seem to include technical assistance to local implementers who have committed to using the approach. Their work is described as "supporting policymakers and practitioners to set achievable goals, use teaching-learning practices that are at the level of the child rather than being dictated by a rigid age-grade curriculum, set up hands-on, on-site mentoring systems to support teachers to deliver effectively, and promote measurement strategies that lead to action" (from the Co-Impact page [https://www.co-impact.org/systems-change-grants/teaching-at-the-right-level-africa/] on their grant to TaRL Africa). From reading about it in more detail, it seems that TaRL Africa's approach is substantially different from generic policy advocacy. It seems that TaRL Africa is working with a defined set of committed partners to achieve shared goals as effectively as possible. Their work in Zambia has already been rolled out to 1800 schools, and their partnerships [https://www.teachingattherightlevel.org/tarl-in-action/] elsewhere suggest that their probability of success is relatively high. Of course, the cost-effectiveness of any donation will depend on the new activities that it enables, so it would be a good idea to check in with TaRL Africa (if you can) about what a donation of this size/timing would allow them to achieve. Disclaimer: I work with Stephen at Founders Pledge and previously worked at J-PAL, including work on government partnerships that included the TaRL Zambia project.
[updated] Global development interventions are generally more effective than climate change interventions

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
... (read more)
8Benjamin_Todd2yGreat, thank you for this! Look forward to seeing more work also. And just a quick thought: if we know what the SCC of carbon is for Africa (looks like ~$10), and it's defined in the way you say, then we could also do the comparison directly with the Africa-SCC figure, rather than converting into US equivalent first e.g.: 1 tonne of CO2 averted -> equivalent to $10 of consumption in Africa If it costs $1 to avert a tonne, then $1 -> $10 consumption $1 cash transfer -> $1 of consumption in Africa (or maybe ~$5 to a GiveDirectly-recipient) $1 to AMF -> ~$50 African-consumption-equivalent (thinking of it as 10x GiveDirectly) So with these figures, carbon offsets are better than cash transfers, but AMF is 5x better than carbon offsets.
Climate Change Is Neglected By EA

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)

Climate Change Is Neglected By EA

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)

Climate Change Is Neglected By EA

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.

Climate Change Is Neglected By EA

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
... (read more)
9Sunny12yAs somewhat of an outsider, this has always been my impression. For example, I expect that if I choose to work in climate, some EAs will infer that I have inferior critical thinking ability. There's something about the "gateway to EA" argument that is a bit off-putting. It sounds like "those folks don't yet understand that only x-risks are important, but eventually we can show them the error of their ways." I understand that this viewpoint makes sense if you are convinced that your own views are correct, but it strikes me as a bit patronizing. I'm not trying to pick on you in particular, but I see this viewpoint advanced fairly frequently so I wanted to comment on it.
3mchr3k2yThanks for your comments and for linking to that podcast. In my post I am arguing for an output metric rather than an input metric. In my opinion, climate change will stop being a neglected topic when we actually manage to start flattening the emissions curve. Until that actually happens, humanity is on course for a much darker future. Do you disagree? Are you arguing that it is better to focus on an input metric (level of funding) and use that to determine whether an area has "enough" attention?
How good is The Humane League compared to the Against Malaria Foundation?

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.

6saulius2yCommitments are usually made by grocers, restaurants, hotels, etc., not producers. You can see in this document by USDA [https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/13IqkZgdLNy9wiZVjlwwm67x8hPjDzuw] that at least in the U.S., most important companies that made commitments are retailers, followed by restaurants. I think it's somewhat unlikely that many people will go to another grocer just to save a little bit of money on eggs. Similarly, I don't think that it will impact people's choice of restaurants much because egg prices probably won't influence meal prices that much. Also, some animal advocates believe that eventually all the production in some countries/regions like the U.S. will be cage-free because egg producers won't want to invest in new caged facilities when there is a risk that further corporate campaigns or law changes will take away the few remaining customers that buy caged eggs.
How good is The Humane League compared to the Against Malaria Foundation?

Thanks Jason! Looking forward to reading the new research.

How good is The Humane League compared to the Against Malaria Foundation?

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?

8saulius2yI don’t fully understand GiveWell’s spreadsheet myself but I’ll try to answer. By default, "Cost per outcome as good as" cell seems to factor in averting under-5 deaths (46% of the total benefit), averting age 5+ deaths (27%) and development effects (28%). Developmental effects here seem to refer to the fact that reducing the burden of malaria may have a lasting impact on children's development, and thus on their ability to be productive and successful throughout life [https://www.givewell.org/international/technical/programs/insecticide-treated-nets#Possibledevelopmentaleffects] . In the ‘results’ tab, you see that by default, the estimation doesn’t include additional adjustments. If you change that, then the estimate takes into account the effects listed in the “Inclusion/Exclusion” sheet (see below) It also takes into account something but I haven’t figured out what. In the end including additional adjustments changes "Cost per outcome as good as" very modestly, from $1,690 to $1,678.
How hot will it get?

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.

3John G. Halstead2yYeah, i think the AI explosion scenario should be taken with several piles of salt. It gets to the point that we need to be consistent about our expectations about AI timelines and about climate change. As you suggest, AI-driven progress could drive down carbon intensity, but climate change remains a horrible coordination problem, so it's not clear that all AI progress overcomes that
Why We Think Tobacco Tax Advocacy Could be More Cost-Effective than AMF

The model looks great! I think it's well-formulated and the data are well-researched, so it seems informative.

Substantive things:

-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)

3Khorton2yI agree that a 5% chance of a 20% tax increase over one year with £100k seems optimistic
7calebp2yThank you so much for giving really actionable feedback. I'll add those notes but just address them here too Percentage consumption decrease ... is referring to the fact that some people will reduce their intensity and some people will quit (which we call a reduction in smoking). In our model quitters will experience improved health outcomes and people that reduce won't (this is partly us trying to be conservative as we struggled to find good studies looking at the link between reduced intensity and health outcomes). Percentage of lives saved ... is because not all quitters will have improved health outcomes. Some will only quit after the damage has been done and there will be marginal differences to their exposure to risk. In the model this just discounts the effect of quitting. I'll have a think about how to go about coming up with more pessimistic guesses for costs/attribution etc. In any case, the feedback is useful. Our model admittedly just goes for a low number guided a by the opinion of some experts in the tobacco control space that we spoke to. Maybe in future we should look at surveying experts a wider variety of experts or using some kind of prediction market as this is a pretty key part of the model.
Poll - what research questions do you want me to investigate while I'm in Africa?

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)

Help in choosing good charities in specific domains

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.

1Conundrum2yYes, this definitely looks like a good resource. Thank you, I will check this out.
Tackling the Largest Cause of Death Worldwide: Good Policies Update on Tobacco Taxes

This sounds like a promising update! Well done, and I'm looking forward to seeing how things progress in the coming months.