All of Tejas Subramaniam's Comments + Replies

Comparative advantage does not mean doing the thing you're best at

Greg Mankiw’s introductory econ textbook has a good explanation of a similar point:

LeBron James is a great athlete. One of the best basketball players of all time, he can jump higher and shoot better than most other people. Most likely, he is talented at other physical activities as well. For example, let’s imagine that LeBron can mow his lawn faster than anyone else. But just because he can mow his lawn fast, does this mean he should? 

Let’s say that LeBron can mow his lawn in 2 hours. In those same 2 hours, he could film a television commercial and e... (read more)

Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

Thanks for the link! I will look into this soon. 

My immediate reaction is that that depends on the specific objectives of the advocacy organizations, as well as who they’re aiming to influence. 

For example, the article mentions the patent waiver a lot. While this is (I think) a point of difference between Manya and me, I’m currently unsure (50-50 split, in fact) about the sign of the effect of the patent waiver, and pretty convinced the magnitude is small (and that it obscures the deeper problems with vaccine supply). 

Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

From talking to the people helping the Swasti fundraiser in question, they seem to be working on data and coordination, but appear to be working separately on procurement and distribution! In any case, our point was more that Swasti and Swasth are separate organizations (and the similar name seems like a coincidence). 

Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

That’s why our third recommendation (not in order of importance) under oxygen is the Swasth/ACT Grants fundraiser! From our post: “Swasth’s Oxygen for India concentrator fundraiser on Milaap (for the price at which they are buying oxygen concentrators, room for more funding, and transparency about procurement and funding).”

From a conversation with the people running the Swasti Oxygen for All fundraiser, our guess is the two are equally cost-effective. 

Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

Hi! So the Swasti Oxygen for All fundraiser does not offer a tax deduction for the United States (I asked them recently). Swasth’s Oxygen for India fundraiser offers tax deductions for donations from the United States for donations above $1,000 (the details are specified in the link). We are happy to check about other countries!

Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

Thanks a lot for this estimate! I will link your comment on our post. 

Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

I’ve added Swasth as a recommendation, because it seems to purchase concentrators at lower prices and seems to have more room for funding at the moment, and because our concerns on accessible payment options are likely less relevant among EAs (as opposed to the high school and college students who will likely attend our debate lecture series). Thanks for pointing it out!

Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

I don’t think the two are related!

We actually looked at Swasth and think it’s another very promising opportunity – definitely comparable to our other two recommendations – but we didn’t recommend it because it only accepted the payment method of a bank transfer for foreign donations, which could be less accessible (particularly for the lecture series that we originally wrote this for). 

In general, however, it looks quite good, both for the prices at which Swasth is getting concentrators and given their focus on concentrators, which we think are the most cost-effective option. 

Thanks for adding the rec! It looks like they are working together, actually. From Swasti's updates page [] : "The campaign is in association with which in-turn is working with the Swasth Alliance & ACT to procure oxygen concentrators for the most in-distress areas in the country." It sounds like you've been in touch with Swasti directly, have you heard differently?
Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

Thanks for sharing! Manya and I will look this up/check the actual size of the oxygen tanks and times, and see how it affects Jeff’s model. 

Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

Thanks for the comment! We are honestly quite unsure about the margin,  especially because the cost-effectiveness analyses we have access to are about the cause area and not a model for the specific charitable donations. 

Our guess is that donations to oxygen likely beat GiveWell top charities – here are Jeff Coleman’s calculations for the GiveIndia’s various programs for magnitudes.  It’s hard to give a precise estimate partly because each oxygen concentrator or cylinder, for instance, is a fixed cost which can be used for a while (and we‘re... (read more)

Thanks for getting back to me - I took Jeff's calculations and did some guesstimating to try and figure out what demand might look like over the next few weeks. The only covid forecast I was able to find for India (let me know if you've seen another!) is this by IHME []. Their ' hospital resource use [] ' forecast shows that they expect a demand of 2 million beds, roughly what was the case in the week before Jeff produced his estimate of the value of oxygen-based interventions (last week of April), to be exceeded until the start of June, which is 30 days from when the estimate was produced. I'm assuming that his estimate was based on what the demand looked like over the previous week. There's a lot of uncertainty in this figure, but around 3-8 weeks is a reasonable range for how many weeks demand for oxygen will be at or above what it was in the last week of April, given that the IHME forecast is 4 weeks. Taking the mean of the estimates [], excluding ventilators (since they're an outlier), gives us 31 days of use to equal givewell's top charities, i.e. 4 weeks, and we can expect 3-8 weeks of demand being that high. So depending on how the epidemic pans out, it seems like, very roughly, three quarters to twice as good as Givewell's top charities is a reasonable range of uncertainty. EDIT: what I said should be taken as a lower limit, as it assumes that the value of oxygen is exactly what Jeff calculated when demand is greater than or equal to 2 Million, and zero below then, when in reality the value is real but smaller if demand is under 2M. I tried to account for this by skewing my guess, so 0.75 to 2x as good, where IHMEs demand numbers would suggest 1x as good.
Trying to assess the effectiveness of COVID-19 charities in India

My  guesses at the moment are that: 

  • Oxygen concentrators are more cost-effective than B-type cylinders, and much more cost-effective than ventilators or D-type cylinders, but there’s a lot more uncertainty around oxygen generators. This is both due to Coleman’s calculations and transport constraints. Even though concentrators are used in less severe cases, they can prevent cases from becoming severe enough to require hospitalization, given serious bed shortages. 
  • Effective Indian charities (or ones that operate more extensively in India) are
... (read more)
EA Debate Championship & Lecture Series

Was so surprised and happy to see this when just scrolling through EA Forum today! Thanks a lot for conducting it, I really enjoyed competing. The high school pilot program looks incredible!