All of tjmather's Comments + Replies

Collaborators Wanted: Could war disrupt EA orgs in the US or UK in the next 10 years?

Interesting, are you concerned that in a full-scale nuclear war that most places in the northern hemisphere would be unsafe due to military targets outside the cities and fallout?

What do you think about this Q&A on Quora about where it would be safest in the event of a nuclear war? Most of the suggested safe locations are in the southern hemisphere like New Zealand.

2Denkenberger5yMost of the Quora discussion seems reasonable for the safest locations. But it is a pretty big sacrifice to change countries just because of the threat of nuclear war. So I am looking at lower cost options. Also, being outside the target countries even in the northern hemisphere would generally not be too bad because the radiation largely rains out within a few days. And even within the target countries if you are not hit by the blast/fire, you're most likely to survive. I believe the radiation exposure would be lower than Chernobyl, which took about one year of life off the people nearby.

Thanks Matt. In theory it sounds possible that your message could have impact for the reasons you gave - though I'd be interested in seeing empirical evidence that people would give up chicken for ethical reasons.

0MattBall5yThanks Mr Mather. As noted here http://www.mattball.org/2017/01/the-difficulty-of-evaluating-impact-of.html [http://www.mattball.org/2017/01/the-difficulty-of-evaluating-impact-of.html] it is tough. But at least the message should minimize the number of people switching from red meat to chickens. You might also like: http://www.onestepforanimals.org/blog/experiment-evaluate-repeat [http://www.onestepforanimals.org/blog/experiment-evaluate-repeat] http://www.onestepforanimals.org/blog/good-news-believe-it-or-not [http://www.onestepforanimals.org/blog/good-news-believe-it-or-not]:-)
EA should invest more in exploration

One possible area for exploration is around Schistosomiasis prevention, as reinfection rates appear to be high after deworming campaigns. PMA2020 has launched an annual survey to measure the impact of Schistosomiasis control programs in Uganda.

Johns Hopkins University/Center for Communication Programs in Uganda will be conducting a mass media campaign to promote Schistosomiasis prevention in fall 2017 before deworming day. The 2017 PMA2020 survey should be able to measure changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices after the mass media campaign. If there... (read more)

0Michael_PJ5yI think this is a case where we're unlikely to be able to offer anything beyond what the academic community is going to do. I think the best way to improve exploration around schistosomiasis prevention would probably be to just fund some more PhD students!

Absolutely yes, Against Malaria Foundation is very good from a human rights point of view :)

I agree that contraceptives could increase wild-animal suffering in the short run. The challenge I've run into is how to balance the increase in short term wild-animal suffering against the rights of people to plan their pregnancies, as well as considerations around farm animal suffering. I feel a lot of uncertainty around this, and not sure we can definitively answer that question without having a better understanding of how much insects and other wild animals suffer.

I think what tips the balance for me is that I have the intuition that preventing unwante... (read more)

1Brian_Tomasik5yThanks for the reply. :) People also have a right not to die, so perhaps one could claim that AMF is as good for human rights as family planning? As far as future stability, it's plausible that family planning beats AMF, both because of resource shortages and because of the unwanted-children thing you mention. Of course, while future stability has many upsides, it also makes it more likely that (post-)humanity will spread suffering throughout the cosmos.

That is a good point about the need for studies to measure the long term impact. What do you think of United Poultry Concerns? Do you know of any people who have given up chicken for ethical reasons but still eat other meat?

Do you think that cultured meat research should focus on developing alternatives to chicken instead of beef?

0MattBall5yMr Mather, Sorry for the delay in replying. I'm not sure what UPC does to get a reasonable, actionable message to the general public. One Step for Animals ( http://www.onestepforanimals.org/ [http://www.onestepforanimals.org/] ) has a psychologically sound message that they get in front of loads of people. For example, in the past 30 days, they have gotten their ads and videos in front of 1.8 million people on a budget of less than $10,000. Yes, I do think that replacing chicken (with plant or clean meat) is much more important than beef.

I believe that both contraceptive delivery and research are important, and wouldn't advocate for funding one over the other. I was thinking more in terms of high priority funding gaps for both areas, and because male contraceptive research is so neglected, there appear to be some low hanging fruit. There are scientists who want to work on a clean sheets pill as well as other methods but who haven't been able to for years due to lack of funding. If successful, the clean sheets pill might be able prevent both pregnancy and STDs such as AIDS.

Many men do care ... (read more)

0MattBall5yPS: in blog form http://www.mattball.org/2017/01/the-difficulty-of-evaluating-impact-of.html [http://www.mattball.org/2017/01/the-difficulty-of-evaluating-impact-of.html] Thanks again!
2MattBall5yIn addition to the difficulty in measuring small effect sizes, one of the significant problems with trying to evaluate advocacy is the necessary longitudinal nature of any meaningful study. Plenty of studies have shown that ~80% of people who go veg goes back to eating animals. What this doesn't capture is that all those millions of former vegetarians are actively working against others making compassionate choices, telling everyone they found it impossible to be vegetarian, how fanatical vegans are, etc. (Also, we would need to capture the full impact of our argument / advocacy, since most everything we put out there argues strongly for replacing red meat with chickens; http://bit.ly/2jrYBEB [http://bit.ly/2jrYBEB]) IMHO, it is better to simply ask, "Don't eat chickens." Don't say "eat beef" or "eat vegan alternatives" -- just leave the ask as simple and straightforward as possible. More: http://www.mattball.org/2016/06/can-our-choices-make-difference.html [http://www.mattball.org/2016/06/can-our-choices-make-difference.html]Thanks for the conversation!

I agree that the patent stuff might not be a top EA cause - the inclusion here was based on my personal experience of being sued by a patent troll.

I have looked at http://havingkids.org/ I don't really see their model taking off as it seems difficult to understand and a bit unusual.

I'm currently focused on male contraceptive research in order to help reduce unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Approximately 40% of pregnancies are unwanted worldwide, many of which end in abortion. I'm donating to https://www.malecontraceptive.org/

I believe that behavior change ... (read more)

0MattBall5yThanks for the reply, Thomas. Two things: 1. Regarding Having Kids: The main idea is to change the conversation from parents or women thinking in isolation, but instead having the rights of the future child and the interests of society be a part of any decision to have a kid. This should lead to smaller families. I am curious as to why you think male contraceptions are a better means of preventing unwanted pregnancy, compared to empowering women and providing them with better contraception. My admitedly limited experience is such that men in general care much less about preventing pregnancy, and are even inclined to want a woman to get pregnant. As the economists would say, women are the ones who have incentive here. 1. I am all for the work of The Good Food Institute and Hampton Creek! But I think that there will have to be demand for those products. As that One Step page points out, even with all our efforts and the advances in food technology, per-capita consumption of animals is at an all-time high. That's why I think there is a need for a re-thought demand-side campaign Thanks again. Down with patent trolls!
EAs write about where they give

This year I'm supporting the Male Contraception Initiative to help fund research into non-hormonal male contraceptives.

The rationale for this is:

  • About 40% of pregnancies worldwide are unintended
  • There are limited contraceptive options for men
  • Male contraceptive research is very underfunded and there appear to be significant funding gaps.
  • Non-hormonal methods may have fewer side effects than hormonal methods.

I got interested in male contraception after reading this post about vasalgel: https://www.reddit.com/r/EffectiveAltruism/comments/4gvd40/vasalgel/... (read more)

Effective Altruists really love EA: Evidence from EA Global

What would an ideal EA event look like to you? Would you like to see more discussion on earning to give and where to donate? Do you feel like earning to give is underappreciated in the EA community?

2cdc4825yJust my opinion. I'd like to see more EA's working together. For example, at a couple events there were discussion of helping people pursue higher paying jobs in software development. I met another EA who invests money for EAs at a rate significantly higher than the market without taking fees.
Your Dollar Goes Further Overseas

It seems plausible that http://nutritionfacts.org/ might be one of the most effective charities for saving lives in the US. Michael Greger and his team distill nutrition research to provide practical tips on what to eat to prevent heart disease, cancer and other top killers. The website has more than one million hits a month, so it seems likely that his research saves hundreds if not thousands of lives a year.

Their 2014 revenue was $571,178. So it seems plausible that nutritionfacts is saving lives at around approximately $1,000 per life saved.

As a bonus, ... (read more)

0MichaelPlant5yThanks for this. I'm already aware of this stuff and, in fact that was written my Konstantin Sietzy, who has worked with me on this and helped co-write an earlier unpublished report into this problem.
3Lila5y"[The intervention] will attempt to encourage cash transfer recipients to reconsider fundamental aspects of themselves, their surroundings, and their future by showing them a brief video and providing interaction with a coach." Ouch, hope that's not as patronizing as it sounds, though it might be worth testing at a small scale.
A Case for Empirical Cause Prioritization

There are studies worth doing now that can be done now but aren’t being done, such as a high-quality studies to determine whether certain interventions work to improve animal welfare

There is a planned program to fund empirical research for animal advocacy https://www.animalcharityevaluators.org/blog/introducing-our-new-advocacy-research-program-officer/

Why Poverty?

I'm hoping to help fund a randomized control trial (RCT) in Burkina Faso or another very low income area to test whether providing free family planning service vouchers increases uptake.

As discussed in http://www.povertyactionlab.org/publication/the-price-is-wrong , uptake of preventative health products increases significantly when they are provided for free to the poor. It would be interesting to see if the same holds true for contraceptives.

There is a great slideshow on what we have learned from free contraceptive programs.

I plan to post updates on http... (read more)

Both AMF and family planning improve lives, so in that sense they are compatible.

I agree that family planning could become a new EA focus area. There is a facebook group to discuss family planning charities from a EA perspective. Giving What We Can has a great blog post on research around adolescent pregnancy. Development Media International is conducting a RCT to test whether radio programs can create demand for family planning.

2MichaelDickens6yRelevant: Repugnant Interventions [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCoYq7kzcH0], a great talk by Hilary Graves about how it's plausibly inconsistent to support both life-saving interventions and family planning.
1Carla_Fin6yTo the people who downvote us here (or perhaps just one guy with 2 accounts): Feel free to provide actual constructive criticism. Or solve the problem of global poverty, child mortality, and animal suffering on your own.
Talk about donations earlier and more

I agree and think that posting about plans early on would be very good.

I'm hoping to help fund family planning randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in the future. The reason is that there are very few family planning RCTs. With more RCTs, family planning funders should be able to direct funding towards programs that have higher impact. I wrote more about family planning on an earlier cause selection post.

I'm seeking people interested in helping to find possible implementing organizations and researchers as well as co-funders. I plan to post on the Family Pl... (read more)

The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle

I have found that a healthy diet makes a difference in my own happiness. As a vegan, I have to pay a bit more attention to getting a well balanced diet, including b12 and vitamin d supplements. For breakfast I make a smoothie made with dates, bananas, berries, flax seeds, cacao nibs, walnuts, cinnamon, orange zest, and kale. I also drink green tea and try to avoid refined sugar/carbs/oils and alcohol.

If anyone is interested, http://nutritionfacts.org/ has a lot of evidence based nutritional advice.

The EA Newsletter & Open Thread - January 2016

There might be an opportunity to develop a gene drive targeting Aedes mosquitoes, a vector for Zika. Harvard University Effective Altruism is running a Philanthropy Advisory Fellowship and researching funding opportunities for gene drives. They will be publishing their findings next month.

EA Interview Series, January 2016: Perumal Gandhi, Cofounder of Muufri

Why did it take so long for someone to start an animal-free milk company?

Is it because the state of the research and technology to enable Muufri's business wasn't sufficiently advanced until now? If so, that would support the replaceability hypothesis.

Or is it because there is a shortage of entrepreneurs who start organizations to do something no one else is working on? If so, that seems to support Auren Hoffman's hypothesis.

EA Interview Series, January 2016: Perumal Gandhi, Cofounder of Muufri

I think Muufri is different from your typical for-profit company in that they are doing what no-one else is doing, so I do believe they could have an impact. Auren Hoffman, a serial entrepreneur, says that doing what no-one else is doing may have an outsized impact.

0Carla_Fin6yI'm not sure this is true in the long run, but perhaps it helps speed the innovation up.
Why do effective altruists support the causes we do?

Learning about Wild Animal Suffering has changed my views about environmentalism, specifically about conserving natural habitats for their own sake. I still think environmentalism is important, but as a means to improving human lives by reducing pollution and improving food and water security.

There is a new facebook group to discuss Effective Environmentalism if you are interested.

0Evan_Gaensbauer6yI checked out MaxMind's website, and they might be the best example of an "EA company" I never knew about. They're excellent. Thanks!
EA's Image Problem

Yes thanks for pointing that out. It might be best to support an existing project like ONE Campaign. No need to reinvent the wheel. I updated the original comment.

EA's Image Problem

Great post! To address Rich-Person Morality, I wonder if it would make sense to support political movements to advocate for increased foreign aid for effective programs in the developing world. Government agencies like USAID and DFID are already some of the largest donors to many effective programs (e.g. malaria control and deworming). Yet at the same time, the USAID budget is less than one percent of federal budget, so there seems like there is room to give more.

One nice thing about this type of advocacy is that it would be inclusive of people of all inco... (read more)

3Owen_Cotton-Barratt6yWhy 'build a political movement within EA', rather than just effectively supporting existing projects working towards these goals? This gave me the "smug and arrogant" impression the opening post eloquently warned against.
3MichaelDello6yI agree. I think more EAs need to specialise into very specific areas like foreign policy, politics and health (and many others) to work on such issues. I'm concerned that EAs are a society of generalists!

I think you are correct in the sense that overpopulation arguments have a strong anti-natalist assumption behind them. However, most of the funding for family planning comes from governments and large foundations like Gates whose focus is on saving and improving people's lives.

Low hanging fruit and 'quick wins'

Evidence Action has a new 'beta' initiative to launch new interventions. Evidence Action seems well suited for creating new programs since they have the experience and infrastructure already in place. They have an evidence and cost-effectiveness mindset that seems closely aligned with the EA movement.

3Benjamin_Todd6yAgree. Also I think setting up a new GiveWell recommended charity is pretty hard. More discussion here: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/ib/request_for_feedback_researching_global_poverty/ [http://effective-altruism.com/ea/ib/request_for_feedback_researching_global_poverty/] Also see my comment.
Should we give to SCI or fund research into schistosomiasis?

Thank you for posting this - I agree this is a research area with high potential. I've looked into this a bit and one area I'm interested in is using CRISPR gene drives to help eradicate Schistosomiasis and Dengue fever.

It might cost around $0.5-$5 million to develop and $10-$25 million to thoroughly test gene drives to eradicate Schistosomiasis. If it has a 10% chance of success that would be a fairly high expected value.

I'm also interested in gene drives for soil transmitted helminths (STH), though given low mobility, it might take a long time for the ge... (read more)

Thanks. My professional background is as a tech entreprenuer, my LinkedIn profile has more details. I've learned about development issues mostly by searching Google Scholar, reading GiveWell's website, and talking to knowledgeable people.

Given my own limited time and resources, I decided to focus on just four causes. The other causes you mentioned seem worthwhile and it's good the Open Philanthropy Project is researching those causes.

I think you are right in the sense that farm animal advocacy and global health have much more room for additional funding.

One reason I'm interested in software patent abolition strategies is that they are neglected by funders. While there a decent amount of funding for incremental software patent reform, there is almost no funding available to significantly reduce the patentability of software.

I'd guess that around $250k/year can support "low hanging fruit" strategies towards advocating for reducing software patentability. I'd expect these effort... (read more)

EA risks falling into a "meta trap". But we can avoid it.

I agree. There is a new initiative to fund and coordinate research on interventions for farm animals. We just posted details at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EffectiveAnimalActivism/permalink/483367015167508/

Veg*n recidivism seems important, tractable, and neglected

I think that would be a good idea. Would it make sense to have Facebook ads and Google Video ads to promote NutritionFacts.org? We might want to link to a page that distills the information on the videos into a single video or webpage, as the site has a lot of videos!

Another idea could be to translate the videos or make transcriptions and translate those.

July Open Thread

A subproblem for factory farming is to expand the evidence base showing how to persuade people to reduce meat consumption. One possible avenue is to encourage research in academia. If you are interested, it might be worth reaching out to https://faunalytics.org/ to see if they are interested in coordinating.

This is potentially a high leverage area since a lot of money is raised to reduce animal suffering without a good empirical research base. Having more research could multiply the effectiveness of charities looking to reduce factory farming.

0jayd6yYes, my understanding is not many people are doing this.
Revamping Existing Charities

I'm interested in helping organizations collect more data, using independent surveys of households to measure bed net usage, as well as surveys around deworming programs. One organization that conducts independent surveys is PMA2020. They currently have family planning and WASH surveys, but may add additional modules in the future.