All of tomstocker's Comments + Replies

What EA projects could grow to become megaprojects, eventually spending $100m per year?

I think why I like this so much is that it isn't another idea that is fiddling on the margins of a problem with a complicated theory of impact - it just provides a project vehicle to solve one of the more tractable key problems head on.

5tomstocker4dI think why I like this so much is that it isn't another idea that is fiddling on the margins of a problem with a complicated theory of impact - it just provides a project vehicle to solve one of the more tractable key problems head on.
What actually is the argument for effective altruism?

Certainly there's a risk that it turns into a community wide equivalent of procrastination if the spreads are low. Would love someone to tackle that rigorously and empirically!

What actually is the argument for effective altruism?

This is helpful. Might be worth defining EA as a movement that realises premises 1, 2, 3 are partially true, and that even if there are small differences on each, it is worth being really careful and deliberate about what we do and how much.

There was also something attractive to me as a young person many moons ago about Toby Ord & Will Mackaskill's other early message - which is perhaps a bit more general / not specific to EA - that there are some really good opportunities to promote the common good out there, and they are worth pursuing (perhaps this is the moral element that you're trying to abstract from?).

The value of money going to different groups

I like the way you introduced the calculus, it was artful. I think going one step further would be useful, I.e. Looking at the income distributions of recipients of different interventions and charities.

Introducing the EA Funds

Id be interested in long run future and things focused more directly on human wellbeing than generic health and income. Id also be more interested if these groups not only updated on orgs we all know about but also did / collated exploratory work on speculative opportunities.

2Kerry_Vaughan5yNo cost. In fact, we think we can get lower donation processing fees than might be available to people elsewhere. However, CEA is a plausible recipient for the movement building fund.
Anonymous EA comments

Except that on point 3, the policies advocated and strategies being tried aren't as if people are trying to reduce x risk, they're as if they're trying to enable AI to work rather than backfire.

Anonymous EA comments

See recent pain control brief lee sharkey as example, or Auren Forrester's stuff on suicide.

Anonymous EA comments

What's wrong with low hanging fruit? Not entertaining enough?

Increasing Access to Pain Relief in Developing Countries - An EA Perspective

The shift from patient as recipient of medicine from clinician with authority (old style developed world and much of e.g. Africa) to patient as consumer. There are good and bad things with this transition. Pain, pain control and patient perceptions are just under-studied as a nexus. Not a reason not to go ahead, just my biggest worry with this stuff. (I personally don't think risk of death / side effects are much of a worry at all when we're talking about opioid availability in inpatient settings).

Ben's expenses in 2016

Ben, I'm impressed - thank you for sharing and wish you continued success with the business despite the changing political environment.

Increasing Access to Pain Relief in Developing Countries - An EA Perspective

I'm really happy to see this article - I mentioned it to givewell a while ago but they weren't interested. For me this hits what I see as the moral priority more than a lot of the other projects and options on the go.

Simple, complex and neuropathic pains respond differently to different anaelgasics. Opioids v effective for simple pain over the short term, e.g. surgeries, broken bones etc. Neuropathic and complex pain don't have good equivalents for pain relief and patients are stuck with cannabinoids, anti-epileptics and anti-depressants (or, ketamine, iro... (read more)

2Lee_Sharkey5yHi Tom, Great to hear that it's been suggested. By the looks of it, it may be an area better suited to an Open Philanthropy Project-style approach, being primarily a question of policy and having a sparser evidence base and impact definition difficulties. I styled my analysis around OPP's approach (with some obvious shortcomings on my part). I could have done better in the analysis to distinguish between the various types of pain. As you say, they are not trivial distinctions, especially when it comes to treatment with opioids. I'd be interested to hear your take on the impact of pain control on the nature of medicine and the doctor-patient dynamic. What trends are you concerned about hastening exactly?
Cause: Better political systems and policy making.

Unintended are harder for campaigns to avoid than even governments from where I'm sitting. But yes worth looking at more and yes I'm interested. Nice post.

Two Strange Things About AI Safety Policy

I agree this is really strange. I agree many ai people supposedly into safety don't seem to givemuch thought to the more obvious policies, at least publicly (unless someone can signpost).

Why not move national security research funding from ai development and application to safety research?

Why not call out the risks and bring more skepticism to a. The hope of ever achieving aligned AI, and b. That aligned AI really improving the human condition anyway, while reminding people of the risks?

Why not ask all companies or industry researchers t apply for a permit... (read more)

Effective Legacies have arrived!

Yep. Would also be keep on the more comprehensive one 😊 well done though

1Joey5yThanks Tom! Yes we're hoping to have something more comprehensive up and running in the next few months, though I would recommend people use the primary service regardless. The final product is still great quality and there's a good chance it's sufficient even for complex estates.
What is up with carbon dioxide and cognition? An offer

Why not test this? Probably only suggesting this because I'm reluctant to trust one or two papers on this alone. Would be cheap to do. eg: -Write two similar tests of the key dimensions of performance you care about. -Recruit a number of participants -Put each test in an envelope marked 1 or 2 for first or second, then put two envelopes in a bigger envelope, making sure that the smaller envelopes marked 1 and 2 don't contain the same test. -Assign people to two rooms. In one, a friend has raised CO2 to 1200ppm, in another, its 600ppm. You don't know which and you don't tell them which. They do test one first in one of the rooms, and test two second in the other. -Look at results

What if you want to have a big social impact and live in a poorer country?

I don't think that addresses my comment. I'm not talking about corruption as a general phenomenon being correlated with higher growth. I'm talking about corruption being a political phenomenon and anti-corruption being a cause-blind political intervention. Without local knowledge you don't know if you're improving things or not. Political economy doesn't equal economics. But thanks, useful article!

What if you want to have a big social impact and live in a poorer country?

You didn't mention policiing or accountability campaigning, which the politics/development literature suggests is often a necessary step for a country to come out of poverty - depending on which country you're in.

What if you want to have a big social impact and live in a poorer country?

I think you need to think a bit deeper about the corruption thing. A political-economists view might be that there isn't that much harm in corruption per se, but there is a lot of harm in certain types of corruption. Sometimes corruption is a means of achieving fantastic policy goals, anti-corruption one of them. The key thing is to keep an eye on what matters and the effects of your actions, and make sure you're completely honest with those you love. Imagine saying to someone they should go into consultancy but never wear a suit - in some environments its... (read more)

0Robert_Wiblin6yThis was once controversial, but I now think that economists have settled into thinking that corruption is bad overall: "Does corruption sand or grease the wheels of economic growth? This column reviews recent research that uses meta-analysis techniques to try to provide more concrete answers to this old-age question. From a unique, comprehensive data base of 460 estimates of the impact of corruption on growth from 41 studies, the main conclusion that emerges is that there is little support for the “greasing the wheels” hypothesis." http://www.voxeu.org/article/does-corruption-sand-or-grease-wheels-economic-growth [http://www.voxeu.org/article/does-corruption-sand-or-grease-wheels-economic-growth]
Ethical offsetting is antithetical to EA

I think they're consistent with a Kantian perspective. Also, a risk averse consequentialist. Also, someone that likes to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions in a like for like manner for ethical-aesthetic reasons.

Ethical offsetting is antithetical to EA

An important point. Failing to take this into account comes across as morally narrow.

Finding more effective causes

Nice post, thanks. This is fun.

Class of people: modern slaves Intervention: advocacy to bring about a decent evidence base, good law and effective policing in the countries most ameanable to change with the largest such populations. Class of people: chickens Intervention: experiments to find out what you can do to a factory farming environment to promote relaxation and prosocial behaviour (sounds, lights, temperature etc) among barn chickens

An under-appreciated observation about giving now vs later

I think the only thing that changes is that you might disaggregate the economic flowthrough from the other stuff, which may or may not change the upper bound, and may or may not have higher returns depending on the theory and particular trade off between giving opportunities. I think this matters more with things that seek to fundamentally shift society. Imagine anti imperial outfits getting more traction earlier on, or slavery, or feminism. It could plausibly have lasting effects out of proportion for longer than donating to a poor house?

Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption

But its clear still seems that this social welfare function implicitly values the lives of low meat consuming beneficiaries of effective aid less than the original model.

Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption

You say its strong but doesn't development also reduce fertility? I hate to bring another argument that is positioned in a hypocritical farm owner mentality to wonderful and often downtrodden people,, but within your frame, how do you know that this doesn't just bring forward a bit of raised meat consumption while reducing the eventual human numbers after 20 years on a permanent basis, reducing total animal suffering?

1MichaelDickens6yDevelopment reduces fertility, but developed countries still eat way more animals than developing countries do. According to Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_meat_consumption], rich countries eat about ten times as much meat per person as poor countries, which overwhelms differences in population size. Also consider that rich countries use factory farming more than poor countries do, so the animals they eat suffer a lot more.
Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption

Yep, I think the best way is to see it as a different social welfare function people are optimising for. Even if they focus only on the bits that don't cross over on a Venn diagram..

1tomstocker6yBut its clear still seems that this social welfare function implicitly values the lives of low meat consuming beneficiaries of effective aid less than the original model.
An under-appreciated observation about giving now vs later

Theoretically, it is possible that Life can be better or worse forba given level of economic prosperity. Doesn't this challenge the model (not that I think 3% a year multipliers are likely over the long term)

0Robert_Wiblin6yI'm not sure how to deal with this but I think the original argument is likely to work in some more robust/limited form. Or may it has to be limited to economic productivity only.
New UK aid strategy – prioritising research and crisis response

This is fantastic!! Are you in a position to share how you were involved in lobbying for this?

0Sebastian_Farquhar6y(For the benefit of others interested, I can share a little bit but not very much in person/on phone.)
My Coming of Age as an EA: 12 Problems with Effective Altruism

Hi Diego. You don't need to lose hope just because the EA movement is drifting. You can still try to do your best in your own way. Thanks for sharing your experience :)

Updates from Giving What We Can

Thanks MIchelle, great to hear about your continuing fantastic work!

"In research, our comparative advantage continues to be identifying crucial considerations"

feels a little tautological/vague to me. Is there a particular interpretation of crucial considerations you were going for? Am I reading it right in thinking that you're key contribution here is challenging givewell's methods and joining the dots a bit more?

0ImmaSix6yCould you elaborate a bit more about GWWC's comparative advantage in research? What is GWWC in a good position to do, and what could better be done by e.g. GiveWell or academic research?
0Austen_Forrester6yWas going to as soon as I get some questions of mine answered by academics... or give up trying!
Low hanging fruit and 'quick wins'

Let me know where you get to with it, very interesting proposal!

Low hanging fruit and 'quick wins'

Soz, read the links. There are some great efforts underway that look fundable.

"Several approaches have been proposed to reduce mortality from pesticide self-poisoning including restricting access to means through regulation; conversion to less toxic pesticides; development of single-use packaging; safe storage of pesticides; agricultural strategies and work with pesticide vendors; improving medical management; and communication and training initiatives. A number of projects are now underway to assess the effectiveness of a range of interventions aimed at reducing pesticide self-poisoning in China, India and Sri Lanka."

Low hanging fruit and 'quick wins'

Making suicide more inconvenient is certainly an effective goal. Gas ovens and over the counter pain killer restrictions was time-series consistent with an over 50% reduction in the suicide rate (its a compelling graph but not publicly available - UK government back-waters).

The issue is though, how do you make it really annoying to kill yourself from pesticides without getting rid of the benefits of pesticides?

0Denkenberger6yFYI, gas ovens are no longer effective ways to kill yourself [http://io9.com/5959303/why-have-people-stopped-committing-suicide-with-gas]. Gas costs less and is much lower greenhouse gas emissions than electric resistance, though there are concerns with indoor air quality.
1Austen_Forrester6yThere are many pesticides that are cheap and effective AND non-toxic. Thus, simply banning the toxic pesticides is the solution. It doesn't affect crop yields.
EA's Image Problem

Ever thought about reviewing high earning or direct work careers for non graduates? If someone did the work would it fit with the rest of the content to put it up? Do you have any considerations in the way of 'we're prettyt sure no one would take nottice' etc?

2Robert_Wiblin6yHi Tom, we have considered doing it, but it's some way away from our target market and we have to specialise for now. If 80,000 Hours succeeds we'll get to that eventually but I wouldn't count on us doing it soon, if you were thinking of doing it yourself!
Low hanging fruit and 'quick wins'

One win that might be quite quick because society is already aligned to it to a large extent - ban some forms of advertising for junk food. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/economic_studies/how_the_world_could_better_fight_obesity

Low hanging fruit and 'quick wins'

what is the pesticide initiative and what's the link between it and suicide please? Thanks!

1Austen_Forrester6yPesticides are the most common method of suicide in the world. Michael Eddelson at the University of Edinburgh appears to be the world leader in terms of mitigation research on this topic from what I gather so far. I can't find any charities that work on this topic except for the International Association of Suicide Prevention, but I think IASP may be research-focused and not as big on advocacy. I'm waiting to hear back from them, I could be wrong. There are a few pesticide-reduction charities like Pesticide Action Network, but they seem to be focused on banning the most environmentally-harmful pesticides, although I'm sure there's an overlap there. I'll get back to you once I have more information. Further information:WHO: Pesticides are a leading suicide method [http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2006/np24/en/]International Journal of Epidemiology article on pesticide self harm [http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/32/6/902.long] International Association of Suicide Prevention Pesticide Poisoning page [https://iasp.info/prevention_of_intentional_pesticide_poisoning.php]
We’ll write you a will for free if you leave a gift to GiveWell’s top charities

Had a look at the form. Need to discuss with the family but this is looking like it asks all the right questions. Simply from a convenience perspective I'm not aware of anywhere you can get an effective legal will so easily - very nice work!!

Charities I Would Like to See

Great to know - can you point me to an entomologist that thinks, or a paper that argues (that isn't philosophy), that insects have suffering that is in any way equivalent to what we would understand it as please?

Charities I Would Like to See

Sorry, using suffering losely. The quality of suffering largely determines its value in my eyes. I ve seen entemologists argue there is no possible way insects can feel suffering. I don't necessarily go along with that, we deny suffering at every opportunity: Black people in apartheid denied pain killers, animals thought mot to feel pain, fish, mentally illetc etc but really, a little system of chemicals resembling something simpler than electronic systems we've built? The point in trying to make is that this seems like a rabbit hole. Get out of it and wake up to what really matters. There are litrrally millions of things anyone can be getting on with that are more pressing than the imaginary plight of insects.

You Can Now Make Any Event a Fundraiser for Effective Charities

It might be a good per hour return but there's a high per hour potential cost: each core relationship is worth a lot and people can feel used unless you do this tactfully. Charity Science's web page has some absolutely fantastic suggestions of how to fundraise if you didn't want to rinse your network.

You Can Now Make Any Event a Fundraiser for Effective Charities

Some feedback/experience on the wedding idea. We asked people for donations to SCI instead of gifts in 2011. We saw only £240 go to the charity + some money for ourselves (less than this). If we'd asked for money to set up a home / stuff instead we could have avoided costs exceeding that in the future. To put it in perspective, a few hours fundraising in Oxford highstreet got £280. I think the values etc. of your wedding invitees and what they think they're there for on the day are very important to take into account. Further, if you do a fundraiser among your friends / family for one thing once they're much less likely to give to that cause again a second time??

1tomstocker6yIt might be a good per hour return but there's a high per hour potential cost: each core relationship is worth a lot and people can feel used unless you do this tactfully. Charity Science's web page has some absolutely fantastic suggestions of how to fundraise if you didn't want to rinse your network.
Charities I Would Like to See

I think there are also a lot of non-selfish reasons for not wanting to breed a load of rats and protect insects that even entemologists think don't have a concept of suffering / pain that's in any way equivalent to what we consider morally valuable.

1Buck6yNot all entomologists think that insects don't have suffering or pain.
1HedonicTreader6yConcept of suffering != experience of suffering. Human babies don't have such concepts either, but experience of suffering is still realistic.
Effective Altruism and Religious Faiths: Mutually Exclusive Entities, or an Important Nexus to Explore?

e.g questions of the good life, where things go wrong how to resolve, how to stay focused on what matters etc. - complicating the EA worldview a little

0tomstocker6ye.g questions of the good life, where things go wrong how to resolve, how to stay focused on what matters etc. - complicating the EA worldview a little
A minimal definition of Effective Altruism:

I'd kill these sentences "Deciding what to do and where to give to have the biggest impact is not easy. But we think the best answers come from being open to new evidence and part of a community of likeminded individuals asking the same questions."

don't know why like minded is valued.

Also, your definition is too loose - literally millions of people have done this that will never identify as effective altruists. It might better differentiate if you said that an EA also identified with a community of people trying to evangelise the above 1 and 2 primarily through that community. But that isn't as positive a descriptor.

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

lots of excitement, little in the way of new or surprising successes.

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

From my point of view, I can't tell that EA wont be a distraction from already altruist and effective people in all cases, especially now as there are more people than direct-enough projects.

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

Which is I think why actually doing some cool stuff would be attractive for people / demostrate that we aren't just a cultish group of people that tithe/give in a slightly different way to several billion people doing it already.

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