Derivatives Trader, living in Chicago.


Cash Transfers as a Simple First Argument

Thanks for sharing! I like the way you phrased it in the interview, I think that’s a nice way to start.

Cash Transfers as a Simple First Argument

Hi Benjamin,

I totally forgot about that article, thank you for pointing it out! That is an excellent resource.

Your concern totally makes sense. Something I've been thinking about lately is whether EA should make a more concerted effort to promote 'streams' of varying fidelity intended for audiences which are coming from very different places.

Put another way: say I have a co-worker who every year gives to traditional, community-based charitable orgs, and has never considered giving that money elsewhere. Is this person more likely to spend the time on excellent and in-depth philosophical articles + podcasts I push on them, or engage with a more direct and irrefutable appeal to logic? I tend to think that the latter can serve as a gateway to the former.

Status update: Getting money out of politics and into charity

I see now that this and a couple other points were mentioned in Repledge++. One more I would add to the list:

'Relative advantage' in cash vs percentage terms could be a sticking point. In the case of a $10M/$8M split, giving $2M/$0 to the respective candidates seems unfair to candidate B, because $2M is infinitely more than $0 in percentage terms. Say this money was going to ad buys, instead of running 100 vs 80 ad spots, candidate A now runs 20 spots vs zero for candidate B, and is the only candidate on the airwaves.

I would argue that a fair split would be $1.111M vs $0.889M, but I'm not sure that supporters of candidate A would agree.

Of course, if you assume that the platform is only a tiny fraction of total campaign contributions this is much less significant, but still worth a thought.

Status update: Getting money out of politics and into charity

I like the idea of political contributions going to charity, though I can't help thinking about the game theory implications here:

If I (a left-leaning person who prefers charity to political donations) felt strongly that much more money would come in on the Democrat side, I imagine I'd route my usual donation through this platform under the Republican candidate.

I guess it's difficult to imagine an actual Republican contributing to this platform unless they preferred giving to charity anyway. Arguably this platform would then only deplete the funds of one candidate (the Democrat), with much of the funds intended for charity in the first place. But still, to be clear, this would be a net positive contribution IMO.

Against neutrality about creating happy lives

Not taking a side here, but couldn't you get around this by framing your values as 'maximizing sum of global utility'? This way there is no need to make a comparison between Joe and [absence of Joe]; I can simply say that Joe's existence has caused my objective function to increase.

Total Funding by Cause Area

Thanks for the reply, definitely gives me a lot to consider.

"Cause area" is also a pretty weird/arbitrary unit of analysis

Personally, I quite like the cause area distinction. One alternate definition I might propose is that a cause area is a subset of interventions which are plausibly cross-comparable. Direct comparisons across these cause areas are flimsy at best, and even if I felt strongly that one of them was the most effective, I would still value each of the others receiving non-trivial funding for the purposes of (a) hedging (b) worldview diversification.

Also I think the choice of what you are funding within each cause also matters a lot.

It certainly does, but so long as I donate via EA Funds or GiveWell, that decision is passed along to the very most qualified people I know of.

I'm not sure if this makes sense from a donor collaboration/coordination/cooperation standpoint

I might disagree here. Using base rate funding to inform decisions is no different than 'neglectedness' as a pillar of EA—If I had to be truly agnostic I suppose I'd give money to climate change, or purchasing COVID vaccines.

That 80k article is very cool, though they also seem to agree: "If the community is unresponsive to what you do, you can (mostly) take a single-player approach to working out the best action."

a lot of these areas have very large individual donors that aren't captured

It would be great to know more about these donors, and specifically which orgs they donate to. It's starting to feel like a satisfactory measure of 'fundedness' would require a lot more future work.

I imagine your personal views about the difference in the value of cause areas will dominate this, given that causes might be 10x different whereas these gaps are only 5x at most.

The size of the gaps are dependent on my personal views, so I think we're in agreement here.

Why Hasn't Effective Altruism Grown Since 2015?

Also, while Open Phil's donations to GiveWell have remained at a similar level, the amount they direct to the EA movement as a whole has grown substantially:

Why Hasn't Effective Altruism Grown Since 2015?
  1. As Katja's response alludes to, the non-Open-Phil chunk of GiveWell has more than doubled since 2015 (plus EA funds has gone from zero to $9M, etc.)
  2. I see a few comments at the Reddit/LessWrong versions of this post intimating that EA does not want [much] more money, or has stopped trying to fundraise. This was not my impression at all. Is it not true that even just considering GiveWell's top charities and near-misses, they could absorb many millions more without being saturated?
Total Funding by Cause Area

I was thinking along very similar lines with 'Limitations' #1. It would be much better to model this as a contribution function in four dimensions, rather than only counting 'EA dollars'. 

Not only would this require more data, but one would need to assign a multiplier to each separate intervention à la GiveWell moral weights. What fraction of a 'Global Health' dollar is counted when Bill Gates funds vaccine research? Could be interesting for future work.

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