All of tylermaule's Comments + Replies

An update in favor of trying to make tens of billions of dollars

Depends immensely on if you think there are EAs who could start billion-dollar companies, but would not be able to without EA funding. I.e. they're great founders, but can't raise money from VCs.

 

I think the core argument here is that not enough EAs try to start a company, as opposed to try and are rejected by VCs. IMO the point of seeding would be to take more swings.

Also, presumably the bar should be lower for an EA VC, because much of the founders' stake will also go to effective charity.

An update in favor of trying to make tens of billions of dollars

Would it not make sense to start some sort of 'EA Venture Capital' firm?

Surely more EAs would take this leap if provided with some runway/salary (in exchange for equity, which by this logic would be a phenomenal investment for patient philanthropy money)

2AppliedDivinityStudies5dSee my comment here https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/m35ZkrW8QFrKfAueT/an-update-in-favor-of-trying-to-make-tens-of-billions-of?commentId=MZvxZ9yrZoqAXM3Cx [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/m35ZkrW8QFrKfAueT/an-update-in-favor-of-trying-to-make-tens-of-billions-of?commentId=MZvxZ9yrZoqAXM3Cx]
What should "counterfactual donation" mean?

I think I agree that only the last two should qualify, but presently I would assume a weaker definition is most common.

I suppose this can create a bad incentive where someone offering a counterfactual donation then has to make sure to do something not charitable with that money later on? I guess in my view a ‘counterfactual donation’ really only ever makes sense when you have a strong prior the money would not otherwise be put to similar use.

EffectiveAltruismData.com: A Website for Aggregating and Visualising EA Data

This is very cool! I share your view that comprehensive data is an important part of my personal e2g decision-making (and can be difficult to find).

If you haven't seen it already, this recent post by Ben Todd is probably the best source I know of as far as resource allocation.

  • Make a line plot of cumulative grants from Open Philanthropy (for each focus area individually and in total).
  • Do all the same plots I have for Open Philanthropy for EA Funds as well.

I made a rough attempt to this effect earlier this year (there you can also find a link to the source co... (read more)

1Hamish Huggard1moOh, great! Your post looks very helpful!
Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people

That all seems reasonable.

Shouldn’t the displacement value be a factor though? This might be wrong, but my thinking is (a) the replacement person in the $1M job will on average give little or nothing to effective charity (b) the switcher has no prior experience or expertise in non-profit, so presumably the next-best hire there is only marginally worse?

3Benjamin_Todd2moThe estimates are aiming to take account of the counterfactual i.e. when I say "that person generates value equivalent to extra donations of $1m per year to the movement", the $1m is accounting for the fact that the movement has the option to hire someone else. In practice, most orgs are practicing threshold hiring, where if someone is clearly above the bar, they'll create a new role for them (which is what we should expect if there's a funding overhang).
Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people

In reality I don't think we'd want to go that close to the breakeven point - because there may be better uses of money, due to the reputation costs of unusually high salaries, and because salaries are harder to lower than to raise (and so if uncertain, it's better to undershoot).

Good points, I agree it would be better to undershoot.

Still, even with the pessimistic assumptions, the high end of that $0.4-4M range seems quite unlikely.

Does 80k actually advise people making >$1M to quit their jobs in favor of entry-level EA work? If so, that would be a major update to my thinking.

5Benjamin_Todd2moIt depends on what you mean by 'entry level' & relative fit in each path, but the short answer is yes. If someone was earning $1m per year and didn't think that might grow a lot further from there, I'd encourage them to seriously consider switching to direct work. I.e. I think it would be worth doing a round of speaking to people at the key orgs, making applications and exploring options for several months (esp insofar as that can be done without jeopardising your current job). Then they could compare what comes up with their current role. I know some people going through this process right now. If someone was already doing direct work and doing well, I definitely wouldn't encourage them to leave if they were offered a $1m/year earning to give position. The issue for someone already in earning to give is that probability that they can find a role like that which is a good fit for them, which is a long way from guaranteed.
Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people

Agreed, just a function of how many salaries you assume will have to be doubled alongside to fill that one position

(a) Hopefully, doubling ten salaries to fill one is not a realistic model. Each incremental wage increase should expand the pool of available labor. If the EA movement is labor-constrained, I expect a more modest raise would cause supply to meet demand.

(b) Otherwise, we should consider that the organization was paying only half of market salary, which perhaps inflated their ‘effectiveness’ in the first place. Taking half of your market pay is ... (read more)

3Benjamin_Todd2moOn b), for exactly that reason, our donors at least usually focus more on the opportunity costs of the labour input to 80k rather than our financial costs - looking mainly at 'labour out' (in terms of plan changes) vs. 'labour in'. I think our financial costs are a minority of our total costs. On a), yes, you'd need to hope for a better return than a doubling leads to +10% labour estimate I made. If we suppose a 20% increase is sufficient for +10% labour, then the new situation would be: Total costs: $1.32m Impact: $11m So, the excess value has increased from $9m to $9.7m, and the CBR of the marginal $320k is about 1:3. So, this would be worth doing, though the cost-effectiveness is about a third of before. (In our case at least, I don't think a +20% increase to salaries would lead to +10% more hires though.) It looks like the breakeven point is roughly an 80% increase in salaries to gain 10% of labour with this simplified model. (I.e. the CBR of the marginal $1m is around 1:1). In reality I don't think we'd want to go that close to the breakeven point - because there may be better uses of money, due to the reputation costs of unusually high salaries, and because salaries are harder to lower than to raise (and so if uncertain, it's better to undershoot).
Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people

Doubling costs to get +10% labour doesn't seem like a great deal

 

I agree in principal, but in this case the alternative is eliminating$400k-4M of funding, which is much more expensive than doubling the salary of e.g. a research assistant.

To be clear, I am more so skeptical of this valuation than I am actually suggesting doubling salaries. But conditional on the fact that one engaged donor entering the non-profit labor force is worth >$400k, seems like the right call.

2Benjamin_Todd2moNot sure I follow the maths. If there are now 10 staff, each paid $100k, and each generating $1m of value p.a., then the net gain is $10m - $1m = $9m. The CBR is 1:9. If we double salaries and get one extra staff member, we're now paying $2.2m to generate $11m of value. The excess is $8.8m. The average CBR has dropped to 5:1, and the CBR of the marginal $1.2m was actually below 1.
Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people

For each person in a leadership role, there’s typically a need for at least several people in the more junior versions of these roles or supporting positions — e.g. research assistants, operations specialists, marketers, ML engineers,...I’d typically prefer someone in these roles to an additional person donating $400,000–$4 million per year

 

If this is true, why not spend way more on recruiting and wages? It's surprising to me that the upper bound could be so much larger than equivalent salary in the for-profit sector.

I might be missing something, but ... (read more)

2Benjamin_Todd2moThis is a big topic, and there are lots of factors. One is that paying very high salaries would be a huge PR risk. That aside, the salaries are many orgs are already good, while the most aligned people are not especially motivated by money. My sense is that e.g. doubling the salaries from here would only lead to a small increase in the talent pool (like maybe +10%). Doubling costs to get +10% labour doesn't seem like a great deal - that marginal spending would be about a tenth as cost-effective as our current average. (And that's ignoring the PR and cultural costs.) Some orgs are probably underpaying, though, and I'd encourage them to raise salaries.
How are resources in EA allocated across issues?

Thanks for writing, and I agree it would be great to see more like this in future.

It does seem like 'ideal portfolio of resources' vs 'ideal split of funds donated this year' can be quite a bit different—perhaps a question for next time?

(see here for some similar funding estimates)

6Benjamin_Todd2moYes, I agree. Different worldviews will want to spend a different fraction of their capital each year. So the ideal allocation of capital could be pretty different from the ideal allocation of spending. This is happening to some degree where GiveWell's neartermist team are spending a larger fraction than the longtermist one.
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 excell... (read more)

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 b... (read more)

2UnexpectedValues6moYeah -- I think it's unlikely that Pact would become a really large player and have distortionary effects. If that happens, we'll solve that problem when we get there :) The broader point that the marginal dollar might be more valuable to one campaign than to another is an important one. You could try to deal with this by making an actual market, where the ratio at which people trade campaign dollars isn't fixed at 1, but I think that will complicate the platform and end up doing more harm than good.
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.

2UnexpectedValues6moYeah, there are various incentives issues like this one that are definitely worth thinking about! I wrote about some of them in this blog post: https://ericneyman.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/incentives-in-the-election-charity-platform/ [https://ericneyman.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/incentives-in-the-election-charity-platform/] The issue you point out can be mostly resolved by saying that half of a pledges contributions will go to their chosen candidate no matter what -- but this has the unfortunate effect of decreasing the amount of money that gets sent to charity. My guess is that it's not worth it (though maybe doing some nominal amount like 5% is worth it (so as to discourage e.g. liberals who care mostly just about charity from donating to the Republican candidate).
1tylermaule6moI see now that this and a couple other points were mentioned in Repledge++ [https://sideways-view.com/2016/10/31/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.
2evelynciara6moYeah, I can see that. I would add the option to just donate your money to charity. Also, how would it deal with minor-party candidates? Which major-party candidates would a minor-party donation cancel out, if any?
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.

2MichaelPlant7moNot sure I follow. Are you assuming anti-realism about metaethics or something? Even so, if your assessment of outcomes depends, at least in part, on how good/bad those outcomes are for people, the problem remains.
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 diversific... (read more)

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?
3tylermaule7moAlso, 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:
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.