All of utilitarian01's Comments + Replies

Open Thread: Spring 2022

Might be irrelevant, but have you considered moving to the US for the increased salary?

Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm currently in college, so it's impossible for me to move :)
Opinion: Estimating Invertebrate Sentience

>In the case of C. elegans, despite being a widely studied animal, evidence of their being conscious is weak and their behavioral reactions are simple and highly stereotyped.

What do you mean by simple? Having nociceptors is a good indicator of pain, right? Surely more than a 1% chance, that just seems like crazy overconfidence.

3Daniela R. Waldhorn2y
Hi! Although the possession of nociceptors is perhaps some evidence of a capacity to feel pain, it is certainly not by itself "a good indicator" of that capacity. If nociceptors are not connected to centralized information-processing structures, these neurons could trigger reflexive reactions (i.e., similar to spinally mediated responses in mammals), but that would not imply that the nociceptive input is consciously perceived (in humans, see Becker et al., 2012 [] ; Dubin & Patapoutian, 2010 []). If we understand consciousness as suitably integrated information (Oizumi et al., 2014 [] ), the projections of nociceptors to integrative information-processing structures is a crucial aspect to examine when judging the probability that a nonhuman individual is conscious. In the case of C. elegans, unlike other invertebrates, they do not seem to have a specific neural region for the processing of spatial information and organization of movement. In other words, movement and stimuli discrimination do not appear to be integrated in a manner sufficiently similar to the vertebrate midbrain (see Altun & Hall, 2011 []; Kato et al., 2015 []). However, it should be noted that some noxious stimuli reactions have been identified in C. elegans, specifically, physiological responses to nociception and moving away from a noxious stimulus. However, heat-evoked escape responses in these animals, for example, are considered highly stereotypical, and a reflexive reaction (Leung et al., 2016 [] ). Finally, when I used the term "simple" [nociceptive behaviors] here I specifi
What if planet and society attained the same personhood that businesses enjoy?

That's true, but barring some huge change in the exact way capitalism works, I doubt it will ever happen.

True what you say. There's hope though most Millennials & GenZ are more about equity than older generations. We just need to enhance this belief by hacking social-interest into self-interest. So, my personal interest is not just a well-paying job, a nice house, car, luxuries, but also a flourishing planet and society. What's the best way of implementing this hack? Place it in our daily purchases. Every time you buy something that brand sticks in your mind. So what if x% of our purchases went to a neglected grassroots social/environment need, my mind will remember not just the iPhone, Shirt, travel ticket, etc but also the homeless kid i helped feed with the x% of my purchase. Then we will have more people not just empathising with planet and social ills but also taking instant daily action against the ills.
Where are you donating this year and why – in 2019? Open thread for discussion.

>Leverage: It seems empirically evident to me that meta EA activity is influencing both the amount and the direction of funding at a ratio of at least £10 influenced £1 inputted.

How? Skimming through the page I see no evidence of that, it's literally just a random hypothetical that they throw out.

Giving What We Can's impact reports (when I last read them) suggested they had raised for effective charities £6 per £ spent using pessimistic assumptions or £60 per £ best guess.

The Life You Can Save raised $11 per $ spent for effective charities

Raising for Effective giving has raised $24 per $ spent, for effective charities.

EA London (which does not do much fundraising) roughly raised £2.5 per £.

Rethink Forward moves £7 per £.

This are all post hoc analyses of money moved to date, not estimates of future impact. The quality of the evidence for these i

... (read more)
EA Survey 2018 Series: Donation Data

I know I'm like 1 year late, but do you have the raw data still?

What is the size of the EA community?

I would expect the number of ea-but-dont-know-about-ea people to be pretty high actually. Givewell received $42 million last year from people who gave $1 million or less, if each person gave $5000 (which I think is a generous amount), that's 8400 donors compared to the 3,500 that took the EA survey last year. Of course that could just be cause most people don't like taking surveys, but I would expect that to be countered by a lower average donation amount. In contrast, taking the median estimate of $750 in the last survey, it looks like we have ... (read more)

The full metrics report gives the breakdown of number of donors by donation size and year (for 2016-2018), both as an estimate [] and for known number of donors [] .

Thanks! Note that for the computation to work, you probably should take the mean and not the median. In the survey that's $9761 - so the total (claimed) donations from people that took the survey amounts to about $35 million.

Also, I see that from that same survey that they have (partial) data on contribution to each charity. Note that Givewell is not that big relatively in total donations

Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent

Even at worst that's still 4 years of suffering averted per $, insane cost-effectiveness.

What is the effect of relationship status on EA impact?

Hm, my intuition goes the other way. I would assume being in a relationship increases your chances of convincing your gf/wife to donate at least a little, perhaps 10%, to your choice charity. I've never been in a relationship though so who knows.

Needed EA-related Articles on the English Wikipedia

Interestingly the EA wikipedia page gets an average of 9000 pageviews a month. Curious where most of these people first hear about it before googling, maybe Doing Good Better?

Insect herbivores, life history and wild animal welfare

Where would starvation fall under in the juvenile mortality pie chart? Or is that something r-selected species don't typically go through.

It would be under competition in the pie chart. It is a lowish percent of total mortality.
Invertebrate Sentience: A Useful Empirical Resource

Fantastic post, I'll be looking forward to the next one about insects as a cause area. I suggest researching the effects of buying beef to reduce springtail and nematode populations on grazing lands. See this post and this one as well. I could also pm you my spreadsheet that tried to compare it to other causes to give you a starting point.

Watching cricket makes you a better altruist

35 Independent Pieces of Evidence for Why New Corporate Campaigns Might (or Might Not) Work

Off-topic but what do broiler chicken campaigns look like typically? I know for hens it's cage-free, is it just more space per chicken for broilers?

More space per chicken is just one of the requirements. Probably the most important requirement is to use higher welfare breeds, which generally grow more slowly. But there are more requirements regarding lighting, enrichments, etc. You can see the full ask in the European Chicken Commitment. Asks for other regions are similar and can be seen here.

What caused EA movement growth to slow down?

If you make the definition of EA "anyone who donates to an EA charity" then the movement is much bigger, there's more than 20K people in the world donating to effective charities. The Humane League alone has 1.1M followers on facebook, assuming only 200K of those donate, that's still the same as the double every year number. I'd say anyone that donates would be considered an EA in my book, even if they don't self-identify as one.

Yeah, this is an issue with defining EA. "Self-identification" is the only clear criterion for "being part of EA". There is nothing useful as a metric about it. EA is not the kind of movement where it makes sense to ask "how many effective altruists are there?" It's just how I framed my thinking about growth rates and bottlenecks, since that is the question I see lots of people asking people all the time. It is a familiar framing. If someone has a specific question about change in the amount of resources moved through EA in a particular way, it is a lot easier to pinpoint a bundle of things to measure, and that usually provides an answer, like with what you're doing.
Why we should be less productive.

I think it's cause of the cheese line. Most of us here are vegans and we don't like hearing that kind of thing.

I like cheese :-)
What is the Impact of Beyond Meat?

I could still see a sizable impact coming from the consumer skipping a meal of chicken that they otherwise would have ate and substituting it with beyond meat. It doesn't have to be an exact substitute.

I think it's bad for Beyond Meat's brand to sell low quality products though as they've done in the past.
Reasons to eat meat

Donating is much more effective than the increase in demand though, especially when you consider the elasticity factor. So in that case you should just buy whatever food is cheaper and donate the excess, tofu is about 3x cheaper ($2 per pound) vs grass-fed beef ($6 per pound). I guess if you truly hate tofu you could have an excuse but there's always soy sauce to make it tastier.

I think that your general model is wrong. Briefly, here’s a couple of reasons why:

First, producers strongest economic incentive is net-profit maximization.

Net-profit= #fish sold * (average revenue per fish sold - average cost to farmer per fish sold)

Farming fish at quite high stocking densities without counteracting aeration causes low dissolved oxygen levels. These high stocking densities cause a greater number of fish to be sold. As long as the increase in net-profit caused by the increase in the # fish sold is greater than the decrease in net-profit ... (read more)

Reasons to eat meat

Fair point. Also this model gives a very similar number too, if you take the median of the -6, 13 estimate (3.5).

Reasons to eat meat

ACE charities are also super cost-effective (15 chickens spared per dollar or so) so if you can hold yourself to a deal like "I'm gonna eat steak tonight but promise to donate $1 to The Humane League after", you just did a lot more good than bad, at least in expected value.

Deliberately offsetting a harm through a "similar" opposite benefit means deliberately restricting that donation to a charity from a restricted subset of possible charities, and it may be less effective than the ones you've ruled out.

Offsetting could also justify murder, because there are life-saving charities.

Also related: (read more)

Isn't this equivalent to "I am going to cause some suffering but promise to pay to educate someone else to not cause more suffering"? Unlike carbon offsetting, animal suffering from factory farming is irreversible. I agree that ACE charities are very cost-effective and I personally support them. But, the 15 chicken spared per dollar you quoted is not true. It is actually a rough estimate of -6 to +13 animals spared from industrial agriculture. Here is the donation impact estimate of the Human League according to ACE: What do you get for your donation? From an average $1,000 donation, THL would spend about $420 on corporate outreach to campaign for higher welfare policies. They would spend about $320 on grassroots outreach, including leafleting, supporting corporate campaigns, and humane education. THL would also spend about $130 on online ads, $100 on communications and social media, and about $30 on studies through Humane League Labs. Our rough estimate is that these activities combined would spare -6,000 to 13,000 animals from life in industrial agriculture. []
Why animal charities are much more effective than human ones

The first impression though is that animal charities should be accepted as more effective until proven otherwise by some large positive AMF flow-through effect that outweighs saving a life (maybe reducing insect populations?) Until then it seems much more straightforward to donate to ACE charities, specifically the cage-free ones.

5Peter Wildeford3y
It's a rather weak consideration though. I think I'd most rather invest in more research to figure out these comparisons.
35-150 billion fish are raised in captivity to be released into the wild every year

Good catch, I also don't think the welfare improvement would be anywhere near a cage-free campaign, especially after reading that economic incentives part of your post. Unless you think the slaughter is really really bad, this probably isn't a worthy cause area.

These fish are not slaughtered, they are released into natural waters. But I wouldn't jump to conclusions that quickly :)

35-150 billion fish are raised in captivity to be released into the wild every year

> How cost-effective could they be compared to other animal welfare interventions?

This is a hard one, but I'll take a (crude) stab at it. Currently the best charity working on fish welfare is Albert Schweitzer (ace top charity). This 2016 guesstimate model of Albert Schweitzer shows a figure of 57 animals spared per dollar, but ~75% of these are chicks being spared from debeaking, which I think is too easy of a policy to implement compared to the oxygen/food problems that arise with fish welfare. The other 25% are cage-free hens which is probably ... (read more)

I don't quite understand this estimation. It seems you are comparing Albert Schweitzer Foundation's work with an intervention that improves welfare for farmed food fish (rather than stocked fish)? It seems that the graph includes wild-caught fish. According to a fishcount estimate [] , in 2015 Germany slaughtered 8-66 million farmed fish. In general, my intuition is that those variables would not be similar to the ones in chicken campaigns.
Which asks should be prioritized in animal advocacy? - Charity Entrepreneurship

The dissolved oxygen comes from the nitrogen spike when overfeeding the fish, correct?

Water quality including dissolved oxygen is affected by three main categories of causes; one of which is the biological loading and water treatment systems applied by the farmer that includes management of oxygen level. DO level is affected by multiple stable factors (like temperature) but also sporadic factors including overfeeding, swimming activity or CO2 increase, so it is important that the baseline dissolved oxygen level has a safety margin for temporary increases in DO requirements.
A Research Agenda for Establishing Welfare Biology

True, I still believe that making a toy model with made-up numbers is still better than not doing it at all.

I totally agree - they also often help identify where more research is needed (like seeing which numbers are the hardest to lock down).
A Research Agenda for Establishing Welfare Biology

I don't think its enough to say they're net negative because of r-selection though. Insect larvae probably have like 2 orders of magnitude less neurons and they might not even be conscious in the first place. Also I saw those welfare reports but really didn't like them because they left out the duration of suffering which is a huge factor in how bad something is. A broiler chicken experiencing a moderate amount of stress for it's entire life could be much much worse than it being boiled alive for a few seconds.

This is my welfare spread... (read more)

1Arran McCutcheon3y
Thanks for sharing. Definitely more research like yours and WAI’s is needed regarding what species and stages of development within species are likely to experience suffering, and how we should view the importance of moderate/extreme suffering/pleasure.
This is very interesting to see/hear. I have a paper coming out that's purely theoretical but that deals with this issue, and I'd be interested in talking more about this spreadsheet.
A Research Agenda for Establishing Welfare Biology

Has there been any explicit calculation actually done on whether wild animal lives are net positive or negative? Because I've done some myself and it seems to be positive, at least for microorganisms and insects which are the most populous by a large margin.

My personal opinion is that it is pretty much impossible to make claims at this point about the sign of many animals’ lives without significantly more research. I think the arguments regarding welfare and life history strategy are compelling prima facie, but that might not be enough evidence for action immediately, and instead indicates it is a high priority area for study (which is why we have so much life history work planned this year). Models like the ones you linked here are interesting and provide some insight, but also have huge assumptions built in that significantly alter the results depending on the author's views on some critical issue (scoring relative utility of subjective experiences, weighting based on the square root of neurons, and a sentience multiplier), and also don't account for variations in season, climate etc., that would probably alter those numbers massively as well. My personal guess is that we are quite a ways off from being able to do this comprehensively (at least a few years) for any particular arthropod population, not including discounts that might be made based on number of neurons or whatever features we think might be important. And we are probably much further out from being able to state with certainty which of those features are important, and how much we should discount on the basis of them (if at all). Either way, academic buy-in is going to be crucial, which is why we are so focused on academic outreach, and doing research that will help us understand what early academic work we should prioritize. Thanks for your research! It was interesting to see!
2Arran McCutcheon3y
As far as I’m aware, the lives of invertebrates are considered likely to be net negative due to r-selection (most (all?) species reproduce by having a large amount of offspring, most of whom die at a very young age), and short lifespans in general, which tend to end in painful death by dehydration, being eaten alive etc (the extreme suffering involved in this type of death is thought to typically outweigh any positive aspects of the individual’s short life). I don’t know of any explicit calculations apart from Charity Entrepreneurship’s weighted animal welfare index ( which includes an estimate for ‘wild bug’ (spoiler alert: it’s net negative). Are you able to share some of your calculations?
Charity ranking sheet I made

Also do you know where I can find the ACE models?

Charity ranking sheet I made

The charities I chose wasn't a very principled decision, I just used the Givewell #1 (Malaria Consortium) and compared it to a couple other charities I thought could be more effective. The model is really just a basic attempt at comparing animal charities to human charities which is surprisingly something I haven't seen anyone try yet. There's also the utility number and duration of suffering I use to try to get a good grasp of how bad the life is for a chicken/fish