I mean there is still lots of stuff that can go wrong based on FLI interventions. Maybe that’s just the work that tipps us into an astronomical suffering scenario?
I agree longtermist interventions are quite uncertain too. Moreover, I actually think they have wider confidence intervals for reasons like the one you pointed to. However, since they explicitly try to ensure the longterm effects are positive, and I believe most of the expected effects of interventions tend to be in the future, I guess the expected value of longtermist interventions is more likely to be positive than that of neartermist ones.
Imo, for this to have any value beyond being personal speculation, you should at least start to make explicit your reasoning process in more detail and also express the range of uncertainty you see.
I explained my process:
I only spent about 5 s setting the cost-effectiveness of each donation, guessing it based solely on the name of the recipient.
I agree it is not rigorous. This was supposed to be represented by elements like the title including "very shallow analysis" and the point in the summary saying (emphasis added only here, not in the summary):
This analysis is very (too?) shallow.
Thanks for commeting. I agree the Gates Foundation has saved many lives, but I am very unsure about the sign of global health and development interventions for the reasons I point to here.
Yes, something along those lines. As of now, I am pretty clueless about the effects of global health and development interventions on terrestrial arthropods in the near term, and I am also quite unsure about their longterm effects.
This is a little hard for me too. Obviously, I feel a strong intuitive pull towards preventing deaths from malaria and malnutrition. In the past, I donated to GiveWell's top charities, and wrote articles in the online newspaper of my university applauding them (here and here; you can right click, and translate to English).
If you really have that much uncertainty along that line of thinking, I'm not sure there's too much benefit in an analysis like this
My hope was that the data about the donations could still be useful.
Thanks for writing this, Michael. Somewhat relatedly, I really liked this episode of The 80,000 Hours Podcast with Brian Christian.
We tend to think of deciding whether to commit to a partner, or where to go out for dinner, as uniquely and innately human problems. The message of the book [Algorithms to Live By] is simply: they are not. In fact they correspond – really precisely in some cases – to some of the fundamental problems of computer science.
In that sentence, I just meant to point out that not existing is better than existing in negative conditions. I agree the animals which are currently factory-farmed could continue to exist in better conditions.
I have now watched Jeff's talk.
If I understood correctly, the argument is that eating animals can lead people to disregard the welfare of animals. I agree this is currently the case, as most farmed animals have net negative lives, disregarding their welfare is useful to avoid cognitive dissonance.
However, if people started eating animals with net positive lives out of concerns about animal welfare, I would expect animal welfare to remain in people's minds. I am also unsure about whether there is a conflict between animal rights and eating high welfare animals. If these had super good lives, and were killed without any pain (this could even occur at the end of their healthy lives, in which case the killing would actually be preventing their suffering, like euthanasia), I guess no rights would be violated.
Humans have a right to life, but whenever a human is born, it is being sentenced to death (in as much as we think the lifespan of the universe is finite). This is still fine as long as the human as a good life, so I would guess the same applies to animals.
That being said, I am open to abolitionist approaches being more effective than welfarist ones. I do not think it is obvious either way.
Thanks for noting that, Raluca! Thanks for clarifying, Lorenzo!
I have now added links to the 1st instances of each of the prefixes.
If I understand correctly, the conclusion is that the direct effects of marine plastic pollution on seabirds / marine mammals are probably much smaller than the effects of fishing on fish.
Yes, I think this is exactly the right conclusion to take. We should be careful not to extrapolate to other animals. I have now updated the title to better reflect this.
Thanks for commenting, Henry. I do feel you are pointing to something valuable. FWIW, I am confused about the implications of my analysis too. Somewhat relatedly, I liked this post from Michelle Hutchinson.
Thanks for engaging!
Assuming most of the expected value of the interventions of GiveWell's top charities is in the future (due to effects on the population size), we are cluelessness about its total cost-effectiveness. This limitation also applies to longtermist interventions.
However, if the goal is maximising longterm cost-effectiveness (because that is where most of the value is), explicitly focussing on the longterm effects will tend to be better than explicitly focussing on nearterm effects. This is informed by the heuristic that it is easier to achieve something when we are trying to achieve it. So longtermist interventions will tend to be more effective.
It would also be surprising and suspicious convergence if the best interventions to save lives in the present were also the best from a longtermist perspective. The post from Alex HT I linked in the Summary has more details.
Thanks for the kind words! I like your summary. Just one note, since we are arguably so far from knowing whether insects have good or bad lives, I do not think we can take the conclusion below.
Based on a shallow dive and plugging some numbers into a simple model, the results suggest we should reallocate human health resources out of a few countries and into other countries where less habitat destruction is happening
I believe the best attitude is one of cluelessness, where we just know that insects may dominate (or not) the analysis, either making GiveWell's top charities much more harmful or beneficial. Moreover, we should beware surprising and suspicious convergence. If insects indeed went on to dominate the analysis (quite unclear), I would expect targetted wild animal interventions to be more effective than global health and development ones.
It would also be nice to move the acronyms (i.e. t_a) to the figure captions where they're presented, and work on better formatting the tables.
I have now restated the meaning of N_ta and N_h just before the tables, and improved the formatting of the headers of the table a little.
You've done the research and thinking, so take a little more time to polish up the presentation so we can read it more easily :)
Ah, you are right!