zdgroff's Comments

Wild Animal Welfare Meetup (Spring 2020)

I found this informative:

Are you more funding- or talent-constrained?
Oscar: There are lots of researchers out there who would work on this if we offered them funding to do so.
Michelle: Wild Animal Initiative is primarily funding-constrained. Hiring can also be challenging, but not as much.
Peter: Funding-constrained. We have had to turn away talented people we didn’t have the funds to hire.

Given that most of the messaging in the EA community for a couple years has been that human capital constraints are greater than funding constraints, I was surprised to see this. I know there have been objections that this messaging is focused on longtermist and movement-building work and less representative of farmed animal advocacy, for example, but this is an update for me.

CEA's Plans for 2020

I had not read through the CEA mistakes page before (linked in your post), and I am very impressed with it. I wanted to note that I'm pleased and kind of touched that the page lists neglect of animal advocacy in the 2015 and 2016 EAGs. I was one of the advocates who was unhappy, and I was not sure whether there was recognition of this, so it was really meaningful to see CEA admit this and detail steps that are taken.

How hot will it get?

Very interesting! I wanted to note that this further supports Will's comment on his recent post that understanding prior-setting better could be very high-impact.

Is Existential Risk a Useless Category? Could the Concept Be Dangerous?

Yeah, I agree the facile use of "white supremacy" here is bad, and I do want to keep ad hominems out of EA discourse. Thanks for explaining this.

I guess I still think it makes important enough arguments that I'd like to see engagement, though I agree it would be better said in a more cautious and less accusatory way.

Is Existential Risk a Useless Category? Could the Concept Be Dangerous?

I think the concerns about utopianism are well-placed and merit more discussion in effective altruism. I'm sad to see the post getting downvoted.

Introducing Good Policies: A new charity promoting behaviour change interventions

Not posting this because I agree with it but rather because I think it's one of the more influential econ papers actually dealing with the reality of addiction: Bernheim and Rangel 2004 those suffering from addiction have no control and are poorer (even then people of the same ex ante income), and for those not suffering from addiction it's not obvious why they are irrational.

I think the conclusion is almost certainly wrong, but why it's wrong is a bit subtle and hard to pin down, so I thought it might be a helpful thing to be aware of going into this. It's published in the AER so it's sort of an influential enhancement of Larks's comment.

(Also full disclosure that Bernheim is my advisor. That mostly just makes me more perplexed by this paper.)

The Economic Lives of the Poor

A nice, similar writeup along these lines is the book Portfolios of the Poor. Check it out if you want to go a bit more in-depth specifically on finances and how they affect daily life.

Institutions for Future Generations

I obviously am a fan of this post! A few thoughts.

  1. I don't think sin taxes is the best phrase here. Sin taxes usually refer to internalities like cigarettes, but this is an externality more like a climate tax.

  2. I like the soft institutions like research commissions and cabinet members but suspect the harder institutions like a veto or additional legislator or even a court will get captured and perverted. Almost all of these institutions rely on norms to actually care about future generations, and norms collapse every so often when there's a reason to subvert them. Maybe this is just me looking at the current political moment, bit since we are talking about long time horizons, moments like this will recur, and I think it takes longer to salvage norms than it does to erode them. For example, claims I could see being made to justify any particular political agenda:

"We need to preserve our religious values for the sake of future generations" "We need to do [insert radical policy] to address the present crisis so that our civilization survives for future generations" "We must completely halt resource usage to preserve the earth for future generations" "We must maximize resource usage so that we grow as much as possible for future generations"


  1. For things like term lengths there's a real literature on things like that in political economy that could help get a pretty good sense of expected impact.
Are you working on a research agenda? A guide to increasing the impact of your research by involving decision-makers

Thanks for writing this! I was curious if you had research or particular observations that led you to the above approach. Last year I researched evidence-based policy somewhat, and I came away thinking that the focus on crafting research for what decision-makers wanted is in general over-rated. That may not always be the case, granted, and when research is already aimed at a specific decision-maker, it's worth doing it right, but I guess I would highlight that I think a lot of especially foundational research has an impact in a more indirect way.

Existential Risk and Economic Growth

I think this is an extremely impressive piece of work in economics proper not to mention a substantial contribution to longtermism research. Nice going.

Load More