Thank you very much for this post. I thought it was well-written and that the topic may be important, especially when it comes to epistemics.I want to echo the comments that cost-effectiveness should still be considered. I have noticed people (especially Bay Area longtermists) acting like almost anything that saves time or is at all connected to longtermism is a good use of money. As a result, money gets wasted because cheaper ways of creating the same impact are missed. For example, one time an EA offered to pay $140 of EA money (I think) for me for two long Uber rides so that we could meet up, since there wasn’t a fast public transport link. The conversation turned out to be a 30-minute data-gathering task with set questions that worked fine when we did it on Zoom instead.
Something can have a very high value but a low price. I would pay a lot for potable liquid if I had to, but thanks to tap water that’s not required, so I would be foolish to do so. In the example above, even if the value of the data were $140, the price of getting it was lower than that. After taking into account the value of time spent finding cheaper alternatives, EAs should capture the surplus whenever possible.
As a default, I would like to see people doing a quick internal back-of-the-envelope calculation and scan for cheaper alternatives, which could take a minute or five. Not only do I think this is cost-effective; I think it helps with any issues of optics and alienation as well, because you only do crazy-expensive-looking things when there’s not an obvious cheaper alternative.It would also be nice to have a megathread of cheaper alternatives to common expenditures.