I’m actually donating to the Patreon, but here are the arguments against that are most persuasive to me:
One argument I’ve heard raised is that the EA hotel is a rather expensive way of testing the idea of supporting EAs with low-cost living. Perhaps it would have been better to have started with a smaller scale experiment such as a group house and perhaps funding the EA hotel is too costly a way of learning about the potential of such projects.
Another is that the EA hotel should be more selective about who it admits, unlike its current very minimally low bar in order to achieve sufficient expected return. Some people may believe that the current approach is unlikely to be cost effective and that the hotel as it is currently structured is therefore testing the wrong thing. In this case, spending a few hundred thousand pounds on informational value could be seen as waste. Worse, we can imagine that after such a failure, funders would be extremely reluctant to fund a similar project that was more selective. In this case, the thing that we’d want to test might never actually be tested.
A third option is that people might not want to donate because they don’t believe that other people will donate. Let’s suppose that you believe the hotel needs to run for at least another year before it could build up the kind of track record for it to be sustainable and you have the option to donate one month’s worth of funding. It seems that donating one month’s worth of operating expenses might allow the hotel to do one month’s worth of good regardless of whether it later collapses or not, so perhaps this is irrelevant.
However, there may be two ways in which you may be trying to leverage your donation to have more than just direct impact. Firstly, if the hotel survives to the point where it builds up a track record to justify for others to fund it, counterfactual value is generated to the extent that the hotel is better than the other opportunities available to those funders. And by allowing this opportunity to exist, you would get to claim part of this value. Secondly, we can imagine extreme success scenarios where the hotel turned out to be so successful that the EA community decided to copy the concept around the world. Again, you could claim partial responsibility for this.
But, the key point is that if you think other funders won’t be forthcoming, you’ll miss out on these highly leverage scenarios. And if these are the reasons you’d want to fund the hotel, you might decide it’s best to fund something else instead.
Perhaps it would have been better to have started with a smaller scale experiment such as a group house
I don’t think a small group house would’ve generated community (or interest) on the same level. What we have seems more valuable on account of its scale than, say, 4 separate group houses with the same number of total residents.
too costly a way of learning about the potential of such projects
In the scheme of things, I don’t think it’s been that costly (~£60k spent to date by donors).
achieve sufficient expected return
Depends on what your counterfactual is. My initial thoughts were on the lines of “is the EV of funding this person’s work likely to be greater than that of donating the money to a GiveWell top charity?”. We are currently working on implementing a rating system for projects. I have suggested that, space-permitting, we set the bar to clear as “equivalent to donating the money to Give Directly”. The bar would be raised proportionally to how little free capacity the hotel has, although in principle the hotel has the potential to expand given available buildings on our street. Obviously making such judgements comes with large error bars and a heavy weighting of priors. Also, given this is Hits-based Giving, I’m hopeful that the long-term mean value of projects will be significantly above the entry bar.
people might not want to donate because they don’t believe that other people will donate
We have considered that perhaps a Kickstarter-like mechanism is needed here. However, given the recent interest of a few people in donating at the 4-figure level, I’m more optimistic that we can get by without it (although it might be useful for other new projects in the EA space that require a significant initial outlay, the added bonus being the social proof).