I work with donors and feel I don’t have enough to say when ageing comes up. Fancy giving me a quick primer?
A few things I’m clearly confused on:
why aging isn’t always discussed under the restriction of global population capacity, seems like we should have reached it by then (assuming no AGI). I realise this is everyone’s first intuitive response but seems like it should still be a key factor in any analysis.
seems like under a full capacity assumption the impact either comes from an improved distribution of where people are at in life (less teenage depression and end of life suffering or something like that) which seems uncertain. Or from increased career length which also seems not certainly net positive. Maybe I missed it but couldn’t see any of this in your calc discussion.
I know there are plenty of arguments for aging being neglected and so worth it from the medium term also but it seems like if you’re talking about escape velocity then pop cap needs to factor in.
If you’d be up for that primer I’m On my username (Agdfoster) and @gmail.com
Don’t know much about this but I thought you could estimate a ballpark for the total frequency by looking at craters on moons and mars.
Is it meaningful to say that some companies are growing exponentially when the markets they take part in are growing exponentially? https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/world-gdp-over-the-last-two-millennia?time=1913..2015
After a quick Google, Microsoft was $500bn market cap in it’s 2000 peak and now is about $1tn, but world GDP has almost doubled in that time also (60tn → 110tn).
If you want to try a work strategy that involves long hours then a positive successful relationship may be harder to achieve.
Otherwise I’d advocate you don’t instrumentalise your non-work time for impact. I know it’s a cliche but do what you enjoy. Instrumentalising your free time seems to make people less relatable (probably an understatement), less trustworthy, more prone to depression, less robust to sudden changes etc
Having a strong base, whatever it is for you, is pretty important I think. When impact stuff is going badly you don’t want to feel like everything is going badly. That kind of instability is going to have more Long term effect for your impact than a few thousand pounds a year in one direction or another.
As you suggest in the question I think an improvement would be: “impact of -org X- -trying- to influence governments vs direct work”
Some key considerations:
Gov interventions’ numbers in my experience generally have much better expected values in back of the envelope models and then often look much less good when you add a bunch of additional intuitive discount factors.
Attribution is highly uncertain with policy interventions.
This said, I expect many of the highest return per dollar funding opportunities to be in policy and research.
What’s the tractability/chance of success of the government intervention for the given team? It might actually be very very low.
Is this team more likely to do more harm than good? There are many ways of doing damage or damaging future efforts. I think this rules out a bunch of approaches that would otherwise justify their low tractability and
How time pressured is the intervention? Potentially risk is worth it. My general rule of thumb currently on this is something like “major risks are very rarely worth it, be very careful and wait for great te
Sometimes “direct work+ ” is the best policy intervention. Do something the government could adopt really well, show that it works and has public support, then try lobbying for it. This said, it seems like quite a few charities just strap this argument on to what they were going to do anyway, which is fine so long as they’ve thought it through properly, just something to look out for.
Lobbying / technical assistance etc opportunities are generally going to be fewer and further between.
Thanks for flagging, now updated
I’d guess the best argument is the obvious one:
most the professional world and voting populace have a very negative view on psychedelics
whilst the potential upsides might be sizeable, they likely don’t compare to the negative damage to EA that EA orgs publicly supporting such work would likely do.
if done in secret that’s a) a secret (generally bad) and b) inevitably going to get out.
and a fair number of non EAs are working on it anyway as it’s quite a popular idea in California. I’m guessing anyone super passionate about it could get funding and hire without having to be associated with EA at all.
I think your reasoning here needs a lot of work. Few quick points:
better to critic specific points rather than something broad like ‘all strategy of EA affiliated orgs’.
generally, if it seems like a large number of really smart people in EA appear to be missing something, you should have a strong prior that you are the one missing something. Took me a long time to accept this. It’s not wrong to shine a light on things of course, but a touch more humility in your writing would go a long way.
reasoning and evidence aren’t exclusive things, evidence is part of reasoning.
this said, I don’t think the criticism of “too evidence based” sticks anyway, have you read much academic ea research recently? Maybe in poverty.. but that’s a very busy area with loads of evidence where most approaches don’t work so it would be pretty crazy not to put heavy weight on evidence in that cause area.
Jude’s spends 2.1m a day but given the differences between the impact p dollar of projects easily gets into the order of 100s-1000s this isn’t very relevant.
OpenPhil could spend that. There are complex reasons why it doesn’t but the main thing to note that total spend is a terrible terrible signal.
for profit models have been explored numerous times, while still promising, little really great stuff has been found. People are working on it but it’s not a slam dunk.
earning to give is a great way to build career capital and do good.
advocacy and philanthropic advisory is really hard. People in that area are going as fast as they sensibly can.
it takes a long time to become a chief of staff at a powerful org.
policy / lobbying approaches are really hard, and people are again working on it as fast as they can.
Really interesting read, a few thoughts below. Only skim read article so mostly responding to your prompts. I should also note I advise philanthropists for a living and so am inherently biased!
I’ve found Open Phil’s reasoning to be rigorous and thorough, far more so than virtually all of their peers. I also have deep intellectual trust for, so far without exception, everyone I’ve met that works there.
from a skim read the OPs arguments feel pretty zero sum. Perhaps the argument should instead be “should open Phil also fund non-GCBR bio work as well”.
It doesn’t seem even handed to both portray these researchers as easily swayed by flashy deep pocketed philanthropists as well as lamenting the loss of highly intelligent research talent. If they’re highly intelligent and also updated their actions based on open phils reasoning (albeit also including cash), the OP should probably be humble themselves about the likelihood of being right.
the OP seems to present philanthropy as this potentially negative steering force. Even if the field is zero sum (gov funds less as a result / too little talent to use extra funds wel), are we to believe that altnerate funding sources apply no directional pressure?
whilst voting keeps governments relatively aligned with the populace’s needs, it has only a small alignment with global needs and global public goods. The short time frame (4 years) also seems to result in shorter-term thinking. Future generations can’t vote. Philanthropy seems uniquely well positioned to be reasoning and funding in areas poorly tended to by the democratic system and markets.
a bunch of the arguments wouldn’t seem intuitive if re-applied to other more familiar causes like climate change or global poverty, reasons for difference should be highlighted and then the extent of the OPs arguments capped respectively.
From experience this gets more and more desirable both the wealthier a donor is and the longer the donor has been wealthy for.
I think the papers phrase “agency” is missing something though. It’s not a sensation of making decisions or being listened to that people are drawn to generally. I’d say it was more ‘proprietorship’ or ‘feeling ownership over the project’, feeling like a causally relevant component of the whole endeavour.
Agency is also, I find, quite patronising!
That’s fine! Thanks.
[Disclosure: In February 2019, I corresponded about the experience-sampling idea with Alex Foster of the EA Meta Fund. He said my points were “certainly quite compelling,” but the correspondence fell off.
Please note that the content of my correspondence with Milan was exploratory but primarily from a position of skepticism. Whilst technically accurate I find this quote to be misleading and not very good form.
Arguably it was the philosophers that found the last few. Once the missing moral reasoning was shored up the cause area conclusion was pretty deductive.
haha—good question. And yes, from notes.
I hate April 1st so much.
A small gripe with the title—you don’t make any argument for this tech solving global poverty, just congestion in the wealthiest cities on earth. I know transportation has economic benefits elsewhere but your post makes no claims about this.
I want more posts about flying cars.
I’m still assuming the reliability requirement is too high. If a car stops working it rolls to a halt, a flying crashes into a residential area. Planes don’t do this, but they have costly constant checks. Maybe a fleet owner (non personal ownership) and lots of sensors for automated checks makes the reliability feasible.
Similarly security seems like a daunting challenge.
Noise I hadn’t thought of.
Do we even need them though, if a city goes full AV you can theoretically have very high speed regular cars and no junctions / traffic. At even just 60mph, a 30 min commute encompasses an area significantly larger than Greater London. And commuting in an AV could be very comfortable with a desk and WiFi. Whilst it’s hard to work on trains I could imagine even “going for an AV pomodoro” in the middle of the day just for the concentration benefits of reclusion and a fixed travel time.
Assuming good automation is required for good flying cars, I’m also not sold on automation being net-good for employment. Life satisfaction—sure.
I drafted but didn’t publish a post yesterday titled “where are all the ideas?”. Really glad to see a contribution of this type.
I regularly simplify my evaluations into pros and cons lists and find them surprisingly good. Open Phil’s format essentially boils down into description, pros, cons, risks.
Check out kialo. It allows really nice nested pro con lists built of claims and supporting claims +discussion around those claims. It’s not perfect but we use it for keeping track of logic for our early stage evals / for taking a step back on evals we have gotten too in the weeds with