It feels like we’re talking past each other a bit, so I’m going to try to clarify my position below but not add anything new. I don’t think the reply above adresses it, but that could well be due to lack of clarity on my part.Sign of impact
I don’t think the problem with TSM is that there’s non-zero probability mass on negative outcomes. This is, as you point out, true for basically anything.
My issue with TSM is that, for the reasons laid out above, I think the probability mass on negative outcomes is extremely signficant, especially when compared to other good options, for example CATF. This would be enough to make it underperform CATF in expectation even if it had similar upside, though I don’t actually think it does.
To make recommendations, one must use gathered evidence and judgment to determine the distribution of impacts, and whether this estimated distribution merits a recommendation......This stuff isn’t easy. But the fact that there is some probability mass on negative impact is not disqualifying, nor should it be.
To make recommendations, one must use gathered evidence and judgment to determine the distribution of impacts, and whether this estimated distribution merits a recommendation...
...This stuff isn’t easy. But the fact that there is some probability mass on negative impact is not disqualifying, nor should it be.
I agree with this. In fact, I still agree with it when the following words are added:
To make recommendations about preferring one organisation over another, one must use gathered evidence and judgment to determine the distributions of impact for each organisation, and whether the estimated distribution of the difference in impact merits a recommendation of one over the other......This stuff isn’t easy. But the fact that there is some probability mass on negative impact if we only recommend the organisation which we think is best in expectation is not disqualifying, nor should it be.
To make recommendations about preferring one organisation over another, one must use gathered evidence and judgment to determine the distributions of impact for each organisation, and whether the estimated distribution of the difference in impact merits a recommendation of one over the other...
...This stuff isn’t easy. But the fact that there is some probability mass on negative impact if we only recommend the organisation which we think is best in expectation is not disqualifying, nor should it be.
I think both the quote from you and the one I’ve added bold text to are true.
Individual chapters of Sunrise
Critics trying to take down Sunrise frequently pull out the most radical quote they can find from one of the local chapters and use it to disqualify the whole organization, but I don’t really think that’s valid.
I pulled that quote to indicate that the decentralised nature of Sunrise means any claims about its work being in any sense atypical of progressive activism more broadly are hard to believe. This is relevant not because one bad quote should discredit an organisation, but because I showed above that climate activism in general is not neglected, and you responded that effective climate activism is not neglected. But both statements can only simultaneously be true if Sunrise’s activism is meaningfully different from progressive activism more broadly, and it doesn’t appear to be.
Thanks! I’ve now added it
Other than the clarification in my other comment, I think the most important disagreement we have is about Sunrise, so I’m going to primarily talk about that.
it’s true that TSM’s budget has grown massively over the last few years (as has CATF’s for that matter), but I think that’s a poor proxy for neglectedness. I think that there is very little effective climate activism happening out there, and there’s huge room for effective growth.
TSM’s budget growing by 1.5 orders of magnitude since 2015 isn’t sufficient to show that they aren’t neglected, but I think it is sufficient to show that donations data from 2015 should not be relied on to make the case for neglectedness, especially as arguably the most famous activist in the cause area also didn’t start campaigning until 3 years later.
The claim that “there’s very little effective climate activism happening” is very different from the claim that climate activism in general is neglected, and I think may well be true, but that claim only applies to TSM if their activism is unusually effective compared to progressive activism more broadly (which is far from neglected), and I don’t think you’ve shown that. To the extent that TSM has goals, which is somewhat limited, those goals seem to be very typical of progressive climate activism in general, which as discussed is extremely far from being neglected. Sunrise Seattle’s open opposition to cap and trade is one recent example.
Sign of Impact
I would just say that [the impact may be negative] is lobbed at a lot of organizations, since people have different theories of political change.
Isn’t the whole point of doing charity evaluation as opposed to just donating wherever you like that you can evaluate whether these sorts of claims are credible? I appreciate that you’re time pressured and am grateful for the time you’ve already given but I was really hoping for more than just “other organisations have this lobbed at them too”.
It doesn’t really feel consistent to me to take the position when comparing [donate to TSM] and [donate to CATF] that “there’s loads of uncertainty so we won’t make the call”, but then when comparing [Recommend TSM as they are +EV] to [Don’t recommend TSM as they are -EV], take the position “sure there’s loads of uncertainty but on balance the former is the best option”. What’s the difference I’m missing between the two cases?
Thanks Dan, I’m glad to see the comment and will have a more thorough look later. I wanted to clarify one thing though.
Alex is of the opinion that because we haven’t explicitly quantitatively modeled some of the tradeoffs we face, that the analysis isn’t to be trusted. (emphasis mine)
This isn’t quite right. I don’t agree with some of your analysis, but the reason I don’t agree is not the lack of quant models, it’s the things detailed above.
Separately, I do think we disagree on whether quantitative modelling is useful even in cases of very high uncertainty (I think it is). I also think that the act of trying to quantify models tends to improve analysis, and that making explicit models makes analysis much easier for others to critique, which is a good thing if our end goal is having correct analysis.
Similar question for 2031 now upcoming.
I’d be excited to read this.
I’m somewhat glad you didn’t, as I think your broader question is still a good one. Best of luck with your specific situation though!
I think that is fair, though as your situation is prety much exactly the unusual one I described I’d rather you asked someone with better knowledge, as in your case personal fit seems much less likely to dominate.
Moderately confident about the below; I know several people working in the UK civil service, and have some experience of the US->UK immigration process, but I don’t work in government/policy myself. My prior in general is that people underestimate the importance of personal fit, as the majority of impact comes relatively late in a career, so leaving early has large costs. IIRC this view was expressed by Rob Wiblin, maybe on a guest appearance he had on another podcast which was x-posted to the 80k podcast, but I’m much less certain about that.
I would be somewhat surprised if the impact difference for doing a similar type of role in US/UK policy was a dominating factor compared to personal fit and probability of getting such a role, at least for most people.
If you’re young, single (or have a partner who works remotely), and have reason to think moving to a different country would not be particularly difficult or stressful for you, or if you live in neither country but want to move to one of them, then asking these questions seems prudent. If that’s not the case, I would expect that your expected impact would be higher going for roles in the country where you currently live, once you control for thnigs like how long you’ll be able to stay in the role, how likely you are to get the job, perform well, understand the culture etc.
We’d be happy to accept this.
If you work for an EA-aligned organisation and would like some help developing questions like the above, for example in order to inform the plans/goals of the organisation, or to compare to internal forecasts, please get in touch with me!
Having spoken to Marcus about his goals, I ended up developing 3 questions about the future of HIA for Metaculus. It would be great to have some EAF users come and post predictions and reasoning on them!
How much money will have been donated by HIA athletes by the end of 2021?
What fraction of athletes who take the HIA pledge before the end of 2021 will maintain it through the end of 2024?
How many athletes with HIA pledges will there be at the end of 2021?
The opinion poll option would not be helpful as an overwhelming majority of Conservative voters, and a majority of non-Conservative voters, are in favour of cutting our aid commitment.
I’d have thought the civil service with a view to either ending up in foreign policy or, potentially (though you wouldn’t be able to talk about it) military intelligence might be reasonable goals for someone with modern languages who’s also generally bright. If were interested in going down the civil service route, there are several EAs who I’d be happy to put you in touch with (though some are on the forum and may comment. The fast stream seems like a decent first step though, and would probably lead to quicker career progression than consulting first, though less flexibility, especially to pivot into E2G.
For fusion to take off, nuclear engineering is gong to need to become much bigger than it is now. ChemEng for clean meat if you care about animals seems like a good shout as well. EE could be interesting if you want to work on AI but improving AI capability is not necessarily positive, in the worst case scenario you shorten timelines but do nothing for alignment.
I think personal fit matters here though, not just with what cause area you’re interested in but with what degree you do. Doing well in a quant degree that you’re good at and interested in (which means you’ll put more time into doing well) will give you lots of useful skills and signalling value, leaving many strong options on the table.
Thanks! I’m planning increase the rate of uploads over Christmas.
At least Chlorine dispensers seem robustly good. Like, not for climate, but for human wellbeing generally. In fact, under not-completely-crazy assumptions, they outperform deworming.
I ran a forecasting and question-writing workshop with LSE-EA’s Arete fellows. I had a lot of fun in the session and there were many very interesting questions asked at the end. The feedback I’ve received so far has been positive.I’ve been hoping for a while to find something EA-related that uses the skills I’ve developed in my teaching career, so this was very encouraging.