There are plans to use longtermism (both the term and the idea) in disciplines beyond moral philosophy (e.g. the Global Priorities Institute’s longtermist research agenda which includes economics in addition to philosophy). So to “prevent confusion”, it’s important to understand whether other fields are using the term, and what other people are likely to think when they hear it.
FWIW, I think for most people something like “ultralongtermist” would do a better job of communicating the time frames Will is talking about.
‘Longtermism’ is a new term, which may well become quite common and influential. The aim in giving the term a precise meaning while we still have the chance is to prevent confusions beforethey arise. This is particularly important if you’re hoping that a research field will develop around the idea. I think that this is really crucial.
I don’t have an issue with EAs using ‘longtermism’, but it’s decidedly not a “new term” and already has an existing academic literature in non-EA disciplines. So any attempts at disambiguation (which I applaud) should address how the term is currently being used. If you search for it on Google Scholar, you’ll find lots of results on “long-termism” from a business perspective (typically related to investments or corporate governance). I looked through a few pages of search results without seeing anything related to EA.
Google also provides an interesting perspective on hyphenation. I was originally in the “who cares?” camp, until I noticed that google returns different results for “longtermism” and “long-termism” (I used an incognito window and would advise the same for anyone trying to replicate this). “Long-termism” returns results associated with the business use cases (including various definitions); I don’t see anything EA related until halfway through the 2nd page of search results. This makes sense since the existing literature generally uses a hyphen.
Googling “Longtermism” returns some business/definition results, but has a lot of EA content on the first page including the first result (ForeThought Foundation). That said, Google asks if you meant “long termism” (which gives the same search results as the hyphenated version), suggesting there’s not a ton of people searching for the unhyphenated term. I don’t think EA should adopt a hyphenating convention based on short-term search engine optimization, but this does seem like a relevant consideration.
Age and wisdom: I suspect that this isn’t a major consideration in the choice between these voting systems: if we wanted a more epistocratic system, we would move quite far away from either of the current system or the age-weighting system.
I think you’re being pretty cavalier about the “intelligence vs. wisdom” issue. Paul Christiano’s comment “I personally think that I’m better at picking policies at 30 than 20, and expect to be better still at 40” rings very true to me (I’m 40), and I’m pretty sure my friends (mostly in 30s and 40s) would emphatically feel the same way. I’m curious about the age of the oldest person you got feedback from, and what they thought about this idea.
Re: epistocracy, it’s true there are policies that could increase the average intelligence and/or wisdom of the electorate. But those are typically the same policies that have historically (and/or currently) been used to disenfranchise marginalized people. As one example of the baggage attached to these policies, here’s how Wikipedia describes how literacy tests have historically been used in the US:
From the 1890s to the 1960s, many state governments in the United States administered literacy tests to prospective voters purportedly to test their literacy in order to vote. In practice, these tests were intended to disenfranchise racial minorities. Southern state legislatures employed literacy tests as part of the voter registration process starting in the late 19th century. Literacy tests, along with poll taxes, residency and property restrictions and extra-legal activities (violence, intimidation) were all used to deny suffrage to African Americans. The first formal voter literacy tests were introduced in 1890. At first, whites were generally exempted from the literacy test if they could meet alternate requirements that in practice excluded blacks, such as a grandfather clause or a finding of “good moral character.” (emphasis added)
Personally, to give future people more representation I’d favor legislation like limits on budget deficits, overall debt levels, and programs with upfront benefits but big deferred costs (e.g. it’s easy to offer a generous pension if all the costs come down the road). One of the easiest and most common ways to “steal” resources from future generations is to run up big debts they’ll need to pay off.
Thanks for writing this, great resource!
Couple of things to note re: Giving Games
1) I think it’s really important to distinguish between speed GG (basically tabling events) and longer GG workshops. Groups have had success with both approaches, but they accomplish very different things. Speed GGs are really about starting a lot of conversations, getting people onto mailing lists, and trying to identify a small percentage who seem like they might buy in a lot. GG workshops are about digging into the ideas behind high impact giving, and trying to get people on board with them.
2) This upcoming semester we’ll be working with One for the World to collect a lot of great data on how GG work for groups (pledges, attendance, subscriptions, etc, absolute and relative to a control). This will incorporate a lot of improvements that have been made over the years, and should be the most representative of what groups could reasonably expect going forward.
3) There’s a field experiment from a few years back that found groups running GG workshops attracted more attendees than speaker events, especially if the speaker wasn’t a VIP (such as a charity CEO)
(I founded and operated the Giving Game Project and continue to advise it).
I suggest a putting a “help” button in the editor, right next to the “save as draft” and “submit” buttons. This info should be super easy to find when someone’s writing a post.
Relatedly, when the instructions are being refreshed for the planned update I think it’s important to run them by someone non-technical (and probably at least one generation older than the person writing the instructions) to see if they can understand them.
Testing a reply with an image copy/pasted from a public google doc (shows up as camera in the editor)
Edit: it worked! Good to know about this workaround (though the direct google doc import Ben mentioned would still be preferable since it’d deal with footnotes too).
Great to learn about that group, maybe worth a top-level link post?
Google Forms is free and very easy to use if you want to do a poll without being restricted to people with FB accounts.
Cool, direct import from g-docs would do the trick from my perspective. Thanks for the update!
Re: pictures, ability to do pictures in comments would be nice. But my frustration was really around this:
Click the image of a photo on that bar, and you’ll be able to add the URL where your image is hosted. The Forum doesn’t support attachments, but there are a lot of sites where you can upload an image for free. My favorite is imgbb.
This is a real pain, and a disincentive to using charts or tables. I write in google docs for a variety of reasons, including because it’s easy to get feedback from people. So once I’ve written a draft, edited, sent it out for feedback, revised it, given it a final edit, and at long last have it looking the way I want in a format that’s used around the world, I don’t want to have to upload a bunch of images to some site I’m unfamiliar with, then insert each of them into the post.
I’d like to do be able to do a simple copy/paste. Inserting attachments would still be frustrating, but a significant improvement on the status quo. In either case, I’d like there to be clear and easily accessible instructions (people shouldn’t have to figure out the imgbb solution on their own). Hope this clarifies where the frustration stems from, let me know if you still have questions.
Re: search, “effective altruism” was probably a bad example but I guess I’d like to see that return something like CEA’s guiding principles (or whatever the old search version did). “Bednet” is probably a better example. You’d expect this to turn up something about bednets and/or AMF. Instead, it returns three results that mention bednets but are in no way about them.
1. Charity Entrepreneurship Research Summary (22 karma, 3 years old)
2. The age distribution of GiveWell’s charities (13 karma, 4 years old)
3. What consequences? (25 karma, 2 years old)
Interestingly, searching for “bednets” instead of “bednet” yields very different results:
1. 8 ways to free up donation money without sacrifice
2. Where should anti-paternalists donate?
3. Kidney donation is a reasonable choice for effective altruists and more should consider it.
I’m not sure exactly what my algorithm would be, I imagine it’d involve keyword matching in the title, in the text, karma, recentness, etc. Let’s say someone wanted to find “After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organization”, which I believe is the highest karma post in forum history. And it has a title that you can’t expect people to remember. I’d definitely want that to be the top result if someone searched for “jobs” (it’s the 7th result, requiring an extra click to see) or “ea job market” (doesn’t show up).
Agree with Khorton there’s a balance to be struck. But I think it’s critical to be able to provide feedback like ‘The latest version has reached the point where I just don’t see the point of visiting the forum any more’. It’s “particularly loaded” in the sense that it conveys a strong opinion, but that’s a good thing. If it were expressed in a mean way, that’d be a big problem. To me, that comment read like a simple statement of a fact that the forum team would definitely want to know.
Michelle, FWIW I haven’t voted on your comment. While I disagree with you on whether the tone was appropriate and how good the new search is, I really appreciate your give a clear explanation of your downvote of the OP and hope others follow this example.
btw, I had to google what a markdown editor was so perhaps the instructions could be made more accessible to laypeople
My frustration centered around not being able to take a post I’d written in google docs and simply paste it into the forum to post without extra work. I’ve run into two problems trying to do that: pictures and footnotes. It didn’t help matters that I wrote a post with a ton of footnotes before they became supported, but even now that they are it’s a pain to use the markup editor instead of just copy/pasting things. I’d strongly prefer to get this and the search functionality taken care of before adding new functionality (e.g. sequences).
There are also things I like about the new forum. The notifications about replies is a huge plus, and the question and link post types are a clever nudge to engage people. I’m sort of on the fence about the frontpage/community distinction. I sympathize with the intention, but worry that it buries time sensitive news that EAs need to know about (e.g. when a grant application window opens).
Last but definitely not least, thanks Ben for your openness to feedback (even if some is critical) and lack of defensiveness! Strong upvote.
Michelle, I’m very surprised you find the new search functionality to be an improvement. I thought the old search worked quite well, but find the new functionality nearly useless. Unless I know the exact title of a post and search for that, I routinely get results that are tangentially/un-related, old, not-well-upvoted, or all of the above. For example, the top results when searching for “effective altruism” are:
1. Effective Altruism and Religious Faiths: Mutually Exclusive Entities, or an Important Nexus to Explore (9 karma, 4 years old)
2. Effective Altruism & Slate Star Codex Readership (3 karma, 6 months old)
3. Effective Altruism subreddit (9 karma, 3 years old)
The comments that are returned are similarly old and low-karma (though I do love that the new search returns both posts and comments). I also tried searching for “bednets”, “artificial intelligence”, and “jobs” all with similar outcomes.
I actually wanted to post screenshots of the search results, but couldn’t figure out how to insert pictures (I figured out a workaround in the past, but I can’t remember what I did, only that it was time-consuming and extremely annoying). More generally, I’ve found the process of posting quite frustrating (which I’m not alone in). I strongly upvoted the OP for these reasons; I hope this isn’t read as a lack of appreciation for the hard and extensive work that people have put in on the new forum.
Great post, very thought-provoking! I understand the rationale for excluding student pledge-takers from this analysis, but I think looking at the share of this cohort that goes on to give >=10% after graduating could shed some light on the broader attrition question. Also seems highly relevant to the strategy for campus chapters of both GWWC and One for the World.
My hunch is that the graduation stage would be the “leakiest part of the funnel”, because a) it’s a lot more palatable to donate 1% of a small amount than 10% of a larger amount; b) after graduation people’s social circles are likely to be less EA-centric.
To get a better sense of “how many members does EA have?”, going forward I suggest asking organizations for data on unique website visitors rather than pageviews since the latter somewhat conflates number of people and degree of engagement (pages per session).
The original book was well received and got significant amounts of attention (e.g. an excerpt ran in the NYT, Peter was on the Colbert Report to talk about it, etc.). It was also highly influential, and has contributed to the way a lot of EAs (including Cari Tuna) think about giving. I’m not sure how many languages it’s been translated into, but it’s a pretty good number.
The organization has also received attention from a variety of major media outlets and has moved a considerable amount of money to effective charities (~$5.25 million in 2018 and expected to be much higher in 2019). With the publicity push around the release of the new edition, there should be much more media attention around the corner.
Also, Peter Singer is clearly notable and disambiguating the book and the nonprofit will help clarify discussion about Peter. The disambiguation is becoming even more important with the new edition (which will have substantial changes), as there will soon be two books and a charity all with the same name.
The Life You Can Save (which I work for) would be very interested in getting a Wikipedia page set up. My understanding is that Wikipedia doesn’t allow employees or volunteers to create one, but we’d be very happy if someone in the EA community took it on themselves to create one. There’s already a Wiki page for TLYCS the book, so we’d be hoping to get a new separate page for the non-profit organization. And this disambiguation would be particularly helpful prior to the 4Q19 release of the updated and revised 10th anniversary edition of the book.
Thanks for clarifying Ben!
Thanks Aaron, very helpful data and context.
Vipul wrote up observations on Forum traffic from Sep 14-Dec 16, which seems to be based on data from Google Analytics. Any way to splice this data together with the more recent history?