I was under the impression that ‘Ejectorate’ refereed to people who had some ability to remove leaders, e.g. through coups?
I think the answer to your question depends on what your opportunity cost is. Without knowing your situation I would guess this role is better than most others and so would encourage you to take it!
I estimate the true number who would benefit from therapy or mental health self-help resources at some point in their life is closer to two thirds (see footnote)
I was wondering how you estimated this? The footnote provides some data about the supposed prevalence of mental illness, but doesn’t provide any evidence that therapy would help these people.
I bring this up because there is a recent paper I saw on twitter which suggests that increasing the diagnosis of mental illness may actually hurt people :
More than one in ten adults in the U.S. and Europe are, at any moment in time, diagnosed with a mental illness. This paper asks whether mental illness is over (or under) diagnosed, by looking at its causal effect on individuals at the margin of diagnosis. We follow all Swedish men born between 1971 and 1983 matched to administrative panel data on health, labor market, wealth and family outcomes to estimate the impact of a mental illness diagnosis on subsequent outcomes. Exploiting the random assignment of 18-year-old men to doctors during military conscription, we find that a mental illness diagnosis for people at the margin increases the future likelihood of death, hospital admittance, being sick from work, and unemployment while lowering the probability of being married. Using a separate identification strategy, we measure the effect of military service on the same set of outcomes to rule out that the effect of diagnosis in our setting is primarily mediated by altering the probability of serving. Our findings are consistent with the potential over-diagnosis of mental illness. [emphasis added]
It would clearly be quite bad for the EA movement to expend resources on incremental mental illness diagnosis if this is actually harmful.
One consideration I just thought of, which I do not recall seeing mentioned elsewhere, is that the optional number of tags depends somewhat on the typical tag use case.
Clicking on an article’s tags to find other related articles
As only a small % of tags apply to any given article, and this % will fall as the number of tags increases, article tag spaces will not become too ‘busy’.
Hence there should be many tags, so that each article can be tagged as usefully as possible.
Clicking on the tag list to find a specific topic
There are already so many tags it is hard to find the one you want.
This is especially an issue because any given concept often has multiple associated words, so you can’t always cntrl-f.
This has been previously discussed at some length here.
I don’t want this all to read as commentary on Delo or BitMEX specifically.
Well you did announce the policy change as a comment on an article about Delo!
EA has long included the idea that some ways of making money could create net negative impact even if you donate your earnings, for example 80,000 Hours’ post on Why you should avoid harmful jobs even if you’ll do more good.
I think (?) I may have pointed this out previously, but there are some significant issues with this article. For example, it suggests a $42,000 average social cost of jobs in finance:
We also made a rough estimate of the damage caused by jobs in the financial sector that increase the chance of a financial crisis, and found a figure of $42,000 per year....First, the estimates are highly uncertain, and only apply to finance jobs on average. If you picked the most harmful jobs in finance, they could be much worse.
We also made a rough estimate of the damage caused by jobs in the financial sector that increase the chance of a financial crisis, and found a figure of $42,000 per year.
First, the estimates are highly uncertain, and only apply to finance jobs on average. If you picked the most harmful jobs in finance, they could be much worse.
But if you follow the source link, you can see that this estimate is actually for only the 10% most harmful jobs:
The US financial sector employs some 6,000,000 people. I am going to guess that the share of people that are involved in activities that could predictably increase systemic financial risk is around 10%. … That would suggest through financial instability each of these 600,000 people lowered other people’s income in the US by $42,000 on average, for each year they worked.
The US financial sector employs some 6,000,000 people. I am going to guess that the share of people that are involved in activities that could predictably increase systemic financial risk is around 10%. …
That would suggest through financial instability each of these 600,000 people lowered other people’s income in the US by $42,000 on average, for each year they worked.
So the average harm is 10x less, i.e. $4,200.
Even then, I think this is quite a poor estimate. It relies on ascribing all the expected costs of financial crisis to financial workers. However, a huge deal of the responsibility should surely be borne by other actors. Depending on your views of the causes of the crisis, some collection of these groups are quite responsible:
Politicians who passed regulations like the community reinvestment act.
Regulators who focused on solvency over liquidity.
The Federal Reserve for excessively tight monetary policy.
Individual borrowers who knowingly mis-stated their ability to repay.
Investors in ABS CLOs or Prime MMFs who did not do their due diligence.
Academics who over-emphasised normal distributions and ignored skew/kurtosis.
Furthermore, it does not assign any monetary value to the positive aspects of finance, even though these are probably very large:
Banks allow people to save money without being afraid it will be stolen by burglars.
Credit card networks allow us to purchase things without needing to carry cash.
Paypal allows us to buy things from merchants who are not physically nearby.
The stock market provides signals to investors about where would be useful to invest their money.
Companies can raise money in order to grow much more quickly than they would otherwise.
The bond market allows governments to borrow money to finance additional spending during recessions and pandemics.
Similarly, the article suggests that being a Tobacco CEO is unacceptable, linking to this analysis. However, I think the fermi calculation involved in this estimate was quite far off, as I explained here:
However, I think that while 80,000 Hours substantially improved on the analysis in the original paper, they omit a number of factors. Unfortunately, almost all of these factors seem to pull in the same direction, causing them to over-estimate the amount of harm done by a tobacco CEO. These include both over-estimating the direct harm done and under-estimating the benefits donating your income would cause.
At the time Rob suggested he would think more on the issue, but to my knowledge the analysis was never updated.
This video seems quite sensationalist, and in many places the argument seems like a stretch. For example, you say that Timnit was fired, but the only evidence of this seems to be that she claims this is the case—in contrast, Google says she offered to resign:
Timnit responded with an email requiring that a number of conditions be met in order for her to continue working at Google, including revealing the identities of every person who Megan and I had spoken to and consulted as part of the review of the paper and the exact feedback. Timnit wrote that if we didn’t meet these demands, she would leave Google and work on an end date. We accept and respect her decision to resign from Google.
Even if you thought Google is mistaken/lying I think you should at least mention this.
I would also encourage you to submit text rather than video to the forum in the future. In many cases you mentioned things that I would like to respond to—for example, the idea that Google’s responsibility for searches linking to bad medical advice is similar to Boeing’s responsibility for plane crashes—but it is very hard to do so without text to easily search, analyse and quote.
This was one of the reasons why we picked GWWC and 80k as names in the early days, rather than leading with effective altruism.
I was curious about what you meant by this? I recall the term ‘Effective Altruism’ not being determined until 2011 or 2012, long after the names ‘GWWC’ and ’80k’ were chosen.
Thanks for writing this, I thought it was an interesting post—the point about translation awkwardness was especially new to me and seems pretty credible.
One consideration against I might consider would be that of organisational value drift. If you have invested a lot of effort into building an organisation, it makes sense to want to ensure it stays closely affiliated with the EA movement. If it has ‘Effective Altruism’ in the title, that is a powerful anchor. In contrast, if you’re called the ‘Positive Impact Club’ or somesuch, I can easily imagine someone arguing, “Well might not be EA but recycling awareness still has positive impact, so we should still promote it!” In particular, I think a strong name anchor makes it easier to resist social pressure from other activist groups on campus to promote their thing.
Obviously, I do still think there is a place for considering something more like “variance of impact”, but I don’t actually think that that dimension has played a large role in people’s historical reactions to grants we have made, and I don’t expect it to matter too much in the future.
Relatedly, I don’t recall anyone pointing out that funding a large number of ‘risky’ individuals, instead of a small number of ‘safe’ organisations, might be less risky (in the sense of lower variance), because the individual risks are largely independent, so you get a lot of portfolio diversification.
I don’t think the research is much evidence here. The whole point of the donor lottery is that the winner can justify doing a lot more research. This would be the case even if they hated the other entrants.
You’re right that they wouldn’t necessarily have to share that research, but many people enjoy posting on the forum anyway. Previously Jonas has been at pains to clarify that such reports are not required.
Is the idea that such controls, had they been implemented in the past, would have prevented you from accepting Delo’s donations?
Also, I am curious to see CEA’s cost-benefit analysis behind this decision. Naively this seems like incurring a cost (staff time, consultant fees, lawyer fees, annoy donors) in order to reduce a benefit (donations). Based on my cursory research (talking to a lawyer and reading this) I couldn’t work out if this was actually legally required given CEA’s situation, though it does seem to be reasonably common.
At the moment we offer several options for donors who wish to take advantage of more research than they can justify doing themselves:
EA Funds, where they money will be allocated basically on semi-professional allocators who have been chosen (ideally) for their knowledge and competence.
Donor lotteries, where the expected money you donate is conserved, but your counterfactual research time is concentrated.
Give Directly, to give power to the poorest people in the world and take advantage of their local knowledge of their needs and opportunities.
Many of your suggestions seems essentially like a mixture of these three, but without really the advantages of either. For example, Random Donor Pooling (2) or Reverse-Donation-Weighted is basically like the EA funds except with a less rigourous hiring procedure. Unless you think the EA Funds search for qualified candidates adds negative value I’m not sure why this would be desirable. Alternatively, it’s basically like the donor lottery, except it punishes you for donating larger amounts of money; I don’t think many people would want to donate more than the minimum if it means reducing their expected influence in favour of not-obviously-more-qualified people. Or it’s like GiveDirectly, except you’re empowering smaller donors who are still relatively quite well off. Taken all together, I’m not sure why someone would prefer one of these alternatively-weighted lotteries over some combination of these already-existing options.
I also disagree with your suggestion that biasing donor lotteries towards smaller donors would necessarily widen the search space:
Randomness expands the search space by increasing the chances of people not typically selected to allocate large pots of money
The search space covers the various possibilities that you are examining. For a typical well-informed EA this might include a few dozen charities in global health, animal rights and existential risk reduction. If we select some unusual person, who spends all their time researching charities to promote local museums in rural Ireland, this doesn’t really expand our search space unless that person also researchers the standard charities in as much as depth as a typical EA donor would. Otherwise we’ve just replaced it with a different search space, one I suspect most EAs would consider inferior.
Worse, it seems quite plausible that if EAs donated a lot of money to a pot whose direction would be determined on a per-capita basis (rather than proportionally) that some other community would decide to ‘raid’ it by having a lot of people donate the minimum amount and then divert the money to their own ends.
At least in the US women have been having fewer children than they want for many decades:
As a result, the gap between the number of children that women say they want to have (2.7) and the number of children they will probably actually have (1.8) has risen to the highest level in 40 years.
I think this post is very mistaken.
There are some relatively minor issues. For example, the methodology used in Wynes & Nicholas (from Murtaugh & Schlax) to compare the climate change impacts of less driving with fewer children involves comparing temporary changes in automobile usage with an infinite duration population change, which seems like an obviously unfair comparison. Indeed, there is nothing in this methodology to prevent each individual child from having an infinite impact on climate change… except that the authors arbitrarily prevented this, probably realising it would show their results were absurd:
Some lineages persist indefinitely, in which case a pre-specified time limit terminates the simulation.
Similarly, you suggest that ‘unintended’ pregnancy means women are ‘forced to bear children against their will’. But this is incorrect. Many couples are not planning on conceiving but are nonetheless happy to be blessed with a child! Indeed, the Wikipedia article you quote makes this clear in the sentence immediately preceding your quote:
Terming a pregnancy “unintended” does not indicate whether or not a pregnancy is welcomed
More importantly, when doing cost-benefit analysis, it is important to analyse both the costs and the benefits. Here, you analyse in detail the costs of population growth—but with no mention at all of the benefits. Yet these benefits are very large:
Population growth means more people will get to experience the joys of living. They will get to learn, play, make meaningful relationships and fall in love. They can play with lego, read books and enjoy the sunset. I think for most people life is good, so this is a huge deal!
Children benefit existing generations who will enjoy being parents and grandparents. Anecdotally grandchildren seem to be one of the primary joys in most grandparents’ lives, and people generally rank their relationship with their children as one of the most meaningful parts of their life.
Larger populations allow more specialisation and division of labour, which are key components of economic growth, as well as other economies of scale.
Larger populations mean more artists and scientists, whose inventions and discoveries can then be enjoyed by everyone at essentially zero marginal cost.
More prosaically, we need future generations to keep social security and other retirement systems working.
Given that the post has ignored all positives of population growth, it is unsurprising it found that population growth to be negative. Indeed, according to the analysis here—which treats people as entirely a burden, with no benefits whatsoever, whether to themselves or others—encouraging the deaths of existing people, by spreading the pandemic for example, could also appear a very positive policy!
Great article, very logical approach.
We might want to consider the idea that the ‘victims’ of ideology-driven psychological harms might be blameworthy, even if they are not the least-cost avoider any more. It might be the case that the cheapest way to avoid the harm is to not adopt the ideology in the first place but, having adopted it, it is very hard to avoid subsequent harm, and it cannot easily be un-adopted. In this case I think we would not want to encourage people to adopt such an ideology, so we might want to hold them responsible after the fact. (This is implicitly covered in your piece but I thought I’d make it explicit).
As we cannot measure the diversity of perspectives of a person directly, our best proxy for it is demographic diversity, as our life shapes our assumptions.
This seems like quite a key premise to your argument, but you don’t seem to spend much time arguing for its plausibility; indeed, it seems quite likely false. Could we not simply ask someone their views on a variety of subjects? If we know what their views are on Sports, Reincarnation, the Holy Roman Empire, Two Dogmas of Empiricism, Abortion, Pokemon, the Axiom of Choice, MIRI, and Socks with Sandles, I feel like we could have a pretty good sense of whether they add a new perspective.
Similarly with education and career; I would in general expect more perspective diversity from a group consisting of an economist, a biologist, a nurse, a poet, a cop and a prostitute, even if they were all the same race, age and sex, than I would from a demographically diverse group of harvard-educated lawyers.
There are a lot of Facebook groups exist because there is an obvious niche but don’t really have enough quality content to justify themselves, but the Parents group is actually pretty good; I definitely recommend if you’re a parent and want to chat with similar other people.
The volunteer labor could be applied to domestic infrastructure as in the CCC
Unfortunately the limiting factor on US domestic infrastructure isn’t typically labour but regulatory. Major infrastructure projects have to go through literally years of applications and hearings to get planning permission, with expensive concessions required and no guarantee of success. This occurs both for very small projects - e.g. turning a disused parking lot into a house in the bay area—and large ones—the KeyStone XL pipeline, for example, was originally proposed in 2008… and 12 years later, after exhaustive environmental review, was blocked by the government.
Seems plausible. Presumably if some crime is deterred by these rules, which would leave the $3bn an under-estimate of the benefit. On the other hand, without the rules we might see more innovation in financial services, which would suggest the $300bn an under-estimate of the costs.
Unfortunately I think it is very unlikely we could make any progress in this regard, as governments do not like giving up power, and the proximate victims are not viewed sympathetically, even if the true incidence of the costs is broad.
There have been attempts in the past to reform, as they particular harm poor immigrants trying to send cash home, but as far as I am aware these attempts have been almost entirely unsuccessful.