I have a degree in chemistry and I can fact-check this post as true and that Eliezer is, at best, drawing up bad analogies and most likely just completely misunderstands chemical bonding in biology.
I also think most people with a high school knowledge of chemistry and biology would have been able to figure this out with a bit of thinking; I’d like to think I would have if I had known Eliezer had been writing this. I thus am a bit disappointed that this wasn’t pointed out sooner.
This is a very nice post. Keep up the great work Joy
Correct. Dustin and Cari mostly defer to OP. But the people at OP aren’t random. The selection of leadership at OP (Holden/Alex) are very much because of Dustin/Cari. FWIW, on the whole, I’m very thankful for them. Without them, EA would look quite a lot worse on the whole, including for animals.
I largely think that Israel has a large duty here to protect its citizenry from the terrorists who want them dead. I don’t want sanctions imposed on Israel. I think they are largely “in the right” and that the majority of the blame for the death and despair in the region is due to Arab states/Palestinian leadership wanting to wipe Israel off the map. Longer-term peace in the region will only result when there is an acceptance that there will be a Jewish state called Israel approximately where it is now.
I strongly agree with this post and strongly upvoted it. I also talked a lot with Ariel in the making of this post. I think the arguments are good and I think EA in general should be focusing a lot more on animal welfare than GHW.
That said, I think it’s important to note that “EA” doesn’t own the money being given away by Open Phil. It’s Dustin/Cari’s money that is being given away and Open Phil was set up (by them, in a joint venture between Givewell and Good Ventures) to advise them where their money should go and they are inspired/wish to give away their money by EA principles. The people at Open Phil are heavily influenced by Dustin/Cari’s values so it isn’t surprising that the people at Open Phil might value animals less than the general movement and if Dustin/Cari don’t want to give their money to non-human animal causes, that’s well within their rights. The “EA movement”, however you define it, doesn’t get to control the money and there are good reasons for this.
Like @MathiasKB, I want to generally encourage people to see how they can affect the funding landscape, primarily via their own donations as opposed to simply telling other people how they should donate. A very unstable equilibrium would result from a bunch of people steering and not a lot of people rowing.
Because I think it would be a bad idea and a terrible incentive that would ultimately lead to more terrorism in the region and several more October 7ths.
I’m not exactly sure what the best course of action is to counter Hamas, but a ceasefire doesn’t seem right.
Given how much the community has grown, isn’t this just what you’d expect? There are way more people than there were in 2016, which pushes down how weird the community is on average due to regression to the mean. The obvious solution is that EA should just be smaller and more selected for altruism (which I think would be an error).
Sure, I’m not suggesting we become smaller but I don’t think it’s completely either or. A bit more altruistic pressure/examples seems good.
I think the simplest explanation for this is that there are just more roles with well-paying counterfactuals e.g. ml engineering. Excluding those roles, after you adjust for the cost of living, most EA roles aren’t particularly well paid e.g. Open Phil salaries aren’t much higher than the median in SF and maybe less than the BART (Bay Area metro) police.
SF is among the most expensive cities in the world. Above median salary in the most expensive parts of the world seems quite high for non-profits. I think the actual simplest explanation is that EA got billions of dollars (a lot of which is now gone) and that had upward pressure on salaries.
Again, my comment mainly answered the question of why we don’t have a robust earning to give ecosystem in EA. Not nearly enough people make enough money to give the type of sums that EA organizations spend.
Politician and/or getting into the weeds of party politics and setting the agenda of a political party.
Public intellectual advocating for it.
I’m sure our friends at Progress Studies also have some ideas.
The problem with “get governments to scale up and integrate” is that governments… suck. Corruption, incompetence, straight up theft, etc. mean that these interventions which were being provided, when taken over by the government just disappear in a few years.
Many people in the West feel that governments are maybe a bit wasteful and inefficient but on the whole good/okay. In developing countries, this is not always the case.
Happy to answer these
Not a specific salary, there should definitely be ranges. I guess I would say the average EA salary should be ~60-80k/year right now. I think this is less than many could make in the private sector but not necessarily all. I acknowledge this is a sacrifice or reduction.
I think a reasonable condo/apartment. I think they would cook most of their own meals, could have kids, still save like 10% of income. I don’t think it’s necessary to live in London, NY, SF.
Able to live a ~middle class life. Not sure what peak productivity but miserable means.
Virtually all. This is above the median income in the richest country in the world.
I think a small ~5% or so may do work outside of EA on the side. I’m also not opposed to higher salaries than this. I don’t know what you mean I would expect to happen to them.
Usually I expect this to be not a lot of a drop. Maybe an average of 10%. Sometimes i realize this will be more.
Well, depends. I think a baseline reasonable counterfactual is Givewell Top Charities Fund.I suppose 6 and 7 are for an individual hire and not for EA as a whole.
I’m not just talking about salaries when I talk about the costs of orgs (as i said, my original comment is a diagnosis, not a prescription). To use the example of lab reagents and genetic sequencing, I’ve worked in several chemistry labs and they operate very differently depending on how much money is available. When money is abundant (and frugality is not a concern), things like buying expensive laptops/computers (vs. thinking about what is actually necessary) to run equipment, buying more expensive chemicals, re-use of certain equipment (vs. discarding on single use), celebrations of accomplishments, etc. all are different.
The way I see it, from 2016 to 2022, EA (and maybe specifically longtermism) got a bunch of billionaire money that grew the movements “money” resource faster than the other resource like talent and time etc. and so money could be used more liberally, especially when trading it off vs. time, talent, ingenuity, creativity, etc.
To clarify, I don’t think salaries are anywhere near $1M. I do think there are a lot of people at EA organizations who make $150-200k per year or so. When you add benefits, lunches, office space, expense policies, PTO, full Healthcare packages/benefits, staff retreats, events, unnecessary software packages, taxes etc. a typical organization might be spending 1/3rd of their budget on salaries so something like $5-6M, not $10M. I wasn’t being exact with numbers and I should have been.
I think many EA organizations could reduce their budgets by ~50%, drastically turn up the frugality and creativity and remain approximately as effective.
I’m not sure the effects this would have. I suspect less “exodus from EA” than people think.
I’m also just speaking to what happened as to why we don’t have a robust earning to give ecosystem. It’s much different having 50 people fund a 100-500k org than a 5M org.
Also, allow me to make a small reversal test. You say there is a small market for kidney organs disincentivizing the capital markets from coming in and investing in solutions. If we could, should we be trying to increase the prevalence of kidney disease to increase the potential size of the market for forming kidneys from the recipient’s own cells so that there is a larger reward pool to motivate investors to solve the problem? After all, there are also positive externalities, since growing kidneys is similar to growing any other organ. So advances in this field could be extrapolated and lead to the curing of many other conditions.
So your donation of a single kidney is buying a few mediocre years of life, in exchange for taking away a few million dollars of the table from any company developing “the proper way” of doing this.If this practice would spread, we’d live in blood-land, where no money is left on the table.
So your donation of a single kidney is buying a few mediocre years of life, in exchange for taking away a few million dollars of the table from any company developing “the proper way” of doing this.
If this practice would spread, we’d live in blood-land, where no money is left on the table.
This argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Is AMF hurting because by distributing bednets and preventing people from getting malaria, you are reducing the incentive to create a malaria vaccine since it would now be less good to create this vaccine.
I can make a million different versions of this. In a nutshell, yes, helping solve a problem makes it smaller and thus less good can be done by others since the problem is now smaller.
I’ve thought about similar things to this before. Thanks for writing it out for the community. I think there are few reasons for this change.
The average EA today is far less “committed” to EA than in 2016. By committed, I mean making personal sacrifices for altruism. Here is a website I found for Jeff Kauffman and Julia Wise where you can see them giving 50% of their income since ~2012. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve had a family for most of that time. This behavior is significantly less common nowadays, particularly as a proportion of people in the movement where I suspect a good fraction of people in the community donate relatively little, let alone 50% of their income.
Salaries at EA organizations have grown a lot. People used to take massive pay cuts to do EA non-profit work. Hopefully people from the early days can fill in some numbers here but there is a picture here of an office in the basement of an estate agent, salaries being 15k/year pre-tax and lunch being the same every day. In the OP, Abraham talks about a $500 donation allowing him to hire a contractor and being able to hire staff after ~75k of donations. Apart from a select few CE incubated charities, 75k doesn’t even cover a single person’s salary for a year at most EA orgs. Most salaries I see today for EA positions are 100k+, particularly at longtermist organizations.
There are a few solutions to this:
EA gets more frugal. We might not go back to 15k (20k or so with CPI adjustment) but a typical salary could become 50-60k. Catered lunches, generous expense policies, large benefits packages and ample + flexible + paid time off become a pot luck once a week, basic healthcare coverage and 2 weeks of vacation. All of a sudden, running a 10 person organization takes $1M instead of $10M and it becomes much more feasible to get 30 x $10-30k with a couple of 50-100k donations to cover the cost of the organization.
A general decentralization of the funding landscape. Open Phil (and maybe SFF) get divided into ~5 orgs. A significant amount of regranting gets done on the order of ~100k-1M per regrantor who otherwise do other things.
I think there are costs to both approaches. There will be a lot less work done by “less committed” EAs if sacrifices compared to the private sector become expected. Furthermore, there are many efficiency gains to be had by not having several grantmaking orgs duplicate the same work + a bunch of less skilled and trained regrantors might on average make worse grants.
Still something to consider.
People shouldn’t be downvoting Rockwell’s comment. She’s got more experience in this field than almost everyone.
The one I found most strange is the percentage of people who disagreed that it was okay for an EA org to break minor laws. I want to flag that animal orgs doing undercover operations receive no pushback from EA as far as I can see and that these are against the law. I can think of other things as well that the EA community condones or doesn’t criticize. Not saying there isn’t a difference what is described here and the ones I listed above but it is strange to see that view.
The vast majority of people should probably be withholding judgment and getting back to work for the next week until Nonlinear can respond.
I’m contributing to it now, but it’s a bit of a shame that this post has 183 comments at the time of writing when the post is not even a day old and not being on the front page. EA seems drawn to drama and controversy and it would accomplish its goals much better if it were more able to focus on more substantive posts.
It does depend on the cost, to be clear. And I fully agree with you that animal welfare charities are starved for cash and that we can be deploying far more to Global Health and Poverty.
1. At the time, EA was looking for bold ideas to use a lot of money productively. There was talk of a funding overhang. EA was looking to get aggressive at spending money on useful things. I think you’d have heard very little pushback at the time on this.
2. I’m still not against this. I think this is a very good piece of the puzzle in mitigating against bio risk. I know it is expensive. Whether we do it or not depends a bit on our other options and the amount of money EA has.
3. Maybe not this island specifically but it seems like a decent start.
4. I don’t think the island should be “specific to EAs” but a selected group that would be able to restart civilization? Sure