I was actually assuming a welfarist approach too.
But even under a welfarist approach, it’s not obvious how to compare campaigning for criminal justice reform in the US to bednet distribution in developing countries.
Perhaps it’s the case that this is not an issue if one accepts longtermism. But that would just mean that the hidden premise is actually longtermism.
The reason many volunteering schemes persist is that volunteers are more likely to donate in the future. For instance, when FORGE cut their volunteering scheme to be more effective, they inadvertently triggered a big drop in donations.
This seems somewhat misleading to me. If you click through to the FORGE blog post, it states that “volunteers were each required to raise a minimum of $5,000.”
I don’t think it’s reasonable to extrapolate from ‘an organization that required each volunteer to raise a substantial sum saw a large decrease in revenue after decreasing the number of volunteers’ to ‘many volunteering schemes are maintained because volunteers are more likely to donate.’
The way the article phrases the two sentences implies that the second provides support for the first when in fact it does not (at least not without citation to evidence that many volunteering schemes require volunteers to raise substantial sums).
The criticisms of volunteering in this article seem directed at traditional volunteering: structured opportunities that produce direct impact. Under this definition of volunteering, the criticisms seem reasonable.
But a person might be interested in a broader sense of volunteering: unpaid, non-job related ways of using their free time to have an impact. Under this definition, there are many worthwhile volunteering opportunities. For example, a person could do one on one video calls with college EAs interested in their field, provide feedback on draft EA content, or run an EA discussion group.
The article does note non-traditional ways of volunteering at the end but I think it’d be more likely to leave the reader with an accurate impression of the author’s position if it substituted “traditional volunteering” for “volunteering” in the first several paragraphs.
Great work! I think it might be a good idea for you to state on the page that the numbers are per kcal of energy. I clicked the link before reading your post and initially assumed it was the impact of eliminating the category from a standard diet. For what it’s worth, I think it could be useful to have “impact of category in a standard diet” as an option on the page.
I agree that one word is better but I think this factor is less important than other factors like clarity. Because of this, I think “Helping others” would be better than “Helpfulness.”
I also think the placement of “Cause prioritization” and “Collaboration” should be switched in the primary proposal so that “Cause prioritization” is next to “Effectiveness.”
And in the alternative proposal, I think “Cause prioritization” should be replaced with “Commitment to others.”
I strongly prefer “reasoning carefully” to “rationality” to avoid EA being too closely associated with the rationality community and people’s perceptions of it. Notably, in his post defining effective altruism, William MacAskill uses “careful reasoning.”
As for “greatest impact,” I think it works reasonably well in a sentence combining all six values: the EA community uses evidence and careful reasoning to identify causes and approaches that allow for the greatest impact from an altruistic and impartial perspective and pursues those causes and approaches in a collaborative and norm-respecting manner.
I really like the idea of an acronym! Thank you for taking the time to create one and write a post about it. If I may, I’d like to add another option to the table:
Norms (integrity, inclusion etc.)
I like the word “caring” because it pushes back against the idea that a highly deliberative approach to altruism is uncaring.
Michael Bitton has used this argument as a reductio against longtermism (search “Here’s an argument”).
It seems it could work as to the medium term but would not work as to the very long term because i) if the fertility rate is above replacement, the initial additional people stop having a population effect after humanity reaches carrying capacity and ii) if the fertility rate is below replacement, the number of additional people in each generation attributable to the initial additional people would eventually reach zero.
Two suggestions for the list of “broad categories of longer-term roles that can offer a lot of leverage” under “Aim at top problems”:
Under “Direct work”, add foundations as one type of organization and grantmaking as one type of skill (or make this a separate category)
Under “Government and policy”, add international organization to the list of employers to consider
Similar changes could be made to the “Five key categories” in the article “List of high-impact careers”.
Thanks Luke. Do you know why EA Funds excludes ACE Movement Grants? There is substantial overlap between the recipients of ACE Movement Grants and the recipients of EA Animal Welfare Fund grants, which is why I wanted clarification that exclusion is not meant to imply anything negative about ACE Movement Grants.
Feature request: Create an option for content in the “Recent Discussion” section to be sorted based on the “Magic (New & Upvoted)” formula used for “Frontpage Posts” instead of based solely on recency. This would allow people without time to go through every single piece of new content to still be able to find and engage with important new comments.
For animal suffering:
we can’t say that farm animals live lives that are not worth living;
advocating higher welfare standards legitimizes factory farming;
corporations are unlikely to adhere to their higher welfare pledges;
commercial fishing is okay since fish usually die painfully anyways;
bad to transition from animal farming since jobs would be lost;
the world will eventually transition to cultivated meat anyways;
should end human suffering before addressing animal suffering;
advocates ignore how food system affects communities of color;*
I can’t donate to farm animal advocacy if I haven’t gone vegan; and
wild animal advocates support radically altering the ecosystem.
*There is some truth to this statement, especially regarding the past, and the answer should candidly acknowledge this. (There may also be some truth to some of the other statements, but I thought this one was especially worth highlighting.)
I do have a question for you. On GWWC’s “Best Charities to Donate to in 2020” page, under the “Give together, as a community” section, GWWC omits ACE Movement Grants. Is this intentional, and if so, can you publicly state GWWC’s reasoning?
Comprehensively Evaluated Charities
GiveWell Maximum Impact Fund (allocated between GiveWell Top and Standout Charities at GiveWell’s discretion; list of GiveWell Top Charities for 2020 below)
Malaria Consortium (seasonal malaria chemotherapy)
Against Malaria Foundation (anti-malaria bednet distribution)
Helen Keller International (Vitamin A supplementation)
SCI Foundation (deworming)
New Incentives (vaccine uptake)
Deworm the World Initiative (deworming)
The END Fund (deworming)
GiveDirectly (unconditional cash transfers)
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) Recommended Charity Fund (allocated between ACE Top and Standout Charities at ACE’s discretion; list of ACE Top Charities for 2020 below)
Albert Schweitzer Foundation (corporate campaigns)
The Humane League (corporate campaigns and movement building)
Good Food Institute (supporting development of meat alternatives)
Wild Animal Welfare (research and field building)
Other Promising Opportunities
EA Global Health and Development Fund (allocated between promising global health and development projects at the discretion of GiveWell co-founder Elie Hassenfeld; links to most recent grants below)
October 2020: Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention
September 2020: IDinsight
July 2020: Innovations for Poverty Action
June 2020: IDinsight
EA Animal Welfare Fund (allocated between promising animal welfare projects at the discretion of a team led by Lewis Bollard, the program officer for farm animal welfare at the Open Philanthropy Project; links to most recent grant rounds below)
ACE Movement Grants (allocated between promising animal advocacy projects around the world at ACE’s discretion; links to all grant rounds below)
Charity Entrepreneurship incubated charities
Fish Welfare Initiative (research and outreach)
Animal Advocacy Careers (career advice)
Policy Entrepreneurship Network (public health policy)
Happier Lives Institute (well-being research)*
Suvita (vaccine uptake)
Lead Exposure Elimination Project (lead paint regulation)
Animal Ask (researching what to ask for in future campaigns)
Family Empowerment Media (media campaigns about contraception)
Canopie (program to address postpartum depression)*
Giving Green (climate change donation recommendations)*
*included despite arguably falling outside the scope of global poverty and animal suffering
GiveWell (evaluates promising interventions and charities in the global poverty space)
Animal Charity Evaluators (evaluates promising interventions and charities in the animal suffering space)
Charity Entrepreneurship (incubates high-impact charities)
Rethink Priorities (prioritization research mostly on animals)
General infrastructure organizations
Centre for Effective Altruism (local group support, conferences, EA Forum, EA Funds, Giving What We Can etc.)
80,000 Hours (podcast, job board, general career concepts etc.)
(I’ve excluded organizations that appear not to accept donations from the general public such as Women and Non-Binary Altruism Mentorship and Founder’s Pledge)
How about just Good Careers?
The two most widely known EA organizations, GiveWell and 80,000 Hours, both have short and simple names.
It seems to me there’s a fourth key premise:
0. Comparability: It is possible to make meaningful comparisons between very different kinds of contributions to the common good.
It looks like I’m too late. But here’s something I’ve been wanting to ask.
In your paper “The Definition of Effective Altruism,” you distinguish effective altruism from utilitarianism on various grounds, including that:
EA does not claim that a person must sacrifice their personal interests (e.g. having children) when doing so would bring about greater good; and
EA does not claim that a person must violate non-consequentialist constraints in the rare situations when doing so might bring about greater good.
For me, this points to a broader principle that EA does not require a person to sacrifice something “morally major” to bring about greater good. This would imply that an EA can choose to prioritize things like a duty to contribute their fair share, a duty to family members, and a duty to rescue those they are uniquely positioned to rescue over bringing about greater good.
However, in a 2015 debate, you argued (scenario; response) that a person alone in a burning building should choose to rescue a Picasso painting (assuming they can keep it) over a child since the money from selling the painting could be used to save thousands of children.
Do you think effective altruism necessarily entails that position or were you just speaking to what is morally better?
I’ve completed my draft (now at 47,620 words)!
I’ve shared it via the EA Forum share feature with a number of GPI, FHI, and CLR people who have EA Forum accounts.
I’m sharing it in stages to limit the number of people who have to point out the same issue to me.
Something else I hope you’ll update is the claim in that section that GiveWell estimates that it costs the Against Malaria Foundation $7,500 to save a life.
The archived version of the GiveWell page you cite does not support that claim; it states the cost per life saved of AMF is $5,500. (It looks like earlier archives of that same page do state $7,500 (e.g. here), so that number may have been current while the piece was being drafted.)
Additionally, the $5,500 number, which is based on GiveWell’s Aug. 2017 estimates (click here and see B84), is unusually high. Here are GiveWell’s estimates by year:
2017 (final version): $3,280 (click here and see B91)
2018 (final version): $4,104 (click here and see R109)
2019 (final version): $2,331 (click here and see B162) (downside adjustments seem to cancel with excluded effects)
2020 (Sep. 11th version): $4,450 (click here and see B219)
Once the AMF number is updated, the near-term existential risk number is less than five times as good as the AMF number. And if the existential risk number is adjusted for uncertainty (see here and here), then it could end up worse than the AMF number. That’s why I assumed the change on the page represented a shift in your views rather than an illustration. It puts the numbers so close to each other that it’s not obvious that the near-term existential risk number is better and it also makes it easier for factors like personal fit to outweigh the difference in impact.
Hi Arden and the 80,000 Hours team,
Thank you for the excellent content that you produce for the EA community, especially the podcasts.
There is one issue that I want to raise. I gave serious thought to raising this via your survey, but I think it is better raised publicly.
In your article “The case for reducing extinction risk” (which is linked to in your “Key ideas” article), you write:
Here are some very rough and simplified figures to show how this could be possible. It seems plausible to us that $100 billion spent on reducing extinction risk could reduce it by over 1% over the next century. A one percentage point reduction in the risk would be expected to save about 100 million lives among the present generation (1% of about 10 billion people alive today). This would mean the investment would save lives for only $1000 per person.
At the top of the page, it says the article was published in October 2017 and last updated in October 2017. There are no footnotes indicating any changes were made to that section.
However, an archived copy of the article from June 2018 shows that, at the time, the article read:
We roughly estimate that if $10 billion were spent intelligently on reducing these risks, it could reduce the chance of extinction by 1 percentage point over the century. In other words, if the risk is 4% now, it could be reduced to 3%.
A one percentage point reduction in the risk would be expected to save about 100 million lives (1% of 10 billion). This would mean it saves lives for only $100 each.
I think it would be helpful to members of the community to indicate when and how an article has been substantively updated. There are many ways this can be done, including:
an article explaining how and why your views have changed (e.g. here, here/here, and here);
linking to an archived version of the article (as you do here) ideally with a change log; and
a footnote in the section indicating what it previously said and why your views have changed.
I understand that you have a large amount of content and limited staff capacity to review all of your old content. But what I’m talking about here is limited to changes you choose to make.
I’m sure it was just an oversight on the part of whoever made the change. You all have a lot on your plate, and it’s most convenient for an article to just present your current views on the subject.
But when it comes to something as important as the effectiveness of spending to reduce existential risk and something as major as a shift of an order of magnitude, I really think it’d be helpful to note and explain any change in your thinking.
Thank you for reading, and keep up the good work.
While I have made substantial progress on the draft, it is still not ready to be circulated for feedback.
I have shared the draft with Aaron Gertler to show that it is a genuine work in progress.