For clarity, I upvoted ofer’s post, and I did it to indicate that I too would like to read about these arguments. (I suspect that all the other people who upvoted it did this for the same reason). PS this is a great post, thank you Beth!
Great post! Saulius, do you think that campaigners in the relevant animal charities are aware of this piece?
Great to see this! I’m very sympathetic to the value of mental health as a cause area, so wonderful to see this written up, thank you.
One suggestion (it may be too late for this write-up, but may be useful for future reference): other cause write-ups (e.g. by 80k or FP) have given numerical scores to each of Impact, Neglectedness, and Tractability, and I think this would have been good to see here too.
Doing this for MH and other causes would have better conveyed the nuances in your thinking. For example, you make the case for mental health being neglected, but presumably you think that other things (e.g. x-risk?) are more neglected. And you make the case for mental health being tractable, but presumably you think that other things (sending cash to the poor?) are more tractable. A table of scores would have helped you sound balanced, while still supporting your overall conclusion.
Great to have something written down on this—thanks very much guys!
I too have worried about some of the issues highlighted here and ended up not doing any impact investing for this reason. However a benefit of impact investing is that you get the money back and can invest it a new venture (or donate it) later. So to accept your conclusion that impact investing is (usually) less good than donating, you would have to believe that the problems with impact investing (e.g. crowdedness) are bigger than the benefit of getting your money back. I actually suspect that they are (so I’m in agreement with you) but I don’t think I saw this comparison done in the report. (Although admittedly I read it fairly quickly, so sorry if it’s in there and I didn’t spot it)
The article implores us, instead of donating large amounts, to “make yourself a better, smarter, friendlier, and more capable person. Buy books. Take classes. Get a better job. Move to a better city. Throw parties. Get a gym membership. Go out dancing. Travel places you haven’t been. Build things you haven’t built. Start a business. Learn a craft.”
But lots of these things don’t actually require money, and those which do require money don’t require much money, so we can still have plenty left to donate. So I find the piece unconvincing.
I met with the founder of https://www.kindergifts.co.uk/, which enables to celebrate (e.g.) birthdays in a kinder way, e.g. involving charitable giving. I tried to encourage her towards a more EA approach to charitable giving from a young age, but she was keen for the children to support something local so that they could go and see the impact the of their donation. So it’s not very EA, but otherwise is meeting the encouraging children to think philanthropically.
Aaron, I think we agree that the contraception section is not the strongest part of the post. On your specific point though, I don’t think it’s actually so bad to use the $9.4bn divided by 74 million.
You suspect that $9.4bn is calculated by looking at data from a much smaller sample and performing a simple extrapolation. So do I. But that’s actually exactly what we want—this advice is intended for people donating thousands, not billions. (This point is what I was trying to get at with my note about more-expensive “last-mile” contraceptive needs).
Also remember I’m aiming for a rough estimate.
Publishing the correspondence would be tricky because lots of it happened over phone calls. However it may be possible to get them to respond to this post, and then you can see their point of view from the horse’s mouth.
Commenters appear to be not unanimous about whether “We all knew that the Cool Earth recommendation was low-confidence.” I don’t have a dispositive answer on this, but my impression (based on anecdotes/conversations with EAs) is that many people consider the Cool Earth conclusion definitive.
Thanks Larks and Taymon. Your comments about the section on contraception is probably fair.
″ It is difficult to see how unguided evolution would give humans like Tina epistemic access to normative reasons. ”
Not sure if I’m misunderstanding something, but couldn’t unguided evolution give us general all-purpose reasoning, and then that could be used to give Tina epistemic access to at least enough rationale to guide her actions?
Thanks again for this, very interesting. I’ve tried looking at some Cochrane Collaboration reviews of this, and I’m getting the impression that
(a) opioids do not always achieve “night-and-day” dramatic improvement in welfare
(b) while addiction is rare, various other negative side-effects are common
This review on long term treatment of non-cancer pain agreed that addiction was rare, but found that “Many participants discontinued due to adverse effects (oral: 22.9%; transdermal: 12.1%; intrathecal: 8.9%, etc ”
It also said that “Findings regarding quality of life and functional status were inconclusive”. While the reason given for this is lack of evidence, it seems that if material numbers of participants are discontinuing, it can’t be the case that almost all of them are having life-changing improvements in quality of life.
Another Cochrane Collaboration review found a 78% chance of (some) adverse side-effects, and a 7.5% chance of a serious adverse side-effect.
Just wanted to check whether I’ve understood this correctly?
I think this is a valuable project—I imagine there must be plenty of donors looking for exciting projects like this, and having the level of detail that is found on the lets-fund site is great. Some more questions about the project:
-- how will go about finding high-impact projects (I think you mentioned to me that you have some in mind already, but do you have a method for generating a sustainable flow of projects or is there a risk that you might run out soon?)
—how will it be funded?
My project http://sogive.org is gathering a charity dataset focused on key indicators of cost-effectiveness.
Thanks for engaging with this itty. I agree that option (2) would be onerous for EA grants.
However I don’t see how option (1) makes things worse? They could simply publish the grant applications without endorsement or indeed any comment beyond the fact that those projects didn’t make the cut.
If they don’t do this, funders like me are simply left to find funding opportunities on their own.
Could unsuccessful EA grants applications be made public?
Could CEA ask unsuccessful applicants for EA grants whether they would be willing for those applications to be made public? If they agree, it would mean that funders have the ability to access potentially exciting new funding opportunities.
(It would be even better if CEA could also give some indication of their opinion on the quality of the application, to help us find out whether the application was good, but they just didn’t have enough money to fund it, or whether they thought it wasn’t worth funding. However I suspect they might not have enough resource for that, so I don’t want to be too demanding.
Great idea—this is very much the way I want to use my philanthropy!
To support this, I asked in the EA forum post about EA grants whether unsuccessful applications to EA grants could be made public (with the applicant’s permission, of course) so that others could look into those funding opportunities. http://effective-altruism.com/ea/1t9/ea_grants_applications_are_now_open/fq9
It seems this has had no reply
Would you like to see an write-up on a failed digital marketing campaign to create high-impact donors?
This was work conducted by my organisation SoGive which aims to support donors towards high-impact charitable giving.
If enough people express an interest, I may write this up.
Edit: sorry, should have said this earlier, but it would be useful if interested people could clarify whether they are saying: “I would like this to exist, but I can’t definitely commit to reading what’s written” or whether they are saying: “I would like this to exist, and I commit to actually reading the post, and demonstrating that I have read it by other commenting on the post or mentioning it to Sanjay in a direct message”
Apologies to Peter H and Milan who gave their responses before I made this edit
There’s a website which focuses on good news: http://goodnewsshared.com/ It was set up by the cousin of a friend of mine. I can’t promise that they have quantified how much the good news matters though, so it might not necessarily appeal to EAs as it currently stands, but there may scope for someone to contribute to it.