Thursday, December 12, 2013

How to think about displacing Good Ventures in funding GiveWell Labs?

Summary: It appears likely that visibly investing funds to donate next year would be a better bet than donating to GiveWell's 2013 picks, based on expected 2014 opportunities. How does this compare to donating to GiveWell's research fundraising, i.e. substituting for dollars that would otherwise be raised by Good Ventures? Since Good Ventures is investing most of its resources (with economies of scale in investment) for use when better information is available, this can be seen as another way to invest for future donation prospects. The value of doing this, compared to a donor-advised fund, should depend on one's beliefs about possible future disagreements, economies of scale, signalling, and incentives. Those who would firmly plan to give from their donor-advised funds based on GiveWell and Good Ventures recommendations have a good case for supporting GiveWell research, even if is not expected to increase research activity. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What proxies to use for flow-through effects?

Summary: When assessing altruistic interventions from a long-run perspective, particularly ones which do not act directly on the long-run (like averting human extinction) assessing flow-through effects is essential. In this post I raise some possible metrics to use in assessing flow-through effects. The causal relationships between them are unclear, and exogenous interventions to boost a metric may break correlations with other outcomes: they are intended as a set of candidates to reference in later discussion. Additional candidates are welcome in the comments.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Thoughts on GiveWell's 2013 recommendations

Summary: Some observations regarding GiveWell's 2013 charity recommendations.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How are brain mass (and neurons) distributed among humans and the major farmed land animals?

Summary: I estimate, for humans and the most common domestic land animal livestock populations, their absolute and relative contributions to the total brain mass of the combined category. Humans make up the vast majority of the aggregate of brain mass for these populations, followed by cows. Chickens account for less than 1% of the total neural tissue of humans and domestic land animal livestock. As a proportion of the total number of neurons across these populations, cows and chickens are closer, due to the relatively high neuron density of chickens and humans, while the human proportion is higher.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vegan advocacy and pessimism about wild animal welfare

Summary: Human meat consumption seems to seriously reduce wild animal populations. This has previously been considered an additional bad effect of meat consumption. However, some animal advocates claim that wild animal populations' aggregate welfare is so negative as to dwarf domestic animal suffering. Some of these advocates also favor spreading veganism, which on this view would seem to have the immediate effect of greatly increasing animal suffering. This tension should be addressed by advocates in cost-effectiveness estimates and research.

Monday, July 08, 2013

How immigration could make AMF more cost-effective

Summary: charities that save the lives of the global poor have more economic impact than one might think because a portion of the very poor may emigrate to other countries and enormously increase their productivity, and this portion may greatly increase if some developed countries open their borders.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Open borders in (at least) one (developed) country

Over at the Open Borders Blog Vipul Naik and co-bloggers have discussed an enormous variety of arguments for and against a system of open borders. Immigrants from poor countries earn much more when they move to rich countries, a "place premium." If this place premium is unaffected by very high levels of immigration, then open borders could greatly increase world GDP and eliminate almost all absolute poverty. Refugees would be guaranteed a place to escape bad conditions, governments would face incentives to improve their policies to keep their population from leaving.

So immigration is very much worth a look for those interested in effective altruism. This post covers a point that seems to me to have been relatively neglected among open borders advocates (although it has been discussed more by advocates of charter cities): it seems most of the expected benefits do not require a global system of open borders, just open borders in one or a few countries with the right properties, a much easier goal.