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Benquo comments on Effective altruism is self-recommending - Less Wrong

42 Post author: Benquo 21 April 2017 06:37PM

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Comment author: Benquo 21 April 2017 06:39:45PM 4 points [-]

Claim 4: EA Funds represents a shift from EA evaluating programs' effectiveness, to assuming EA's effectiveness.

If you want to discuss this claim, I encourage you to do it as a reply to this comment.

Comment author: Fluttershy 21 April 2017 10:32:03PM *  2 points [-]

Some troubling relevant updates on EA Funds from the past few hours:

  • On April 20th, Kerry Vaughan from CEA published an update on EA Funds on the EA Forum. His post quotes the previous post in which he introduced the launch of EA Funds, which said:

We only want to focus on the Effective Altruism Funds if the community believes it will improve the effectiveness of their donations and that it will provide substantial value to the EA community. Accordingly, we plan to run the project for the next 3 months and then reassess whether the project should continue and if so, in what form.

  • In short, it was promised that a certain level of community support would be required to justify the continuation of EA Funds beyond the first three months of the project. In an effort to communicate that such a level of support existed, Kerry commented:

Where we’ve received criticism it has mostly been around how we can improve the website and our communication about EA Funds as opposed to criticism about the core concept.

  • Around 11 hours ago, I pointed out that this claim was patently false.
  • (I stand corrected by the reply to this comment which addressed this bullet point: the original post on which I had commented wasn't hidden from the EA Forum; I just needed to log out of my account on the EA Forum to see it after having downvoted it.)
  • Between the fact that the EA Funds project has taken significant criticism, failed to implement a plan to address it, acted as if its continuation was justified on the basis of having not received any such criticism, and signaled its openness to being deceptive in the future by doing all of this in a way that wasn't plausibly deniable, my personal opinion is that there is not sufficient reason to allow the EA Funds to continue to operate past their three-month trial period, and additionally, that I have less reason to trust other projects run by CEA in light of this debacle.
Comment author: jsteinhardt 21 April 2017 11:35:42PM 5 points [-]

When you downvote something on the EA forum, it becomes hidden. Have you tried viewing it while not logged in to your account? It's still visible to me.

Comment author: Fluttershy 22 April 2017 12:16:35AM 2 points [-]

Well, that's embarrassing for me. You're entirely right; it does become visible again when I log out, and I hadn't even considered that as a possibility. I guess I'll amend the paragraph of my above comment that incorrectly stated that the thread had been hidden on the EA Forum; at least I didn't accuse anyone of anything in that part of my reply. I do still stand by my criticisms, though knowing what I do now, I would say that it wasn't necessary of me to post this here if my original comment and the original post on the EA Forum are still publicly visible.

Comment author: casebash 22 April 2017 03:59:12PM 0 points [-]

No, because the fund managers will report on the success or failure of their investments. If the funds don't perform, then their donations will fall.

Comment author: peter_hurford 23 April 2017 07:20:30PM 2 points [-]

Why do you think this? The outside view suggests this won't happen -- disclosing success and failure is uncommon in the non-profit space.

Comment author: casebash 23 April 2017 11:59:22PM 0 points [-]

A major proportion of the clients will be EAs

Comment author: ChristianKl 22 April 2017 05:03:25PM 1 point [-]

Why are the fund managers going to report on the success of their investments when an organisation like GiveWell doesn't do this (as per the example in the OP)?

Comment author: casebash 22 April 2017 10:51:14PM 0 points [-]

Because people expect this from funds.

Comment author: ChristianKl 23 April 2017 06:30:01AM 1 point [-]

You think people don't expect it from GiveWell?

Comment author: casebash 24 April 2017 12:00:48AM 2 points [-]

They expect Givewell to update its recommendations, but they don't necessarily expect Givewell to evaluate just how wrong a previous past recommendation was. Not yet anyway, but maybe this post will change this.

Comment author: ChristianKl 24 April 2017 08:28:13AM 0 points [-]

That still leaves the question why you think people expect from funds to report on the success of their investments but don't expect it from GiveWell.

Comment author: casebash 24 April 2017 10:55:14PM 0 points [-]

Because the whole point of these funds is that they have the opportunity to invest in newer and riskier ventures. On the other hand, Givewell tries to look for interventions with a strong evidence base.

Comment author: whpearson 24 April 2017 06:20:48PM 0 points [-]

There is no cashing out of the money to GiveWell. At no point will you go to it and find out how much good it has done (easily). If it turns out GiveWell did poorly all you have is the opportunity of having donated to another charity which also probably isn't reporting its successes objectively.

For a fund, you have skin in the game. You make plans like retirement/housing/yacht where the value has to be going up or if not going up you have to alter your plans. This puts it on a different mental level.

Comment author: ChristianKl 24 April 2017 08:20:04PM 0 points [-]

As far as I understand the EA funds there's no cashing out of the money that's donated to them.

Comment author: whpearson 24 April 2017 08:31:04PM 0 points [-]

Sorry misread this thread (thought it was talking about investment funds).

Comment author: UmamiSalami 22 April 2017 04:53:24AM *  0 points [-]

I bet that most of the people who donated to Givewell's top charities were, for all intents and purposes, assuming their effectiveness in the first place. From the donor end, there were assumptions being made either way (and there must be; it's impractical to do all kinds of evaluation on one's own).