Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

EALE comments on CEA does not seem to be credibly high impact - Less Wrong Discussion

10 Post author: Jonathan_Lee 21 February 2013 10:29AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (32)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: EALE 21 February 2013 02:33:21PM *  13 points [-]

I think that the question that this article is trying to answer should have been made clearer, because there are very different answers to the questions:

  1. What impact has CEA produced so far?

  2. What impact has CEA produced per dollar invested so far?

  3. What impact has CEA produced per dollar invested, assuming each volunteer hour costs an average of $x, so far?

  4. What impact would CEA produce if I gave them $1000?

  5. What impact would CEA produce if I gave them £1m?

I think that the most useful question to answer is probably #4 or #5, but many of the criticisms here seem to be along the lines of #1, identifying poor outputs without any reference to what the inputs were. For example, the comments on lack of transparency, poor research outputs and poor chapter growth could all just be because CEA was using its limited resources more effectively elsewhere. Indeed, if you think CEA should be more transparent etc., maybe you should give them some money so they've got resources to put into this ;)

This also goes for digs at Will at not having certain Fermi estimates to hand and, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Ben (80k Executive Director) had these estimates and Will did not, since Ben is full-time 80k and Will is trying to put no more than 1 day a week into CEA as a whole, last I heard. Ben also suggested to me recently that I come up with BOTE estimates for The Life You Can Save's (TLYCS) top potential activities, so he's clearly thinking in the right way.

The second main point I wanted to make is that I don't think LWers are CEA's target audience; it seems more likely to me that CEA wants to create a load of "dilettantes" over a few improved LW-types. So GWWC acts like most charities and simply announces on their website how much money has been pledged rather than giving an estimate for money that their members so far probably will donate along with a complicated explanation of where that figure comes from; come on, even the typical man on the street looks at a figure like that on a website and thinks "I bet much less will actually be donated", it's not like GWWC are deliberately trying to deceive people. And maybe 80k are focusing on the best way to market EtG, and are less concerned with coming up with detailed advice for people who already accept EtG as a baseline, because they're trying to bring lots of people on the fringes of the EA movement a bit closer, rather than improving a few existing hardcore EAs (which seems to be more the Leverage Research approach). Which would make things like "There is a strong sense in which they are being graded on their speed, with publication being the mediator of impact.” just not the case. Maybe I'm projecting a bit though, since TLYCS is aiming to make a ton of potential EAs into EAs more than improving the effectiveness of existing EAs.

A couple more little things:

  • The Peter Singer talk got about 150 people, which I think was poor. But then, I organised it, and I'm no longer part of CEA ;)

  • I got the impression that a lot of thought went into both version's of 80k's declaration

Disclaimer 1: This is my first comment on LW, so apologies if I haven't got the swing of the conventions yet.

Disclaimer 2: I volunteer for TLYCS and have volunteered for GWWC in the past. There is a weak relationship between TLYCS and CEA at the moment but since this post does not mention TLYCS and since I know relatively little about the operations of GWWC/80k lately, I am treating TLYCS as separate from CEA in this thread and please do not take me to be representing CEA.

Disclaimer 3: Since this article was just about CEA's weaknesses, though of course strengths exist, I in turn have only tried to deny some of the weaknesses, though of course weaknesses exist.