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Comment author: 9eB1 31 December 2016 12:15:17AM 6 points [-]

I think practical interest in these things is somewhat bizarre.

All of the people that would be interested in participating are already effective altruists. That means that as a hobby they are already spending tons of time theorizing on what donations they would make to be more efficient. Is the value of information from additional research really sufficient to make it worthwhile in this context? Keep in mind that much of the low-hanging analysis from a bog-standard EA's perspective has already been performed by GiveWell, and you can't really expect to meaningfully improve on their estimates. This limits the pool of rational participants to only those who know they have values that don't align with the community at large.

For me, the whole proposition is a net negative. If I don't get selected, then someone else chooses what to do with my money. Since they don't align with my values, they might donate it to the KKK or whatever. If I DO get selected, it's arguably worse, because now I have to do a bunch of research that has low value to me to make a decision. Winning the lottery to spend $100,000 of other people's money doesn't suddenly endow me with tens or hundreds of hours to use for extra research (unless I can spend some of the money on my research efforts...).

The complexity of the the system, its administration, and time spent thinking about whether to participate is all deadweight loss in the overall system. Someone, or many someones, have to spend time considering whether to participate, manage the actual money and the logistics of it. This is all conceptual overhead for the scheme.

Not to get too psychoanalytical or whatever, but I think this stems partly from the interest of people in the community to appreciate complex, clever, unusual solutions BECAUSE they are complex, clever and unusual. My engagement with effective altruism is very boring. I read the GiveWell blog and occasionally give them money. It's not my hobby, so I don't participate in things like the EA forum.

If you are considering participating, first figure out what actual research you would do if you won the award, what the VoI is for that time, and how you would feel if you either had to do that research, or had someone else choose the least efficient plausible alternative is for your values. Think about whether the cleverness and complexity of this system is actually buying you anything. If you like being contrarian and signalling your desire to participate in schemes that show you Take Utility Seriously, by all means, go for it.

Comment author: calebwithers 28 January 2017 05:34:51AM *  1 point [-]

As a counterpoint, I intended to contribute to the donation lottery (couldn't arrange tax deductibility outside the US), and think it would be a good thing if most EAs participated in donation lotteries.

All of the people that would be interested in participating are already effective altruists. That means that as a hobby they are already spending tons of time theorizing on what donations they would make to be more efficient. Is the value of information from additional research really sufficient to make it worthwhile in this context? Keep in mind that much of the low-hanging analysis from a bog-standard EA's perspective has already been performed by GiveWell, and you can't really expect to meaningfully improve on their estimates.

As Benquo notes, "GiveWell does not purport to solve the general problem of 'where should EA's give money.'". Personally, I believe that existential risk interventions are the best donations, so there is no equivalent to GiveWell for me to defer to. If I won the lottery, I imagine it would be worth my time engaging thoroughly with organisations fundraising documents, refining my world-model on how to reduce existential risk, and reaching out to those likely to have better knowledge than myself. I'm not already spending "tons of time doing this" - I work full-time, and in particular don't have the cognitive space to do high-quality thinking on this in the pockets of time I have available.

At a community-level, it does seem that most EA's have thought insufficiently about cause prioritization. Challenging one's beliefs isn't easy though, so I'm hopeful that a donor lottery can provide a mechanism for someone to say "I recognise that there's some worthwhile reflection and research I haven't done, and I don't have the motivation to do it when the stakes are lower, but will do so on the off-chance I win the lottery."

Winning the lottery to spend $100,000 of other people's money doesn't suddenly endow me with tens or hundreds of hours to use for extra research (unless I can spend some of the money on my research efforts...).

If I won the lottery, I imagine I'd take a few weeks consecutive leave from work to research.

Comment author: calebwithers 08 December 2016 08:37:52AM 2 points [-]

I intend to donate to MIRI this year; do you anticipate that upcoming posts or other reasoning/resources might or should persuade people like myself to donate to CFAR instead?

Comment author: calebwithers 11 August 2015 01:06:26AM 1 point [-]

What would be the advantage of bartering tutoring compared to the flexibility of simply selling and buying?