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BrandonReinhart comments on Mini-camp on Rationality, Awesomeness, and Existential Risk (May 28 through June 4, 2011) - Less Wrong

39 Post author: AnnaSalamon 24 April 2011 08:10AM

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Comment author: BrandonReinhart 25 April 2011 09:21:51AM *  38 points [-]

I applied to mini-camp. However, I may not be selected because of my personal situation (older, not college educated). I believe the mini-camp program is worth supporting and should be helped to be successful. I am willing to back up this belief with my wallet...and in public, so you all can hold me to it.

Whether or not I am selected, I pledge to pay for the flight of one individual who is (and who isn't me). This person must live in the continental United States.

If the easiest way to fulfill this pledge is to donate to the SIAI, earmarked for this purpose*, I can do that. Otherwise, I can just buy the flight directly when the time comes.

*See comment below. This was posted before I did some investigation and put more thought into things.

Comment author: TimFreeman 25 April 2011 07:57:31PM *  17 points [-]

You're spending after-tax money if you buy the flight yourself, or before-tax if you donate to SIAI, assuming they're 501(c)3. If you trust them to honor a targeted donation (I would), it's better to donate.

Comment author: wedrifid 27 April 2011 05:14:50AM 9 points [-]

If you trust them to honor a targeted donation (I would)

Does it make any practical difference? They already committed to paying for travel regardless. So for practical purposes the money just goes into the pool that would otherwise have been drained for the flight purchase.

Where the earmarking for the donation becomes significant is in the signal it gives them regarding potential value of future camps. It both increases the expectation that the announcement of a camp will prompt immediate donation but probably more significantly that the program has broader positive influences in how SIAI is perceived

Comment author: TimFreeman 27 April 2011 03:32:16PM 3 points [-]

Does it make any practical difference?

If they canceled the program and kept the money, they would not be honoring the targeted donation, and it would give a different outcome from buying and donating plane tickets. I can imagine lots of things that could conceivably happen that would force them to cancel the program. None of them seem especially likely.

Comment author: BrandonReinhart 28 April 2011 03:51:13AM *  16 points [-]

I will donate the amount without earmarking it. It will fill the gap taken by the cost to send someone to the event.

I don't see a lot of value in earmarking funds for the SIAI. I'm working on a document about SIAI finances and from reading the Form 990s I believe they use their funds efficiently. Given my low knowledge of their internal workings and low knowledge of their immediate and medium term goals I would bet that they would be better at figuring out the best use of the money than I would be. Earmarking would increase the chance the money is used inefficiently, not decrease it.

Comment author: David_Gerard 02 May 2011 07:27:48AM *  12 points [-]

Yes. In general, earmarking is a hideous pain in the backside for charities and leads to great inefficiency thinking about how to deal with this radioactive donation. If the donation is sufficiently large it may be worth it, but it's still a nuisance.

Simple heuristic: if you trust a charity enough to donate to them, just donate and leave them to figure out what to do with it. Don't try to micromanage.

Comment author: BrandonReinhart 08 May 2011 02:49:35AM *  10 points [-]

I donated $275 to the SIAI via the Facebook page. Given the flight prices on Orbitz, this should cover somebody. Maybe not an east coaster or someone overseas.

Pledge fulfilled!

Also: I will be attending mini-camp and have also gotten my own ticket.