8438 karmaJoined Aug 2014


I agree people often overlook that (and also future resources).

I think bio and climate change also have large cumulative resources.

But I see this as a significant reason in favour of AI safety, which has become less neglected on an annual basis recently, but is a very new field compared to the others.

Also a reason in favour of the post-TAI causes like digital sentience.

Or you might like to look into Christian's grantmaking at Founders Pledge:

Thanks that's helpful background!

I agree tractability of the space is the main counterargument, and MacArthur might have had good reasons to leave. Like I say in the post, I'd suggest people think about this issue carefully if you're interested in giving to this area.

I don't focus exclusively on philanthropic funding. I added these paragraphs to the post to clarify my position:

I agree that a full accounting of neglectedness should consider all resources going towards the cause (not just philanthropic ones), and that 'preventing nuclear war' more broadly receives significant attention from defence departments. However, even considering those resources, it still seems similarly neglected as biorisk.

And the amount of philanthropic funding still matters because certain important types of work in the space can only be funded by philanthropists (e.g. lobbying or other policy efforts you don't want to originate within a certain national government).

I'd add that if if there's almost no EA-inspired funding in a space, there's likely to be some promising gaps by someone applying that mindset.

In general, it's a useful approximation to think of neglectedness as a single number, but the ultimate goal is to find good grants, and to do that it's also useful to break down neglectedness into different types of resources, and consider related heuristics (e.g. that there was a recent drop).


Causes vs. interventions more broadly is a big topic. The very short version is that I agree doing cost-effectiveness estimates of specific interventions is a useful input into cause selection. However, I also think the INT framework is very useful. One reason is it seems more robust. Another reason is that in many practical planning situations that involve accumulating expertise over years (e.g. choosing a career, building a large grantmaking programme) it seems better to focus on a broad cluster of related interventions.

E.g. you could do a cost-effectiveness estimate of corporate campaigns and determine ending factory farming is most cost-effective. But once you've spent 5 years building career capital in that factory farming, the available interventions or your calculations about them will likely very different.

It might take more than $1bn, but around that level, you could become a major funder of one of the causes like AI safety, so you'd already be getting significant benefits within a cause.

Agree you'd need to average 2x for the last point to work.

Though note the three pathways to impact - talent, intellectual diversity, OP gaps - are mostly independent, so you'd only need one of them to work.

Also agree in practice there would be some funging between the two, which would limit the differences, that's a good point.

I'd also be interested in that. Maybe worth adding that the other grantmaker, Matthew, is younger. He graduated in 2015 so is probably under 32.

Intellectual diversity seems very important to figuring out the best grants in the long term.

If atm the community, has, say $20bn to allocate, you only need a 10% improvement to future decisions to be worth +$2bn.

Funder diversity also seems very important for community health, and therefore our ability to attract & retain talent. It's not attractive to have your org & career depend on such a small group of decision-makers.

I might quantify the value of the talent pool around another $10bn, so again, you only need a ~10% increase here to be worth a billion, and over centralisation seems like one of the bigger problems.

The current situation also creates a single point of failure for the whole community.

Finally it still seems like OP has various kinds of institutional bottlenecks that mean they can't obviously fund everything that would be 'worth' funding in abstract (and even moreso to do all the active grantmaking that would be worth doing). They also have PR constraints that might make some grants difficult. And it seems unrealistic to expect any single team (however good they are) not to have some blindspots.

$1bn is only 5% of the capital that OP has, so you'd only need to find a 1 grant for every 20 that OP makes that they've missed with only 2x the effectiveness of marginal OP grants in order to get 2x the value.

One background piece of context is that I think grants often vary by more than 10x in cost-effectiveness.

One quick point is divesting, while it would help a bit, wouldn't obviously solve the problems I raise – AI safety advocates could still look like alarmists if there's a crash, and other investments (especially including crypto) will likely fall at the same time, so the effect on the funding landscape could be similar.

With divestment more broadly, it seems like a difficult question.

I share the concerns about it being biasing and making AI safety advocates less credible, and feel pretty worried about this.

On the other side, if something like TAI starts to happen, then the index will go from 5% AI-companies to 50%+ AI companies. That'll mean AI stocks will outperform the index by ~10x or more, while non-AI stocks will underperform by 2x or more.

So by holding the index, you'd be forgoing 90%+ of future returns (in the most high leverage scenarios), and being fully divested, giving up 95%+.

So the costs are really big (far far greater than divesting from oil companies).

Moreover, unless your p(doom) is very high, it's plausible a lot of the value comes from what you could do in post-TAI worlds. AI alignment isn't the only cause to consider.

On balance, it doesn't seem like the negatives are so large as to reduce the value of your funds by 10x in TAI worlds. But I feel uneasy about it.

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