Founder and CEO @ Open Asteroid Impact
24236 karmaJoined Dec 2015Working (6-15 years)openasteroidimpact.org


I 'd expect there would be some details of some applications that wouldn't be appropriate to share on a public forum though

Hopefully grantees can opt-in/out as appropriate! They don't need so share everything. 

Grantees are obviously welcome to do this. That said, my guess is that this will make the forum less enjoyable/useful for the average reader, rather than more. 

This entire thread just demonstrates how confused and useless it is to argue "by definition", or argue about term definitions.

You keep inserting words into people's mouths lmao. Nobody said "by definition" before you did. (Control-F for "by definition" if you don't believe me). 

I did not miss your "if." I didn't think it was necessary to go into the semantics dive because I thought the analogy would be relatively clear. Let me try again:

In general, when someone says X group is Y, a reasonable interpretation is that members of X group are more likely to be Y. If you are being Gricean, somebody saying A is a member of X implies that they think A is a fairly central member of X and thus are more likely to exhibit Y.

In colloquial English, "X is Y" almost never means "if X, then Y, for all values of X and Y". Eg, if somebody said "men are taller than women" you should take this as a claim about statistical averages, not a claim that all men are taller than all women.

Similarly, if you see someone say something like "Nazis are disrespectful to nonwhites" you should interpret this as a claim that Nazis are on average significantly less respectful to nonwhites than other people would be to nonwhites. If you assume someone's being Gricean when they said that, you might further assume that they believe that the specific Nazi they're referring to exhibits similar behaviors to other Nazis on at least this dimension.

You should not interpret it as "every single Nazi is disrespectful to every single nonwhite person, in every case and in full generality." I don't think this is difficult. I don't think you'd genuinely object to a claim "Nazis are disrespectful to nonwhites," despite cases like allying with Imperial Japan, or adopting a swastika from Indian culture, or John Rabe. Even if the Nazis writ large made an entire exception for an entire ethnicity of people (eg suppose they were never disrespectful to the Japanese), I'd still consider the basic claim "Nazis are disrespectful to nonwhites" to be approximately correct, and would not go all out of my way to continuously correct every incidence of that remark with "Nazis are disrespectful to nonwhites who are not Japanese."[1]

Analogies aside, let's go back to Yarrow's original claim:

I find it so maddeningly short-sighted to praise a white supremacist for being "respectful". White supremacists are not respectful to non-white people! 

I think your attempt at a gotcha fails. For the same reason that it's reasonable for someone to say men are taller than women without being immediately disproven as soon as you find a woman who's taller than a man, or that Nazis are disrespectful of nonwhites despite allying with Japan.

Before writing angry/inflammatory replies, I recommend reading the actual text.


  1. ^

    And I certainly won't say the claim overall is false just because of a class [2]of exceptions! This is very much not how English works.

  2. ^

    It'd be even more absurd to rate the claim as false due to a single exception

The comment you're replying to has somewhat sloppy language and reasoning. Unfortunately your comment managed to be even worse.

If white supremacists are by definition non-respectful to non-white people, and Hanania appears fairly respectful to non-white people, perhaps that allows us to conclude that Hanania does not, in fact, qualify for your definition of "white supremacist"?

This line of reasoning is implausible. If having a single nonwhite person over on a podcast without being rude is strong evidence against white supremacy, trusting nonwhite people enough to ally with you in a war is surely even better evidence. 

The literal historical Nazis allied in a literal war with literal historical Imperial Japan (a country which is mostly nonwhite). While I don't personally like to throw around phrases like "white supremacy" very often, I think reasonable people can agree that Nazis are white supremacists.

(Appreciate the upvote!)

At a high level, l I'm of the opinion that we practice better reasoning transparency than ~all EA funding sources outside of global health, e.g. a) I'm responding to your thread here and other people have not, b) (I think) people can have a decent model of what we actually do rather than just an amorphous positive impression, and c) I make an effort of politely delivering messages that most grantmakers are aware of but don't say because they're worried about flack. 

It's really not obvious that this is the best use of limited resources compared to e.g. engaging with large donors directly or having very polished outwards-facing content, but I do think criticizing our lack of public output is odd given that we invest more in it than almost anybody else.

(I do wonder if there's an effect where because we communicate our overall views so much, we become a more obvious/noticeable target to criticize.) 

This illustrates CE shares much more information about the interventions they support than EA Funds' shares about the grants for which there are longer write-ups. So it is possible to have a better picture of CE's work than EA Funds'. This is not to say CE's donors actually have a better picture of CE's work than EA Funds' donors have of EA Funds' work. I do not know how whether CE's donors look into their reports.

Well, I haven't read CE's reports. Have you?

I think you have a procedure-focused view where the important thing is that articles are written, regardless of whether they're read. I mostly don't personally think it's valuable to write things people don't read. (though again for all I know CE's reports are widely read, in which case I'd update!) And it's actually harder to write things people want to read than to just write things.

(To be clear, I think there are exceptions. Eg all else equal, writing up your thoughts/cruxes/BOTECs are good even if nobody else reads them because it helps with improving quality of thinking). 

How about just making some applications public, as Austin suggested? I actually think it would be good to make public the applications of all grants EA Funds makes, and maybe even rejected applications.

We've started working on this, but no promises. My guess is that making public the rejected applications is more valuable than accepted ones, eg on Manifund. Note that grantees also have the option to upload their applications as well (and there are less privacy concerns if grantees choose to reveal this information).

Hmm, I still think your numbers are not internally consistent but I don't know if it's worth getting into.

Really late to respond to this! Just wanted to quickly say that I've been mulling over this question for a while and don't have clear/coherent answers; hope other people (at EAIF and elsewhere) can comment with either more well-thought-out responses or their initial thoughts!

Less importantly,

In any case, EA Funds' mean amount granted is 76.0 k$, so 52 words/grant would result in 0.684 word/k$ (= 52/(76.0*10^3)), which is lower than the 1.57 word/k$ I estimated above

You previously said:
> The mean length of the write-up of EA Funds' grants is 14.4 words

So I'm a bit confused here.

Also for both LTFF and EAIF, when I looked at mean amount granted in the past, it was under $40k rather than $76k. I'm not sure how you got $76k. I suspect at least some of the difference is skewed upwards by our Global Health and Development fund. Our Global Health and Development fund has historically ~only given to GiveWell-recommended projects, and 

  • GiveWell is often considered the gold standard in EA transparency. 
  • It didn't seem necessary for our GHD grant managers (who also work at GiveWell) to justify their decisions twice since they already wrote up their thinking at GiveWell.

Thanks for engaging as well. I think I disagree with much of the framing of your comment, but I'll try my best to only mention important cruxes.

  • I don't think wordcount is a good way to measure information shared
  • I don't think "per amount granted" is a particularly relevant denominator when different orgs have very different numbers of employees per amount granted.
  • I don't think grantmakers and incubators are a good like-for-like comparison. 
  • As a practical matter, I neither want to write 500-1000 pages/year of grants nor think it's the best use of my time. 

Here is an easy way of seeing LTFF shares way less information than CE. The 2 grants you evaluated for which there is a "long" write-up have 1058 words[...]

I don't think wordcount is a good way to measure information shared.

I don't think wordcount is a fair way to estimate (useful) information shared. I mean it's easy to write many thousands of words that are uninformative, especially in the age of LLMs. I think to estimate useful information shared, it's better to see how much people actually know about your work, and how accurate their beliefs are. 

As an empirical crux, I predict the average EAF reader, or EA donor, knows significantly more about LTFF than they do about CE, especially when adjusting for number of employees[1]. I'm not certain that this is true since I obviously have a very skewed selection, so I'm willing to be updated otherwise. I also understand that "EAF reader" is probably not a fair comparison since a) we crosspost often on the EA Forum and maybe CE doesn't as much, and b) much of CE's public output is in global health, which at least in theory has a fairly developed academic audience outside of EA. I'd update towards the "CE shares a lot more information than EA Funds" position if either of the following turned out to be true:

  • In surveys, people, and especially donors, are more empirically knowledgeable about CE work than LTFF work.
  • CE has much more views/downloads of their reports than LTFF.
    • I looked at my profile again and I think I wrote a post about EA Funds work ~once a month, which I think makes it a fair comparison comparable to the 4-8 reports/year CE writes
    • For context, skimming analytics, we have maybe 1k-5k views/post.
      • EA Forum has a "reads" function for how many people spend over x minutes on the post, for my posts I think it's about 1/3 - 1/2 of views. 
    • (To be clear, quantity =/= quality or quality-adjusted quantity. I'd also update towards your position if somebody from CE or elsewhere tells me that they have slightly less views but their reports are much more decision-relevant for viewers).

I don't think "per amount granted" is a particularly relevant denominator when different orgs have very different numbers of employees per amount granted.

I don't know how many employees CE has. I'd guess it's a lot (e.g. 19 people on their website). EA Funds has 2 full-time employees and some contractors (including for grantmaking and grants disbursement). I'm ~ the only person at EA Funds who has both the time and inclination to do public writing. 

Obviously if you have more capacity, you can write more.

I would guess most EA grantmakers (the orgs you mentioned, but also GiveWell) will have a closer $s granted/FTEs ratio to EA Funds than to CE.

If anything, looking at the numbers again, I suspect CE should be devoting more efforts to fundraising and/or finding more scalable interventions. But I'm an outsider and there is probably a lot of context I'm missing.

I don't think grantmakers and opinionated incubators are a good like-for-like comparison. 

Does that mean I think CE staff aren't doing useful things? Of course not! They're just doing very different things. CE calls itself an incubator but much of their staff should better be understood as "researchers" trying to deeply understand an issue. (Like presumably they understand the interventions their incubees work on much better than say YC does). It makes a lot of sense to me that researchers for an intervention can and will go into a lot of depth about an intervention[2]. Similarly, EA Funds' grantees also can and often do go into a lot of depth about their work. 

The main difference between EA Funds is that as a superstructure, we don't provide research support for our grantees. Whereas you can think of CE as an org that provides initial research support for their incubees so the incubees can think more about strategy and execution.

Just different orgs doing different work.

As a practical matter, I neither want to write 500-1000 pages/year of grants nor think it's the best use of my time. 

Nobody else at EA Funds has time/inclination to publicly write detailed reports. If we want to see payout reports for any of the funds this year, most likely I'd have to write it myself. I personally don't want to write upwards of a thousand grants this year. It frankly doesn't sound very fun. 

But I'm being paid for impact, not for having fun, so I'm willing to make such sacrifices if the utility gods demand it. So concretely, I'd be interested in what projects I ought to drop to write up all the grants. Eg, to compare like-for-like, I'd find it helpful if you or others can look at my EA Funds' related writings and tell me which posts I ought to drop so I can spend more time writing up grants. 

  1. ^

    EA Funds has ~2 full-time employees, and maybe 5-6 FTEs including contractors.

  2. ^

    And indeed when I did research I had a lot more time to dive into specific interventions than I do now. 

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