Director @ Center for Effective Aid Policy
4633 karmaJoined Jul


I think I am misunderstanding the original question then?

I mean if you ask: "what you all think about the series as an entry point for talking about some of these EA issues with friends, family, colleagues, and students"

then the reach is not the 10 million people watching the show, it's the people you get a chance to speak to.

Wasn't the Future Fund quite explicitly about longtermist projects?

I mean if you worked for an animal foundation and were in a call about give directly, I can understand that somebody might say: "Look we are an animal fund, global poverty is outside our scope".

Obviously saying "I don't care about poverty" or something sufficiently close that your counterpart remembers it as that, is not ideal, especially not when you're speaking to an ex-minister of the United Kingdom.

But before we get mad at those who ran the Future Fund, please consider there's much context we don't have. Why did this call get set up in the first place? I would expect them to be screening mechanisms in place to prevent this kind of mismatch. What Rory remembers might not have been what the Future Fund grant maker remembers and there might have been a mismatch between the very blunt 'SF culture' the future fund operated by and what an ex-minister expects.

That said I have a very positive impression of Rory Stewart, and it saddens me to hear our community gave him this perception. Had I been in his shoes, I'm not sure I would have thought any different.

I'm working on an article about gene drives to eradicate malaria, and am looking for biology experts who can help me understand certain areas I'm finding confusing and fact check claims I feel unsure about.

If you are a masters or grad student in biology and would be interested in helping, I would be incredibly grateful.


An example of a question I've been trying to answer today:

How likely is successful crossbreeding between subspecies of Anopheles Gambiae (such as anopheles gambiae s.s. and anopheles arabiensis), and how likely is successful crossbreeding between anopheles gambiae and other complexes?


If you know the answer to questions like these or would have an easy time finding it out, send me a dm! Happy to pay for your time.

a devastating argument, years of work wasted. Why oh why did I insist that the book's front cover had to be a snowman?

Answer by MathiasKBMar 31, 2024136

I think it's a travesty that so many valuable analyses are never publicly shared, but due to unreasonable external expectations it's currently hard for any single organization to become more transparent without occurring enormous costs.

If open phil actually were to start publishing their internal analyses behind each grant, I will bet you at good odds the the following scenario is going to play out on the EA Forum:

  1. Somebody digs deep into a specific analysis carried out. It turns out Open Phil’s analysis has several factual errors that any domain expert could have alerted them to, additionally they entirely failed to consider some important aspect which may change the conclusion.
  2. Somebody in the comments accuses Open Phil of shoddy and irresponsible work. That they are making such large donations decisions based on work filled with errors, proves their irresponsibility. Moreover, why have they still not responded to the criticism?
  3. A new meta-post argues that the EA movement needs reform, and uses the above as one of several examples showing the incompetence of ‘EA leadership’.

Several things would be true about the above hypothetical example:

  1. Open Phil’s analysis did, in fact, have errors.
  2. It would have been better for Open Phil’s work not to have those errors.
  3. The errors were only found because they chose to make the analysis public.
  4. The costs for Open Phil to reduce the error rate of analyses, would not be worth the benefits.
  5. These mistakes were found, and at no cost (outside of reputation) to the organization.

Criticism shouldn’t have to warrant a response if it takes time away from work which is more important. The internal analyses from open phil I’ve been privileged to see were pretty good. They were also made by humans, who make errors all the time.

In my ideal world, every one of these analyses would be open to the public. Like open-source programming people would be able to contribute to every analysis, fixing bugs, adding new insights, and updating old analyses as new evidence comes out.

But like an open-source programming project, there has to be an understanding that no repository is ever going to be bug-free or have every feature.

If open phil shared all their analyses and nobody was able to discover important omissions or errors, my main conclusion would be they are spending far too much time on each analysis.

Some EA organizations are held to impossibly high standards. Whenever somebody points this out, a common response is: “But the EA community should be held to a higher standard!”. I’m not so sure! The bar is where it’s at because it takes significant effort to higher it. EA organizations are subject to the same constraints the rest of the world is subject to.

More openness requires a lowering of expectations. We should strive for a culture that is high in criticism, but low in judgement.

Agree, I suspect most people downvoted it because they inferred it was a leading question.

I haven't seen the series, but am currently halfway through the second book.

I think it really depends on the person. The person I imagine would watch three-body problem, get hooked, and subsequently ponder about how it relates to the real world, seems like they also would get hooked by just getting sent a good lesswrong post?

But sure, if someone mentioned to me they watched and liked the series and they don't know about EA already, I think it could be a great way to start a conversation about EA and Longtermism.

Relevant to the discussion is a recently released book by Dirk-Jan Koch who was Chief Science Officer in the Dutch Foreign Ministry (which houses their development efforts). The book explores the second order effects of aid and their implications for an effective development assistance: Foreign Aid And Its Unintended Consequences.

In some ways, the arguments of needing to focus more on second-order effects are similar to the famous 'growth and the case against randomista development' forum post.

The west didn't become wealthy through marginal health interventions, why should we expect this for Sierra Leone or Bangladesh?

Second-order effects are important and should be taken into as much consideration as the first-order effects. But arguing that second-order effects are more difficult to predict, and we therefore shouldn't do anything falls prey to the Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics.

just fyi Dean Karlan doesn't run USAID, he's Chief Economist. Samatha Power is the (chief) administrator of USAID.

I think Bryan Caplan is directionally correct, but his argumentation in this post is incredibly sloppy.

A marxist communist could make the exact same complaint as Bryan Caplan, but with the signs flipped. Why do all these economists focus on RCTs for educational interventions, and never once consider the best educational intervention is to rise up in violent revolution and overthrow our capitalist oppressors?

I don't recall any of the RCT papers I've read being particularly heavy on normative claims. Usually they'll just say:

"this intervention had a measurable effect on X, so policy makers interested in improving X should consider it part of the tool kit"


"this intervention didn't have an effect on X, so policy makers interested in improving X should not do this"

Which seems completely reasonable to me. They aren't quietly rejecting the question, they largely are just not engaging with normative questions of what policy makers ought to do. RCTs are a way of taking out ideology and focus on strictly empirical questions.

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