# Where Some People Donated in 2017

Edited 2018-02-14 to include myself.

Edited soon after publication to include ACE staff members’ donations. Thanks to the Facebook commenter who pointed me to them.

This is a collection of writings on where people are donating. It only includes writings that I am aware exist (obviously) and that are written by effectiveness-minded people.

My descriptions are paraphrased from the linked writings as much as possible. The writing in this post includes combinations of my own and the linked writers’ words. My summaries often do not do the original writers justice, so I recommend reading all of the linked articles if you are interested.

### Michael Dickens

In 2017 I donated to the Good Food Institute because I believed it presented a particularly good opportunity for reducing animal suffering and antispeciesism in expectation. (Original writeup says I donated in 2016 but I actually donated in early 2017.)

### Zach Groff

Zach is donating to Wild-Animal Suffering Research (WASR) because he believes that: (1) animals in the wild suffer terror and pain on a massive scale, and virtually nobody even considers trying to address this problem; (2) he has been thoroughly impressed with his personal interactions with WASR staff as well as their output to date.

## Ben Henry

Ben reviewed the research produced by a bunch of AI safety organizations. He rot13’d his donation decision to allow readers to come to their own conclusions; below is his own rot13’d description.

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## Peter Hurford

Peter used three main criteria:

1. Have a clear “room for more funding”
2. Have a clear risk of not meeting their funding goal
3. Clear a bar of being “impactful enough” for the EA community to be worth funding

He selected four organizations that he believed met these criteria: (1) Charity Science Health, (2) Rethink Charity, (3) Wild-Animal Suffering Research, and (4) Sentience Institute.

## Jason Ketola

Jason donated primarily to New Harvest because he believes he believes their efforts will support the development of animal product alternatives and thus reduce animal suffering. He also considered donations to Good Food Institute, Plant Based Foods Association, Wild Animal Suffering Research, and Animal Ethics. He believes that New Harvest has a strong track record and substantial room for more funding – “New Harvest seems especially well poised to [improve animal product alternatives] with marginal donations”.

(Note: Jason frequently refers to “we” in his article, but I don’t know who the other person is.)

### Jeff Kaufman and Julia Wise

• 50-50 split between things that directly do good and more speculative options
• For things that directly do good, they follow GiveWell’s recommendations – 70% to the Against Malaria Foundation and 30% to Schistosomiasis Control Initiative
• For more speculative things, they want to put part of the money towards a project that a friend is starting, and the rest to the EA Community Fund

## Ben Kuhn

• 80% to a donor-advised fund, to be allocated later
• 18% to GiveWell top charities (to be allocated at GiveWell’s discretion)
• 2% to GiveWell’s operations

Ben saved 80% to donate later because he believes most top candidate organizations are not particularly cash constrained right now, but he wanted to make a large donation in 2017 due to the recent tax bill.

## Zvi

Zvi donated to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute. He believes AI safety is “the most important, urgent and under-funded cause.” His private information and personal experience point to MIRI being a capable organization. Zvi was particularly impressed by MIRI’s paper on Functional Decision Theory.

His post explains (i) why he believes AI safety matters, (ii) his analysis of MIRI’s organizational quality, (iii) his analysis of MIRI’s research, and (iv) general comments on donation.

## Animal Charity Evaluators staff members

John Bockman:

Allison Smith split her donation evenly between Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and ACE’s Recommended Charity Fund.

Toni Adleberg donated or directed donations to GFI, Against Malaria Foundation, and Encompass, plus some small donations elsewhere.

Sofia Davis-Fogel donated to:

Kieran Greig planned on donating to ACE because he believes donations to ACE have a higher expected value than donations to ACE top charities. He was interested in funding some other projects but was unaware of any highly promising donation targets for them:

• Corporate campaigns aimed at improving farmed fish welfare
• Humane insecticides
• Feature length documentaries advocating for farmed animals
• Genetic interventions to improve animal welfare
• Establishing wild animal suffering as an academic field
• Funding talented researchers to do effective animal advocacy research

Jamie Spurgeon cycled through supporting various causes throughout the year, including ACE and GiveWell top charities. Later in the year he became increasingly confident that animal advocacy was particularly neglected; at the end of the year he gave all his donations to the ACE Recommended Charity Fund.

Erika Alonso donated to:

Eric Herboso donated to:

He made some additional donations for fuzzies, not utilons, including gifts intended to encompass the virtue of generosity.

Gina Stuessy donated primarily to ACE’s Recommended Charity Fund. She also donated to the Centre for Effective Altruism, Sentience Institute, and Wild-Animal Suffering Research.

## GiveWell staff members

Josh Rosenberg:

Sophie Monahan is donating to No Lean Season, a GiveWell top-rated charity.

Catherine Hollander:

• 90% to Against Malaria Foundation
• 10% to No Lean Season

Isabel Arjmand:

James Snowden (research consultant):

The following staff members are donating to GiveWell for regranting to GiveWell’s top charities:

• Ellie Hassenfeld
• Natalie Crispin
• Andrew Martin
• Chelsea Talbart
• Christian Smith

## Open Philanthropy Project staff members

Note: Two of the people listed said that they were not donating anything this year, so I have excluded them.

Alexander Berger:

• 80% to GiveWell for regranting
• 5% to GiveWell for operations
• 5% to GiveDirectly
• 10% to farm animal welfare groups recommended by Lewis Bollard

Nick Beckstead is giving money to his personal donor-advised fund, which he will re-grant in broadly similar ways to how he makes grants with the EA Community Fund and EA Long-Term Future Fund.

Helen Toner:

• Most of her money to a non-public organization started by a couple of friends
• Has not decided what to do with the remaining money, but will probably give it to GiveWell for regranting

Lewis Bollard is donating his personal money to further support the animal welfare organizations that he has made grants to through Open Philanthropy.

Ajeya Cotra is participating in a donor lottery. If she wins, she will probably donate the money toward the same early stage organization mentioned by Helen Toner.

Morgan Davis is giving to the Effective Altruism Funds:

• 5% to Animal Welfare
• 5% to Global Development
• 15% to EA Community
• 75% to Long-Term Future

Mike Levine:

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# Newcomb's Problem and Efficient Markets

Edited 2018-02-11 to change the title. It originally read “Newcomb’s Problem and Speculative Bubbles”, but this essays argument is about markets, not necessarily bubbles in particular, so the old title was misleading.

## Introduction

A superintelligence from another galaxy, whom we shall call Omega, comes to Earth and sets about playing a strange little game. In this game, Omega selects a human being, sets down two boxes in front of them, and flies away.

• Box A is transparent and contains a thousand dollars.
• Box B is opaque, and contains either a million dollars, or nothing.

You can take both boxes, or take only box B.

And the twist is that Omega has put a million dollars in box B [if and only if] Omega has predicted that you will take only box B.

Omega has been correct on each of 100 observed occasions so far - everyone who took both boxes has found box B empty and received only a thousand dollars; everyone who took only box B has found B containing a million dollars. (We assume that box A vanishes in a puff of smoke if you take only box B; no one else can take box A afterward.)

Before you make your choice, Omega has flown off and moved on to its next game. Box B is already empty or already full.

Omega drops two boxes on the ground in front of you and flies off.

Do you take both boxes, or only box B?

The answer is that you should only take box B. All the interesting conclusions of this essay depend on that assumption, so if you think you should take two boxes, you definitely won’t agree with this essay’s conclusions (but you might still find them interesting).

You might not have realized it, but you can actually play a version of Omega’s game right now.

The stock market is Omega, buying the next big company is Newcomb’s problem, and you should (metaphorically) take only one box.

## The stock market Newcomb’s problem

Consider a modified (and somewhat sadistic) version of Newcomb’s problem:

Omega sets a single box in front of you and then flies away. It’s opaque, and contains either a million dollars or nothing.

My writeup last year persuaded people to donate a total of about $40,000 to my favorite charities; if I move a similar amount this year, I believe GFI will still have substantial room for more funding even after that. I will donate a few weeks after publishing this, so you have some time to persuade me if you believe I should make a different decision. Another donor plans to contribute an additional$60,000 AUD (~$45,000 USD) to GFI and is also open to persuasion. This essay builds on last year’s document. Usually, unless I say differently here or in one of my previous writings, I still endorse most of the claims I made last year. Last year, I discussed my fundamental values and my beliefs about broad-level causes plus a handful of organizations, so I will not retread this ground. Continue reading Posted on # Dedicated Donors May Not Want to Sign the Giving What We Can Pledge The Giving What We Can pledge serves as a useful way to commit to donating 10% (or more) of your income, and probably also helps show by example that donating this much money is a reasonable and achievable thing to do. I believe it serves as a useful way to commit yourself to donating if you suspect that your commitment might waver. But there are some considerations against signing the pledge, and these considerations look particularly persuasive if you already have a strong commitment to helping the world. Some of this might be obvious, but I think it’s worth discussing—people often talk about why you should take the pledge but rarely talk about under what circumstances you shouldn’t, and the pledge isn’t the right choice for everyone. These counterpoints I raise don’t cover everything; I’m mostly drawing on my own personal experiences, and I’m sure other people have experiences that I haven’t had. ## Losing flexibility The more you donate, the less money you have to spend on other things, and the tighter your budget becomes. Maybe you’re earning more money than you need, in which case you can donate all your spare income with no trouble. But it’s important to remember how your money needs will change over time. Maybe you will have no problem keeping up your donations for the next few years, but things could change. You might decide to have children, which will dramatically increase your expenditures (although some people with kids still donate a lot). You might start a startup or a non-profit, or take a job at a non-profit where you won’t be making much. Many people consider pledging in college, when it’s hard to anticipate your expenses as a young adult, and anyone at any age can have unexpected medical expenses or life-changing circumstances. Before you commit to donate some amount of money, make sure you will still be able to afford it in the future. Most people’s expenditures increase throughout their lives but their income increases as well, so they shouldn’t have a problem keeping up the same rate of donation. That said, do consider whether you expect your income to increase as much or more than your spending. People might be reluctant to take a job doing direct work if that would compromise their ability to fulfill their pledge. Since there are a lot of opportunities to do good in direct work that may be more valuable than donating 10%, we wouldn’t want to discourage the former in pursuit of the latter. ## Overjustification effect I recently caught myself following this chain of reasoning: 1. I would like to donate a sizable chunk of my income in 2017 because donating money helps the world. 2. I pledged to donate 20% of my income, so I need to donate at least$25,000.
3. Therefore I will donate $25,000, because I pledged that I would. 4. If I donate$25,000, max out my 401(k), and exercise my stock options, I will have negative cash flow for 2017. That is bad.
5. Of these three big expenditures, the pledge is the least important, since keeping my word on something like this doesn’t matter as much as being able to retire comfortably. So maybe I should donate less.1

This reasoning obviously doesn’t make sense—I initially wanted to donate because I thought it would help the world, not just because it’s what I said I would do. But after I promised to donate 20% of my income, I forgot my original motivation and only thought about the pledge.

This is a version of the overjustification effect: if you get an extrinsic incentive to do something, it reduces your intrinsic motivation. I saw this happen to myself when taking the pledge reduced my intrinsic motivation to donate. Fortunately, I figured out what happened and reminded myself that donating money has inherent value and it’s not only about keeping a promise.

So even though you give yourself an external incentive to increase your commitment to doing a good thing, sometimes it can paradoxically decrease your commitment by reducing your intrinsic motivation. This could even reduce how much you donate—perhaps you would have donated 15%, but since you pledged to donate 10%, now you only donate the amount that you committed to.

## Conclusion

I believe that people usually should take the Giving What We Can pledge. Most people in the effective altruism community donate less than 10% of their income—if more people took the pledge, we would see more donations, which would help the world. If you suspect that your future commitment to doing good may waver, you could take the pledge as a way to keep yourself on track. But before you do take it, consider some relevant factors:

1. Are you going to need a lot of money at some point in the future, such that it will become harder for you to keep donating as much?
2. Might you want to focus a lot of time on doing good in some way that prevents you from making much money, such as starting a non-profit; and if so, would you be able to continue donating the same percentage of your income?

I expect most people should be able to donate 10% of their income (although I’m not in a great position to judge since I have been lucky enough never to have to live on a low salary). I pledged to donate 20% of my income, and while I expect that I will always be able to donate that much, it does substantially limit me in some ways—most obviously, it makes it harder for me to switch to a job that pays a low salary. I regret pledging to donate this much, and perhaps I should not have pledged at all. I do place high value on keeping my word, so the Giving What We Can pledge could potentially help keep me committed; but I was already committed to donating and probably would have donated as much if I had not signed the pledge, so signing it only imposed limits on me without providing any benefits.

Some readers may be in a similar position to where I was before I signed the Giving What We Can pledge. If so, you should consider what benefits the pledge provides you and how it might hurt you, and decide if it makes sense given your personal circumstances.

## Notes

1. For the record, I am not going to break my pledge in 2017 and I have no intention of ever doing so.

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