So if we agree that we should invest our donations and donate them later it seems like there is no reason to actually donate them at any time since at any such time we could follow the same reasoning and push the donation even further. Is the conlcusion then to either donate now or not at all?

This depends on what someone believes the worthiest target for their donations is. If they're trying to optimize for goals that require the continuance of Earth-originating intelligence, or humanity, than they'll probably want to prevent human extinction. If they believe humanity faces a Great Filter or an existential risk in the coming decades, they'll want to donate eventually. Supposedly they'd drive money to organizations will decrease the chances of humanity being destroyed. Of course, this still leaves the consideration that if they invest very well, or invest at the right time, (and know how to identify those things), such that money invested now for period t, increased to value n(x), will be worth more to the target organization at the end of period t, than the original value of money, x, is worth to the organization now.

However, its been argued from within effective altruism that the longer you wait to do good, the less the good you do will be worth. A donation is worth more now than later; effort applied at a later time will result in less value than the same level of effort applied now. This is called the haste consideration. Over time, the marginal increase in value of an investment over time comes up against the (presumed) marginal decrease of donation at any given time. I figure one could try measuring or calculating the rates of change here, and then figuring out some point at which the curves of them cross which would provide the optimum time to withdraw money from investment and donate it for maximum impact. However, that seems difficult. I'm not aware of something like this previously being done, and I follow effective altruism closely. So, if this has all been quantified, that report hasn't been widely circulated.

This seems all the more important on LessWrong, because users on this site are more likely to care about existential risk reduction, whether they identify with effective altruism or not. Also, one could estimate a time past which investing rather than donating would be pointless, because that is beyond the point at which one expects humanity to preserve anything worth either investing in or donating to.

Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014

by Gondolinian 1 min read15th Dec 2014309 comments


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