A disclaimer about my effective philanthropy posts (in connection with astronomical waste)

by JonahS1 min read1st Jun 20136 comments

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My recent posts Robustness of Cost-Effectiveness and Effective Philanthropy and Earning to Give vs. Altruistic Career Choice Revisited concern optimal philanthropy, and I’ll be writing more posts about optimal philanthropy in the near future.

My use of examples from prosaic domains such as global health has given rise to some confusion, because some members of the Less Wrong community believe that existential risk reduction is by far the best target for optimal philanthropy, and also believe that effective philanthropy in the context of global health is very disanalogous to effective philanthropy in the context of x-risk reduction. For example, Eliezer wrote 

…talking about AMF [Against Malaria Foundation] in the same breath as x-risk just seems really odd. The key issues are going to be very different when you're trying to do something so near-term, established, without scary ambiguity, etc. as AMF.

I believe that studying the issues surrounding philanthropic opportunities in areas such as global health is in fact helpful for better understanding how to assess x-risk reduction opportunities. My reasons for thinking this don’t fit into a few sentences, and fully understanding them requires understanding some of my thoughts about more prosaic domains. So I’ll respond to Eliezer’s comment at a later date.

For now, I’ll just remark:

  1. My discussion of prosaic philanthropic domains should not be interpreted as carrying the connotation that I think that they offer more promising philanthropic opportunities than x-risk reduction charities do (though in some cases I believe that they may be).
  2.  I believe that the points that I raise in connection with prosaic philanthropic domains will eventually offer input that's helpful for thinking about optimal philanthropy within the astronomical waste framework.
  3. My reason for restricting my discussion to prosaic philanthropic domains (in some posts) is to keep the discussion from become muddled by simultaneously considering of many orthogonal issues.

Note: I formerly worked as a research analyst at GiveWell. All views expressed are my own.

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