Recently on Twitter, in response to seeing a contest announcement asking for criticism of EA, I offered some criticism of that contest’s announcement.

That sparked a bunch of discussion about central concepts in Effective Altruism. Those discussions ended up including Dustin Moskovitz, who showed an excellent willingness to engage and make clear how his models worked. The whole thing seems valuable enough to preserve in a form that one can navigate, hence this post.

This compiles what I consider the most important and interesting parts of that discussion into post form, so it can be more easily seen and referenced, including in the medium-to-long term.

There are a lot of offshoots and threads involved, so I’m using some editorial discretion to organize and filter.

To create as even-handed and useful a resource as possible, I am intentionally not going to interject commentary into the conversation here beyond the bare minimum.

As usual, I use screenshots for most tweets to guard against potential future deletions or suspensions, with links to key points in the threads.

(As Kevin says, I did indeed mean should there.)

At this point there are two important threads that follow, and one additional reply of note.

Thread one, which got a bit tangled at the beginning but makes sense as one thread:

Thread two, which took place the next day and went in a different direction.

Link here to Ben’s post, GiveWell and the problem of partial funding.

Link to GiveWell blog post on giving now versus later.

Dustin’s “NO WE ARE FAILING” point seemed important so I highlighted it.

There was also a reply from Eliezer.

And this on pandemics in particular.

Sarah asked about the general failure to convince Dustin’s friends.

These two notes branch off of Ben’s comment that covers-all-of-EA didn’t make sense.

Ben also disagreed with the math that there was lots of opportunity, linking to his post A Drowning Child is Hard to Find.

This thread responds to Dustin’s claim that you need to know details about the upgrade to the laptop further up the main thread, I found it worthwhile but did not include it directly for reasons of length.

This came in response to Dustin’s challenge on whether info was 10x better.

After the main part of thread two, there was a different discussion about pressures perhaps being placed on students to be performative, which I found interesting but am not including for length.

This response to the original Tweet is worth noting as well.

Again, thanks to everyone involved and sorry if I missed your contribution.

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The surest test of whether or not the call for criticism is real is whether or not Benquo gets 100k.

Surely giving the whole prize pool to a single person is too much, and also they are only considering recent posts (and I don't know if he's written EA-specific ones in the relevant time period). But I agree that he seems like one of the more important critics of EA to me.

The timeline is one of the things that makes me agree with Zvi the most: there's past excellent criticism that deserves to be rewarded, and criticism produced on a timetable dictated by the judges is much more likely to share basic EA assumptions and be fiddling with details. 


I'm kinda joking.