The Last Days of the Singularity Challenge

by Eliezer Yudkowsky1 min read26th Feb 201086 comments

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From Michael Anissimov on the Singularity Institute blog:

Thanks to generous contributions by our donors, we are only $11,840 away from fulfilling our $100,000 goal for the 2010 Singularity Research Challenge. For every dollar you contribute to SIAI, another dollar is contributed by our matching donors, who have pledged to match all contributions made before February 28th up to $100,000. That means that this Sunday is your final chance to donate for maximum impact.

Funds from the challenge campaign will be used to support all SIAI activities: our core staff, the Singularity Summit, the Visiting Fellows program, and more. Donors can earmark their funds for specific grant proposals, many of which are targeted towards academic paper-writing, or just contribute to our general fund

[Continue reading at the Singularity Institute blog.]

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Since it appears acceptable to do so in this thread, I'll reiterate that I'm donating 22.5 percent of my gross income to SIAI this year, the majority of which I managed to put in during this matching campaign.

I also convinced a family member to donate, which surprised me, as I had almost given up hope of convincing others of FAI's importance.

3Eliezer Yudkowsky11yWish I could upvote you twice!

Although I don't have much cash to spare, I've cut back in some personal budget areas for the next few months and donated $500 to the 'Hard Takeoff Paper' project. I have two hopes: that the donation (and matching funds) will make a non-negligible difference in the number of AI researchers taking the possibility of hard takeoff seriously, and that publicly posting this will nudge at least a few people into re-evaluating their willingness to donate to SIAI.

4John_Maxwell11yThat's awesome. I'm also a college student, but I can't think of any personal budget areas cut back on. I think a donation to SIAI would probably result in a commiserate increase in my eventual student loans. Can someone from SIAI tell me if they'd be borrowing money at student-loan interest rates if they had the opportunity? If not, I'll probably wait until I'm out of college and I have my loans paid off to donate.
6MBlume11yThis is an excellent question. There's been a lot of discussion of discount rates around here, and the general consensus seems to be that they're above student-loan rates, though I'd like to show this to Anna and Michael. ETA: Just spoke with Michael Vassar. By any estimate, our discount rates are higher than student loan rates. If you can give now, please do.
[-][anonymous]11y 20

AU$400 toward a catgirl-filled future.

I donated 100 USD to the general fund.

I am a lurker -- always taking and never giving. This might change, but perhaps not. In any case, this opportunity is an effective way for me to give back to a community that has given me so much. Thank you.

i donated $500 to the general fund (thought a little about whether to give directly to the paper that describes how many lives per dollar could be saved by a friendly singularity, then i decided SIAI is a better judge of where to put the money. If a good massage pillow for eliezer and/or marcello improves the advent of FAI by a couple of weeks, it is money well spent :) ) I donated via my brother in california. Amounts to around 3% of my aftertax yearly income. (Indian rupee ratio is 46 to 1, really pinches)

Reasons for donating - Karmically (universal cosmic karma, not less wrong karma :) ) speaking, I wanted to give back a little. Can't do much in terms of arguments or thoughts (as my low karma score would testify), but can do in money. :)

Other reasons for donating - I genuinely believe that a friendly AI is one of the genuinely possible superhero scenarios - A bunch of good nobodies suddenly becoming powerful and using that power to help the world.

People keep feeding each other this thing about our technical capabilities exceeding our moral sense. That is true, unfortunately. FAI should finally put a cork into that argument.

Also, I plan to make it a yearly habit.

Since this blog post was made, more than 25 donors have donated a total of more than $1,500 to the Singularity Research Challenge. I would like to thank each and every one of you for your generosity.

EDIT: It's now 35 donors and $3,000.

EDIT 2: It's now 40 donors and $3,500.

EDIT 3: It's now 45 donors and $4,500.

Just put $2K to the general fund.

$150 US to the General Fund. Hope that makes my good deed for the day count!

Donated $1450 to the General Fund -- but man, do I hate the damn PayPal. They overcharged me $3 for three failed payment attempts and $60 for some unknown reason, so now I have to deal with their customer support (I hope it isn't outsourced to Bangalore.)

8JGWeissman11yI was frustrated with PayPal not working, so I just mailed a check to their PO Box [http://intelligence.org/contactus/]. ETA: Take that, trivial inconveniences [http://lesswrong.com/lw/f1/beware_trivial_inconveniences/]!
2Vladimir_Golovin11ySpeaking of trivial inconveniences, the processing fees are nothing compared to dealing with checks via Russian banks -- it's a huge hassle. For example, if you want to cash in a foreign check, they can't just give you the money -- they send the check back to the issuer for 'approval', who will send it back with the approval letter -- and when it's back, the bank charges you about 25% commission. I learned it the hard way, and never dealt with checks again. As for issuing checks, I doubt that Russian banks can do that at all -- at least I haven't heard of anyone making payments by checks issued by Russian banks.
3MichaelHoward11yI have an arrangement with an American supporter of the Future of Humanity Institute. Each month I send money to FHI, he sends it to SIAI, and each institute gets tax benefits they wouldn't get from donor's outside their own country. If it's worth it to avoid the commission and for possible tax benefits, maybe you could find a trustworthy American supporter of a good Russian cause?
3Vladimir_Golovin11yThis is the main problem. Charities and other forms of centralized philanthropy are almost non-existent in modern Russia -- perhaps because most potential donors are wary of scams posing as charities. Almost everyone here has been a victim of some sort of scam. Most of the everyday philanthropy here is decentralized, flash-mob style -- someone posts a help request with a story and an address to send money, and others re-post it on their blogs if they feel that the request is genuine. Even if I could find an American supporter (I think I can) and a charity (which will be harder), I still doubt that this will make me eligible for any tax benefits here.
0JGWeissman11yWow, the Russian banking system sounds horrible, much more than a trivial inconvenience.
4Vladimir_Golovin11yI had another fun exercise when making this donation. I wanted to make it in January, but to transfer those $1450 from an e-payment system (thankfully not PayPal) to my bank account, I had to squeeze them through the daily transfer limits that randomly fluctuate each day from $1 to $450. That was kinda fun -- like gambling. As you see, it took me almost two months to complete, plus I lost another $27 to the transfer fees :)
0wedrifid11yWhich e-payment system has transfer limits like that?
0Vladimir_Golovin11yMoneybookers [http://www.moneybookers.com].
0Blueberry11yI am just generally frustrated with PayPal, so I just used the option to enter my credit card number, which I much prefer to logging into PayPal.
0Eliezer Yudkowsky11yPayPal not working for SIAI specifically? If so, please specify (private email if you like).
0JGWeissman11yNo, not SIAI specifically. PayPal was not working at all for me.
2Rain11yThe problem I ran into with PayPal is that they required me to link my bank account directly to their service once I had reached a threshold dollar amount of usage (somewhere around $5000), rather than allowing me to leave just my credit card attached. This made me particularly nervous, as I have heard quite often of strange fees being applied with no recourse. If they only have access to my credit card, I would have more protection.
1CarlShulman11yPayment by check can bypass the PayPal fee.

Donated another $50. Then I canceled a monthly donation to another charity and became a monthly donor for SIAI.

0LucasSloan11yWhat other charity?
1Jordan11yCALPIRG [http://www.calpirg.org]. Mostly because I think high speed rails are awesome.
6LucasSloan11yDoesn't seem to be too bad, for a political charity. However, I salute you for ending your donations for awesomeness in favor of effectiveness.
2Roko11yHigh speed rail is awesome, but the the observable universe [http://www.atlasoftheuniverse.com/universe.html] is more awesome.
[-][anonymous]11y 13

135€ to general fund (via resolution)

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

$100 to the general fund.

$100 to general fund. I've recently received some unexpected cash and am looking at ways to increase humanity's expected utility. I'll be donating to SENS and the Methuselah Foundation as well. Where else should I be looking?

The Future of Humanity Institute.

Eliezer and SteveLandsburg agree: don't diversify your (altruistic) giving.

A friend points out one possible way this reasoning doesn't work: charities can gain political power by quoting a larger number of individual donors. This would argue for giving $10 to several charities and the rest of the money to the best one.

I suspect that this reasoning is not only reasonably defensible, but also much more palatable; that the underlying biases are tested much less strongly by the policy conclusion "give the bulk of your money to one charity" than "give nothing to other charities". I will try to remember to use this version henceforth.

8Paul Crowley11yI have to confess, if I had a lot of money to donate I'd find it very hard to swallow this advice whole and give it all to the SIAI; I'd feel like donating half to GiveWell or suchlike would be a "hedge" against the possibility that I fear UFAI for irrational reasons I haven't identified. However, I can't find a reason to think that uncertainty about my own sanity will plug into the math any differently than any other kind of uncertainty.
4GuySrinivasan11yOr perhaps giving $10+e to lots of people on the condition that they give $10 to the charity you'd like to target.
7Eliezer Yudkowsky11yThis would make the IRS sad if they found out. You wouldn't like them when they're sad.
7GuySrinivasan11yGood point. Even better, then: charity trades. I give $10 to your charity and you give $10 to my charity.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky11yProbably a wash if everyone does it, but might give a selective advantage to rationalists if practiced by rationalists only and the practice didn't spread beyond that... which seems unlikely in the long run, but not too impossible in the short run.
1Douglas_Knight11yCould you give an example? I doubt that the above charities are interested in the political power that can be bought that way.
2Document11yI can't, but item five here [http://intelligence.org/donate/whysmalldonationsmatter] makes a similar statement.
2Douglas_Knight11yThat's a reason for large donors to diversify. It is not at all a reason for small donors to diversify.
0JGWeissman11yEdit: The parent, before being edited, at the time I responded, as I recall, read: It now reads: I am disappointed by this departure from LessWrong's excellent track record of not abusing the edit feature to change the context of responding comments. End Edit The point is that the more total money they get from small donors, the more money large donors can give without going over certain percentages of the total that have arbitrary legal significance.
0Douglas_Knight11yNo, that's not the point [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1tn/the_last_days_of_the_singularity_challenge/1op1].
0JGWeissman11yI meant, that's the point of Document's quote from SIAI's statement about the value of small donors. It may not be an example of what ciphergoth was talking about, but it is about the importance of small donors.
-1Douglas_Knight11ySo, arguments are soldiers?
0Kevin11yNot much of an argument here. This law does not provide a good reason for individual donors to diversify, but it does provide good reason for non-profits to actively solicit from small donors, and it shows that small donors are important.
0JGWeissman11yI don't want to diversify my altruistic giving of political clout any more than I want to diversify my altruistic giving of money. So, here I explicitly declare that: I donate money exclusively to SIAI, because I believe it is the most efficient way of buying humanitarian utility. Aggregated with similar people, is that worth any political clout?
0wedrifid11yNot really. If SIAI made a fuss and about how many individual donors they got and they got some benefit from this then you would be best off... hang on I just read Guy's reply. I was just going to say 'donate under multiple names'.
4orangecat11yAfter shutting up and multiplying, I agree those arguments are valid. This presentation [http://www.vimeo.com/7397629] by Anna Salamon is also instructive. I'm uncertain as to whether funding for SIAI or anti-aging research provides the best marginal utility. Both would have a gigantic positive impact if successful; SIAI's would be larger but in my estimation anti-aging has a better chance of success. The matching donations tip the balance to SIAI today, so $900 more is on the way. I do believe the political argument with number of donors may apply to SENS and MF, so I'm making smaller donations there. I'm disappointed that curing aging hasn't been mentioned during the frequent discussions of rising health care costs; with more publicity and more donors willing to make the obvious point that aging and death suck, it might. In my estimation it will be easier for them to go mainstream than SIAI, so I believe it's most effective to separately target my monetary and political support.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky11yI usually try not to push people on this particular point unless I think they're already very high-level; my default assumption is that people are very akrasic and fragile when it comes to charity. However, I'm raising my estimate of Landsburg's level based on this - I guess one mostly hears about the disputable points he got wrong, not the indisputable points he got right, of which this is one (and a rarely appreciated one at that).
2David_J_Balan11yLandsburg's argument is sound, and I mostly follow it and occasionally try to sell others on it. But I can think of one exception, which is if the political power of an organization that you support depends on the number of members it has. So for example I pay membership dues to one organization that is not my main charity because I want them to be able to claim one more member. And there is one place that I think Landsburg gets it plain wrong. He says*: But if you think that the United Way comes tolerably close to sharing your values, but you think that they have better information than you do about relative needs and competencies across different organizations, then it makes perfect sense to donate to them, doesn't it? *http://www.slate.com/id/77619/ [http://www.slate.com/id/77619/]
0David_J_Balan11yI see ciphergoth already made my first point. Sorry about that.
0dclayh11yFair enough. Glad to hear it; I've been a fan of his for years, based mainly on his Slate column and his first two books.
0komponisto11yUm....you might want to have a look at Landsburg's math [http://www.slate.com/id/2034/sidebar/42581/] and see if you notice anything wrong. ETA: Actually, never mind. I overlooked something. Silly me. Of course, it's still a good exercise to check.
0[anonymous]11yWhen I try to view that page, it briefly shows the math, then blanks and sits there loading forever, so I can't quite see what he's saying. If you're able to see it, could you cut and paste?
0komponisto11yHere's my attempt at copy-and-paste, for those who have difficulty viewing (will require edits to fix): [ETA: All right, can't get the LaTeX plugin to work, so I'll just use something like the old Usenet conventions.]
0Paul Crowley11yDamn, sorry, I deleted the comment asking for this when I managed to find a way to read it. Thanks for sorting it out! Is the error that he says x where he means delta-x in a couple of places?
0komponisto11yNo, that was my copying mistake. Fixed.
0Paul Crowley11yThen I don't see the error, help me out?

I donated 250 USD to the general fund, and plan to continue giving in the long term.

I put in ~1000 or so over a few months. For a better world!

I've given US$130 so far, plus a $300 check mailed 2/25 that may or may not arrive in time to be matched.

7AnnaSalamon11yChecks are counted from the date they are written and mailed, not the date they are received. So your check will bring matching Challenge funds with it. Thank you. On a related note, if anyone works at a company that offers matching donations, such as Google or Boeing or Microsoft, your company's matching donation counts with the date your donation was made (regardless of the lag in when your company makes it; donations made previous to the challenge have their company matches not count, and donations made during the challenge do have their company matches count). So it isn't too late to mail checks or do company matches.
0Document11yThanks likewise.
1Kevin11yI very much doubt that the matching donors plan on being strict about something like that...

Just donated 100 CAD (about 95 USD) to the general fund.

It's a shame the 'challenge' only lasts until tomorrow. I only found a job recently (my first as a programmer!), so I'm still kinda poor.

Just realized this is the last day before the challenge so I've donated AU$25

I've just donated $25 to the general fund.

edit: And it's the third time I donate, IIRC.

Donated $10. Keep up the good work.

I donated $10 to the General Fund, and convinced my brother to do the same.

I'm also planning on putting out a general call for donations to my friends and family a few weeks before my birthday, in lieu of presents.

In an act of fantastic circularity, I gave $5 to the SIAI Visitors fund.

Just donated 35€, earmarked as a contribution to the "Collective Action" paper. Even though the money will return to the general fund, it doesn't hurt to hint at what I consider important, i.e. questions of collaboration and coordination.

2Roko11yIt is better for everyone if the collective action paper gets funded, but it is better for each individual to let others fund it. Alas, the collective action paper failed ... due to a collective action problem!

donated to general fund

is there any great benefit to stating how much btw?

8LucasSloan11yYes. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3h/why_our_kind_cant_cooperate/]
8Blueberry11yThanks for linking to that! I donated $15 to the General Fund.
3scotherns11yI donated $50 this time.

Yesterday I donated $5 to the general fund.

Just donated. Like other posters, I'm identifying myself here because of this, but I'm still uncomfortable sharing a dollar amount with the whole interworld.

Scraping in just under the deadline courtesy of a helpful reminder, I've donated a modest amount (anonymously, to the general fund). Cheers, folks.

Total raised so far: $100,000, with $0 remaining General Fund: $78,455

Looks like we did it. Thanks everyone who donated.

2Document11yAbout a day later, it still says exactly $100,000. I'm assuming that the counter maxed out at that number, rather than that they were that close to not even making their budget.