Wiki Contributions


1: Our epistemic rationality has probably gotten way ahead of our instrumental rationality

I would defend the instrumental rationality of having a rule of thumb that unless you're quite wealthy, you don't bother looking into anything that appears to be a 'get rich quick' scheme, or seek to invest in high-risk high-return projects you can't evaluate.

Yes sometimes it will fail big, if you miss the boat on bitcoin, or Facebook or whatever. Every strategy fails in some scenarios. Sometimes betting it all on 23 red will have been the right call.

But because it i) lowers risk, ii) saves you wasting time looking into lots of dud investments to find the occasional good one, iii) makes you less of a mark for scams and delusions, I think it's sensible for most.

From a selfish point of view, I don't think most rationalists would benefit significantly from a bit of extra money, so it doesn't make much sense to be dedicating their truly precious resource (time and attention) to identifying high-risk high-return investments like bitcoin and in this case figuring out how to buy/store them safely. And I'm someone who bought bitcoin for the sake of entertainment.

From an altruistic point of view, yes I expect hundreds of millions of dollars to be donated, and the current flow is consistent with that - I know of 5 million in the last few months, and there's probably more than hasn't been declared.

"then it's no longer so plausible that "hundreds of millions is a substantial fraction as good as billions"."

At the full community level the marginal returns on further donations also declines, though more slowly:

Collectively the community has made hundreds of millions from cypto. But it did so by getting a few wealthy people to buy many bitcoin, rather than many people to buy a few bitcoin. This is a more efficient model because it avoids big fixed costs for each individual.

It also avoid everyone in the community having to dedicate some of their attention to thinking about what outstanding investment opportunities might be available today.

Due to declining marginal returns, hundreds of millions is a substantial fraction as good as billions. So I think we did alright.

"After they were launched, I got a marketing email from 80,000 Hours saying something like, "Now, a more effective way to give." (I’ve lost the exact email, so I might be misremembering the wording.) This is not a response to demand, it is an attempt to create demand by using 80,000 Hours’s authority, telling people that the funds are better than what they're doing already. "

I write the 80,000 Hours newsletter and it hasn't yet mentioned EA Funds. It would be good if you could correct that.

"If we could somehow install Holden Karnofsky as president it would probably improve the lives of a billion people"

Amusingly, our suggestion of these two charities is entirely syndicated from a blog post put up by Holden Karnofsky himself:

Thanks for your interest in our work.

As we say in the post, on this and most problem areas 80,000 Hours defers charity recommendations to experts on that particular cause (see: What resources did we draw on?). In this case our suggestion is based entirely on the suggestion of Chloe Cockburn, the Program Officer for Criminal Justice Reform at the Open Philanthropy Project, who works full time on that particular problem area and knows much more than any of us about what is likely to work.

To questions like "does 80,000 Hours have view X that would make sense of this" or "is 80,000 Hours intending to do X" - the answer is that we don't really have an independent view on any of these things. We're just syndicating content from someone we perceive to be an authority (just as we do when we include GiveWell's recommended charities without having independently investigated them). I thought the article was very clear about this, but perhaps we needed to make it even more so in case people skipped down to a particular section without reading the preamble.

If you want to get these charities removed then you'd need to speak with Chloe. If she changes her suggestions - or another similar authority on this topic appears and offers a contrary view - then that would change what we include.

Regarding why we didn't recommend the Center for Criminal Justice Reform: again, that is entirely because it wasn't on the Open Philanthropy Project's list of suggestions for individual donors. Presumably that is because they felt their own grant - which you approve of - had filled their current funding needs.

All the best,


Yes, thanks so much to everyone who contributed! :)

I'll re-post this comment as well:

"If I was going to add another I think it would be

  1. Have fun

Talking to people who really disagree with you can represent a very enjoyable intellectual exploration if you approach it the right way. Detach yourself from your own opinions, circumstances and feelings and instead view the conversation as a neutral observer who was just encountering the debate for the first time. Appreciate the time the other person is putting into expressing their points. Reflect on how wrong most people have been throughout history and how hard it is to be confident about anything. Don't focus just yet on the consequences or social desirability of the different views being expressed - just evaluate how true they seem to be on their merits. Sometimes this perspective is described as 'being philosophical'."

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