Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Annual 'splitting' of funding gaps can be partial funging when gaps carry over across years

In a 2015 blog post, the Open Philanthropy Project contrasted several strategies for coordinating Good Ventures' donations with those of smaller donors. One was 'splitting,' in which a large donor commits to funding only a fixed percentage of a funding gap (between two thresholds of efficacy) in a given year. The advantage of this is said to be that a $1 marginal donation by a small donor will increase funding to the recipient charity by $1, in contrast to 'funging' where the large donor reduces its donation in response to the small donor, so that funding to the recipient charity increases by substantially less than $1. However, this distinction does not hold when funding gaps can substantially carry over from year to year. In the limit of perfect carryover, funging of small donors could approach 100%. With substantial stochastic carryover funging could be likewise substantial, while 'one-time' opportunities may suffer minimal funging. I suggest that some accounting for carryover across periods must accompany 'splitting' to avoid donor illusion.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Creating a donor-advised fund lottery

Summary: In a previous post I discussed the construction of charity lotteries, which let donors who think that the effectiveness of their donations has increasing returns to scale convert small donations into a small chance of donations large enough to exploit scale economies. However, transaction and coordination costs pose a barrier to individual users: there are scale economies to setting up charity lotteries. Effective altruists looking for projects could set up a charity lottery with low transaction costs using a donor-advised fund to provide easy access to small donors.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The age distribution of GiveWell recommended charities

Summary: GiveWell's list of top and standout charities is identical to that of 2014, although with special emphasis on the Against Malaria Foundation. Giving What We Can's recommendations have been static for several years. To estimate what rate of churn we should expect, I examine the age distribution of GiveWell (and Giving What We Can) recommended charities. For top international aid charities, typical age is a decade or less, possibly a result of focus on smaller organizations narrowly focused on interventions with recent funding gaps. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Various functional forms for brain-weighting wild insects and farmed land animals favor the former

Summary: Some people have offered guesses or intuitions that when comparing animals with very different nervous system scales, they should be weighted by the logarithm or square root of neural capacity, while also taking the view that the impacts of animal agriculture on wild insects are not much greater than the impacts on farmed land animals. Considering these functional forms, and linear weighting with number of neurons, it appears they assign a much greater total weight to wild insects populations affected by agricultural land use than to the land animals being farmed. This suggests a revision of some combination of the weighting schemes and evaluations of agricultural impacts.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Some considerations for prioritization within animal agriculture

Summary: Conflicting rationales have been offered to prioritize reduction of particular sectors of factory farming and animal agriculture, and I review a selection of these. Cattle make the largest contribution to climate change, and cattle raised for meat create the greatest demand for agricultural land use. Smaller chickens and farmed fish are much more numerous. Taking still more numerous wild animals into account would suggest that cattle farming has the largest impact, positive or negative. Taking neural capacity into account favors attention to large farmed animals, but this measure is still dominated by wild animals. Mental abilities such as learning and social intelligence do not seem to have strong implications between chickens and cattle. An alternative perspective is that focus should be on changes in human attitudes, efforts, and organizations, as these contribute to further change.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Trends in farmed animal life-years per kg and per human in the United States

Summary: Selective breeding, drugs, and altered diets have greatly increased the quantity of milk, meat, and eggs produced per year of farmed animal life for multiple species, creating side effects that lowered the quality of life of farmed animals, and increasing consumption through lower prices. In the United States it appears that for some agricultural industries productivity increases since 1950 might have reduced farmed animal-years enough to outweigh the effect of falling prices. These include dairy, beef, and eggs. However, total animal-years of chickens raised for meat, the most populous farmed land animal, increased dramatically in total and per capita, despite a severalfold reduction in chicken-years per kg of meat sold. Increases in production efficiency may reduce demand for farmed animal-years in some mature developed country markets, while increasing demand in larger emerging markets. Further analysis using detailed income and price elasticity information, as well as welfare effects of overbreeding, could estimate net effects of technological change on animal welfare.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Discussing Giving Season 2014

It's giving season in the American tax year. As in previous years, some people in the effective altruism movement have been asking to talk about their giving decisions with me, and I would like to extend the offer of a sounding board to the readers of this blog. You can contact me by email, facebook, or by leaving a comment below with contact information (comments with contact info will be kept in moderation and not published).