Things I Have Gotten Wrong

Originally I trusted Animal Charity Evaluators and recommended them to others (although apparently I never wrote this down in public).  Later I realized they were making up numbers.

I used to think Raising for Effective Giving was a cost effective way to raise money for good charities.  I still think that, but now I know they’re negative utilitarians and what they’re doing now is maybe a wedge to nuking the entire world so no one can suffer more.

I thought Charity Science was a mess that would never do anything, until they produced a new charity that at least has the potential to be hugely effective.  At a minimum it is actually doing something, in a subculture that seems to respond to every problem by going meta.

[In an ideal world I would have said this publicly before I started doing contract work for them, but I do have witnesses as to my mind change before then.]

I thought Tostan had nearly ended female genital cutting in Senegal.  I was wrong, and I could have learned I was wrong at any time by checking wikipedia.  They may still be making good strides and have been very cooperative in answering my questions, but I should not be being caught by surprise by wikipedia.  And I don’t even know if I still think poverty is important relative to existential risk.  Although I’m not sure how much I care about future humans either.

I thought epistemic spot checks would be really easy, but it turns out it doesn’t correlate much with how useful people find things.

I’m making this public so that “saving public faith in my judgement” or “present coherent position” stop being goals I can reasonably have, so I can focus on actually fixing the problem.   Everything on here is epistemic status: exploratory until further notice.

 

ETA: I’ve gotten some positive response to this, which is great, but not unexpected.  I would like to give props to my subculture/readership for being so consistently good about rewarding people for admitting big mistakes that even highly anxious me feels able to count on it.

 

5 thoughts on “Things I Have Gotten Wrong”

  1. > “Originally I trusted Animal Charity Evaluators[. …] Later I realized they were making up numbers.”

    “Making up numbers” is unfair. I’d agree ACE overstated the evidence on the 2014 leafleting report and that this was very misleading. I agree they also waited too long to fix it. There certainly are excuses for that, but it definitely was a mistake. However, ACE has not ever “made up numbers” in the sense that they fabricated numbers from thin air with no basis. I also think that their conclusions, while very uncertain, are still sound and certainly improve over a random “made up” process.

    > “I used to think Raising for Effective Giving was a cost effective way to raise money for good charities. I still think that, but now I know they’re negative utilitarians and what they’re doing now is maybe a wedge to nuking the entire world so no one can suffer more.”

    This also strikes me as unfair, unless you have a particular reason to think they have a pro-nuke stance.

    > “I thought Charity Science was a mess that would never do anything”

    Haha, I’m curious what made you think that? 🙂 I’m glad we changed your mind!

    (Relevant disclosure: I’m on the board of Animal Charity Evaluators and Charity Science. I’m speaking my own personal opinions here and not official positions of ACE and CS, etc.)

  2. Perhaps at another point we could have a discussion on the ACE numbers. For these particular purposes, me being 100% wrong would actually prove my meta point, which is that I keep learning things that change my mind.

    > Haha, I’m curious what made you think that?

    If I were going to be as pejorative as I was in the rest of the post? I was (and am) really skeptical of fundraising charities, and CS seemed to be seeing how often it could use effectiveness in a sentence. CS:H’s success has made me appreciate starting smaller so you can build skills and trust.

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