On the issue of whether to help now vs. later, many reasonable arguments have been collected on both sides. For example, positive interest rates argue for helping later, while declining need due to rising wealth argues for helping now. But I keep hearing one kind of argument I think is unreasonable, that doing stuff has good side effects:
Per capita growth, but not entirely sure. Save a baby and you've added one life. The economic value of that life will ultimately grow at the rate of per capita growth (in expectation), like with all other lives. Have you read the article I linked to? Which part do you mean is non-trivial?
Do you mean per capita growth or total growth? This seems like a non-trivial claim.
About the "Simonian" growth: The multiplier Robin talks about never happens immediately. It is spread out over time, though not infinitely. Most of it may happen early on though.
It would be a mistake, I think, to assume that because the multiplier may still take effect decades later (the baby becomes a fisherman) that it is actually growing exponentially. Instead it will grow at the speed of economic growth after some time has passed. This point is made in more detail here:
One thing I do wonder about though is how quickly values and memes such as effective altruism grow. It seems that saying they grow "at the rate of economic growth" is not applicable. Instead, they may, after the multiplier is 'used up', end up growing at the speed of population growth. But that's speculative. I've heard Paul Christiano say this at least.
Yes I read it. I'm skeptical that you can grow the economy faster via help than the rate that investments grow: http://www.overcomingbias.c...
I don't claim to be able to increase the exponential economic growth rate. I claim to be able to add to humanity's capacity for doing stuff. And since the growth in humanity's capacity for doing stuff is proportionate to humanity's capacity for doing stuff, the capacity addition as a result of my actions grows exponentially in the long haul. Did you read the comment I linked to?
It isn't reasonable to expect that typical actions you take to "help" will increase the exponential economic growth rate. And if we are talking about a temporary bump in growth, the difference between helping now and helping later seems finite.
Thanks, I missed your link. I don't find it particularly persuasive; it seems like you're leaning on metaphors pretty heavily. I think I agree with you that Thomas Paine, and other actors in the political realm, can't generally expect to exert meaningful, deliberate, long-lasting influence. I'm less sure about, say, public intellectuals outside of the political realm. It seems ideas like math and existentialism have permeated the culture for a while now and if nothing else are probably upstream of various effects that are probably truly exponential, like what investors do with their exponentially growing bankrolls. And if you grant the notion of an exponentially growing economy, anything that moves us forward on that exponential even slightly will have an exponential impact in the long run, the math is very simple: http://lesswrong.com/lw/h3q...
My argument for finite is given by the link at the word "finite." The expected effect approaches zero *long* before the heat death of the universe.
OK, I looked at your math. Here are my comments. If you're going to integrate out to time t=infinity, in other words, assume that the universe will have no heat death, then I don't think "this integral is finite" is a particularly reasonable assumption. And as soon as you integrate the heat death of the universe in to your model, you'll find that if you delay helping, that gives your aftereffects less time to manifest themselves. So then there's an actual tradeoff.
Your argument seems wrong to me because you're treating the aftereffects as a constant but looking at the multiplier from saving as unbounded. What matters here is (a) what function describes the return on investment from saving your money and (b) what function describes your return on investment from giving (this function is going to be different for each cause). If (b) blows up faster than (a), you'll want to give right away. If (a) blows up faster than (b), you'll want to save. If you're claiming that (b) asymptotically trends towards a constant and (a) does not, that's a claim you haven't supported.
The math [Added 19Apr] helps, thanks. I think the simple counter is: the integral is (imagined to be) not finite. Assume only EA improves the world. Assume 1% of the current world population acts according to EA. "EA" is a virus ("meme"), which can spread. In steady state, 99% of the population will act according to EA.
In such a scenario, the sooner to spread the EA meme throughout the population, the longer humanity gets to reap the rewards (until the end of time) for the new behavior.
What you're hoping to influence, is the growth rate of the meme spreading. The actual direct "good" is done by the future populations, and its sum is not finite.
Thus you should act now, rather than later. (At least, depending on the relative growth rates of EA meme spreading, vs. financial returns.)
(I feel I must re-iterate: I'm not personally convinced that charity makes the world a better place. But again, that hypothetical is assumed in this post.)
I've added a more formal treatment to the post.
No, rate of return is just a different concept from multiplication.
If The Haste Consideration, which you cite, is right, then we should time-discount steeply because outreach offers good returns for altruists. The 'multiplier' is really understood as a high claimed return. Then, by outreaching, young altruists are investing, just as you say they should.
This doesn't have to mean caring less, only caring equally making one ambivalent about when to act. One may consider one will be in a better position to act in the future even one doesn't think ones actions will amount to any more, just that one may have better knowledge and do so more efficiently.
This is mainly about how to compare value today with value in the future, real (absolute inflation adjusted) or real real (relative proportional wealth). One could also compare capital with income, instead of a one time gift, the establishment of a fund providing an income for giving. Capital can do a lot more now while income can do a lot more over time. The latter may impose higher management and overhead costs though so may only make sense with large sums.
According to the rational economist a man can go without food one year and just eat a lot the next year...
The risk free rate is the best estimate I have of future rates of return. Because I believe in EMH and therefore believe the equity premium was just historical accident in the US (and other highly successful countries) in the 20th century. If you want to take the anti-EMH position on that; that's fine, I know the majority do.