Recent Discussion

  1. What are some good intro videos to Effective Altruism for elementary school aged kids (ages 6-11)?
  2. What are some good intro videos to altruistic cause areas for elementary school aged kids? Could be videos that introduce a variety of cause areas, or specific cause areas.
  3. Bonus: What are some good intro videos for thinking about arguments for and against Effective Altruism for elementary school aged kids?

Rather than educating children about specific cause areas, it seems better to teach them about basic conditions of the world (which are less likely to change by the time they're adults). 

I was a voracious reader in my youth, and what prepared me to be interested in things like EA was the books I read about what life was like in other countries — that's how I learned how immensely fortunate I was to be living in the U.S., and how much a little extra money could mean to people in other countries.

I'm not sure what the best books are for accomplishing tha... (read more)

On 14th June 2021 Hilary Greaves and Will MacAskill published an update of their September 2019 paper, The case for strong longtermism. The original paper also had a video counterpart.

The original paper argued for axiological strong longtermism (AL), providing examples of interventions that avoided the “washing out hypothesis”. It claimed that AL was robust to plausible deviations from popular axiological and decision-theoretic assumptions, considered which decision situations fall within the scope of AL, and argued for deontic strong longtermism on account of very large axiological stakes.

The new paper strengthens existing points and introduces some new content. I briefly summarise (what I see as) some of the most interesting/important differences between the new and old paper below, with a focus on what is new rather than what is...

1Nathan Young7hStrongtermism?
2MichaelStJules9hYa, maybe your representor should be a convex set, so that for any two functions in it, you can take any probabilistic mixture of them, and that would also be in your representor. This way, if you have one with expected value x and another with expected value y, you should have functions with each possible expected value between. So, if you have positive and negative EVs in your representor, you would also have 0 EV. Do you mean negative EV is slightly extreme or ruling out negative EV is slightly extreme? I think neglecting to look into and address ways something could be negative (e.g. a probability difference, EV) often leads us to unjustifiably assuming a positive lower bound, and I think this is an easy mistake to make or miss. Combining a positive lower bound with astronomical stakes would make the argument appear very compelling.

Yeah I meant ruling out negative EV in a representor may be slightly extreme, but I’m not really sure - I need to read more.

This post summarizes the way I currently think about career choice for longtermists. I have put much less time into thinking about this than 80,000 Hours, but I think it's valuable for there to be multiple perspectives on this topic out there.

Edited to add: see below for why I chose to focus on longtermism in this post.

While the jobs I list overlap heavily with the jobs 80,000 Hours lists, I organize them and conceptualize them differently. 80,000 Hours tends to emphasize "paths" to particular roles working on particular causes; by contrast, I emphasize "aptitudes" one can build in a wide variety of roles and causes (including non-effective-altruist organizations) and then apply to a wide variety of longtermist-relevant jobs (often with options working on more than one cause)....

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Linch.

Response on point 1: I didn't mean to send a message that one should amass the most impressive conventional credentials possible in general - only that for many of these aptitudes, conventional success is an important early sign of fit and potential.

I'm generally pretty skeptical by default of advanced degrees unless one has high confidence that one wants to be on a track where the degree is necessary (I briefly give reasons for this skepticism in the "political and bureaucratic aptitudes" section). This piece only... (read more)

1Holden Karnofsky2hI like this; I agree with most of what you say about this kind of work. I've tried to mostly list aptitudes that one can try out early on, stick with if they're going well, and pretty reliably build careers (though not necessarily direct-work longtermist careers) around. I think the aptitude you're describing here might be more of later-career/"secondary" aptitude that often develops as someone moves up along an "organization building/running/boosting" or "political/bureaucratic" track. But I agree it seems like a cluster of skills that can be intentionally developed to some degree and used in a lot of different contexts.
1Holden Karnofsky2hThanks for the thoughtful comments! On your first point: the reason I chose to emphasize longtermism is because: * It's what I've been thinking about the most (note that I am now professionally focused on longtermism [], which doesn't mean I don't value other areas, but does mean that that's where my mental energy goes). * I think longtermism is probably the thorniest, most frustrating area for career choice, so I wanted to focus my efforts on helping people in that category think through their options. * I thought a lot of what I was saying might generalize further, but I wasn't sure and didn't want to claim that it would. And I would have found it harder to make a list of aptitudes for all of EA without having noticeable omissions. With all of that said, I hear you on why this felt unwelcoming, and regret that. I'll add a link to this comment to the main post to help clarify. On your second point, I did try to acknowledge the possibility of for-profit startups from a learning/skill-building point of view (paragraph starting with "I do think that if you have any idea for an organization that you think could succeed ...") though I do agree this sort of entrepreneurship can be useful for making money and having impact in other ways (as noted by MichaelA, below), not just for learning, and should have been clearer about that.

Mark Lutter of the Charter Cities Institute has compiled a list of examples of social change

The list is wide-ranging, and there's no requirement that changes be positive — merely that a group of people tried to change a system and succeeded. 

I'll post the current entries here for easy skimming:

  • The Fabian Society
  • The repeal of the Corn Laws
  • The YIMBYs
  • The Mont Pelerin Society
  • The Meiji Restoration
  • Prohibition in the United States
  • Progressivism in the United States
  • Abolitionism
  • African decolonization
  • The creation of the Soviet Union
  • The transition from Roman Republic to Roman Empire
  • The Bretton Woods conference
  • The Tiananmen Square uprising
  • The French Revolution
  • The modern environmental movement
  • The Federalist Society

What are some examples Mark should add? 

Personally, I'm most interested in examples that:

  1. Involve movements on the approximate scale of EA, and/or 
  2. Involved changes being made carefully and with attention to detail, to the overall benefit of those affected.

I'll give two Philippine examples:

  1. The EDSA People Power Revolution in the Philippines in 1986, notable for being nonviolent. From Wikipedia:

It "was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines, mostly in Metro Manila, from February 22–25, 1986. There was a sustained campaign of civil resistance against regime violence and electoral fraud. The nonviolent revolution led to the departure of Ferdinand Marcos, the end of his 20-year presidential term and the restoration of democracy in the Philippines."

...The People Power Revolution has inspired a call

... (read more)
2Larks4hThis is a very broad category; Belisarius [] reconquered Italy with a carefully planned campaign and an army on the approximate scale of the EA movement!
4Habryka5hAlso: My sense is overall the goals of the prohibition movement became harder to achieve after it took off, and it overall reinforced the role of alcohol in society, and made future efforts to reduce alcohol consumption harder. Again, not obviously harmful for its own goals, but also not obviously a success.

Red teaming papers as an EA training exercise?

I think a plausibly good training exercise for EAs wanting to be better at empirical/conceptual research is to deep dive into seminal papers/blog posts and attempt to identify all the empirical and conceptual errors in past work, especially writings by either a) other respected EAs or b) other stuff that we otherwise think of as especially important. 

I'm not sure how knowledgeable you have to be to do this well, but I suspect it's approachable for smart people who finish high school, and certainly by the t... (read more)

In this post I will make the case that digital marketing is under-utilized by EA orgs as well as provide some example use cases. 

My hope is that this post leads to EA orgs testing the below or similar strategies. 

A large part of what Effective Altruism is trying to do is to change people’s beliefs and behaviors. Digital advertising is one tool for achieving this goal. The fact that corporations, governments, and nonprofits repeatedly invest millions of dollars in digital marketing programs is evidence of their efficacy.  

A couple notes:

  • I work at Google/YouTube helping large advertisers run Google and YouTube Ads. For that reason this post does not touch on Facebook/Instagram//Twitter/TikTok, but I am sure there are large opportunities there as well.
  • This post is focused on paid advertising.
  • Cost estimates

I wrote about it in the forum post I linked: 

Our cost per attendee using FB ads was around $1-5 per person, depending on the event. Generally, we liked the type of people who came to our events - they were friendly and open-minded. However, only a few of them would be truly interested in EA and be willing to get more engaged in it. In 2020, we still expect to use FB ads, but we know to expect that only a handful of them will be the ones that will truly be engaged and interested in EA.

What's not in that article is how we used FB ads to recruit fellows ... (read more)

1JSWinchell7hAgreed - I am guessing it would be incredibly cost-effective. I'm hoping to test this with a few student groups this upcoming fall, we'll see if it works. Possibly the 1 minute video would be better than the 6 second. The good news is it's easily testable :)
1JSWinchell7hUnfortunately the $40K/month program has been deprecated, but thanks for sharing!

This is the first in what might become a bunch of posts picking out issues from statistics and probability of relevance to EA.  The format will be informal and fairly bite-size. None of this will be original, hopefully.

Expectations are not outcomes

Here we attempt to trim back the intuition that an expected value can be safely thought of as a representative value of the random variable.

Situation 1

A Rademacher random variable X takes the value 1 with probability 1/2 and otherwise -1. Its expectation is zero. We will almost surely never see any value other than -1 or 1.

This means that the expected value might not even be a number the distribution could produce. We might not even be able to get arbitrarily close to it.

Imagine walking up to...

So often I travel that I'm hardly ever home, and I don't have access to a computer. But I can't give it up even when traveling as I adore gambling . It is excellent that today there have as many possibilities as usual for casino

I think many people should be writing for or posting on the EA Forum more! And when giving career advice or talking to people with interesting ideas, one of the most common things I say is “Maybe you should start posting?”

But of course, not everyone should be posting to the Forum, and not all the time.[1] So how can people decide?

This post discusses reasons for and against writing for / posting on the Forum, which readers can consider in light of their specific situation in order to make decisions that are right for them.

Feel free to skim or jump around this post; each section should make sense by itself.

This post doesn’t necessarily represent the views of my employers.


  1. Reasons that sometimes push in favour of writing for or

Also, I think there's a third way that this drawback might not apply

Yeah, I thought about that and meant it to be included (somewhat sloppily) in the "closely aligned" proviso.

Or like shifting your beliefs and arguments in worse ways to match the incentives on the Forum?

Or shifting your attention.

I think things like upvotes and comments here provide multiple incentive gradients which seem possibly harmful. For example, I think based on a vague gestalt impression that the Forum tends to:

  • Encourage confidence and simplicity over nuance at some margin
... (read more)

An inducement prize contest (IPC) is a competition that awards a cash prize for the accomplishment of a feat, usually of engineering. IPCs are typically designed to extend the limits of human ability. Some of the most famous IPCs include the Longitude prize (1714–1765), the Orteig Prize (1919–1927) and the prizes from the X Prize Foundation.

IPCs are distinct from recognition prizes, such as the Nobel Prize, in that IPCs have prospectively defined criteria for what feat is to be achieved for winning the prize, while recognition prizes may be based on the beneficial effects of the feat.


I intend to update this answer as I think of more.

  • Creating a gamete from a stem cell (to enable [iterated embryo selection](
  • Reanimating a cryonics patient (although, creating a prize that long in advance will probably not create a market pressure in the short term)
  • First human to achieve some level of intelligence (as measured by some IQ test) (prize split between the person and the genetic engineering lab) (this is more about the social incentive than economical one, as I suppose there's already an economical one)