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I attended EAGx Berkeley event on Dec 2, 2022. Previously I had engaged with EA by participating & later facilitating in Intro to EA Virtual programs, writing on this forum and attending the US Policy careers speaker series. All these previous engagements were virtual. This was the first time I was in a room full of EAs! I want to thank the organizers for giving me a travel grant for this event. It would have been impossible for me to attend this event without it.

It was a net positive experience for me. I had 4 goals in mind. 3 of them went much better than expected and 1 of them didn't go as well. I explain my goals and how they went below. They are listed in priority:

  1. Find an internship (especially in DC)
  • When I applied to the event, this goal was Find an internship (anywhere) and it was 2nd priority. But I was getting closer to the final rounds of a fellowship program which was conditional on getting a DC internship. So, I increased priority before the conference.
  • This goal didn't go as well as I thought it would. Many orgs I spoke to didn't have applications open. They just asked me to fill some sort of 'general interest form' on their website and told me when positions might open. I guess December is not really hiring season (at least for the orgs I was interested in)
  1. Get advice on if I should stop at my Masters or go all the way to a PhD
  • When I applied to the event, this goal was originally What after Masters and it was 3rd priority. But one of my profs at uni spoke with me to consider a PhD a week before the conference. So, it changed and got higher priority before the conference.
  • I got some of the best advice on this. The 1-on-1 and office hours really helped me. Also, on day 1 of the conference Alex Lawsen spoke about An easy win for hard decisions.. So I ended up writing up a Google doc on this decision and sending it to many of the people I did 1-on-1s with. In addition, I attended a session on 'Theory of Change' by Michael Aird and it is going to play a huge role in how I finally make this decision.
  1. Get advice on starting a student group
  • This was actually priority 1 when I applied. But my cofounder also ended up getting selected for the event and since he could also talk about it with folks it made sense to push this down, given there were other goals that had to be prioritized as well.
  • I got good suggestions for this. My cofounder spoke with Jessica Mccurdy. I spoke with another student group organizer who got me into the 'EA Groups' Slack channel.
  1. Learn if there is any intersection between AI safety and policy
  • I made up this goal on day 2 of the conference given the number of AI safety events that happened. That is why it is bottom priority.
  • I learnt that the jargon here is "AI Governance". I saw that many AI safety orgs didn't really hire folks to do this (with notable exceptions). I hope to spend a few hours this winter break looking into this given that a few people told me that this is a fairly neglected area. If I find it really interesting, I might end up writing up something on the forum about this.

Other thoughts:

  • Given that the FTX scandal happened recently, I was kind of worried the event would be all about that. I had read enough about it on social media and on the forum, felt bad for the people who got cheated, recognized what I can learn from it and by the time the conference rolled on I was over it. I didn't want it to be stirred up all over again. So, I was glad to not be forced into any conversations about it. There were some events on the agenda on that topic but I was able to avoid them. So, discussions on this very important disaster did happen but it was out of the way for those who had worked through it which I really appreciated.
  • I was generally encouraged and felt optimistic seeing a bunch of people who (are atleast trying to) care about the world. Some of them were eccentric, some of them were too gloomy (IMO) about x-risks but all were kind people.
  • I personally felt that I was generally being too risk averse. Seeing people daring to try out of the ordinary stuff has helped me update a little bit more towards risk taking (of course keeping in mind to internalize risks to the max)

I am pretty sure this is not worthy of a full cross post, but I think a shortform could be tolerable.

I wrote a piece about Economic Complexity. I have seen a few posts on the forum (Like 1 and 2) about Complexity Science and I appreciate the healthy skepticism people have of it. If you are also such an appreciator, you might like my piece.

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