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Note: As detailed in this post, this may be the last round of Prizes we award under the current system. I'm currently considering what the next version of the program might look like. The next prize round (whatever it looks like) will take into account all posts published after May 2020, so that no one misses their chance at a prize through some accident of timing.

CEA is pleased to announce the winners of the May 2020 EA Forum Prize! 

In first place (for a prize of $750): “Some thoughts on deference and inside-view models,” by Buck Shlegeris.

In second place (for a prize of $500): “EA Survey 2019 Series: How EAs Get Involved in EA,” by David Moss.

In third place (for a prize of $250): “Prioritizing COVID-19 interventions & individual donations,” by Ian David Moss and Catherine Olsson

(David Moss and Ian David Moss are, in fact, two different people.)


The following users were each awarded a Comment Prize ($50):

Note: This section previously listed some comments written in June. Those comments will appear in the June prize post once that is published.


See here for a list of all prize announcements and winning posts.

What is the EA Forum Prize?

Certain posts and comments exemplify the kind of content we most want to see on the EA Forum. They are well-researched and well-organized; they care about informing readers, not just persuading them.

The Prize is an incentive to create content like this. But more importantly, we see it as an opportunity to showcase excellent work as an example and inspiration to the Forum's users.

About the winning posts and comments

Note: I write this section in first person based on my own thoughts, rather than by attempting to summarize the views of the other judges.

Some thoughts on deference and inside-view models

It’s very common for people in the EA community to have a set of beliefs they haven’t fully thought through, step-by-step. (This is also very common for people in general.)

Is this a bad thing? Should we try to hold beliefs only when we can fully explain why we hold them?

In this post, Buck takes on this question by digging into many different sub-questions, using a huge collection of specific examples and anecdotes along the way (this is a great way to make abstract ideas more memorable and easier to share). I really like that he arrives at a set of moderate conclusions: yes, it’s good not to believe an idea just because it was endorsed by someone you trust, but it’s also very difficult to have complete models for every one of your beliefs, and we all have to take shortcuts at some points. 

Other things I like about the post: 

  • Buck clearly states what he wants to see more of in the community. Some Forum posts propose solutions to problems without really spelling out how those solutions would look in practice; however, I can easily picture the kinds of conversations people would be having more often if Buck’s wishes came true.
  • Buck admits to his uncertainty early on in a way that lets him produce a more elegant post: “I tried to write the following without caveating every sentence with ‘I think’ or ‘It seems’, even though I wanted to.”

EA Survey 2019 Series: How EAs Get Involved in EA

The Rethink Charity team behind the EA Survey spends a huge amount of time collecting and summarizing their data for EA Forum readers. I love being able to flip through all of this information in one place, and I appreciate commentators’ efforts to help Rethink improve the survey each year.

I don’t have much to say about this post in particular. Like its companions, it summarizes everything I’d hoped to see in such a post, with good headline structure and plenty of graphs. I also enjoyed the automated SurveyMonkey coding as an extra source of information on what respondents talked about in freeform answers.

While the EA Survey is supported by CEA and the EA Meta Fund, I can easily imagine a world where Rethink fulfills its reporting obligations without creating so many detailed Forum posts for the public to enjoy. I’m glad we don’t live there.

Prioritizing COVID-19 interventions & individual donations 

This is a beautiful post. It’s exactly what I’d hope to see from any brief report on how charities were chosen (by “brief,” I mean “shorter than a GiveWell page”). Specific features that I liked:

  • Updates listed at the top of the post! I wish more authors would go back and add to posts after publishing them; few authors in the history of the world have had this privilege, but the Internet lets us produce updated content with ease.
  • The “big picture” section leading into the rest of the post. This allows the authors to break down the different angles from which we can attack a pandemic, giving readers a better sense of how they found some of the charities on their list.
  • The use of thematic emojis to track which angles each charity was covering.
  • The discussion of their interactions with different charities (learning that Africa CDC can’t easily be reached by individual donors could save some readers a lot of time).
  • An addendum where they discuss factors that could undermine the post, and their entire project, and explain how they think readers should balance COVID and non-COVID giving. Wonderfully honest!

The winning comments

I won’t write up an analysis of each comment. Instead, here are my thoughts on selecting comments for the prize.

The voting process

The winning posts were chosen by five people:

All posts published in the titular month qualified for voting, save for those in the following categories: 

  • Procedural posts from CEA and EA Funds (for example, posts announcing a new application round for one of the Funds)
  • Posts linking to others’ content with little or no additional commentary
  • Posts which accrued zero or negative net karma after being posted
    • Example: a post which had 2 karma upon publication and wound up with 2 karma or less

Voters recused themselves from voting on posts written by themselves or their colleagues. Otherwise, they used their own individual criteria for choosing posts, though they broadly agree with the goals outlined above.

Judges each had ten votes to distribute between the month’s posts. They also had a number of “extra” votes equal to [10 - the number of votes made last month]. For example, a judge who cast 7 votes last month would have 13 this month. No judge could cast more than three votes for any single post.

The winning comments were chosen by Aaron Gertler.


If you have thoughts on how the Prize has changed the way you read or write on the Forum, please write a comment or contact me. If you have thoughts on changing the current format, comment on this post (or contact me).





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