[ Question ]

What new EA project or org would you like to see created in the next 3 years?

byOzzie Gooen 2mo11th Jun 201983 comments

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I'm curious to hear other's thoughts on they think would be useful.

Please don't hold back ideas! There's very little harm positing silly or unlikely ideas, but there is some potential value (perhaps more than you realize).

Inspired in part by calebo's comment here

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An org/project that basically provides easy access to a whole bunch of vetted remote talent for EA organizations.

Our ability to scale current direct workers seems important, and one possible way is by augmenting them with lots of remote help. The costs to set up contractor relationships are considerable, so it often doesn't make sense to set up a relationship if an organization would just use it for themselves.

This organization would interview & organize work with many specialized skillsets, and help provide them on demand.

Some ideas of ways to help:

  • Research assistance
  • Writing help
  • Presentation help
  • Minor web work
  • Bookkeeping
  • Lawyers

An EA Fiscal Sponsor

There are several reasons why small orgs may want nonprofit status or similar. Official nonprofit status can take many months to get in the US, and cost $10-30k of attorney fees.

One solution is to get Fiscal Sponsorship from another trusting org, but I don't believe many EA orgs are focussed on being the Fiscal Sponsor of many new and small groups.

There are already many groups that act primarily as fiscal sponsors for other orgs, so it is a pretty tried-and-true model. https://fiscalsponsordirectory.org

With all of the EA Funds and CEA community grants coming out, I could imagine a lot of groups may want to become more formal organizations.

EA Student Loans

Give out student loans at ~market rates to EAs, with work that is high-impact but lower-than-counterfactual-salary counting as credit towards the loans.

Many talented EAs spend time in college or graduate school TA-ing to save money, or let financial constraints influence their trajectory. It seems risky to just throw money at people with a long time horizon of pay-off, and the risk that they'll just turn around and use that PhD to do unaligned work. This project would require an initial source of funds (perhaps even a traditional bank loan), and a funder that would be willing to commit to pay off the loans once they were satisfied with the impact of the post-graduation work of the debtor.

I believe this idea has been kicking around in my head after a conversation with Amy Labenz.

Evaluations-on-Demand

There have been several attempts at making public cost-effectiveness models, but they are often made by people who are working on the relevant research. For instance, organization in area X making an estimate to show that X is cost-effective.

It would be nice to have another agency agree to make their own models, or to go through existing models and check them for validity, similar to a penetration tester.

Anti-extinction website

A website to deter rogue individuals from developing ideas to ‘destroy the world’ by showing that it's just a very bad idea given their values (e.g. A failed attempt will only make the world worse). The website would specifically target people visiting pro-extinction websites or searching the internet for things like ‘how to destroy the world’.

This project would require a very delicate approach and ideally would attract very little attention from people uninterested in destroying the world. We don't want to give anyone bad ideas. The text on it would require careful phrasing. The project probably would need buy-in from knowledgeable stakeholders (FHI, CSER, FLI, EAF, perhaps even the CIA?), a secure website, and very careful targeting.

An early stage incubator that can provide guidance and funding for very small projects, like Charity Entrepreneurship but on a much more experimental scale.

A small battalion of people who generate positive interactions when EA comes up on social media.

I read most of the tweets anyone ever writes that mention EA. Sometimes, I'll intervene when I see an inaccurate statement from someone who means well and try to offer a cheerful correction. Or I'll jump into a conversation that's gone south and make a joke to lighten the mood. As one person, I'm not going to shift the tone of an Internet's worth of conversations, but...

...well, what if people knew of EA as "the nicest, most helpful people on the internet"? They might hate our ideas, but what if they couldn't help but admire our honesty, our charitableness, our kindness?

(I've seen Kelsey Piper convert multiple people toward EA positions on Tumblr through relentless application of the virtues above, so maybe I just want an organization full of Kelsey Pipers?)

EA Hackathon

A multiple-day event in which people (mostly EA's) work to solve a set of problems. These problems can be in any cause area, as long as a solution could plausibly be cost-effective.

Organizations could send in problem cases, or participants could identify their own. In fact, this thread might already give a nice list of possible problems/solutions to work on!

The event can be made more complex by adding in rounds, which filter the good solutions from mediocre and bad solutions. In further rounds, promising teams/individuals could be matched with a coach. The best few ideas get funding to take the next step in solving the problem (e.g. creating a minimum viable product).

An org devoted to researching measurement methods that are relevant to human welfare. Because no one wants to fund this directly it only gets worked on indirectly at orgs working on other things.

An organization dedicated to studying how to make other organizations more effective, that runs small scale experiments based on the existing literature, then helps EA orgs adopt best practices.

Collection and curation of EA content from across the internet in a way that's accessible to newcomers, easily searchable, and will last for decades (at least). Seems like it wouldn't take that long to do a decent job, doesn't require uncommon skills, and could be pretty high-value.

I would be open to paying people to do this; message me if interested.

EA longitudinal studies

I think the movement might benefit from uncovering predictors of value drift / EA specific causes of mental health issues. It would be interesting to see how ideas propagate from the leaders to the followers.

Also, delegating all the surveys to the central planner might make them more well-thought and might make it easier to integrate the results of different surveys into conclusions.

EA e-learning community:

Problem:

EA's are focused a lot on learning, but are doing this inefficiently: they study alone, without a syllabus, often without peers, and without getting feedback and evaluation on their learning outcomes.

Solution:

There are many e-learning tools, much more than just MOOC videos, that can be used, although I'm not familiar with them. A learning community could be created within an existing e-learning platform.

People in EA are smart; a lot of value can be gained by facilitating people help each other through carefully designed learning programs. Q&A's with EA researchers whose work is on the syllabus could be arranged to minimize time needed for teaching. The e-learning course/community could also create structure and accountability to get things done, as well as assist students in signalling their EA-relevant knowledge and skills. For example, they could show they passed a course on 'creating good Fermi estimates'.

There's another list that's kept in here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yzmg02j8PnvjlV_KX3Vf_u9TNdAS63N-9xy2txmTg-A/edit#gid=957019158. (Posting to make sure you're aware. I think gathering good ideas is important.)

A URL shortening service. It would be nice if, for example, ea.link/sydney took you to the group page for Sydney, ea.link/cost-effectiveness provided a link to a nice landing page for reading more about cost effectiveness and ea.link/forum linked to the ea forum. The Czech EA association currently owns the ea.link URL, but no-one has picked up this project yet.

Cause prioritization tool

Cause prioritization is complex, and going through it takes time. The relevant considerations are often unstructured and require a lot of work to discover. This leads so sub-optimal cause prioritization. This can be done much better.

An interactive cause prioritization tool could help people go through relevant considerations. I am imagining something like the GPP’s flowchart, but where are asked only one question at a time.

Features could include:

  • Ability to save progress and return later
  • Insight into how other users answered the question
  • Ability to link to relevant arguments

It should ideally be community-driven (the community can suggest considerations, and the community can vote on the importance of a particular consideration).

An organization/service that helps EA get positive media attention.

This doesn't necessarily mean generating extra news articles about EA, but if a journalist already wants to write about EA or one of our main cause areas, I'd love if they had extremely reliable access to people who know how to talk to journalists, come up with pithy but accurate quotes, etc.

CEA helps EA organizations and groups with the basics of media interaction now, but we're basically reactive; we hear about people who want to do stories, and we talk to them or give advice to those who will be talking with them. I'd love to see something proactive, like a service journalists know they can use to get strong material on AI, poverty, and other such topics.

(This may be doable by having a few people join Help a Reporter, but there's still the question of having folks trained in media interaction.)

Charity Entrepreneurship, but for for-profits.

A tool that makes systems modelling (with sinks, flows, and feedback and feedforward loop) as easy as Monte Carlo modelling was made with Guesstimate.

Guided meditation recordings for EAs

I think meditation is a very interesting medium for learning that we aren't using much yet. Guided meditation recordings are highly scalable and can be used to deal with specific challenges that (effective) altruists encounter, like these by Holly Morgan, or to teach elements from the Replacing Guilt Series.

I would be very interested in seeing someone do a few of these to test the idea. Plausibly, this only becomes effective once the EA has grown substantially in size.

Two other topics suitably for a guided meditation recording:

  • EA events (retreats, conferences) can be very exciting and very taxing, and the meditation could help to calm people down, refresh, process what's going on, set intention or reflect on one's intention, prioritize, etc.
  • Demotivated moments: sometimes EA feels like running against a wall - the effort just seems a complete waste, and it'd be nice to have some meditation to turn to. It could help people to deal healthily with setbacks by trying to learn from them, and then accepting whatever is.