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It’s common knowledge that EA is more talent constrained than money constrained. Then, FTX comes in with hundreds of millions of dollars and funds a crazy bunch of things. Okay.

Clearly, the money is being put to incredibly good use. And I don’t think we’re hitting diminishing returns yet because the total money is still a dent. Especially when we think about the scale of the problems we’re trying to solve.

I notice I am confused. Do we prefer 1M USD over an ambitious and talented founder/engineer/whatever? What about 10M USD? 100M?

I would love it if you (the reader) could put in some numbers as answers. They don’t need to be super thought out, I just want to get a fermi sense of where the critical point lies. If you do want to expand on your reasoning though, it would be appreciated. Let’s keep a low bar and a high ceiling :)

(Note: I am interested in this question both from a personal career standpoint and a community standpoint!)




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I'm currently writing a post on monetary valuations of various things in EA. Core questions like "how much is all EA labor worth" are tricky to answer, because you need to value things in terms of the marginal (last) dollar, but we don't have any concrete plans to spend FTX or OpenPhil's last dollar.

In this particular case, impact is heavy-tailed so it also depends exactly how ambitious/talented the person is. That said, I'd rather have an aligned median Google quality software engineer working on AI safety than $1M/year in the FTX Future Fund's pocket, but I'd rather they have $10M/year than the engineer. This is based on the median of a couple of extremely uncertain Fermi estimates which need to be cleaned up before posting. Great engineers are often worth more than $10M/year on the right project.

There are a few people who I'd rather have than $100M/year: either people who directly generate >100M/year of funding (like Sam Bankman-Fried), or are nearly irreplaceable in their field. These definitely include some founders, the very best engineers and AI alignment researchers, and likely various people in biosecurity and policy too.

Note that this doesn't mean we should fund a project that recruits engineers for $1M/year! There are often hidden costs to such policies.

Just wanted to nudge that I would find this write up very valuable. Even if the ranges are very wide, I often want to reference some sort of monetary estimate of the value of labor, and having a post like this to reference would be quite useful.

80,000 Hours has some research on this. They do have a lot of caveats, but they may help! https://80000hours.org/2019/05/why-do-organisations-say-recent-hires-are-worth-so-much/

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