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What (other) posts are you planning on writing?

by vaidehi_agarwalla1 min read4th Apr 202011 comments


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This is the second round of a questionI asked last year about what posts you are planning on writing, so that people can share progress and get community feedback and support.


  • If you answered the post last year and/or had posting plans, how did they go? If you didn't end up posting, what happened?
  • What are some open questions or uncertainties you have about the planned post?
  • If you have plans for multiple posts, which are you most excited about, and why?

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5 Answers

I have about 60 EA-related ideas right now. This list includes some of the most promising ones, broken down by category. I am interested in feedback on which ideas people like the best.

Plus signs indicate how well thought-out an idea is:

  • + = idea seems interesting, but I have no idea what to say about it
  • ++ = partially formed concept, but still a bit fuzzy
  • +++ = fully-formed concept, just need to figure out the details/actually do it

Fundamental problems

  • "Pascal's Bayesian Prior Mugging": Under "longtermist-friendly" priors, if a mugger asks for $5 in exchange for an unspecified reward, you should give the $5 ++
  • If causes differ astronomically in EV, then personal fit in career choice is unimportant ++
  • EAs should focus on fundamental problems that are only relevant to altruists (e.g., infinity ethics yes, explore/exploit no) +++
  • The case for prioritizing "philosophy of priors" ++
  • How quickly do forecasting estimates converge on reality? (use Metaculus API) +++

Investing for altruists

  • Alternate version of How Much Leverage Should Altruists Use? that assumes EMH +++
  • How risk-averse should altruists be (and how does it vary by cause)? +
  • Can patient philanthropists take advantage of investors' impatience? +

Giving now vs. later

  • Reverse-engineering the philanthropic discount rate from observed market rates +++
  • Optimal behavior in extended Ramsey model that allows spending on cash transfers or x-risk reduction +++
  • If giving later > now, what does that imply for talent vs. funding constraints? +
  • Is movement-building an expenditure or an investment? +
  • Fermi estimate of the cost-effectiveness of improving the EA spending rate +++
  • Prioritization research might need to happen now, not later ++

Long-term future

  • If technological growth linearly increases x-risk but logarithmically increases well-being, then we should stop growing at some point ++
  • Estimating P(existential catastrophe) from a list of near-catastrophes +++
  • Thoughts on doomsday argument +
  • Value of the future is dominated by worlds where we are wrong about the laws of physics ++
  • If x-risk reduction is permanent and people aren't longtermist, we should give later +++


  • How should we expect future EA funding to look? +
  • Can we use prediction markets to enfranchise future generations? (Predict what future people will want, and then the government has to follow the predictions) +
  • Altruistic research might have increasing marginal utility ++
  • "Suspicious convergence" is not that suspicious because people seek out actions that look good across multiple assumptions +++

A bunch of posts related to The Precipice

I recently finished Toby Ord's The Precipice, and thought it was an excellent and very important book. I plan to write a bunch of posts that summarise, comment on, or take inspiration from various parts of it. Most are currently very early-stage, but the working titles are below.

Key uncertainties/questions:

  • Is there anyone who's already planning to write similar things? I probably won't have time to write all the things I've planned. So if someone else is already likely to pursue ideas similar to some of these, we could potentially collaborate, or I could share my notes and thoughts, let you take that particular topic from there, and allocate my time to other things.

Working titles:

  • Defining existential risks and existential catastrophes
  • My thoughts on Toby Ord's policy & research recommendations
  • Existential security
  • Civilizational collapse and recovery: Toby Ord's views and my doubts
  • The Terrible Funnel: Estimating odds of each step on the x-risk causal path (this title is especially "working")
    • The idea here would be to adapt something like the "Great Filter" or "Drake Equation" reasoning to estimating the probability of existential catastrophe, using how humanity has fared in prior events that passed or could've passed certain "steps" on certain causal chains to catastrophe.
    • E.g., even though we've never faced a pandemic involving a bioengineered pathogen, perhaps our experience with how many natural pathogens have moved from each "step" to the next one can inform what would likely happen if we did face a bioengineered pathogen, or if it did get to a pandemic level.
    • This idea seems sort of implicit in the Precipice, but isn't really spelled out there. Also, as is probably obvious, I need to do more to organise my thoughts on it myself.
    • This may include discussion of how Ord distinguishes natural and anthropogenic risks, and why the standard arguments for an upper bound for natural extinction risks don’t apply to natural pandemics. Or that might be a separate post.
  • Developing - but not deploying - drastic backup plans
  • “Macrostrategy”: Attempted definitions and related concepts
    • This would relate in part to Ord’s concept of “grand strategy for humanity”
  • Collection of notes
  • A post summarising the ideas of existential risk factors and existential security factors?
    • I suspect I won’t end up writing this, but I think someone should. For one thing, it’d be good to have something people can reference/link to that explains that idea (sort of like the role EA Concepts serves).

Local Career Advice Bottlenecks

Status: First draft, series of 3 posts.

The Local Career Advice Network ran a group organisers' survey to evaluate overall career advice bottlenecks in the community. There will likely be 3 write-ups on the following topics:

  • the main bottlenecks group organisers' observe their members' facing
  • the main bottlenecks group organisers face when trying to give high quality careers advice
  • evaluation of career advice events and activities run by groups

Key uncertainties/questions

  • Nothing as of now. I'll add to this comment as thoughts arise.

Running self-directed projects

Status: early stage

I've run a number of projects over the last few months and thought it might be useful to share my experiences and successes/failures and lessons learnt. I may also be presenting the insights from these projects at some point.

Key uncertainties/questions

  • How valuable would people find this?

Career Change Interviews

Status: First Draft

This is a writeup on qualitative research I and Benjamin Skubi did in summer 2019 on 20 EAs at various stages of a career change process. It'll cover:

  • stages of our interviewee's EA journeys (an alternative perspective to the funnel model which will focus on an indivdual's journey)
  • what inspires a career change, what the change process looks like, commonly mentioned bottlenecks and useful resources
  • recommendations/useful tips for career changers and group organisers

Key uncertainties/questions

  • I'm not sure whether to keep the recommendations in the same writeup in a separate section or create a new post with the recommendations.

You can see the updates from my previous posts here