EA Forum Prize: Winners for November 2019

by Aaron Gertler 3 min read16th Jan 20202 comments

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Note: Aaron has been a bit behind on these, but the December post will be out later in January, bringing the Prize back up to date.

CEA is pleased to announce the winners of the November 2019 EA Forum Prize! 

In first place (for a prize of $750): “Why and how to start a for-profit company serving emerging markets,” by Ben Kuhn.

In second place (for a prize of $500): “Institutions for future generations,” by Tyler John.

In third place (for a prize of $250): “Eight high-level uncertainties about global catastrophic and existential risk,” by Siebe Rozendal.

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

See this post for the previous round of prizes.

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

Why and how to start a for-profit company serving emerging markets

This novel career profile, derived from direct experience, goes into impressive detail on several key points:

  • Choosing where to found an emerging-market startup
  • Selecting a product that might provide value to a large population of emerging-market users
  • Changing the usual “Silicon valley startup playbook” to apply to your local context

It’s hard to imagine someone with an interest in this path reading Ben’s post and not discovering something useful. While I haven’t tracked its true impact, there are enough ideas here to launch a dozen plausible companies. But importantly, there are also enough caveats that readers should get a strong impression of how difficult the work can be. This post is a wonderful example of “scout mindset”: Ben’s primary aim isn’t to persuade, but to provide information that helps people make an accurate decision.

Institutions for future generations

I have a soft spot for posts that feature a long list of ideas, with just enough description to spark a reader’s imagination. 

While Tyler’s full report on these ideas remains unfinished, I appreciate that he shared the initial list to gather feedback and additional ideas. And I especially appreciate that he was very clear about the purpose of the post and how readers could contribute to his work (this may be one of the reasons it brought in so many thoughtful comments).

Eight high-level uncertainties about global catastrophic and existential risk

Note: Siebe asked me to look over this post before it was published. I made a few minor comments but didn't contribute any of the post's content.

“Open questions” are a key driver of new academic research, and can be a good way for academics to approach a new field. 

For this reason, I like seeing lists like Siebe’s — it’s not quite a set of open questions, but it lays out key uncertainties that could be used to produce such questions. It also provides a strong set of citations, giving the aforementioned academics a sense for where to start if they want to work on one of these areas.

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 four 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.

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The winning comments were chosen by Aaron Gertler, though the other judges had the chance to evaluate the winners beforehand and veto comments they didn’t think should win.

Feedback

If you have thoughts on how the Prize has changed the way you read or write on the Forum, or ideas for ways we should change the current format, please write a comment or contact Aaron Gertler.

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