Hi all, I wanted to share some interviews I recently recorded which might be of interest to an EA crowd. A few months ago, I started a podcast called Hear This Idea with a friend at uni interviewing (mostly) academics in the social sciences and philosophy. Since we're both involved with EA, about half of the episodes ended up addressing topics either relevant to or directly concerning effective altruism. For each episode, we also write an accompanying article for the website. These articles are fairly in-depth, and represent ≈ 10 hours of work each. I've summarised four relevant episodes + articles below.
Jaime Sevilla Molina is a visiting researcher at the Center for the Study of Existential Risk, and this year begins his PhD at the University of Aberdeen studying Bayesian reasoning. Previously, he was a Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute. First, we discuss how the social sciences infer causation from observed correlations, particularly in historical economic data. We apply this to a case study: Nathan Nunn's et al.'s work investigating 'cultural persistence'. This is in the context of research Jaime conducted for Will MacAskill's new book about longtermism. Next, we discuss forecasting: what it is, why it matters, and why it isn't more ubiquitous. Jaime finally walks us through an example of forecasting emerging technologies in quantum computing. The write-up elaborates on our conversation, including links and references.
George Rosenfeld is a student at the University of Cambridge, and the founder of May Week Alternative, an initiative encouraging students to celebrate the post-exam period by donating a significant amount of money to the Against Malaria Foundation.
We discuss what George has learned about growing and sustaining a student-based charity; the psychology of what motivate people to join such a movement and donate their own money; and the myths and misperceptions surrounding what it means to have a positive impact. This might be relevant if you are considering starting a charitable or social movement — a good amount of actionable insights here!
Sanjay Joshi is the co-founder and CEO of SoGive, a non-profit whose database evaluates the impact and cost-effectiveness of UK charities. We begin by discussing why cost-effectiveness is often neglected in the charity space, and how the incentives for companies and nonprofits differ in this respect. Next, Sanjay argues why some commonly used measures, like admin costs and CEO pay, are misleading criteria to judge charities by. He explains a "two-question framework" for charity evaluation. Lastly, Sanjay advises people looking to get involved in charity or nonprofit entrepreneurship, reflecting on some of the obstacles he had to overcome.
Eve McCormick is the co-director of Effective Altruism Cambridge and a grant recipient from the Centre for Effective Altruism. We begin by discussing some of the philosophical arguments that originally motivated the effective altruism movement — before learning about its (fairly new) history. Next, Eve briefly surveys some of the central concepts of EA: how are charities evaluated, what is ‘counterfactual reasoning’, and what is the ‘ITN’ framework? Eve also briefly introduces some major cause areas. We finally discuss orienting a career around doing good. In the article, I tried to squeeze most of the key arguments, terms, and objections into < 10,000 words.
A few of our episodes are indirectly EA-relevant:
- Neel Nanda on Effective Planning and Building Habits that Stick
- Dan Williams on Political Misinformation, Self-Delusion, and Signalling
- Vasileios Kotsidis on Rational Choice Theory and the Repugnant Conclusion
I hope at least some of these prove to be interesting or otherwise worth reading for at least some of you! Constructive criticism is extremely welcome.
This is my first post on this forum, so I would also appreciate feedback on whether this kind of post is valued here. Apologies if instead it comes off as self-promotion — not my intention at all.
Do also feel free to contact us with ideas for future EA interviewees (including yourself). Either send me a message on this forum, or email hello[at]hearthisidea[dot]com.