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 on Forecasting, Cultural Persistence, and Quantum Computing
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 on Effective Giving and Building a Charitable Movement
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 on Charity Evaluation and Nonprofit Entrepreneurship
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 on Effective Altruism
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.
Have subscribed and downloaded the episodes you mentioned. Looking forward to hearing them 😀
Thanks for doing and sharing this! I've downloaded the seven episodes mentioned, and look forward to listening to them!
I've also now commented a link to this post and the podcast page on A list of EA-related podcasts, so that it can be found again later from that sort-of "central directory" post.
You may be interested in talking to this person planning to make a podcast on "Everyday EAs" (he also made a video on the idea, but it's "unlisted" on YouTube so I'll refrain from sharing it), or some of the people who commented there to express interest in being interviewed. I'd also be happy to be interviewed - I'll send you a message :)
I definitely value this post, and there's nothing wrong with self-promotion anyway! You've created some resources relevant to EA, and are letting us know about them. If you just made this podcast but never posted about it here, I probably wouldn't have ever gotten to hear about this.
We don't want EAs self-promoting in ways that are deceptive or use cheap tricks (like clickbait-y titles), but if EAs didn't self-promote at all, it'd be much harder to find out about the cool stuff they're doing!
And if it turned out that no one cared about this post, they could just not read it or not upvote it, and it would quickly drop off the frontpage and not take up people's time anymore. So I personally think people currently self-select out of posting more than they should; I think people should probably more often just go ahead and post, and give readers the choice of whether to pay attention or not. (See also Why you (yes, you) should post on the EA Forum.)
Two small bits of feedback on this post:
Thanks very much for the kind feedback!