GET AMBITIOUS SLOWLY
Most approaches to increasing agency and ambition focus on telling people to dream big and not be intimidated by large projects. I'm sure that works for some people, but it feels really flat for me, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones. The worst case scenario is big inspiring speeches get you really pumped up to Solve Big Problems but you lack the tools to meaningfully follow up.
Faced with big dreams but unclear ability to enact them, people have a few options.
* try anyway and fail badly, probably too badly for it to even be an educational failure.
* fake it, probably without knowing they're doing so
* learned helplessness, possible systemic depression
* be heading towards failure, but too many people are counting on you so someone steps in and rescue you. They consider this net negative and prefer the world where you'd never started to the one where they had to rescue you.
* discover more skills than they knew. feel great, accomplish great things, learn a lot.
The first three are all very costly, especially if you repeat the cycle a few times.
My preferred version is ambition snowball or "get ambitious slowly". Pick something big enough to feel challenging but not much more, accomplish it, and then use the skills and confidence you learn to tackle a marginally bigger challenge. This takes longer than immediately going for the brass ring and succeeding on the first try, but I claim it is ultimately faster and has higher EV than repeated failures.
I claim EA's emphasis on doing The Most Important Thing pushed people into premature ambition and everyone is poorer for it. Certainly I would have been better off hearing this 10 years ago
What size of challenge is the right size? I've thought about this a lot and don't have a great answer. You can see how things feel in your gut, or compare to past projects. My few rules:
* stick to problems where failure will at least be informative. If you can't track reality well eno
I'm going to be leaving 80,000 Hours and joining Charity Entrepreneurship's incubator programme this summer!
The summer 2023 incubator round is focused on biosecurity and scalable global health charities and I'm really excited to see what's the best fit for me and hopefully launch a new charity. The ideas that the research team have written up look really exciting and I'm trepidatious about the challenge of being a founder but psyched for getting started. Watch this space! <3
I've been at 80,000 Hours for the last 3 years. I'm very proud of the 800+ advising calls I did and feel very privileged I got to talk to so many people and try and help them along their careers!
I've learned so much during my time at 80k. And the team at 80k has been wonderful to work with - so thoughtful, committed to working out what is the right thing to do, kind, and fun - I'll for sure be sad to leave them.
There are a few main reasons why I'm leaving now:
1. New career challenge - I want to try out something that stretches my skills beyond what I've done before. I think I could be a good fit for being a founder and running something big and complicated and valuable that wouldn't exist without me - I'd like to give it a try sooner rather than later.
2. Post-EA crises stepping away from EA community building a bit - Events over the last few months in EA made me re-evaluate how valuable I think the EA community and EA community building are as well as re-evaluate my personal relationship with EA. I haven't gone to the last few EAGs and switched my work away from doing advising calls for the last few months, while processing all this. I have been somewhat sad that there hasn't been more discussion and changes by now though I have been glad to see more EA leaders share things more recently (e.g. this from Ben Todd). I do still believe there are some really important ideas that EA prioritises but I'm more circumspect about some of the things I think we're not doing as well as we could (
EA hiring gets a lot of criticism. But I think there are aspects at which it does unusually well.
One thing I like is that hiring and holding jobs feels way more collaborative between boss and employee. I'm much more likely to feel like a hiring manager wants to give me honest information and make the best decision, whether or not that's with them.Relative to the rest of the world they're much less likely to take investigating other options personally.
Work trials and even trial tasks have a high time cost, and are disruptive to people with normal amounts of free time and work constraints (e.g. not having a boss who wants you to trial with other orgs because they personally care about you doing the best thing, whether or not it's with them). But trials are so much more informative than interviews, I can't imagine hiring for or accepting a long-term job without one.
Trials are most useful when you have the least information about someone, so I expect removing them to lead to more inner-ring dynamics and less hiring of unconnected people.
EA also has an admirable norm of paying for trials, which no one does for interviews.
Radar speed signs currently seem like one of the more cost effective traffic calming measures since they don't require roadwork, but they still surprisingly cost thousands of dollars.
Mass producing cheaper radar speed signs seems like a tractable public health initiative
The OECD are currently hiring for a few potentially high-impact roles in the tax policy space:
The Centre for Tax Policy and Administration (CTPA)
* Executive Assistant to the Director and Office Manager (closes 6th October)
* Senior programme officer (closes 28th September)
* Head of Division - Tax Administration and VAT (closes 5th October)
* Head of Division - Tax Policy and Statistics (closes 5th October)
* Head of Division - Cross-Border and International Tax (closes 5th October)
* Team Leader - Tax Inspectors Without Borders (closes 28th September)
I know less about the impact of these other areas but these look good:
Trade and Agriculture Directorate (TAD)
* Head of Section, Codes and Schemes - Trade and Agriculture Directorate (closes 25th September)
* Programme Co-ordinator (closes 25th September)
International Energy Agency (IEA)
* Clean Energy Technology Analysts (closes 24th September)
* Modeller and Analyst – Clean Shipping & Aviation (closes 24th September)
* Analyst & Modeller – Clean Energy Technology Trade (closes 24th September)
* Data Analyst - Temporary (closes 28-09-2023)
Financial Action Task Force
* Policy Analyst(s), Anti-Money Laundering & Combatting Terrorist Financing
Immigration is such a tight constraint for me.
My next career steps after I'm done with my TCS Masters are primarily bottlenecked by "what allows me to remain in the UK" and then "keeps me on track to contribute to technical AI safety research".
What I would like to do for the next 1 - 2 years ("independent research"/ "further upskilling to get into a top ML PhD program") is not all that viable a path given my visa constraints.
Above all, I want to avoid wasting N more years by taking a detour through software engineering again so I can get Visa sponsorship.
[I'm not conscientious enough to pursue AI safety research/ML upskilling while managing a full time job.]
Might just try and see if I can pursue a TCS PhD at my current university and do TCS research that I think would be valuable for theoretical AI safety research.
The main detriment of that is I'd have to spend N more years in <city> and I was really hoping to come down to London.
Advice very, very welcome.
[Not sure who to tag.]
I sometimes argue against certain EA payment norms because they feel extractive, or cause recipients to incur untracked costs. E.g. "it's not fair to have a system that requires unpaid work, or going months between work in ways that can't be planned around and aren't paid for". This was the basis for some of what I said here. But I'm not sure this is always bad, or that the alternatives are better. Some considerations
1. if it's okay for people to donate money I can't think of a principled reason it's not okay for them to donate time -> unpaid work is not a priori bad.
2. If it would be okay for people to solve the problem of gaps in grants by funding bridge grants, it can't be categorically disallowed to self-fund the time between grants.
3. If partial self-funding is required to do independent, grant-funded work, then only people who can afford that will do such work. To the extent the people who can't would have done irreplaceably good work, that's a loss, and it should be measured. And to the extent some people would personally enjoy doing such work but can't, that's sad for them. But the former is an empirical question weighed against the benefits of underpaying, and the latter is not relevant to impact.
1. I think the costs of blocking people who can't self-fund from this kind of work are probably high, especially the part where it categorically prevents segments of society with useful information from participating. But this is much more relevant for e.g. global development than AI risk.
4. A norm against any unpaid work would mean no one could do anything unless they got funder approval ahead of time, which would be terrible.
5. A related problem is when people need to do free work (broadly defined, e.g. blogging counts) to get a foot in the door for paid work. This has a lot of the same downsides as requiring self-funding, but, man, seems pretty stupid to insist on ignoring the information available from free sources, and if you don't ban it th
Load more (8/22)
I mostly haven't been thinking about what the ideal effective altruism community would look like, because it seems like most of the value of effective altruism might just get approximated to what impact it has on steering the world towards better AGI futures. But I think even in worlds where AI risk wasn't a problem, the effective altruism movement seems lackluster in some ways.
I am thinking especially of the effect that it often has on university students and younger people. My sense is that EA sometimes influences those people to be closed-minded or at least doesn't contribute to making them as ambitious or interested in exploring things outside "conventional EA" as I think would be ideal. Students who come across EA often become too attached to specific EA organisations or paths to impact suggested by existing EA institutions.
In an EA community that was more ambitiously impactful, there would be a higher proportion of folks at least strongly considering doing things like starting startups that could be really big, traveling to various parts of the world to form a view about how poverty affects welfare, having long google docs with their current best guesses for how to get rid of factory farming, looking at non-"EA" sources to figure out what more effective interventions GiveWell might be missing perhaps because they're somewhat controversial, doing more effective science/medical research, writing something on the topic of better thinking and decision-making that could be as influential as Eliezer's sequences, expressing curiosity about the question of whether charity is even the best way to improve human welfare, trying to fix science.
And a lower proportion of these folks would be applying to jobs on the 80,000 Hours job board or choosing to spend more time within the EA community rather than interacting with the most ambitious, intelligent, and interesting people amongst their general peers.