Software engineering

New Discussion New Post
Sorted by Recent Comments, Posts Expanded

TL;DR: Karma overrates “lowest-common-denominator” posts that interest a large fraction of the community, leading to some issues. We list some potential solutions at the bottom.

Please see the disclaimer at the bottom of the post. 

Posts that interest everyone...

Thanks for these flags about the newcomer experience, both. I agree that these are important considerations. [Writing just for myself, not my employer or even my team. I am working on the Forum, and that's probably hard to separate from my views  on this topic— but this is a quickly-written comment, not something that I feedback on from the rest of the team, etc.]
I can see how all of this can feel related to the discussion about "bad epistemics" or a claim that the community as a whole is overly navel-gazing, etc. Thanks for flagging that you're concerned about this.  To be clear, though, one of the issues here (and use of the term "bike-shedding") is more specific than those broader discussions. I think, given whatever it is that the community cares about (without opining about whether that prioritization is "correct"), the issues described in the post will appear.  Take the example of the Forum itself as a topic that's relevant to building EA and a topic of interest to the EA community.  Within that broad topic, some sub-topics will get more attention than others for reasons that don't track how much the community actually values them (in ~total). Suppose there are two discussions that could (and potentially should) happen: a discussion about the fonts on the site, and a discussion on how to improve fact-checking (or how to improve the Forum experience for newcomers, or how to nurture a culture that welcomes criticism, or something like that). I'd claim that the latter (sub)topic(s) is likely more important to discuss and get right than the former, but, because it's harder, and harder to participate in than a discussion about the font — something everyone interacts with all the time — it might get less attention.  Moreover, posts that are more like "I dislike the font, do you?" will often get more engagement than posts like "the font is bad for people with dyslexia, based on these 5 studies — here are some suggestions and some reasons to doubt the studies," because (likely) fewer people will feel like they can weigh in on the latter kind of post. This is where bike-shedding [] comes in. I think we can probably do better, but it'll require a bit of testing and tweaking. [Writing just for myself, not my employer or even my team. I am working on the Forum, and that's probably
2JP Addison17h
We also just deployed something that makes them somewhat more prominent. (For example, blue instead of grey.)

Tl;dr: I’ve set up a database of domains at which are free to a good home, to prevent them being squatted and blocked for use. You can add domains you control to it using this form.

Since my well received...

Small note on CEA being the custodian: someone transferred a couple domains to us a few years ago and it seems like the renewal information wasn't set up appropriately so we lost them. (I'm not entirely sure what happened, the person involved doesn't work here anymore and our registrar says they don't have records.) So consider that we have a decent though not perfect track record here and if you really want to be sure that you don't lose the domain you should probably keep it yourself.


I believe we should use a 5-digit annual budget to create/serve trust-less, cryptographic timestamps of all public content, in order to significantly counteract the growing threat that AI-generated fake content poses to truth-seeking and trust. We should...

2Douglas Knight2d
Another trusted party signing data is mail providers (DKIM []), in particular mail sent through Google is signed. Google can't repudiate these signatures, but you have to trust them not to write new history. Matthew Green [] calls for the opposite: for Google to publish its old private keys to destroy this information.
2Axel Svensson1d
Interesting take on the dangers of strong validation. I note that time-stamping the signatures would prevent Google both from writing new history, and from doing what Mr Green wants. I haven't taken the time to consider whether Mr Green's point is valid, but i instinctively hope it isn't because of what it would mean for the value of aiding truth-seeking.

Forum Reactions to Tech Layoffs

I recently wrote a post about the current layoffs at tech giants, intended to inform relevant parties about it.

I received more feedback and messages than expected, such as: 

  • Recruiters asking to be connected with talent
  • Laid-off personnel
1High Impact Professionals2d
Great initiative! People who've gotten laid off are also welcome to sign-up to our talent directory []- we will try to get you placed at a high-impact organization. More in our post []. Also, happy to coordinate with you on this @nicolenohemi []  if you think it makes sense.
6Yonatan Cale2d
Hey, just pointing out that a few collections of "candidates looking for EA jobs" already exist, and there's an advantage in having them centralized (so for example each org only needs to look in one collection, and each candidate needs to sign up only in one place)   What I am not saying:  I am not saying "dump this project because someone else is already doing it" (totally not! I really don't believe in that argument).   I am saying: If you didn't consider that lists like this exist and you're opening a new list by accident and you see no advantage to your one, then probably use one of the existing ones.   A lazy list-of-lists that I'm aware of (sorry for not including all links, I'm vaguely expecting that this list-of-lists exists somewhere and someone might link to it) * 80k have a longtermist census [] (and my guess is that orgs use this a lot since in many ways 80k are a hiring center in EA) * HIP are setting up something that looks promising to me * There's a post for "who wants to be hired" * The forum profile has an option for "seeking work" * CEA probably has some system that takes in the info from swapcard, where people sometimes mark "looking for work" * (maybe more, that's what I have on the top of my mind)

Hi EA Forum! 

I just created a Google Maps design that shows a radiation map in the event of a nuke. 

I hope it inspires others to create a tool boosting nuclear awareness and preparedness, along the lines of Nukemap or

How do I access this?
Hey Cullen! Unfortunately, this is just an image that I designed and it's not a real feature

This is a cross-post of a career review from the 80,000 Hours website written by Jarrah Bloomfield. See the original here.


As the 2016 US presidential campaign was entering a fractious round of primaries, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair,...

"You can have an outsized impact relative to another potential hire by working for a high-impact organisation where you understand their cause area. This is because information security can be challenging for organisations that are focussed on social impact, as industry standard cybersecurity advice is built to support profit motives and regulatory frameworks. Tailoring cybersecurity to how an organisation is trying to achieve its mission — and to prevent the harmful events the organisation cares most about — could greatly increase your effectiveness." This part feels pretty crucial for the argument that this is a high-impact career path; otherwise orgs working on AI safety, biosecurity etc can presumably just hire professionals without much context or interest in their cause area. But I find it surprising. Do orgs report struggling with this? Can't they just draw their hires/contractors' attention to the specific issues they're most concerned about, and explain how their needs differ from the norm?
Music generation startup: What do you think?

See also: 

I am skeptical about this particular EtG idea: I don't see why this market would be particularly inefficient or otherwise especially interesting. does seem pretty cool though

As will be very clear from my post, I'm not a computer scientist. However, I am reasonably intelligent and would like to improve my understanding of AI risk.

As I understand it (please do let me know if...

Cheers! Here's to being first against the wall when the basilisk comes.


  • I'm a software engineer interested in working on AI safety, but confused about its career prospects. I outlined all my concerns below.
  • In particular, I had trouble finding accounts of engineers working in the field, and the differences
This is both very informative and very helpful, thank you for the advice! That does seem like a very reasonable way of thinking about the current situation, and I'm happy to see that there already exist resources that try to compile this information. I was already referred to AISS in private, but your recommendation helped me take the step of actually applying for their coaching. Looking forward to seeing what comes of it, thanks again!

Hack4Impact is a student-run, nationally-certified nonprofit that builds open-source software for other nonprofits and socially responsible organizations to make a real difference in people's lives and our community. Our members are passionate about many different social issues,...

Thanks you  guys. I was looking for this kind of solution, but couldn't find nowhere. And thanks to you, buddies, I just sent my technical questions to the people involed.  

Disclaimer:  I am uncertain whether all of the relevant AI safety-related organizations this post might reach are net positive.[1]

Update 30 Jan 23: I followed up with a new post for people looking to (be) hire(d). Complete this...

Thanks for the great source, Richard! I intentionally didn't include a description of how to best go about contacting people, as this post was more or less directed at more established orgs that have direct access to recruiters. However, after posting this and receiving messages from interested individuals/smaller orgs,  your contribution comes in really handy! If anyone is interested in more detailed information about contacting and/or being connected, please reach out!
3Richard Möhn11d
I'm glad it's helping!

I'm currently interviewing for a Software Engineering position with sonnen, which sells home batteries, some energy services, and even a Virtual Power Plant. But, I just found out that they have been acquired by Shell in 2019.


3Soemano Zeijlmans22d
I don't have a lot to add that hasn't been covered in the answers below. One thing I would add is: regardless of who owns the company, do you think that home batteries is the biggest impact you can make on climate change with your skillsets, or are there perhaps other fields that are working on climate solutions that score higher on importance, tractability and neglectedness.  You could take a look at the Open Sustainable Technology []list for inspiration on how programming can be impactful. Project Drawdown [] has a great list of impactful climate change interventions. If you have expertise on AI and machine learning, you can also check out Climate Change AI [].
6Answer by Yonatan Cale22d
Many commented on "is it negative impact", I want to write a short reply on "maximizing positive impact" (assuming you care about this; if you don't then ignore this) : TL;DR: What's your main reason to think that working there will lead you to a high impact career?  * Is it that you'll learn a lot there?  * If it's the direct impact (from the battery and energy services), then my prior is that you'll have a much higher impact working on an EA vetted org (vaguely defined. But basically an org that was found by you or others to probably be one of the highest impact ones in the world). * Or maybe it's something else, like "you have friends there" or "it's the building right near you" 

I'm trying to work out what aspects of software someone with a couple of years' of programming experience under their belt could decide to pivot towards.

What I know so far: 80,000 Hours' software engineering career review says


3Answer by David Mears24d
Update: 80,000 Hours has now moved 'infosecurity' from a 'sometimes recommended' path to a 'recommended' one

We're going to do a Hackathon on Mon, 12/5 at Sports Basement Berkeley from 10am to 5pm following EAGxBerkeley.

  • Who: anyone! software engineers will be primary contributors of course, but we will offer optional introductory sessions for the curious /
Are there any links or notes specific to this particular project, the squiggle consensus cea builder thing?

TL;DR: How to contact me

If you think this might be helpful for you, please book a calendly (Zoom) or contact me in Telegram (or as a fallback, Or meet me at EAG, if there's one coming...

12Jonny Spicer1mo
I had several calls and exchanged messages with Yonatan for a couple of months last year while I was searching for a new job. I would strongly recommend his services. I've been programming for ~5 years now, although I wouldn't consider some of those years to be particularly high quality experience. The calls felt a little like "career therapy". Yonatan tended to answer a lot of my questions with questions of his own, in order to help me draw my own conclusions. He was perceptive and particularly good at pointing out irrational thoughts I had around my career - it turned out there was a lot more of these than I was expecting! Estimating counterfactual impact is obviously hard, but I'm going to try anyway.  * I ended up getting a FAANG job, which I estimate will reduce my time to getting a highly impactful job by 18-24 months compared to offers from good-but-not-FAANG companies. * I have slightly greater counterfactual earning-to-give potential, but I think it's negligible. * I don't have a reasonable estimate of how likely it was to get to interview stage for FAANG companies, so I can't comment on how impactful Yonatan was in helping me land interviews in the first place (I suspect his CV review probably added a few % points, but <10) * Without speaking to Yonatan, I would've applied for fewer jobs, done fewer interviews, been less prepared for them, and got less proficient in the process of doing them. Contingent on my getting a FAANG interview, my counterfactual estimate would be that I had a 10% chance of success, with Yonatan's help I think I was ~40% ex ante. * If we use the (poor) assumption that I was always going to at least get the interview, I estimate Yonatan's coaching added an extra 6-7 months of direct work to my career. If his help increased the chances of getting an interview in the first place, then the impact is higher. My biggest takeaways from his coaching: * Have a low bar for applying to jobs, ap

What is a subforum?

Subforums are spaces for discussion, questions, and more detailed posts about particular topics. Full posts in this space may also appear on the Frontpage, and posts from other parts of the EA Forum may appear here if relevant tags are applied. Discussions in this space will never appear elsewhere.


This is a casual space for discussing anything and everything related to software engineering, feel free to put less effort in than you would on the regular EA Forum.

Your comments won't appear on the frontpage of anyone except for other members of this subforum.