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Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction'

Hi Michael,

I wonder if there might have been a misunderstanding. In previous comments, we’ve said that:

  1. We're adding an episode making the case for near termism, likely in place of the episode on alternative foods. While we want to keep it higher level, that episode is still likely to include more object-level material than e.g. Toby’s included episode does.

  2. We're going to swap Paul Christiano’s episode out for Ajeya Cotra, which is a mostly meta-level episode that includes coverage of the advantages of near-termism over longtermism.

  3. We're adding the ‘10 problem areas’ feed.

These changes will leave the 'An Introduction' series with very little object-level content at all, and most of it will be in Holden's first episode, which covers a bit of everything.

That means there won't be dedicated episodes to our traditional top priorities like AI, biosecurity, nuclear security, or extreme risks from climate change.

They’ll all instead be included on our ‘ten problems’ feed, along with global development, animal welfare, and other topics like journalism and earning-to-give.

Hope that clears things up,

— Rob and Keiran

Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction'

Hey commenters — so as we mentioned we've been discussing internally what other changes we should make to address the concerns raised in the comments here, beyond creating the 'ten problem areas' feed.

We think the best change to make is to record a new episode with someone who is in favour of interventions that are 'higher-evidence', or that have more immediate benefits, and then insert that into the introduction series.

Our current interviews about e.g. animals or global development don't make the case in favour of 'short-termist' approaches because the guests themselves aren't focused on that level of problem prioritisation. That makes them an odd fit for the high-level nature of this series.

An episode focused on higher-evidence approaches has been on the (dismayingly long) list of topics we should cover for a while, but we can expedite it. We've got a shortlist of candidate guests to make this episode but would be very interested in getting nominations and votes from folks here to inform our choice.

(It's slightly hard to say when we'll be able to make this switch because we won't be sure whether an interview will fit the bill until we've recorded it, but we can make it a priority for the next few months.)

Thanks so much,

— Rob and Keiran

Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction'

Hi all of the commenters here — thanks again for all the further thoughts on the compilation.

We're in the process of discussing your feedback internally and figuring out whether to make any further changes, and if so what they should be. We don't want to rush that, but will get back to you as soon as we can.

— Rob and Keiran

Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction'

Hey Khorton, thanks for checking that. Initially I was puzzled by why I'd made this error but then I saw that "People could rate more than one area as the “top priority”. As a result the figures sum to more than 100%.

That survey design makes things a bit confusing, but the end result is that each of these votes can only be read as a vote for one of the top few priorities. — Rob

Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction'

Hi Neel thanks for these thoughts. I've responded to the broader issue in a new top-level comment.

Just on the point that we should be explicit that this is longtermism focused, while longtermism isn't in the title I tried to make it pretty explicit in the series' 'Episode 0':

One final note before we start. We wanted to keep this introduction to just ten episodes, which meant we had to make some tough decisions about what made the cut. This selection skews towards focusing on longtermism and efforts to preserve a long and positive future for humanity, because at 80,000 Hours we think that's a particularly promising way for many of our readers to make a difference.

But as I was saying just a moment ago, people in the community have a wide range of views on the question of what is most valuable to work on, and unfortunately there's no room for them all to get a dedicated episode in this series.

The good news is there are episodes about many more problems on the main 80,000 Hours Podcast feed to satisfy your curiosity. For instance, if you'd like to hear more about global health and development I can recommend #49 – Dr Rachel Glennerster on a year's worth of education for under $1 and other development best buys.

If you'd prefer to hear more about climate change, I can suggest #85 – Mark Lynas on climate change, societal collapse & nuclear energy

And if you want to hear more about efforts to improve the wellbeing of animals, especially those raised in farms, I can recommend going and listening to #8 – Lewis Bollard on how to end factory farming in our lifetimes.

There's also this earlier on:

A 2019 survey of people involved in effective altruism found that 22% thought global poverty should be a top priority, 16% thought the same of climate change, and 11% said so of risks from advanced artificial intelligence. So a wide range of views on which causes are most pressing are represented in the group.

Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction'

[Just threading responses to different topics separately.] Regarding including Dave Denkenberger's episode, the reason for that isn't that alternative foods or disaster resilience are especially central EA problem areas.

Rather, in keeping with the focus on worldview and 'how we think', we put it in there as a demonstration of entrepreneurship, independent thinking, and general creativity. I can totally see how people could prefer that it be replaced with a different theme, but that was the reasoning. (We give the motivation for including each episode in their respective intros.) — Rob and Keiran

Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction'

Hey Brian, Ula, and other commenters,

Thanks again for all the feedback! To what extent each piece of content closely associated with EA should aim to be 'representative' is a vexed issue that folks are going to continue to have different views on, and we can't produce something that's ideal to everyone simultaneously.

Fortunately in this case I think there's a change we can make that will be an improvement from everyone's perspective.

We had planned to later make another collection that would showcase a wider variety of things that EAs are up to. Given your worries combined with the broader enthusiasm for the underlying concept, it seems like we should just do that as soon as it's practical for Keiran and me to put it together.

That feed would be called something like 'Effective Altruism: Ten Problem Areas' and feature Bollard and Glennerster, and other guests on topics like journalism, climate change, pandemics, earning to give, and a few others which we'll think about.

We'll promote it similarly — and cross-promote between the two collections — so anyone who wants to learn about those problem areas will end up doing so.

(Independently we also realised that we should sub Ajeya's episode into 'An Introduction'. That only didn't happen the first time around because we settled on this list of ten in 2020 before Ajeya's episode existed. Ajeya's interview will be more neutral about longtermism than what it replaces.)

Speaking personally as Rob (because I know other people at 80,000 Hours have different perspectives), I favour a model where there are a range of varied introductory materials, some of which lean towards a focus on poverty, some towards animals, some towards longtermism, some with other angles, and still others that aims to be representative.

In any case, after this reshuffle we'll have two feeds for you — one that leans into the way we think about things at 80,000 Hours, and another that shows off the variety of causes prioritised by EAs.

Folks can then choose whichever one they would rather share, or listen to themselves. (And fingers crossed many people will opt to listen to both!)

Look forward to hearing your thoughts,

— Rob and Keiran

Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction'

Hi Brian, (also Ula and Neel below),

Thanks for the feedback. These comments have prompted us to think about the issue some more — I won't be able to get you a full answer before the weekend, but we're working on a bigger picture solution to this which I hope will address some of your worries.

We should be able to fill you in on our plans next week. (ADDED: screw it we'll just finish it tonight — posted as a new top level comment.)

— Rob

The emerging school of patient longtermism

Just a visual metaphor of most centuries being boring and only a few standing out as uniquely influential.

Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018

Thanks for producing this Peter, it's very helpful. I sent you some metric data on the 80,000 Hours Podcast, but now that I've seen the post, I can give you the best numbers for the table. I would suggest putting these figures in instead.

Net new podcast subscribers added

2017 - 4,600

2018 - 10,500

Total podcast downloads/plays

2017 - 87,600 (average episode length 1.61 hours.)

2018 - 517,100 (average episode length 1.97 hours.)

Notes on interpretation

  1. The podcast only started half way through 2017, I'm not sure how you want to handle that.

  2. Those are the maximum number of subscribers recorded at any point in the year. It's probably a few % too high in both cases, but I've found that's the measure most robust to random measurement variations. The overestimation should also be constant year to year.

  3. Podcast downloads/plays don't correspond to actual times people listened to a full episode. They include people pressing play but only listening to a few seconds; bots downloading the show; automatic downloads by the podcasting software that are never actually listened to; and so on. So they're massive overestimates of the number of times an episode was listened to, say, half way to completion. However, the overestimate is likely to be a pretty constant fraction year-to-year, so you can still make relative comparisons.

    — RW

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