Aaron Gertler

18640 karmaJoined Oct 2014San Diego, CA, USA



I ran the Forum for three years. I'm no longer an active moderator, but I still provide advice to the team in some cases.

I'm a Communications Officer at Open Philanthropy. Before that, I worked at CEA, on the Forum and other projects. I also started Yale's student EA group, and I spend a few hours a month advising a small, un-Googleable private foundation that makes EA-adjacent donations.

Outside of EA, I play Magic: the Gathering on a semi-professional level and donate half my winnings (more than $50k in 2020) to charity.

Before my first job in EA, I was a tutor, a freelance writer, a tech support agent, and a music journalist. I blog, and keep a public list of my donations, at


Part 7: What Might We Be Missing?
Part 8: Putting it into Practice
Part 6: Emerging Technologies
Part 5: Existential Risk
Part 4: Longtermism
Part 3: Expanding Our Compassion
Part 2: Differences in Impact
Part 1: The Effectiveness Mindset
The Motivation Series


Topic Contributions

Depends on the hobby and how good you are. Some things are relatively easy to monetize (you can teach lessons or do live performances), but even in those cases, you'll be competing with people who do your "hobby" as their job, and you're probably better off doing more of whatever your job is (working extra hours, freelancing...).

The thing I do is play games in tournaments, which is less common that streaming/gigging/etc., so this analysis may be of limited value, but: I've made something like $75,000 playing Magic: the Gathering and Storybook Brawl over the last four years (donating ~80% of that), but it took thousands of hours to do so, and a few unlucky turns of a card could have cost me most of the money. And I'm in the top 0.01% among people who try to play those games seriously in terms of success; many people roughly as good as me have put in more time to earn less.

Thanks! I've added a direct link to the roles now, to reduce potential confusion.

Who is your audience for the course? Are you a teacher somewhere?

If you have a guaranteed audience, I think the best starting point would be to look up existing materials of this kind, like the AI courses offered by BlueDot Impact or the curiosity/scout mindset training in the CFAR Handbook. It can be tempting to create all your materials from scratch, but the results rarely live up to what you imagined. (This was my experience trying to write a new version of the EA Handbook from scratch.)

If you don't have a guaranteed audience, you'll want to consider who you actually want to reach, and why they would be willing to sit and listen to you.

I'm not sure how many stars you should leave, but I think there are ways to write a review that successfully convey both of:

  1. This restaurant wasn't very good
  2. Vegan food is great and you should eat it

A very brief sketch of a review for a mediocre vegan restaurant:

"I was happy to find a vegan restaurant in AREA, and I thought it was cool they offered DISH. So I ordered that, as well as OTHER DISHES. Unfortunately, the food wasn't great; I thought OKAY DISH was fine, but BAD DISHES had problems; DESCRIPTION OF PROBLEMS. The service was fine, ETC., ETC.

There are some much better vegan restaurants I'd recommend that aren't too far from here; the DISH at RESTAURANT 1 is to die for, and RESTAURANT 2 has a great atmosphere for lunch dates. As for this restaurant, I'm giving two stars for food, three for service, and five for "not hurting animals", since that's a real advantage to this place over non-vegan options. I'll average that to a three, but would still recommend the other vegan places I mentioned."

I really liked this post and agree with much of it.

I ran the Forum for a while. This involved handling interpersonal conflict. At worst, the conflicts on my plate were things like "an argument between two people" or "someone having a mild breakdown in text form". These are relatively minor issues on the CH scale, but they were among the most stressful elements of my job; I'd get lost for hours trying to write the perfect moderator response, or arguing with someone in DMs about how I'd resolved a situation.

I'd find dealing with CH situations much more stressful — because of their severity, and because I wouldn't even get to write a moderator response. I thrive on being able to explain myself, and forced silence/vagueness would drive me crazy. Instead of "using quotes from a public post to describe why we've banned someone for a week", I'd have "using my best judgment about a story with multiple sides to explain why we've made a decision that will have a serious impact on the lives of multiple people, at least one of whom will be unhappy with the decision and possibly share their side on the Forum later". And I might not even be able to say what the decision was!

So while I don't know enough about internal CH matters to say that I'd agree with all their decisions, I appreciate that having to make those decisions at all — and face public scrutiny without recourse to transparency — is extremely difficult, and that there is no way to "win" every such decision.

In retrospect it is crazy that I updated so much on only four rejections!

Does giving up after two rejections make me twice as crazy?

(I love the "mistake" vs. "fluke" distinction, and wish I'd thought to use it in my own essay.)

This is an excellent post! 

I really like seeing profiles of jobs that are closer to being "entry-level" for classic EA-flavored career tracks, to give people a better sense of what they'll be doing early on (it's common for other things, like the 80K podcast or EAG talks, to be focused on work from more senior people).

I also try not to use "EA" as a noun. Alternatives I've used in different places:

  • "People in EA" (not much better, but hits the amorphous group of "community members plus other people who engage in some way" without claiming that they'd all use a particular label)
  • "People practicing EA" (for people who are actually taking clear actions)
  • "Community members"
  • "People" (for example, I think that posts like "things EAs [should/shouldn't] do" are better as "things people [should/shouldn't] do" — we aren't some different species, we are just people with feelings and goals)
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