Agustín Covarrubias

Organizer @ EA Chile
Pursuing an undergraduate degree
Working (0-5 years experience)

Bio

Participation
4

I’m an engineering student and open sourcerer that does a bit of everything, but nothing specially well. I’m currently an undergraduate majoring in Computer Science Engineering 👨‍💻 at UC Chile.

Comments
52

You might want to know that a few weeks ago, 80.000 hours updated their career path profile on information security.

Epistemic status: Speculative at best. I think the general distribution of assets is probably right, but I'm far from a financial expert, so I might not have the best understanding of the portfolios themselves.

How well-managed are pools of capital used for EA grantmaking? Are they compounding at rates comparable to those of top university endowments?

tl;dr: The biggest pool is Dustin & Cari's portfolio, which probably has comparable performance. Beyond that, most of the money in EA gets spent rapidly, with few long-term assets that can be invested.

Based on my very rough and messy reconstruction of committed resources, organization assets and money flows based on public information, the answer is probably yes.

Why? If we include committed assets, then the biggest pool of capital used for EA grantmaking is Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna's portfolio, which amounts to over $13bn in what I believe are largely risky, long-run, diversified investments.[1]  My best guess is that these investments probably compound (on the long term) to a rate similar to university endowments, which also tend to have a risky profile optimized for long-run stocks.

Now, a substantial part of Dustin and Cari's money has already been transferred to EA organizations, so the next step in the chain would be to check Good Venture's assets (which are controlled by Open Philanthropy). These probably amount to something like $4bn based on public filings from 2020.[2] Given Good Venture's money flows, it would seem reasonable to expect a good part of this to be invested, but probably not for the long run.

The next stop in this train involve the assets being held by (arguably) the biggest foundation in EA, Effective Ventures (the foundation behind CEA, 80k, EA Funds, GWWC and much, much more). EV seems to hold around $55m in what are declared to be mostly short-term savings[3], which I assume mostly originated from Good Ventures.

Conspicuously absent here are direct donations. I believe the rest of the money flow in EA is composed by donations mediated by organizations like GWWC, Founder's Pledge or EA Funds which turn into either grants or get transferred directly into object-level organizations pretty quickly. I would assume most of these organizations are expense-heavy and don't have long term investment themselves.

Overall, it still seems like EA as a community holds very little of the assets committed to it, and most of those seem to be invested in a single long-run portfolio.

  1. ^

    My main source for this is largely Dustin's tweets, as well as what I understand is his donation strategy. The idea is to liquidate all of the money before Dustin and Cari die, which is, in expectation a long timespan. Given current money flows, it seems like it would make sense to have a risky, long-term oriented portfolio. Having said that, I'm not a financial expert, so Dustin, if you're reading this, please pitch in ;)

  2. ^

    This does not account for either changes in their assets since then nor does it account for the assets held by Good Ventures LLC, the company that holds certain for-profit investments for the foundation. I couldn't find any public records of assets for the latter.

  3. ^

The CEA events team wants to be more transparent about what we’re doing, to allow feedback and visibility. We’re not committing to publishing detailed information about every event, but in that spirit, we wanted to share something about an event we’re running soon — the Summit on Existential Security — even though it’s an invite-only event and we don’t expect the information in this post to be directly useful to many people.

I just wanted to say this is great!

Being transparent about events like these help address many concerns EAs have had in the past regarding events that might seem “secretive” at first glance, so I very much welcome this.

I feel like EAGs applications are by default relatively short (≤ 2 hours), and as a general principle it seems good that CEA is actually asking for more information when needed (I didn't even know they did this). 

As for whether the second request might be unreasonable, it seems like we don't have enough context on the project, your application, or the specific CEA email to make any strong judgements on this.

I'm not going to waste my time and theirs on endless rounds of edits, and given that the application process is probably the simplest part of organizing a conference, this leads me to expect a poorly put together event even if they were willing to admit me with my current answers.

What I'm surprised about is that at this point it doesn't seem like you've had “endless rounds of edits”, but rather just two email exchanges. This feels uncharitable. Perhaps someone in the organizing team screwed up, so my natural response would be to ask for clarification if I felt the request was vague or unexpected?

I understand applications to EAGs can be burdensome and frustrating, but this also applies to the team reviewing them. Applications are not “the simplest part of organizing a conference”. They're challenging to get right, especially at scale.

Me alegra mucho leer esta publicación. Creo que la iniciativa que estás lanzando en la UPB es invaluable, y espero que sientas el apoyo entusiasta de la totalidad comunidad hispanohablante ;)

A ella se asocia otra pregunta: ¿por qué hay menos de cinco publicaciones en español en el foro? Invito a quien lee esta publicación a que responda esta segunda pregunta. Intentaré, en lo que sigue, concentrarme en la primera.

Discutí esto bastante en EAGx LatAm[1], y creo que si bien debemos empujar para la creación de más contenido original en español, no creo que necesariamente sea el caso que tener más publicaciones en Español en el foro sea inherentemente positivo.

Si es que incentivamos publicar en español cuando el caso contrafactual hubiese sido publicar en inglés, entonces es posible que estemos sacrificando su alcance, y con ello, parte de su utilidad.[2]

Ahora, incluso si esto fuese cierto, quizás podemos:

  • Incentivar la publicación de posts bilinguales (o incluso multilinguales!) cuando consideremos que existe un buen caso para la utilidad en múltiples idiomas.  Esto puede ser antes de publicar, o después de notar que cierta publicación en español es particularmente buena.
  • Crear resúmenes o “digests” en inglés de aquellas publicaciones en español que juzguemos relevantes, permitiendo sincronizar por lo menos la información de alto nivel hacia la comunidad angloparlante.

Esto puede incluso ir en ambas direcciones. Pienso que existe el caso para tener una clase de digest del foro para la comunidad hispanohablante, y esto es algo con lo que experimentamos brevemente en el grupo de UC Chile (con distintos grados de éxito). En algún momento hubo un newsletter, pero no recuerdo por qué fue discontinuado.

Estas estrategias quizás hacen plausible la creación de un subforo en Español dentro del foro[3], una idea que poco a poco me ha ido gustando más. Esto nos podría otorgar un hogar para discusiones de formato largo que usualmente evitamos tener en Slack, y sería un lugar lógico para publicar reportes de progreso, estrategia, experiencias personales o incluso propuestas comunitarias para los grupos hispanohablantes.

  1. ^

    Gracias a Benjamin West, Sarah Cheng, David Solar y el mismo Simón por informar mis opiniones en el tema.

  2. ^

    Una excepción a esto serían publicaciones que son casi exclusivamente relevantes a la comunidad hispanohablante. Un ejemplo de esto podría ser experiencias navegando la comunidad hispanohablante o cosas extremadamente específicas a contextos locales, pero me cuesta encontrar muchos casos como estos.

  3. ^

    Esta idea (hasta donde sé) viene de Sarah Cheng

I couldn't complete the exit survey for EAGx Latam due to a technical glitch, but just to add a little anecdotal evidence to its counterfactual impact:

Meetups for attendees from Mexico, Chile/Argentina, Colombia/Perú, Brazil and Spain.

As one of the student community builders from Chile, one of the most surprising things about EAGx LatAm was that it was the first time we met EA professionals from Chile.  Most of them were people that we would probably have never found if we had not gone to the conference.[1]

Thanks to this, we were able to start a national/city group just from the sheer amount of Chilean attendees to the conference, making it the third national group to emerge in Latin America and perhaps (sorry Mexico) the one with the biggest number of professionals.

  1. ^

    We even met Rob Gledhill (the head of groups at CEA) for the first time, even though he lived in the same city as us. Rob, if you're reading this, I'm still sorry for abandoning you at the fountain 😅

I strongly support this model of structuring conversations during emotionally intensive situations like these.  We still have to see how well it works, but my prior is that this would have been a big improvement during parts of the FTX crisis, and it's useful now.

During the FTX crisis, I published a couple of posts regarding SBF interviews, and I've now come to regret bringing that type of discussion to the forum. Most discussions weren't productive, and a significant number of people were left with emotional burnout from that period.

Back then, and now again, there has been a shared sentiment of tiredness and burnout around these discussions. We should be open to criticism, and there should be a place to have these discussions, but I don't think our current approach is working well.

Latin American students seem (internally) to feel really pressured to do a master’s and/or PhD abroad (e.g. US)

I feel attacked by this (and I'm only like 80% kidding).

I guess this is partially a by-product of not seeing many ways to gain legitimacy outside getting a postgraduate degree elsewhere. EA is somewhat different in the sense that people seem to weight academic degrees less heavily, but outside of EA this is more or less true: even if you come from a highly ranked university in Latin America, getting a job outside of it is quite hard, and most people will implicitly or explicitly discriminate against you.

In general, your observations seem especially helpful for the “Carreras con Impacto” initiative being run by the Spanish-speaking community. I think we could probably brainstorm ways to directly address these when advising undergraduates.

I would also give a big +1 to these observations:

Latin American students seem to have a hard time thinking ambitiously, probably more so than the “average EA”. 

  • When these students come from low/middle income backgrounds then the issue seems to be that they are carrying a lot of “baggage” from their past that makes it hard for them to “think big” about the impact they can have in the future
  • If they come from more high income backgrounds then the issue seems to rather be imposter syndrome.

These are things we had to very explicitly address when working in community building in Chile, and I'm pretty sure other groups in Latin America have had similar problems. I think having good role models from the Spanish-speaking community have really helped ameliorate the lack of ambitiousness, but we still don't have a clear-cut strategy for how to deal with it.

Thanks for this post! 

x2 a esto. Ya somos varios community builders en latinoamérica y estamos muy motivados por ayudar a grupos nacientes. Recuerda presentarte en el Slack!

I love this. I think the arguments by analogy to knowing “Almost you” are particularly helpful.

However, I would love to see more on how you think EA could get social media right. Assuming it has a presence, should those accounts respond to criticism? Should they campaign for donations? Should they invite to EAGs? Should they distill core ideas?

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