All of Akash's Comments + Replies

PIBBSS Fellowship: Bounty for Referrals & Deadline Extension

I'm curious about why the deadline was extended. I can think of two possible reasons:

  1. Not enough applicants
  2. Applicants rarely had the required skills/interests/qualifications

It seems like either would be great information value. (#1 might imply that interest in this kind of program is lower than expected for some reason. #2 helps people improve the quality of their referrals).

Also, thank you for doing this! Even if #1 is true, this seems like a valuable experiment, and I'm grateful to you for running it.

4Anna_Gajdova2dThanks :) There were multiple reasons * We had one extra week we could use for outreach while meeting our deadline for announcing the final decisions. * We've gained outreach momentum last week and it seemed useful to carry it over to this one. We've also come up with additional outreach ideas, including this bounty. * A couple of people already asked for a deadline extension. The amount and quality of the applications we've received so far are within our expectations, which means we haven't made any larger updates about the success of the program. However, a large fraction of the value of the program is determined by the fellows, so we are willing to invest additional resources to identify the top candidates.
We should be paying Intro Fellows

Penn EA organizer here! Thanks for raising this discussion, Aaron. Penn EA paid intro fellows $500 this semester, and we plan to write-up a reflection soon. For now, though, I have a few quick thoughts on the points you raised:

1.1-- This seems quite reasonable. Does this require paying everyone, or just having an optional financial aid policy? I suppose people might feel bad applying for financial aid, especially from a group focused on altruism. 

1.2-- I actually see this as an argument against paying fellows. I think one common failure mode of fellow... (read more)

7michaelchen1moQuick question: How many applications did you receive? To what extent do you think the number of high-quality applications was boosted by offering stipends?
We should be paying Intro Fellows

Great points, Michael! Some of these questions (e.g., why does it make sense to pay people for learning about EA?) came up during Penn EA's fellowships this year.

In my experience as a facilitator, these conversations were almost always productive. I would generally use these moments as opportunities to explain why careers in high-impact cause areas are so valuable. I'd say something like "EA is willing to invest resources into student groups because they've seen that student groups (and intro fellowships) can help people apply EA principles in their career... (read more)

Helping newcomers be more objective with career choice

Some of the comments point out ways that career conversations can go wrong (e.g., people see this as manipulative, people get turned off to EA if someone is telling them they need to change their career). Some comments also point out alternative strategies that would be helpful (e.g., asking people open-ended questions about their career, talking about personal fit/happiness in addition to impact).

With that in mind, I just want to express support for the original strategies endorsed by Nikola and Daniel.

  • having facilitators in intro fellowships share their
... (read more)
Helping newcomers be more objective with career choice

I think the new title is better. To nit-pick, "more objective" might imply a sense of "we're right and they're wrong". 

Maybe an alternative could be something like "Helping newcomers feel more comfortable considering new career paths." 

(I don't think you actually need to change the title again-- just throwing this out there because I see how discussions around these kinds of strategies can be perceived as manipulative, and I think the wording/framing we use in group discussions can matter).

An organic pitch for undergrads: do it when people ask what your major is

I don't have anything useful to say, except that I've appreciated your recent posts & I hope to keep seeing more from you. Thank you for sharing, Nikola!

Pilot study results: Cost-effectiveness information did not increase interest in EA

Thanks for sharing this, Aaron! Really interesting pilot work.

One quick thought-- I wouldn't rely too heavily on statistical significance tests, particularly with small sample sizes. P-values are largely a function of sample size, and it's nearly impossible to get statistical significance with 44 participants (unless your effect size is huge!). 

Speaking of effect sizes, it seems like you powered to detect an effect of d=0.7. For a messaging study with rather subtle manipulations, an effect of d=0.7 seems huge! I would be pretty impressed if giving peo... (read more)

1Aaron_Scher1moThanks for your thorough comment! Yeah I was shooting for about 60 participants, but due to time constraints and this being a pilot study I only ended up with 44, so even more underpowered. Intuitively I would expect a larger effect size, given that I don't consider the manipulation to be particularly subtle; but yes, it was much subtler than it could have been. This is something I will definitely explore more if I continue this project; for example, adding visuals and a manipulation check might do a better job of making the manipulation salient. I would like to have a manipulation check like "What is the difference between average and highly cost-effective charities?" And then set it up so that participants who get it wrong have to try again. The fact that Donation Change differed significantly between Info groups does support that second main hypothesis, suggesting that CE info affects effective donations. This result, however, is not novel. So yes, the effect you picked up on is probably real – but this study was underpowered to detect it at a level of p<.05 (or even marginal significance). In terms of CE info being ineffective, I'm thinking mainly about interest in EA – to which there really seems to be nothing going on, "There was no significant difference between the Info (M = 32.52, SD = 5.92) and No Info (M = 33.12, SD = 4.01) conditions, F(1, 40) = .118, p = .733, ηp2 = .003." There isn't even a trend in the expected direction. This was most important to me because, as far as I know, there is no previous empirical evidence to suggest that CE info affects interest in EA. It's also more relevant to me as somebody running an EA group and trying to generate interest from people outside the group. Thanks again for your comment! Edit: Here's the previous study suggesting CE info influences effective donations: []
What are the best (brief) resources to introduce EA & longtermism?

As an example, I currently think All Possible Views About Humanity's Future are Wild would be on my list because it is a) thought-provoking and b) short; only takes 10-15 mins to read.

In contrast, The Case for Strong Longtermism is thought-provoking but would likely take >1hr to read, so I probably wouldn't include it on my list. (Though I would certainly recommend it to people who want to learn more.)

EA outreach to high school competitors

+1! For debate, I believe the EA Debate Championship and Lecture Series would offer some useful lessons. It was for college debate, and I haven't heard of anything similar being done for HS debate (but it's quite possible that I've missed something). 

Many top universities in the US host HS debate tournaments (often as a money-making activity for the club). It seems plausible to me that at least one of the major uni debate societies would be open to sponsoring an EA-related tournament (or perhaps have one or two rounds that are focused on EA topics). H... (read more)

Hey! I have been on the lookout for people connected to debate. I was my school's Public Forum debate coach for four years, but I wouldn't want it to come from me, and I don't work at that school anymore. I spoke with one very good mock trialler recently who might try out speaking to his organizations and the national competitions. If you're still in contact with high school debaters, let's talk!

A model for engagement growth in universities

Thanks,  Nikola! +1 on so much of this. A few specific thoughts:

I often hear people say things like “they’re so cool” or “they're superhuman” about individuals who are highly engaged with EA. Saying this makes newcomers want to emulate these individuals more and become more engaged to get some of that sweet, sweet status.

I agree that having high-status role models can be really inspiring/motivating. At the same time, I think some of these comments can have unintended harmful effects. I've seen a few ways this can go wrong:

  1. "I'm not superhuman, so this
... (read more)
5Nikola1moStrong agree with the idea that we should emphasize actions people are taking and avoid hero-worship-like phrases. I was mostly using my own mental shorthand when I said "superhuman" and forgot to translate to other-people-speak. Regarding the makeup of fellowship groups, I think probably giving people an option to attend some socials which are generally attended by highly engaged people could be good? So that, if there's a lack of engagement in their cohorts, they can make up for it by finding a way to interact with engaged people somewhere else. Haven't though much about what was most important about the Cambridge residencies, but some important aspects are definitely: * Encouraging us to think big (aim for us one day becoming as good as the best groups, and then even better) * Providing advice and support with organizing * Holding intro talks and events (Kuhan has a very good intro presentation), and having one-on-ones with promising organizers
How to Get an EA-aligned Job: My Experience

Thank you for this excellent post! I'm a student group organizer & I'll be recommending this to other members/organizers :) 

A few specific thoughts that came up as I read:

Rather than trying to convince the employer that you have to be chosen, you can flip it and concentrate on helping their employer to find the right fit for the position

I love this advice, and I think it can have a special implication for EAs. The question flips from "how can I get this job" to "how can I help this employer make an informed assessment of how impactful I will be at... (read more)

Hey Akash,  thanks so much for reading and also for your thoughts. I love that you connected the "helping" bit with EA principles - I don't think I thought of that!  So this is a really valuable point. After all, we are trying to make an impact with our jobs and by applying for a job, we are trying to solve a problem for the organisation and the cause area in general. Also many thanks for sharing this with your network, I hope it will help more people!

I agree with you about transparency, we definitely shouldn't say anything that's not true about ... (read more)

We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships

Whoops-- definitely meant my comment as a response to "what content can be cut?" And the section about activities was meant to show how some of the activities in the current fellowship are insufficient (in my view) & offer some suggestions for other kinds of activities.

Regardless of whether we shift to a radically new model, or we try to revamp the existing structure, I think it'll be useful to dissect the current fellowship to see what content we most want to keep/remove.

Will try to respond to the rest at some point soon, but just wanted to clarify!

1Mauricio2moAh got it - thanks!
We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships

TLDR: I agree that content is important, but I don't think the current version of the fellowship does a good job emphasizing the right kind of content. I would like to see more on epistemics/principles and less on specific cause areas. Also the activities can be more relevant.

Longer version: I share some of your worries, Mauricio. I think the fellowship (at least, the version that Penn EA does) currently has three kinds of content:

  • Readings about principles and ways of seeing the world (e.g., counterfactualism, effectiveness mindset, expanding one's moral c
... (read more)
2Mauricio2moThanks! Sorry, I'm a bit confused about how this relates to my response. It sounds like this is an argument for changing the distribution of content within the current fellowship structure, while my response was meant to be about which changes to the fellowship structure we should make. (Maybe this is meant to address my question about "what [content] can be cut?" to implement an activities-based fellowship? But that doesn't seem like what you have in mind either, since unlike in the activities-based fellowship you seem to be suggesting that we keep the total amount of readings roughly constant.) So I'll interpret your comment as an independent case for changing the fellowship content, holding structure constant (rather than as a case for some of the alternative structures proposed in the original post)--let me know if I've misunderstood! I'd mostly be on board with shifting to more materials that convey core principles/mindsets, if we had promising guesses about how to implement this. My main hesitation: (1) I don't yet know of additional content that would do this well, and--in the absence of that opportunity cost--(2) the object-level content seems pretty good. Do you have specific ideas for epistemics/mindset content in mind? I share your interest in adding more such content, but specifically in epistemics I've had trouble finding satisfactory content. These are the challenges I've come across: * Academic sources that cover epistemics tend to be super long and dry for our target audience * LessWrong Sequences content is spread out among a bunch of small posts that very much build on one another, so one-off readings will often transmit little knowledge * Clearer Thinking doesn't seem to have that much epistemics-focused content, and its most relevant content is often relatively niche and long * ACX/SSC is very long/tangential, is more controversial, and doesn't have that much epistemics-focused content * HPMOR / other online fiction is har
EA-Aligned Impact Investing: Mind Ease Case Study

Thank you, Brendon and jh! A few more thoughts/questions below. Feel free to ignore any that are not super relevant or that would take a very long time to address.

  • My understanding is that most popular apps (e.g., Headspace, Calm) offer free versions to people [including people in low- and middle-income countries]. I suppose MindEase would have an edge if it offers the full (premium) version for free, but it still seems quite difficult to compete with highly popular apps like Headspace/Calm. What do you think? And has this model of offering an app for free
... (read more)
5Brendon_Wong2moThese are great points! FYI, jh is Jonathan Harris who runs TPP. I'll preface my response by saying that I'm not an expert in this area; Will and I mostly focused on the impact investing side of things, and Hauke or someone on the Mind Ease team could likely provide a better response. I think that Headspace and Calm may not be the right reference points since they're not designed to tackle anxiety and depression, whereas Sanvello (formerly Pacifica) is. Headspace and Calm strike me more as "mindfulness apps" versus "mental health apps." For instance, it doesn't look like Mindspace and Calm feature any CBT exercises, whereas Sanvello does. I have paid access to Calm via my employer, and while I haven't used it much, it looks like all it has are guided meditations. Reviews of Headspace [] and Calm [] support my initial impression and mention that they just have guided meditation and music. I expect that evidence-based practices specifically designed to target certain mental health conditions are significantly more efficacious than guided mindfulness meditations. This distinction might've made it so that this Psychology Today review [] from 2019 mentions Sanvello as "the most popular" mental health app, ignoring Headspace and Calm. Regarding competition, it mentions that Sanvello has 2.6 million registered users, which is smaller than Headspace and Calm but still seems significant. It seems like other apps, including ones I've never heard of, have also been able to get decent user counts. For example, Moodpath reached 1 million downloads [href] in 2019. Regardless of whether Headspace and Calm are competitors, Sanvello and other apps would still need to be competed against. Unlike other industries, like network effects with social media, I don't think t
EA-Aligned Impact Investing: Mind Ease Case Study

It seems to me like the case for MindEase (whether from an impact perspective or from a return-on-investment perspective) rests on MindEase's ability to attract users. 

Can you say more where the estimate of 1,000,000 active users came from, as well as the 25% chance of success? At first glance, this strikes me as overly optimistic, given that a) many other well-designed apps have failed to acquire users and b) it seems really hard to compete with the existing mindfulness apps. (See here, here, and here for papers that go into these points in greater d... (read more)

4Brendon_Wong2moHi Akash! Yep, I think Mind Ease's ability to attract users is certainly an important factor! I think of it as Mind Ease's counterfactual ability to get users relative to other apps (for example, since Mind Ease is impact-driven, they could offer the app for free to people living in low-income countries which profit-driven competitors are not incentivized to do) as well as Mind Ease's counterfactual impact on users compared to a substitute anxiety reduction app (for example, data in the cost-effectiveness analysis section of Hauke's report [] pointing Mind Ease potentially having a stronger effect on GAD-7 anxiety scores compared to Pacifica, a popular alternative, as well as the general rigor of their approach). The active user estimates were modeled in TPP's full report on Mind Ease. We provide a high-level overview of the data that was considered in the full report, which "included Mind Ease’s background and plans (including offering a free or discounted version of the app to low/middle income countries), historical downloads and active users, competitors, and financial details." The report leveraged Lionheart's business analysis, and based on my knowledge of information such as Mind Ease's historical user figures and strategic options like offering the app for free to certain populations, I think the report's user growth projections are reasonable (and those projections are only for the 25% "success" case). As a reference point for the 25% chance of success, it's possible that many people's views on startup success are shaped by headlines like "90% of startups fail [,70%25%20in%20their%2010th%20year.] ." However, the criteria for the startups that are included in the numerator and denominator of such success calculations can gr
Sleep: effective ways to improve it

Great work, Ben! I appreciate the actionable suggestions & the structure of the post (i.e., summaries at the top and details in the main body). Excited to see the other posts in this series!

One suggestion: I think it would be helpful to distinguish between interventions that are helpful for people with poor sleep quality (e.g., people with insomnia) and those that are helpful for people with "average" sleep quality (e.g., people who don't have any huge problems with their sleep quality but are trying to optimize their sleep quality). 

In other word... (read more)

7Ben Williamson2moThank you! I think those are some quite reasonable suggestions/ questions. Short response: * I think differences in effectiveness based on current sleep quality are likely outweighed by differences in individual behaviours (e.g. how much caffeine/ magnesium you already consume). Long response: * I'm reasonably confident that the relative value of each of these interventions is likely to be similar for people regardless of their current quality of sleep, just with reduced effect for those currently with better quality sleep. I expect that differences in value on that basis (poor quality vs average quality) are likely outweighed by differences in value based on personal circumstances as the individual effectiveness of several of these interventions depends based on people's current behaviours. (e.g. current bright light exposure/ night-time window policy/ previous exposure to mindfulness/ quality of mattress). The only exception to this is likely CBT-I given it's specifically geared to insomnia, though I'd expect improved sleep hygiene and sleep restriction to still offer significant benefits to someone with more average sleep quality. From the studies that I've looked at, I'd say that the evidence tends to be strongest for the effect of these interventions on insomnia. In general, I found research to be relatively thin for many of these topics which led me to largely combine findings for people with average sleep quality and those suffering with insomnia/ other sleep issues. There's definitely a risk of that skewing the results, which perhaps I should've discussed in the text, but it felt like a trade-off between that and either splitting the recommendations, perhaps making the article more taxing to read, or giving recommendations based on very little evidence (by discounting some of the studies used for being the wrong group). Given all that, I'd likely stick with the same recommendations regardless of someone's current sleep quality. I'd
Why fun writing can save lives: the case for it being high impact to make EA writing entertaining

I think this content is well-written, so I am praising it publicly! (See what I did there?) 

Some thoughts/questions:

  1. Do you recommend any books/guides on writing [besides Copyblogger]? (e.g., Sense of Style or  On Writing)
  2. I wonder if it would be useful to have a section that describes under what circumstances this advice is most likely to be helpful. In my view, this advice is most important for writing that is intended for wide audiences. (Examples: Rationality skills that nearly everyone could benefit from; blogs that offer thought-provoking ins
... (read more)
9MichaelA2moJust to jump in on "Do you recommend any books/guides on writing [besides Copyblogger]? (e.g., Sense of Style [] orOn Writing [] )": I made a collection of Readings and notes on how to write/communicate well [] that people might find helpful. (Though it's not focused on engagingness.)
9Kat Woods2moGood question! That is one worry I have about this post, that it discourages people. On the other hand, there have been a bunch of comments saying that they find it motivating, because it makes it so that writing can be fun instead of a scary serious thing you ought to do. I think if you’re capable of being interesting in conversation (which the vast majority of people are!), then you can write engagingly. Robert Miles’s quote really resonates with me: Also, growth mindset is definitely good in this situation. If your writing isn't currently engaging, that doesn't mean you're a "boring writer". That just means you probably haven't put a lot of time into practicing getting better at it yet. And the only way to improve is to practice and get feedback. Great recommendations for making it more interesting, btw. Unfortunately don’t have the time to answer all the other questions, though they’re also good.
Problem area report: mental health

Terrific overview! I'll offer some feedback with the hope that some of it may be helpful:

Big Picture Thoughts

  1. In general, I thought the report did a great job summarizing some of the major themes/ideas that are fairly well-established in global mental health. I wonder if it could be useful to include a section on more experimental/novel/unestablished/speculative ideas. Sort of like a "higher risk, higher potential reward" section.
  2. Relatedly, I'd be interested in seeing bolder and more specific recommendations for future work. As an example, Box 2 ("Promising
... (read more)
Ending The War on Drugs - A New Cause For Effective Altruists?

I think the steelman of the neglectedness argument would be something like: "The less neglected something is, the less likely it is that we would be able to make them do it slightly better."

This is both because (a) it is harder to change the direction of the movement and (b) it is harder to genuinely find meaningful ways to improve the movement.

In (b), I wonder if there are some specific limitations of the current War-on-Drugs movement that would match the skills/interests of (some) EAs. 

Ending The War on Drugs - A New Cause For Effective Altruists?

I'd be curious to learn more about the "types" of EAs that might be best-suited for this work, or how the "EA perspective" could enhance ongoing efforts.

As it stands, the case for scale (i.e., the magnitude of the problem) is very clear. However, I think scale is usually the strongest part of most cause area analyses (i.e., there are a lot of really big problems and it's usually not too difficult to articulate the bigness of those problems, especially using words rather than models). I think the role that EAs would play is less clear (as has been reflected... (read more)

[Help please/Updated] Best EA use of $250,000AUD/$190,000 USD for metascience?

What a great opportunity! I wonder if people at SparkWave (e.g., Spencer Greenberg), Effective Thesis, or the Happier Lives Institute would have some ideas. All three organizations are aligned with EA and seem to be in the business of improving/applying/conducting social science research.

Also, I have no idea who your advisor is, but I think a lot of advisors would be open to having this kind of conversation (i.e., "Hey, there's this funding opportunity. We're not eligible for it, but I'm wondering if you have any advice..."). [Context: I'm a PhD student in... (read more)

The effect of cash transfers on subjective well-being and mental health

Super exciting work! Sharing a few quick thoughts:

1. I wonder if you've explored some of the reasons for effect size heterogeneity in ways that go beyond formal moderator analyses. In other words, I'd be curious if you have a "rough sense" of why some programs seem to be so much better than others. Is it just random chance? Study design factors? Or could it be that some CT programs are implemented much better than others, and there is a "real" difference between the best CT programs and the average CT programs?

This seems important because, in practice, don... (read more)

3JoelMcGuire10moHi Akash, It's been a few months since your comment but I'm replying in case its still useful. General note is that I am, for at least the next year, mostly staying away from comparing programs and instead will compare interventions. Hopefully one can estimate the impacts of a program from the work I do modeling interventions. That being said let me try and answer your question. One of the reasons why CTs make an elegant benchmark is there are relatively few moving parts on both ends. You inform someone they will receive cash. They then do what needs to be done to receive it, which at most means walking a long long ways. The issues with "quality" seem to arise primarily from A. How convenient they make it. and B. whether the provider reliably follow through with the transfers. Biggest variation I'm concerned with comes with administrative costs as share of the CT, which we still have very little information on. But that's a factor on the cost not effect side of things. From this simple description, I expect the programs that do best are those that use digital or otherwise automatic transfers AND are reliable. I don't think this is situation where the best is 10x as good as average, I'm not sure there's enough play in the system (however 3-5x variation in cost effectiveness seems possible). I think GiveDirectly is a good program and quite a bit better than the average government unconditional CT (can put a number on that in private if you'd like). I'm not saying it's the "best" because as I started this comment by saying, I'm not actively searching for the best program right now. I have some ideas for how we'd quickly compare programs though, I'd be happy to talk about that in private. However, I can't help but comment that there are some hard to quantify factors I haven't incorporated that could favor government programs .For instance, there's evidence that CTs when reliably ran can increase trust in governments. But the decision maker isn't always a donor. I
Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

What are the things you look for when hiring? What are some skills/experiences that you wish more EA applicants had? What separates the "top 5-10%" of EA applicants from the median applicant?

Thanks for the question!

We hire for fairly specific roles, and the difference between those we do hire and don't isn't necessarily as simple as those brought on being better as researchers overall (to say nothing of differences in fit or skill across causes).

That said, we generally prioritize ability in writing, general reasoning, and quantitative skills. That is we value the ability to uncover and address considerations, counter-points, meta-considerations on a topic, produce quantitative models and do data analysis when appropriate (obviously this is mor... (read more)

80k hrs #88 - Response to criticism

Thank you, Denise! I think this gives me a much better sense of some specific parts of the post that may be problematic.  I still don't think this post, on balance, is particularly "bad" discourse (my judgment might be too affected by what I see on other online discussion platforms-- and maybe as I spend more time on the EA forum, I'll raise my standards!). Nonetheless, your comment helped me see where you're coming from.

I'll add that I appreciated that you explained why you downvoted, and it seems like a good norm to me. I think some of the downvotes... (read more)

80k hrs #88 - Response to criticism

Thank you for this post, Mark! I appreciate that you included the graph, though I'm not sure how to interpret it. Do you mind explaining what the "recommendation impression advantage" is? (I'm sure you explain this in great detail in your paper, so feel free to ignore me or say "go read the paper" :D).

The main question that pops out for me is "advantage relative to what?" I imagine a lot of people would say "even if YouTube's algorithm is less likely to recommend [conspiracy videos/propaganda/fake news] than [traditional media/videos about cats],  then it's still a problem! Any amount of recommending [bad stuff that is  harmful/dangerous/inaccurate] should not be tolerated!"

What would you say to those people?

2mark_ledwich1yRecommendation advantage is the ratio of impressions sent vs received. [] Yeas, I agree with that. Definitely a lot of room for criticism and different points of view about what should be removed, or sans-recommended. My main effort here is to make sure people know what is happening.
80k hrs #88 - Response to criticism

I read this post before I encountered this comment. I didn't recall seeing anything unkind or uncivil. I then re-read the post to see if I missed anything.

I still haven't been able to find anything problematic. In fact, I notice a few things that I really appreciate from Mark. Some of these include:

  • Acknowledging explicitly that he's sometimes rude to his opponents (and explaining why)
  • Acknowledging certain successes of those he disagrees with (e.g., "I'll give this win to Tristan and Roose.")
  • Citing specific actions/quotes when criticizing others (e.g., the
... (read more)

Sure. I am pretty baffled by the response to my comments. I agree the first was insufficiently careful about the fact that Mark is a new user, but even the second got downvotes.

In the past, users of the forum have said many times that posting on the EA Forum gives them anxiety as they are afraid of hostile criticism. So I think it is good to be on the lookout for posts and comments that might have this effect. Being 'kind' and 'approaching disagreements with curiosity' should protect against this risk. But I ask the question: Is Tristan going to feel comf... (read more)

Introduction to the Philosophy of Well-Being

Thank you, Michael! I think this hypothetical is useful & makes the topic easier to discuss.

Short question: What do you mean by "user error?" 

Longer version of the question:

Let's assume that I fill out weights for the various categories of desire (e.g., health, wealth, relationships) & my satisfaction in each of those areas.

Then, let's say you erase that experience from my mind, and then you ask me to rate my global life satisfaction.

Let's now assume there was a modest difference between the two ratings. It is not instinctively clear to me why... (read more)

EAs working at non-EA organizations: What do you do?

Note: You don't have to answer to follow this structure or answer these questions. The point is just to share information that might be helpful/informative to other EAs!

With that in mind, here are my answers:

Where do you work, and what do you do?

  • I am a PhD student studying psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

What are things you've worked on that you consider impactful?

... (read more)
Introduction to the Philosophy of Well-Being

Thank you for sharing this post! It's definitely useful to think about different ways of conceptualizing/measuring well-being. Here's one part of the post I wasn't fully convinced by:

"While life satisfaction theories of well-being are usually understood as distinct from desire theories (Haybron, 2016), life satisfaction might instead be taken as an aggregate of one’s global desires: I am satisfied with my life to the extent that it achieves my overall desires about it."

From a measurement perspective, is there evidence suggesting that peoples' judgments of ... (read more)

3MichaelPlant1yHello Akash, thanks for this! One thing you could test, as an empirical matter, would be to ask people break their life down into various domains (e.g. health, wealth, relationships, etc.), getting people to score those, then for them to assign weights to each domain, to so create an overall score. This would be their satisfaction of global desires. You could then compare this their single judgement of life satisfaction. I don't see why this would be particularly interesting though, and I can't think why the two scores would be different except due to user error. It's not at all clear what life satisfaction is supposed to be if not the aggregate of one's global desires. I discuss this further in my working paper []which is linked to on the blog post.
A new, cause-general career planning process

Ah, I completely missed that paragraph. Thank you for pointing it out, and best of luck as you create more digestible versions! 

After reading the paragraph, I have a few additional thoughts:

  1. I like the idea of a "just the key messages" version that focuses on spreading the ideas rather than why/how to apply them. But I wonder if it'd be even more important to release a version that focuses on the application. My guess is that most EAs who follow 80k hours would benefit more from tools that help them apply these concepts than readings that explain the c
... (read more)
3Benjamin_Todd1yI'm pretty tempted to break it up into standalone sections in the next version. I agree the tools are worth doing at some point (and maybe breaking up into multiple tools). I guess you're also aware of our 'make a decision' tool [] that's in guided track? I think I might be a bit more skeptical about tools though. They take a lot longer to make & edit, and some fraction of our core audience finds them a bit lame (though some love them). Personally, I'd prefer a google doc which I can easily customise, where I can see everything on one page, and easily share for feedback. And it seems like the youth might agree [] :p
A new, cause-general career planning process

This is fantastic! I know several EAs who "feel guilty about not being able to work on [AI safety or one of the other top cause areas] and compare themselves negatively to others who can," and I think this could be a great resource for them.

Upon skimming the article and the Google Doc worksheet, I'm struck by how long/involved the process is. On one hand, this makes sense-- this is about career planning, and people who are serious about changing their careers should be willing to put in the effort. On the other hand, I wonder if there could be shorter/easi... (read more)

2Denise_Melchin1yFrom Ben's post: "Later, we hope to release a ‘just the key messages’ version that aims to quickly communicate the key concepts, without as much detail on why or how to apply them. We realise the current article is very long – it’s not aimed at new readers but rather at people who might want to spend days or more making a career plan. " [Edit: Ben said the same thing at the same time, but much more kindly!]
5Benjamin_Todd1yHi Akash, Thank you for the thoughtful comments! I agree that being too long and overwhelming is perhaps the main issue with it currently. Just checking you saw this paragraph, which might reassure you a bit: Our top priority was 'just to get everything written down'. After we've had more feedback to check the stages / advice / structure is at least not obviously wrong, the next priority will be making it more digestible, engaging and easier to use. This may take some time, though, since I think we need to give the key ideas cover sheet and problem profiles some more attention next.
Incentive Problems With Current Forecasting Competitions.

Thank you for this post! I want to raise another potential issue with forecasting tournaments: using Brier scores.

My understanding is that Brier scores take the squared difference between your forecast and the true value. For example, if I say there's a 70% chance something will happen, and then it happens, my brier score is 1-0.7 squared.

I think the fact that Brier scores use the squared difference (as opposed to the absolute difference) is non-trivial. I'll illustrate this a bit with a simple example.


Consider two forecasters who forecast on three e... (read more)

5NunoSempere1yIn the particular example you propose, forecaster A assigns higher probability to X and Y and Z (0.7*0.7*0.7 = .343) than forecaster B (0.8*0.8*0.5 = 0.320). This seems intuitively correct. Also, note that the squares are necessary to keep the scoring rule proper [] (the highest expected reward is obtained by reporting the true probability distribution), and this is in principle a crucial property (otherwise people could lie about what they think their probabilities are and get a better score). In particular, if you take out the square, then the "probability" which maximizes your expected score is either 0% or 100% (i.e., imagine that your probability was 60%, and just calculate the expected value of writing 60% vs 100% down). An alternative to the Brier score which might interest you (or which you may have had in mind) is the logarithmic scoring rule [], which in a sense tries to quantify how much information you add or substract from the aggregate. But it has other downsides, like being very harsh on mistakes. And it would also assign a worse score to forecaster B.
EA Birthday Posts: An Alternative to Fundraisers

First off, I love this idea. I've been thinking about doing a "birthday fundraiser" for my birthday (which is in January) and I will definitely consult this before I post.

A few thoughts/pieces of feedback:

  1. I'd love to hear more about your decision to go with a career-focused post rather than a donation-focused post. I see how someone changing their career could have an immense impact (especially if they are able to find something impactful that they're also very good at). However, I'm skeptical about the proportion of people who would seriously consider cha
... (read more)

Hey Akash! Thanks for your comment, and apologies for my late response!

Let me respond to  your individual thoughts:

1- I'd love to hear more about your decision to go with a career-focused post rather than a donation-focused post. I see how someone changing their career could have an immense impact (especially if they are able to find something impactful that they're also very good at). However, I'm skeptical about the proportion of people who would seriously consider changing their career paths as a result of this. Maybe my forecast is off, though-- I

... (read more)
Things I Learned at the EA Student Summit

Anyone: This is my first forum post, but it won’t be my last. Do you have any feedback on my writing? Please don’t hold back!

2abhishekp1061yThis is genuinely a fantastic article with amazing takeaways. I plan to bookmark this and show this to future EAs.
6KatieGlass1yThanks for writing, I really enjoyed reading this and it makes me feel happy that you found the EA Student Summit so valuable! :)

I think that it is very well written, neatly organized and clear. You clearly state your actual belief in what you claim and you give good references. Also, the tone is friendly and fun to read :) 

Definitely encourage you to write more!

Things I Learned at the EA Student Summit

Anyone: What do you think of the points I raised? Do you disagree with anything? Do you think I should have explained anything more clearly?

2vaidehi_agarwalla1yWe (the Local Career Advice Network) noticed this phenomenon when research career advice bottlenecks in EA community, and have termed it "Personal Uncertainty" (see here [] ) I think definitely applies to non-student EAs as well (also anecdotally!) and could be caused by a lot of different factors including different cause area interests, a lack of freedom of movement to the US/UK and lack of flexible career capital.
6RobertHarling1yThanks for this post Akash, I found it really interesting to read. I definitely agree with your point about how friendly EAs can be when you reach out to them. I think this is something I've been aware of for a while, but it still takes me time to internalise and make myself more willing to reach out to people. But it's definitely something I want to push myself to do more, and encourage other people to do. No one is going to be unhappy about someone showing an interest in their work and ideas!
Things I Learned at the EA Student Summit

Others who attended: What were some of your takeaways? Were there any parts of the summit that stood out for you? And, perhaps most importantly, did the summit get you to think or act differently?

For me, the most useful part of the student summit was less the actual information, and more the opportunity to meet and talk to other EAs. I'm actually really happy that the summit was virtual this year because that lowered the cost significantly and made me more willing to attend.