216Joined Dec 2018


I'm not sure I understand why this is the best donation target, even for people who want to donate specifically to a political race. For one, it seems all prediction markets and forecasters like FiveThirtyEight give R's a ~75%+ chance of taking back the house, so this single race seems unlikely to be particularly impactful. What's more, the Salinas Erickson race seems relatively safe for D's and I've seen no mention of it anywhere being a tossup. This feels like something I'd get in a campaign email down to the closing line pulling on heartstrings and then immediately asking for a donation. 



I mostly agree but a few counterpoints (I've been in DC for about 1yr total now). 

  1. The summers are absolutely miserable if you dislike humidity. 
  2.  In general compared to SF and even Berlin I've found people (outside of the EA community) to be much more reactive and zero sum in their thinking than people who dream big and have visions of the future they want to build towards.
  3. Echoing the company town comment- I feel like every conversation is about politics/policy/international affairs, which bugged me in SF about tech (there's so much more to life! ) and was one of the things I loved about Berlin where I felt there was a much better mix of artists, tech people, government workers,  etc.
  4. I have mixed feelings about OP's #4 as I have met quite a few mission oriented people, but I also meet a lot of very cynical and burnt out people, especially at work. 
  5. Many meetings feel very transactional (I see jokes all the time about people wondering if they're on a date or networking) and people cycle in and out of the city quickly and often.


On net however, I think it's a decent American city to live in and it certainly does punch above its weight for museums, architecture, restaurants, and even flights given its status as the capital. 

There are substantial kickbacks (called “site commissions”), where a large percentage of the per-minute rates are paid to the facilities for the right to the contract. A typical rate is 50%, and these can run as high as 96%. Given they get a percentage of every dollar spent, the facilities also have an incentive to keep costs high to increase their revenue, not to give the end consumer the lowest cost of connection.

Does any of this money also get sent back to the county/state too? Just wondering what other stakeholders are benefitting from the status quo.


Given the way these prisons are run (it seems often poorly with a profit motive rather than one trying to help reduce recidivism) why not just start a nonprofit private prison from scratch and manage the whole thing? Palmer Luckey mentioned this in an interview a while back as something he'd be working on if he hadn't decided to build Anduril:

An offshoot of lead emission in the atmosphere might be the work being done at LEEP (Lead Exposure Elimination Project)

Thanks! Sorry for the ignorance but for #4 then, how would you go about figuring out 1) what job you would be good at if you joined (and in which branch to try to join) and then 2) how to make sure that you actually were assigned to that job when you do join?


An unrelated q- is there any additional upside joining a new branch like Space Force?

This was a fantastic read, thank you for putting it together! Have you seen many situations where it makes sense for someone later in their career to join the military? Almost every person I've met who served started relatively early in their career rather than joining later. Do you think there are negative potential career impacts for people who work in specific fields (e.g. tech)? While I'm in DC doing policy work now and military service is venerated by almost everyone, I think it was quite rare to meet someone when I worked in tech in SF that had served and I think there could be situations where people see military service as a downside (e.g., this person was willing to work for the "war machine") rather than something heroic. Also, how concerned were you with getting assigned to do work that you would be uncomfortable with? I seriously considered serving at various points in my life and also have no problem with location (and actually would prefer to go to places I'd have a low chance of going as a civilian) but one of the main hangups for me is whether I could trust the recruiter when they talked about what job I'd have and that I'd end up having to do something either morally fraught or that wasn't aligned with my career goals.

Also thought it was really interesting, there's an ongoing thread on Hacker News which is also a good place to look to see an outside view of how people perceive EA in a (usually) thoughtful way

Not currently funded by an EA grant, but I am a fellow for an organization the classifies me as an independent contractor (IC), which in essence is what most people who receive a grant are likely to be (in the eyes of the IRS anyways). This is obviously not tax advice, always consult an attorney, etc. but as someone who has done this a few times in their career, I wanted to share some high level thoughts (also, this is going to be very focused on the U.S. and as an American taxpayer).

  • Is a 50K grant as an IC better or worse than 50K as a W-2 (traditional) employee?: In purely financial terms, you're going to likely be worse off as an independent contractor as 1) you will have higher tax liability from self-employment taxes and 2) you will probably not have any benefits that are standard with traditional employment (medical, dental, 401k match, etc.) that you will have to manage yourself.
  • Should you incorporate yourself?: I had talked to an accountant about this a while back and my takeaway is if we're talking about sums like 50k or 100k, there isn't really a serious benefit. If you're dealing with larger amounts per year, I would recommend speaking to an accountant and figuring out how to create an optimal structure, but for a regular salary, I think it's better to just simply take it as a sole proprietor. That said, if you have concerns over legal liability of the services you provide, you might consider working through a legal structure, but this is not really a financial consideration.
  • How do you deal with things like healthcare?: If you're in the U.S. there is a healthcare marketplace for each state now through ACA (Obamacare) that you can use to shop for private plans. For my 401k for simplicity I use Wealthfront, I also keep a life insurance policy that I used a broker to find, for other things I just pay out of pocket at cash prices (e.g. getting a teeth cleaning).

As far as how to think about it- I'm not a great person to respond as I've generally been pretty comfortable with a high level of personal career/financial risk, but I would just remind yourself that you probably have valuable skills and that even if you found you weren't going to get renewed for a grant ~3 months before you run out of funding, you could probably find a new gig by the time it ends (that said, always good to have a few months of buffer just in case). 

This was really interesting, thank you for writing @iamasockpuppet.  I don't agree with all assumptions but think many of them are logical and express similar concerns to some I had during the Carrick campaign. One point I was hoping you could expand on was the below:

"The *concrete outcome* of Effective Altruism exercising direct political power would be for EA to become a faction of the Democratic party." In which you say that R EA's would then not be interested in joining EA (or at least engaging in EA politics) but to me that seems off because as you mentioned many of the issues that the average voter and indeed party cares about aren't things most EA's would prioritize. To me, this means that for the issues that EA's do really care about (e.g. X-risks mitigation) an EA D or R would be happy to collaborate because they do share the values on those issues even being in different parties which are opposed on other "bread and butter" political issues. 

Also, a note on your assumptions for Carrick's influence- I totally agree he would have had little opportunity to do much in his first term (but not because he'd be an outsider like a squad member who I think have less  influence despite their general popularity because they are perceived as not good team players in the caucus) because that's the nature of an institution based on seniority where one has to pay their dues to move up and a huge amount of value is based on the committee you are in or especially chair. But, given how much the odds go up for an incumbent in their election, I think if he (or anyone else) got in, even if they didn't have power in that first term, they would be much more likely to be able to stick around for many more and exert power that way.

That's really interesting, as an American who has been active in EA in the US and Europe I usually felt that England had an outsized weighting on EA stuff, not the U.S.

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