Ben Pace


Long-Term Future Fund: April 2020 grants and recommendations

Do you mean CS or ML? Because (I believe) ML is an especially new and 'flat' field where it doesn't take as long to get to the cutting edge, so it probably isn't representative.

Long-Term Future Fund: September 2020 grants

Yeah, I agree about how much variance in productivity is available, your numbers seem more reasonable. I'd actually edited it by the time you wrote your comment.

Also agree last year was probably unusually slow all round. I expect the comparison is still comparing like-with-like.

Long-Term Future Fund: September 2020 grants

I read the top comment again after reading this comment by you, and I think I understand the original intent better now. I was mostly confused on initial reading, and while I thought SLG's comment was otherwise good and I had a high prior on the intent being very cooperative, I couldn't figure out what the first line meant other than "I expect I'm the underdog here". I now read it as saying "I really don't want to cause conflict needlessly, but I do care about discussing this topic," which seems pretty positive to me. I am pretty pro SLG writing more comments like this in future when it seems to them like an important mistake is likely being made :)

Long-Term Future Fund: September 2020 grants

By the way, I also was surprised by Rob only making 4 videos in the last year. But I actually now think Rob is producing a fairly standard number of high-quality videos annually.

The first reason is that (as Jonas points out upthread) he also did three for Computerphile, which brings his total to 7.

The second reason is that I looked into a bunch of top YouTube individual explainers, and I found that they produce a similar number of highly-produced videos annually. Here's a few:

  • 3 Blue 1 Brown has 10 highly produced videos in the last year (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). He has other videos, which include a vide of Grant talking a walk, a short footnote video to one of the main ones, 10 lockdown livestream videos,  and a video turning someone's covid blogpost into a video. For highly produced videos, he's averaging just under 1/month.
  • CGP Grey has 10 highly produced videos in the last year (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). He has other videos, which include a video of CGP Grey talking a walk, a few videos of him exploring a thing like a spreadsheet or an old building, and one or two commentaries on other videos of his.
  • Vi Hart in her peak made 19 videos in one year (her first year, 9 years ago) all of which I think were of a similar quality level to each other.
  • Veritasium has 14 highlighy produced videos in the last year, plus one short video of the creator monologuing after their visit to NASA.

CGP Grey, 3Blue 1Brown and Veritasium I believe are working on their videos full time, so I think around 10 main videos plus assorted extra pieces is within standard range for highly successful explainers on YouTube. I think this suggests potentially Rob could make more videos to fill out the space between the videos on his channel, like Q&A livestreams and other small curiosities that he notices, and could plausibly be more productive a year in terms of making a couple more of the main, highly-produced videos.

But I know he does a fair bit of other work outside of his main channel, and also he is in some respects doing a harder task than some of the above, of explaining ideas from a new research field, and one with a lot of ethical concerns around the work, not just issues of how to explain things well, which I expect increases the amount of work that goes into the videos.

Long-Term Future Fund: September 2020 grants

:)  Appreciated the conversation! It also gave me an opportunity to clarify my own thoughts about success on YouTube and related things.

Long-Term Future Fund: September 2020 grants


Following up, and sorry for continuing to critique after you already politely made an edit, but doesn't that change your opinion of the object level thing, which is indeed the phenomenon Scott's talking about? It's great to send signals of cooperativeness and genuineness, and I appreciate So-Low Growth's effort to do so, but adding in talk of how the concern is controversial is the standard example of opening a bravery debate.

The application of Scott's post here would be to separate clarification of intent and bravery talk – in this situation, separating "I don't intend any personal attack on this individual" from "My position is unpopular". Again, the intention is not in question, it's the topic, and that's the phenomenon Scott's discussing in his post.

Long-Term Future Fund: April 2020 grants and recommendations

I'd heard that the particular journal had quite a high quality bar. Do you have a sense of whether that's true or how hard it is to get into that journal? I guess we could just check the number of PhD students who get published in an edition of the journal to check the comparison.

Long-Term Future Fund: September 2020 grants

I think one of the things Rob has that is very hard to replace is his audience. Overall I continue to be shocked by the level of engagement Rob Miles' youtube videos get. Averaging over 100k views per video! I mostly disbelieve that it would be plausible to hire someone that can (a) understand technical AI alignment well, and (b) reliably create youtube videos that get over 100k views, for less than something like an order of magnitude higher cost.

I am mostly confused about how Rob gets 100k+ views on each video. My mainline hypothesis is that Rob has successfully built his own audience through his years of videos including on places like Computerphile, and that they have followed him to his own channel.

Building an audience like this takes many years and often does not pay off. Once you have a massive audience that cares about the kind of content you produce, this is very quickly not replaceable, and I expect to find someone other than Rob to do this, it would either take the person 3-10 years to build this size of audience, or require paying a successful youtube content creator to change the videos that they are making substantially, in a way that risks losing their audience, and thus require a lot of money to cover the risk (I'm imagining $300k–$1mil per year for the first few years).

Another person to think of here is Tim Urban, who writes Wait But Why. That blog has I think produced zero major writeups in the last year, but he has a massive audience who knows him and is very excited to read his content in detail, which is valuable and not easily replaceable. If it were possible to pay Tim Urban to write a piece on a technical topic of your choice, this would be exceedingly widely-read in detail, and would be worth a lot of money even if he didn't publish anything for a whole year.

Long-Term Future Fund: September 2020 grants

I want to add that Scott isn't describing a disingenuous argumentative tactic, he's saying that the topic causes dialogue to get derailed very quickly. Analogous to the rule that bringing in a comparison to Nazis always derails internet discussion, making claims about whether the position one is advocating is the underdog or the mainstream also derails internet discussion.

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Huh, that's a nice idea. And of course a straightforward "filter for posts I've read".

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