Ben_West

Head of Community and Outreach at CEA. Non-EA interests include terrible puns, chess, YouTube, and applying science to things it isn't usually applied to.

I also mess around with EA-related art at https://www.instagram.com/happy.effective.altruism/

Ben_West's Comments

Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
I expect bets about a large number of Global Catastrophic Risks to be of great importance, and to similarly be perceived as "ghoulish" as you describe here.

The US government attempted to create a prediction market to predict terrorist attacks. It was shut down basically because it was perceived as “ghoulish”.

My impression is that experts think that shutting down the market made terrorism more likely, but I’m not super well-informed.

I see this as evidence both that 1) markets are useful and 2) some people (including influential people like senators) react pretty negatively to betting on life or death issues, despite the utility.

More info on EA Global admissions

Thanks for the suggestions. There are some community-organized events like meetups or parties in the days around the conference. Due to some past issues (e.g. someone sending every attendee a promotional message about their organization on the event app, or confusion about who is actually present at the event to meet with), we’re wary of expanding app access beyond the actual conference attendees. (See also Ellen’s comment here, which is a somewhat similar idea.)

Announcing A Volunteer Research Team at EA Israel!

Thanks for sharing this! It seems like a really exciting project, and I hope you continue to post updates. Very cool that you have explicit success metrics.

A semi-research thing I'm interested in is putting more information on Wikipedia. I wrote a little bit about this here. I suspect that for people who are new to research, or aren't entirely sure what subject they want to research, making existing research accessible is a similar task which is also quite useful for the world.

More info on EA Global admissions

Thanks for asking Ozzie! The current bottlenecks limiting our ability to make a larger EA Global are not things that community members can easily help with.

That being said, we recently published a post on other types of events. I would encourage community members to read that and consider doing one-on-one’s, group socials, or other events listed there. Even though EA Global in particular is not something that can be easily scaled by the community, many other types of events can be.

More involved community members may also consider doing a residency. I believe you and I first met when I stayed in the Bay for a few weeks many years ago, and to this day I’m still more closely connected with people I met on that trip than many I met at EA Global.

More info on EA Global admissions

Thanks for the detailed thoughts Oli.

I think having common knowledge of norms, ideas and future plans is often very important, and is better achieved by having everyone in the same place. If you split up the event into multiple events, even if all the same people attend, the participants of those events can now no longer verify who else is at the event, and as such can no longer build common knowledge with those other people about the things that have been discussed.

Interesting, this doesn’t fit with my experience for two reasons: a) attendance is so far past Dunbar’s number that I have a hard time knowing who attended any individual EA Global and b) even if I know that someone attended a given EA Global, I’m not sure whether they attended any individual talk/workshop/etc. (since many people don’t attend the same talks, or even any talks at all).

I’m curious if you have examples of “norms, ideas, or future plans” which were successfully shared in 2016 (when we had just the one large EA Global) that you think would not have successfully been shared if we had multiple events?

I have been to 3 EAGx events, all three of which seemed to me to be just generally much worse run than EAG, both in terms of content and operations

We have heard concerns similar to yours about logistics and content in the past, and we are providing more support for EAGx organizers this year, including creating a “playbook” to document best practices, having monthly check-in calls between the organizers and CEA’s events team, and hosting a training for the organizers (which is happening this week).

At least in recent years, the comparison of the Net Promoter Score of EAG and EAGx events indicate that the attendees themselves are positive about EAGx, though there are obviously lots of confounding factors:

(More information about EAGx can be found here.)

The value of a conference does scale to a meaningful degree with n^2… I think there are strong increasing returns to conference size

Echoing Denise, I would be curious for evidence here. My intuition is that marginal returns are diminishing, not increasing, and I think this is a common view (e.g. ticket prices for conferences don’t seem to scale with the square of the number of attendees).

Group membership is in significant parts determined by who attends EAG, and not by who attends EAGx, and I feel somewhat uncomfortable with the degree of control CEA has over that

Do you have examples of groups (events, programs, etc.) which use EA Global attendance as a “significant” membership criterion?

My impression is that many people who are highly involved in EA do not attend EA Global (some EA organization staff do not attend, for example), so I would be pretty skeptical of using it.

Meta Note

To clarify my above responses: I (and the Events team, who are currently running a retreat with the EAGx organizers) believe that more people being able to attend EA Global is good, all other things being equal. Even though I’m less positive about the specific things you are pointing to here than you are, I generally agree that you are pointing to legitimate sources of value.

Long-Term Future Fund: November 2019 short grant writeups

Great – I appreciate your dedication to transparency even though you have so many other commitments!

Long-Term Future Fund: November 2019 short grant writeups

Thanks for writing this up despite all your other obligations Oli! If you have time either now or when you do the more in-depth write up, I would still be curious to hear your thoughts on success conditions for fiction.

More info on EA Global admissions

I wanted to share an update: for the past month, our events team (Amy, Barry, and Kate) have been brainstorming ways to allow more people to attend EA Global SF 2020. Our previous bottleneck was the number of seats available for lunch: even with us buying out the restaurant next to the dome (M.Y. China), we only had space for 550 people. (Tap 415, another nearby restaurant which we had used in prior years, has gone out of business.)

We have now updated our agreements with the venue and contractors and brainstormed some additional changes that will allow more attendees in sessions and at lunch. This has increased our capacity by 70 (from 550 to 620).

(As a reference point: EA Global SF had 499 attendees in 2019.)

More info on EA Global admissions

Thanks for the feedback, Oliver. Do you have opinions on our hypothesis that we should focus on EAGx over more/bigger EA Globals?

More info on EA Global admissions

We don’t have any current plans to split EA Global into multiple sub-conferences. We have used the fact that not everyone attends talks to increase attendance (for example, at EA Global London 2019, we accepted more attendees than could fit in the venue for the opening talk on the assumption that not all of them would attend the opening).

We will keep the sub-conference idea in mind for the future.

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