Ben_West

Division Manager: Forum and Events at CEA. Non-EA interests include terrible puns, chess, YouTube, and applying science to things it isn't usually applied to.

Insta: @happy.effective.altruism TikTok: @benthamite

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[Linkpost] Some Thoughts on Effective Altruism

I'm excited to hear that! Looking forward to seeing the article. I particularly had trouble distinguishing between three potential criticisms you could be making:

  1. It's correct to try do the most good, but people who call themselves "EA's" define "good" incorrectly. For example, EA's might evaluate reparations on the basis of whether they eliminate poverty as opposed to whether they are just.
  2. It's correct to try to do the most good, but people who call themselves "EA's" are just empirically wrong about how to do this. For example, EA's focus too much on short-term benefits and discount long-term value.
  3. It's incorrect to try to do the most good. (I'm not sure what the alternative you are proposing in your essay is here.)

If you are able to elucidate which of these criticisms, if any, you are making, I would find it helpful. (Michael Dickens writes something similar above.)

Long-Term Future Fund: September 2020 grants

It might be more relevant to consider the output: 500,000 views (or ~80,000 hours of watch time).  Given that the median video gets 89 views, it might be hard for other creators to match the output, even if they could produce more videos per se. 

How have you become more (or less) engaged with EA in the last year?

My involvement hasn't changed too much – I continue to work at an EA organization, which keeps my level of involvement pretty consistent.

My social circle has become less EA over the past year, which is a combination of people who I knew moving away and me failing to stay in touch with the remainder during quarantine.

Some thoughts on EA outreach to high schoolers

It's honestly mostly "things I currently think are cool" which is probably not the best way to grow a channel but oh well. My most popular content is analysis of TikTok itself and cosmetics analysis/recommendations.

I'm @benthamite on the app. Would love to connect if you join!

Some thoughts on EA outreach to high schoolers

Agreed! I think they are a good example of transitioning from a medium mostly serving older generations to a different medium that serves younger people.

Some thoughts on EA outreach to high schoolers

I somewhat agree with this but think it's worth pointing out that a lot of "our positions" are not very complicated or controversial, it's just that most people don't think about the topic. E.g. we just did a video celebrating the extinction of smallpox, and I don't expect that to cause many problems.

Some 80 K things like this might be the value of doing cheap tests or ABZ plans. Or even "maybe do a little bit of thinking before deciding on your career." I'd be interested to talk to you all about this if/when you think videos would be beneficial.

Some thoughts on EA outreach to high schoolers

EA seems reliant on nerdy millennial technology, namely long plaintext social media posts.

I'm interested in communicating in Gen Z ways, which I think roughly means "short amateur videos". I've had moderate success on TikTok (35,000 followers as of this writing), and I would encourage more people to try it out.

There's a nice self-selection where your content is only displayed to 16-year-olds who spend their free time watching math videos (or whatever niche you target), which I expect to be one of the best easily-available audiences of young people.

More empirical data on 'value drift'

In 2019, only about half of the respondents reported a 5/5 or a 4/5 level of engagement with EA (someone working at an EA organisation would be at ‘5’). So, we should also expect it to be an overestimate of the drop out rate among the more engaged.

In 2020 we will be able to apply the same method among a subset of more engaged respondents

 

My understanding is that David/Rethink has a reasonably accurate model of this, i.e. they can predict how someone would respond to the engagement questions on the basis of how they answered other questions.

It might be interesting to try doing this to get data from prior years.

Some thoughts on the EA Munich // Robin Hanson incident

Improving signaling seems like a positive-sum change. Continuing to have open debate despite people self-reporting harm is consistent with both caring a lot about the truth and also with not caring about harm. People often assume the latter, and given the low base rate of communities that actually care about truth they aren't obviously wrong to do so. So signaling the former would be nice.

Note: you talked about systemic racism but a similar phenomenon seems to happen anywhere laymen profess expertise they don't have. E.g. if someone tells you that they think eating animals is morally acceptable, you should probably just ignore them because most people who say that haven't thought about the issue very much. But there are a small number of people who do make that statement and are still worth listening to, and they often intentionally signal it by saying "I think factory farming is terrible but XYZ" instead of just "XYZ".

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