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

TikTok: @benthamite


EA Retention

Wiki Contributions


Open Thread: September 2021

Hey David! Congratulations on publishing your first post :)

Does the Forum Prize lead people to write more posts?

Thanks Larks! I somewhat regularly encounter people who are hesitant to post on the forum, and can't recall a time when telling them about the existence of the prize made them seem more likely to post. I can, however, think of people who have told me that they were more willing to post after having received the prize or other recognition for their work.

My guess is that something like imposter syndrome is more of a barrier to people posting than money is.

[Creative Writing Contest] [Poetry] [Referral] "The Bell-Buoys"

Thanks for posting this! I ended up liking it, although it took me a while to figure out what the poem was trying to say. In case others have the same confusion, here's the Kipling society's summary:

From its place out over the shoals, the Bell Buoy’s voice is lifted to issue warning and protect human life while the church bell safe in its tower, knows nothing of these dangers and stands aloof. Its voice is one controlled by the authority of the church and limited by the church’s interests. In contrast the bell buoy glories in its independence and in the vital work it performs.

[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] The Reset Button

I found this motivational. Thanks for posting!

[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] [Referral] A Common Sense Guide to Doing the Most Good, by Alexander Wales

Thanks for posting this! I had read some of their other stuff, but hadn't come across this story

Buck's Shortform

Thanks! "EA organizations are bad" is a reasonable answer.

(In contrast, "for-profit organizations are bad" doesn't seem like reasonable answer for why for-profit entrepreneurship exists, as adverse selection isn't something better organizations can reasonably get around. It seems important to distinguish these, because it tells us how much effort EA organizations should put into supporting entrepreneur-type positions.)

Buck's Shortform

Thanks for writing this up. At the risk of asking obvious question, I'm interested in why you think entrepreneurship is valuable in EA.

One explanation for why entrepreneurship has high financial returns is information asymmetry/adverse selection: it's hard to tell if someone is a good CEO apart from "does their business do well", so they are forced to have their compensation tied closely to business outcomes (instead of something like "does their manager think they are doing a good job"), which have high variance; as a result of this variance and people being risk-averse, expected returns need to be high in order to compensate these entrepreneurs.

It's not obvious to me that this information asymmetry exists in EA. E.g. I expect "Buck thinks X is a good group leader" correlates better with "X is a good group leader" than "Buck thinks X will be a successful startup" correlates with "X is a successful startup".

It seems like there might be a "market failure" in EA where people can reasonably be known to be doing good work, but are not compensated appropriately for their work, unless they do some weird bespoke thing.

Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Sure, those other things are also ways in which I would say that Bob is underqualified, not overqualified.

JP's Shortform

I see. My model is something like: working uses up some mental resource, and that resource being diminished presents as "it's hard for you to work more hours without some sort of lifestyle change." If you can work more hours without a lifestyle change, that seems to me like evidence your mental resources aren't diminished, and therefore I would predict you to be more productive if you worked more hours.

As you say, the most productive form of work might not be programming, but instead talking to random users etc.

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