All of Ben_West's Comments + Replies

[Creative Writing Contest] An AI Safety Limerick

[The clean limerick is a] periodic fad and object of magazine contests, rarely rising above mediocrity. - G.B. Shaw

However, given how few people read poetry for fun at present, we expect that poetry will have to be especially good to win. - Aaron Gertler

Ben_West's Shortform

An EA Limerick

(Lacey told me this was not good enough to actually submit to the writing contest, so publishing it as a short form.)

An AI sat boxed in a room 

Said Eliezer: "This surely spells doom! 

With self-improvement recursive, 

And methods subversive 

It will just simply go 'foom'."

1E Vasquez 4dNice!
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.

3WSCFriedman1moWelcome! I personally read it as part of Kipling's attempts to deliberately glorify those people who did socially necessary but low-status work, in exactly the same way as he did for soldiers and engineers. In this particular poem, he's anthropomorphizing the bell that does the needed, low-status work of warning ships away from the coast, contrasting it with the one in the church tower, that is considered high-status but isn't doing anything important. It therefore felt appropriate for the EA contest. :)
[Creative Writing Contest] The Reset Button

I found this motivational. Thanks for posting!

1Joshua Ingle1moI'm glad to hear it. And sure thing!
[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

2b_sen1moYou're welcome! It's certainly one of his less prominent stories.
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 be... (read more)

You seem to be wise and thoughtful, but I don't understand the premise of this question or this belief:

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 return

... (read more)
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.

1kdbscott1moAh - maybe your post is making the point "if they would make a good senior hire, it seems fine to hire them in a junior position". Maybe I was getting confused by the term, I've seen people labelled 'overqualified' when they are above average on a few dimensions but not all of them. I'd have a harder time steel-manning a counterpoint to that. Maybe something about it not being stimulating enough so risking turnover... but that doesn't hold much water in my mind.
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.

JP's Shortform

Thanks for writing this up – I'm really interested in answers to this and have signed up for notifications to comments on this post because I want to see what others say.

I find it hard to talk about "working harder" in the abstract, but if I think of interventions that would make the average EA work more hours I think of things like: surrounding themselves by people who work hard, customizing light sources to keep their energy going throughout the day, removing distractions from their environment, exercising and regulating sleep well, etc. I would guess th... (read more)

5JP Addison1moMaybe you’re suspicious of this claim, but if I think if you convinced me that JP working more hours was good on the margin, I could do some things to make it happen. Like have one saturday a month be a workday, say. That wouldn’t involve doing broadly useful life-improvements. On “fresh perspective”, I‘m not actually that confident in the claim and don’t really want to defend it. I agree I usually take a while after a long vacation to get context back, which especially matters in programming. But I think (?) some of my best product ideas come after being away for a while. Also you could imagine that the real benefit of being away for a while is not that you’re not thinking about work, but rather that you might’ve met different people and had different experiences, which might give you a different perspective.
Who do intellectual prizewinners follow on Twitter?

Thanks! I added these to the comment (because of how big query works, I can't easily add them to the dashboard).

Who do intellectual prizewinners follow on Twitter?

I've received a couple of kind suggestions of people I should have included as "EA adjacent influencers". Please reply to this comment (or DM me) if you see more.

  • SBF_FTX - 1 IPW Follower
  • LinchZhang - 1 IPW Follower
  • sapinker - 24 IPW Followers
  • tylercowen - 28 IPW Followers
  • mattyglesias - 24 IPW Followers
  • dominic2306 - 0 IPW Followers
  • lxrjl - 1 IPW Followers
  • chanamessinger - 0 IPW Followers
  • nathanpmyoung - 0 IPW Followers
4Linch2moMy take from this is that I'm more popular than Dominic Cummings among the elite! I'll take it...
7BrianTan2moA few other notable accounts that I don't think are listed in this post or comment: 1. Spencer Greenberg - SpencrGreenberg 2. Giving What We Can - givingwhatwecan 3. Ben Todd - ben_j_todd
  • sapinker (717.6K followers)
  • tylercowen (187.3K followers)
Analyzing view metrics on the EA Forum

Thanks SEADS for your help with this research, and for taking the time to share it publicly!

[PR FAQ] Improving tag notifications

Thanks! This is helpful to know.

A digest for notifications is an interesting idea. And I agree the current UI gives more information on desktop, which is probably unavoidable given that there's just more real estate, but I do think we want our mobile experience to be good. (About half of our users are on mobile devices.)

[PR FAQ] Improving tag notifications

Thanks! Your comment is helpful information that we should make tag subscriptions more findable, even if we don't change the underlying functionality.

[PR FAQ] Adding profile pictures to the Forum

But to the extent these come at the cost of rational discussion, this is a cost we should be happy to pay.

What do you think the effect size is of adding pictures? My guess is that it's pretty small.

For example, the "beauty premium" in employment compensation is usually considered to be small (<10%),[1] and I would expect that to be much larger than the effect of profile pictures on a forum, because a) how your coworkers look is much more salient than how some commenter with a tiny picture looks, and b) beauty is more plausibly correlated with product... (read more)

7Linch2moI expect the costs to not be very high but also the benefits to also not be very high.
8Charles He2moI am worried academic studies might underestimate how bad looking I am. I mean, what if I am four, five standard deviations off here?
Our plan to share "PR FAQs" for new Forum features

Thanks Nathan! I look forward to hearing your feedback on them

Part 1: EA tech work is inefficiently allocated & bad for technical career capital

Hi Arepo, I think you are describing a tiny portion of EA software development, but are using the term "EA tech" to describe that small portion. I would suggest changing your post to something like "small EA organizations should hire an agency instead of hiring <=1 FTE of developers" and drop the term "EA tech work" unless it's something that genuinely applies to all EA tech work.

The claim “EA tech work is bad for technical career capital” seems particularly unsubstantiated.

I care about this not so much because it affects your agency proposal, but more ... (read more)

Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people

I feel like these conversations often get confusing because people mean different things by the term "entrepreneur", so I wonder if you could define what you mean by "entrepreneur" and what you think they would do in EA?

Even with very commercializable EA projects like cellular agriculture, my experience is that the best founders are closer to scientists than traditional CEOs, and once you get to things like disentanglement research the best founders have almost no skills in common with e.g. tech company founders, despite them both technically being "entrepreneurs" in some sense.

Part 3: Comparing agency organisational models

Thanks for writing this up! 

An EA-specific agency would have to be low-bono, offering major discounts to EA orgs - otherwise it would be indistinguishable from the countless existing for-profit agencies.

This is building a bit on what Sanjay said, but I think this sentence deserves more highlighting.

If the only advantage of an EA agency is that it has lower prices, then it's equivalent to donating more money to the organization which hires the developers.

Donating more money has a lot of advantages over building an entire new agency: we don't have to go... (read more)

1Arepo3moI guess I overstated this. There would be some advantages to a bunch of EA developers working together. This isn't true if you're getting taxed VAT on the price difference. Let's suppose there's a way around that, though. As you say in the sentence after this, changing the dynamics of money isn't necessarily neutral, even if it comes from and ends up with the same groups of people. There are the costs you mentioned of an agency, and there are costs of centralisation: eg concentrating risk, diluting focus, and encouraging intra-org groupthink and inter-org siloisation. What you mention as costs of an agency are mostly (perhaps all) fixed costs, so you would have to believe that it would offer close to 0 or negative counterfactual benefit for them not to be worth paying, especially given the extra value of information from trying. Either a low-bono or full-profit agency would have those discussed in part 2, so which of those would be better depends on what you think of centralisation (and whether you can avoid the extra VAT). Meanwhile, I think a donor-funded agency has very substantial counterfactual benefits, as listed here.
Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Congrats on the comment prize!

Would you agree that, if Bob was more politically skilled, he would be a better fit for this position? (E.g. he would be better able to convince Carol to do this ambitious project.)

If so, then maybe you want to say that he is "overqualified in technical knowledge and underqualified in political ability" or something, but chalking the problem up to being "overqualified" across-the-board seems misleading.

If you are a junior employee then sure, it's your managers responsibility to listen to your ideas. But as you become more seni... (read more)

1kdbscott1moYes... and no? Yes: it would be better re. 'overhead required'. If Bob foresees Carol's objections and takes her out to lunch and convinces her, this could save a bunch of management/board time. ... and no: maybe Carol's concerns were legitimate and Bob was just very convincing, but not actually right. Fade to: Bob becomes CEO and the org is thriving but it's not really following the original mission anymore. I'm guessing Steve Jobs wanted people to convince him if (and only if) they were right. 'Right' meaning not just factually correct but probably also whatever Steve thought was good (whatever that was). So maybe if Bob was more politically skilled and also aligned with the mission of the organization? But aw geez now we're back to how it's hard to hire people aligned with the org. Hmm, that would probably cruxy too. Not sure how to measure it.
What grants has Carl Shulman's discretionary fund made?

Are you or the grantee planning to publish the results of the creatine investigation? I think it would be helpful for many in the community, even if it's a null result.

4CarlShulman3moLast update is that they are, although there were coronavirus related delays.
Project Ideas in Biosecurity for EAs

Write / find a single solid reference on “list-based sequence screening is flawed”

Do you have non-single/solid references about this? I know someone who might be interested in doing this write up, but is trying to get more background understanding.

2Davidmanheim4moNo, but I suspect there is interest in supporting someone to do this, if they are interested and at least somewhat qualified.
EA Infrastructure Fund: Ask us anything!

Cool, for what it's worth my experience recruiting for a couple EA organizations is that labor supply is elastic even above (say) $100k/year, and your comments seem to indicate that you would be happy to fund at least some people at that level.

So I remain kind of confused why the grant amounts are so small.

5Jonas Vollmer4moIf you have to pay fairly (i.e., if you pay one employee $200k/y, you have to pay everyone else with a similar skill level a similar amount), the marginal cost of an employee who earns $200k/y can be >$1m/y. That may still be worth it, but less clearly so. FWIW, I also don't really share the experience that labor supply is elastic above $100k/y, at least when taking into account whether staff have a good attitude, fit into the culture of the organization, etc. I'd be keen to hear more about that.
EA Infrastructure Fund: Ask us anything!

This means that when we do encounter such an opportunity, we should most likely take it, even if it seems expensive or unlikely to succeed... Some EAs doing direct work could literally earn >$1,000 per hour if they pursued earning to give, but it's generally agreed that direct work seems more impactful for them

I notice that the listed grants seems substantially below $1000/hour; e.g. Rethink getting $250,000 for seven FTEs implies ~$35,000/FTE or roughly $18/hour. *

Is this because you aren't getting those senior people applying? Or are there other constraints?

* (Maybe this is off by a factor of two if you meant that they are FTE but only for half the year etc.)

8Jonas Vollmer4moThe main reason is that the people are willing to work for a substantially lower amount than what they could make when earning to give. E.g., someone who might be able to make $5 million per year in quant trading or tech entrepreneurship might decide to ask for a salary of $80k/y when working at an EA organization. It would seem really weird for that person to ask for a $5 million / year salary, especially given that they'd most likely want to donate most of that anyway.

I notice that the listed grants seems substantially below $1000/hour; e.g. Rethink getting $250,000 for seven FTEs implies ~$35,000/FTE or roughly $18/hour. *

 

This is two misconceptions:

(1) we are hiring seven interns but they each will only be there for three months. I believe it is 1.8 FTE collectively.

(2) The grant is not being entirely allocated to intern compensation

Interns at Rethink Priorities currently earn $23-25/hr. Researchers hired on a permanent basis earn more than that, currently $63K-85K/yr (prorated for part-time work).

[Job Ad] Help us make this Forum better

Thanks for commenting! Unfortunately applications for this position have closed, but I hope you will apply in a future round, or to one of the other positions for which we are currently hiring, if they are relevant to your skill set.

Retrospective on Catalyst, a 100-person biosecurity summit

Congratulations on such a successful event! 

  1. Regarding your NPS of 74: I think that's quite good; this page describes an NPS of 60+ as "very, very special, your only daughter probably just got married". 
  2. "We sent a lot of emails in the few weeks leading up to the summit, with various actions for participants to take, and that seemed like a good way to build enthusiasm / engagement." – could you say more about what you asked the attendees to do?
  3. I recently found out about Gather and was also pretty impressed. Do you happen to have filled out versions
... (read more)
2tessa5moNo, alas; we only found Gather [https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/report/gather-the-art-and-science-of-effective-convening/] a few weeks before the event, at which point the schedule was largely finalized. But it was very clear that it would have been super useful to us if we'd found it earlier on.
3tessa5moSure! I looked through our emails and found the following messages to attendees: * T-(1 month to 1 week): "Catalyst Biosummit: You're In!" was a generic reminder / acceptance email asking people to confirm their attendance and register e.g. dietary preferences * (lots of emails with the most engaged applicants asking them to give lightning talks and host design jam groups) * T-7 Days: "Get ready to participate in Catalyst": sent out full agenda and logistics. Prompted attendees to sign up for meetups and share anything that might facilitate full participation (we noted that the venue had a gender-neutral restroom and gave the example of "space for lactation" as an accessibility need we'd be happy to meet if we were made aware of it) * T-4 Days: "Start shaping your Catalyst experience" prompted attendees to sign up for a design jam group, join the Slack, schedule breakout rooms and make a list of their goals for the day. * T-2 Days: "Sign up for your Catalyst design jam group today" reminded people to sign up for a design group (noting that we'd by default be randomly assigning everyone except invited speakers to groups early the next morning, and noting that people could opt out of this by replying to the email) * T-1 Day: "See you at Catalyst tomorrow" more of a logistical email (e.g. here is when and where you should show up) but included links to design jam briefs, the full agenda, and notes on how to recognize organizers in case an uncomfortable incident needed to be reported
AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

Positive: The people I work with, both at CEA as well as the wider EA community, are often impressive, talented, and kind.

Negative: I'm not a morning person, and living in Pacific time while working with Brits means I have to be up early a lot

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

I sometimes speak to people who aren't aware how many career paths in community building there are, even outside of EA. I do think this causes there to be fewer community builders than there "should" be.

It feels hard to make really broad statements though; some people's skills and interests are pretty clearly not a fit for community building, and I don't think they should try to force it.

Seven things that surprised us in our first year working in policy - Lead Exposure Elimination Project

Thanks for writing this up! Really helpful to hear about your experiences with governments, and it's cool that you've been able to make so much progress.

Animal Welfare Fund: Ask us anything!

I speak with a lot of people with software engineering backgrounds who are looking for impactful projects. Are there any software projects you wish people would take on?

I sometimes refer engineers to the cultivated meat modeling consortium, but that group doesn't seem very active.

I would expect that people with deep expertise in software engineering may have a better understanding of how they can apply those skills than a person without such background. We are always keen to hear people's ideas, so you can encourage others to think of an impactful project and apply to the fund! 

One example of an idea we funded in this category was a prototype algorithm that identifies the exact location and number of animals in each Iowa egg farm based on Google Earth data developed by Charles He. 

One of the projects I would be keen to se... (read more)

Animal Welfare Fund: Ask us anything!

I've heard that academic research is funding constrained, in the sense that there are academics who would be willing to do research, particularly in the field of cellular agriculture, but they can't get grants. (I think this funding constraint is partially a reflection of biological research being pretty expensive.) I noticed that very few of your grantees are formally affiliated with an academic institution.

Is this just because you don't get applications from academics, or are there reasons against funding them (e.g. the minimum grant size is too high)?

3Cameron_Meyer_Shorb5moFunding is also a major constraint in wild animal welfare. At Wild Animal Initiative, our core objective is to establish a self-sustaining academic field dedicated to improving wild animal welfare. This welfare focus is a major paradigm shift from the naturalness focus that currently dominates conservation biology and related disciplines. That means one major constraint is the availability of interested scientists. Many researchers need to be persuaded before they can develop relevant projects. However, we've been finding that we consistently underestimate the number of scientists who don't need any persuasion at all. Plenty of people pursue careers in wildlife sciences because they love wildlife the same way they love their pets: they just want animals to be happy. Then there are the people who pursued careers in wildlife sciences for other reasons, but devoted themselves to helping them after seeing wild animals suffer in their labs or in the wild. (One such researcher was so radicalized by her experiences studying flying snake biomechanics [https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22325435/animal-welfare-wild-animals-movement] that she eventually became our executive director.) Funding is the main thing keeping these scientists from researching the highest-priority wild animal welfare questions. Often, they have to put aside their welfare concerns to focus on projects that appeal to traditional conservation funders. Sometimes they manage to fund welfare research by appealing to funders' other priorities. These compromises tend to lead to suboptimal projects (e.g., exploring high-cost ways to improve rare species' welfare, rather than low-cost ways to improve common species' welfare). And even the best welfare projects funded by traditional funders tend to have limited impact, because the conservation spin makes it harder for other scientists to recognize the work and contribute to a cohesive research agenda. More funding would give these scientists the support the
5Marcus_A_Davis5moIn the just completed round we got several applications from academics looking to support research on plant-based and cultivated meat projects though we ultimately decided not to support any of them. We definitely welcome grant applications in this area and our new requests for proposals [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/yDhijyrbu3fYPLbn2/request-for-proposals-ea-animal-welfare-fund#Alternatives_to_Using_Animals_] explicitly calls for applications on work in this space. Additionally, I would direct them to consider applying to GFI’s alternative protein research grants [https://gfi.org/researchgrants/], and the Food Systems Research Fund [https://www.fsrfund.org/], among other locations, if they believe they have promising projects in this space. On the specific reasoning, there are reasons against funding some work in this area, as there are every area we consider, but ultimately I don’t think the general case for or against grants in this space is decisive. It’s definitely true, as you point out, that some grant requests in this area can be high relative to the median grant request but this prior round featured five grants over $100,000. So, to me, the ultimate concern is the expected rate of return on the particular grant relative to other possible options we have before us. In this particular instance we didn’t fund one of these projects but I definitely wouldn’t want to deter researchers with valuable ideas from applying, as I think work in this space has the potential to be extremely valuable. All the said, I think there are a some reasons other places might be a better fit for some other funders: * Academic social science research is often a better fit for the EA research fund or Food Systems Fund because of their expertise + focus. * Academic plant-based + cultured meat research is often a better fit for the GFI fund because of their expertise + focus. * Academic farm animal welfare science research is often a better fit for Humane S
Animal Welfare Fund: Ask us anything!

I sometimes hear from people who are interested in working on cellular agriculture or other meat alternatives, and want to do a PhD, but can't find an advisor who is working on one of those subjects, so they instead plan to research e.g. tissue engineering or cell modeling for the purpose of treating human disease (or some other better funded domain).

In your request for proposals, you seem mostly interested in people who are working full-time on animal-related research.

I'm curious if you have advice for people who are in the situation I described (includin... (read more)

2Marcus_A_Davis5moOn who to be in touch with, I would suggest such a prospective student is in touch with groups like GFI and New Harvest if they would like advice on attempting to find advisors for this type of work. On advice, I would generally stay away from career advice. If forced to answer, I would not give general advice that everyone or most people are better off attempting to do as high impact research as soon as is feasible.
The Impossibility of a Satisfactory Population Prospect Axiology

Thanks for posting this! If I understand your "risky" assumptions correctly, it seems to be targeted at people who believe (as a simple example):

  1. Apples are better than oranges, and furthermore no amount of oranges can equate to one Apple
  2. Nonetheless, it's better to have a high probability of receiving an orange than a small probability of getting one Apple

Is that correct?

If so, what is the argument for believing both of these? My assumption is that someone who thinks that apples are lexically better than oranges would disagree with (2) and believe that any ... (read more)

2elliottthornley5moThanks for your comment! I think the following is a closer analogy to what I say in the paper: On your side question, I don't assume completeness! But maybe if I did, then you could recover the VNM theorem. I'd have to give it more thought.
6MichaelStJules5moThis is interesting. It looks like the risky versions would follow from the Archidemean axiom + their non-risky vesions. I don't think you could get the independence axiom from the other axioms, though. Well, technically anything satisfying all of the axioms would satisfy independence, since nothing satisfies all of the axioms, since it's an impossibility theorem, but if you consider only the risky axioms (or the Archimedean axiom), completeness and transitivity, I don't see how you could get the independence axiom. Maybe maximizing the median value of some standard population axiology like total utilitarianism is a counterexample?
Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Sure, but that's also a reason against appropriately qualified people working there also, right?

What I'm pushing against is the assumption that employees love outsiders coming in and telling them all the things they are doing wrong, and if they don't like you pointing out their mistakes it must mean you are "overqualified".

I actually hear the opposite more frequently: having a more junior title makes it easier for people to listen to your suggestions, because it's less threatening for you to point out mistakes.

Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Thanks! I agree with the concern, but I think I disagree about the root cause:

She likes Bob's ideas and wants to find ways to implement them, but doesn't like Bob's leadership style so doesn't want to put him in a leadership position

In general, I'm skeptical about "putting" people in leadership positions, especially when their colleagues don't want to be led by them.

If people aren't listening to Bob because they don't like his leadership style, then I would say that Bob is a bad culture fit (or, to be blunt, not a good leader). I wouldn't describe this as ... (read more)

3kdbscott3moApparently my comment won a comment prize, which nudges me to carry on this conversation. What if Bob has an ambitious project he's excited to run, and 4 out of 7 of his colleagues are excited by this project and want to be led by Bob on this, and Alice thinks it couldn't hurt to try, but Alice's cofounder Carol really doesn't like the idea and 2 of the 3 board members also don't like it? Carol et al. surface objections like 'it's not in the spirit of our mission' and 'I'm worried about the effects Bob's leadership would have on our culture'. Maybe if the org had good culture and good leaders they could figure out how to thread the needle, give Bob's project a shot while addressing the concerns that Carol et al surfaced. But I guess the point is... all of that takes time. A lot of effort needs to be put into the work of coordinating around a contentious project. In a world where Bob was vetted as a senior hire (which again, takes more time) he wouldn't have made the cut because of these concerns. But since he was vetted as a junior hire, people didn't think to consider 'the effects of Bob's leadership on our culture'. To be clear, I think a good hiring processes would sufficiently address these problems at the beginning, either vetting Bob as a senior hire and/or ensuring he understood the scope of the role. A good hiring process would probably notice that Bob has the skills to fulfill the finance role, but does not have the skills to lead in the organization. But... it's hard to make good hiring processes, it's hard to anticipate how this kind of thing will play out. In the face of this, I think it's somewhat reasonable for hiring managers to lean towards junior hires in some cases. Like if I 'just want someone to get this one set of things done reliably for the next two years" I might have less headache with a junior hire that shows up, does the thing, and goes home. If I hire an office manager and they start trying to reform my HR policies, this can be mor
3dan.pandori5moThis really matches my experience. As a high skill worker (software engineer at a FAANG), I strongly view top down proposals without team buy-in as a leadership failure. If your idea is good, you should be able to convince the team that it is good and ought to be implemented (contributing to the implementation yourself is going to win you big favor points). Going over the team's head to force the solution by forcing the HR team to accept the proposal in the example is going to burn bridges. Maybe it's necessary if the proposal is incredibly important, but mandating a solution on a team after pushback should generally be viewed as an organizational failure to mourn.
5MaxDalton5moI could also imagine it being that the org has a bad culture (e.g. they systematically don't listen to the ideas of people in more junior roles)
Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Interesting point – my interpretation of that statistic is that external people are hired into more senior roles than internal people. I guess it's also consistent with the hypothesis that external people get less mentorship though.

Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Thanks! I agree that the amount of career capital a position will generate is an important factor in any career decision, "overqualified" or not.

I'm curious about your "it can be hard to reverse" statement though: how frequently do you think this happens? At least in US tech, it's pretty common for people to take a year off to organize against Trump or whatever, and a year of charity work is definitely not irreversible. When I've talked to recruiters they basically just ignore charity work, at worst.

Anecdotally it always feels like now is the wrong time to... (read more)

3CarolineJ6moNoting that the link you shared also shows that people who are externally hired seem to perform worse than those who are promoted. So if you care about performance more than pay, it may not be that good to switch jobs often?
6Khorton6moI'm not sure about tech! I was thinking the more business/management career track. I definitely agree that regularly switching jobs is a good thing - this isn't an argument against switching jobs, just against taking a much more junior role
Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Thanks for correcting my mistaken impression Jakub! I've updated my comment to link to yours.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

I guess I don't know OP's goals but yeah if their goal is to publicly shame ACE then publicly shaming ACE is a good way to accomplish that goal.

My point was a) sending a quick emails to someone about concerns you have with their work often has a very high benefit to cost ratio, and b) despite this, I still regularly talk to people who have concerns about some organization but have not sent them an email.

I think those claims are relatively uncontroversial, but I can say more if you disagree.

How much does performance differ between people?

Basic statistics question: the GMA predictors research seems to mostly be using the Pearson correlation coefficient, which I understand to measure linear correlation between variables.

But a linear correlation would imply that billionaires have an IQ of 10,000 or something which is clearly implausible. Are these correlations actually measuring something which could plausibly be linearly related (e.g. Z score for both IQ and income)?

I read through a few of the papers cited and didn't see any mention of this. I expect this to be especially significant at the tails, which is what you are looking at here.

2Max_Daniel6moI haven't looked at the papers to check and don't remember but my guess would be that it's something like this. Plus maybe some papers looking at things other than correlation.
Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Yep, definitely don't want people to swing too far in the opposite direction. Just commenting that "talk to people about your concerns with them" is a surprisingly underutilized approach, in my experience.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Thanks! I had interpreted "We are yet to see how successful the leadership transition turns out" as a pretty strong statement, but I agree that the review doesn't specify how the different factors they list are weighted and your interpretation could be correct. I hope someone from ACE can clarify.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

I do wish we could be having this discussion in a more productive and conciliatory way, which has less of a chance of ending in an acrimonious split.

At the risk of stating the obvious: emailing organizations (anonymously, if you want) is a pretty good way of raising concerns with them.

I've emailed a number of EA organizations (including ACE) with question/concerns, and generally find they are responsive.

And I've been on the receiving side of emails as well, and usually am appreciative; I often didn't even consider that there could be some confusion or misinterpretation of what I said, and am appreciative of people who point it out.

I talked to ACE (Jacy Reese/Anthis in particular) in 2015 about ACE dramatically overstating effectiveness of leaflets. Jacy was extremely responsive in the call, and nothing changed until two years later when a dramatically more inflammatory article got wide distribution.

I think that this totally misses the point. The point of this post isn't to inform ACE that some of the things they've done seem bad--they are totally aware that some people think this. It's to inform other people that ACE has behaved badly, in order to pressure ACE and other orgs not to behave similarly in future, and so that other people can (if they want) trust ACE less or be less inclined to support them.

I think private discussions are very important, but I don't feel good about a world where they entirely substitute for this kind of public disagreement. I think past Forum controversies of this kind have often been quite valuable.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Edit: Jakub says that ACE's evaluation was based on the Facebook comments, not leadership transition. The below is kept for historical purposes. Also, I should have noted in this post my appreciation for Anima's transparency – it wouldn't have been possible for me to post something like this with most organizations, because they would state that their CEO stepped down "spend more time with her family" or something similar.

Nevertheless, given the overall positive assessment, it's strange that Anima was awarded a "weak" rating in this category, and I think

... (read more)

Hi Ben, thanks for your comment.

I don't think ACE's review of Anima supports this interpretation at all.

The review does mention the leadership transition under Criterion 5: Leadership and Culture:

Anima International had a recent transition in leadership. Kirsty Henderson took the role of Acting CEO in April 2020, after being elected by the managing board of Anima International. Their new leadership describes the transition as an opportunity to re-evaluate their goals, structure, work, and values, through frequent communication with staff about the transiti

... (read more)

This is what ACE's "overview" lists as Anima's weaknesses:

We think Anima International’s leadership has a limited understanding of racial equity and that this has impacted some of the spaces they contribute to as an international animal advocacy group—such as coalitions, conferences, and online forums. We also think including non-staff members in Anima International’s governing board would increase the board’s capacity to oversee the organization from a more independent and objective perspective. 

Their "comprehensive review" doesn't mention the firing... (read more)

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