All of BenSchifman's Comments + Replies

What should we call the Harvard EA office ?

You could pick the name based on the "what3words" location description. For instance:  https://what3words.com/split.bigger.basket

Admissions and Financial Advice for U.S. Law School Applicants

In the portion discussing considerations by career path I would add:

When deciding which schools to apply to and more so when deciding which school to attend, consider the clinics, journals, centers, and other opportunities that are relevant for a topic area of interest to you.  Participating in these extracurriculars is a good way to learn about an area, signal to employers to have an interest in an area, and develop mentors and connections in the field.   There are significant differences in otherwise similar schools in this regard .

Admissions and Financial Advice for U.S. Law School Applicants

Excellent post! 

If anyone reading this is in law school or about to start and you would like my advice about how to succeed there  (including my unconventional strategy for law school exams) DM me and I can share a document I have written and shared with other EAs. 

Personal climate impact question

I highly recommend the Founder's Pledge Climate and Lifestyle report.* Take a look specifically at Figure 5 and you will see that donating a small amount to one of their highly effective charities dwarfs the emissions from a single flight like the one you're proposing here.  

Zooming out a bit, in my opinion these kinds of decisions shouldn't about guilt (see replacing guilt series) but rather about taking the action that on net is best for others. In that framework working and donating to an effective charity that combats climate change--one of the wo... (read more)

Seems impossible to find any EA meetups in SF

Weird, the link (https://linktr.ee/ea_dc) works for me.  Maybe Link Tree was down for a spell? Anyway this is a link tree for Washington DC but it sounds like you're in SF. If you are back in DC feel free to DM me and I'll make sure you get squared away!

Seems impossible to find any EA meetups in SF

In the first sentence I think you mean SF?


I just moved to SF from DC and I did a bunch of google searches to find EA meetups in DC SF, and I found nothing whatsoever.

If you are actually looking for meetups in DC there are plenty including one tonight :) More info about this month's events here :) {edited to add the link is https://linktr.ee/ea_dc] 

1trevor12mo
That link sent me here: Also, I registered for an event on the 15th but I never got any sort of confirmation email, no idea if I'll be approved in time. I've seen this sort of thing before, it reeks of hacking by a 3rd party.
EARadio Returns - Suggest Episodes and Shoutouts

I don't know the time it takes or the direct tradeoffs but it seems possible that sharing EA content over an audio medium could be higher impact that other forms of community building, as the reach of a podcast is potentially worldwide.  Really depends on the empirics.  I am a podcast superuser though so I'm aware that I'm atypical and just because I'd like to listen while i do the dishes rather than read that isn't universal!

EARadio Returns - Suggest Episodes and Shoutouts

If you're open to adding more content, I would consider reading, say, the most upvoted forum post each month (or even each week if the reaction is positive and you have the time).  The EA Forum Podcast is, as far as I know, inactive these days. And nonlinear is doing text to speech but it isn't as good, imo. 

1Peter2mo
Hey thanks for your reply Ben. I hadn't even considered this. I think someone was doing this for key posts on a podcast called the Effective Altruism Forum Podcast but it hasn't been updated since January. I have helped do readings for some of the creative writing contest entries. I'm not sure where they will be shared yet but do you think that would fit well on EAradio or be better off on something separate? I've thought about reading certain newsletters out, like ChinAI, but wasn't sure if it would be a good use of time compared to other possibilities like maybe community building, since these could just be added to the NonLinear Audio Library.
EARadio Returns - Suggest Episodes and Shoutouts

Thanks for reviving this!  I have rarely gotten around to watching youtube videos of EAG content, but I have listened to most episodes of this podcast :)  To directly answer you question, I would suggest adding audio from all the publicly posted youtube videos from recent EAGs (e.g., these), as soon as they are available ( unless there was bad audio quality or some other circumstance that would make it not work in an audio format). 

I also think that this would benefit from starting each episode with a short bit of music and a voiceover descr... (read more)

1Peter2mo
Oh cool thank you. I think some audio explaining the podcast could be a good idea. I also post a summary of esch episode in the episode description. Not sure if it would be worth the time to record something for every episode. DM'd you.
Should we call them something other than retreats?

Strong agree with the connotation of retreat being associated with leisure/opulence and that this is an optics issue. I think this is hard to answer in the abstract and the event should probably just pick a name that corresponds to what is happening. E.g., AI governance learning weekend; EA [City] community gathering weekend; etc

1sam_brenner3mo
Oh, nice, that's great to see! I'm also glad we agreed!
What would you like to see in an EA merch store?

Interesting, it wasn't that one but that's a similar idea. I think this one I saw was more abstract -- like this one is focused on specific cause areas but I think the one I saw had stuff about evidence and reason and doing the most good. 

The team at EA for Jews is growing — apply now or refer others!

Hi Yitz! Our long term plan -- a very high level -- is to (1) do outreach to Jewish communities and spread EA ideas to those communities, and (2) to build a community of Jews involved in EA.  We currently have a number of projects in the works including EA fellowships and materials aimed at different Jewish audiences (including different denominations as well as demographics such as for b'nai mitzvah age Jews).  I'll send you a DM with more info and my calendly if you'd like to learn more!  

What would you like to see in an EA merch store?

I kind of would like to see an EA version of one of these type of yard signs that are very popular where I live. I think I saw someone propose this but I forget where, doesn't seem like it was on the forum.  If you decide to do this you should probably have a forum post or contest or something to pick the exact language.  

1Ines3mo
That's a good idea! I think the post you saw might have been this one [ https://twitter.com/peterwildeford/status/1519772657176256521?s=20&t=Liid2MtBtOosGtR9IE_VgA]
1Rachel Shu3mo
That idea reminds me of this post. [https://twitter.com/slatestarcodex/status/1495532084189966342]
FTX/CEA - show us your numbers!

I know this isn't the central part of the post but I'm not sure the title is really clickbait.  It seems like an accurate headline to me? I understand clickbait to be "the intentional act of over-promising or otherwise misrepresenting — in a headline, on social media, in an image, or some combination — what you’re going to find when you read a story on the web."  Source.

A real clickbait title for this would be something like "The one secret fact FTX doesn't want you to know" or "Grantmakers hate him! One weird trick to make spending transparent" 

Free-spending EA might be a big problem for optics and epistemics

This post clearly articulates a lot of the related thoughts I've been having and discussing with other organizers; well done. I will add my quickly dashed off thoughts, coming in particular from the perspective of a EA group organizer:

1. The time/ money trade off is real, particularly for mostly volunteer-led groups where volunteer capacity is our main bottleneck.  Nonetheless, in my view being cognizant of trade offs when allocating resources is core to EA, and it is a real loss when we just vaguely gesture at the time/money trade off and spend money... (read more)

How should altruistic blogs be different?

Re: sending full posts via email: Aside from separate services like substack recommended below there are several wordpress plugins that do this.  (I looked into this a while ago when I was working on eaforjews.org but ultimately I decided not to do this for that site).  Would be happy to help you set one of these up on your site, I'd estimate it would take less than an hour.  

2Julia_Wise6mo
Thanks - I did set up a way to email subscribers when a new post is published, but didn't manage to find one that sends the whole post rather than just a snippet (and didn't have some other downside). But I found the process of sorting through the different email sending plugins surprisingly difficult, so there was likely a service I didn't find or ruled out prematurely.

I don't have an answer for you, but I hope and expect the EA Market Testing Team will come up with some good suggestions! 

However - my intuition is there isn't one "best" elevator pitch because the persuasiveness will depend on the context and the person giving and receiving the pitch.  So the value of a generic elevator pitch might be less than you think.  

For instance, if EA coms up naturally in the context of charitable donations, I often talk about how excited I was when I learned about GiveWell, and how their research made me confident ... (read more)

7Miranda_Zhang7mo
Piggybacking off this: UChicago EA recently started a meta-EA comms group & are meeting with the Market Testing Team to figure out how we can collaborate re: message testing frames for uni students! Narrower than this question & I don't have an answer (yet!) but just wanted to say that someone is working on a part of this question. We're going to actively look for collaborators as soon as we have a shareable draft proposal. : )
Things I recommend you buy and use.

The website Labdoor tests supplements for quality and recommends several b12 brands. I don't recall which one I ended up purchasing, I think the NatureNow? (I remove the pills from the container so I can store them more easily) 

EA for voting rights?

A related recommendation is the excellent 80k podcast with Mike Berkowitz which is about preserving liberal democracy in the US, so it is broader than just voting rights but includes useful information and recommendations on that front.   

What holiday songs, stories, etc. do you associate with effective altruism?

Also this video details the process he used to make the song with DeepMind's Jukebox. 

What holiday songs, stories, etc. do you associate with effective altruism?

This isn't really what you're going for but I find this Christmas song that was generated using AI to be quite funny.  

1BenSchifman8mo
Also this video [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lobod7UOqgs&t=0s] details the process he used to make the song with DeepMind's Jukebox.
Announcing my retirement

Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of appreciation for your work Aaron.  I have an RSS feed of the forum and read at least the title of just about every post and it is really valuable for me.  Great work and best of luck in your next endeavors! 

EA for Jews: Launch and Call for Volunteers

Thanks Gordon!  I think an pan-interfaith group would be great! I'd love to compare notes and hear more about what your group is up to.  

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Update: EA for Jews has launched! Here is the forum post with details. To learn more visit eaforjews.org, and if you'd like to get involved please fill out this quick form.  Thanks all! 

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Yes! I have actually created a facebook group and will go public with a post on this forum and elsewhere soon.  The reason I haven't shared it thus far is we are still deciding on a name for the organization as a whole--there's been quite a bit of discussion as to whether "EA for Jews"; "Jews for EA"; "EA and Judaism" etc is best.   I'll post an update on the forum shortly, likely this week.  

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Thanks @Weatequince! I'd love to chat more about this idea -- send me a message here or fill out the form with your contact info and we can discuss.

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Thanks Josh!  I completely agree. I've been in touch with the founder of Jewish Effective Giving and my plan at this point is to make the EA for Jews (or whatever the name we decide on is) a much broader site, not duplicative of the Jewish Effective Giving site. We would however plan to partner with Jewish Effective Giving in the sense that we would direct folks who are interested in speaking to their (reform) synagogues about effective giving to the Jewish Effective Giving folks.  

The EA Forum Podcast is up and running

Thanks for starting this project!  I'm not an audio engineer but I am a musician with a lot of audio editing experience (and relevant software), and I've got a few ideas to share about how  to make the sound quality better on these.  Send me a message if you're interested in chatting. I could potentially also help out with audio editing directly though my schedule is a bit full at the moment. 

5D0TheMath1y
We’ve talked in private, but I figure I should publicly thank you for your offer for help. edit: this is the thank you.
The EA Forum Podcast is up and running

On mobile but not for some reason on the web version there is a "more platforms" button that gives you an RSS feed that should work on any player: https://anchor.fm/s/62cbeec4/podcast/rss

How do you track your donations?

Sorry, I was unclear! GWWC's list of members who have taken the pledge is public but yes the dashboard is (as far as I can tell) just for you to record donations privately.  

What are some skills useful for EA that one could learn in ~6 months?

A few "soft" or somewhat meta suggestions:

Shelly Kagan - readings for Ethics and the Future seminar (spring 2021)

Thanks for sharing!  This could be added to this great post compiling EA Syllabi and Teaching Materials; I've suggested this in a comment there. 

4Pablo1y
In case it isn't clear, this was published a couple of days ago here [http://www.stafforini.com/blog/courses-on-longtermism/]. I mention it because the original blog post lists other courses that may also be of interest.
EA syllabi and teaching materials

Thanks for this resource!  @velutvulpes just posted one that you may want to add: Ethics and the Future seminar at Yale

2Aaron Gertler1y
Just added this to save Julia some time :-)
How do you track your donations?

I now do (almost*) all my donations through a donor-advised fund which has tax and convenience advantages I discussed in this post.  It automatically keeps a record of all my donations.  It's not a public record, just for my info.  [Edited to clarify that Giving What We Can offers you a "dashboard" to record donations, but unlike whether you have taken the pledge the exact donations you have recorded are not public].

*I occasionally donate to facebook fundraisers or other "one off" donations that I don't do through the DAF and these I don't t... (read more)

1Laurin1y
Thanks for the insight. I didn't know that the GWWC pledge tracker is something that you can share publicly. I thought it was just your personal dashboard to keep track of it. Do you share your GWWC pledge tracker with others or do you keep it private? I'd be curious to hear what your reasons for either option are!
Intactivism as a potential Effective Altruist cause area?

For more on health impacts you might want to take a look at this Slate Star Codex post which has a decent objective overview, also a good discussion in the comments.  The circumcision debate is somewhat fraught; maybe that's an understatement. Regardless I'll be interested to follow the discussion here.   

Looking for more 'PlayPumps' like examples

Hi Caleb -- this is probably not quite what you're looking for, but an example I sometimes use of the importance of looking into the effectiveness of a charity before you donate is this--

 People donated millions to the "Black Lives Matter Foundation" but it turns out that is a charity that isn't associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, but rather is one random guy who plans to use the charity's funds to "bring police officers and members of certain neighborhoods together for an annual buffet dinner and other gatherings" and "a program that wou... (read more)

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Thanks Jeremy!  Great minds think alike -- I've got a collection of sources I've been compiling on this topic as well and we've hit a lot of the same ones.  Luckily there are plenty of arguments on all sides of just about every issue addressed in the talmud;  so no doubt the concept of helping your community first is present, so too is the preeminent importance of saving a life over other values (pikuach nefesh‎); see also Mishneh Sanhedrin 4, etc,. and other concepts that align more with EA principles.   Anyway -- I'll shoot you a mess... (read more)

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Absolutely -- this is my intention in both regards.  First, in my ideal vision the website would have content that appeals to both religious as well as non-religious Jews.  So in addition to highlighting or discussing traditional commentary on, say, tzedakah from the tanakh and talmud I'd also like to highlight Jewish thought broadly related to social justice throughout history.  Luckily there is thousands of years worth of content to mine in both regards!   

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Thank you Alex and Jeremy ! This input is very helpful, and has informed some discussions I've recently had with potential volunteers about what we should call the group.  

Alex, I've talked with Caleb from your organization, but I think it would be great to bounce some ideas off of you as well re: this branding issue which it seems you've given a lot of thought to.  For now I'm still going through the list of folks interested in volunteering but once we get a bit further along I'll send you a message!

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Thanks Avi -- I think you are right, from what  I can tell the kidney donations discussed in those sources are largely  within their community. (Although I wonder if they end up triggering any "swap chains"?)  

I appreciate your perspective on the orthodox community, too, which I have relatively little personal experience with (one side of my family is orthodox but I grew up loosely reform).  While in general I agree orthodox Jews are probably not  the group most likely to get into EA,  I figure there's still value in offering ... (read more)

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Thanks Josh, that is helpful!  One of the things I'm hoping someone who is better at branding than me can do is come up with a name for this potential group that would encompass primarily the "effective tzedakah" and "Jews in EA" focuses you list above.   (With the caveat that the tzedakah concept above is a bit narrower than I understand it -- I think tzedakah has become synonymous with charitable donations, but more accurately encompasses social justice broadly, of which donations are a part).  Something like "Effective Altruism and Judaism" is broad enough so maybe that would be preferable.  Let me know if you have any other potential names or other thoughts! 

2JeremyR1y
Agree with Josh's take on Jews in EA and Effective Tzedakah (though I'd agree strictly speaking the concept of tzedakah is at least broader than charitable giving). I think "Effective Altruism and Judaism" (maybe EAJ?) is my favorite! That said, RE "EA for Jews" - any chance you can ask the folks at EA for Christians how they feel the name has worked out for them?
EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Yes, these are good points -- I agree that basically, different groups will be more or less responsive to different types of outreach/messages.  One of the goals of the site would be to have a really diverse set of blog posts and other content highlighting people who came to EA through different paths -- some through a religious path, some not.  (Some in between?)   I suppose there is some risk that religious content on the site could "turn off" secular or cultural Jews who visit the site, but I think that's unlikely, so long as there is content that speaks to them as well on there.  Worth thinking about this downside risk carefully though! 

1mic1y
If necessary, it might be good to frame the arguments from religious texts as connecting with traditional Jewish thought, not in a way that demands a belief (or lack of belief) in the literal accuracy of the Talmud—basically what (my understanding of) Reform Judaism does. It might be good to intersperse religious arguments with secular arguments as well.
EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Wow I didn't realize orthodox folks were giving so many kidneys - that is fascinating.  Thanks for sharing Michael!  I will look into those sources. 

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Thanks Cullen!  I've talked to a few folks that are part of the EA Israel group and they are interested in helping out.  I think this proposed project would be complementary in some ways, but largely different from their group.  

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Thanks Grayden! Good points - I talked to Caleb from EA for Christians as well and he had similar suggestions.  I'm fairly confident (1) and (2) are met,  but I'll see what the response to this post and other outreach efforts are.  If I do set up this group it'll be with broadly the same aims you identified for EA for Christians - namely, outreach, community building, etc.

As far as making sure the organization is run by the right folks, that's certainly something on my mind as well.  At this juncture I'm just looking to cast as wide a n... (read more)

Can a Vegan Diet Be Healthy? A Literature Review

Thanks Julia -- I didn't realize he had become a vegan before becoming a doctor, writing his book(s), etc.  I think he probably underplays that in his writing to reach a wider audience.  It does give me a bit of a reason to question his objectivity in assessing the evidence about what diet is best for health / longevity (as opposed to what is best from an animal welfare perspective).  However, I did find his book to be a very thorough and evidence-based presentation of the studies that suggest a "whole food plant based" diet (distinct from a vegan diet which could = only potato chips and twinkies!)  is helpful in preventing and treating diseases, particularly heart disease and diabetes.  

Can a Vegan Diet Be Healthy? A Literature Review

Well researched post - thanks!  If you have an even greater appetite (pun intended) for this topic I recommend the book How Not to Die.

I think Greger probably does provide good advice for people who have already decided to be vegan, but at least his website I think is not clear that it starts from a premise of veganism and then addresses health rather than starting with the question of what's best for health. Wikipedia says Greger became a vegan as a college student when he toured a stockyard. I certainly respect that decision as a personal one, but I think his nutrition advice doesn't clearly address his non-health reasons for recommending veganism.

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