1904 karmaJoined Oct 2021


Doctor from NZ, independent researcher (grand futures / macrostrategy) collaborating with FHI / Anders Sandberg. Previously: Global Health & Development research @ Rethink Priorities.

Feel free to reach out if you think there's anything I can do to help you or your work, or if you have any Qs about Rethink Priorities! If you're a medical student / junior doctor reconsidering your clinical future, or if you're quite new to EA / feel uncertain about how you fit in the EA space, have an especially low bar for reaching out.

Outside of EA, I do a bit of end of life care research and climate change advocacy, and outside of work I enjoy some casual basketball, board games and good indie films. (Very) washed up classical violinist and Oly-lifter.

All comments in personal capacity unless otherwise stated.



Thanks for writing this post!

I feel a little bad linking to a comment I wrote, but the thread is relevant to this post, so I'm sharing in case it's useful for other readers, though there's definitely a decent amount of overlap here.


I personally default to being highly skeptical of any mental health intervention that claims to have ~95% success rate + a PHQ-9 reduction of 12 points over 12 weeks, as this is is a clear outlier in treatments for depression. The effectiveness figures from StrongMinds are also based on studies that are non-randomised and poorly controlled. There are other questionable methodology issues, e.g. surrounding adjusting for social desirability bias. The topline figure of $170 per head for cost-effectiveness is also possibly an underestimate, because while ~48% of clients were treated through SM partners in 2021, and Q2 results (pg 2) suggest StrongMinds is on track for ~79% of clients treated through partners in 2022, the expenses and operating costs of partners responsible for these clients were not included in the methodology.

(This mainly came from a cursory review of StrongMinds documents, and not from examining HLI analyses, though I do think "we’re now in a position to confidently recommend StrongMinds as the most effective way we know of to help other people with your money" seems a little overconfident. This is also not a comment on the appropriateness of recommendations by GWWC / FP)


(commenting in personal capacity etc)


Links to existing discussion on SM. Much of this ends up touching on discussions around HLI's methodology / analyses as opposed to the strength of evidence in support of StrongMinds, but including as this is ultimately relevant for the topline conclusion about StrongMinds (inclusion =/= endorsement etc):


While I agree that both sides are valuable, I agree with the anon here - I don't think these tradeoffs are particularly relevant to a community health team investigating interpersonal harm cases with the goal of "reduc[ing] risk of harm to members of the community while being fair to people who are accused of wrongdoing".

One downside of having the bad-ness of say, sexual violence[1]be mitigated by their perceived impact,(how is the community health team actually measuring this? how good someone's forum posts are? or whether they work at an EA org? or whether they are "EA leadership"?) when considering what the appropriate action should be (if this is happening) is that it plausibly leads to different standards for bad behaviour. By the community health team's own standards, taking someone's potential impact into account as a mitigating factor seems like it could increase the risk of harm to members of the community (by not taking sufficient action with the justification of perceived impact), while being more unfair to people who are accused of wrongdoing. To be clear, I'm basing this off the forum post, not any non-public information

Additionally, a common theme about basically every sexual violence scandal that I've read about is that there were (often multiple) warnings beforehand that were not taken seriously.

If there is a major sexual violence scandal in EA in the future, it will be pretty damning if the warnings and concerns were clearly raised, but the community health team chose not to act because they decided it wasn't worth the tradeoff against the person/people's impact.

Another point is that people who are considered impactful are likely to be somewhat correlated with people who have gained respect and power in the EA space, have seniority or leadership roles etc. Given the role that abuse of power plays in sexual violence, we should be especially cautious of considerations that might indirectly favour those who have power.

More weakly, even if you hold the view that it is in fact the community health team's role to "take the talent bottleneck seriously; don’t hamper hiring / projects too much" when responding to say, a sexual violence allegation, it seems like it would be easy to overvalue the bad-ness of the immediate action against the person's impact, and undervalue the bad-ness of many more people opting to not get involved, or distance themselves from the EA movement because they perceive it to be an unsafe place for women, with unreliable ways of holding perpetrators accountable.

That being said, I think the community health team has an incredibly difficult job, and while they play an important role in mediating community norms and dynamics (and thus have corresponding amount of responsibility), it's always easier to make comments of a critical nature than to make the difficult decisions they have to make. I'm grateful they exist, and don't want my comment to come across like an attack of the community health team or its individuals!

(commenting in personal capacity etc)

  1. ^

    used as an umbrella term to include things like verbal harassment. See definition here.


If this comment is more about "how could this have been foreseen", then this comment thread may be relevant. I should note that hindsight bias means that it's much easier to look back and assess problems as obvious and predictable ex post, when powerful investment firms and individuals who also had skin in the game also missed this. 

1) There were entries that were relevant (this one also touches on it briefly)
2) They were specifically mentioned
3) There were comments relevant to this. (notably one of these was apparently deleted because it received a lot of downvotes when initially posted)
4) There has been at least two other posts on the forum prior to the contest that engaged with this specifically

My tentative take is that these issues were in fact identified by various members of the community, but there isn't a good way of turning identified issues into constructive actions - the status quo is we just have to trust that organisations have good systems in place for this, and that EA leaders are sufficiently careful and willing to make changes or consider them seriously, such that all the community needs to do is "raise the issue". And I think looking at the systems within the relevant EA orgs or leadership is what investigations or accountability questions going forward should focus on - all individuals are fallible, and we should be looking at how we can build systems in place such that the community doesn't have to just trust that people who have power and who are steering the EA movement will get it right, and that there are ways for the community to hold them accountable to their ideals or stated goals if it appears to, or risks not playing out in practice.

i.e. if there are good processes and systems in place and documentation of these processes and decisions, it's more acceptable (because other organisations that probably have a very good due diligence process also missed it). But if there weren't good processes, or if these decisions weren't a careful + intentional decision, then that's comparatively more concerning, especially in context of specific criticisms that have been raised,[1]  or previous precedent. For example, I'd be especially curious about the events surrounding Ben Delo,[2] and processes that were implemented in response. I'd be curious about whether there are people in EA orgs involved in steering who keep track of potential risks and early warning signs to the EA movement, in the same way the EA community advocates for in the case of pandemics, AI, or even general ways of finding opportunities for impact. For example, SBF, who is listed as a EtG success story on 80k hours, has publicly stated he's willing to go 5x over the Kelly bet, and described yield farming in a way that Matt Levine interpreted as a Ponzi. Again, I'm personally less interested in the object level decision (e.g. whether or not we agree with SBF's Kelly bet comments as serious, or whether Levine's interpretation as appropriate), but more about what the process was, how this was considered at the time with the information they had etc. I'd also be curious about the documentation of any SBF related concerns that were raised by the community, if any, and how these concerns were managed and considered (as opposed to critiquing the final outcome).

Outside of due diligence and ways to facilitate whistleblowers, decision-making processes around the steering of the EA movement is crucial as well. When decisions are made by orgs that bring clear benefits to one part of the EA community while bringing clear risks that are shared across wider parts of the EA community,[3] it would probably be of value to look at how these decisions were made and what tradeoffs were considered at the time of the decision. Going forward, thinking about how to either diversify those risks, or make decision-making more inclusive of a wider range stakeholders[4], keeping in mind the best interests of the EA movement as a whole.

(this is something I'm considering working on in a personal capacity along with the OP of this post, as well as some others - details to come, but feel free to DM me if you have any thoughts on this. It appears that CEA is also already considering this)

If this comment is about "are these red-teaming contests in fact valuable for the money and time put into it, if it misses problems like this"

I think my view here (speaking only for the red-teaming contest) is that even if this specific contest was framed in a way that it missed these classes of issues, the value of the very top submissions[5] may still have made the efforts worthwhile. The potential value of a different framing was mentioned by another panelist. If it's the case that red-teaming contests are systematically missing this class of issues regardless of framing, then I agree that would be pretty useful to know, but I don't have a good sense of how we would try to investigate this.


  1. ^

    This tweet seems to have aged particularly well. Despite supportive comments from high-profile EAs on the original forum post, the author seemed disappointed that nothing came of it in that direction. Again, without getting into the object level discussion of the claims of the original paper, it's still worth asking questions around the processes. If there was were actions planned, what did these look like? If not, was that because of a disagreement over the suggested changes, or the extent that it was an issue at all? How were these decisions made, and what was considered?

  2. ^

    Apparently a previous EA-aligned billionaire ?donor who got rich by starting a crypto trading firm, who pleaded guilty to violating the bank secrecy act

  3. ^

    Even before this, I had heard from a primary source in a major mainstream global health organisation that there were staff who wanted to distance themselves from EA because of misunderstandings around longtermism.

  4. ^

    This doesn't have to be a lengthy deliberative consensus-building project, but it should at least include internal comms across different EA stakeholders to allow discussions of risks and potential mitigation strategies.

  5. ^

As requested, here are some submissions that I think are worth highlighting, or considered awarding but ultimately did not make the final cut. (This list is non-exhaustive, and should be taken more lightly than the Honorable mentions, because by definition these posts are less strongly endorsed  by those who judged it. Also commenting in personal capacity, not on behalf of other panelists, etc):

Bad Omens in Current Community Building
I think this was a good-faith description of some potential / existing issues that are important for community builders and the EA community, written by someone who "did not become an EA" but chose to go to the effort of providing feedback with the intention of benefitting the EA community. While these problems are difficult to quantify, they seem important if true, and pretty plausible based on my personal priors/limited experience. At the very least, this starts important conversations about how to approach community building that I hope will lead to positive changes, and a community that continues to strongly value truth-seeking and epistemic humility, which is personally one of the benefits I've valued most from engaging in the EA community.

Seven Questions for Existential Risk Studies
It's possible that the length and academic tone of this piece detracts from the reach it could have, and it (perhaps aptly) leaves me with more questions than answers, but I think the questions are important to reckon with, and this piece covers a lot of (important) ground. To quote a fellow (more eloquent) panelist, whose views I endorse: "Clearly written in good faith, and consistently even-handed and fair - almost to a fault. Very good analysis of epistemic dynamics in EA." On the other hand, this is likely less useful to those who are already very familiar with the ERS space.

Most problems fall within a 100x tractability range (under certain assumptions)
I was skeptical when I read this headline, and while I'm not yet convinced that 100x tractability range should be used as a general heuristic when thinking about tractability, I certainly updated in this direction, and I think this is a valuable post that may help guide cause prioritisation efforts.

The Effective Altruism movement is not above conflicts of interest
I was unsure about including this post, but I think this post highlights an important risk of the EA community receiving a significant share of its funding from a few sources, both for internal community epistemics/culture considerations as well as for external-facing and movement-building considerations. I don't agree with all of the object-level claims, but I think these issues are important to highlight and plausibly relevant outside of the specific case of SBF / crypto. That it wasn't already on the forum (afaict) also contributed to its inclusion here.

I'll also highlight one post that was awarded a prize, but I thought was particularly valuable:

Red Teaming CEA’s Community Building Work
I think this is particularly valuable because of the unique and difficult-to-replace position that CEA holds in the EA community, and as Max acknowledges, it benefits the EA community for important public organisations to be held accountable (and to a standard that is appropriate for their role and potential influence). Thus, even if listed problems aren't all fully on the mark, or are less relevant today than when the mistakes happened, a thorough analysis of these mistakes and an attempt at providing reasonable suggestions at least provides a baseline to which CEA can be held accountable for similar future mistakes, or help with assessing trends and patterns over time. I would personally be happy to see something like this on at least a semi-regular basis (though am unsure about exactly what time-frame would be most appropriate). On the other hand, it's important to acknowledge that this analysis is possible in large part because of CEA's commitment to transparency.

I never worked directly with Meghan when we were colleagues, but my interactions with her were v positive and give me the impression that she would be a great supervisor to work with - infectiously passionate about her research, an excellent communicator, and kind + supportive.


This sounds like a terribly traumatic experience. I'm so sorry you went through this, and I hope you are in a better place and feel safer now.

Your self-worth is so, so much more than how well you can navigate what sounds like a manipulative, controlling, and abusive work environment.


spent months trying to figure out how to empathize with Kat and Emerson, how they’re able to do what they’ve done, to Alice, to others they claimed to care a lot about. How they can give so much love and support with one hand and say things that even if I’d try to model “what’s the worst possible thing someone could say”, I’d be surprised how far off my predictions would be.

It sounds like despite all of this, you've tried to be charitable to people who have treated you unfairly and poorly - while this speaks to your compassion, I know this line of thought can often lead to things that feel like you are gaslighting yourself, and I hope this isn't something that has caused you too much distress.

I also hope that Effective Altruism as a community becomes a safer space for people who join it aspiring to do good, and I'm grateful for your courage in sharing your experiences, despite it (very reasonably!) feeling painful and unsafe for you.[1] All the best for whatever is next, and I hope you have access to enough support around you to help with recovering what you've lost.



[Meta: I'm aware that there will likely be claims around the accuracy of these stories, but I think it's important to acknowledge the potential difficulty of sharing experiences of this nature with a community that rates itself highly on truth-seeking, possibly acknowledging your own lived experience as "stories" accordingly; as well as the potential anguish it might be for these experiences to have been re-lived over the past year and possibly again in the near future, if/when these claims are dissected, questioned, and contested.]

  1. ^

    That being said, your experience would be no less valid had you chosen not to share these. And even though I'm cautiously optimistic that the EA community will benefit from you sharing these experiences, your work here is supererogatory, and improving Nonlinear's practices or the EA community's safety is not your burden to bear alone. In a different world it would have been totally reasonable for you to not have shared this, if that was what you needed to do for your own wellbeing. I guess this comment is more for past Chloes or other people with similar experiences who may have struggled with these kinds of decisions than it is for Chloe today, but thought it was worth mentioning.


Both Kat and Emerson are claiming that there have been edits to this post.[1]

I wonder whether an appendix or summary of changes to important claims would be fair and appropriate, given the length of post and severity of allegations? It'd help readers keep up with these changes, and it is likely most time-efficient for the author making the edits to document these as they go along.

@Ben Pace 


[Edit: Kat has since retracted her statement.]

  1. ^

    his original post (he's quietly redacted a lot of points since publishing) had a lot of falsehoods that he knew were not true. He has since removed some of them after the fact, but those have still been causing us damage.


    Ben has also been quietly fixing errors in the post, which I appreciate, but people are going around right now attacking us for things that Ben got wrong, because how would they know he quietly changed the post? 

    This is why every time newspapers get caught making a mistake they issue a public retraction the next day to let everyone know. I believe Ben should make these retractions more visible

To add sources to recent examples that come to mind that broadly support MHR's point above RE: visible (ex post) failures that don't seem to be harshly punished, (most seem somewhere between neutral to supportive, at least publicly).

AI Safety Support
EA hub
No Lean Season

Some failures that came with a larger proportion of critical feedback probably include the Carrick Flynn campaign (1, 2, 3), but even here "harshly punish" seems like an overstatement. HLI also comes to mind (and despite highly critical commentary in earlier posts, I think the highly positive response to this specific post is telling).


On the extent to which Nonlinear's failures relate to integrity / engineering, I think I'm sympathetic to both Rob's view:

I think the failures that seem like the biggest deal to me (Nonlinear threatening people and trying to shut down criticism and frighten people) genuinely are matters of character and lack of integrity, not matters of bad engineering.

As well as Holly's:

If you wouldn’t have looked at it before it imploded and thought the engineering was bad, I think that’s the biggest thing that needs to change. I’m concerned that people still think that if you have good enough character (or are smart enough, etc), you don’t need good boundaries and systems.

but do not think these are necessarily mutually exclusive.
Specifically, it sounds like Rob is mainly thinking about the source of the concerns, and Holly is thinking about what to do going forwards. And it might be the case that the most helpful actionable steps going forward are things that look more like improving boundaries and systems, regardless of whether you believe failures specific to Nonlinear are caused by deficiencies in integrity or engineering.

That said, I agree with Rob's point that the most significant allegations raised about Nonlinear quite clearly do not fit the category of 'appropriate experimentation that the community would approve of', under almost all reasonable perspectives.

I was a participant and largely endorse this comment.

one contributor to a lack of convergence was attrition of effort and incentives. By the time there was superforecaster-expert exchange, we'd been at it for months, and there weren't requirements for forum activity (unlike the first team stage)

[Edit: wrote this before I saw lilly's comment, would recommend that as a similar message but ~3x shorter].


I would consider Greg's comment as "brought up with force", but would not consider it an "edge case criticism". I also don't think James / Alex's comments are brought up particularly forcefully.

I do think it is worth making a case that pushing back on making comments that are easily misinterpreted or misleading are also not edge case criticisms though, especially if these are comments that directly benefit your organisation.

Given the stated goal of the EA community is "to find the best ways to help others, and put them into practice", it seems especially important that strong claims are sufficiently well-supported, and made carefully + cautiously. This is in part because the EA community should reward research outputs if they are helpful for finding the best ways to do good, not solely because they are strongly worded; in part because EA donors who don't have capacity to engage at the object level may be happy to defer to EA organisations/recommendations; and in part because the counterfactual impact diverted from the EA donor is likely higher than the average donor.

For example:

  • "We’re now in a position to confidently recommend StrongMinds as the most effective way we know of to help other people with your money".[1]
    • Michael has expressed regret about this statement, so I won't go further into this than I already have. However, there is a framing in that comment that suggests this is an exception, because "HLI is quite well-caveated elsewhere", and I want to push back on this a little.
  • HLI has previously been mistaken for an advocacy organisation (1, 2). This isn't HLI's stated intention (which is closer to a "Happiness/Wellbeing GiveWell"). I outline why I think this is a reasonable misunderstanding here (including important disclaimers that outline HLI's positives).
  • Despite claims that HLI does not advocate for any particular philosophical view, I think this is easily (and reasonably) misinterpreted.
  • James' comment thread below: "Our focus on subjective wellbeing (SWB) was initially treated with a (understandable!) dose of scepticism. Since then, all the major actors in effective altruism’s global health and wellbeing space seem to have come around to it"
  • See alex's comment below, where TLYCS is quoted to say: "we will continue to rely heavily on the research done by other terrific organizations in this space, such as GiveWell, Founders Pledge, Giving Green, Happier Lives Institute [...]"
    • I think excluding "to identify candidates for our recommendations, even as we also assess them using our own evaluation framework" [emphasis added] gives a fairly different impression to the actual quote, in terms of whether or not TLYCS supports WELLBYs as an approach.


While I wouldn't want to exclude careless communication / miscommunication, I can understand why others might feel less optimistic about this, especially if they have engaged more deeply at the object level and found additional reasons to be skeptical.[2] I do feel like I subjectively have a lower bar for investigating strong claims by HLI than I did 7 or 8 months ago.


(commenting in personal capacity etc)



Adding a note RE: Nathan's comment below about bad blood:
Just for the record, I don't consider there to be any bad blood between me and any members of HLI. I previously flagged a comment I wrote with two HLI staff, worrying that it might be misinterpreted as uncharitable or unfair. Based on positive responses there and from other private discussions, my impression is that this is mutual.[3]

  1. ^

    -This as the claim that originally prompted me to look more deeply into the StrongMinds studies. After <30 minutes on StrongMinds' website, I stumbled across a few things that stood out as surprising, which prompted me to look deeper. I summarise some thoughts here (which has been edited to include a compilation of most of the critical relevant EA forum commentary I have come across on StrongMinds), and include more detail here.

    -I remained fairly cautious about claims I made, because this entire process took three years / 10,000 hours, so I assumed by default I was missing information or that there was a reasonable explanation.

    -However, after some discussions on the forum / in private DMs with HLI staff, I found it difficult to update meaningfully towards believing this statement was a sufficiently well-justified one. I think a fairly charitable interpretation would be something like "this claim was too strong, it is attributable to careless communication, but unintentional."

  2. ^

    Quotes above do not imply any particular views of commentors referenced.

  3. ^

    I have not done this for this message, as I view it as largely a compilation of existing messages that may help provide more context.

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