Dave Cortright

After two decades as a Silicon Valley product designer and four years as director of technology for a wildlife nonprofit, I pivoted to professional coaching. I am passionate about helping others, and by guiding them to find their true calling, I amplify my impact on improving the world.

I have been a serious philanthropist since 2004 and an effective altruist since 2017, supporting animal welfare and environmental causes. I am also a member of the International Coaching Foundation (ICF). I am a trained crisis counselor and a top-rated compassionate listener on 7 Cups.

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DaveC's Shortform

The Atlantic has a column called “Progress” by contributor Derek Thompson with the tag line: A special series focused on two big questions: How do you solve the world’s most important problems? And how do you inspire more people to believe that the most important problems can actually be solved?

Sounds a lot like EA to me.

Derek is holding virtual office hours on June 14

https://www.theatlantic.com/progress/

DaveC's Shortform

Here's a framework I use for A or B decisions. There are 3 scenarios:

  1. One is clearly better than the other.
  2. They are both about the same
  3. I'm not sure; more data is needed.

1 & 2 are easy. In the first case, choose the better one. In the second, choose the one that in your gut you like better (or use the "flip a coin" trick, and notice if you have any resistance to the "winner". That's a great reason to go with the "loser").

It's the third case that's hard. It requires more research or more analysis. But here's the thing: there are costs to doing this work. You have to decide if the opportunity cost to delve in is worth the investment to increase the odds of making  the better choice.

My experience shows that—especially for people who lean heavily on logic and rationality like myself 😁—we tend to overweight "getting it right" at the expense of making a decision and moving on. Switching costs are often lower than you think, and failing fast is actually a great outcome. Unless you are sending a rover to Mars where there is literally no opportunity to "fix it in post-", I suggest you do a a nominal amount of research and analysis, then make a decision and move onto other things in your life. Revisit as needed.

[cross-posted from a comment I wrote in response to Why CEA Online doesn’t outsource more work to non-EA freelancers]

An easy win for hard decisions.

Here's a framework I use for A or B decisions. There are 3 scenarios:

  1. One is clearly better than the other.
  2. They are both about the same
  3. I'm not sure; more data is needed.

1 & 2 are easy. In the first case, choose the better one. In the second, choose the one that in your gut you like better (or use the "flip a coin" trick, and notice if you have any resistance to the "winner". That's a great reason to go with the "loser").

It's the third case that's hard. It requires more research or more analysis. But here's the thing: there are costs to doing this work. You have to decide if the opportunity cost to delve in is worth the investment to increase the odds of making  the better choice.

My experience shows that—especially for people who lean heavily on logic and rationality like myself 😁—we tend to overweight "getting it right" at the expense of making a decision and moving on. Switching costs are often lower than you think, and failing fast is actually a great outcome. Unless you are sending a rover to Mars where there is literally no opportunity to "fix it in post-", I suggest you do a a nominal amount of research and analysis, then make a decision and move onto other things in your life. Revisit as needed.

Off Road: support for EAs struggling at uni

I'm coaching EAs now and would be happy to talk to you about "2. Identify a few great EA coach candidates and pay for their training". I have a sliding scale and offer discounts for full-time students. You can DM me at dave.coaching@pm.me

More info about me on  EA Mental Health Navigator and LinkedIn.

DaveC's Shortform

"This Request for Information (RFI) seeks input on how to best collect and integrate environmental health data into the All of Us Research Program dataset.

The All of Us Research Program seeks to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs to enable individualized prevention, treatment, and care for all of us. To do this, the program will partner with one million or more participants nationwide and build one of the most diverse biomedical data resources of its kind. Researchers may leverage the All of Us platform for thousands of studies on a wide range of health conditions.

Diversity is one of the core values of the All of Us Research Program. The program aims to reflect the diversity of the United States and has a special focus on engaging communities that have been underrepresented in health research in the past. Participants are from different races, ethnicities, age groups, and regions of the country. They are also diverse in gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, and health status. …"

https://rfi.grants.nih.gov/?s=625848a8fa2300004a006f22

2021 EA Mental Health Survey Results

Need help managing your own mental health and well-being? Check out the EA Mental Health Navigator!

On the fence about applying to EAG or EAGx? Talk to someone (me?) who went!

I’m willing to speak to people about my experiences at EAGx Boston 2022 and EAG London 2022. I’m already signed up for EAG San Francisco 2022, so clearly I think it’s a great use of time and resources.

The number one reason to go is to connect with other EAs in person. I embraced the 1:1 philosophy and had about 50–60 1:1s combined over the two conferences. I am mid-career and knew only a handful of people from the online community. But people are friendly, want to connect, and want to help so it was super easy (barely an inconvenience) to schedule 1:1s and talk with folks. Even at meals, it's not hard to just sit down at a table and strike up a convo with whoever is there.

I've had follow-up conversations online, and it really helps to have established that in-person, face-to-face connection first.

If you are worried about the expense, then apply for funding to go. CEA has been very generous with grants since they know fostering deeper connections in the EA community is one of the best ways to spend money.

The one caveat is you should absolutely have at least a solid understanding of the EA philosophy and an earnest desire to contribute in some tangible way.

 You don't need to be perfect to attend. I believe the EA movement benefits from having a more welcoming, "big tent" approach. So if you're not fully vegan, don't give 10% of your income to effective causes, or aren't currently working in EA, that's ok. I think we benefit from having as many people as possible "kick the tires". Yes, that means some won't go any further than that, but even for them, the seeds are planted and they may talk about EA with others in their lives. If we treat browsers with respect, they can be marketing allies to help spread the word.

DaveC's Shortform

Abigail Marsh’s 2016 TED talk on “Extraordinary Altruists”

It doesn’t look like anyone posted this TED talk on extraordinary altruists who donate a kidney to a stranger. The thing that stood out for me was the movement away from ego and into what could be called a non-dualistic perspective of humanity. I also detect a higher EQ—the ability to read and connect with others’ emotions, and this requires them to be skillful at recognizing, connecting, and regulating their own emotions.

What are your thoughts?

Mahdi Complex's Shortform

Check out the book “innovator’s dilemma” and subsequent works. Inertial is real, and big institutions get stuck and rarely can put themselves out of business (Netflix is a notable exception; they baked their vision into the name when they were simply mail order DVDs). Collapse by Jared Diamond is also worth checking out.

The fundamental problem we run into is our innate desire to be part of the tribe makes us susceptible to going along with shared deceptions. See the Asch compliance experiments, and the great episode of Mind Field that replicated the results (it’s on YouTube). Connection > truth.

History is littered with examples of a shared falsehood embraced by the masses until a small group of dissidents eventually forces the shared understanding past the inflection point; e.g. earth is flat, earth is the center of the universe, the ether, relativity, illness caused by microbes…

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead

Cait_Lion's Shortform

Check out the book “how to have impossible conversations”. It has some really great thoughts on creating spaces where you help the other person make their own journey rather than trying (and failing) to do it for them.

Also, the inner critic is very real, especially in our hyper competitive, achievement oriented, production/consumption culture. There is another way to hold oneself and others in a light, nonjudgmental way. But from experience it takes a lot of emotional and spiritual work with a trustworthy, compassionate coach/counselor/mentor. This story illustrates the depth of our societal divide:

In a meeting between the Dalai Lama and a group of American psychologists in 1990, one of the psychologists brought up the concept of negative self-talk. Since there are no words in Tibetan that translate into low self-esteem and self-loathing, it took quite a long time for the psychologists to convey what they meant. But this wasn’t a translation problem. It was a problem of conceptualization. Self-loathing? People do that? The Dalai Lama was incredulous. Once the Dalai Lama understood what they were saying, he turned to the Tibetan monks in the room, and after explaining what the psychologists were suggesting, he asked, “How many of you have experienced this low-self esteem, self-contempt or self-loathing?”

Complete silence.

Here was a psychological state of mind so ubiquitous in our culture that everyone experiences it from time to time, if not every single day. Yet the Tibetans—trained since childhood in the art of a mental exercise they call meditation—acted like they were being told about some alien life form. The Dalai Lama turned back to the psychologists and asked a simple question: “Why would you ever let your mind get like this?”

Excerpt from The Awakened Ape

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