Eddie Liu

54Joined Oct 2021


Some updates in EA communications

LOVE the new intro article!! 


At least for me, it was hard to tell the hierarchy of the content. I wonder if a table of contents might be helpful? 

I think the issue stems from H3 and H4 tags being hard for me to tell apart, so a little confusing to subconsciously keep track of where I was in the document. Another problem could be the "What values unite effective altruism?" and "What are some examples of effective altruism in practice?" are H3 but "How can you take action?" and "FAQ" are H2 but in my mind they should all have been at the same level? Maybe just promoting the first two headers to H2 would be good enough to solve most of my confusion. 

Also, the preview image when sending the link to someone on LinkedIn strikes me as a little odd and might hinder virality when it's time to share it on social media. 


Ideas for Iteration

If the intro article takes off and becomes the "top of the funnel" of effective altruism for a lot of people, optimizing the "conversion rate" of this article could have big downstream effects.  

I would definitely encourage collecting 1 on 1 feedback by having people new to EA read the content in person and speak their thoughts out loud. 

Qualitative feedback can also be gathered more quickly with a tool like Intercom to directly chat with people while they're reading it and hear their thoughts / answer their questions. 

It might also be a good idea to get some quantitative feedback with a tool like hotjar to see how far people scroll. 

If the goal of the article is to get people intrigued with EA and diving deeper, perhaps emphasizing the "How can you take action" or the other parts in the "What's next?" section with special graphics or banners kind of like the newsletter box would be helpful. Then you can A/B test different iterations to see what gets people to tap more. 

Speaking of A/B tests, you might be able to squeeze out a few more percentage of engagement by experimenting with the order of the examples, the number of examples, which examples are shown, the actual words in the content itself, the preview image, etc. 

What are the key claims of EA?

I was just thinking about this the other day. In terms of pitching effective altruism, I think it's best to keep things simple instead of overwhelming people with different concepts. I think we can boil down your moral claims to essentially 3 core beliefs of EA: 

  1. Doing good is good. (Defining good)
  2. It is more good to do more good. (Maximization)
  3. Therefore, we ought to do more good. (Moral obligation)

If you buy these three beliefs, great! You can probably consider yourself an effective altruist or at least aligned with effective altruism. Everything else is downstream of these 3 beliefs and up for debate (and EAs excel at debating!).  

Is working for Meta a good or bad option?

I'm not confident in the belief that Meta as a company causes more harm than good. If you look closely at most of the criticism, it's generally overblown. 

For example, the headline of the 2021 Facebook Leak is "Instagram Harms Teenagers!" but the reality is more complicated - https://www.npr.org/2021/10/06/1043138622/facebook-instagram-teens-mental-health . Cambridge Analytica too: https://mobiledevmemo.com/cambridge-analytica-was-a-false-panic-its-time-to-move-on/

I'm more convinced of the overall harms of social media (esp. in regards to teenage mental health), but is Meta is worse than other social media companies out there like TikTok? Probably not? 

In terms of benefits to the world, they enable a lot of small businesses to exist through personalized advertising and they're pushing the field of virtual reality forward faster than it would otherwise develop.

If I had to guess, Meta's impact on the world (compared to a world without Meta) is net neutral or maybe slightly positive (/negative), instead of significant negative impact. So your impact of joining Meta as 1 of 70k+ employees is likely a few orders of magnitude lower than the impact you'd have through earning to give. 

Other factors to consider - What team would you be on? Can you get into other FAANGs? How long would you even work at Meta before you jump jobs? Is there a significant reputational risk of working at Meta, regardless of the facts? 

Introducing Effective Self-Help

Depending on the study design, it can actually be relatively cheap! Just use Amazon Mechanical Turk or Positly to get participants. Of course, some study designs would be  20x harder than others. I imagine that testing different self help interventions would be rather hard but smaller surveys would be really easy. 

Momentum 2022 updates (we're hiring)

Seriously! This has gotta be one of the best update/recruiting posts I've ever seen on EA Forums. Wishing you guys the best! 

Who are your role models?

Personally, I found this article to be full of inspiring people for me - https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/27/magazine/global-life-span.html 

Here are my notes I took on the article at the time: 

  • Pattern is that science discovers something important, a long time passes, then a crusader spreads it to the masses.
  • Variolation (an early form of vaccination): Invented in 1000s, 700 years later, popularized by Mary Montagu, an aristocrat in 1716. IMPACT! 
  • In 1858, a JOURNALIST published an expose denouncing MILK as a liquid poison. Pasteur invented pasteurization by 1865. 30 years later. Nathan Straus in 1892 took up the cause, ran an experiment, published it, started an extended advocacy campaign. IMPACT! 
  • John Leal, a sanitary adviser, quietly added chlorine to the city water. It was a success. It spread from city to city! Triumph of applied chemistry. GLORIOUS! 
  • Peniccillin: Fleming invented it very early, but 2 Oxford scientists 10 years later did experiments and spread it. GO OXFORD! 
  • Oral Rehydration Therapy: A johns-hopkins educated physician & researcher pioneered the use case, went against standard of care at the time, and crushed it! Started an education campaign (advocacy) letting amateurs into the act. IMPACT! 

PS. If you want to read the article but can't, try this extension https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/disable-javascript/jfpdlihdedhlmhlbgooailmfhahieoem?hl=en-US 

Many Undergrads Should Take Light Courseloads

I agree with this advice in general. I'd add a caveat that it might be a good idea to prioritize taking courses where you can make smart, like-minded friends. For example, a Computer Science class with a lab component where you work in small groups to get assignments done.