Zoe Williams

Executive Research Assistant @ Rethink Priorities
Working (6-15 years of experience)
259Christchurch, New ZealandJoined Sep 2014



Executive research assistant working at Rethink Priorities on the longtermism side of the org, and heading up the EA Chch (NZ) local group. Experience in analytics, people management, project management, community building and hiring -> and currently building skills in research.

How others can help me

If you'd like to share some online events with New Zealand (particularly if you're close timezone wise) I'd definitely be keen to hear.

How I can help others

Reach out if you have questions about transitioning from analytics / BI / consulting into research, if you're looking for advice or discussion on approaches in people management, or if you reckon I could be helpful to you in another way. Have a low bar! I love chatting with other EAs and helping out :-)


Weekly Forum Summaries


Topic Contributions

Ah yep, good idea - I'll do that for next week's :)

Awesome, glad to hear :-)

Ah good point - that's one I decided partway not to summarize but forgot to move it out of the section.

Thanks for the feedback!

having this available as a podcast (read by a human) would be cool

That would be awesome - I don't have time to make one myself, but if anyone else wants to take the post and make it into something like that feel free.

this sentence is confusing to me: "Due to this, he concludes the cause area is one of the most important LT problems and primarily advises focusing on other risks due to neglectedness." - is it missing a "not"?

Good point - I've re-read the conclusion and changed that line to be a bit clearer. It now reads:  "Due to this, he concludes that climate change is still an important LT area - though not as important as some other global catastrophic risks (eg. biorisk), which outsize on both neglectedness and scale."

It’s a good point, there’s often cases for discounting in a lot of decisions where we’re weighing up value. It’s usually done for two reasons – one being uncertainty, so we’re less certain of stuff in the future and therefore our actions might not do what we expect or the reward we’re hoping for might not actually happen. And the second being only relevant to financial stuff, but given inflation – and that you’re likely to have more income the older you are - the money’s real value is more now than later. 

The second reason doesn’t really apply here because happiness doesn’t decrease in value as you go through generations, like your happiness doesn’t matter less than your parents or grandparents did, even though $5 now means less than $5 then. The first reason is interesting because there is a lot of uncertainty in the future. And for some of our actions this means we should discount their expected effects, like they might not do what we expect, but that doesn’t mean the people itself are of less value – just that we’re not as sure how to help them. I think the actions we can be most sure of helping them are things that reduce risks in the short-term future, because if everything goes to crap or we all die that’s pretty sure to be negative for them. But uncertainty on the people themselves would look like – ‘I know how to help these guys, but I’m not sure I want to, like I’m not sure they’ll be people worth helping’. Personally I think I might care about them more, given every generation so far has had advances in the way they treat others, I like you already but I reckon I might like us even better if we’d grown up 5000 years from now!

What type of arts do you enjoy? For instance, I always really enjoyed English and drama, and am now in a data science job where I am going to be writing up publications and doing talks in addition to my coding/stats work. If you go for a small or start-up company, you can often have a broader job like this where you can take on tasks that interest you - my perception is that larger companies tend to have more regimented roles.

If you're more into visual arts, web design, marketing or some sort of community-building/social logistics could be good options. They'd also provide good skills in short supply to volunteer to the EA community.

I see the hero as the one pushing innovative new strategies for world-changing (eg. starting a business in that area, like Givewell - specifics subject to what changes the hero wants to make), while the sidekicks are the ones that help out by being employed in that business (in a non-directing role) or donating to it or providing moral support etc. - they help what's already been created do better, and thus have to choose from people/causes that already exist rather than creating their own.

Great job getting something up for this guys. If we wanted to improve it for next year, I'd suggest interspersing some footage of the work being done and putting key points like the cost to deworm a kid, the amount that've been helped and the benefits of deworming right at the start of the video (literally in the first 20 seconds if possible) and in text overlay so everyone sees them (a lot of people I've talked to who have watched P4A vids only watch the very start of them). Since it's a yearly thing the time investment now could pay off, and starting with those big facts to grab attention then winding into an introduction of where the research comes from and more description could work well.

Also, does anyone know how many of the top voted charities the money gets split between? Is it the top three, or top ten, or...? And how it's split (proportional to votes or equally)?

Are there currently any posters/brochures for EA, Givewell, GWWC etc.?

Edit: thanks guys, glad to know these exist. Will probably print a few to dot around my university.

I donated a couple hundred dollars to GiveDirectly myself, my brother donated another $75 for my birthday, and have taken up the idea of a charity jar from LessWrong a month or so ago (putting money in it every time I need an emotional boost or turn down donating to collectors on the street/donating to projects like HabitRPG) - at the end of the year it's all going to an as-yet-undecided effective charity.

I also wrote my final psyc assignment (where we can research anything related to judgement and decision-making and do a write-up or pilot study) on the charitable giving process, how people choose charities, and how we can make it more effective. Probably not new ground covered for EAs but I might post it. I discussed this a lot with friends and tutors, so hopefully that'll make some of them interested in EA too - I've had at least a few ask more about Givewell and look it up.

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