Patrick Gruban

Patrick Gruban, member of the organising team of EA Local Munich since 2020.

I've been an entrepreneur (currently textiles, previously software) for 25+ years and have been interested in EA since 2015. In the last years I've been giving to Give Well and ACE recommended charities and took the GWWC pledge in 2020. In 2021 I developed the software of the new donation management system Effektiv Spenden is using in Germany and Switzerland.

I run the donation drive Knitters Against Malaria which has raised over $100,000 for the Against Malaria Foundation since 2018.

Topic Contributions

Comments

"Big tent" effective altruism is very important (particularly right now)

Thank you for this post, I was thinking along similar lines and am grateful that you wrote this down. I would like to see the number of people grow that make decisions around career, donations and volunteering based on the central EA question regardless of whether they call themselves EA. More than a billion people live in high income countries alone and I find it conceivable that 1-10% would be open to making changes in their lives depending on the action they can take. But for EA to accommodate 10-100 million people I also assume different shopfronts in addition to the backend capabilities (having enough charities that can handle vast amounts of donations, having pipelines for charity entrepreneurship that can help these charities grow, consulting capacity to help existing organizations to switch to effectiveness metrics etc). If we look at the movement from the perspective of scaling to these numbers I assume we will see a relatively short term saturation in longtermist cause areas. Currently we don’t seem to be funding restricted in that area and I don’t see a world where millions working on these problems will be better than thousands. So from this perspective I would like us to think about longer view and build the capacity now for a big EA movement that will be less effective on the margin while advocating for the most effective choices now in parallel.

Most students who would agree with EA ideas haven't heard of EA yet (results of a large-scale survey)

Why do you think a conversion rate of 5% is shockingly low? Depending on the intervention this can be a high rate in marketing. A fellowship seems like a relatively small commitment and changing the career is a relatively high ask. As we’re not emphasizing earning to give as much as before I would also expect many people to not find high impact work.

DeepMind’s generalist AI, Gato: A non-technical explainer

Thank you for writing this! I found it very helpful as I only saw headlines about Gato before and am not watching developments in AI closely. I liked the length and style of writing very much and would appreciate similar posts in future.

EA and the current funding situation

I share your worries about the effects on culture. At the same time I don't see this vision as bad:

For many months, they will sit down many days a week and ask themselves the question "how can I write this grant proposal in a way that person X will approve of" or "how can I impress these people at organization Y so that I can get a job there?", and they will write long Google Docs to their colleagues about their models and theories of you, and spend dozens of hours thinking specifically about how to get you to do what they want, while drawing up flowcharts that will include your name, your preferences, and your interests.

Imagine a global health charity that wants to get on the GiveWell Top Charities list. Wouldn't we want it to spend much time thinking about how to get there, ultimately changing the way it works in order to come up with the evidence needed to get included? For example, Helen Keller International was founded more than 100 years ago and its vitamin A supplementation program is recommended by GiveWell. I would love to see more external organisations change in order to get EA grants instead of us trying to reinvent the wheel where others might already be good.

Organisations getting started or changing based on the available funding of the EA community seems like a win to me. As long as they have a mission that is aligned with what EA funders want and they are internally mission-aligned we should be fine. I don't know enough about Anthropic for example but they just raised $580M mainly from EAs while not intending to make a profit. This could be a good signal to more organisations out there trying to set up a model where they are interesting to EA funders.

In the end, it comes down to the research and decision making of the grantmaker. GiveWell has a process where they evaluate charities based on effectiveness. In the longterism and meta space, we often don't have such evidence so we may sometimes rely more on the value alignment of people. Ideally, we would want to reduce this dependence and see more ways to independently evaluate grants regardless of the people getting them.

EA and the current funding situation

I was also surprised to be seeing management and scaling organisations described as "rarely people’s favourite activities", this seems to be a strong claim. For me, it's the most motivating activity and I'm trying to find an organisation where I can contribute in this area.

EA and the current funding situation

He might be referring to Gary Wang as he does later in the text, but not sure about this

Do you offset your carbon emissions?

For travel I calculate what offsetting would have cost, take the amount from my travel budget and donate it to EA recommend climate charities (via Effektiv Spenden in Germany).

How do we create a culture of ambition without deteriorating the community’s mental health?

Thank you so much Max for writing this! I started a draft forum post for a proposal just yesterday. My idea was to have groups of EAs that aim high and fail often and that support each other. Knowing that others are in similar situations and having a smallish group to discuss the strain and celebrate trying might make things easier. I at least would like it. I was planning to the share the draft with you anyway and would love to get your take on it.

Increasing Demandingness in EA

Thank you for this post that touches on the important point of demandingness. Personally, I can see it in two ways.

On a global level giving 10% to effective causes is relatively rare. Giving What We Can has grown impressively but still, less than 1 in every 50.000[1] of the world's high-income population have taken it. 10% is higher than the average donations that are below 2% of GDP. Even in the EA survey, only 1/3 have said to donate at least this amount. While some of the top areas in EA seem less funding constraint, there is still much room for spending until for example GiveDirectly can't give away any more money. In that sense, I'm very grateful to anyone who is able and willing to commit to giving 10% or more of their income and would not want to exclude them from seeing themselves as Effective Altruists. If we've funded everything that is equivalent to GiveDirectly's impact or we have at least 50 Mio. people donating 10+% then I'd revisit this but currently, there is still enough to do.

On a personal level, the concept of demandingness has no limit. 10% is just a Schelling point, something that is easy to communicate for people new to the movement, a goal to be reached. Doing good better doesn't stop there and it doesn't stop at thinking about donations. I like the framing of excited altruism better or altruism as a central purpose. Another framing could be that of aiming higher: Continuously stretching for ways to have more impact while taking care of oneself. Each of these framings will have its supporters and I would encourage anyone to select the one that motivates them best. At the same time, the community and its support structure are very important to keep people healthy and motivated when they feel they are failing at their self-set goals.

  1. ^

    Taking the number of 500 Mio. high-income people in the world and 8500 GWWC members

Mid-career people: strongly consider switching to EA work

It’s interesting that this comment talks about more generalist roles being mentioned at EAG that haven’t been publicised. I wonder if it is more likely that specialist roles get ‘officially’ publicised, while the more generalist ones are likelier to not be, maybe to the extent of only living in someone’s head in the style, ‘we could really do with someone to help us out on operations…’

As I was only looking for operations roles I don't know if there is a difference to specialists. At the moment there seems to be a lot of dynamics with orgs getting new funding and being able to expand quickly. People at the orgs might be able to tell you they are in the process of writing a job post or they might already have a document but not have posted it publicly. Also for some jobs I assume it might be easier to approach people or networks before posting them and then dealing with many applications. But this is only speculation.

What I would find really useful as more of a generalist is advice around ‘here’s how to use your skill stack to get a job in EA’.

My impression is that often co-founders of organisations don't know themselves what a generalist might be doing in a year as everything is changing quickly. This seems to be very similar to startups. When hiring I would always point out that a job title in a contract should be seen as a starting point and might have little overlap with the actual job a few months in.

The upside is that as a generalist in a small and growing organisation you can bring your specific talents to the table and have the chance to change the role so that it fits your strengths. You can then help outsource or hire talent that can cover your weaknesses.

For mid-career people, it feels like runway may be less of an impact relative to the knowledge you may be giving up something with a guaranteed impact, even if it may not be optimal, on the basis of uncertain factors.

In terms of giving up something, you might try to get a sabbatical at your current company to try out direct EA work for a year. If this doesn't work out you might discuss quitting on good terms so that they'd be willing to hire you again if they have a job open after a year.  It might be useful to research how likely this would work out for you.

For the general framing of impact, I personally ask myself: How can I increase the expected value of the EA community having a bigger impact? Especially in longtermist organisations, the additional dollar donated might be much less useful at the moment than being a co-founder or an early employee of a new organisation. This can be still true if the organisation has a high risk of failure but might do a lot of good if it succeeds.

I see that this can make it hard for many mid-career people to change jobs and leave a secure position. But in willing to do it, you're filling a neglected gap. The counterfactual expected value of your work might be one or two orders of magnitude higher than earning to give.

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