All of Yonatan Cale's Comments + Replies

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Oh no! I just named my project "Effective Developers"

The Explanatory Obstacle of EA


Just saying, from my point of view, that it's useful to also hear specific ways in which people misunderstand EA. Every time you give an example of that kind, like "what do people in the movement do?", I feel like my brain is updating and will pay attention to this failure mode next time I have such a conversation.

I'm differentiating (1) "concrete examples of misunderstandings" from (2) sentences like "20% of understanding" or "explaining critical nuances of EA": The latter isn't actionable for me personally. (Though I understand why you said it and I'm excited for this improvement that you're able to get, and I'm happy that someone like you is focusing on this project).

1GidonKadosh2dI totally agree. Though it's not concrete examples, these two resources (1 [],2 []) are helpful. Just thinking out loud: Diving deeper into each misconception and providing concrete examples (or even "simulations" for practice) might be a good idea for an EA pitching workshop
The Explanatory Obstacle of EA

Hey, would you share more raw information from the user interviews, if you have it? Even from memory?

7GidonKadosh4dI wish I had some organized interviews written down, and I hope to see more serious market testing work like that within the movement - unfortunately, I didn't have the time to document my interactions explaining about EA. Generally speaking, I tried out different pitches whenever I had the chance to speak about EA, tried to be attentive to responses, asked what do they think about the concept (which is important, because most of the time people would just be supportive or say "wow" while clearly not understanding what EA is about), and shared these experiences with other community builders in Israel and abroad. The vast majority of the responses I received was either very basic questions that show confusion about the concept ("so what does the movement actually do?", "what do people in the movement do?"), responses that show very little understanding, or responses that was kind of OK but then later I realized didn't account for much comprehension (as happened a lot with volunteers - I found myself often explaining critical nuances of EA to people who were involved for quite a while, even if they had actually read our list of intro materials [] ). In addition, I quite often expected people I (even slightly) know to be more excited about EA, and their lack of excitement showed me that our pitches are far from optimal. Once we've developed the current pitch and placed it on our website, I found that: * Volunteers and individuals who seek career advice approached us with far better understanding of EA (far from perfect, but it feels like going from 20% of understanding to 60%) * Within a minute of explanation I get the feeling the person I speak with actually has a general understanding of what I'm talking about * Informal conversations I have about EA make people much more excited That said - much more research is needed, I don't think this is the most optimal pitch we
AI Safety Needs Great Engineers

Thank you



I asked a few friends about this and one of them decided to apply himself, so anyway I think this is turning out well. :)

What Small Weird Thing Do You Fund?
  1. Inspiring
  2. May I ask where this leaves you? For example, are you going to try similar things in the future?
1Ramiro6d1. Thanks. 2. I'm considering writing a post to step into Todd vs. AppliedDivinityStudies fray on small donors. Maybe I'd be willing to do something similar in the future but... it'd be interesting to discuss it with more people first, perhaps someone with more experience in funding weird things
EA Online Learning Buddy Platform

how little people use (or are comfortable using) slack/discord

Even if they use slack/discord very little: They use a new [a new platform that doesn't exist yet and nobody ever used and everyone knows that nobody used] even less. No?

Facebook is the best alternative to make it easier for the people to find and start gaining members

I agree, and again, this is an advantage that a new platform will never have. (right?)

corresponding pages [...] pages idea

Do you mean "Facebook Group" (where you wrote "page")? If not - then I didn't understand, could you explain in other words?

1JaimeRV4dThe platform, as MOOCLAB, is thought to be for the first contact to find the buddy, after that you share your email/fb/... with your buddy and coordinate however you want. In the new platform you would automatically get email notifications when someone replies to your message or sends you a message so the interaction with the platform itself is minimal. I know in slack you can also specify different settings in different groups, .... but less intuitively and there are so many EA (and non-EA) slack groups that many people feel overwhelmed and stop reading messages at all. If there would be an efficient way/channel to promote (new) EA Platforms to all EAs I would say "never say never", but at the moment there is not I am not into Facebook and do not know the difference between "Facebook Group" and "Facebook Page" but whatever works better for this ends. P.S: I sent you an email cause I rarely read this
Should I go straight into EA community-building after graduation or do software engineering first?

Another opinion: I think direct AI research kind of <exaggeration> can't be measured in money </exaggeration>.

Those people are missing, and AFAIK the AI safety orgs really want to hire people that are also aligned in their values, which is hard to find, and offering a high salary isn't enough to find more of those people.

Please note that even if you 100% agree with me, I do not (!) think this a good enough reason on its own to make a decision. Questions like personal fit which I asked above are also really important, and I don't think I know enough about you to actually recommend something specific yet

Should I go straight into EA community-building after graduation or do software engineering first?

FYI, it's not impossible to take naps at some tech companies. This is me around 2014 working in an American corporation, I'd take a nap every second day more or less. I think the situation since then has become even more relaxed (no pun intended) : In my last job, I also took naps, and the bean bag was supplied directly by the Operations department.

Should I go straight into EA community-building after graduation or do software engineering first?
  1. Would you tell us more about where you think you'd have better personal fit / what you'd wake up enthusiastic to do?
  2. Maybe there's some creative solution where the other student communities still come up even if you don't run them? (Perhaps you could delegate this and only mentor the community leaders, or something like that?)
3Yonatan Cale7dAnother opinion: I think direct AI research kind of <exaggeration> can't be measured in money </exaggeration>. Those people are missing, and AFAIK the AI safety orgs really want to hire people that are also aligned in their values, which is hard to find, and offering a high salary isn't enough to find more of those people. Please note that even if you 100% agree with me, I do not (!) think this a good enough reason on its own to make a decision. Questions like personal fit which I asked above are also really important, and I don't think I know enough about you to actually recommend something specific yet
2Yonatan Cale7dFYI, it's not impossible to take naps at some tech companies. This is me around 2014 working in an American corporation, I'd take a nap every second day more or less. I think the situation since then has become even more relaxed (no pun intended) : In my last job, I also took naps, and the bean bag was supplied directly by the Operations department.
Effective Developers: 1 Month Update

Thank you very much, this is very useful for me, specifically that you also added the culture/social norms which there's no way I'd guess myself

A Red-Team Against the Impact of Small Donations

Maybe we should collect the high-variance angel philanthropy ideas somewhere?

2ElliotJDavies7dI was discussing this recently with someone, I think it could be highly valuable to crowdsource ideas related to EA.
What Small Weird Thing Do You Fund?

[This opinion is mine and doesn't represent EA]


I fund an Israeli Facebook Blogger who improves the level of conversation about economics and politics. [Hebrew link]


What problem does this address?

  • As a toy example: Some rich person passes a law forcing every citizen to send the rich person $1 every year. No citizen alone has enough of an incentive to change this law (it's only $1), but they would totally be happy to coordinate somehow.
  • As a realistic example: There are minimum-price regulations, coupled with high import taxes that prevent competit
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What Are Your Software Needs?

(Strong upvote!) (Feel free to split up your reply into separate comments if you want)

EA Colabs

 I'm part of the team there and I have a lot of thoughts around it, perhaps commenting here wouldn't be the best place

"having people sell products where all proceeds go to charity" / "the profits end up to Effective Charities" 

How is this different from earning to give? (Or founders' pledge)

Improving Infrastructure around Cost Effectiveness Analysis

Hearing things like this is why I posted this in the first place!! :D :D 

Could you tell me much more?... (read more)

1Hazelfire9dFor Improving Infrastructure around epistemics and forecasting, Ozzie or Nuno would likely be the best to answer this, so here I'm just trying to put myself in their mind. These ideas are a mixture of mine + a discussion with Ozzie. I would say a clear opportunity would be to investigate looking into writing prediction functions, rather than just predictions. Say for instance "If SpaceX has a press release about an innovation to be released before 2025, then I estimate SpaceX to become a trillion dollar company 5 years earlier". Having such a fidelity makes it possible to understand the best forecasting techniques better and aids in computer systems being able to answer these types of questions. As for as I know, this doesn't exist. As a side note, I think this type of forecasting platform would be awesome for policy evaluation. "If this policy is implemented in X way I predict that the policy will create a decrease in the unemployment rate by Y%". The applications of the proper application of this idea are endless. Another would be creating a platform that allows you to properly calibrate parameters for a Cost Effectiveness Calculation using forecasting, or evaluate outcomes of business decisions using forecasting. I'm not a pro in this area, but that's currently what I see.
2Hazelfire9dFor Improving Infrastructure around Cost Effectiveness Analysis, my current project is pedant []. Pedant is a math DSL that's designed to make it easier to write cost effectiveness analysis. It checks the calculations for things like dimensional violations, and hopefully in the future allows you to calculate with uncertainties and explore cost effectiveness calculations more graphically. I wouldn't say that there are people who are asking for cost effectiveness analysis, and more that they simply aren't done or are of low quality to large amounts of EA causes. For instance, even GiveWell's work that we consider to be the gold standard does not properly account for uncertainty in parameters (although Cole Haus [] has done so in the forum), there is controversy [] around the accuracy of ALLFED's guesstimate Cost Effectiveness Model, which may be systematically optimistic about their parameters, and these are some of the best ones out there! I don't believe ACE uses explicit cost effectiveness calculations, let alone smaller EA organisations. In conversions with Ozzie and Michael Aird I believe that they seem to share a similar sentiment. I mainly just assumed that this problem could be because these calculations are quite difficult to do, take a lot of time, and can be very difficult to get right. So as a developer I just thought tooling. I'm not particularly creative. I would be interested in collaborators. Help I would need includes: * Actual coding of pedant. Mainly you would need to be familiar with Haskell to the extent that you can code basic parsers. * Feedback on development. I'm always on the lookout for people who can tell me when I'm wrong and should
1Hazelfire9d"having people sell products where all proceeds go to charity" is different from simply earning to give as it uses this fact to market to a buyer. The idea is that I may be more willing to purchase a second hand book from someone else if I know that the proceeds go to an effective charity (although I find that this is a surprisingly weak motivator, in my experience people don't purchase things even if they know the money goes to an effective charity...). I run a bookstore to this end that is currently not that successful, that I really want to see become a larger thing. Although this is likely mainly because I'm not that good at running shopify stores. [] I have a friend who's interested in much more ambitious ideas than this.
AI Safety Needs Great Engineers

Hey, I think I'm a good software developer, but I have roundable-to-zero knowledge in ML.

Can you help me estimate how far I am from the bar of being useful to such a project? [Update: I'm consulting with friends about this]

It would also be useful for me to understand the requirements well since lately I talk to other engineers who are sometimes interested in working on AI Safety if they can


2Andy Jones8dI'm hoping to have some comprehensive advice out on this Soon(TM), but my sense is that if you're familiar with multivariable calculus/linear algebra/probability then it's a few months' full-time-work-equivalent to skill up in ML to the point where it's no longer the constraining factor in being hired as an ML engineer. If you're not familiar with multivar calc/linear algebra/probability then it's a bit of a longer path and a harder one to predict, since I think ease-with-maths varies more widely than ease-with-ML.
Despite billions of extra funding, small donors can still have a significant impact

You said:

The cost-effectiveness of this [small $100] grant should be basically the same as the final $1,000 that Open Philanthropy donated.

The counter argument that comes to mind (I have no idea if it's true) :

If Open Philanthropy donate to a longtermist cause, won't Open Phil donate all the money that this org needs (before it hits significant diminishing returns)? Is there still room for more funding? 

I don't know

8Benjamin_Todd10dThis is the problem with the idea of 'room for funding'. There is no single amount of funding a charity 'needs'. In reality there's just a diminishing return curve. Additional donations tend to have a little less impact, but this effect is very small when we're talking about donations that are small relative to the charity's budget (if there's only one charity you want to support), or small relative to the EA community as a whole if you take a community perspective.
What is most confusing to you about AI stuff?

I think that as a software developer I can't really help with this problem, but I'm not sure and would I'd like input from people in the field

3SamClarke9dA timely post: [] (The focus is software engineering not development, but should still be informative.)
What is most confusing to you about AI stuff?

I'd like help vetting this role.

Here's my attempt

(Is this on-topic enough?)

Database of orgs relevant to longtermist/x-risk work

But also, I tried, and I think 0 such needs surfaced

That's what the experimental method is for, so that we don't have to resolve things just by arguing


Database of orgs relevant to longtermist/x-risk work

I agree I won't get everything


Still, I don't think Google is a good example. It is full of developers who have a culture of automating things and even free time every week to do side projects. This is really extreme.


A better example would be some organization that has 0 developers. If you ask someone in such an organization if there's anything they want to automate, or some repetitive task they're doing a lot, or an idea for an app (which is probably terrible but will indicate an underlying need) - things come up

3Yonatan Cale10dBut also, I tried [] , and I think 0 such needs surfaced :) []
BERI is hiring an ML Software Engineer

Hey, this sounds like something that I (or someone I might know) could do.

But I'm unable to evaluate how useful this would be for AI Safety. I can make an uninformed guess at best.

Is there some open conversation about this somewhere, with other AI safety people, that I could look at and maybe even ask questions?

1sawyer10dGreat question Yonatan! Unfortunately I'm not aware of such a discussion. The job posting links to the website and academic paper for you to read, if that would help you. Also, this work is funded by a project-specific grant from the Long-Term Future Fund. So to the extent that you trust LTFF's judgment on these sorts of things, that might be evidence for it being good for AI Safety.
Database of orgs relevant to longtermist/x-risk work

EA Software Consultancy: In case you don't know these posts:


Part 1

In part 1, I argue that tech work at EA orgs has three predictable problems:[1]

  • It’s bad for developing technical skills
  • It's inefficiently allocated
  • It’s difficult to assess hires

Part 2

In this part I argue that each problem could be mitigated or even fixed by consolidating the workers into a single agency. I focus here on the benefits common to any form of agency

Part 3

This post explicitly compares the low-bono option with various others on two axes: on entity type (ie individual or agenc

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2Ozzie Gooen10dYea, I was briefly familiar. I think it's still tough, and agree with Ben's comment here. [] But I think consultancy engineers could be a fit for maybe ~20-40% of EA software talent.
Database of orgs relevant to longtermist/x-risk work
  1. Developers who'd like to do EA work: Not only full time
  2. I'm talking about discovering needs here. I'm not talking at all about how the needs would be solved

Working at an EA org to discover needs: This seems much slower than asking people who work there, no? (I am not trying to guess the needs myself)

2Ozzie Gooen10dIt really depends on how sophisticated the work is and how tied it is to existing systems. For example, if you wanted to build tooling that would be useful to Google, it would probably be easiest just to start a job at Google, where you can see everything and get used to the codebases, than to try to become a consultant for Google, where you'd ask for very narrow tasks that don't require you to be part of their confidential workflows and similar.
What Are Your Software Needs?

Answering for myself: This post is supposed to optimize for collecting new information, not for filtering/sorting/handling the information. At least that was my intent

What Are Your Software Needs?

I agree, this is only an attempt to surface a subset of needs that (I'm guessing) don't currently have a good way to surface.

Give Me Career Advice

This sounds very interesting. I'm moving in that direction slowly

Ecosystems vs Projects in EA Movement Building

Software Development / Technology:

This is somewhat starting here

(Nothing official, feel free to do something else instead. I'm only writing this in case someone else, like me, searches for "software" here)

What Are Your Software Needs?

I don't think I understood: 

  1. This is already a question post (thanks to Nathan for suggesting it)
  2. Do you want to pick what to work on based on upvotes? I don't think I'd do it that way (or maybe I didn't understand you?)
4Ozzie Gooen13dSigh... sorry; This is a question post, but it's more specific than my post. It's asking groups what their needs are, which will result in different answers than the sorts of ideas I provided. The ideas I gave weren't ones that were explicitly asked for. They were instead ones I've noticed, and, having spent a while investigate, think they would be good bets. Many are more technical/abstract than I'd expect people would understand, especially when thinking "what are my software needs" In my experience, this is one nice way of coming up with ideas, but it's definitely not the only way. I think this might be getting into the weeds though. The TLDR is that I expect that this question will be useful for surfacing a subset of ideas from the community, but it doesn't seem like the be-all-end-all of feedback for software projects.
What Are Your Software Needs?

Sounds like Lunchclub, do you know it?

1--alex--12dLunchclub sucks. Their matching is terrible. I tried it a few times and quit. They have focused too much on monetization and not enough on a good user experience. Calendly + EAs provide a good platform and community to build on. Feel free to use my calendly []and LinkedIn []and manually book meetings with other EAs who also have calendly, per Paul Graham -- []
[Unofficial PR FAQ] Posting more jobs to the forum (but they are hidden by default)

If this is intended to make it more easy or inviting to post jobs (?) then I don't know if this is actually a problem, but I also suspect something like this enough for me to try something [as you've undoubtably seen :) ].

If it is indeed a problem, I think giving people karma to encourage them to post more jobs/pain-points/whatever is an easy call

[Unofficial PR FAQ] Posting more jobs to the forum (but they are hidden by default)

Hey, as someone who's considering where to work, I'd be happy if:

  1. I'd have lots of visible options, in an accessible filterable way
  2. There would be an option to publicly discuss (or even vet) the jobs
  3. In the 80000 hours job board, there isn't a good filter for remote work that can be done from any location (this was relevant to friends of mine)
    1. But otherwise I don't think it would help me if someone would repost jobs from there
  4. Getting a "stream" of jobs (such as a Twitter bot) probably wouldn't be useful since I don't expect to stay in this situation for long
What Are Your Software Needs?

I'll comment [very much for the sake of making conversation] that I agree they should know about each other if somehow they don't, but also that there are advantages in keeping them as competitors

3Nathan Young13dI think both were passion projects and lack continued development.
2Nathan Young13dBut I think there should be a single canonical list.

I moved the post to be a draft

Ah, my bad, didn't notice that option. Quick help: Should I delete this post and open a question? Something else?

1Yonatan Cale13dI moved the post to be a draft
Opportunity Costs of Technical Talent: Intuition and (Simple) Implications
  1. If you're a software developer reading this and you think you aren't taking advantage of this situation, consider talking to me. I know all sorts of common problems and potential solutions for this which I think are worth talking about
  2. From an employer's point of view, I'd consider take advantage of this situation by finding employees who haven't changed jobs for a long time.
  3. "I've so far seen multiple incredibly promising effective altruists leave effective altruist nonprofits because the money outside of them was just too good": 
    1. I'm surprised by this
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Free 1:1 Learning Coaching!

Ah! Sounds like I just didn't understand it well. +1!

EA Online Learning Buddy Platform

Facebook: as far as I know you cannot have in a group different pages for different topics.

Perhaps have one group for one topic as an MVP?

Slack [and discord]: in the 10+ EA slack groups I am in, most of them people go to introduce themselves and never come back

Do you think this is a problem with the features in Slack/Discord?

a small MVP would be I think fairly easy to implement.

This is not my intuition, especially since the features of Facebook/Slack/Discord don't seem to be enough. Maybe I'm not in sync with what you imagine as an MVP?

But if the platform

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1JaimeRV6d* Facebook: not optimal but as MVP might do * Slack/Discord: it has nothing to do with the features but with how little people use (or are comfortable using) slack/discord outside their already existing EA Groups/Projects. In Facebook people are more active in general but if you have data to prove my wrong happy to be wrong :) * what I imagine as MVP as mentioned in the post is a simpler MOOCLAB: [] I think also the critical mass of people is important. The post has not reached many people so probably Facebook is the best alternative to make it easier for the people to find and start gaining members fast in the corresponding pages, even if the pages idea seems far from optimal.
2-week summer course in "economic theory and global prioritization": LMK if interested!

I'd probably watch/listen to recordings if they'd exist, and I'd ask questions (mainly making sure I understood), if I could.

If you'd consider doing this, the main thing that would help me is paying attention to the audio quality (probably having a microphone connected to you. I'd be happy to order you one, if that would help).

My ECON background is pop "econ 101" / efficient-market stuff, and my understanding of macro is really really limited

Good to know, thanks!

Video recordings are among the "more polished and scalable educational materials" I was thinking might come out of this; i.e. to some extent the course lectures would serve as a trial run for any such videos. That wouldn't be for a year or so, I'm afraid. But if it happens, I'll make sure to get a good attached mike, and if I can't get my hands on one elsewhere I'll keep you in mind. : )

Database of orgs relevant to longtermist/x-risk work

Two lists I'm considering making:

  1. Software developers who are interested in doing paid EA work (According to 80000 hours, it seems to be hard to hire software developers for EA orgs even though lots of software developers seem to exist in our community. Seems confusing. This would be a cheap first try at solving it)
  2. Pain points that could potentially be solved by software - from EA orgs (see #6 here. The post is about looking for places to invest in software. I think the correct place to approach this would be to start from actual needs. But there's no place
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5Ozzie Gooen12dI'll note: 1. When you say "paid", do you mean full-time? I've found that "part-time" people often drop off very quickly. Full-time people would be the domain of 80,000 Hours, so I'd suggest working with them on this. 2. "no place for orgs to surface such needs beyond posting a job" -> This is complicated. I think that software consultancy models could be neat, and of course, full-time software engineering jobs do happen. Both are a lot of work. I'm much less excited about volunteer-type arrangements, outside of being used to effectively help filter candidates for later hiring. I think that a lot of people just really can't understand or predict what would be useful without working in an EA org or in an EA group/hub. It took me a while! The obvious advice would be for people who want to really kickstart things, is to first try to work in or right next to an EA org for a year or so; then you'll have a much better sense.
2MichaelA14dBoth sound to me probably at least somewhat useful! I'm ~agnostic on how likely they are to be very useful, how they compare to other things you could spend your time on, or how best to do them, which is mostly because I haven't thought much about software development. I expect some other people in the community (e.g., Ozzie Gooen, Nuno Sempere, JP Addison) would have more thoughts on that. But it might make sense to just spend like 0.5-4 hours on MVPs before asking anyone else, if you already have a clear enough idea in your head. I can also imagine having a Slack workspace / Slack channel in an existing workspace for people in EA who are doing software development or are interested in that could perhaps be useful. (Sidenote: You may also be interested in posts tagged software engineering [] and/or looking into their authors/commenters.)
Free 1:1 Learning Coaching!

My personal feedback from the post: I think "learning" is more generic than what you're doing. If I remember correctly, you're specifically going for "learning how to memorize facts [using Anki]". I'd intuitively write the more specific version

2alexanderklarge14dHey Yonatan, cheers for the feedback! If you haven't already then key ideas guide 2 [] sums up my rebuttals to the "anki is just for facts" view. Definitely agree that I'm only coaching on computer-based learning (Anki + Obsidian mostly), but would argue that as Anki uses the best techniques for learning (spaced repetition, active recall, active encoding), it's fair for me to advertise this as learning coaching. The aim is effective learning, the tool is Anki (+ Obsidian if people are interested!). There are things like experiential learning and generative learning that I won't be covering, but I don't claim to be a one-stop shop for all learning methods
Free 1:1 Learning Coaching!

Hey, first of all +1 for offering coaching, I think this is healthy for early stage projects like this (which might still need product market fit) because 1-on-1 meetings give a lot more important feedback than visitors in a website.

1Yonatan Cale15dMy personal feedback from the post: I think "learning" is more generic than what you're doing. If I remember correctly, you're specifically going for "learning how to memorize facts [using Anki]". I'd intuitively write the more specific version
Ambitious Altruistic Software Engineering Efforts: Opportunities and Benefits

Regarding "Twitter that promotes good discussions", check out what the LessWrong team is considering [link to comment on], looks really exciting!


Plus the amazing process that seems to be going on around it [from the same linked comment]:

Probably what's going to happen next is that we're going to implement more than one variation on voting, and pick a few posts where comments will use alternate voting systems.

2Ozzie Gooen14dAgreed!
How to decide which productivity coach to try?

This post by a rationalist/EA therapist helped me put some thoughts into words:

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