Wiki Contributions


Why and how to be excited about megaprojects

Thank you, this gets at something that had been bothering me about the megaprojects discourse, and your diagram articulates it very well. I also agree that efficiency is not the most important consideration once you get to a certain level of ambition.

With that said, it seems important to point out that planning/due diligence, piloting, and early-stage growth capital for potentially effective megaprojects could often still meet or exceed the efficiency bar from an expected-value standpoint, albeit with a much higher probability of failure than e.g. GiveWell's recommended charities.

[Edit: added "due diligence" to "planning" since not all megaprojects can be piloted easily.]

Momentum 2022 updates (we're hiring)

Just wanted to say that I found this update really impressive and the case for (and against) impact clearly presented. Well done!

Convergence thesis between longtermism and neartermism

Yes, we have an institutional prioritization analysis in progress that uses both neartermist and longtermist lenses explicitly and also tries to triangulate between them (in the spirit of Sam's advice that "Doing Both Is Best"). We'll be sending out a draft for review towards the end of this month and I'd be happy to include you in the distribution list if interested.

With respect to LT impact/issues, it is a broad tent approach although the theory of change to make change in an institution could be more targeted depending on the specific circumstances of that institution.

Convergence thesis between longtermism and neartermism

Not to speak for Linch, but my understanding of Lizka's overall point is that IIDM-style work that is not sufficiently well-targeted could be net-negative. A lot of people think of IIDM work primarily from a tools- and techniques-based lens (think e.g. forecasting), which means that more advanced tools could be used by any institution to further its aims, no matter whether those aims are good/productive or not. (They could also be put to use to further good aims but still not result in better decisions because of other institutional dysfunctions.) This lens is in contrast to the approach that Effective Institutions Project is taking to the issue, which considers institutions on a case-by-case basis and tries to understand what interventions would cause those specific institutions to contribute more to the net good of humanity.

Making large donation decisions as a person focused on direct work

As the person who became Catherine's co-lead on this project, I just want to second everything she says above. I found being a part of this donor circle to be a really amazing experience, and I agree that because of our nimble structure and specific focus we were able to find opportunities that other people hadn't picked up on. For example, we were among the earliest supporters of Fast Grants, and we also provided critical early support for a global initiative to synthesize evidence about COVID that eventually attracted a $1M grant from the Canadian government in no small part because of our investment.

For what it's worth, I'm personally quite excited about the value of doing more of this kind of networked philanthropic advising  and am pretty sure it's going to be a major focus of the second half of my career, so I'd be happy to explore collaborating  with you and anyone else in a similar-ish position.

Helping newcomers be more objective with career choice

I am someone who held on to prior career plans after encountering EA for what, in retrospect, feels like too long in light of my goals at the time. So I recognize the phenomenon you're describing in the post, but at the same time I was not interested in re-examining my career when I first encountered EA and I am quite confident that if anyone had tried to directly persuade me that my plans were misguided, it would have turned me off from the movement in much the same way as your friend who left the Precipice reading group. 

For engaging with people who are interested in EA ideas but otherwise similarly stuck on their career plan, I suggest the following:

  • Ask them what role they see their career playing in their life. What are they trying to accomplish with their career? If the answer is anything besides "to have the most impact I can," that probably explains most of the disconnect between what you and they see as ideal career plans. [ETA: Khorton expanded on this idea much more eloquently in another comment.]
  • Ask what they love most about their current work, and what they find limiting or frustrating about it.
  • Ask what else they thought about doing with their lives before settling on their career plan, and what was attractive about those other options. Centering the conversation on paths they already thought about first can help reveal other considerations that their current career is trading off against.
  • At this point, you could ask if they could ever imagine switching to something else in the future. If they say no, they're not ready to have a conversation about it, so just drop it. If they say yes or maybe, they will probably offer some unprompted thoughts on what they might switch to, which can then provide an opening for you to offer ideas that are aligned with the goals they shared with you at the beginning but could be higher-impact than their current option set.

Thinking about other career possibilities is a necessary first step, but for someone anchored on their current career it will likely take some time for them to act on those thoughts. To accelerate the process, you could prompt them (maybe in a subsequent conversation) to think about what circumstances would cause them to actually make a switch. Again, it's crucial to do this in a way that isn't pushy or manipulative -- you need to have achieved some buy-in from them to get to this point rather than jumping straight to it.

Hope that helps!

Effective Altruism: The First Decade (Forum Review)

Suggestion/request: all past Forum Prize winners should be automatically nominated.

What are some success stories of grantmakers beating the wider EA community?

This is really interesting, does anyone know which funder(s) stepped in and saved the day?

EA megaprojects continued

Just noting that in the comments of the original post by Nathan Young that the authors linked to, the top-upvoted suggestion was to offset the gap in nuclear security funding created by the MacArthur Foundation's exit from the field. I recently had an opportunity to speak to someone who was there at the time of MacArthur's decision and can share more about that privately, but suffice to say that our community should not treat the foundation's shift in priorities as a strong signal about the importance or viability of work in this space going forward.

Where should I donate?

Thanks for your interest! I'm hoping to get us set up for online donations in the near future, but until then, the easiest thing is to write me here or at ian@effectiveinstitutionsproject.org and I'll send you some options for check/wire.

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