James Lin

368Joined Nov 2021

Comments
11

Thanks for the thoughts!

I think you're right on sterilization making more sense for mitigation. My thought process was that sterilization of surfaces in hospitals and the air can almost fully prevent infections from spreading. The case for mitigation does feel more natural though.

On choosing ontologies, I think that several frameworks could have worked in theory, but in practice I felt that the mitigate-prevent framework was the simplest to understand for a general audience. As with all frameworks, there are gray areas, but the distinction is clear enough so that the visual makes sense.

Just added a link, hopefully that makes it more accessible! Thanks for pointing this out. 

Thanks for the constructive feedback! I've added a link to a larger image as per your suggestion.

An updateable online list of resources seems useful, and I'm currently working on something similar. QR codes didn't occur to me at all, so thanks for pointing that out! And on zoonotic risk, I was thinking of the other definition (i.e. previously didn't infect humans), though I agree that vectors such as mosquitoes would also count.

On specific rationales, it's often hard to speak explicitly about why things are and aren't low-downside because of info hazard concerns. This is of course a problem when trying to communicate risk levels. This map is just my take on the state of biosecurity interventions. Even within the biosecurity community, there are debates for and against each side. That said, I agree that directed links and resources would be helpful.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond!

Thanks for your comment Linch! We appreciate the feedback.

To clarify, competence and fit are ultimately the most important considerations for a position at the end of the day. We don't think you should prevent talented young people from non-elite backgrounds from taking on senior-level positions. Our claim is closer to: 1) if you create a prestigious website/application/program then you would get better candidates, and 2) experience at an elite institution is one factor among many that is fairly predictive for average competence/specialization. I'm now more more uncertain about whether 1) is true.


I agree with a) in that explicitly aiming at prestige seems to lose a lot of energy better spent aiming elsewhere. I'm not too sure I understand what you mean by b), but to reiterate our point: we think that it's basically pointless (and probably detrimental!) to be elitist for entry level positions, given the selection pressures.

 

Hopefully this clarifies our thinking a bit more, and thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts!

Thanks for taking the time to write this response! We really appreciate the feedback.

A couple of points:

  1. On the first and second point, I agree that we could have been much more rigorous about the specifics of "what we mean by elitism." We mostly mean elite institutions and organizations, which we used interchangeably with elite environments (e.g. having worked at SpaceX, or having studied at MIT).
     
    Sometimes (maybe even often?), the best in the field won't be from an 'elite' institution (e.g. Ramanujan). I agree that elite institutions =/= best talent. The claim that we're making is that elite institutions correlate very strongly with fairly great talent depending on the situation. We mention in the post that elite selection can systematically miss very great people, especially for traits like agency or risk-aversion (entrepreneurial types).
     
  2. "this is less valuable to draw from as on average these people will have faced fewer obstacles and gained less life experience than equally able peers from different socioeconomic brackets." 

    I agree that equally able peers from different socioeconomic brackets could likely be better, for many of the reasons you stated. But the question is how to find these peers? If by equally able, you mean that those students attend the same institutions and the only difference is that they are from a lower socioeconomic bracket, we don't disagree.

    "You mention earlier traits like 'leadership' and 'agency'"
    It's hard to speak about these things without concrete numbers, and there's no doubt that leadership is also formed in people without access to elite environments. On agency, I agree with you. We explicitly mentioned it as a trait that isn't correlated much with elite environments.
     
  3. On the last point, I've clarified our point and edited the original post. The claim is that people with the affordance to focus a lot of time on EA tend to skew towards people with the privilege to do so. There are certainly many dedicated EAs who haven't come from places of privilege, and they've worked incredibly hard to get to where they are. I think this is awesome! I don't want to discount any of this. But often, the foundational and basic needs need to be satisfied (e.g. financial, time, etc).

As a final note, I want to emphasize that people from non-elite institutions can, and often do amazing work. Elite institutions don't ensure the "best" people, or even "better people", simply a baseline of fairly competent people depending on what your situation is.

Thanks again for writing up your comment! We really want to encourage discussion around topics that are often "taboo" but important and widely present in the movement.

I think this is an interesting consideration!

I'm still curious about the opportunity cost for those people's time, though.  On first pass, it seems likely that if you feel overqualified for a position, it probably tracks something important and you should look into alternative ways of maximizing your impact. But it's good to keep in mind that even if you feel overqualified, there are legitimate reasons to still choose that position besides looking for a job.

This website is great for all things science fiction. Here's a list of technologies that were predicted (there are hundreds!):

http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/ctnlistalpha.asp 

This sounds super exciting! Despite working in biosecurity field-building, for some reason running paper-writing competitions never occurred to me, but I think this seems like a promising direction to point biosecurity-keen students towards.

You mentioned that writing the paper took 40-60 hours, but what about the time commitment for reading papers / talking with experts?

This is a really cool initiative! I think we need more organizations like ProPublica, and at the same time we should tap into existing publications and persuade them that EA ideas are good.

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