Managing Director @ Leaf
2557 karmaJoined Working (6-15 years)London N19, UK



Jamie is Managing Director at Leaf, an independent nonprofit that supports exceptional teenagers to explore how they can best save lives, help others, or change the course of history.

Jamie previously worked as a teacher, as a researcher at the think tank Sentience Institute, and as co-founder and researcher at Animal Advocacy Careers, which helps people to maximise their positive impact for animals.


Topic contributions

Yep, I realise that. 

Also feel like a big limitation is that this data comes from asking current orgs. Asking current orgs how many "connectors" they need feels a bit like asking a company how many CEOs they want.

Nonetheless, still an update! E.g. this bit was slightly surprising to me:

Funders of independent researchers we’ve interviewed think that there are plenty of talented applicants, but would prefer more research proposals focused on relatively few existing promising research directions (e.g., Open Phil RFPs, MATS mentors' agendas), rather than a profusion of speculative new agendas. This leads us to believe that they would also prefer that independent researchers be approaching their work from an Iterator mindset, locating plausible contributions they can make within established paradigms, rather than from a Connector mindset, which would privilege time spent developing novel approaches.

I found this helpful. It updated me towards the importance of finding/supporting iterators, relative to connectors. Thank you!

I agree with the basic point you're making (I think) and I suspect either:

(1) we disagree about how much you should negatively update, i.e. how bad this data makes bioethicists look


(2) we don't actually disagree and this is just due to language being messy (or me misinterpreting you)

Thanks a lot for collecting this survey! I think it's valuable to solicit 'external' (to the EA community) views on important questions that affect our decision-making, especially from plausible expert groups.

I'm quite shocked at the vehemence and dismissiveness of many of the comments on this post responding to these results. Here are some quotes from other commenters:


"Preventing a death is equally important irrespective of age" strikes me as a genuinely insane position... No one would be indifferent between extending someone's life by an hour, even a very valuable hour, and extending another person's ordinary life by 30 years. But it's just really strange to endorse that, but not apply the same logic to saving a 20-year old person over a 100-year old person.


Yeah, it's just transparently stupid stuff like "Each life counts for one and that is why more count for more. For this reason we should give priority to saving as many lives as we can, not as many life-years." [Caveat, this quote is slightly out of context... it's actually responding to the comment above.]


Results give some support to the notion that bioethicists are more like PR professionals, geared to reproducing common sentiments rather than a group that is OK with sometimes taking difficult stances. Questions 6 & 7 especially seem like vague left-wing truisms... I still can't get over 40% thinking being blind would be not disadvantaging if society was "justly designed".


It's really pretty shocking to me how badly this makes bioethicists look.


Here are some possible explanations for the supposedly crazy results:

  • There are reasons, logic, or evidence that are considered or known amongst (some? many?) bioethicists that you yourself are not familiar with.
  • There are reasons, logic, or evidence that you are familiar with that (some? many?) bioethicists are not.
  • There are multiple conflicting principles or heuristics that apply in a different case, and the respondents just weigh those differently to you. E.g. this strikes me as likely what's happening with the "It is most important to prevent someone from dying at which of the following ages" question.
  • The respondents have different ethical systems and worldviews to you, e.g. placing more weight on virtue ethics relative to consequentialism. That doesn't make them insane or unthoughtful; ethics is really tough and probably depends on a lot of things like your upbringing. (Otherwise people would have similar ethical views across cultures, which clearly isn't true.)


I share the intuition that many of the results in the survey seem surprising, and very discrepant from my own views. But regardless of whether you understand the reasons, surely after seeing that a group of people holds substantially different views to your own, your all-things-considered belief should shift at least somewhat towards those views, even if your "independent impression" does not? Especially when that group has years of relevant thought or expertise; these facts make it more likely that there are valid reasons underpinning their beliefs. Where there are discrepancies, there's a chance that they are right and you/we are wrong. 

I'm worried that some of the quotes above represent something like cognitive dissonance or a boomerang effect. Or at least they seem more like "soldier mindset" than I'd expect here, although I note some exceptions where several commenters (including some of those I quoted above) ask others for input on helping to understand and steelman the bioethicists' views.

[Edit: the following paragraph felt true at the time of writing but I regret writing it as it seems pointlessly offensive/inflammatory itself in hindsight. I apologise to the people I quoted above.] Honestly, seeing the prevalence of these kinds of reactions in the comments makes me feel less confident in the epistemic health of this community and more worried about groupthink type effects. (Maybe some of these commenters have reasons for their vehemence and dismissiveness that I'm missing?)

Very interesting results. They seem surprisingly animal-friendly/considerate to me.

"The survey title and introduction didn’t mention objectives of the survey, except that it is about animal welfare".

To check, could people see this before deciding whether or not to take the survey? If they could, I'd expect that to skew the participation substantially towards people who already care disproportionately about animals, or think them to be closer in capacity to humans etc.

If so, did you collect any demographic information that wasn't filled based on quotas and can be compared to wider Dutch demographic data that might give insight into this? E.g. rates of vegetarianism? Or even if you found that survey participation was filled more quickly by women than by men, I'd take that as a relevant indication, given correlations between gender and various measurements relevant to caring about animals.

(Even if these aspects are similar to the wider population, or you only shared that it was about animal welfare later on after people signed up, I'd expect social desirability bias to influence the results somewhat.)

This is the appropriate reaction! I've shared estimates from Saulius' post with people before hoping for a similar one and am disappointed if it doesn't happen. Feeling things scope-sensitively is hard though.

Oh woops! Apologies for the faff. That worked, thanks!

Hey! Is this Slack still active? I'm getting a notification saying "[!]doesn’t have an account on this workspace" when I click the join link and sign into gmail. Thanks!


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