Jeff Kaufman

Software Engineer @ Nucleic Acid Observatory
Working (6-15 years of experience)


Software engineer in Boston, parent, musician. Recently switched from earning to give to direct work in pandemic mitigation. Married to Julia Wise. Speaking for myself unless I say otherwise.

Full list of EA posts:


Looking at recent EA forum posts in these areas, do EAs investigating how much juvenile insects matter relative to adult ones really have much more in common with ones working on loneliness than they do with ones evaluating reducing x-risk with a more resilient food supply?

I think a split along the lines of how "respectable" your cause area is might be possible (though still not a good idea):

But in each of these buckets I've put at least one thing I think that would normally be called longtermist and one that wouldn't.

Another example: here's a comment created with a new anonymous account, I think so they could use the "username" field as a subject line for their comment?

Nonoverlapping doesn't mean no COI. Imagine Org1 grants to Org2, which grants to many orgs:

Org1 board: A, B, C

Org2 board: D, E, F

Grantees: lots of people

Imagine there are COIs between each person with probably X.

Each grantee org has a 3X chance of COI with Org2, and 3X with Org1. You care more about the ones with Org2, but Org1 matters too.

Now imagine C and F are the same person. The chance of COI is unchanged: 3X with each org.

And if you're worried about auditing you have 6 connections to audit per grantee in the first case, and five in the second. It's true that auditing a single C=F board member is more work then auditing just C or F, but it's probably less work than auditing both C and F. (And there definitely isn't exponentially more total work.)

How would having Claire on both boards instead of it being two different people obscure conflicts of interest? I would have expected that point to cut the other way?

(Ex: someone on OP's board has a COI with someone EVF is considering granting to, and pressure is passed along.)

While it is common for funders to serve on boards, it is not necessarily best practice.

This phrasing is a bit weasely. Is the claim that it's bad for funders to serve on boards? That it is not best practice? If that's what you think, why do you think that?

(Given how much of EVF's budget comes from OP, them having representation on EVF's board seems reasonable to me.)

I interpreted "some of which have come under fire" as a polite way of saying they thought the purchase was clearly wrong and reflected poorly on Zabel's judgement. If they weren't trying to bring the wisdom of the decision into their argument I think they would have just left it at her being an example of a funder having a board seat?

I do agree, though, that relitigating it here isn't helpful.

I think this is worth talking about, but I think it's probably a bad idea. I should say up front that I have a pretty strong pro-transparency disposition, and the idea of hiding public things from search engines feels intuitively wrong to me.

I think this has similar problems to the proposal that some posts should be limited to logged-in users, and I see two main downsides:

  • Discussion of community problems on the Forum is generally more informed and even-handed than I see elsewhere. To take the example of FTX, if you look on the broader internet there was lots of uninformed EA bashing. The discussion on the forum was in many places quite negative, but usually those were places where the negativity was deserved. On most EA community issues the discussion on the Forum is something I would generally want to point interested people at, instead of them developing their perspective with only information available elsewhere.

  • I expect people would respond to their words being somewhat less publicly visible by starting to talk more as if they are chatting off the record among friends, and that seems very likely to backfire. The Forum has search functionality, RSS feeds, posts with public URLs, and posts and comments are indefinitely persistent. Anyone here who comes across something that rubs them the wrong way can link it to a journalist, journalists can use search, some readers here are journalists, etc. The proposal would make it harder for the lowest effort bashers, but an exchange it sets up a richer pool of material for people who are only slightly more dedicated.

I also just think it's good for people to be able to find things. If someone is considering getting into EA I do want them to be able to learn about the potential bad things as well as the stuff we're proud of, and I want them to see the discussions and see how we handle these issues.

Downvoted for unilateralism. We should talk about whether this information should be listed here, not jump to posting it.

my general impression was that that community would have looked extremely dimly on anything like the abuses of power described in the OP

I'm not in the Bay or London, but I would expect the abuses of power describing the OP to be looked at extremely dimly anywhere? Is there something in the article or about your impression of the situation that leads you to think they were viewed differently in the Bay than they would have been in London?

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