Wiki Contributions


Shelly Kagan - readings for Ethics and the Future seminar (spring 2021)

I think the big ones were the cluelessness week and the small probabilities week.

 Cluelessness week pointed out that we can't really know the long-term effects of our actions. So people became suspicious that we can knowably affect the long-term future at all. This ended up being more of an empirical claim than a moral one.

The small probabilities week was challenging when put to the extreme (ie: God at your deathbed thought experiment). Additionally, some felt like the numbers of the expected future that people like  Bostrom use were basically pulled out of thin air- along with the tiny probabilities of various actions affecting that future.  So they were again pretty suspicious of the empirics here as well.

Shelly Kagan - readings for Ethics and the Future seminar (spring 2021)

I was lucky enough to get to take this class and really enjoyed it (though it was very difficult!). I thought it did a good job of showing both strengths and weaknesses in longtermism.  Interestingly, it seemed to have pretty different impacts on different students with some becoming significantly less longtermist and a few becoming more longtermist. Would be happy to answer any questions people have about the course :)

Yale EA’s Fellowship Application Scores were not Predictive of Eventual Engagement

Hi Tony!

We actually originally created the scoring breakdown partly to help with unconscious biases. Before, we had given people a general score after an interview but we learned that that is often really influenced by biases and that breaking scores down into components with specific things to look for would reduce that.  We are hoping the checkbox system we are trialing out this semester will reduce it even more as it aims to be even more objective. It is still possible, though, that it would lead to a systemic bias if the checkboxes themselves have one ingrained in them. We will be on the lookout for that and it is part of the reason we are not using it for selection this round :)


Additionally, at the end of the selection process we would look into the demographics of the selected fellows compared to all those being interviewed. Fortunately, for the past several years our selections actually were pretty representative of the total demographics of applicants. Unfortunately, our diversity of applicants, particularly racial, has not been as high as we would like and we are looking for ways to change that. 


As for an experimental approach - I would be interested if you had any ideas on how to go about doing that?   

Yale EA’s Fellowship Application Scores were not Predictive of Eventual Engagement

My instinctual response to this was: "well it is not very helpful to admit someone for whom it would be great if they got into EA if they really seem like they won't".

 However, since it seems like we are not particularly good at predicting whether they will get involved or not maybe this is a metric we should incorporate. (My intuition is that we would still want a baseline? There could be someone it would be absolutely amazing to have get involved but if they are extremely against EA ideas and disruptive that might lower the quality of the fellowship for others.) 

I am not super confident, though, that we would be very good at predicting this anyways. Are there certain indicators of this that you would suggest? I am also really not sure how/when we would collect feedback.  Also open to thoughts here. 

Personality traits associated with being involved in EA?

Thank you so much for this! It is super helpful! Is the raw data from the 2018 survey available anywhere?

Evidence on correlation between making less than parents and welfare/happiness?

From what I have read there is an important difference between perceptions of life satisfaction and well-being/happiness. Perception of life satisfaction continues to grow but actual affective well-being basically stops increasing after around $75,000. I have seen this a lot stemming back to this study. I did most of my research on this a few years ago so it might be outdated. Of course well being research is just really difficult and it is still unknown what exactly we should be measuring.

Some thoughts on EA outreach to high schoolers

Note: While I contributed to one of the posts about unsuccessful high-school outreach my experience with teaching EA concepts to high schoolers is much more limited than the others in the post. Most of my thoughts on this are based off of a few experiences teaching high schoolers, discussions with other people teaching high schoolers, my relative freshness out of high school (Graduated in 2017), and some extrapolations from running Yale EA and interacting with first-years.

As someone who contributed to one of the posts about unsuccessful high-school outreach I agree that outreach to high schoolers is not a lost cause (though I am inclined to think the majority of value would come from students in their last two years of high school since they will have a better grasp on topics and are closer to college).

I think even in just the few years after these posts were written we have learned a lot about movement building that could possibly contribute to more successful outreach. Particularly having more targeted outreach seems to be promising.

Catherine Low suggests here (though her opinions may have changed):

“This might be possible if you have a strong brand (such as an association with elite University) allowing you to attract suitable students through schools and other networks, and the resources to run a fellowship-type program with these students”

University group leaders have found that marketing their Fellowships as “prestigious” brings in more and better applicants. I imagine if you add prestige, the possibility of being able to add the program to college apps, and some selection process you could draw in a pretty promising high school crowd to a similar program. (However, if you did this I would disagree with your pro that there is “There’s less competition for the attention and time of younger people” since these types of students are often incredibly busy although they are more free in summers)

I agree with Peter’s concern about continued engagement. My inclination would be that a lot of the value would come from getting these students to then join their respective University group or start their own. This would probably require a bit more of a focus on community building as being particularly valuable.

As for concerns of the delicate nature of outreach to high schoolers, I think this should really be talked and thought about more. High schoolers being susceptible to ideas coming from older impressive people has its advantages and disadvantages. I haven’t thought about this enough to really contribute but would like to.

Lastly, most of my optimism around this would be specifically for EA outreach as opposed to rationality outreach. I pretty much agree with all of your concerns about rationality outreach listed in cons here and at least personally think they outweigh the pros of having purely rationality outreach rather than mainly EA outreach with some rationality concepts. I do think you can greatly minimize the concern of people losing intellectual hobbies as a result of getting involved in EA if this concern is built into the curriculum (ie: how to be sustainable in your altruism, the value of non-directly EA activities etc.)

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