jlemien

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Books on authoritarianism, Russia, China, NK, democratic backsliding, etc.?

I'm fairly focused on China (studied China in university, speak Mandarin, live in China, read about 50 books on/about China during the past 10 years).

While there are plenty of books that can give you a general feel or a broad understanding of some trends in society (Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, China in Ten Words, China's Millennials: The Want Generation), and there are a few books regarding specific parts of the government/policy (The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers, Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China, Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century, When A Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind Or Destroy It
), I don't know of many books that are focusing specifically on authoritarianism. I suspect that there are quite a few journal articles from political science scholars who focus on Chinese government/governance.

One assumption I have here is that you only/primarily would read in English. If you can read in Chinese, then there is a far more vast swath of literature available from Hong Kong and from Taiwan about China.

80,000 Hours one-on-one team plans, plus projects we’d like to see

I'd like to second the opinion that it is a bit of a turn off that the resources go toward people who already have resources. I understand that "justice" and "equality of opportunity" aren't core EA concerns, and I also realize that giving an hour of time to a person at an elite university who has received lots of educational benefits in life very well may have a higher ROI than giving an hour of time to a "normal" person (I'm using normal here to indicate a person who grew up in a family with a more median income, and who went to a less outlier school).

Unfortunately, I don't have a solution for this. The current practice is very much in line with the career advice on 80,000 Hours, which seems to be primarily applicable to people who are able to get jobs at McKinsey, get into PhD Programs about Artificial Intelligence, and able to earn well-above a median income. Elitism isn't inherently a bad thing; it can sometimes simply be a way of having high standards.

For context, I'm writing this as a person who grew up in a lower-middle class family, who didn't live in a big city with lots of opportunities, who went to a university that is not famous, and who has never earned more than the average income. I'm privileged in lots of ways in my life, but because the paths that are highlighted on your website aren't realistic options (unless I were to spend large amounts of money on re-schooling), it sends a message of "if you aren't in this particular privileged class of people who have received lots of education at elite institutions, then you probably aren't the right fit for our club."

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

I have done a decent amount of HR work focused on hiring over the past several years, as well as a lot of reading regarding how to do hiring well. While recruiting for a fellowship isn't completely identical to hiring an employee, there are enough of similarities to justify learning.

I can't say I am surprised that a "hiring" process like the one described here failed to properly filter/select best fit candidates. Finding the right people for for a job (or in this case a fellowship) can be really difficult. Not difficult in a way that requires for time or effort, but difficult in the way of many of the more fuzzy and ambiguous things in life: if you are very careful and use best practices, then your "accuracy rate" is still somewhere between 50% and 90%. However, I am very happy to see the willingness to analyze data and reveal flawed processes. That suggests that you are already on the right path. A+ for that. You seem to be far beyond where I was when I was your age.

I encourage you to improve your "hiring" process. Although there are a dozen different books that you could read, the book Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead to be a very digestible summary of easy-to-adopt ideas, and is a good starting point. If you want a condensed version, you can take a look at the re:work hiring guides, and an even more condensed version would be this:

  • clarify before you start interviewing what the criteria and minimum standards are
  • use a written rubric
  • use structured interviews
  • use different people to conduct interviews and to assign scores

Good luck!

The Folly of "EAs Should"

I'm glad that you mentioned EA being young. I am in my 30s and fairly new to reading about EA, having just started to read books and forum posts within the past month or two. The youth is very surprising to me, and it is something I've been thinking about for the past few days. This isn't a well thought out thesis, but I will share my rough thoughts:

First, if a middle aged person sees a community of a bunch of 20 somethings, he/she will likely conclude "this isn't meant for me" and walk away (even if the 20 somethings are friendly). Thus, potential collaborators are turned off.

Second,  there are a lot of biases blind spots that younger people will have simply due to a lack of life experience. Maybe it is about having children, about the financial stresses of taking care of financial commitments without help from scholarships or parents, or simply about having a more "zoomed out" view of events which allows one to recognize patterns. Often it is simply the empathy and understanding that comes from having encountered situations over the course of one's life. Thus, I'd suggest that the EA movement is missing out on perspectives/wisdom/experience due to the demographics skewing so young.

That being said, I understand that equality and representation are not core values of the EA community. So I'm not sure where it leaves me, but I'll keep mulling over it.

(there is also the idea of the demographics skewing toward upper class and the perspectives/biases that come as a result, as it seems most EAs are able to afford a university education and many are able to afford to start their own organization immediately after finishing their education without any work experience, but since that isn't related to age I'll set that aside for now)

How You Can Counterfactually Send Millions of Dollars to EA Charities

Thanks for sharing this. I that info about good financial practices are being shared here. I have two questions that you might be able to answer.

First, what specific options are available? As an individual I can open a high yield savings account with Ally (or I can  refer to NerdWallet for a list of other high yield savings accounts). But If I am running an NGO I can't legally use accounts intended for individuals, right? Could you provide a list of options?

Second, these ideas are fairly limited to cash held in USD in the United States, right? For organizations that have operations (and thus which keep funds) in other countries and other currencies, are you able to recommend any options? I am concerned that both the lack of high yield savings accounts in those countries and the cost of international transactions would prevent organizations from using this method.

How You Can Counterfactually Send Millions of Dollars to EA Charities

Thanks for sharing this. I that info about good financial practices are being shared here. I have two questions that you might be able to answer.

First, what specific options are available? As an individual I can open a high yield savings account with Ally (or I can  refer to NerdWallet for a list of other high yield savings accounts). But If I am running an NGO I can't legally use accounts intended for individuals, right? Could you provide a list of options?

Second, these ideas are fairly limited to cash held in USD in the United States, right? For organizations that have operations (and thus which keep funds) in other countries and other currencies, are you able to recommend any options? I am concerned that both the lack of high yield savings accounts in those countries and the cost of international transactions would prevent organizations from using this method.