AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

Now that you have firsthand experience of the incentives that public office-holders (and candidates for public office) face, how do you think those incentives could be improved? Trying to take a meta approach here ;-)

Can I have impact if I’m average?

A couple reasons to be skeptical of the "top 1%" idea:

  • It does seem true that some people are much more famous than others, but I don't think we can trust the distribution of fame to accurately reflect the distribution of actual contributions. The famous CEO may get all the credit, but they couldn't have done it without their employees.

  • Even if the distribution of actual contributions is skewed, that doesn't mean we can reliably predict the big contributors in advance. I found this paper which says work sample tests used in hiring ("suggested to be among the most valid predictors") only weakly correlate with job performance. Speaking for myself, a few years ago some EAs I respected told me "John, I don't think you are cut out for X." That sounded plausible to me at the time, but I decided to take a shot at X anyways, and I now believe their assessment was incorrect.

Longer exposition here.

But at the end of the day, constantly comparing yourself to others is not a good mental habit. Better to compare yourself with yourself. Which version of yourself will do more good: The version of yourself which wallows in despair, or the version of yourself which identifies people you think are doing great stuff and asks "Is there something I can do to help?" Last I checked, we have long lists of EA project ideas which aren't getting worked on.

My mistakes on the path to impact

See also answers here mentioning that EA feels "intellectually stale". A friend says he thinks a lot of impressive people have left the EA movement because of this :(

I feel bad, because I think maybe I was one of the first people to push the "avoid accidental harm" thing.

Should marginal longtermist donations support fundamental or intervention research?

I suspect you want a mix of both, and fundamental research helps inform what kind of intervention research is useful, but intervention research also helps inform what kind of fundamental research is useful. Given a long-term effect, you can try to find a lever which achieves that effect, or given a big lever that's available for pulling, you can and try to figure out what its long-term effect is likely to be.

A Case and Model for Aggressively Funding Effective Charities

Sure, but if you only award prizes for the latter, I think people will gradually recognize the difference.

Maybe your point is that the opinions of loudmouths like myself will be overrepresented in such a scheme? Allowing for private submissions could help address that.

A Case and Model for Aggressively Funding Effective Charities

In terms of hearing diverse perspectives, I suspect there are more effective ways to accomplish that goal than having diverse funders. For example, a funder could require that a nonprofit lay their thinking out publicly in detail, and offer prizes for the best critiques other people write in response to their thinking. That way you're optimizing for hearing from people who think they have something to add.

Deliberate Consumption of Emotional Content to Increase Altruistic Motivation

I thought this recent Netflix documentary which talks a lot about Bill Gates' charity work was fairly inspiring (and informative). I haven't tried watching videos of suffering... I doubt it would be very motivating for the sort of study/brainstorm/write EA work I most want myself to do.

AMA: Owen Cotton-Barratt, RSP Director

Why not just have the people who need mentorship serve as "research personal assistants" to improve the productivity of people who are qualified to provide mentorship? (This describes something which occurs between professors and graduate students right?)

EA Cameroon - COVID-19 Awareness and Prevention in the Santa Division of Cameroon Project Proposal

I have no idea, I already shared my notes above! :) Perhaps the team could reach out to e.g. the author of the Johns Hopkins article?

BTW, I did find this article which argues for knitted masks:

However, I'm more inclined to trust Johns Hopkins. But maybe the author of the Johns Hopkins article would have interesting opinions on the above link.

Edit: Here's more info

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