Jonas Vollmer

I appreciate honest and direct feedback: https://admonymous.co/vollmer

I'm the Executive Director at EA Funds, based in Oxford. You can best reach me at jonas.vollmer@centreforeffectivealtruism.org.

Previously, I was a co-founder and co-executive director at the London-based Center on Long-Term Risk, a research group and grantmaker focused on preventing s-risks from AI.

My background is in medicine (BMed) and economics (MSc). See my LinkedIn.

Unless explicitly stated otherwise, opinions are my own, not my employer's. (I think this is generally how everyone uses the EA Forum; others who don't have such a disclaimer likely think about it similarly.)

Wiki Contributions

Comments

How are resources in EA allocated across issues?

I'd guess that the labor should be valued at significantly more than $100k per person-year. Your calculation suggests that 64% of EA resources spent are funding and 36% are labour, but given that we're talent-constrained, I would guess that the labor should be valued at something closer to $400k/y, suggesting a split of 31%/69% between funding and talent, respectively. (Or put differently, I'd guess >20 people pursuing direct work could make >$10 million per year if they tried earning to give, and they're presumably working on things more valuable than that, so the total should be a lot higher than $200 million.)

Using those figures, the overallocation to global poverty looks less severe, we're over- rather than underallocating to meta, and the other areas look roughly similar (e.g., there still is a large gap in AI).

Regarding the overallocation to meta, one caveat is that the question was multi-select, and many people who picked that might only do a relatively small amount of meta work, so perhaps we're allocating the appropriate amount.

Link to spreadsheet

What we learned from a year incubating longtermist entrepreneurship

Regarding a YC incubator model, I think the main issue is just that people rarely generate sufficiently well-targeted and ambitious startup ideas. I really don't think we need another dozen donation apps or fundraising orgs, but that's what people often come up with. I think we'd want something that does more to help people develop better ideas. (Perhaps that's what you had in mind as well.)

What we learned from a year incubating longtermist entrepreneurship

FWIW, as someone who previously warned about risk of accidental harm, I personally mostly agree with this comment. I think what I care more is "option value to shut projects down if they turn out to be harmful" than preventing damage in the first place (with the exception of projects that have very large negative effects from the very beginning).

EffectiveAltruismData.com: A Website for Aggregating and Visualising EA Data

Very exciting! In case funding would help with further developing this project, consider applying here, our process is designed to be fast and easy.

Edit: Ah, I can see that you mention this in your post - we're looking forward to receiving your application!

University EA Groups Should Form Regional Groups

I commented on a draft of this post. I haven't re-read it in full, so I don't know to what degree my comments were incorporated. Based on a quick glance it seems they weren't, so I thought I'd copy the main comments I left on that draft. My main point is that I think inserting regional groups into the funding landscape would likely worsen rather than improve the funding situation. I still think regional groups seem promising for other reasons.

Some of my comments (copy-paste, quickly written):

[Regarding applying for funding:] At a high level, my guess would be that this solution would increase overhead and friction in distributing money, rather than reducing it. I think setting up lots of regional grantmakers is a lot of work

That said, I think regional groups can be very useful and valuable for other reasons. Just don't really think they should do grantmaking.

I'm worried about different regional groups applying inconsistent quality service, and/or inconsistent criteria in distributing money

I think we should think of ways to address the psychological issue of people being afraid, rather than building a lot of structure around this

I think [the EAIF would] have a pretty easy time setting up more scalable systems [once there is a much larger number of groups]

E.g. we could set up more standardized, faster processes for grant applications that fit certain categories that can be quickly reviewed by less senior people. The bottleneck for setting up such a system is having a sufficient number of applications for it to be worth doing

You also need to build the infrastructure for making the payments themselves efficiently, doing the financial accounting, running an entity, tax reporting, etc. – (…)

I think people routinely underestimate the time cost of running a legal entity with a lot of activity. I wish people generally try really hard to eliminate any unnecessary operational busywork. Instead, we should focus relentlessly on the EA content and promising people, and use very pragmatic fast solutions for handling admin things

How to best address Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?

Some further recommendations:

  • Keep using your hands, acknowledging it may be (partly) psychosomatic, and not worrying too much about it. A friend told me they saw a surgeon for RSI and the surgeon recommended to keep using the hands as normally and not worry too much, and that helped in their case.
  • Reducing phone usage; not using the phone in bed while lying down; not playing games on my phone.
Get 100s of EA books for your student group

In 80K's The Precipice mailing experiment, 15% of recipients reported reading the book in full after a month, and ~7% of people reported reading at least half.

I'm also aware of some anecdotal cases where books seemed pretty good - e.g., I know of a very promising person who got highly involved with longtermism within a few months primarily based on reading The Precipice.

The South Korea case study is pretty damning, though. I wonder if things would look better if there had been a small number of promising people who help onboard newly interested ones (or whether that was already the case and it didn't work despite that).

I'd be pretty interested in engagement hours based on email clicks, if you have that data. I care less about open rates and more about whether someone goes on to read through key ideas pages for several hours based on that.

All that said, the high open rates you mentioned have updated me somewhat towards mailing lists being more valuable than I previously thought.

Get 100s of EA books for your student group

To me it sounds like you're underestimating the value of handing out books: I think books are great because you can get someone to engage with EA ideas for ~10 hours, without it taking up any of your precious time.

As you said, I think books can be combined with mailing lists. (If there was a tradeoff, I would estimate they're similarly good: You can either get a ~20% probability of getting someone to engage for ~10h via a book, or a ~5%(? most people don't read newsletters) probability of getting someone to engage for ~40h via a mailing list. And while I'd rather have one person engage deeply than many people engage shallowly, I think the first few engagement hours tend to be more valuable (less overdetermined) than the ones that follow later.)

What are the EA movement's most notable accomplishments?

Strictly speaking, a lot of the examples are outputs or outcomes, not impacts, and some readers may not like that. It could be good to make that more explicit at the top.

I also want to suggest using more imagery, graphs, etc. – more like visual storytelling and less like just a list of bullet points.

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