Jonas Vollmer

I'm 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. I also advise the Long-Term Future Fund.

My background is in medicine (BMed) and economics (MSc) with a focus on health economics and development economics.

Jonas Vollmer's Comments

AMA Patrick Stadler, Director of Communications, Charity Entrepreneurship: Starting Charities from Scratch

I hope I'm not too late: What were some of the crucial influences / events / experiences / arguments that set you on the path towards becoming an entrepreneur?

AMA Patrick Stadler, Director of Communications, Charity Entrepreneurship: Starting Charities from Scratch

I hope I'm not too late: In which ways (if at all) has your experience at the UN and SECO been useful for your recent and current work (New Incentives and Charity Entrepreneurship)? Do you think it would be useful for more EAs to get that kind of experience?

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions in the effective altruism community
Effective altruism wiki: Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense as a means of organizing knowledge of a particular community. Also, if the US Intelligence Community is doing it, it has to be good. I know that there have been attempts at this (e.g., arbital, priority.wiki, EAWiki). Unfortunately, these didn’t catch on as much as would be necessary to create a lot of value. Perhaps there are still ways of pulling this off though. See here and here for recent discussions.

In addition to the wikis, there are also EA Concepts and the LessWrong Wiki, which have similar roles.

Two hypotheses for why these encyclopedias didn't catch on so far:

  • Lack of coordination: Existing projects seemed to focus on content but not quality standards, editing/moderation, etc. Projects weren't maintained long-term. It probably wasn't sufficiently clear how new volunteers could best contribute. Resources were split between multiple projects.
  • Perhaps EA is still too small. Most communities with successful wikis have fairly large communities.

Personally, I'd be very excited about a better-coordinated and better-edited EA concepts/wiki. (I know of someone who is planning to work on this.)

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions in the effective altruism community

On expert surveys, I would personally like to see more institutionalized surveys of key considerations like these: https://www.stafforini.com/blog/what_i_believe/ One interesting aspect could be to see in which areas agreement / disagreement is largest.

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions in the effective altruism community
Building such institutions is a form of community-building. Arguably, this is one of the most important ways of making a difference since it offers a lot of leverage. It came second in the Leaders Forum survey.

(Not very important.) Hm, which result of the survey do you mean? I can't remember being given that option and can't find it immediately in that post.

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions in the effective altruism community

Explicitly defined publication norms could also be helpful. It's often unclear how one should deal with information hazards, which seems to cause people to err on the side of not publishing their work. Instead, one could set up things like "info hazard peer review" or agree more explicitly on rules in the direction of "for issues around X and Y, or other potential info hazards, ask at least five peers from different orgs on whether to publish" (of course, this needs some more work).

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions in the effective altruism community

Institutions for exchanging information (especially research) also seem helpful to me. For instance, many researchers circulate their work in semi-private google docs but only publish some of their work academically or on the Forum. (Sometimes, this is because of information hazards, but only rarely.) This makes it harder for new or less well-networked researchers to get up to speed with existing work. It also doesn't scale well as the community grows. It would be great if there were easy ways to make content public more easily. Wei Dai made a suggestion in this direction, and I bet there are further ways of making this happen.

Toby Ord’s ‘The Precipice’ is published!

For those looking for the ebook, it's only available on the Canadian, German, and Australian (cheapest) amazon pages (but not US / UK ones). (EDIT: Actually available on the UK store.)

Insomnia with an EA lens: Bigger than malaria?

Interesting, makes sense! I like that suggestion.

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