Topic Contributions


Impact is very complicated

Yeah! This was the actually the first post I tried to write. But it petered out a few times, so I approached it from a different angle and came up with the post above instead. I definitely agree that "robustness" is something that should be seen as a pillar of EA - boringly overdetermined interventions just seem a lot more likely to survive repeated contact with reality to me, and I think as we've moved away from geeking out about RCTs we've lost some of that caution as a communtiy.

Impact is very complicated

Yes, I agree it's a confused concept. But I think that same confused concept gets smuggled into conversations about "impact" quite often. 

It's also relevant for coordination: any time you can be the 100th person that joins a group of 100 that suddenly is able to save lots of lives, there first must have been 99 people who coordinated on the bet they'd be able to get you or someone like you. But how did they make that bet?

EA is more than longtermism

My view is that more traditional philanthropic targets make for a much easier sell, so GiveWell style messaging is going to reach/convince way more people than longtermist or x-risk messaging.

So you'll probably have way, way more people who are interested in EA on the global poverty and health side. I still only donate my pledge money to AMF, plus $100 a month extra to animal welfare, despite being somewhat involved in longtermist/x-risk stuff professionally (and pretty warm on these projects beyond my own involvement).

That being said, for some people EA is their primary social peer group. These people also tend to be highly ambitious. That's a recipe for people trying really hard to figure out what's the most prized, and orienting toward that. So there's lots of buzz around longtermism, despite the absolute numbers in the longtermist direction (people, clicks, eyeballs, money) being lower than those for more traditional, popular interventions.

It could be useful if someone ran a copyediting service

I've found the LessWrong editing service to be a pretty exciting way to provide copyediting, proofreading, feedback etc. to lots and lots of individuals over the last several months. Perhaps an expansion of that model could be valuable? This month there were 32 posts I did copyediting for through the service, which is more than usual but not by too much. That's way more than I would have even actively trying to promote myself, and I haven't had to do the promoting (or handle billing with a whole bunch of individuals). If there's more money for centralized-funding-of-edits, I at least continue to have excess capacity there and find it a lot of fun!

It could be useful if someone ran a copyediting service

Thanks! Yeah, I think right now I do ~all the feedback requests, and my goal tends to be 24h turnaround time or less (though it does sometimes get closer to 48h).

How many EAs failed in high risk, high reward projects?
Answer by JustisApr 26, 202238

I've failed a few times. My social instincts tried to get me not to post this comment, in case it makes it more likely that I fail again, and failing hurts. I suspect there's really strong survivorship bias here.

How do you, personally, experience "EA motivation"?

When I was young I felt like "Gosh! When I'm older and have a job, I really should use my power as a globally rich person to help those who are much less well off, because that's obviously morally obligatory and this Peter Singer guy makes sense."

When I read Slate Star Codex's "Everything is Commensurable" I thought "Oh right, I suppose now's the time for that, I have more money than I need, and 10% seems about right."

It felt satisfying to be doing something definitive, to have an ironclad excuse for not freaking out about whatever the issue of the day is. "I'm doing my part, anyway."

Then I learned there was a community, was dazzled by how impressive they all were, overjoyed that they wanted to welcome me, and had a strong emotional reaction to want to be a part of it. It was more excitement about the people than the projects. They felt very much like "my people."

Now I don't feel much of anything about it (maybe a touch of pride or annoyance about losing so much money), but I still give my 10% to AMF monthly, and I don't plan to stop, so I guess the earlier surges of emotions did their job.

EA Global Lightning Talks (San Francisco 2018)

I also found his very interesting, though I craved something in a longer format. I could tell he had heftier models for situations where things cancel out less neatly, and I want to see them to see how robust they are! Looking forward to seeing what he's working on at the Global Priorities Institute.

Towards Better EA Career Advice

Test prep tutoring and nowhere-near-the-top programming are both very good for making a living without spending much energy. The Scott Alexander post you and lexande linked has a good description of the relevant considerations for test prep tutoring.

Living in a random non-hub city, programming jobs for the state pay only about $50k/yr to start, but they're easy to get (trial task for one was basically just "make an HTML website with maybe a button that does something") and the expectations tend to be pretty low. I worked one of these as my main source of income until enough EA volunteering became EA freelancing became just barely sufficient to quit the day job and see what happened. I think this route is underappreciated, and the movement's central orgs seem to have a lot more capacity to pay for specific work than to hire full-time, higher prestige employees.

Main downside of a low-stress programming day job is that being in an extremely unambitious environment for 40 hours a week can be psychologically uncomfortable.

Near-Term Effective Altruism Discord

+1. I'm in a very similar position - I make donations to near-term orgs, and am hungry for discussion of that kind. But because I sometimes do work for explicitly long-term and x-risk orgs, it's hard for me to be certain if I qualify under current wording.

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