Kat Woods

3298 karmaJoined Sep 2014


Topic Contributions

The URL only for some of the sub channels on some of the platforms. But always the title, author, and source.

Yeah. We do say at the beginning of every episode the title, author, and where to find it, and it's in the show notes, but not a link. 

It does have a link on the sub-channels on Spotify, because for some weird arcane technical reasons, that was fine. 

Kat Woods

If you like that documentary, you might like Up as well. It's a documentary that follows 14 different kids in the UK, starting at the age of 7, then showing what their lives are like every 7 years. 

They tried to make it representative, but based on what they thought was important in 1964 England, so mostly based on class. 

It's really fascinating. One guy becomes homeless and ends up being a politician. Another is really successful but feels terrible because all of his friends are even more successful. There's a more or less happy family that seems content with a pretty average life. Etc.

Not even close to representative of the world's sentient beings, but nevertheless, way more representative than I ever get talking to my social circle. Also really cool to get a longitudenal sense of a person, as opposed to a snapshot. 

Can watch it on youtube

You also might like:

  • Babies. Similar documentary on Netflix, but focused on what being a baby is like in different countries. 
  • Dollar Street. Website by Hans Rosling showing people's lives at different income levels and countries. People take photos of standardized things, like their beds, bathrooms, favorite items, etc. Really gives you a sense of how much of a difference it makes to go from $1 a day to $4. 

Also, thanks for sharing this! I love these sorts of documentaries and am so going to watch it. 

Kat Woods

Good question! So, that's important, but I'm less worried about this because:

  1. All these donors were giving anyways. This just gives them more / better options to choose from.
  2. Donors are only one step in the chain for the unilaterlist curse. If people fund a bad idea, then it'll get ripped to shreds on the Forum :P 
  3. LTFF is also composed of fallible humans who might miss large downside risk projects. 
  4. I'm far more worried about the bureaucrat's curse in AI safety

In most endeavors, you expect to receive many nos before receiving a yes (eg applying to schools, jobs, publishing papers/books, startups, etc). In EA it's common to receive one no and for people to give up. 

I think this would only make sense if it was in a field where talent / value was easy to spot and evaluate and there were good feedback loops. But AI safety is far more like evaluating startup founders than evaluating bridge-builders. 

Except even more difficult to evaluate, because at least with for-profit founders, you find out years later if they made money or not! With ethics, you can't even tell if you're going in the right direction! 

If that's the case, we should have more evaluators, so that there's less people who slip through the cracks. 

I discuss something similar in another comment thread here.

Kat Woods

Good question! Here are a few thoughts on that:

  • Evaluating charities is more like evaluating startups than evaluating bridge-builders

You can tell if somebody is a good bridge builder. We have good feedback loops on bridges and we know why bridges work. For bridges, you can have a small number of experts making the decisions and it will work out great.

However, with startups, nobody really knows what works or why. Even with Y Combinator, potentially the best startup evaluator in the world, the vast majority of their bets don’t work out. We don’t know why startups work and the feedback loops are slow and ambiguous. 

Charity startups and projects are more like startups, but they’re actually worse. At least with for-profits you can tell eventually if something is profitable or not. With impact, you can never know for sure. Like, we can still discuss whether Eliezer has been net positive or not because of his potential influence on the launch of OpenAI. And we can even question whether AMF is net positive, because of its flow-through effects on factory farmed animals. Heck, we can even question the whole framework of consequentialism, and maybe it’s better to be a deontologist, etc. 

So, given that Y Combinator misses tons of opportunities in a field with better feedback loops and a better understanding of how things work, we should expect that to be even more the case for large EA funders. 

  • People have different values

With YC, at least everybody’s trying to maximize the same goal - money. With nonprofits, you might actually be pursuing different goals. Even if everybody’s a utilitarian, there’s a bunch of different sorts of utilitarians you can be. 

  • People can spot different talent

Different people can spot different types of talent or theories of change based on their background. For example, people who’ve spent their entire lives in academia might be better at spotting academic talent but less good at spotting entrepreneurial talent, and vice versa. 

  • It allows for more geographical diversity

Right now it’s much harder to get funding if you’re not based in the Bay Area or London. This will help fix that.

  • The big funders often only accept certain grant sizes

Big funders usually don’t have the time to process smaller grants, leading to a lot of people missing out.

  • Often it’s just one person evaluating a grant, leading to increased odds of missed opportunities

Due to time constraints, big EA funders often only have one person review an application before making a decision. This can lead to all sorts of noise in the assessments, like them making worse decisions because they’re hungry, tired, distracted, feeling emotional, don’t know much about the field, misunderstood the application, had a bias towards the applicant, etc etc. 

I remember reading an article here about grant applications being noisy but can't find it. Kat-points to anybody who finds it and links it in a reply! 

Finally, I’ve definitely seen a lot of people rejected for funding who I think were doing good work or went on to do it anyways. It’s really easy for people to be refused funding for all sorts of reasons

In general, I really want to push back against the meme in our community that if you don’t get funding from one of the big EA funders, that must mean your project isn’t good. 

For most things in this sort of category, even the absolute best have to try many times before they get accepted. Even the best scientists have to apply to a lot of different schools and grants. Even the best authors get rejected from publishing companies. Even the best founders have to ask dozens to hundreds of investors before they get funded. Many people who’ve been rejected by tons of EA orgs for jobs or grants have gone on to do great things. 

There’s room for disagreement on how to do the most good, and that’s what I love about EA. And now, hopefully, with more diverse funders, we can turn that productive disagreement into action, and then impact. 

Kat Woods

Entertaining and useful? Kat approves. 

Also, wanted to highlight the list of AI alignment communities I found on the Resource Rock. Found a lot of really cool things there that I didn't know about before. 

Thank you so much for making this!

Good idea! Updated the links in the original post. 

Sorry about the merging mistake! It should be easy to edit entries now if you want.

Map is static for now. 

Automating country field is a cool idea. Will see if that's possible with the new setup. 

Good question! It's hard to say. I suspect that meditation experience won't be particularly relevant because most of the time when people "meditate", it's just concentration practice, which is not particularly relevant to these techniques. 

I had probably a sum total of 1.5 hours of loving-kindness practice under my belt before this, so I don't think that'll be particularly relevant either.

Could be an interesting thing to measure though if I end up doing more studies on it. 

It happened about a year ago and hasn't changed since :) 

Even though last year was pretty hard for me in a lot of ways and usually I would have been crushed by everything. 

I did do the occasional maintenance session. Maybe five 30-minute sessions over the year? Hard to say how much of a difference those made. Internally, it feels like very little, but they could also be critical. 

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