All of kdbscott's Comments + Replies

Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Ah - maybe your post is making the point "if they would make a good senior hire, it seems fine to hire them in a junior position". Maybe I was getting confused by the term, I've seen people labelled 'overqualified' when they are above average on a few dimensions but not all of them. 

I'd have a harder time steel-manning a counterpoint to that. Maybe something about it not being stimulating enough so risking turnover... but that doesn't hold much water in my mind. 

Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Would you agree that, if Bob was more politically skilled, he would be a better fit for this position?

Yes... and no? 

Yes: it would be better re. 'overhead required'. If Bob foresees Carol's objections and takes her out to lunch and convinces her, this could save a bunch of management/board time. 

... and no: maybe Carol's concerns were legitimate and Bob was just very convincing, but not actually right. Fade to: Bob becomes CEO and the org is thriving but it's not really following the original mission anymore. 

I'm guessing Steve Jobs wanted p... (read more)

2Ben_West3moSure, those other things are also ways in which I would say that Bob is underqualified, not overqualified.
A Primer on the Symmetry Theory of Valence

Thanks Andrés, this helped me get oriented around the phenomenological foundations of what y'all are exploring.

Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Apparently my comment won a comment prize, which nudges me to carry on this conversation.

In general, I'm skeptical about "putting" people in leadership positions, especially when their colleagues don't want to be led by them

What if Bob has an ambitious project he's excited to run, and 4 out of 7 of his colleagues are excited by this project and want to be led by Bob on this, and Alice thinks it couldn't hurt to try, but Alice's cofounder Carol really doesn't like the idea and 2 of the 3 board members also don't like it? Carol et al. surface objections like... (read more)

2Ben_West4moCongrats on the comment prize! Would you agree that, if Bob was more politically skilled, he would be a better fit for this position? (E.g. he would be better able to convince Carol to do this ambitious project.) If so, then maybe you want to say that he is "overqualified in technical knowledge and underqualified in political ability" or something, but chalking the problem up to being "overqualified" across-the-board seems misleading. If you are a junior employee then sure, it's your managers responsibility to listen to your ideas. But as you become more senior, it becomes more of your responsibility to get buy-in. E.g.:
EA needs consultancies

One angle on how this could go poorly is something I call 'failure cascades' (a la information cascade). I'm excited that this has been incorporated as a concept in the EA Ops channel, and I think it would be valuable for EA consultants to keep it in mind. 

Roughly, a failure cascade could be:
> An EA consultancy conducts a search for a really good immigration law firm that they can use when helping EA orgs with immigration. They find a good law firm and proceed to help a dozen EA orgs with visas. Unfortunately it turns out this law firm misunderstoo... (read more)

A Comparison of Donor-Advised Fund Providers

Just got off the phone with Fidelity Charitable, they accept ETH with no minimums. (Also the two agents I spoke to were smart and efficient, average wait time of 8 min)

A Comparison of Donor-Advised Fund Providers

FYI  @MichaelDickens I just heard from Vanguard Charitable:

> At this time, Vanguard Charitable only accepts contributions of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash that are valued over $100,000.00.

Might be worth mentioning in the post.

4kdbscott7moJust got off the phone with Fidelity Charitable, they accept ETH with no minimums. (Also the two agents I spoke to were smart and efficient, average wait time of 8 min)
Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

Another point I've heard made a few times (and at-least-a-little agree with):

Let's say Bob transitions from COO at a mid-sized org to finance manager at a small org. Bob has done finances before, and within a few months has set up some excellent systems. He now only needs to spend 10 hours a week on finances, and tells his manager (Alice) that he's interested in taking on other projects.

Alice doesn't currently have projects for Bob, but Alice and Bob saw this coming and set clear expectations that Bob would sometimes run out of things to do. Bob was fine w... (read more)

5Ben_West7moThanks! I agree with the concern, but I think I disagree about the root cause: In general, I'm skeptical about "putting" people in leadership positions, especially when their colleagues don't want to be led by them. If people aren't listening to Bob because they don't like his leadership style, then I would say that Bob is a bad culture fit (or, to be blunt, not a good leader). I wouldn't describe this as the organization "not letting him thrive." I do agree that it's harder to hire senior people though: There's a related thing you might be pointing to like "in a big organization, Bob can just come up with ideas and someone else will implement them, diminishing the costs of his abrasive leadership style. But in a smaller organization he has to both come up with ideas and execute, and maybe he's not enough of a generalist for that." I definitely agree with this concern.
1CarolineJ7moFound this a really clear explanation (and I liked the scenario, made it more concrete).
Some quick notes on "effective altruism"

Ah whoops, thanks for the clarification. I'm glad that delineation was made during the session! 

Hmm so maybe some weaker point:  perhaps banners like 'atheism' and 'feminism' have the property 'blend me with your identity or consequences', whereas EA doesn't as much, and maybe that's better. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Anyway, thanks for the post Jonas, I agree with many points and have had similar experiences.

Some quick notes on "effective altruism"

at the Leaders Forum 2019, around half of the participants (including key figures in EA) said that they don’t self-identify as "effective altruists

Small note that this could also be counter evidence - these are folks that are doing a good job of 'keeping their identity small' yet are also interested in gathering under the 'effective altruism' banner. (edit: nevermind, seems like they identified with other -isms) .

Somehow the EA brand is threading the needle of being a banner and also not mind-killing people ... I think.

Would EA be much worse if we removed ... (read more)

3Jonas Vollmer8moI specifically wrote: For further clarification, see also the comment I just left here [] .
Apply now for EA Global: Reconnect (March 20-21)

Thanks John, these are useful points which  also help me orient towards the conference!

2John_Maxwell8moGlad I could help :D
Apply now for EA Global: Reconnect (March 20-21)

We’re particularly keen to reconnect with people who have been active EAs in the past but have drifted away from the community.

I have a number of friends that fall into this bucket, but when I think of inviting them I hesitate because I'm not sure what value they would get from it. Does anyone have a sense why  attending this event would be good for someone who has 'drifted away from the community'?

4John_Maxwell9moThey drifted away from the community, but are they still working towards EA goals? * If they have stopped working towards EA goals, going to this event could be an opportunity to explore whether this is a decision they [still] endorse. * If they have continued to work towards EA goals on their own, going to this event could be a good opportunity to learn & share the kind of things that are most readily learned & shared through face-to-face chitchat. (A fairly large set of things, in my experience.) Additionally, making new face-to-face connections with people lets you trade favors and establish collaborative relationships that are harder to establish through e.g. sending them a cold email. (See: EA is vetting-constrained [] .) I expect the benefit here will be high variance. There's a high probability you have a weekend full of friendly-but-useless video calls (which will hopefully help with quarantine blues at least!) There's a small probability that you end up learning or sharing something that makes a big difference for you or someone else, or making an important new connection. (If someone hasn't been interacting with the community as much, I expect this probability to be higher, since the backlog of conversations they haven't had and new people they haven't met is gonna be larger.) Might be worth noting the conventional wisdom in the business world, that networking is really important. As EAs we might have a bias towards things which are more measurable and legible, and I don't think the benefits of networking are always like that. Richard Hamming [], Turing award winner, on what he observed at Bell Labs
4BarryGrimes9moThere are a number of reasons that people drift away from the community. Ben West has a sequence of posts about this here []. I don’t know what led your friends to drift away, but it’s often the case that people are still interested in EA ideas but other events in their life take higher priority for a while. If that applies to your friends, then we think the main benefits of attending this event are: * Give and receive feedback on career, study, or donation plans * Make new connections and reconnect with old contacts * Discover and discuss interesting ideas We’ll also have a session at the event exploring the different retention factors that Ben identifies in his posts (e.g. balancing parenting with EA, or finding a way to contribute if you don’t have experience that’s relevant to the field you want to work in). Hearing different people in the community sharing their experiences about this may also be helpful to your friends.
How to best address Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?

+1 to stretching and mobilization, helped for me. Rock climbing helped my partner.

(the best theory I've found so far, but hard to tell if true) Often times muscle injury prevention is helped with teaching your brain/body how to activate the muscle in healthy ways (in addition to rest/stretching/etc). Sometimes much of the problem is your brain/muscles are trying to protect other muscles that are being used poorly, and this compounds (the 'helping' muscles get overworked, and other muscles try to save those ones, etc). 

How to best address Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?

One thing that helped a lot for me was  using a keyboard with thumb keys (especially replacing keys where I typically used my pinkies like backspace, enter, cmd/ctrl, and shift). Faster to learn than dvorak and imo a more effective intervention.

I used an Ergodox EZ, there's also Keyboardio, Kinesis, and others.

This feels like an area where our society is insane:  our strongest, most dextrous fingers share A SINGLE KEY on the keyboard. 

Parenting: Things I wish I could tell my past self

Thanks for putting this together Michelle, and congrats! Would love to see something like annual updates :)

EA Assembly & Call for Speakers

Hey all,

The EA Book Club will be meeting before this assembly (2:30pm Eastern time) to discuss Will MacAskill's new book, Doing Good Better. RSVP Here.

p.s. I'm excited to hear about projects during the Assembly, and possibly share my own (just applied!)

2Ozzie Gooen6yBtw, would it be possible for you to also have facebook events? I never follow the ones on goodreads.
January Open Thread

Does anyone know of good investigations of the impact of technological unemployment? Any EA people/orgs that have looked at it?

2Owen_Cotton-Barratt7yOf relevance is this report by Carl Frey [] . It's looking at which current jobs are vulnerable to automation.
0Tom_Ash7yHere's something the Economist wrote [] . They did a special feature on this but I can't find a link right now.
Why I Don't Account for Moral Uncertainty

One aspect of my moral uncertainty has to do with my impact on other people.

If other people have different moral systems/priorities, then isn't 'helping' them a projection of your own moral preferences?

On the one hand, I'm pretty sure nobody wants malaria - so it seems simple to label malaria prevention as a good thing. On the other hand, the people you are helping probably have very different moral tastes, which means they could think that your altruism is useless or even negative. Does that matter?

I think this is a pretty noob-level question, so maybe you can point me to where I can read more about this.

Peter's Personal Review for Oct-Dec 2014

I was unaware there was a desktop app. There is, and they just released global shortcuts, which has helped a lot!

I'll probably write a post on this, but I think it would disappoint people If it's too weird I'll just stop reading! I like my familiarity points system, but when you publish everything online it might be prudent to consider weirdness. Perhaps a shareable document for those interested?

Peter's Personal Review for Oct-Dec 2014

Thank you for posting this Peter, I find these useful!

A couple questions:

1) How do you use Toggl? Desktop app? Mobile? Do you also use Rescuetime? I've found it difficult to use Toggl when I'm away from the computer, during social/break/food/cleaning/interruptions/errands/other time. Maybe I just need to get in the habit of pulling out my phone and start/stopping the timer? 2) How do you do food? I spend a lot of time on food (buying, cooking, eating) each week, and I enjoy it but would be open to time saving techniques (especially when it comes to veggies)

Thanks again!

1Peter Wildeford7yI use the mobile app a lot, because frequently I need to update while I'm on the go. While on my computer, I actually use the command line interface [] plus a custom wrapper I wrote to make the CLI more user-friendly and more customized to how I personally use Toggl. Before I used that, though, I used the web interface. I was unaware there was a desktop app. - No, I've never used Rescuetime. The core problem I have is that sometime me using Facebook is goofing off and sometimes me using Facebook is for important work. Rescuetime can't tell the difference, but I can. - That's my solution. - Of note is that "buying food" is categorized as "Errands" and "eating food" is usually a part of "Break", so my total time spent on food-related activities is higher than just the "Food" category (which is solely for assembling the food) would imply. Maybe I should fix that if it would be useful to include a more broad assessment of food (buying, assembling, AND eating)? - This has been the most requested (and by that, I mean from four people) feature, so I'll probably write a post on this, but I think it would disappoint people by being too specific to my personal circumstances (and by that, I mean weirdness).
Help a Canadian give with a tax-deduction by swapping donations with them!

Commenting here to express my willingness to participate, however this pans out. I expect my contribution won't be more than a couple hundred dollars.

Generic good advice: do intense exercise often

Thanks Robert, this is great!

Do you listen to any media while you're exercising? Music? Books on tape?

1Robert_Wiblin7yA combination of podcasts and music. This is easy to experiment with, to find what you like the most!
Figuring Good Out - Launch Thread

I prefer Bitton's, because otherwise it seems like "good" is modifying "figuring out".

Cool topic, but I'm still trying to figure out what EA is about! I have a feeling that I'll be able to articulate a blind spot eventually.

Spitballing EA career ideas


If you're looking for cool socially-oriented for-profits in the developing world, maybe we could open up the question to the FB group.

0William_S7yI know someone who would be interested in looking through a list of organizations like this right now (hoping to find places to work).
Should we launch a podcast about high-impact projects and people?

This sounds like a really neat project. A few questions:

  • Would you want to include editing? Music?
  • What length would you want to target? 1 hour? 20 minutes?
  • Any idea of what line of questioning you might pursue? Impact metrics? Career plans? Hobbies? Personal philosophy? All of the above?
1Robert_Wiblin7yI expect we would add an intro theme at some point - perhaps a song with relevant lyrics. I would let the length vary quite a bit from 15 to 60 minutes depending on the person. My guess is that I would mostly get people to describe what exactly they are doing and why they do it that way. Perhaps then a bit about what drives them personally. Here's an example: [] Another line of podcasts would speaking to people about their prioritisation research. But to begin with I would rather talk to people doing things directly rather than working in meta-charity.
Spitballing EA career ideas

Perhaps Ben meant social entrepreneurship, which is often geared towards the developing world? Forbes 30 under 30 has some ideas for what those projects can be. If you don't like those, I recommend filtering through the Ashoka fellows. The most recent Ashoka fellow started a foundation/for-profit combo called Soronko Solutions, which teaches kids programming and sells tech solutions to startups.


In general, if you're going to run a normal for-profit business in the developing world that sells products or provides a service, you're probably not going to ma... (read more)

Spitballing EA career ideas

Are you trying to imagine like a silicon valley of the developing world?

1Phil_Thomas7yThis actually isn't a bad idea, something like the IT industry in India. Dani Rodrik keeps making the point that the labor force in many developing nations is making the transition directly from low productivity agriculture jobs to low productivity service jobs without going through high productivity manufacturing jobs [] that have traditionally led to the formation of a middle class. Some way to get people trained for high productivity service jobs, like in IT, could be really helpful for economic development, although there is probably a massive educational gulf to cover. The power grid would need some work to build a steady IT industry, too. Rodrik's talk [] on this and some of his writings (1 [] ) are the most informative I have seen in a while.
1Peter Wildeford7yOne example is Segovia [].
0Peter Wildeford7yNot necessarily -- just want to know more about what for-profit ventures in the developing world are like. Mobile phones seem to have done well.
You have a set amount of "weirdness points". Spend them wisely.

Nice summary Ryan.

Indeed, I think the biggest challenge in terms of spreading EA is what I call "extended responsibility." Many people have difficulty taking responsibility for their own lives, let alone their family or community. EA asks you to take responsibility for the whole world, and then carry that responsibility with you for your whole life. Holy crap.

After that, the next big ask is for rational methodologies. Even if people take responsibility for their kids, they probably will rely on intuition and availability heuristics.

So discussion ... (read more)

0bshannon7yPerhaps I'm not thinking this through or I'm simply being unambitious but I don't view effective altruism as asking you to take responsibility for the whole world. I certainly don't feel an enormous weight on my shoulders. I view it more as taking responsibility for the difference between what you would ordinarily do and what you could do if you maximised your impact, which does admittedly require consideration of the whole world. If valid, maybe that can make effective altruism a little more palatable.
You have a set amount of "weirdness points". Spend them wisely.

Hey Peter,

I think it's important to highlight that this article is about weirdness in the context of advocacy.

While I enjoyed the message, I'm concerned about the negative approach. People (especially weird ones) tend to be afraid of social rejection, and setting up a framework for failure (spending too many weirdness points) instead of a framework for success (winning familiarity points) can create a culture of fear/guilt around one's identity. I believe this is why some EAs had a cautious reaction to this article.

I love connecting with people, and I've ... (read more)

0Peter Wildeford7yI think this is a great idea. I'd love to see it expanded more in a post of it's own. X-risks via Interstellar is smart! Someone with one of those fancy public outlets (Will Macaskill? Hamilton Nolan? Peter Singer?) should get on that. :)
0RyanCarey7yGood idea! I think you're right that whether or not they realise it, people are often moved to avoid weirdness because of their own insecurities, rather than because of impact. I think it would be great to write a post!