I'm glad you posted this here! This is super useful stuff to think about. Thanks :)
Thanks for flagging :) I am going to take a look!
Thanks for asking this! I teach a ~400 student principles of macroeconomics course, so I am very interested in the answers people come up with (and eventually seeing the email you sent). I'd like to send something about EA after exposing them to ideas of long-run growth, the current number of people in extreme poverty, etc.
Great piece, well done!
I think I've experience drudgery on the end of projects, when I feel like I've learned what I would like to about a sub-topic, but I still need to formalize everything in exacting detail for something like an academic publication. Hopping between and/or starting new projects -- even within the same sub-discipline -- is not boring for me.
However, things are probably different when you're near the frontier of a sub-discipline and the research you're working on is generating new knowledge, rather than reading lots of what others have done. It's definitely more exciting. Admittedly, it takes a lot of hard work to get to that point in any field, but I've found it very worthwhile.
Thanks for writing back -- and for the unnecessary complements of my inaugural posts :) -- Charles! I only know the context of mis-messaging around skills at a high level, so it is hard for me to respond without knowing what 'bad outcomes' look like. I don't doubt that something like this could happen, so I now see the point you were trying to make.
I was responding as someone who read your (intentionally not fleshed out) hypothetical and thought the appropriate response might actually be for someone well-suited for 'biology' to work on building those broad skills even with a low probability of achieving the original goal.
No laptop! That's even better :)
And yes, to build on your caveat, I meant to add one of my own recognizing 'voluntarily having no connectivity because you have a nearby office, library, computer lab is much different than not having the option to be easily connected.'
That seems correct to me for the most part, though it might be less inevitable than you suspect, or at least this is my experience in economics. At my University they tried hiring two independent little 'clusters' (one being 'macro-development' which I was in) so I had a few people with similar enough interests to bounce ideas off of. A big caveat is that its a fragile setup: after 1 left its now just 2 of us with only loosely related interests. I have a friend in a similarly ranked department that did this for applied-environmental economics, so she has a... (read more)
For an analogy, imagine making a statement about the EA movement needing more “skill in biology”. In response, this updates conscientious, strong EAs who change careers. However, what was actually needed was world class leaders in biology whose stellar careers involve special initial conditions. Unfortunately, this means that the efforts made by even very strong EAs were wasted.
This doesn't immediately strike me as a bad outcome, ex-ante. It's very hard to know (1) who will become world class researchers or (2) if non-world-class people move the needle by ... (read more)
I'm not sure I have much to add aside from things I saw in your post (e.g., morning working, and other Cal Newport-ish tricks). I've found these to be really great.
One thing I experimented with pre-pandemic, and am about to re-up, is canceling my WiFi. Obviously during the depth of the pandemic when I had to work full time from home I needed it, but I'm actually calling up my provider tomorrow to drop back off. I still had some data on my phone for a quick email and/or internet check , but this entirely eliminated useless scrolling, streaming, etc., at hom... (read more)
I agree there is something more exciting about diving into a whole new field, since the fruit become low-hanging again and progress is faster. I guess what I meant is specific to economics, or other fields that give you 'thinking tools'; I underestimated how narrowing in on specific questions/fields teaches you how to learn, such that you can bounce to new disciplines and learn a lot much faster. Maybe another way to say that is that my focusing in on very particular subtopics was more temporary than I forecasted, but necessary for skill building.
Thanks for writing, sounds like a great career you've got going, congrats! Unsurprisingly, many of your experiences track closely what I jotted down about academic economics yesterday. However, one big benefit of yours - that I didn't think to mention, but is relevant for anyone choosing between a university and a research institute - is the like-minded coworkers.
I'd be very surprised if >2 colleagues of mine knew about EA, and even more surprised if any aside from me had thought about longtermism, etc. This definitely makes it a bit solitary. I i... (read more)
That's a great point. A related point that I hadn't really clocked until someone pointed it out to me recently, though it's obvious in retrospect, is that (EA aside) in an academic department it is structurally unlikely that you will have a colleague who shares your research interests to a large extent. Since it's rare that a department is big enough to have two people doing the same thing, and departments need coverage of their whole field, for teaching and supervision.
That feeling has never completely left me -- I still have varied interests and share your fear that I'm not digging into any single topic deep enough. The thing I've learned is that even if you pick something that feels narrow at the time (economics, for me) there are infinitely many interesting subtopics within that field to keep you interested, excited, and learning. Maybe that helps take some fear out of difficult-to-reverse decisions - like fields of study - if you're worried you may get bored with it. This may not be true for all field... (read more)
Hi Linda! I'm excited to see experienced people bringing hard earned career capital (especially in underrepresented fields) here.
This is a bit of an obvious answer, but my sense is that a ton of people in the community and at the orgs you're hoping to reach read this forum. If you write something up that looks more like a sales pitch than a question-style post, I'd guess that be the easiest place to start. There is even a 'consultancy' tag, and I saw a recent call here for more EA-consultancies that you could piggy back on.
Thanks! Makes sense.
Hi Stijn! Thanks for writing this---I completely agree that getting population ethics on surer footing is an important issue for the EA community. And I agree with your diagnosis that it's super difficult.
I'm wondering if there is a similar dominance argument you could apply to John Broome's argument against the "Intuition of Neutrality". Basically, imagine we're in some World A, where Worlds B & C are available and they only differ in that 1 extra person exists with utility within this range of indifference ("neutrality" in Broome's words) in both wor... (read more)
Wow, really well done! Thanks for doing great work :)
Thank you for taking the time -- and having the courage -- to write this. I appreciate learning about others' experiences from personal accounts.
I haven't yet dug into the details, but I am very much looking forward to doing so. Thanks for doing great work and sharing it here!
Hi! I agree with basically everything written here, in particular about their lives probably not being worth living. My sense is that this depends less on differences in intensity of experiences across species, which makes it a useful starting point for my thinking. I admittedly know less about on-the-ground conditions than activists in this area, but if their lives are void of good experiences, and include at least some subjectively bad ones, its hard to come up with a rationale for how they could have worthwhile lives.
So, conditional on focusing on... (read more)