All of Kevin Kuruc's Comments + Replies

You are probably underestimating how good self-love can be

I'm glad you posted this here! This is super useful stuff to think about. Thanks :) 

Seeking feedback on new EA-aligned economics paper

Thanks for flagging :) I am going to take a look!

If you could send an email to every student at your university (to maximize impact), what would you include in it?

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.

1CarlaZoeC4moThanks Kevin!
Writing about my job: Economics Professor

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. 

2Madhav Malhotra4moThank you for the context :-) I really appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective here!
Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people

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. 

Consider canceling your WiFi

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.'  

Writing about my job: Research Fellow, FHI

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)

Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people

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)

2Charles He4moHi Kevin! I saw your excellent posts as an economics professor [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/yFLc9ZqmQPGaQJ5ro/writing-about-my-job-economics-professor] and also cutting WIFI [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/JdKu3iEkGbwF7EYTt/consider-canceling-your-wifi] . Both were great. It's great to hear from your perspective as an economics professor and hear about your work! Also, thanks for your comment. I think I get what you’re saying: * (It's not clear why anyone should listen to my opinions about their life choices) but yes, it seems perfectly valid to go into any discipline, and you can have a huge value and generate impact in many paths of life. * Also, there's a subthread here about elitism that is difficult to unpack, but it seems healthy to discuss "production functions", skill and related worldviews explicitly at some point. To be frank, by giving my narrative example, I was trying to touch on past messaging issues that actually happened. These messaging issues are alluded in this article, also by Benjamin Todd: https://80000hours.org/2018/11/clarifying-talent-gaps/ [https://80000hours.org/2018/11/clarifying-talent-gaps/] Basically, the problem is as suggested in my example—in the past, the need for very specific skills or profiles was misinterpreted as a need for general talent. This did result in bad outcomes. I chose to give my narrative instead of directly pointing to a past instance of the issue. By doing this, I hoped to be more approachable to those less familiar with the history. It is also less confrontational while making the same point.
Writing about my job: Economics Professor

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)

Writing about my job: Economics Professor

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.

1Madhav Malhotra4moIt sounds like you still had to slog through the drudgery at times, but the drudgery didn't last very long after you'd mastered the skills? And that's because mastering the skills let you quickly iterate and hop to new ideas?
Writing about my job: Research Fellow, FHI

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.

Writing about my job: Economics Professor

Hi Madhav, 

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)

1Madhav Malhotra4moCould you tell me more about the 'switching subtopics' part? Do you notice that the subtopics are often at a 'similar' sublevel? For example, I'm interested in learning about the environment, but I can get bored researching just one area. Ex: Plastic pollution. But switching to another area (ex: energy storage) is enough to get me excited again. But I don't get similar excitement when switching from one sub-aspect of plastic pollution (ex: marine plastic pollution) to another sub-aspect (ex: waste infrastructure in developing countries). It's like moving between nodes one layer deep into environmental issues excites me, but two layers deep doesn't. Has that been similar or different for you with your greater years of experience? :-)
How to reach out to orgs en masse?

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.    

Good luck!

2LindaMartin4moHaha, oh yes! I will do that. I didn't feel comfortable at first as I didn't want to come across as spam (even though I'm offering this for free). I'm not interested in consulting per se—I'm building these as DIY courses —but maybe that tag would still work. Thanks!
The problem of possible populations: animal farming, sustainability, extinction and the repugnant conclusion

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)

3Stijn5moHi Kevin, thanks for the comment. My theory mostly violates that neutrality principle: all else equal, adding a person to the world who has a negative welfare is bad, adding a person who has a welfare higher than treshold T is good, and in its lexical extension, adding a person with welfare between 0 and threshold T, is good (the lexical extension says that if two states are equally good when it comes to the total welfare excluding the welfare of possible people between 0 and T, then the state that has the highest total welfare, including that of all possible people, is the best). There is indeed an apparent intransitivity in my theory, which is not a real or serious intransitivity, as it is avoided in the same way as that dynamic inconsistency is avoided, namely by considering the choise sets. So, worlds A, B and C are equally good when you consider the full choice set {A,B,C}, but once that extra person is added, the choice set reduces to {B,C}, and then C is better than B (the extra person becomes a necessary person in choice set {B,C}). The crucial thing is that the 'better than' relationship depends on the choice set, the set of all available states. This excludes the serious 'money pump' intransitivities. In the full choice set {A,B,C}, I am indifferent between A and B, so I'm willing to switch from A to B. Now I prefer C over B (because that extra person has a higher welfare in C), and hence I'm willing to pay to switch from B to C. But as the choice set is now reduced to {B,C}, after choosing C, I can no longer switch back to A, even if I was initially indifferent between C and A. In the lexical extension of my theory, I would end up with world C.
Small and Vulnerable

Thank you for taking the time -- and having the courage -- to write this. I appreciate learning about others' experiences from personal accounts.

Measuring Animal Welfare: Philosophical Foundations, Practical Indicators, and Overall Assessments

Hi George,

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!

How do you compare human and animal suffering?

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)

1Harry_Taussig7moHi Kevin, I definitely agree with your point on longtermism, and thanks for sending that article as I think it gets a lot closer to one my main concerns here which is indefinitely extending a bad future.