Kevin_Cornbob

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After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation

Hi Howie,

I really wasn't expecting a reply from an 80K staff member so I really appreciate taking time out to give myself and other readers more context. FWIW, I think generally the moves you describe make sense.

On "In our experience, these people aren't 'wandering in the dark;'" - this is just anecdotal evidence but I'd like to push back on that a bit: That phrase might be a bit of an exaggeration but I think personally in my own case and in a number of EAs I've come across, a 20-60 min session with an expert could have helped substantially, perhaps shaving off years of semi-time wasting.

For example in my own case, I had read many of 80K's articles but hadn't come across the more advanced advice of downgrading broad-based advocacy for the very top causes. I spent ~1 year working on media advocacy without fully knowing that - I'm not trying to blame 80K here, just that a short conversation with an expert who could really push back on my plan and point me in a particular direction I think would have been really useful. The specific advice I'm talking about is here: https://80000hours.org/articles/extinction-risk/#ways-to-contribute-that-are-harder-to-get-right-advocacy-and-for-profits

I've also seen many other smart, motivated people kind of defaulting to software engineering (which seems to have recently been generally downgraded), or kind of doing their own thing and generally being under-employed/under-utilized imo.

Perhaps as you note the tradeoff in training/hiring isn't worth it and the current model is optimal, I'm not sure. Hopefully this anecdotal evidence is at least somewhat useful. Cheers!

After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation

Just wanted to say I appreciate this post and I feel you. I had a very similar feeling when applying to receive coaching from 80K. I think they've improved their message since I applied, but at the time I didn't fully realize the type of person they were taking was literally the going to Harvard, in the middle of a machine learning Phd type.

I also feel like generally there's a huge under-utilization of talent in EA. I see so many cases of smart, motivated people who may not have literally the best resume ever, but could be extremely helpful *somewhere*. It's strange considering the emphasis on talent constraints.

I don't have an easy solution unfortunately and it does seem to be a really hard problem, but the Teach for America like funnel that I believe Nick Beckstead recommended and was brought up in a recent EA forum post seems really promising to me.

In a similar vein, I don't mean to pick on 80K - of course they do great work - but I'm confused why they don't just hire more career coaches. I realize they want to remain lean and have a really strong team, but I think they only have 2 coaches. That number is going to leave a lot of promising EAs wandering in the dark for a while.

p.s. I also know of an EA that applied to EA orgs for a long time and got rejected by all of them. They now work at one of the FAANG companies.

An Argument To Prioritize "Positively Shaping the Development of Crypto-assets"

It's practically impossible to exactly predict how future technology will shape out, but intuitively I think if there's ANY significant chance whatsoever of blockchain being the next internet, or anything close, it would be massively positive EV to try to shape that for the better. Imagine if an EA person was the head of Facebook for example? It could be absolutely huge, even if simply from an earning to give perspective.

With all the uncertainty here and the obviousness of other causes, I don't know if this should be high on the list of all priorities for EAs at large, but it makes sense to me at least to have at least 1 person pursuing this.

I also very much agree with your read of the crypto community being ripe for EA ideas. It's already evident from a lot of the vocal people in the space that many of them care about the global poor. I assume however that many of them have not heard of AMF yet for example, so spreading those ideas could be really impactful imo.

An Argument To Prioritize "Positively Shaping the Development of Crypto-assets"

It's true that the first mover often fails, but I also think it's clear that there seems to be a window of opportunity early on which gets harder to get through over time. For example, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon were all around before the dotcom bust. And while Facebook wasn't the first social network, it seems to have gotten to such strong network effects that it's likely to crush any challenger (as it's currently successfully doing to Snapchat). Surely most of the current blockchains will fail (I mean there's over 1000 of them), but it's very possible someone has already built an improved version that can be mainstreamed.

An Argument To Prioritize "Positively Shaping the Development of Crypto-assets"

Thought it might be useful to quickly go through that article's counterpoints (I'm basically making the bull case):

The title - it's misleading to use the ten years figure as serious development has only occurred in the past few years. For example, Ethereum, often referred to as Blockchain 2.0, went live in 2015.

Payments and Banking - Comparing to cash is silly as cash can't be sent across the globe instantly. It's like comparing writing letters to email. On comparisons to Visa - it's true in developed countries with strong banking the use case is not obvious. The use case becomes obvious for countries like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, etc. which is the use case most serious Bitcoin people talk about. Scalability is also obviously a problem currently, but many many projects are working on this exact problem right now. See early internet. Electricity usage is a problem particularly with Bitcoin's proof-of-work system, again there are many other blockchains working on other environmentally friendly solutions.

Freedom to transact without government supervision - He points to famous exchange hacks. Yes, those were terrible. Decentralized exchanges are currently being worked on/are already out to mitigate that point of failure. He then mentions a bunch of government protections that are worthwhile which again only matter if you have a trustworthy government. If you live in Norway or Canada or even America, ok great, but what about somebody in Venezuela or the Philippines? Many governments are significantly corrupt, the point of open blockchains is to get rid of relying on those parties.

Micropayments and bank-to-bank transfers - I have no idea if people will actually want to use micropayments, but there are some early interesting use cases like the Steem blockchain (basically a social network where people get micropayments for things like comments, posts etc). He then critiques Ripple, not based on its technology but on the volume its processed so far. Practically instant, nearly free, global remittance payments is just better than paying 10% or $30+ and waiting 3-5 business days. The critique reminds me of retailers critique of Amazon in the mid-90s - "e-commerce is barely 1% of all retail!"

I don't feel I know enough to comment on smart contracts and the other possible use cases he goes through.

An Argument To Prioritize "Positively Shaping the Development of Crypto-assets"

The claim in the OP was not that crypto's wealth is currently less centralized, it was that crypto could lead to a massive redistribution/creation of wealth in general. And that if EAs could get involved, that could lead to a more even distribution of wealth on the whole.

It's also misleading to use strong European states' income numbers as a comparison. My understanding is that those are among the countries with the most equal societies and using income numbers is always more equal than using wealth numbers because rich people tend to have a large amount of assets which count as wealth but not income. For example, in America the top 1/10 of 1% hold more wealth than the bottom 60% of Americans.