All of kuhanj's Comments + Replies

Organizational alignment

Thanks to Sam Bankman-Fried for comments and for significant influence on these thoughts.


Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now

I think donations in the next 2-3 days would be very useful (probably even more useful than door-knocking and phone-banking if one had to pick) for TV ads, but after that the benefits diminish somewhat steeply over the remaining days.

Kuhan is probably right. However, after speaking to someone on Team Carrick today, it seems like there is still room for funding for the campaign's ads, which are different from the PAC's ads and show more Carrick talking directly to people. So giving now still makes sense (for the next 48 hours) even though the effects are smaller than a few days ago.
Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now

Amazing, thank you Everett! I'd love to hang out together. :)

Announcing my retirement

Thank you for all your encouragement over the past few years for students and newer community members to post on the forum, and for actually making it easier and less scary to do so. I definitely would not have felt anywhere near as comfortable getting started without your encouragement and post editing offers. I've replaced Facebook binging with EA Forum binging since I both enjoyed it so much and found it really valuable for my learning. You will be missed, and incredibly hard to replace. Thank you for all your hard work!

Is it no longer hard to get a direct work job?
Answer by kuhanjNov 26, 202129

Hi Michael, thanks for writing this up! These are important topics, and I'd love to see more discussion of them. Just want to clarify two potential misconceptions: I don’t think it’s no longer hard to get a direct work job, although I do feel reasonably confident that it isn’t as hard to get funding to do direct work as it was a few years ago (either through employment or grants, though I would probably still stand by this statement if we were only considering employment). Secondly, on this part:

Kuhan mentioned that to it's not easy to get an EA job

... (read more)
The importance of optimizing the first few weeks of uni for EA groups

Edited for clarity - it might be a US thing, but I'd encourage others to try it out and see how it goes unless there are strong reasons not to.

It happens in Australian universities. Probably anywhere there's a large centralised campus. Wouldn't work as well in Oxbridge, though, because the teaching areas, and even the libraries, are spread all across the city.

Regarding the concern of broad distribution of books being low-impact due to  low completion rates/readership/engagement, do you have a sense of how impactful reading groups are for books when coupled with broad distribution? They can have a high initial fixed cost and then pretty low marginal costs for repeated run-throughs (e.g. it takes a long time to make discussion sheets for the first time you run the reading group, but afterwards you have them ready, create breakout rooms, and if you don't participate in them this requires minimal effort/time).  

I had the assumption that reading groups are much less impactful and lower quality without having a facilitator in each breakout room. Has EA Stanford experimented with reading groups without a trained facilitator? If so, how are these done - do you just give them discussion questions to talk about with each other? Would a participant be assigned as a facilitator per breakout room?
What are the EA movement's most notable accomplishments?

80,000 Hours as a (very thorough) resource for individuals trying to do good/maximize their impact with their careers feels like a big accomplishment. I found EA when I googled "Highest impact careers/how to have the biggest impact with your career", and didn't find anything anywhere near as compelling as 80,000 Hours. I think their counterfactual impact is probably quite massive given how insufficient impact-oriented career advice is outside of 80K (and the broader communities/research/thinking/work that have led to 80K being what it is). 

Most of the... (read more)

Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI

Thanks Jake! Stanford EA and I would definitely not be where we are now without your initial mentorship/ motivation, and ongoing guidance and support! I can't thank you enough. :) 

Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI

Great points, thanks for commenting Ben!  Responding to each of the points: 

In my experience, running local group events was like an o-ring process. If you're running a talk, you need to get the marketing right, the operations right, and the follow up right. If you miss any of these, you lose most of the value. This means that having an organiser who is really careful about each stage can dramatically increase the impact of the group. So, I'd highlight 'really caring' as one of the key traits to have.

I think I mostly agree with this (and strongly... (read more)

That's great to hear! I should have clarified my points weren't meant as disagreements - I think we're basically on the same page. Yes, I agree. One way to reconcile the two comments is that you need to focus on the 20% of most valuable activities within each aspect (marketing, ops, follow up), but you can't drop any aspect. I also agree that it's likely that 'really focusing on what drives impact' is more important than 'really caring', though I think simply caring and trying can go a fairly long way. On living together, I'm not concerned about living with friends in general (esp for students), just the idea of living 100% with EAs, while EA is also your main thing outside of studying. The more general point is that I think it's valuable to have friendships outside of EA. So, if someone is new to EA, I might encourage them to live with EAs for a few years to make deeper friendships there, but if someone is already heavily involved, I might encourage them to live with people who aren't in EA. The intro to EA talk looks cool! I made some comments on a copy that I've shared with your stanford email address.
Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI

That's very sweet, thank you Jonas! I have been in some conversations about EA essay/idea competitions similar to what you've mentioned, but haven't thought much about it. I think we're also thinking about ideas like hackathons as experimental outreach mechanisms to try out. How do you think something like what you're proposing would compare to the more standard intro EA programming (like intro talks and fellowships)?

1Jonas Hallgren1y
One of the bigger parts is probably that it would have a public prize attached to it. I get the feeling from people outside EA that altruism is charity and nothing that you can actually do a career within. A person has a certain threshold of motivation before digging into EA. I believe this threshold would be easier to get through if you had a potential explicit reward at the end of it (a carrot on a stick). It might also generate some interesting ideas that could be tried out. Essentially, the idea is that it would turbocharge the fellowships as they would have something to apply the ideas of EA to.
New Articles on Population Ethics and Theories of Well-Being

Pageviews would also go up a lot if (as suggested in the post) articles from the website were included in intro fellowships/other educational programs. I'll discuss adding these articles/others on the site to our intro syllabi. 

One potential concern with adding articles from is that many (new-to-EA) people (from experience running many fellowships) have  negative views towards utilitarianism (e.g. find it off-putting, think people use it to justify selfish/horrible/misguided actions, think it's too demanding (e.g. implications ... (read more)

Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI

To clarify/set realistic expectations, much of the growth happened in our second year (2020-2021 academic year), e.g. all the things mentioned in the intro + summary bullets, the first year mostly involved getting 5-10 highly dedicated core organizers and getting SERI started. I also caveat all the things I had going in my favour (including being in the Bay, being on a CBG, and getting lucky with very dedicated and competent co-organizers).

It can be hard to sacrifice career planning/advancement for group organizing purposes, but as I mentioned in my other comment running your group well has lots of career benefits (both from within the EA community, and the skills you develop from becoming a kick-ass organizer :))!

That makes sense, thank you for expanding on the timeline! I also really appreciate your acknowledgment of other factors. My original comment (intentionally) discounted the many other factors that contribute to a group's success, simply because I am confident that my group has a better-than-average mix of factors and so should not be at its current state.

I 100% agree that it's not a binary trade-off and in fact, if someone is potentially interested in community-building as a career, this could be one of the highest-impact things to do. Even if not, I also agree that exclusively maximizing for EA career prospects is not necessarily the best community norm to set!

Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI

Thank you for your kind words Miranda! EA group organizing can be quite difficult when others don't see it as potentially highly impactful and the group isn't doing so well - I hope this post can help change how useful EAs (and in particular students) think community building is, and help us do a better job at it so it feels more intuitively impactful and exciting!

The support system for organizers who want to put a lot of effort into their group is getting better and better. I'm always happy to have calls (or texts/emails) with organizers, to discuss how t... (read more)

On board with you there! I think there's a lot of great people already trying to do that, like yourself or Catherine Low, but perhaps to inconsistent effect. This might warrant me sitting down with my group and trying to figure out how we got motivated to organize in the first place. : ) Completely not surprised by your experience re: community building being rewarding. As someone who's been very connected to non-EA communities in the past, I definitely think community-building doesn't need to compromise non-community-building priorities! After all, you're directly shaping the future of the EA community and testing the messaging of EA on-the-ground and building connections throughout. Truly, community organizers are doing so many things all at once. Again, very inspired by your + your group's example. So grateful for all the work you do to publicize your experiences and spread best practices!
Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI

Thank you so much Kathryn! I'm inspired by all the work you do for WANBAM/mentorship in EA (which I'd love to build on moving forward, it's one of my top priorities), and everything else you do! :) 

3Emma Abele1y
Yeah it's James and I funded by EAIF
How students, groups, and community members can use funding

Strongly agree, I'll add a bullet point on this to the post :)

What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others?
Answer by kuhanjMar 06, 202113

I just stumbled across this on my Facebook newsfeed eradicator today and it reminded me of the inspiring quotes thread: 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.”

~ Anne Frank

EA Birthday Posts: An Alternative to Fundraisers

Ooh I like the changing profile picture idea, can I add that to the post? (I'll give you credit of course)

Yeah sure!
Stanford EA has Grown During the Pandemic; Your Group Can Too

Do you mean two or more people are sharing their screen at the same time? How does that work? We share our screens for group meetings, but I've never heard of screen-sharing during co-working sessions. Also, wouldn't people feel like they are being watched (or that they might show something private) if they are screen-sharing while working?

Yea we allow multiple participant screen-sharing on Zoom, which does run the risk of people seeing something private, but at least for me it really helps me not succumb to distractions, so the risk is worth it. You can't... (read more)

EA Birthday Posts: An Alternative to Fundraisers

Hey Akash! Thanks for your comment, and apologies for my late response!

Let me respond to  your individual thoughts:

1- I'd love to hear more about your decision to go with a career-focused post rather than a donation-focused post. I see how someone changing their career could have an immense impact (especially if they are able to find something impactful that they're also very good at). However, I'm skeptical about the proportion of people who would seriously consider changing their career paths as a result of this. Maybe my forecast is off, though-- I

... (read more)
"EA residencies" as an outreach activity

Here are some of my thoughts on EA residencies/moving people into the full-time EA recruiting pipeline that I shared with Buck: 


The primary bottlenecks preventing people (who are already interested in EA) from doing high-impact EA work full-time from what I’ve seen in no particular order (based on 2 years running Stanford EA and a few conversations with non-student EAs and community group leaders):

1. Full time EA work, and the transition required feels too costly (in terms of time, money, moving, social costs, preserving optionality,... (read more)