All of Lakin's Comments + Replies

Criticism of EA Criticism Contest

I've known many EAs. Many have been vegan and many have not (I'm not). I've never seen anyone "treat [someone] as non-serious (or even evil)" based on their diet.

I've had this happen fwiw.

I've had pushback about not being vegan/vegetarian, but I perceive it to be a thing a small fraction of EAs push other people on rather than a general norm.

I've upvoted because I think it is valuable to share this kind of experience. I think sometimes this sort of thing can be subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle and either way, it still can be very unpleasant. I feel like I very well could have made people feel judged without meaning to (I hope not though).

Huh. I'm sorry. I hope that experience isn't representative of EA.

Most students who would agree with EA ideas haven't heard of EA yet (results of a large-scale survey)

Hm… of 7.4% of students who are familiar with EA, only 17.6% of those students (1.3%/7.3%) are pro-EA and 82% are not. What fraction did we expect here?

I didn't make any prediction beforehand so take this with a grain of salt, but it didn't sound too surprising to me? I feel like when pitching EA during uni freshers fair roughly 1 in 4 people I talk to are sympathetic enough to want to sign up to mailing list and similar. So 17.6% doesn't sound too far off from that vague estimate
Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid

There's a weird detail I see in this post that seems to overemphasize the campaign's success:

Yes, Carrick lost. But he came in second out of nine, despite several factors pushing pretty strongly against him. Had things shaken out differently on a few key factors, he could have won.


So the fact that Carrick came in second, despite several (in the future, mostly avoidable) factors strongly pushing against him, and no comparable unique factors pushing in his favor, makes me more optimistic about the prospects of any future EAs who decide to run. To be concr

... (read more)
Bad Omens in Current Community Building

Can confirm that other groups/subcultures have begun to see EA as a deceitful cult because of stuff like this

4Ondřej Kubů3mo
More detail, please.

Which stuff in particular?

I've seen people make these complaints about EA since it first came to exist. 

As EA becomes bigger and better-known, I expect to see a higher volume of complaints even if the average person's impression remains the same/gets a bit better (though I'm not confident that's the case either).

This includes groups with no prior EA contact learning about it and deciding they don't like it — but I think they'd have had the same reaction at any point in EA's history.

Are there notable people or groups whose liking/trust of EA has, in your view, gone down over time?

Doing good easier: how to have passive impact

One of the best passive impact examples I know is Eneasz Brodski's recording of HPMoR. (Also, can we retroactively reward this?)

A retroactive grant for creating the HPMoR audiobook (Eneasz Brodski)?

ah, yes, this is the obvious thing to do. Ty, I've messaged him over email and facebook.

update: he has confirmed that there has not been

have you tried starting first with having the schedule that's probably going to happen? Consider it a prediction rather than a schedule

My model of research seems like it happens in hours-long continuous threads, rather than 30 min blocks (let alone blocks that you can specific in advance)

At least in my experience, there's nothing about research that requires engaging with it in "hours-long continuous threads"; what you do e.g. in a single two-hour session can be done in four half-hour sessions, on four successive days. I think the limiting factor is rather having sufficiently many concurrent (and non-time-sensitive) research projects that you can fill an entire workday with 30-minute slots each allocated to a different project. That may be challenging for some researchers, but it's really not a problem if you write encyclopedias for a living.

It seems that your main work is research (correct me if wrong), so I'm surprised you work in 30 min blocks

Yes, that is my main work. Could you elaborate on why you find this surprising?

Gee! Are there any other learnings you wish to add to this post?

Not Peter, but something I'd personally add is to schedule using 30-minute slots, unless the nature of the activity precludes it (e.g. attend a concert, fly to Nassau). The two main benefits I noticed from imposing this time limit are (1) being able to focus much more intensely on the task at hand and (2) being able to work, rather than procrastinate, on tasks I find aversive. Here [] is an example of someone who applies this kind of "timeboxing" for learning languages, although he uses 15-minute intervals (I haven't experimented much with different durations, and wouldn't be surprised if quarter-hour slots work even better than half-hour slots, though at some point the costs of context-switching and time-keeping will exceed the benefits of increased focus and motivation).
Ben's Shortform

I got this sense, but I could be wrong--

Does it need to start big to get big? Could you start small-- just you, just one or a few articles perhaps? I.e.

e.g. started pretty recently and is well-known now

1Ben Williamson8mo
It could start small for sure! A cheap, maybe solo trial version would make good sense. I think the larger concept of the project benefits from scale though, to add credibility for interviewing people and a size of readership/ projection that could usefully compete for attention with current news sources on EA topics.
Aiming for the minimum of self-care is dangerous

FYI when I read the title and skimmed the hover-preview (~first paragraph) of this essay, I didn't at all realize you meant psychological minimum

Fair enough! I have revised the title to include "self-care", which hopefully makes it clearer (the previous title, for later arrivals to this comment thread, was just "Aiming for the minimum is dangerous").

On a similar note, I actually parsed the title as the opposite of the intended meaning. That is, I thought the article was going to say that aiming for the minimum [amount of impact, or something else related like career capital] is dangerous, rather than that that aiming for the minimal amount of self-care is dangerous.
EA Internship & Research Opportunities for Undergraduates

On the form linked it might be nice to ask for some kind of rough expiration date. I.e. how long is this opportunity relevant-- a few days, a few months, indefinitely? This way hopefully you can automate the upkeep a bit.

Also would be great to turn this into a newsletter

EA Internship & Research Opportunities for Undergraduates

The 'Education status' part of the form linked seems vague to me. E.g. Does "Who is this opportunity open to?: Undergraduate" mean in undergrad or to hold a bachelors? Moreover, what does "Recent Grad" mean? 

+1, distinguishing between "No degree requirement", "Bachelors", "Masters" all would be helpful. You could borrow from the 80k board and separate out the "Academic Degree" requirements from the "Relevant Experience" requirements (e.g. "< 1 Year", "1-2 years", "2 or more years")
Seeking a Collaboration to Stop Hurricanes?

ok, what's your call to action- collaborators? funding? any specific questions you're looking for insight into?

3Anthony Repetto8mo
Thanks for asking! I am looking for someone who can run a simulation of these 'humidity traps', at various scales of the design, to find the minimum size necessary to reliably generate a water spout; then, simulating the open waters of the Gulf and Caribbean with various densities of the humidity traps across the surface. With those two simulations, we can get a reasonable estimate of cost, as well as checking for potential problems in the larger climatic circulation. I am not looking for funding; I expect it would be impossible to make anything happen without approval and involvement of at least the state governments in impacted areas. And, they should pay for it; I don't see a need to pull philanthropic dollars away from other areas.
Wikipedia editing is important, tractable, and neglected

What edits have you (or anyone you know) made that seem to have been valuable?

As an example, look at this overview of the Wikipedia pages that Brian Tomasik has created [] and their associated pageview numbers (screenshot of the top 10 pages below). The pages created by Brian mostly cover very important (though fringe) topics and attract ~ 100,000 pageviews every year. (Note that this overview ignores all the pages that Brian has edited but didn't create himself.)

Several EAs have accurately updated prominent individuals' bios (e.g., the profile of Michael Kremer) to highlight their founding roles in Giving What We Can — or other notable EA affiliations. 

I can't take credit for those additions, but think they are smart, consistent with the spirit of Wikipedia, and worthwhile.

Why Planning Events Early Can Be Important

Another point to add: It's possible that last-minute planning of a retreat might make some people (read: women) hesitant to suddenly spend a lot of time with people they don't know that well.

Should I go straight into EA community-building after graduation or do software engineering first?
Answer by LakinNov 27, 202110

FYI If finances are any constraint for you, community building is going to have a really hard time paying you much (as is the case for past and present full-time community builders).

1Brad West9mo
Sure... It could start with just one person who made the commitment and then a network of people who channel their buying of whatever he or she sells through that person.
Using Networks to Facilitate Effective Consumption

These kinds of things seem like they happen incrementally-- they evolve, rather than coming into being as the result of a grand plan. What is the simplest, quickest way you could make Version 0 of this exist today?


1Brad West9mo
I suppose a grand plan might be necessary to begin the incremental development. For instance, someone might announce that they would be an Effective Altruist Producer. They would commit to transparently limiting their personal financial gain from their business to X amount. Then, the EA community would consciously direct whatever business they had in that area through that Effective Producer. The secret sauce here would be that communication would enable Effective Altruists to consciously direct the profits of their consumption. So, I guess a proof of concept might be a Life Insurance Salesman Effective Salesman in New York. We would have one Effective Altruist transparently contractually commit to devoting the proceeds of his sales to Effective Charities. Then, say that there are 10,000 Effective Altruists in New York who want to buy Life Insurance (just as part of their normal economic activity) which would end up yielding $1.5 million in commission for this Effective Altruist Agent, all but $50k will go directly toward Effective Charities. So, basically, counterfactual, $1.5 million that year of profit would be generated and probably not have gone to Effective Charities. Once such a proof of concept was done, we as an Effective Altruist community could recruit people in many spheres of economic life to be Altruistic Producers and then, through networking resources, direct as much as possible of our purchasing goods and services through Altruist Producers...
We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships

That said, I'm not sure I'd trust that anyone who just did one if those was really well acquainted with the ideas or way of thinking.

Yeah I would probably have more experienced community builders fly in to help out.

Sorry, I meant that if that was the only thing someone had done, it wouldn't have been enough engagement for me to trust they had a good foundation.
Sleep: effective ways to improve it

I think it's pretty weird that Melatonin is #1 in your list. I think it's weird to suggest exogenous supplementation of something like that without an explanation of why melatonin is low to begin with. The efficient market hypothesis, but applied to your own biochemistry. Chesterton's fence, etc.

The body isn't a machine- as if you can just give it the right amounts of the right compounds and it  will perform optimally.

It took me 112 seconds start-to-writing-this-comment for what it's worth. (Update the title accordingly maybe lol? I would've been more likely to click if you said '112s' than '30s'.)

Some people wanted me to clarify that the "claiming" part of it takes less than a minute. I updated it to a range to hopefully satisfy both.
Sleep: effective ways to improve it

ty for the app! do you know of one for iOS?

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

On the vitamin D side: In I'm pretty skeptical of reductionist viewpoints in general such as here, ~"the single compound of 'vitamin D' placed into supplements has nearly the same effect as broad-spectrum UV on skin affects the body". I wouldn't be surprised if broad-spectrum UV had plenty of other effects that we have no idea how to look for, or for example if "UV → {this specific compound that is put in supplements}" is a poor approximation (maybe broad-spectrum UV causes the production of plenty of compounds that are also great, and we're only inclined ... (read more)

The main effect is on training the subconscious to associate certain times of day and places with sleep, and other times/places with activity.
We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships

Another structure I've been considering is converting the fellowship into a class. (At CMU student-taught classes are part of the culture and pretty common.) But I'm less excited about this than the idea I outlined in my other comment.

2Aleksi Maunu9mo
We've also been toying around with this idea in Helsinki University and Aalto University, haven't done anything concrete yet though.
We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships

Hey Ashley, I'm glad someone else is thinking about this too. Here at CMU I've been thinking about this too, particularly because CMU students are so busy. I think we miss people who would otherwise be engaged because of the current structure of the intro fellowship.

What I've been thinking about is running something like an 'EA Expo Day' in the beginning of the semester. It would be a full day with talks and workshops with plenty of capacity. At the same time it would be early in the semester before students get busy. I have a hunch that more people would ... (read more)

I like the expo idea a lot; as I was reading I was thinking of whether there could be a retreat that doesn't involve going anywhere, a full Saturday or Sunday of talks, reading, researching, games, watching videos, having 1-1s, that people can drop into and out of. That said, I'm not sure I'd trust that anyone who just did one if those was really well acquainted with the ideas or way of thinking.
Sleep: effective ways to improve it

Yeah, time constraints as expected. I think I found the title of this post a bit strong then.

Also, I would be surprised if light exposure + Vitamin D approximates daytime sunlight at more than 50% effect.

1Ben Williamson9mo
I think that's a fair point about the title and have changed it in light of that. I'm curious as to what you'd expect the other 50% of effect to come from? (no snarkiness intended)
Sleep: effective ways to improve it

recording oneself sleeping for snoring/sleep apnea seems huge. 


(sorry for the comment spam. I have lots more ideas too, feel free to email me,

2Yonatan Cale9mo
I have a friend who did this and discovered they stop breathing multiple times per night. Later they ordered an OuraRing and confirmed this. Easy way to check: The Sleep As Android [] app has a snoring-recording feature.
Sleep: effective ways to improve it

What about the effects of daytime sunlight on sleep? (I would be hesitant about confounding sunlight exposure with vitamin D supplementation, I think it's unlikely that they're equivalent.)

Being outside daytime and keeping the bedroom area for nighttime use are both known to be helpful which is why they are part of CBT sleep hygiene. You're right that it's not linked to vitamin D, which is via the skin not the eye/pineal/melatonin circuit.
Sleep: effective ways to improve it

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned temperature. E.g. buying a chilipad brought down my night-time insomnia by ~80%. (And I live in the northeast, too!)

Recently I've moved my bed directly next to my air conditioner, which has been great

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

Have you investigated the effect of night-time darkness? 

Also of blocking blue/green light? Though there's only a handful of studies -  found a 58% increase in night-time melatonin (blocking just blue, though separately it might do well to block green too)

I think I have some more notes lying around somewhere if you need them

1Ben Williamson9mo
Thanks for the suggestions! I think I may come back to this and expand the number of interventions I've reviewed and these are valuable suggestions that could well be worth promoting. Temperature and daytime sunlight are both somewhat mentioned in the article already but may be worthy of their own specific sections. I'd expect the benefits of daytime sunlight to roughly equal light exposure + Vitamin D. Given that, I think light therapy probably covers the majority of the positive effect but this likely warrants more specific research. With the larger project I'm working on in mind, there's a balance to be struck between research depth on a certain topic and breadth in the number of topics that I cover over the next few months, so there's definitely more depth that could be added to an article like this to improve it.
Can we get #TeamHumans going

it is hard to think of what is 'videoable/showy' while while also effective. it seems to be different objectives unfortunately, but maybe this works out better in the long run as that's how they get their audience

Listen to more EA content with The Nonlinear Library

Would love if you could do this for the EA Intro Fellowship syllabus (e.g. here's one syllabus, but note that the syllabus is continuously updating between semesters and different universities use different syllabi)

Effective Altruism, Before the Memes Started

I'm surprised no one else has mentioned:

An update in favor of trying to make tens of billions of dollars

I wonder what a reasonable cost-effectiveness/ROI estimate is for funding EAs trying to make billion-dollar startups.

Depends immensely on if you think there are EAs who could start billion-dollar companies, but would not be able to without EA funding. I.e. they're great founders, but can't raise money from VCs. Despite a lot of hand-wringing over the years about the ineffectiveness of VCs, I generally think being able to raise seed money is a decent and reasonable test, and not arbitrary gatekeeping. The upshot being, I don't think think EAs should try to start a seed fund.

You could argue that it would be worth it, solely for the sake of getting equity in very valuable companies. But at that point you're just trying to compete with VCs directly, and it's not clear that EAs have a comparative advantage.