I am an undergraduate studying computer science at Cambridge. My blog is here. You can contact me using this form.
Two areas I'm especially looking to pursue are EA-adjacent entrepreneurship and AI alignment research/engineering.
I spoke with Yonatan at EAGx Oxford. Yonatan was very good at drilling down to the key uncertainties and decision points.
The most valuable thing was that he really understood the core "make something that people really want" lesson for startups. I thought I understood this (and at least on some abstract level did), but after talking with Yonatan I now have a much stronger model of what it actually takes to make sure you're doing this in the real world, and a much better idea of what the key steps in a plan between finding a problem and starting a company around it should be.
New academic publishing system
Research that will help us improve, Epistemic Institutions, Empowering Exceptional People
It is well-known that the incentive structure for academic publishing is messed up. Changing publish-or-perish incentives is hard. However, one particular broken thing is that some journals operate on a model where they rent out their prestige to both authors (who pay to have their works accepted) and readers (who pay to read), extracting money from both while providing little value except their brand. This seems like a situation that could be disrupted, though probably not directly through competing on prestige with the big journals. Alternatives might look like something simple like expanding the scope of free preprint services like arXiv to bioRxiv to every field, or something more complicated like providing high-quality help and services for paper authors to incentivize them to submit to the new system. If established, a popular and prestigious academic publishing system would also be a good platform from which to push other academia-related changes (especially incentivizing the right kinds of research).
Regular prizes/awards for EA art
Works of art (e.g. stories, music, visual art) can be a major force inspiring people to do something or care about something. Prizes can directly lead to work (see for example the creative writing contest), but might also have an even bigger role in defining and promoting some type of work or some quality in works. Creating a (for example) annual prize/award scheme might go a long way towards defining and promoting an EA-aligned genre (consider how the existence of Hugo and Nebula awards helps define and promote science fiction). The existence of a prestigious / high-paying prize for the presence of specific qualities in a work is also likely to draw attention to those qualities more broadly; news like "Work X wins award for its depiction of [thoughtful altruism] / [the long-term future] / [epistemic rigor under uncertainty]" might make those qualities more of a conversation topic and something that more artists want to depict and explore, with knock-on effects for culture.
Prosocial social platforms
Epistemic institutions, movement-building, economic growth
The existing set of social media platforms is not particularly diverse, and existing platforms also often create negative externalities: reducing productive work hours, plausibly lowering epistemic standards, and increasing signalling/credentialism (by making easily legible credentials more important, and in some cases reducing the dimensionality of competition, e.g. LinkedIn reducing people to their most recent jobs and place of study, again making the competition for credentials in those things harsher). An enormous amount of value is locked away because valuable connections between people don't happen.
It might be very high-value to search through the set of possible social platforms and try to find ones that (1) make it easy to find valuable connections (hiring, co-founders, EA-aligned people, etc.) and trust in the people found through that process, (2) provide incentives to help other people and do useful things, and (3) de-emphasize unhealthy credentialism.
Contests like this seem to generate great content!
Meta note: is there some systematic way to discover and hear about EA forum contests/prizes? My experience is that despite checking the forum front page fairly often, usually when the winning entries show up on the front page. Some page on the forum listing all prizes would be useful – does this exist?
I broadly agree with the some of the other commenters. The goals of the EA Forum are different from those of Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook. There may well be a case for more audiovisual, engagement-optimized EA content, but moving the forum in the direction of engagement-optimized visually-flashy internet platforms seems like a mistake (especially because such content can be hosted on platforms optimized for it, as RyanCarey suggests in his comment, while maintaining the EA Forum as one of the rare sites based on long-form text).
In terms of specific things, the text-only nature of the front page in particular is a big asset for ease of getting information (can scan titles quickly), and for avoiding the tragedy-of-commons -style failure mode where images massively help with getting attention so everyone puts a flashy image on their post and now you have to scroll past lots of visual noise while still just reading the titles like before. (Note that my opinions on this matter are definitely personal and idiosyncratic; other people might find they prefer scrolling past a longer section of aesthetically-pleasing images over staring at a shorter chunk of stark text.)
In terms of more general points, I think the people who worry about how the medium affects the message are on to something – e.g. Amusing Ourselves to Death shaped my thinking on this and seems to point at a real and big problem.
That being said: