I'm Executive Director at the Centre for Effective Altruism. I used to be a moderator here, and helped to launch the new version of the Forum in 2018.


What are you grateful for?

I'm grateful to colleagues who have worked hard through a sometimes-difficult year, been willing to try out new things (like online events), and somehow kept a sense of fun through it all.

I'm especially grateful when they point out ways I could do better and help me to grow. 

What are you grateful for?

I'm grateful to group leaders: running a group can be difficult and most people do it on top of full time work or studies. It requires so many different skills - being socially adept, knowing the latest research, and being able to orchestrate complex plans. 

And I think it's really important work: it creates a personal and sustained way for people to learn about EA and decide to take action. Empirically, loads of great people got into EA this way.

What are you grateful for?

I'm grateful that effective altruism gives me a sense of purpose and a global community. 

It feels like it fills some of the human need I have to be part of a village.

What are you grateful for?

(I know I'm one day late for Thanksgiving! I hope that people who celebrated it had a good day.)

What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others?

"One day we ... may have the luxury of going to any length in order to prevent a fellow sentient mind from being condemned to oblivion unwillingly. If we ever make it that far, the worth of a life will be measured not in dollars, but in stars.

"That is the value of a life. It will be the value of a life then, and it is the value of a life now.

"So when somebody offers $10 to press that button, you press it. You press the hell out of it. It's the best strategy available to you; it's the only way to save as many people as you can. But don't ever forget that this very fact is a terrible tragedy.

"Don't ever forget about the gap between how little a life costs and how much a life is worth. For that gap is an account of the darkness in this universe, it is a measure of how very far we have left to go."

 - Nate Soares, The Value of a Life

What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others?

"Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

"I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found.

"With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

"Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

"This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me."

 - Prologue to Bertrand Russell's Autobiography.

What types of charity will be the most effective for creating a more equal society?

Thanks! Those are both good points. I think you're right that they're open to changing their minds about some important aspects of their worldview (though I do think that "Please, if you disagree with me, carry your precious opinion elsewhere. " is some evidence that there are aspects that they're not very open to changing their mind about).

I also think that I reacted too strongly to the emotionally laden language - I agree this can be justified and appropriate, though I think it can also make collaborative truth-seeking harder. This makes me think that it's good to acknowledge, feel, and empathize with anger/sadness, whilst still being careful about the potential impact it might have when we're trying to work together to figure out what to do to help others. I do still feel worried about some sort of oversimplification/overconfidence wrt "all other problems are just derivatives".

To be clear, I always thought it was good to engage in discussion here rather than downvote, but I'm now a bit more optimistic about the dialogue going well.

What types of charity will be the most effective for creating a more equal society?

I didn't downvote, but I imagine people are reacting to a couple of phrases in the OP:

Please, if you disagree with me, carry your precious opinion elsewhere. I am only interested in opinions on how to most effectively create a more equal society.

I think that being open to changing your mind is an important norm. I think you could read this sentence as a very reasonable request to keep this discussion on topic, but I worry that it is a more general stance. (I also find the phrasing a bit rude.)

Some of the other phrases (e.g. "conviction" "deeply sick" "all other problems are just derivatives") make me worry about whether this person will change their mind, make me worry that they're overconfident, and make me worry that they'll use heated discourse in arguments rather than collaboratively truth seeking. All of these (if true) would make me a bit less excited about welcoming them to the community.

I also think that I could be reading too much into such phrases - I hope this person will go on to engage open-mindedly in discussion.

I really liked your answer - I think it's absolutely worth sharing resources, gently challenging, and reinforcing norms around open-minded cause prio. I personally think that that's a better solution than downvoting, if people have the time to do so.

CEA Mid-year update (2020)
Did you do any benchmarking for retention?

We did some light googling and also got some data from other EA orgs. Retention varies a lot by industry, but broadly I think our retention rates are now comparable or a bit better than the relevant average.

Do you know what the convention is for counting part-time versus full-time, interns, student employees, etc.?

Not sure what the convention is, but we looked at full-time employees.

Voluntary versus involuntary turnover?

Again, not sure what the convention is, but we're including both. I think that voluntary turnover is also a mildly negative sign (of bad hiring or training).

EA Survey Series 2019: How many EAs live in the main EA hubs?

Thanks for the extra analysis, that's interesting. Good point that it depends on your purpose.

Also, just to be clear, I didn't intend this as a criticism of the OP at all - this point just came up in conversation yesterday and I thought it was worth sharing! I find these posts really helpful and keep coming back to them as I think through all sorts of problems.

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