All of MaxDalton's Comments + Replies

Questions for Howie on mental health for the 80k podcast

There is this website, which might be the sort of thing you were thinking of?

3Peter Wildeford1moI hadn't heard of this - thanks!
CEA Update: Q2 2021

I'm glad you appreciate it! Thanks for the feedback on those comparisons: I'll make a note to try to give more historic data points in the future.

Which EA forum posts would you most like narrated?

I think it would be really cool if you could read the posts in the introductory sequences (the ones in blue with numbers here We're planning to keep polishing/publicising these posts as an introduction to EA, and I think it would be nice if there were an audio version for people who preferred that.

1D0TheMath2moThat's a great idea!
AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

Good question! Unfortunately I don't have an amazing answer. I think the values are a bit of a mix between simply reflecting where we currently are, and where we'd like to go. Overall, it feels like we're maybe 60-80% towards the ideal on these dimensions. So they are genuine strengths, but I think there's still room for us to grow in the dimension. There isn't one that stands out as more already-achieved, or as  more in need for improvement: they're all in that ~60-80% range.

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

I love my job, and feel very lucky.


  • I genuinely like and trust my colleagues. I really enjoy working with people who care about very similar things and are deeply into the same ideas/culture. I've learned a lot from them.
  • Being able to (somewhat) shape the role to what I enjoy and am good at (e.g. I hate public speaking but love writing - others at CEA are the opposite, so I can write speeches for them). This is something that we try to do for everyone at CEA: to find a role that really plays to their strengths.
  • Facing a lot of open-ended and challe
... (read more)
AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

Amy covered most of this, but to expand on a few points.

  • My favourite retreat activity was an EA-themed baking competition. Our last retreat was in December, and we also had a really nice "secret santa" round.
  • Memorable office party activities include seeing who can slide the furthest on a beanbag on a smooth floor, and trying to estimate how many average dinosaurs you'd have to have  to equal the mass of the moon.
  • Caitlin is our head of people ops. A big part of her job is supporting staff morale - both by facilitating fun things like the above, and by making sure that staff have the support they need.

Oh, those were good too! Definitely loved the bake-off. My team’s name of Nick Bakestead was one for the books.

I also really liked the EA themed rap battle. Even though I epically choked trying to freestyle, the raps from Aaron and Louis made up for it!

And I liked when Stefan did spot on impersonations of other staff members. I think he really nailed me, Oli, and Tara!

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

I agree with a lot of Amy/Julia's impressions. Some other thoughts:

7 years ago (I was an intern over the summer, so I'm probably missing some things). I think "CEA" was really just a legal entity for a wide variety of other projects. There was a bit more research being done in-house (e.g Global Priorities Project), and I think basically everything was happening in Oxford. 

Compared to then: more cohesive, less research, people more distributed across the world.

5 years ago: things were beginning to get a bit more integrated. Different teams were coming ... (read more)

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

Amy covered some of our work here. I think more broadly this is something that we try to consider in all of our programs.

Another example of some proactive work is discussed here (under "epistemics").

6Nicole_Ross4moWhat Amy said above! I've also been doing some thinking about how to improve the community's epistemics in a more targeted way. As part of this, I conducted a small test run of a project that I hope will help (the "EA Librarian" project mentioned in Max's link). I've also developed a few other ideas (e.g., a coaching program). Unfortunately, the work here has been pretty limited so far due to capacity constraints. Right now, I'm focusing on trying to hire to add more capacity. I've also been working on my project management skills to try to increase my ability to push things forward in this space.
Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions

If people aren't listening to Bob because they don't like his leadership style, then I would say that Bob is a bad culture fit (or, to be blunt, not a good leader). I wouldn't describe this as the organization "not letting him thrive."

I could also imagine it being that the org has a bad culture (e.g. they systematically don't listen to the ideas of people in more junior roles)

2Ben_West5moSure, but that's also a reason against appropriately qualified people working there also, right? What I'm pushing against is the assumption that employees love outsiders coming in and telling them all the things they are doing wrong, and if they don't like you pointing out their mistakes it must mean you are "overqualified". I actually hear the opposite more frequently: having a more junior title makes it easier for people to listen to your suggestions, because it's less threatening for you to point out mistakes.
CEA update: Q1 2021

For groups support calls, one staff member's NPS was 83% and another's was 55%. (They were talking to different user groups, which probably explains some of the discrepancy.)

CEA update: Q1 2021

Thanks for explaining! The guess about how people use the scale seems pretty plausible to me.

CEA update: Q1 2021

Hmm, I still think the threshold effects are kinda weird, and so NPS shouldn't be the main measure. (I know you're just asking for it as supplementary info, and I think we'd maybe both prefer mean + histogram.)

There's a prima facie case, that's like: the threshold effects say that you care totally about the 6/7 and 8/9 boundaries, and not-at-all about the 5/6, 7/8, 9/10 boundaries. That's weird!

I could imagine a view that's like "it's really important to have enthusiastic promoters because they help spread the word about your product" or something, but the... (read more)

5velutvulpes5moThanks for explaining your view! I don’t really have super strong views here, so don’t want to labour the point, but just thought I’d share my intuition for where I’m coming from. For me it makes sense to have a thresholds at the places because it does actually carve up the buckets of reactions better than the linear scale suggests. For example, some people feel weird rating something really low and so they “express dislike” by rating it 6/10. So to me the lowest scorers and the 6/10ers are actually probably have more similar experiences than their linear score suggests. I claim this is driven by weird habits/something psychological of how people are used to rating things. I think there’s a similar thing at the 7/8/9 distinction. I think when people think something is “okay” they just rate it 7/10. But when someone is actually impressed by something they rate it 9/10, which is only 2 points more but actually captures a quite different sentiment. From experience also I’ve noticed some people use 9/10 in place of 10/10 because they just never give anything 10/10 (e.g they understand what it means for something to be 10/10 differently to others) The short of it is that I claim people don’t seem to use the linear scale as an actual linear scale , and so it makes sense to normalise things with the thresholds, and I claim that the thresholds are at the right place mostly just from my (very limited) experience
CEA update: Q1 2021

Thanks - I'll pass this on to the people involved! 

CEA update: Q1 2021

EA Global: Reconnect NPS was 20%

CEA update: Q1 2021

Sure! I've asked the relevant people to respond with the NPS figures if it's quick/easy for them to do so, but they might prioritize other things.

Btw, I disagree about how useful NPS is. I think it's quite a weird metric (with very strong threshold effects between 6/7 and 8/9, and no discrimination between a 6 and a 1). That's why we switched to the mean. I do think that looking at a histogram is often useful though- in most cases the mean doesn't give you a strong sense of the distribution.

9velutvulpes5moThanks! I guess I think NPS is useful precisely because of those threshold effects, but agree not sure that it handles the discrimination between 6 and 1 well. Histograms seem great!
CEA update: Q1 2021

These terms are generally referring to 19 university groups which we give some additional support (e.g. we offer extra 1:1 calls with them, and we pilot some programs with them). This is on top of the support we offer all groups (e.g. online resources, funding for events, 1:1 calls, advice over Slack/email).

The groups are chosen primarily based on the university’s track record of having highly influential graduates (e.g. Nobel prize winners, politicians, major philanthropists). We also place some weight on university rankings, universities in regions with ... (read more)

2BrianTan5moGot it! You listed only 16 universities though, but you mentioned you're referring to 19 groups. Do some universities have more than one group (i.e. Harvard and Harvard Law?)
Cause Area: Human Rights in North Korea

I changed the publish date of this post back to Nov 20, 2017, since it seems like you wanted to do that.

2Denis Drescher6moThank you kindly!
Announcing "Naming What We Can"!

Can I suggest that Max Daniel change his name to Max Ipok?

I think this would be a step in the right direction but wouldn't go far enough. People will still confuse us because of our shared first name.

I'm thinking that maybe I should go for Min Cat Astrophe instead. I'm hoping that the middle name would also help make me more popular on the Internet.

AMA: JP Addison and Sam Deere on software engineering at CEA

Do you want to reflect the views of the EA community? Engaged EAs? CEA? EA “leaders”?

I touched on this in an earlier comment:

In the future, I’d like CEA to take a more agnostic approach to cause prioritisation, trying to construct non-gameable mechanisms for making decisions about how much we talk about different causes. An example of how this might work is that we might pay for an independent contractor to try to figure out who has spent more than two years full time thinking about cause prioritization, and then surveying those peopl

... (read more)
2AnonymousEAForumAccount6moThanks for this response Max! 1. I’m torn. On one hand (as I mentioned to Aaron) I appreciate that CEA is making efforts to offer realistic estimates instead of overpromising or telling people what they want to hear. If CEA is going to prioritize the EA Wiki and would rather not outsource management of, I’m legitimately grateful that you’re just coming out and saying that. I may not agree with these prioritization decisions (I see it as continuing a problematic pattern of taking on new responsibilities before fulfilling existing ones), but at the end of the day those decisions are yours to make and not mine. On the other hand, I feel like substantial improvements could be made with negligible effort. For instance, I think you’d make enormous progress if you simply added the introductory article on Global Health and Development [] to the reading list on the homepage, replacing “Crucial Considerations and Wise Philanthropy [] ”. Global Health is currently a glaring omission since it is the most popular cause in the EA community [] and it is highly accessible to an introductory audience. And I think nearly everyone (near-or-long-termist) would agree that “Crucial Considerations” (currently second on the reading list after a brief introduction to EA) is quite obviously not meant for an introductory audience. It assumes a working understanding of x-risk (in general and specific x-risks), has numerous slides with complex equations, and uses highly technical language that will be inscrutable to most people who have only read a brief intro to EA (e.g. “we should oppose extra funding for nanotechnology even though superintelligence and ubiquitous surveillance m
5BrianTan6moThanks for clarifying! I edited my comment to say EA Funds instead of CEA now.
Some quick notes on "effective altruism"

I asked my team about this, and Sky provided the following information. This quarter CEA did a small brand test, with Rethink’s help. We asked a sample of US college students if they had heard of “effective altruism.” Some respondents were also asked to give a brief definition of EA and a Likert scale rating of how negative/positive their first impression was of “effective altruism.”

Students who had never heard of “effective altruism” before the survey still had positive associations with it. Comments suggested that they thought it sounded good  - eff... (read more)

9MHarris6moI wonder if there would be a strong difference between "What do you think of a group/concept called 'effective altruism'", "Would you join a group called 'effective altruism'", "What would you think of someone who calls themselves an 'effective altruist'", "Would you call yourself an 'effective altruist'". I wonder which of these questions is most important in selecting a name.
8sky6moThanks for sharing that info, Max. It was an interesting first pass at some of these questions.
How to run an effective stall (we think)

Thanks for writing this up and sharing it! People might also be interested in this post on the same topic, and this guide.

Responses and Testimonies on EA Growth

In my view, (1-3) did not directly slow growth.

This surprised me - wouldn't you expect 1 and 2 to directly slow growth somewhat, e.g. by putting people off or causing growth projects to fail to meet their goals? (Maybe you just don't think these were very significant?)

"fundamentally, why has growth not sped up?"

I think it's good to ask "what was the relative importance of these factors?", but the framing of "fundamentally, why has growth not sped up?" seems to be implicitly pushing towards there being a single explanation. I think there were probably multi... (read more)

1RyanCarey6moI'd agree that on the current margin, "EAs getting harder to find" could be a factor, as well as some combination of things like (#2-4). Having said that, what seems like an underrated fact is that although EA outreach (CEA/80k/CFAR) deploys less funds than EA research (FHI/MIRI/CSER/...), a priori, I'd expect outreach to scale better - since research has to be more varied, and requires more specific skills. This leads to the question: why we don't we yet have a proof of concept for turning ~$100M into high quality movement growth? Maybe this is the biggest issue. (#2) can explain why CEA hasn't offered this. (#4) is more comprehensive, because it explain why 80k and others haven't.
Responses and Testimonies on EA Growth

I agree that this is a (significant) part of the explanation. For instance, I think there are a variety of things I could have done last year that would have helped our groups support improve more quickly.

Plug: if you have feedback about mistakes CEA is making or has made, I'd love to hear it. You can share thoughts (including anonymously) here.

7AnonymousEAForumAccount6moThanks Max! It’s incredibly valuable for leaders like yourself to acknowledge the importance of identifying and learning from mistakes that have been made over the years.
A ranked list of all EA-relevant (audio)books I've read

I haven't read everything on your list, but I broadly agree with your rankings for the things I have read (with some tweaks - e.g. I'd probably put Inadequate Equilibria higher and Thinking Fast and Slow lower). 

I feel a bit confused still about how many/which things should be canonical. Maybe I want canonical ideas rather than canonical books? E.g. I think some of the ideas in the sequences are  important, and should be more widely known/used even in EA. But I also think it contains some less important stuff, and some people find the presentatio... (read more)

2MichaelA7moThis seems like a good point. And yeah, I think we've now got that for AI safety (especially as there are other presentations that I've heard recommended but didn't include, in particular Life 3.0), which seems like a good thing. And thanks for those recommendations; I'll probably try those out. Yeah, FWIW, Science in the Twentieth Century: A Social-Intellectual Survey is from The Great Courses, and I didn't find it very engaging or useful per minute (hence its low ranking on my list). (That said, Beckstead [] labelled it "Outstanding", so perhaps other people would find it more useful than I did.)
A ranked list of all EA-relevant (audio)books I've read

I agree there are some costs to having some canonical books, but I think there are also some real benefits: for instance it helps to create common knowledge, which can facilitate good discussion and coordination. Also maybe some books are sufficiently important and high-quality that ~all EAs should read them before reading a broader variety of books (e.g. maybe all EAs should read The Precipice and a few other books, but then they should branch out and read a variety of things). 

I don't think that everything on Michael's list should be canonical, but ... (read more)

3MichaelA7moI agree with these points. I'd also be interested to hear which of the books I listed you think are probably over-canonised, or more generally which commonly recommended books (whether mentioned here or not) you think are overrated. (I'd also be interested to see your top book recommendations, or top recommendations for particular sets of topics.)
Why do EA events attract more men than women? Focus group data

Thanks for doing this investigation, it's always helpful to have more data on this sort of thing.

Small note: I just re-skimmed this , and I found it really helpful that the headings were quite long: you can read the table of contents as a kind of summary, then click on bits that are interesting to you. I'm not sure if that was intentional, but I found it very helpful.

CEA update: Q4 2020

Interesting! Thanks for sharing.

3Jonas Vollmer8moI agree with Denise's description and Max's, but I don't see how it follows that focusing on professionals is more useful than focusing on students. In fact, I think that Germans taking gap years, changing degrees, etc. makes it more plausible that student groups are a promising target audience, as this allows students to spend more time thinking about EA ideas and make relatively large changes to their careers.
CEA update: Q4 2020

That's interesting - I'm surprised by that and wonder if it's due to some differences between systems? In the UK people often begin to think about internships in their first or second years, and then look for jobs in the 3rd year, so I think there's quite a lot of ability to influence and discuss career plans early on. In the US degrees are longer, but early on people are trying to decide their major which is also a significant career decision. I also think that students have a lot more time and interest in engaging with new things, and they tend to be eas... (read more)

8Denise_Melchin8mo(I'm German, but have lived in the UK for 4.5 years now.) My best guess is that you are both right, and large cultural differences are at play. I found this really bizarre when I moved to the UK. In Germany, you are an ambitious overachiever if you have a 'career plan' at 22. In the UK this is standard. Among educated Germans, people take longer to finish their degrees, are more likely to take gap years, change degrees. Internships seem to be much rarer. The 'summer internship' system does not seem to exist as much in Germany, and just is not considered necessary in the same way. Most Germans do Master's (which take 2 years in Germany) as only a Bachelor's degree is taken less seriously. Having children during your degree is more common. Educated Germans just start full-time employment much later. This is so extreme that in my friendship circle I do not know any German non-EA who has finished their education (all including Master's) and started a full-time job before the age of 27 (!).
Things CEA is not doing

No, I think you understood the original post right and my last comment was confusing. When I said "grow" I was imagining "grow in terms of people/impact in the areas we're currently occupying and other adjacent areas that are not listed as "things we're not doing"".

I don't expect us to start doing the things listed in the post in the next 4-10 years (though I might be wrong on some counts). We'll be less likely to do something if it's less related to our current core competencies, and if others are doing good work in the area (as with fundraising).

Things CEA is not doing

Yeah, I agree that "be able to usefully scale" is a pretty positive instrumental goal (and maybe one I should pay attention to more). 

Maybe there are different versions of "be able to usefully scale":

  1. I'm mostly thinking of this in terms of "work on area X such that you have a model you can scale to make X much higher impact". I think this generally doesn't help you much to explore/scale area Y. (Maybe it helps if X and Y are really related.)
  2. I think you're thinking of this mostly in terms of "Be able to hire, manage, and coordinate large numbers of peo
... (read more)
Things CEA is not doing

Yeah, agree that experimentation and listening to customers is good. I mostly think this is a different dimension from things like "expand into a new area", although maybe the distinction is a bit fuzzy.

I also agree that aiming to find scaleable things is a great model. 

I do think of CEA as looking for things that can scale (e.g. I think Forum, groups, and EAGx could all be scaled relatively well once we work out the models) (but we also do things that don't scale, which I think is appropriate while we're still searching for a really strong product-ma... (read more)

2Ozzie Gooen8moHappy to hear you're looking for things that could scale, I'd personally be particularly excited about those opportunities. I'd guess that internet-style things could scale particularly well; like the Forum / EA Funds / online models, etc, but that's also my internet background talking :). In particular, things could be different if it makes sense to focus on a very narrow but elite group. I agree that a group should scale staff only after finding a scalable opportunity.
Things CEA is not doing

This all seems reasonable. Some scattered thoughts:

  • To be clear, I'm not claiming 1), I'm more like "I'm still figuring out how fast/how to grow)"
  • I still think that "expanding staff/focus" is getting a bit too much emphasis: I think that if we focus on the right things we might be able to scale our impact faster than we scale our staff
3Ozzie Gooen8moThanks! Maybe I misunderstood this post. You wrote, When you said this, what timeline were you implying? I would imagine that if there were a new nonprofit focusing on a subarea mentioned here they would be intending to focus on it for 4-10+ years, so I was assuming that this post meant that CEA was intending to not get into these areas on a 4-10 year horizon. Were you thinking of more of a 1-2 year horizon? I guess this would be fine as long as you're keeping in communication with other potential groups who are thinking about these areas, so we don't have a situation where there's a lot of overlapping (or worse, competing) work all of a sudden.
Things CEA is not doing

Another argument: I think that startup folk wisdom is pretty big on focus. (E.g. start with a small target audience, give each person one clear goal).  I think it's roughly "only start doing new things when you're acing your old things". But maybe startup folk wisdom is wrong, or maybe I'm wrong about what startup folk wisdom says.

I also think most (maybe basically all?) startups that got big started by doing one smaller thing well (e.g. Google did search, Amazon did books, Apple did computers, Microsoft did operating systems). Again, I think this was... (read more)

4Ozzie Gooen8moHaving been in the startup scene, wisdom there is a bit of a mess. It's clear that the main goal of early startups is to identify "product market fit", which to me seems like, "an opportunity that's exciting enough to spend effort scaling". Startups "pivot" all the time. (See The Lean Startup [] , though I assume you're familiar) Startups also experiment with a bunch of small features, listen to what users want, and ideally choose some to focus on. For instance, Instagram started with a general-purpose app; from this they found out that users just really liked the photo feature, so they removed the other stuff and just focussed on that. AirBnB started out in many cities, but later were encouraged to focus on one; but in part because of their expertise (I imagine) they were able to make a good decision. It's a known bug for startups to scale before "product market fit", or scale poorly (bad hires), both of which are quite bad. However, it's definitely the intentionof basically all startups to eventually get to the point where they have an exciting and scalable opportunity, and then to expand.
Things CEA is not doing

I think my view was that  (while they still think they're cost effective), orgs should be on the Pareto frontier of {size, quality}. However, they should also try to communicate clearly about what they won't be able to take on, so that others can take on those areas.

I imagine your reply being something like "That's OK, but org-1 is essentially creating an externality on potential-org-2 by growing more slowly: it means that potential-org-2 has to build a reputation, set up ops etc, rather than just being absorbed into org-1. It's better for org-1 to no... (read more)

Things CEA is not doing

I agree with your points about it being easier to find a PM than an ED, brand, centralizing operations etc., and I think they're costs to setting up new non-profits.

Things CEA is not doing

I also agree with your point about different forms of centralization, and I think that we are in a world where e.g. funding is fairly centralized.

I also wanted to emphasize that I agree with Edo that it's good to have centralized discussion platforms etc. - e.g. I think it would probably be bad if someone set up a competitor to the Forum that took 50% of the viewers. (But maybe fine if they quickly stole 100% of the Forum's viewers by being much better.)

Things CEA is not doing

I generally feel like there's a bit too much focus in your model on number of people vs. getting those people to do high-quality work, or directing those people towards important problems. I also think it's worth remembering that staff (time, compensation) come on the cost side of the cost-effectiveness calculation.

E.g. I don't think that GW succeeded because it had more staff than 80k. I think they succeeded because they were doing really high-quality work on an important problem. To do that they had to have a reasonable number of staff, but that was a co... (read more)

4Ozzie Gooen8moThanks for the details and calculation of GW. It's of course difficult to express a complete worldview in a few (even long) comments. To be clear, I definitely acknowledge that hiring has substantial costs (I haven't really done it yet for QURI), and is not right for all orgs, especially at all times. I don't think that hiring is intrinsically good or anything. I also agree that being slow, in the beginning in particular, could be essential. All that said, I think something like "ability to usefully scale" is a fairly critical factor in success for many jobs other than, perhaps, theoretical research. I think the success of OpenPhil will be profoundly bottlenecked if it can't find some useful ways to scale much further (this could even be by encouraging many other groups). It could take quite a while of "staying really small" to "be able to usefully scale", but "be able to usefully scale" is one of the main goals I'd want to see.
Things CEA is not doing

Thanks for the detailed reply!  I'll give a few shorter comment responses. I'm not running these by people at CEA, so this is just my view.

Organizational growth

First, I want to clarify that I'm not saying that I want CEA/other orgs to stay small. I think we might well end up as one of those big orgs with >40 people.

Given that I think there are some significant opportunities here, choosing to be focused doesn't mean we can't get big. We'd just have lots of people focused on one issue rather than lots focused on lots of issues. For some of the reason... (read more)

2Ozzie Gooen8moThanks for all the responses! I've thought about this a bit more. Perhaps the crux is something like this: From my (likely mistaken) read of things, the community strategy seems to want something like: 1) CEA doesn't expand its staff or focus greatly in the next 3-10 years. 2) CEA is able to keep essential control and ensure quality of community expansion in the next 3-10 years. 3) We have a great amount of EA meta / community growth in the next 3-10 years. I could understand strategies where one of those three is sacrificed for the other two, but having all three sounds quite tricky, even if it would be really nice ideally. The most likely way I could see (3) and (1) both happening is if there is some new big organization that comes in and gains a lot of control, but I'm not sure if we want that. My impression is that (3) is the main one to be restricted. We could try encouraging some new nonprofits, but it seems quite hard to me to imagine a whole bunch being made quickly in ways we would be comfortable with (not actively afraid of), especially without a whole lot of oversight. I think it's totally fine, and normally necessary (though not fun) to accept some significant sacrifices as part of strategic decision making. I don't particularly have an opinion on which of the three should be the one to go.
CEA update: Q4 2020

Yes - student groups will be our main priority for additional support in 2021 (we say a bit more about why here, and we discuss what that means concretely for our groups team here). But we’ll be maintaining or expanding the support we give to all groups, including new initiatives like Virtual Programs

1Manuel_Allgaier8moThanks for elaborating! In my experience with running EA Berlin since two years, outreach to students seemed worthwhile but outreach on recent graduates / young professionals seemed even more worthwhile, as they were actively thinking about career plans and most keen to apply the EA philosophy right away (compared to students who will only make career decisions years later and then may or may not take EA considerations into account). They are often in their early twenties too, usually 21-25 y/o. If you're interested in this, I would be happy to continue this discussion sometimes via comments, email [] or a (short) call [](if you find it worth your time, no worries if not!). If you feel like CEA is better suited to focus its own programs to students that seems fair to me, and I appreciate that your programs (especially EAG(x) conferences) remain open to other groups as well. I hope this also applies to the CB grant program, so city groups and national groups have equally good chances of receiving funding compared to university groups focussed on students only.
CEA update: Q4 2020

We plan to do most hiring through public vacancies, but we will make occasional exceptions when we think we’re very likely to be aware of the top candidates. 

In the first case we wanted to hire someone who had experience leading a successful university group, and since we work closely with many group leaders we felt like we had a good enough sense of the talent pool to do a closed round (where we invited a small number of candidates to do work trials, interviews etc.) We might do this sort of thing again.

We brought on Sara and Aadil through the same h... (read more)

1Manuel_Allgaier8moThank you Max for elaborating! Happy to hear that you generally prefer public vacancies too. In my impression, this often has not been the case for EA orgs in the past (and the people who upvoted my comment might feel similar), so it's nice to see you publicly write in favor of that. It makes sense that you make those occasional exceptions for specific cases and I agree that they seem worth it to save time as long as it does not compromise too much on accessibility and fairness.
Things CEA is not doing

Thanks for sharing this feedback Ozzie, and for acknowledging the tradeoffs too.

I have a different intuition on the centralization tradeoff - I generally feel like things will go better if we have a lot of more focused groups working together vs. one big organization with multiple goals. I don’t think I’ll be able to fully justify my view here. I’m going to timebox this, so I expect some of it will be wrong/confused/confusing.

Examples: I think that part of the reason why 80,000 Hours has done well is that they have a clear and relatively narrow mission tha... (read more)

Hi Max,

Thanks for clarifying your reasoning here.

Again, if you think CEA shouldn’t expand, my guess is that it shouldn’t.

I respect your opinion a lot here and am really thankful for your work.

I think this is a messy issue. I tried clarifying my thoughts for a few hours. I imagine what’s really necessary is broader discussion and research into expectations and models of the expansion of EA work, but of course that’s a lot of work. Note that I'm not particularly concerned with CEA becoming big; I'm more concerned with us aiming for some organizations to be f... (read more)

CEA's Plans for 2021

Thanks for your questions. 

Re: target of 125 people. This is a relatively high bar: it’s focused on people who have taken significant action based on a good understanding of EA principles. So the bar is somewhat higher than the GWWC pledge, because we interview people and get a sense of why they chose the path they’re in and what would change their mind. We think that for most people this means >100 hours of engagement with quality content, plus carefully thinking through their career plans and taking action toward those plans (which might include ... (read more)

7AnonymousEAForumAccount9moThanks for the explanations Max!
CEA's Plans for 2021

Hey Marisa, thanks, I'm glad you appreciated this! 

Yes, EEAs=highly-engaged EAs (I've now edited this throughout, so that it's a bit less jargon-y). This is a term that we're using internally to refer to people who are taking significant action (e.g. a career plan or a significant giving pledge or similar) based on a detailed understanding of EA ideas.  

CEA's Plans for 2021

Hi, thanks for your question! 

The section on 2021 plans is intended to be a summary of these criteria, sorry that wasn’t clear. 

  1. One target is focused on recruitment: building a system for onboarding people to EA (to the level where they are taking significant action based on a good understanding of EA principles). Specifically, we aim to help onboard 125 people to this level.
  2. The second target is focused around retention: for people who are already highly engaged EAs, growing the amount of time they spend engaging with high-quality content via our
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9AnonymousEAForumAccount10moThis is super helpful- thank you! I feel like I’ve got a much better understanding of your goals now. It really cleared things up to learn which of your multiple goals you're prioritizing most, as well as the precise targets you have for them (since you have a specific recruitment goal it might be worth editing the OP to add that). I have two followup questions about the recruitment goal. 1. How did you set your target of recruiting 125 people? That’s much lower than I would have guessed based on other recruitment efforts (GWWC has run a two-month pledge drive [] that produced three times as many pledges, plus a bunch of people signing up for Try Giving). And with $2.5 million budgeted for recruitment, the implied $20,000 per recruit seems quite high. I feel like I might be misunderstanding what you mean about "following a cohort of students who attended an introductory fellowship, our introductory event, or the EA Student Summit in 2020" (discussed in the second bullet point). 2. The recruitment section discusses a “plan to put additional effort into providing mentorship and opportunities for 1:1 connections for group members from demographic groups underrepresented in EA.” Do you have any specific goals for these efforts? For example, I could imagine having a goal that the cohort you recruit be more diverse than the current EA population along certain dimensions. If you don’t have specific goals, what do you plan to look at to know whether your efforts are having the desired effect?
CEA's 2020 Annual Review

Hi Brian, thanks for your question, and I’m glad the update was useful!

You’re correct about the overall approach we’re using (multiplying the expected value of the change by how much of that change is attributable to the group). I’ll flag this comment to Harri and he might follow up with some more details, publicly or privately.

1BrianTan10moGot it, thanks Max!
CEA's 2020 Annual Review

Hi Brian, Thanks for your question! I’m not sure how much we can comment on the investment strategy or grantmaking of this fund, but I’ll flag your questions to Carl.

CEA's Plans for 2021

Hi Edo, This is something that we’re keen to clarify and might publish more on soon. So thanks for giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts on this!

I think you’re right that this is a narrower mission: this is deliberate.

As we say on our mistakes page:

Since 2016, CEA has had a large number of projects for its size...Running this wide array of projects has sometimes resulted in a lack of organizational focus, poor execution, and a lack of follow-through. It also meant that we were staking a claim on projects that might otherwise have been taken on

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2EdoArad10moThanks! I think that this is clear enough for me to be able to mostly predict how you'd think about related questions :) I am personally very confused about the benefits of centralization vs. decentralization and how to compare these in particular cases and can find myself drawn to either in different cases. For what it's worth, I like the general heuristic of centralized platforms for decentralized decision-making. To investigate it a bit further, I opened this question [] about possible coordination failures.
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