Drew Spartz

Head of Incubation Program @ Nonlinear
122Joined Mar 2021


Getting legal counsel advice was always the intended procedure internally. Thanks for pointing out that the way I worded it had the potential to be misconstrued so I've updated it again :)

Thanks for the flag! Was already aware of this but added a qualifier in the post above and added this to our org payout guidelines for extra redundancy.

Ryan, glad you liked the prize, and thanks for your feedback! Our partner has significant IP law and branding experience and does not share your concerns.

His perspective: the general case is that

  1. Celebrating our ancestors is common practice. Long-dead famous people frequently get things named after them. 
  2. Negative outcomes are unlikely. What you're proposing could happen, but is quite an edge case.
  3. Branding is important. A better-named prize can lead to more impact and improved community health.

So why are we calling this “The Truman Prize?” instead of something like “The Anonymous EA Award”? 

  1. There’s a reason why inspiring people from the past get things named after them. Could write a whole post on our thinking around this, but let’s just say we think having a community health prize with a more inspiring name would be more effective and lead to more impact.
  2. Spending a lot of time on preventing low probability, low downside possibilities, is low EV. 

Things like this usually end up being really bureaucratic and could take months or years to approve, so the cost is higher than a simple quick email. Following this general approach to low probability, low downside risks, would lead to it being prohibitive to get things done. 

It's low probability because first, a descendant of Truman would have to 

  1. Actually learn of this prize which is unlikely
  2. Not feel like we are honoring Truman by celebrating anonymous altruism, which seems unlikely. 
  3. Care enough to actually ask us to change the name, which is also unlikely. 

And in the unlikely event that all three of those things happen, then we'll just change the name. Which is also low cost.

Great idea. If anyone wants to run a prize like this, I'd be open to funding it.

Highly recommend trying out the Top-Grading interview from Who.

You go through a candidate's entire work history, from start to finish in chronological order, and ask these questions:

  1. What were you hired to do?
  2. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
    1. How did your performance compare to the previous year’s performance? (For example, this person achieved sales of $2 million and the previous year’s sales were only $150,000.)
    2. How did your performance compare to the plan? (For example, this person sold $2 million and the plan was $1.2 million.)
    3. How did your performance compare to that of peers?
  3. What were some low points during that job?
  4. Who were the people you worked with? Specifically:
    1. What was your boss’s name, and how do you spell that? What was it like working with him/her? What will they tell me were your biggest strengths and areas for improvement?
  5. Why did you leave that job?

It's just a good, natural, flowing way of understanding what things people actually did  instead of trying to give them hypothetical future scenarios of what they might do. 

It's also an efficient way of finding red flags  🚩 like:

  • Candidate does not mention past failures.
  • Candidate exaggerates his or her answers.
  • Candidate takes credit for the work of others.
  • Candidate speaks poorly of past bosses.
  • Candidate cannot explain job moves.
  • People most important to candidate are unsupportive of change.
  • Candidate seems more interested in compensation and benefits than in the job itself.
  • Candidate tries too hard to look like an expert.
  • Candidate is self-absorbed.
  • Winning too much
  • Telling the world how smart we are
  • Passing the buck
  • Making excuses

I think you're missing a few billionaires in your 5-6 number.

Jed McCaleb (founder of Ripple) is a funder of SFF.

There are many wealthy crypto people that have either donated to EA causes or are heavily involved that have an illiquid or highly fluctuating net worth due to the crypto markets. I would guess there are 5-10 that were billionaires at some point but likely have high 9 figure net worths now.

Also do you count people that sympathize with EA ideas as EAs? Fred Ehrsam and Brian Armstrong have both wrote positively about EA in the past. I have seen on Twitter a handful of 9-10 figure net worth crypto hedge fund managers talk about Less Wrong and a few talk about EA.

You can't really use the S&P 500 as a way to predict these guys' net worths either.

If there is another crypto bull market and Bitcoin hits $200k, I remember seeing a BOTEC that half of all the new billionaires in the world will be due to crypto.

Thanks for doing this!

I also have x-risks.com and may or may not use it, so feel free to DM me if you have a creative use case for it.

The "bureaucrat's curse" reminds me of Vitalik's bulldozer vs vetocracy political axis: https://vitalik.ca/general/2021/12/19/bullveto.html

Vetocracy can be beneficial if a system's strength depends on it not changing. e.g. People invest in Bitcoin because it's incredibly difficult to change its monetary policy. Bitcoin doesn't need to innovate. 

But if Ethereum is too vetocratic and fails to innovate - it could get outcompeted by other more nimble startups like Solana or Avalanche.

The current mood in the AI Safety community appears to be pessimistic. For example, Eliezer bet Bryan Caplan (2-1 odds) that humans will be extinct by Jan 1, 2030.

If you believe that inaction will lead to extinction, reducing vetoes and increasing the variance of outcomes could increase the probability we'll survive.

As Scott Alexander says, 

Healthy people are fragile (increased variance can mostly make them worse), very sick people are antifragile (increased variance can mostly make them better). So it is reasonable to give a terminal cancer patient an experimental drug - the worst that happens is they die (which would happen anyway) and the best that happens is they recover - it's all upside and no downside.

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