Minh Nguyen

Platform Development Intern @ Nonlinear
784 karmaJoined Pursuing an undergraduate degreeSingapore



I proposed the Nonlinear Emergency Fund and  Superlinear as Nonlinear Intern.[1]

I co-founded Singapore's Fridays For Future (featured on Al Jazeera and BBC). After arrests + 1 year of campaigning, Singapore adopted all our demands (Net Zero 2050, $80 Carbon Tax and fossil fuel divestment).

I developed a student forum with >300k active users and a study site with >25k users. I founded an education reform campaign with the Singapore Ministry of Education.

  1. ^

    I proposed both ideas at the same time as the Nonlinear team, so we worked on these together.

How others can help me

Plans I'm planning:

  1. FridaysForFuture for AI Safety/ AIS advocacy (!!!)
  2. An AI Generated Content (AIGC) policy consultancy
  3. A scaleable EA Model UN framework 
  4. Creating video content on EA/longtermism/x-risk
  5. EA digital marketing/outreach/SEO funnels
  6. Tools for EA job searching and AI Safety research
  • + An EA Common Application, an AIS standardised test,  etc.

And probably more. See:

How I can help others

If it helps others, I will help you build it.[1]

  1. ^

    OK, assuming I'm not completely swamped with work. I'll definitely give input tho.


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What surprised me the most was that EAs and alignment researchers are more extroverted on average.

In hindsight, I suppose it makes sense. The average alignment researcher I've met interacts way more than the average person, certainly the average male, (conferences, communities, research groups, organising parties etc.).

It really contradicted my assumptions, because EA events are unusually introvert-friendly and online communications for EA/alignment are wayyyyy more text-heavy than most communities.

I wonder how much of that is a selection pressure? For me, I'm strongly introverted, but I probably could not have done AI Safety without actively socialising and reaching out to people very frequently.

Paul Graham had a nice take on this:

The more arbitrary college admissions criteria become, the more the students at elite universities will simply be those who were most determined to get in.

I think "actually really want to apply" is not enough of a correlation to base decisions on. The fact is that even qualified+motivated applicants would need to apply to a dozen+ places, and often EA application questions require a lot of thought anyway.

To give an example, lots of EAs are from top unis, and I'm pretty sure the meta-strategy for applying to selective unis is to not fall in love with any particular one and shotgun a lot of applications. This reduces the role of personal fit.

One thing I always thought was interesting would be to have an actual application limit like UK colleges do. I applied to 20 colleges, and I would've been fine applying to 5 with improved odds.

I think there's 2 different questions at play here:

1. Whether you're competitive for EA roles - As others have mentioned, EA roles are competitive. To be honest, it really is just a matter of why you want an EA role.

If it's purely a matter of impact allocation, I think it's good to just ... try hard as you want and let hirers decide? Whenever I'm in an EA hiring round, I genuinely just want the most suitable person to get the job, and the EA hirers I've come across have been pretty good at figuring out what candidate they want. I have declined several role on this basis (it wasn't unilateral, I explained, had a conversation with the hirers and recommended someone I thought was better-suited). The EA community is small and nice, so I'm really rooting for people to find the best role for them.

If it's a sense of community, for me I've been lucky to find friends in EA who will still stick around even if I Don't Have An EA Job. I think you can definitely find close friends in EA without getting a fulltime role, and our national chapter only has like a dozen regulars.

For me, I just try my best, have low expectations and vaguely tell myself it'll work out. I also argue more people should look to start orgs, but that's a separate issue.

2.  Whether you feel imposter syndrome because EAs are generally high-achieving - Objectively, EAs are on average, abnormally high-achieving. IIRC, like 20% of EAs have attended to Top 25 university and 40% have attended a Top 100 university. Which is an absolutely bonkers percentage. I do think this kind of comparison is inherent in any social setting.

For me, I just talk to a lot of EAs, and realise they're just nice nerds who like talking about ideas. The power distance feels a lot lower the more I work with them. If someone works at A Big Well-funded AI Lab and went to A Top 5 PhD Program, then yeah you're gonna feel intimidated. But like, after a year I just started doing more research which involves pinging people dumb practical questions like "what settings on AWS do I use for a training run" or funny what-ifs like "do you think we can make Deep Learning into Deep Unlearning" (an actual thing btw). Then they're always really nice and helpful, and I just kinda forget about the imposter syndrome.

There's also the stoic approach, which is to accept imposter syndrome as motivation to do better without letting it demotivate you. Which is prolly good if you want to improve, but easier said than done.

In AI Safety, it seems easy to feel alienated and demoralised.

The stakes feel vaguely existential, most normal people have no opinion on it, and it never quite feels like "saving a life". Donating to global health or animal welfare feel more direct, if still distant.

I would imagine a young software developer discovers EA, and then AI Safety, hoping to do something meaningful. But the moments after that, feel much the same as it would a normal job.

Curious if others feel the same.

I've found not many people bother to play arbitrage with prosocial outcomes.

You essentially need someone to care about prosocial outcomes, be very quantitative and strigent with calculations vs just going by concensus, and be sufficiently motivated to make life changes. In a way, being agreeable to care about others while being disagreeable enough to go against social concensus and gut feel.

Early adopters get to play a lot of arbitrage.

Suggestion for EAGs/EAGx:

Please give more detail on your Swapcard about your research/projects. Even just the title of the research paper, or any links.

I always review the entire attendee list. I actively want to meet people, but if someone just puts "I am trying to get into AI alignment research", I literally have nothing to go off, and can't think of a reason to reach out with so few details.

This also saves time during 1-on-1s so you don't re-introduce yourself/areas of interest every 30 minutes.

If you don't have a project/experience, you can even put ideas you're fascinated by, or groups you identify with. I literally Ctrl+F "ADHD", "startup", "Singapore" and other keywords related to my research interests.

I mean, the fact that I've dealt with a few similar agreements with similar/bigger platforms, and I myself manage a bigger platform than Deck's, and am managing my own partnership deal, similar to Deck's.

From my perspective, the events described really aren't that weird. Like, at all. It's very strange to me that the Deck story keeps coming up like some sort of smoking gun, when there seems to be nothing unusual about it in the social media marketing space.

The deal itself is normal.

The fact that Deck became inactive afterwards is unfortunate, but normal.

The fact that Deck and his parent sued doesn't really imply anything about Emerson's character. A teenager lost interest in an online venture, comes back to demand money when the venture made money. It happens all the time.

At least to me, it's really weird that everyone keeps talking about it like some strong red flag.

Again, not a lawyer so I'm willing to accept I'm wrong.

I think this very much depends on how "services requested by the company" is interpreted.

"render internet related services as requested by the Company from time to time

Failure by the Contractor to meet deadlines for performance of
services or failing to meet the standards required by the Company in the
performing of services

You could argue that access is what's requested, yes. Personally, I don't, because access by default is already assumed under a later clause that uses a different wording: "The Contractor agrees not to change any passwords for any Company-related projects without the consent of the Company"

Or you could argue that if Emerson reasonably demands active posting, he is entitled to it under the terms of the contract, and entitled to terminate the contract if this is not fulfilled. We could argue over what constitutes reasonable demands, but I would think it's more than "almost nothing".

Not specifying the exact timings didn't stand out to me. In my experience, it's not very common to specify exact posting schedules for a long-term brand partnership with a teenager. There's a certain expectation that teenage influencers are a little bit inconsistent.

In any case, my point with this whole thread is that ... the whole Deck thing is really not that much of a red flag? A fairly standard contract was signed with a minor and his parent, who tried to sue by invalidating the entire validity of a contract with a minor+guardian, and it seems Deck wasn't actively involved the whole time. 

I'm not seeing obvious predatory behaviour here. Maybe poorly defined contract terms, but I really don't see why people keep bringing this up a decade later as evidence against Emerson's character. Keep in mind, we haven't seen how many such contracts Spartz Inc signed without any incident.

If this is the absolute worst example an investigation could dig up from Emerson's 2-decade-long career, it just doesn't seem very convincing, ya know?

Hi! Sorry for the late response, I was actually handling my own contract for a partnership with a Generative AI startup to co-develop and deploy AI character voice chat onto our platforms w ~ 1 million users. Hopefully, history does not repeat itself.

There are the exact terms I'd found here (Sharing Information About Nonlinear) via Wayback Machine (

The relevant parts:

The very first line under "Responsibilities of contractor":
> The Contractor shall render internet related services as requested by the Company from time to time

> The Contractor agrees not to engage in any behavior that would cause hardship to the Company, such as instances of sabotage. The Contractor agrees not to change any passwords for any Company-related projects without the consent of the Company. Should the Contractor breach this Agreement, the Contractor will, at the Company's edict, be required to rectify the breach, including but not limited to forfeiture of revenues and a requirement to reveal to the Company the current password of the OMG Facts Twitter account

> This Agreement shall commence on the “Effective Date” defined above and shall terminate one year thereafter, provided, however, that the Company may extend this Agreement for ten additional periods of one year each upon notice to Contractor given at least thirty days prior to the expiration initial expiration date or extended term. However, either party may terminate this contract in writing in the following instances:
(1) If either party is convicted of a criminal offense.
(2) Failure by the Contractor to meet deadlines for performance of
services or failing to meet the standards required by the Company in the
performing of services

Obviously, I am not a lawyer, but there's indeed several key clauses in there mentioning an obligation to actively perform services, which in the case of OMGFacts would essentially mean making Twitter posts. I don't think there's anything there that's particularly "predatory"?.

Regarding whether Deck performed this responsibility:[1]
> Here is the untold side of the story: The @OMGFacts Twitter (and Website/YouTube) is produced by us, not him. Adorian has done almost nothing for the past 15 months.  Almost every fact you have read from OMG Facts was researched, written, and edited by us.

I will note that I couldn't find any examples of Deck disputing that he was inactive. Deck's lawyer instead argued that contracts signed by Deck himself were invalid even if co-signed by his guardians.

Again, I'm not a lawyer, but if Emerson's main argument was that Deck didn't uphold his responsibility, you'd think the easiest rebuttal would be that ... he did things as per the contract. Instead of arguing that Deck signed the contract without knowing what he was doing:[2]

Deck's complaint contends that the contract he signed with Spartz was predatory and designed to dupe the teen into turning over his rights to the OMG Facts trademark without realizing what he was doing. Deck's attorney, Glenn Peterson of Roseville, argues that the intellectual property issues are moot in any case because California law allows individuals to disavow any contracts signed when they were minors.
Spartz counters that Deck's mother co-signed the contract as his legal guardian, and that Deck is simply hoping to exploit Spartz Inc.'s hard work for a quick gain.

So even just using public sources, we can establish that there were multiple clauses referencing an obligation to actively post, that Emerson claims Deck did not fulfil this, and Deck never even attempts to deny this, instead trying to invalidate the contract altogether. I don't see a particularly strong reason to "side with Deck" on this one, unless there's any claims/evidence that he did perform his responsibility that he hasn't publicly disclosed for 15 years.

  1. ^
  2. ^

I'm not going to lie, I disagreed with a lot of this, especially the conclusion. I don't quite have the time to respond to all of it, but I'll address Adorian Deck.

Deck sued for more money. Emerson knew that Deck’s dream was to become a YouTuber, so he threatened to get two top YouTubers to create videos slamming Deck. In response, Deck settled in what Emerson characterizes as “a deal he was satisfied with that gave him significant financial freedom.”

Here's the timeline as I understand it (it's been a while):
1. Deck builds a big social media account.

2. Emerson approaches Deck, offering to buy the brand and profit-share, under certain stipulations, including that he continue actively posting.

3. Deck no longer actively posts, essentially ending the contract terms and releasing Emerson's obligation to pay him.

To me, this seems pretty fair and standard? It doesn't seem particularly different from a brand acquisition or an influencer marketing program. Lots of founders get acquired and compensated with the stipulation that they keep performing their work under the new entity. Emerson is paying Deck to make posts in his own style. The alternative is to hire someone else to do it, and that's not ideal if you want to preserve the appeal of the original. 

But the OMGFacts brand itself was valuable: that’s why Emerson bought it instead of starting a competing YayFacts Twitter account. Emerson probably paid more to the lawyer who negotiated the contract than he did to Deck—the person who created the brand in the first place.

Social media brands that don't post have no value.

And, in my experience managing platforms and accounts much bigger than Deck's, brands are a multiplier, but have very little value on their own. The average person follows hundreds of accounts on multiple platforms. If a Fun Facts account isn't posting for a year, no one's gonna notice, and their posts won't show up because their followers' feed will be occupied by accounts that do post regularly.

A California law invalidates any contract with a minor that isn’t overseen by a judge—a crucial protection for child actors, who are often exploited by their parents. Emerson characterizes this law as a “bizarre loophole,” which strikes me as a very cavalier attitude towards children’s labor protections.

I mean, sorta? But of the entire influencer ecosystem, many are teenagers and very few have had their brand deals overseen by a judge. I doubt Mr Beast's first sponsor check was overseen by a judge. You're technically correct, but in practice it would be quite the demanding ask to have a judge oversee every contract with a minor influencer.

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