Nathan Young

Forecasting, institutional decision and community.

Also storytelling, theology, puns.

I would like to chat. Book a call here:

  • because you want to and I'm giving permission
  • to talk about something that interests you that I posted about
  • I'd love to hear about a project you're thinking of running

I'm equally active on twitter @nathanpmyoung

Topic Contributions


Fiction Writing Retreat: Ink in the Abbey

I write fiction occasionally and have one half-written EA story,  I'd like to write more. does this put me in your category or are we looking for more commitment than that?

Yglesias on EA and politics

I would recommend crossposting the entire article, since it's a public one. 

(Matt if you're readign this and would prefer us not to crosspost your articles, please say, but uh I think you'll get more clicks this way anyway)

Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid

Thanks for writing this Carol. 

To specifically flag this, I agree with you that I do not like the quoted behaviour at all. I do not think that EA or EA adjacent campaigns should be misrepresenting other candidates. It hurts ability to cooperate later and damages the democratic environment. Perhaps this is naive of me, but I think the cost from these behaviours in terms of reputation were greater than what they added. 

It advanced, the practice of grainy dark pictures, untruths, and inappropriate use of information (such as calling a $250 contribution from a drug company in 2018 financing the Salinas campaign) which just subverts the electoral process.

Beyond that, I'm not sure I agree that this was a huge miscalculation from Carrick. He took a risk and he lost. You describe him as "assuming he could win a race with many qualified candidates". I am unsure whether he thought he would probably win, but he thought it was worth a shot. And he didn't do terribly, but the people of Oregon chose a candidate they preferred, as is their right. To me, that seems to be how democracy works. 

Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid

Do you prefer the current wording? 

Also, this feels a little arbitrary? Do people not think that lots of money was thrown at a race to try and win it and that whatever we call that it is what it is? Are we arguing over the behaviour or what I called the behaviour?)

Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid

So I'm hearing the following:

  • It might be cheaper than this because perhaps most of the value was created by some small proportion of the money. Perhaps if you spent 60 million across 60 races, you'd expect more than 1 pro pandemic preparedness seat.
  • It might be more costly than this because metaculus was miscalibrated. I find this a little frustrating because "maybe the well-calibrated forecasters were wrong" is an exceptionally cheap attack against the best forecasting we had ahead of time. That said, we'll find out in  future races anyway.

On balance I reckon the first bullet point dominates the second,  so I reckon this is an overestimate of costs. It probably costs less than $60 mil to campaign on expectation.

What cost effectiveness guesses would you give?

Apply to attend an EA conference!

Also, if you aren't sure, apply! It's the organising team's job to decide who attends so apply to as many as you want and let them decide.

"Big tent" effective altruism is very important (particularly right now)

I both relatively strongly agree and strongly disagree with this post. Apologies that my points contradict one another:


  • Yes, community vibes feel weird right now. And I think in the run up to WWOTF they will only get weirder
  • Yes, we should be gracious to people who do small things. For me, being an EA is about being more effective or more altruistic with even $10 a month.  


  • I reckon it's better if we focus on being a smaller highly engaged community rather than a really big one. I still think there should be actual research on this, but so far, much of the impact (SBF, Moskovitz funding GiveWell charities, direct work) has been from very engaged people. I find it compelling that we want similar levels of engagement in future. Do low engagement people become high engagement. I don't know. I don't emotionally enjoy this conclusion, but I can't say it's wrong, even though it clashes with the bullet point I made above.
    • GWWC is clearly a mass movement kind of organisation. I guess they should say, you might want to check out effective altruism, but it's not necessary.
  • I don't think that EA is for everyone. Again this clashes with what i said above, but I think that it can be harder for people who leave a community after some time than those who are rejected at the door. If my above point is correct, then there should be some way to signal to people that EA is for people who want to really engage and that it may not be for everyone


  • I suggest a wider movement being created around effective giving, perhaps reaching religious groups. This seems like the real "mass movement" etc
  • I would like research on if being smaller and higher engaged or not is better 
  • Be welcoming to new people, gracious to poeple whatever they are doing, but signal that EAGs are mainly for those who are engaged. Anyone can come to events and feel welcome, but there is a desire for more engagement and that may not fit everyone.

I'm worried this will be controversial and I think i could have worded it better, but I think it's better to say something clear and maybe wrong than vague. I may make edits and explain why.

Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid

A number of people have downvote this, and while I now think my number was a little low, I don't think it was really wrong. So I stick by my now edited number. If you downvoted, what do you think was wrong?

Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid

Yeah good question, but maybe 25%. So overall it's about $60M for a seat. I really think Carrick had no chance without this money (there were several other crypto people + conventional candidates)

I believe there might have been too many mail shots, say, but I don't beleive Carrick was hurt overall, because without SBF noone woudl know who he was.

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