Researcher @ Shapley Maximizers
11689 karmaJoined Nov 2018


I am an independent research and programmer working at my own consultancy, Shapley Maximizers ÖU. I like to spend my time acquiring deeper models of the world, and generally becoming more formidable.  I'm also a fairly good forecaster: I started out on predicting on Good Judgment Open and CSET-Foretell, but now do most of my forecasting through Samotsvety, of which Scott Alexander writes:

Enter Samotsvety Forecasts. This is a team of some of the best superforecasters in the world. They won the CSET-Foretell forecasting competition by an absolutely obscene margin, “around twice as good as the next-best team in terms of the relative Brier score”. If the point of forecasting tournaments is to figure out who you can trust, the science has spoken, and the answer is “these guys”.

I used to post prolifically on the EA Forum, but nowadays, I post my research and thoughts at / rather than on this forum, because:

  • I disagree with the EA Forum's moderation policy—they've banned a few disagreeable people whom I like, and I think they're generally a bit too censorious for my liking. 
  • The Forum website has become more annoying to me over time: more cluttered and more pushy in terms of curated and pinned posts (I've partially mitigated this by writing my own minimalistic frontend)
  • The above two issues have made me take notice that the EA Forum is beyond my control, and it feels like a dumb move to host my research in a platform that has goals different from my own. 

But a good fraction of my past research is still available here on the EA Forum. I'm particularly fond of my series on Estimating Value.

I used to do research around longtermism, forecasting and quantification, as well as some programming, at the Quantified Uncertainty Research Institute (QURI). At QURI, I programmed, a search tool which aggregates predictions from many different platforms, which I still maintain. I spent some time in the Bahamas as part of the FTX EA Fellowship, and did a bunch of work for the FTX Foundation, which then went to waste when it evaporated. 

Previously, I was a Future of Humanity Institute 2020 Summer Research Fellow, and then worked on a grant from the Long Term Future Fund to do "independent research on forecasting and optimal paths to improve the long-term." I used to write a Forecasting Newsletter which gathered a few thousand subscribers, but I stopped as the value of my time rose. I also generally enjoy winning bets against people too confident in their beliefs.

Before that, I studied Maths and Philosophy, dropped out in exasperation at the inefficiency, picked up some development economics; helped implement the European Summer Program on Rationality during 2017, 2018 2019, 2020 and 2022; worked as a contractor for various forecasting and programming projects; volunteered for various Effective Altruism organizations, and carried out many independent research projects. In a past life, I also wrote a popular Spanish literature blog, and remain keenly interested in Spanish poetry.

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Vantage Points
Estimating value
Forecasting Newsletter


Topic Contributions

Nice, do you have your costs and staff numbers for 2021?

one of the BOTECs was about the forum

I don't think you can justify a $2M/year expenditure with an $11k/year BOTEC ($38/hour * 6 hours/week * 52 weeks), because I think that the correct level at which expenditure in the forum should be considered marginal is closer to $1M/year than $10k/year.

Yeah, good catch, my argument has a bunch of unstated assumptions.

I think I'm saying something with an additional twist, which is: because I think that the marginal value forum funding is so low, I think the correct move is to not support CEA at all.

Consider CEA as having (numbers here are arbitrary), a core of $15M in valuable projects and $20M in "cruft"; projects that made sense when there was unlimited FTX money around but not so much now. Open Phil, seeing this, reduces funding from $35M/year to $30M, to force CEA to cull some of that cruft.

In response, CEA could protect that cruft by committing to using a "Washington monument strategy", i.e., putting more valuable projects on the chopping block first, and asking the community for an additional $5M to save them. 

Note that this here is an "unconscious economics" type argument, i.e., I am not saying that you are twirling your mustache saying "oh yes, we will do a Washington monument strategy". I merely think that you are just failing to cut cruft, in a way which is understandable because letting go of people, and having people lose reports is hard. But by asking people for funding when you have some projects whose value is less than the value of marginal funding of projects outside of CEA, and not putting them on the chopping block, you do end up doing something functionally similar to a Washington monument strategy.

I think the answer to a Washington monument strategy is to call the bluff, and then iteratively converge to a funding amount for CEA that makes sense, and a scenario where CEA becomes smaller. This could involve other people taking over projects that CEA doesn't fund, and Open Phil looking at the remaining projects and reducing its funding further, etc. 

Some stuff which would really change my mind:

  • Comparing the number of CEA employees before and after FTX, and seeing that it's the same or lower
  • Comparing the budget of CEA before and after FTX and seeing that it's actually the same or lower

Taking a step back, I am suggesting that you fire a bunch of people. Might be all well and good in abstract terms but these are real people who have invested a bunch of their career capital at CEA. Maybe one way to make this less painful would be to give them exit grants with which they could attempt some altruistic project of their own, or get some runway before finding another place to work at.

we have been able to produce results supporting the impact potential of PIBBSS’ core epistemic bet

Can you say more? For example, this reflection doesn't link to research results.

challenging her to bet on her success

Note that if she bets on her success and wins, she can extract money from the doubters, in a way which she couldn't if the doubters restricted themselves to mere talk. The reciprocal is also true, though. 

Therefore, I expect marginal funding that we raise from other donors (i.e. you) to most likely go to the following:

  • Community Building Grants [...] $110,000
  • Travel grants for EA conference attendees [...] $295,000
  • EA Forum [...] [Nuño: note no mention of the cost in the EA forum paragraph]

You don't mention the cost of the EA forum, but per this comment, which gives more details, and per your own table, the "online team", of which the EA Forum was a large part, was spending ~$2M per year.

As such I think that your BOTECs are uninformative and might be "hiding the ask":

  1. This model compares a hypothetical LTFF grant to a biosecurity workshop with the labor that CEA staff spent on a similar event. It finds that the CEA expenditure is a bit more cost-effective.
  2. This model compares CEA's cost of producing Forum Digests to a grant that the EA Infrastructure Fund gave for creating Forum + LW summaries. It finds that CEA expenditure is more cost-effective.


we will be doing a follow-up post solely devoted to Forum fundraising

I look forward to this. In the meantime, readers can see my own take on this here: in short, I think that the value of the forum is high but the marginal value of having a massive, $2M/year, online team is very low, possibly negative. 

As an illustration of the marginal value point, I don't think that this point goes through because I think that the forum is equally capable of hosting criticism at $500k a year than at $2M/year. 

I would particularly like the Forum to have diverse funding since some of its value comes from hosting criticism of "powerful" people/organizations. I'm not aware of any instances of donors e.g. pressuring CEA to remove a post that's critical of them, but "hey can you please be a predominant funder of this thing which is critical of you" feels like an uncomfortable pitch to have to make.

As a result, I don't think EA community members should be donating to CEA at this time.

...if the point is to equalize consumption

There isn't any one point, I'm rather pointing out that if you make these adjustments, you create a bunch of incentives:

  • Working at EA organizations which offer cost of living adjustments becomes more attractive to people who need them, and less attractive to nomads or internationals
  • It perpetuates the impetus behind living in extremely high cost of living places, rather than coordinating the community to, gradually, move somewhere cheaper
  • I in fact don't think that equalizing consumption is a good move, given that consumption has different costs in different places.
  • By taking into account previous history considerations, you are incentivizing people to create those considerations so that they will be taken into account in the future. 
  • (not that I know that the OP is doing this, but) If you decide on who to hire by: 1) finding the best candidate, and then 2) offering them a location-adjusted package, you are a) leaving money on the table by not considering whether there is someone almost as good who works somewhere cheaper, and b) reducing the bargaining power of internationals for ~no reason.

Edit: removed paragraph.

Depending on the person's location, we adjust 50% of the base salary by relative cost-of-living as a starting point, and make ~annual adjustments to account for factors like inflation and location-based cost-of-living changes.

I've seen this elsewhere and I'm not convinced. It subsidizes people living to areas with higher cost of living, which doesn't seem like an unalloyed good. Theoretically, it seems like it would be more parsimonious to give people a salary and let people spend it as they choose, which could include luxury goods like rent in expensive places but wouldn't be limited to it.

FWIW, I am amenable to being commissioned to do impact evaluation. Interested parties should contact me here.

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