Thank you Michelle for posting this!
I wanted to add that when we founded Probably Good, we were also worried of exactly the sort of things detailed here. The reality turned out to be much better than we had even hoped: We contacted 80k and everyone on the team were incredibly supportive. This is both true in their attitude (being happy to see more people in this space) and also in practice (with advice and help along the way).
So I'm very happy to say that I agree. There's still lots of areas to explore in EA career advice and the people at 80k are far far ... (read more)
I generally agree with the idea and appreciate the clarity of this post.
One related thought which I think is potentially useful both for thinking of which projects to fund or to start:
Projects usually need to be scalable at advanced stages, but not at the start. It's ok (and even recommended* in many cases) to start doing things in non-scalable ways that aren't cost-effective.A lot of times, the value in information \ experience \ growth is high enough that it's worth starting out doing things that you won't be able to sustain as you grow.
Obviously, ... (read more)
By the way, both Sella and I (Omer) will be at EAG. Feel free to connect, we'd love to chat with people who are interested in Probably Good and hear what you have to say...
Thanks for letting us know!
If that's alright, I'll send you an email with some questions to figure out what the problem is...
Just writing a quick comment here that I've changed the title of this post to be less confusing.
The previous title: "A New Career Guidance Organization: Probably Good" does sound like this is an evaluation. Didn't want to it seem like this comment didn't make sense to people who haven't seen the previous post title.
That sounds great! Thank you for sharing this.
If that's ok, I might get in touch soon with some questions about this...
Yes, that makes perfect sense. I think we definitely need to have a system that (1) let's people know if they're not going to get coaching even though they asked and (2) doesn't take up a lot of our time.
Thank you for the input!
I think some of the questions you raised are (at least partially) answered in our documents. Specifically, where we detail the impacts that we hope to achieve - those are impacts that we think we would potentially have a comparative advantage over 80,000 hours. Areas where we think we would be similar to 80,000 hours wouldn’t be areas where we’d expect to have significant counterfactual impact.
Regarding the abstractness and general nature of the documents, that’s completely fair. I expect things will be a lot clearer when we have a ... (read more)
My initial intuition (stressing even more that this is based on no evidence but my best guess) is that the name "Probably Better" would be more confusing to people than "Probably Good". I'm expecting a lot of people asking "better than what?"
It also loses the meaning of good as in moral good (which I like, but not everyone here did).
Thank you for writing what you'd find most valuable! This lines up well with my thoughts...
Regarding being overwhelmed by requests for advice: Yes! That's definitely a failure mode. We've discussed how much we can give direct advice (very little in the near future, potentially more later but that's quite a bit of work to get there) and how to choose candidates (where we have a lot of thoughts but, as with other things, we expect to decide on a criteria and then have to fix it once we see where it fails).
I'm cautiously optimistic that we just don't have enough time to fall into this failure mode and so we'll stop ourselves before this becomes an issue :-)
That sounds really cool!
I'll be happy to join! :-)
Thank you!This viewpoint it really helpful. It seems relatively easy to look at a specific article and figure out who it might be useful for, but creating a generic way to organize articles that would work for most people is quite a bit harder.
And I agree that concreteness is definitely something we should be explicitly thinking about when creating content and organizing it.
And I agree regarding both downsides \ risks. They're definitely something to think about. The first might mean that this is something that might come later if we don't find a relativel... (read more)
This is something we discussed at length and are still thinking about.
As you write in the end, the usual “I’ll experiment and see” is true, but we have some more specific thoughts as well:
This is the risk we were most worried about regarding the name. It does set a relatively light tone. We decided to go with it anyway for two reasons:
The first is that the people we talked to said that it sounds interesting and interested them more than the responses we got for more regular, descriptive names.
The second is that our general tone in writing is more serious. Serious enough that we’re working hard to make sure that it isn’t boring for some people who don’t like reading huge walls of dense text. We figure it’s best to err on the other side in this case.
I think we agree on more than we disagree :-)
I was thinking of two main things when I said there aren’t many ways to reduce people’s expectation of certainty.
The first, as you mentioned, is 80k’s experience that this is something where claiming it (clearly and repeatedly) didn’t have the desired outcome.
The second, is through my own experience, both in giving career advice and in other areas where I did consultation-type work. My impression was (and again, this is far from strong evidence) that (1) this is hard to do and (2) it gets harder if you don’t do ... (read more)
For the sake of clarity I’ll restate what I think you meant:
We’re not discussing the risk of people taking less impactful career paths than they would have taken counterfactually because we existed (and otherwise they might have only known 80k for example). That is a risk we discuss in the document.
We’re talking specifically about “membership” in the EA community. That people who are less committed \ value aligned \ thoughtful in the way that EAs tend to be \ something else - would now join the community and dilute or erode the things we think are special ... (read more)
The intended meaning was that EA materials directed at this need specifically don’t exist. But I think you’re correct and that this wasn’t clear. I also like your version better, so will be updating the doc accordingly. Thank you!
Thank you! Both for the thoughts and for the separation into different comments. It is much easier to keep track of everything and is appreciated :-)
The guide we're working on is indeed similar in some aspects to 80k's old guide.
We're still working on it (and are at relatively early stages) so none of this is very certain but I expect that:
* The guide will differ in our framework for thinking about it (so things like the thought process and steps you go through to make a decision).
* I expect the guide will differ on some specific areas where we are more agnostic than 80k, but won't differ on most.
* Specifically, 80k have updated their 2017 guide to focus on longtermism more than it originally did. That... (read more)
That's really interesting! There are probably quite a few different formats to do this sort of thing (one on ones with people facing the same dilemmas \ people that have faced it recently, bringing together groups of people who have similar situations, etc.)
I think some local groups are doing things like this, but it's definitely something we should think about as an option that can potentially be relatively low effort and (hopefully) high impact.
First of all, thank you for the feedback! It's not always easy to solicit quality (and very thoroughly justified) feedback, so I really appreciate it.
Before diving into the specifics, I'll say that on the one hand - the name could definitely change if we keep getting feedback that it's suboptimal. That could be in a week or in a year or two, so the name isn't final in that sense.
On the other hand, we did run this name quite a few people (including some who aren’t familiar with EA). We tried (to the best of our ability) to receive honest feedback (like not ... (read more)
FWIW: 75 upvotes (as of now) for Michael's post seem strong evidence that at least a significant fraction of forum readers find the name "weird" or "off-putting" at first glance. In most cases, that might be enough for people not to look into it more (e.g. if it's one of hundreds of posts on their Facebook timeline). Even if the other half of people find the name great, I think I'd rather go for a less controversial name which no-one finds weird (even if fewer people find it great). Finding a good name is difficult - all the best and let us know if we can help! You could e.g. solicit ideas here on in a Facebook group and run polls in the "EA polls" group to get better quantitative feedback.
In addition to the other points brought up, I wanted to add that "probably good" has ~4 million google search results, and the username/url for "ProbablyGood" has already been taken on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This may make the name especially difficult to effectively market.
* Good can mean quality and morality: Again, I liked that. We do mean it in both ways (the advice is both attempting to be as high quality as possibly and as high as possible in moral impact, but we are working under uncertainty in both parameters).
For what it's worth, I liked the name specifically because to me it seemed to advertise an intention of increasing a lot of readers' impact individually by a moderate amount, unlike 80000's approach where the goal is to increase fewer readers' impact by a large amount.
I.e. unlike Michael I like the understatement in the name, but I agree with him that it does convey understatement.
I continue to like how thoughtful you two seem to be! It seems like you've already anticipated most of what I'm pointing to and have reasonable reasons to hold your current position. I especially like that you "tried (to the best of [your] ability) to receive honest feedback (like not telling people that this is something [you're] setting up or letting someone else solicit the feedback)."
I still think this name doesn't seem great to me, but now that's with lower confidence.
(Also, I'm just reporting my independent impression - i.e., what I'd believe i... (read more)
Thank you for writing this!I think your analysis can be specifically useful for people who want to contribute and feel like they're not sure where to look for neglected areas in EA.I'll add a small comment regarding "It is difficult to compete with the existing organisations that are just not quite doing this":My experience with orgs in the EA community is that pretty much everyone is incredibly cooperative and genuinely happy to see others fill in the gaps that they're leaving.I've been in talks with 80,000 hours and a few ot... (read more)
Thank you for this comment. I fully agree with this and would say that my experience of the EA community is a very positive one and that the EA community and EA organisations work very well together and are very willing to share ideas, talk and support one another. I am sure would be much support for anyone trying to fill these gaps.
Thanks for writing this! It's always useful to get reminders for the sort of mistakes we can fail to notice even if when they're significant.
I also think it would be a lot more helpful to walk through how this mistake could happen in some real scenarios in the context of EA (even though these scenarios would naturally be less clear-cut and more complex).
Lastly, it might be worth noting the many other tools we have to represent random variables. Some options off the top of my head:
* Expectation & variance: Sometimes useful for normal distribu... (read more)
Wow! This is really good!I think the general advice is great, and I really appreciate your candidness: Revealing the data and the materials you used, as well as the level of detail regarding your process.This isn't something that is usually written and I'm sure it'll help a lot of people facing hiring challenges for EA orgs...I can add a little about my own experience and process regarding rejection (which I agree is one of the hardest parts):1. I try to honestly explain to candidates why they were rejected (usually by mail, sometimes by pho... (read more)
Sorry, I wasn't very clear on the first point: There isn't a 'correct' prior.
In our context (by context I mean both the small number of observations and the implicit hypotheses that we're trying to differentiate between), the prior has a large enough weight that it affects the eventual result in a way that makes the method unhelpful.
Thank you for writing this!
I really appreciate your approach of thoroughly going through potential issues with your eventual conclusion. It's a really good way of getting to the interesting parts of the discussion!
The area where I'm left least convinced by is the use of Laplace's Law of Succession (LLoC) to suggest that AGI is coming soonish (that isn't to say there aren't convincing arguments for this, but I think this argument probably isn't one of them).
There are two ways of thinking that make me skeptical of using LLoC in ... (read more)