Working (6-15 years of experience)


In an attempt to spend less time on the Forum, I am currently (December 2022) checking my account only once per week. If you message me or reply to one of my posts or comments and do not hear back from me, feel free to get in touch.

Also, please note that I decided to stop working on the EA Wiki in August 2022.   If you have a Wiki-related question or request,  you may want to reach out to Lizka (though feel free to message me if you believe I can help you despite no longer being formally involved with this project).

The most valuable EA Forum posts of 2022, in my opinion:

AGI and Lock-In

Climate Change & Longtermism

Effectiveness is a Conjunction of Multipliers

In favour of compassion, and against bandwagons of outrage

Most* small probabilities aren't pascalian

Rational predictions often update predictably

Replicating and extending the grabby aliens model

Space governance - problem profile

The importance of getting digital consciousness right

Wild animal welfare in the far future

Every post, comment, or Wiki edit I ever authored is hereby licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Future Matters


Topic Contributions

Thanks! By the way,  I found your original comment helpful for writing about the history of the concept of an independent impression.

Great finding—I was an avid reader of Felicifia but do not recall stumbling upon that particular comment or the associated post. (EmbraceUnity was Edward Miller's Felicifia username, as can be seen by consulting the archived version of Miller's website.)

On the ITN framework,  it's also unclear to me whether the version developed by Owen Cotton-Barratt a year or so after Holden's was influenced by those early GiveWell posts. My tentative speculation (~80%) is that Owen was at least aware of Holden's writings, but it's also conceivable that it was an independent discovery. It also seems unlikely to me (90%) that either Owen or Holden had encountered the Felicifia discussion. On the other hand, it's possible (15%?) that Edward Miller's framework reached Owen or Holden in some form via informal channels. For example, Toby Ord, who read Felicifia, may have discussed the idea with Owen.

Great comments, Brian. You should spend more time on the Forum!

If someone says that A is worse than B because it has a certain property C, you shouldn't ask "Why is C bad?" if you are not disputing the badness of C. It would be much clearer to say, "I agree C is bad, but A has other properties that make it better than B on balance."

Is it really that hard to think of reasons why a faster process may be better, ceteris paribus, than a slower process?

A few months ago I received a grant to spend six months researching the history of effective altruism, conducting interviews with early EAs, and sharing my findings on a dedicated website. Unfortunately, the funds for this grant came from the Future Fund, and have been affected by the collapse of FTX. I still intend to carry out this project eventually, but finding alternative funding sources is not a high priority for me, since my current projects are more urgent and perhaps more important.

If you think I should prioritize this project, or have thoughts on how it should be carried out, feel free to get in touch.

Here's a useful heuristic whose name isn't widely known: the principle of stylistic consistency. As Drexler writes,[1]

In judging people and bodies of work, one can use stylistic consistency as a rule of thumb, and start by checking the statements in one's field. The mere presence of correct material means little: it proves only that the author can read and paraphrase standard works. In contrast, a pattern of clearcut, major errors is important evidence: it shows a sloppy thinking style which may well flow through the author's work in many fields, from physics, to biology, to computation, to policy. A body of surprising but sound results may mean something, but in a new field lacking standard journals, it could merely represent plagiarism. More generally, one can watch for signs of intellectual care, such as the qualification of conclusions, the noting of open questions, the dear demarcation of speculation, and the presence of prior review.

The heuristic has been endorsed by some eminent thinkers.

Lord Russell:[2]

When I was young, most teachers of philosophy in British and American universities were Hegelians, so that, until I read Hegel, I supposed there must be some truth to his system; I was cured, however, by discovering that everything he said on the philosophy of mathematics was plain nonsense.

Dr Johnson:[3]

Sir, it is not unreasonable; for when people see a man absurd in what they understand, they may conclude the same of him in what they do not understand. If a physician were to take to eating of horse-flesh, nobody would employ him; though one may eat horse-flesh, and be a very skilful physician.

  1. ^

    Eric Drexler, ‘Abrupt Change, Nonsense, Nobels, and Other Topics’, Foresight Institute, 1987.

  2. ^

    Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays, New York, 1950, chap. 1

  3. ^

    Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, London, 1791


Many people are tired of being constantly exposed to posts that trigger strong emotional reactions but do not help us make intellectual progress on how to solve the world's most pressing problems. I have personally decided to visit the Forum increasingly less frequently to avoid exposing myself to such posts, and know several other EAs for whom this is also the case. I think you should consider the hypothesis that the phenomenon I'm describing, or something like it, motivated the Forum team's decision, rather than the sinister motive of "attemp[ting] to sweep a serious issue under the rug".

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