Along with my co-founder, Marcus A. Davis, I run Rethink Priorities. Previously, I was a professional data scientist.


Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

Yes, I think all the things you mentioned are projects that are "within the scope" of RP (not that we would necessarily do them). We see our scope as being very broad so that we can always do the highest impact projects.

Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

Yeah, our broader theory of change is mostly (but not entirely) based on improving the output of the EA movement, and having the EA movement push out from there.

Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

Just want to say that Rethink Priorities is committed to being able to successfully integrate remote Australians and we'd be excited to have more APAC applicants in our future hiring rounds!

Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

Hey EdoArad, it looks like you posted a lot of these questions twice and the questions have been answered elsewhere.Here are some answers to the questions I don't think were posted twice:


These categories seem to have some overlapping but different research methodologies and needed skillsets in use. Say, work that more estimation based on gathering quantitative evidence, philosophical work that draws from academic moral philosophy or building world-models from pieces of qualitative evidence. Do you have a model for a categorization for different types of research?

We do not currently have a model for that.


How do you expect work on "Big considerations" to propagate? e.g, in the case of invertebrate sentience, did you have an explicit audience in mind and a resulting ToC?

In the case of invertebrate sentience, our audience would be the existing EA-aligned animal welfare movement and big funders, such as Open Philanthropy and the EA Animal Welfare Fund. I hope that if we can demonstrate the cause area is viable and tractable, we might be able to find new funding opportunities and start moving money to them. The EA Animal Welfare Fund has already started giving money to some invertebrate welfare projects this year and I think our research was a part of those decisions.

Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

I'm not sure what other groups you have in mind, but I'll answer this with regard to longtermism-oriented EA-affiliated research groups.

We've collaborated a lot with the Future of Humanity Institute and the Forethought Foundation and have even shared staff and research projects with them on occasion. We have also talked some with people at Global Priorities Institute and other organizations.

I'd guess right now the biggest bottleneck is just finding ways to get more researchers working on these most important questions. There's a lot more talent out there than there are spots open. More funding would help, but we also need more management and mentorship capacity.

I'm optimistic that our internship program will be a help for this, but it is still funding constrained.

Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

I'm not really sure what is included in the scope of "prioritization research". One thing we definitely do not do and very likely will never do, and that I am glad others do is technical AI safety research.

Other than that, I think pretty much anything in longtermism could be fair game for Rethink Priorities at some point.

Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

I think it would always be good to have more senior researchers, but they seem rather hard to find. Right now, my personal view is that the best way to build senior researchers is to hire and train mid-level or junior-level researchers. We hope to keep doing this with our past hires, existing hires, and our upcoming intern program.

If you're interested in funding researcher talent development, I think funding our intern program is a very competitive opportunity.

Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

This is not a satisfying answer but right now I think the longtermist effort with the highest expected value is spending time trying to figure out what longtermist efforts we should prioritize.

I also think we should spend a lot more resources on figuring out if and how much we can expect to reliably influence the long-term future, as this could have a lot of impact on our strategy (such as becoming less longtermist or more focused on broad longtermism or more focused on patient longtermism, etc.).

I don't have a third thing yet, but both of these projects we are aiming to do within Rethink Priorities.

Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

Hi Jonas,

Since we last posted our longtermism budget, we've raised ~$89,500 restricted to longtermism for 2021 (with the largest being the grant recommendation from the Survival and Flourishing Fund). This means we will enter 2021 with ~$121K restricted to longtermism not yet spent. Overall, we'd like to raise an additional $403K-$414K for longtermist work by early 2021.

For full transparency - note that, if necessary, we may also choose to use unrestricted funds on longtermism and that this is not factored into these numbers. We currently have ~$273K in unrestricted funds, though we will likely have non-longtermism things we will need to spend this money on.

Given that we are currently just raising money to cover the salaries of our existing longtermist staff (including operations support) as well as start an longtermism intern program, we expect we will be able to deploy longtermist money quickly. We also have a large talent pool of longtermist researchers we likely could hire this year if we ended up with even more longtermism money.

Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

Hi Vaidehi,

What kind of research do you plan on doing to answer these questions?

I will be working on both of these projects with David Moss. Our plan is to run surveys of the general public that describe EA (or longtermism) and ask questions to gauge how people view the message. We'd then experimentally change the message to explore how different framings change support, with the idea that messages that engender more support on the survey are likely to be more successful overall. For EA messaging, we'd furthermore look at support broken down by different demographics to see if there are more inclusive messages out there. We did a similar project we did for animal welfare messaging on live shackle slaughter, which you can look at to get a sense of what we do. We also have a lot of unpublished animal welfare messaging work we're eager to get out there as soon as we can.


Did you consider other areas of EA movement building apart from messaging before choosing this one, and if so how did you narrow down your options?

As you know, we do run the EA Survey and Local Groups Survey. Right now, our main goal is to stay within analysis of EA movement building rather than work to directly build the movement like other groups (e.g., CEA, 80K, GWWC, TLYCS) already do. We see these messaging studies as a good next step. However, we have not systematically compared opportunities yet as we don't have the staff or funding right now to do such a search.


Do you see general EA messaging as part of your longtermist focus, or is this a separate category?

We see these as separate projects in separate cause areas, though there will definitely be a lot of cross-cause learning. Note that we also do this for farmed animal welfare as well and may also do so in wild animal welfare in the near future. It is a very useful thing to do for all sorts of causes!


Either ways, how do you figure out how to allocate resources to this movement building-related efforts? 

Right now we just have allocated funding from restricted funding and a portion of our unrestricted funding. We will also likely fundraise for this work specifically from interested donors.

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