Peter Wildeford

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

Wiki Contributions


Announcing, powered by EA Funds

I'm so excited to see someone in EA finally targeting the crypto audience - I think the opportunities are huge.

Announcing my retirement

Congrats Aaron. Is there a plan for replacing you as the singular and dedicated face of the EA Forum? You will be missed here, but unlocking more OP content into the public sphere sounds well worth it.

What advice would you give to an EA org that's hiring?

My advice here is not going to be about listing a ton of places to widely post your job ad - while we do that, I really think it only accounts for maybe ~10% of our hiring success. I think ~90% of our strongest applicants come from either the 80K jobs board or from us deliberately reaching out to people and inviting them to apply.

Since you can't really do anything about the 80K jobs board (they don't accept solicitations), the single best thing IMO that you can do is proactively identify high-potential candidates and invite them to apply. Also, reach out to a group of diverse other people you respect and whom you think are good judges of talent and ask them who they think are the high-potential candidates and then invite those candidates to apply.

Another important factor: Hiring remotely gives us (Rethink Priorities) access to a much bigger talent pool than organizations that don't, but of course there's trade-offs there. That might explain another large portion of how we can get so many applicants.

Lastly, I think it's also worth investing a lot of time in creating a genuinely good workplace and then telling people about it so they know you have one. You can advertise all you want but people still have to choose to apply and they'll only apply to good places.

These three things matter much more than just posting everywhere.

We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

I definitely think that we are very lucky to have Abraham working with us. I think another thing is that there are at least three people (Abraham, Marcus, me, and probably other people too if given the chance) each capable of founding and running an organization all focused instead on making just one organization really great and big.

I definitely think having Abraham be able to fully handle operations allows Marcus and me to focus nearly entirely on driving our research quality, which is a good thing. Marcus and I also have clear subfocuses (Marcus does animals and global health / development, whereas I focus on longtermism, surveys, and EA movement building) which allow us to further focus our time specifically on making things great.

We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

I think donating to the EA Funds is a very good thing to do, but I don't think every donor should do this. I think for donors who have the time and personal fit, it would be good to do some direct donations on your own and support organizations to help those organizations hedge against idiosyncratic risk from particular funders and help give them more individual support (which matters for showing proof to other funders and also matters for some IRS stuff).

I don't think any one funder likes to fund the entirety of an organization's budget, especially when that budget is large. But between the different institutional funders (EA Funds, Survival and Flourishing Fund, OpenPhil, etc.), I still think there is a strong (but not guaranteed) chance we will be funded (at least enough to meet somewhere between our "Low" and "High" budget amounts). Though if everyone assumed we were not funding constrained, than we definitely would be.

My other pitch is that I'd like RP, as an organization, to have some direct financial incentive and accountability to the EA community as a whole, above and beyond our specific institutional funders who have specific desires and fund us for specific reasons that don't always match what the community as a whole wants or needs.

Lastly, if you trust us, we also value unrestricted funds highly (probably 1.5x-2x per dollar) because this allows us to start new research areas and programs that have less pre-existing proof/traction and get them to a point where they are ready to show bigger funders.

We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

Yes, it is still our approach, broadly speaking, to focus on empirical research, though certainly not to the exclusion of philosophy research. And we’ve now done a lot of research that combines both, such as our published work on invertebrate sentience and our forthcoming work on the relative moral weight of different animals.

We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

The first part I answered here.

I think a major success for us would look like having achieved a large and sustainably productive research organization tackling research in a variety of disciplines and cause areas. I think we will have made a major contribution to unlocking funding in effective altruism by figuring out to fund with more confidence as well as increasing our influence across a larger variety of stakeholders, including important stakeholders outside of the effective altruism movement..

We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

One thing we know for certain is that we are definitely doing AI Governance and Strategy work. We have not decided these other avenues yet - I think we will decide them in large part based on who we hire for our roles and in consulting with the people we hire once they are hired and come to agreements as a team. I definitely think that there is a lot to contribute in every field, but we will weigh neglectedness and our comparative advantage in figuring out what to work on.

We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

A note on why climate change is currently in our global health and development work rather than longtermism - the main reasons for this is that while we could consider longtermist work on climate change we do not think marginal longtermist climate change work makes sense for us relative to the importance and tractability of other longtermist work we could do. However, global health and development funders and actors are also interested in climate change in a way that does not funge much against longtermist money or talent, and the burden of climate change is felt heavily on lower and middle income countries. Therefore we think climate change work makes sense to explore relative to other global health and development opportunities.

We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

We at Rethink Priorities definitely have made an increasingly large effort to include forecasting in our work. In particular, we just recently have been running a large Nuclear Risks Tournament on Metaculus. My guess is that the reasons we don’t have even more forecasting relates to not all of our researchers being experienced forecasters and it hasn’t been a sufficient priority to generate sufficiently useful and decision-relevant forecasting questions for every research piece.

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