Peter Wildeford

Co-CEO @ Rethink Priorities
16655 karmaJoined Aug 2014Working (6-15 years)Glenview, IL, USA


Along with my co-founder, Marcus A. Davis, I run Rethink Priorities. I'm also a Grant Manager for the Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund and a top forecaster on Metaculus. Previously, I was a professional data scientist.

How others can help me

My goal is to scalably employ many well-qualified researchers to work on the world's most important problems.


Topic Contributions

I am happy to see that Nick and Will have resigned from the EV Board. I still respect them as individuals but I think this was a really good call for the EV Board, given their conflicts of interests arising from the FTX situation. I am excited to see what happens next with the Board as well as governance for EV as a whole. Thanks to all those who have worked hard on this.

Will - of course I have some lingering reservations but I do want to acknowledge how much you've changed and improved my life.

You definitely changed my life by co-creating Centre for Effective Altruism, which played a large role in organizations like Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours, which is what drew me into EA. I was also very inspired by "Doing Good Better".

To get more personal -- you also changed my life when you told me in 2013 pretty frankly that my original plan to pursue a Political Science PhD wasn't very impactful and that I should consider 80,000 Hours career coaching instead, which I did.

You also changed my life by being open about taking antidepressants, which is ~90% of the reason why I decided to also consider taking antidepressants even though I didn't feel "depressed enough" (I definitely was). I felt like if you were taking them and you seemed normal / fine / not clearly and obviously depressed all the time yet benefitted from them that maybe I would also benefit them (I did). It really shattered a stereotype for me.

You're now an inspiration for me in terms of resilience. Having an impact journey isn't always everything up and up and up all the time. 2022 and 2023 were hard for me. I imagine they were much harder for you -- but you persevere, smile, and continue to show your face. I like that and want to be like that too.

I agree - I think the financial uncertainty created by having to renew funding each year is very significantly costly and stressful and makes it hard to commit to longer-term plans.

Hi Elizabeth,

I represent Rethink Priorities but the incubator Charlie is referencing was/is run by Charity Entrepreneurship, which is a different and fully separate org. So you would have to ask them.

If there are any of your questions you'd want me to answer with reference to Rethink Priorities, let me know!

Hi Charlie,

Peter Wildeford from Rethink Priorities here. I think about this sort of thing a lot. I'm disappointed in your cheating but appreciate your honesty and feedback.

We've considered many times about using a time verification system and even tried it once. But it was a pretty stressful experience for applicants since the timer then required the entire task to be done in one sitting. The system we used also introduced some logistical difficulty on our end.

We'd like to try to make things as easy for our applicants as possible since it's already such a stressful experience. At the same time, we don't want to incentivize cheating or make people feel like they have to cheat to stay ahead. It's a difficult trade-off. But so far I think it's been working -- we've been hiring a lot of honest and high integrity people that I trust greatly and don't feel like I need a timer to micromanage them.

More recently, we've been experimenting with more explicit honor code statements. We've also done more to pre-test all our work tests to ensure the time limits are reasonable and practical. We'll continue to think and experiment around this and I'm very open to feedback from you or others about how to do this better.

Yes. I think animal welfare remains incredibly understudied and thus it is easier to have a novel insight, but also there is less literature to draw from and you can end up more fundamentally clueless. Whereas in global health and development work there is much more research to draw from, which makes it nicer to be able to do literature reviews to turn existing studies and evidence into grant recommendations, but also means that a lot of the low-hanging fruit has been done already.

Similarly, there is a lot more money available to chase top global health interventions relative to animal welfare or x-risk work, but it is also comparably harder to improve recommendations as a lot of the recommendations are already pretty well-known by foundations and policymakers.

AI has been an especially interesting place to work in because it has been rapidly mainstreaming this year. Previously, there was not much to draw on but now there is much more to draw from and many more people are open to being advised on work in the area. However, there are also many more people trying to get involved and work is being produced at a very rapid pace, which can make it harder to keep up and harder to contribute.

I think it varies a lot by cause area but I think you would be unsurprised to hear me recommend more marginal thinking/research. I think we’re still pretty far from understanding how to best allocate a doing/action portfolio and there’d still be sizable returns from thinking more.

  • I like pop music, like Ariana Grande and Olivia Rodriguo, though Taylor Swift is the Greatest of All Time. I went to the Eras Tour and loved it.

  • I have strong opinions about the multiple types of pizza.

  • I'm nowhere near as good at coming up with takes and opinions off-the-cuff in verbal conversations as I am in writing. I'm 10x smarter when I have access to the internet.

(1) where do you think forecasting has its best use-cases? where do you think forecasting doesn't help, or could hurt?

I'm actually surprisingly unsure about this, especially given how interested I am in forecasting. I think when it comes to actual institutional decision making it is pretty rare for forecasts to be used in very decision-relevant ways and a lot of the challenge comes from asking the right questions in advance rather than the actual skill of creating a good forecast. And a lot of the solutions proposed can be expensive, overengineered, and focus far too much on forecasting and not enough on the initial question writing. Michael Story gets into this well in "Why I generally don't recommend internal prediction markets or forecasting tournaments to organisations".

I think something like "Can Policymakers Trust Forecasters?" from the Institute for Progress takes a healthier view about how to use forecasting. Basically, you need to take some humility about what forecasting can accomplish but explicit quantification of your views is a good thing and it is also really good for society generally to grade experts on their accuracy rather than their ability to manipulate the media system.

Additionally, I do think that knowing about the world ahead seems generally valuable and forecasting still seems like one of the best ways to do that. For example, everything we know about existential risk essentially comes down to various kinds of forecasting.

Lastly, my guess is that a lot of the potential of forecasting for institutional decision making is still untapped and merits further meta-research and exploration.

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