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.
I can't think of any problem area where I'd be excited to actively hire a ton of people without vetting or supervision, but I agree that just because I can't think of one doesn't mean that one doesn't exist.
Also, as you and others mention, giving out prizes our bounties could work well if you have an area where you could easily evaluate the quality of a piece of work.
I think the core issue with your idea is that the problems we are interested in are all problems where progress is very difficult, and it’s furthermore very difficult to evaluate the quality of someone’s work, and furthermore it is very hard for them to make progress without lots of guidance and feedback, so you cannot just throw a ton of people at the problem and expect it to work well.
I like the idea of giving more people opportunities though, and I like that Rethink Priorities plays a role in this by trying to hire a lot of people to do research. But we find it requires a lot of mentorship and management for people to do well.
This matches my personal experience as well.
Can you elaborate more on what benefits an organization might get from Salesforce?
I think three key differences:
By 2018, we had more of a track record before starting.
For the 2018 attempt, we self-funded for six months before seeking funding to build an even bigger track record, rather than trying to get funding right at the beginning.
EA funding was notably more plentiful in 2018 than 2016. (Though still notably less plentiful than in 2022.)
Few people know that we tried to start something pretty similar to Rethink Priorities in 2016 (our actual founding was in 2018). We (Marcus and me, the RP co-founders, plus some others) did some initial work but failed to get sustained funding and traction so we gave up for >1 year before trying again. Given that RP -2018 seems to have turned out to be quite successful, I think RP-2016 could be an example of a failed project?
I think it will be really important for EAs to engage in more empirical work to understand how people think about EA. Of course you don't want people to feel like they're being fed the results of a script tested by a focus group (that's the whole point of this post), but you do want to actually know in reliable ways how bad some of these problems are, how things are resonating, and how to do better in a genuine and authentic way. Empirical results should be a big part of this (though not all of it), but right now they aren't, and this seems bad. Instead, we frequently confuse "what my immediate friends in my immediate network think about EA" with "what everyone thinks about EA" and I think this is a mistake.
This is something Rethink Priorities is working on this year, though we invite others to do similar work. I think there's a lot we can learn!
Do you think it was a mistake to put "FTX" in the "FTX Future Fund" so prominently? My thinking is that you likely want the goodness of EA and philanthropy to make people feel more positively about FTX, which seems fine to me, but in doing so you also run a risk of if FTX has any big scandal or other issue it could cause blowback on EA, whether merited or not.
I understand the Future Fund has tried to distance itself from effective altruism somewhat, though I'm skeptical this has worked in practice.
To be clear, I do like FTX personally, am very grateful for what the FTX Future Fund does, and could see reasons why putting FTX in the name is also a positive.
I will follow up tomorrow!
Good example of red teaming a paper!