Rachel Weinberg

827 karmaJoined Medford, MA, USA


I appreciate the main point you're making: that you’re someone we would value having at Manifest, and including people like Hanania causes you to not come.

However, I think there’s a miscommunication going on: as far as I can tell, not Austin, nor any of us organizers, nor any of the people defending Manifest’s choice of speakers nor those defending the speakers themselves, thinks that Manifest is “fun” because it’s “edgy”. I’ve noticed you tie these things together in a few comments in a way that feels to me like a straw man, like you think that we think it's "fun" to be "edgy", when we in fact do not.

The “fun” thing, which Austin is rightly proud of, refers to the festival part: Manifest hosts mostly serious talks during the day, but there is also e.g. a dance class, wrestling, karaoke, s’mores, etc. That all feels very wholesome and essential to what makes Manifest an exceptional event.

The “edgy” thing — attendees being purposefully inflammatory, using slurs, making others feel unwelcome, etc. — is totally unrelated. Not wholesome. Not a thing to be proud of. Not a thing we aspire to.

I think we could choose to kill the festival part of Manifest, and run a professional forecasting conference at some generic conference hotel, and still choose to invite Hanania. Alternatively, we could invite only the kindest, most welcoming, least offensive people we know, to come hang out and sing songs and chat about forecasting by the fire at Lighthaven. The former might be edgy and not fun, while the latter might be fun and not edgy. These are unrelated.

Hi, last organizer here, wanted to give my take.

Overall, I’m sympathetic to the point this post is making.

This is tricky because I think I could defend the choice to have any of the individual controversial speakers. Some of them, e.g. Simone and Malcolm Collins, simply do not hold racist views. Sure, they can be edgy and inflammatory — they act this way on the internet strategically as far as I can tell, and it’s not my style. But they’re not scientific racists. Embryo selection has nothing to do with race or reproductive coercion and oppression. Plus they are particularly generous, friendly, and engaging in person, which means they are particularly value-adding as attendees. Others of them, e.g. Brian Chau, I don’t like the style or opinions of about basically anything (though I admit I've hardly engaged with his stuff). I've seen him write about race and gender in a way I perceive to be unnecessarily inflammatory, and like, mean? And I think he’s wrong and doing a lot of harm with the AI stuff. But he came to do a debate with Holly Elmore about acceleration vs. pause. It was a very popular session, and I heard from an AI safety friend I respect a lot that he learned a lot about Brian’s views, which was useful!!

That said, in the end, the concentration of the edgy people was weirdly high, in a way that seems to have skewed your experience significantly. I’m sorry. As Saul and Austin have indicated in their comments, this was a thing we were concerned about, and though we took some action to correct it, perhaps we didn’t totally succeed.

I do not see this as a matter of banning certain ideas or people from Manifest. Openness and free speech are really important to me, and as Nathan said, it’s good to provide a space for this that isn’t the “dissident right.” Forecasting is a good candidate. Last year, Hanania came and remarked afterwards that his “mind had been opened” after talking to some trans women at the event. People meeting with others they strongly disagree with in person can be enormously valuable! There are lots of people on the guest list who I disagree with strongly about a variety of things — for example, I think Eliezer's takes on baby and animal suffering are wrong in a super morally important way, but I'm still happy he came.

Instead, I think this is an issue of emphasis and balance. As Ozzie noted in his comment, there’s an unintentional spiraling effect: being open to a couple of edgy people early on means future invited edgy people feel like it’s more an event for them and are more likely to want to come, and that attracts more edgy attendees, etc. (and probably puts off the opposite kinds of people but of course that’s less visible to us). So without trying to elevate their more extreme ideas or their styles, we end up doing so via some early light momentum and continued chillness. At times I was thought “maybe we shouldn’t have so many of these people on our website, that might send the wrong message about what we’re about” — not everyone we gave a free ticket to was listed, and this could have prevented this from spiraling. But that also seemed potentially dishonest, like we were trying to hide that the controversial people were invited? So, idk.

I personally quite dislike contrarianism for its own sake. I prefer not to hang out with people who use language like “fag” and “retard”, and would not like to cultivate that vibe at events I run. My impression based on the Manifest feedback is that overwhelmingly, people were kind, activities were wholesome, and conversations were spectacular. But a couple responses, and now this post, have made me think there was a bit more edgelordism than would have been ideal. If Manifest happens again next year, I’d like to nudge it away from this.

You can see Saul’s and Austin’s comments about this as well, which are more detailed than mine, and the details of which I almost entirely agree with.

(Tbh I might not respond to replies here. For one, I find this kind of thing pretty stressful and aversive and have already spent too much time and energy on it. For two, I’m really pregnant and could have a baby to deal with any day now.)

(This is ultimately up to retro funders, and they each might handle cases like this differently.)

In my opinion, by that definition of true value which is accounting for other opportunities and limited resources, they should just pay $100 for it. If LTFF is well-calibrated, they do not pay any more (in expectation) in the impact market than they do with regular grantmaking, because 99% of project like this will fail, and LTFF will pay nothing for those. So there is still the same amount of total surplus, but LTFF is only paying for the projects that actually succeeded.

I think irl, the “true value” thing you’re talking about is still dependent on real wages, because it’s sensitive to the other opportunities that LTFF has which are funding people’s real wages.

There's a different type of "true value", which is like how much would the free market pay for AI safety researchers if it could correctly account for existential risk reduction which is an intergenerational public good. If they tried to base valuations on that, they'd pay more in the impact market than they would with grants.

I think there is still surplus-according-to-the-funders-values in this impact market specifically, just as much as there is with regular grants. Retro funders were not asked to assign valuations based on their "true values" where maybe 1 year of good AI safety research is worth in the 7 figures (though what this "true value" thing would even mean I do not quite understand). Instead, they were asked to "operate on a model where they treat retrospective awards the same as prospective awards, multiplied by a probability of success." So they get the same surplus as usual, just with more complete information when deciding how much to pay.

Thanks for the feedback! Geographic diversity in particular does seem pretty important for getting the most out of regranting—much dissatisfaction about the current funding situation comes from how much harder it is to get funded if you're not well-connected in the Bay Area community.

I'm disappointed that we currently don't even have much UK representation, since that's the other EA hub. This is largely because we are based in the SF so are better connected here. As Austin said, happy to hear suggestions for people connected in other areas who could better surface new opportunities!

Tbh I see myself as a person who build infrastructure, but also as said in my other comment, being a regrantor helps me do that much better. And yes we told our primary donor we were doing this in advance.

First want to say that I was also pretty uncomfortable about this, and initially told Austin I didn't want to do it—you’re right that I am not qualified to be a grant maker, at least in the sense that I would not be hired as one in another context. I don’t deserve whatever status that role happens to bestow upon me, and I don’t particularly want the power.

That said, me being a regrantor has made the UX much better, since I’m basically the sole person pushing code and dogfooding is so powerful: it’s changed the prompting questions on write-ups, the way projects in need of more funding are displayed, the way funding targets are specified, and lots of other tiny things that were a bit uglier or higher friction or simply broken before. Less concretely, my model of what it feels like to write a publicly visible grant writeup, to search for giving opportunities, to select grant amounts, etc. has become more vivid, which I expect to be strategically useful going forward. And it's only been a few weeks so far.

So, I agree it’s bad optically (I agree-voted your comment), but ultimately think this was a good call. Especially because the counterfactual of having not given me the $50k is not that it would be going to some better-evaluated grants than the ones I’ve made, but that it would be sitting in a bank account, and (obviously) I think the grants I’ve made are better than that.

stay tuned 🙃....

We've implemented something to allow everyone to participate now! Non-accredited investors can still put money into Manifund, grow their portfolio by investing in impact certs, and ultimately donate any money in their account to charity. They just can't withdraw. It works a lot like mana on Manifold, except that when you add money it counts as a tax-deductible donation.

Yeah, that's where I took most of my data from. They did a great job of collecting the data which I'm super grateful for, but their UI doesn't make it easy to find stuff, which is why I made this site.

Yeah that's the hard part that I'm going to be thinking about a lot this week. My guess is some funders will be easy to automatically update because they release their grants in a CSV and I already have scripts for reading them (EA funds, Open Phil), but others need to be done very manually which seems super annoying (ACX). I would probably only add the donations of major funds and not scrape people's blogs or whatever Vipul/Issa did to add a lot of smaller donations, excepting maybe connecting with Giving What We Can from individuals' donation data.

Anyway, I probably don't want to spent more than ~3 hours once per month updating the data, but I'll try to be as efficient as possible with that time!

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