Rob Mitchell

I manage a team of data people and do projects and operations stuff for Greenpeace.

Long-time giver to GiveWell charities, looking to get more directly involved.


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EA Common App Development Further Encouragement

Yes, in practice interview questions should vary a lot between different roles, even if on paper the roles are fairly similar, so I'm not sure they could be coordinated, beyond possibly some entry level roles.

In a situation where someone is good but doesn't quite fit in a role the referral element might be useful. Often I've interviewed someone thinking 'they're great but not as good a fit for the role' even if they match on paper, and being able to refer that person on to another organisation would be a mutual benefit.

How many people have heard of effective altruism?

I'd heard of Peter Singer in an animal rights context years before I knew anything around his EA association or human philosophy in general. I wonder if a lot of people who have heard of him are in the same place I was.

Thoughts on requesting reasoning or examples to not pursue fields/positions

I don't think approaching this as 'why not to pursue a path' is helpful. I think it's more about helping people be aware of things they may not know so they can make an educated decision. That decision may then be 'it's not for me'. Think of the numbers showing how few people become professional athletes. The framing isn't 'don't do it because you won't make it'. It's 'few people make it, decide in full knowledge.'

"Big tent" effective altruism is very important (particularly right now)

Celebrate all the good actions[that people are taking (not diminish people when they don't go from 0 to 100 in under 10 seconds flat).


I'm uncomfortable doing too much celebrating of actions that are much lower impact than other actions

I think the following things can both be true:

  • The best actions are much higher impact than others and should be heavily encouraged.
  • Most people will come in on easier but lower impact actions and if there isn't an obvious and stepped progression to get to higher impact actions and support to facilitate this then many will fall out unnecessarily. Or may be put off entirely if 'entry level' actions either aren't available or receive a very low reward or status.

I didn't read the OP as saying that we should settle with lower impact actions if there's the potential for higher impact ones. I read it as saying that we should make it easier for people to find their level - either helping them to reach higher impact over time if for whatever reason they're unable or unwilling to get there straight away, or making space for lower impact actions if for whatever reason that's what's available. 

Some of this will involve shouting out and rewarding less impactful actions beyond their absolute value not for its own sake but because this may be the best way of helping this progression. I've definitely noticed the '0-100' thing and if I was younger and less experienced it might have bothered me more. 

[$20K In Prizes] AI Safety Arguments Competition

They said that computers would never beat our best chess player; suddenly they did. They said they would never beat our best Go player; suddenly they did. Now they say AI safety is a future problem that can be left to the labs. Would you sit down with Garry Kasparov and Lee Se-dol and take that bet?

Help Me Choose A High Impact Career!!!

Thanks Jordan. I wanted to pick up on the Turo element. You mention that this is something you only recently stumbled across, and it doesn't sound like you have prior experience or training in this area, and that you aren't especially passionate about it. You also say that you could make $200k a year on it working a 40 hour week. Where did you get these figures? There aren't many opportunities you can go into without experience and start earning $200k a year.

It may be possible, but I'd suggest it's a high bar to reach as such opportunities are rare, so I'd be interested to see more analysis here. You also mention risks, and it doesn't look like these are gone into in great deal. So I would really look for some maximally rational analysis on this aspect first.

Giving What We Can - Pledge page trial (EA Market Testing)

'why seeing options other than the expected one would make me less likely to follow through'

I think the key is that 'following through' can mean several things that are similar from the perspective of GWWC but quite different from the perspective of the person pledging.

In my case I'd already been giving >10% for quite a while but thought it might be nice to formalise it. If I hadn't filled in the pledge it wouldn't have made any difference to my giving. So the value of the pledge to me was relatively low. If the website had been confusing or offputting I might have given up.

There are others who will already have decided to give 10% but haven't yet started. The pledge then would have a bit more value if there's a chance it could prevent backsliding but assuming the person had fully committed to giving at this level already, the GWWC pledge wouldn't be crucial to the potential pledger.

Finally, there are people who for whatever reason come across the website without yet having decided to give 10% (or even 1%) and make a decision to sign up when they're there. This is where the more standard marketing theory comes into play.

For the first two groups, the non-conversion is something like 'I can't even see what I'm meant to be signing up for. Never mind, it's not going to affect how I'll actually give anyway.' Friction in this case is anything that makes it harder to identify what the 10% pledge is and how to sign up to it.  I spent a couple of seconds looking between the three options but it was ultimately pretty easy to work out which one was the one I wanted. This would be even easier if it was the one main option.

For the third, it could well be 'There's too much choice, maybe I don't want to do it.' At any rate, it will be much different from people who had already committed to giving 10%.

The 'loss' to GWWC for all three looks the same but there's only a substantial loss to the wider world with the third group. 

I know people not always remembering what's in their minds can be an issue but I doubt it would be a problem on something like 'did you intend to give 10% when you arrived on the GWWC website?' and certainly not on 'have you already been giving 10%?' There's such a difference between the groups it would be really helpful to at least get an indication how they split out.

Organizational alignment

Well, it looks like I'm hijacking a thread about organisational scaling with some anxieties around referring to people in overly utilitarian ways that I've talked about elsewhere. Which is fair enough; interestingly I've done the opposite and talked about org scaling on threads that were fairly tangentially related and got quite a few upvotes for it. All very intriguing and if you're not occasionally getting blasted, you're not learning as much as you might, getting enough information about e.g. limits, etc...

Organizational alignment

Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.

'Hey! I'm not a vector!' I cried out to myself internally as I read this. I mean, I get it and there's a nice tool / thought process in there, but this feels somewhat dehumanising without something to contextualise it. There are loads of tools you might employ to make good decisions that might involve placing someone in a matrix or similar, but hopefully it's obvious that it's a modelled exercise for a particular goal and you don't literally say 'people are maths' while you do it.

Anyway, I was thinking of political parties as I read this. If your party does well, you get an influx of members who somewhat share the same goals but are different from the existing core, not chosen by you, probably less knowledgeable about your history and ideology, and less immediately aligned. You have essentially no ability to produce alignment via financial mechanisms or 'hiring' processes. How do you get people to pull together? There's some recent examples of UK parties absolutely mangling this, but probably some good examples too (Obama 2008? German Green Party?) Obviously in organisations there are then additional mechanisms, but this seems interesting to study from the cultural elements which can be more separated out. 

Giving What We Can - Pledge page trial (EA Market Testing)

Thanks everyone, this is very interesting and well worth having a look through the attached Gitbook.

Around the intuitive interpretation:

Perhaps giving people more options makes them indecisive. They may be particularly reluctant to choose a “relatively ambitious giving pledge” if a less ambitious option is highlighted.

It's possible that this is the reason, but there's an alternative interpretation based around the fact that GWWC is already quite well-known and referenced as 'the place you go to donate 10% of your income'. So if a lot of people are coming onto your page with that goal in mind, then it would make sense that the layouts that centre that option and make it as frictionless as possible will do better. Which is what we see here - the option centring a different option does much worse, but the one that does best is the one that most highlights the 10% pledge, not the one that contextualises it next to an even higher level pledge given equal space.

My own experience of using the site was very similar - I came on, looked around a bit for the 10% option I'd already decided on (in the original setup), then signed up. Things like favouring the middle option and the effects of anchoring are more relevant in a situation where someone has decided to buy, say, a broadband package but hasn't chosen which one; the lack of effect from them here might indicate that relatively fewer people are coming onto the page unsure how much to give.

You could try testing the 10% pledge next to the further pledge without the 1% pledge, but the really key thing feels like a post-pledge survey. 'Did you already know what you would pledge when you went on our website?' 'If so, did you consider giving at a different level when you saw the options?' etc. I'm sure you'd get a good response rate as people would be motivated to ensure others completed the pledge. Or if you already have this information, it would be really useful to see it!

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