Sarah H

Wiki Contributions


Snapshot of a career choice 10 years ago

Thank you for sharing this! Your and Jeff's EA meetups were my first introduction to the EA community more broadly, and the warm and welcoming tone that you set made a real difference. And in a space that often felt very male and STEM-dominant, it really helped to have another woman to talk to from a direct-work background. You've done so much good for the community, work that may not have been possible if you had ignored your instincts way back then. 

And I appreciate your candor; I know I tend to assume that people who have been more successful weren't wracked with doubt in the past. It definitely helps provide some perspective. 

More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

That's a good point, and I'm inclined to agree, at least on an abstract  level. My question then becomes how you evaluate what the backup plans of others are. Is this something based on data? Rough estimations? It seems like it could work on a very roughly approximated level, but I would imagine there would be a lot of uncertainty and variation.

More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

These are great, thank you for sharing! I really appreciate your framing of your focus on non-EA jobs, especially the language of low-hanging fruit and novelty of EA ideas in non-EA spaces.  I  like that you distinguish between EA as a movement/identity and the ideas that underlie it; I think that too often, we elide the two, and miss opportunities to share the underlying ideas separate from the wider identity. And I also like your point about the importance of integrating EA and non-EA: I feel like there has been a lot of effort dedicated to strengthening the EA community, as well as substantial effort dedicated to getting people to join the EA community, but less energy devoted to bringing EA ideas into spaces where folks might not want the whole identity, but would appreciate some of the ideas. It's possible that that work has just been more behind-the-scenes, however.

Anyways, thanks for sharing-I'm happy to hear that this has been an ongoing topic of conversation. I'm going to go read more of that careers questions thread--somehow I missed that the first time around!

More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

I totally agree! You articulated something I've been thinking about lately in a very clear manner; I think you're absolutely right to distinguish the value of neglectedness for funding vs. career choice--it's such a useful heuristic for funding considerations, but I think it can be used too indiscriminately in conversations about career choice.

More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

That's a good point. I don't have any data on this (not sure if this is something addressed in any of the EA surveys?) but my understanding is that you're totally right that most EAs are in non-EA jobs. 

What I was trying to get at in my post was less the thought that more EAs should take jobs in non-EA spaces,  but more the notion that discussions of career choice should take those choices more seriously. My title—More EAs should consider non-EA jobs—could be expanded to be “More EAs should consider non-EA jobs as a valid way of doing the most good.” But there was definitely some ambiguity there. 

I think it’s valuable to distinguish between folks who take non-EA jobs out of EA-related considerations (i.e. “I’m taking this job because I think it will allow me to do the most good”) vs. those who take them for unrelated considerations (such as interest, availability, location, etc.). I would guess that both approaches are at play for many people. I don’t think that conversations of career choice talk enough about the former; I think they tend to foreground career paths in EA orgs and don’t talk much about the potential value of bringing EA into non-EA spaces. 

More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

Thank you for sharing that! I like your idea about talking to people within these orgs--I know that my sense of how things work has been really changed by actually seeing some of this firsthand. 

I think another element to consider is what level of government we're talking about. My sense is that the federal budget tends to be more politicized than many state and local-level budgets, and that with state and local budgets there's more room for a discussion of "what is actually needed here in the community" vs. it becoming a straightforward red/blue issue (at least here in the states). I wonder if this means that, at least in some instances, interventions related to state and local-level would be more tractable than national ones. I'm reminded of the Zurich ballot initiative, for example.

Why I'm concerned about Giving Green

Thanks for sharing this. I wasn’t very familiar with Giving Green and you bring up interesting points. I would like to push back against two of your points: 1) that progressive groups are the ones making climate change partisan, and 2) that searching for consensus is the best way to find legislative success in our current political climate. You say that "making climate change a partisan issue might look promising in the short-term given the current Democratic trifecta, though the wafer-thin majority and existence of the filibuster somewhat dampens the case even there, but in even the medium term there is an obvious and potentially very large downside to such an approach."

Climate change is already a partisan issue. I’d argue that it's partisan mostly not because of what progressive climate activists are doing, but rather because of right wing climate denialism. In my opinion, progressive groups dialing it down wouldn’t make the Republicans any less obstructionist, but rather further defang the left and create even less of a chance for change. Let's imagine several scenarios:

Scenario 1: Republicans are obstructionist, most/all Democrats push for compromise with Republicans, orgs like CATF push for bipartisan initiatives, orgs like Sunrise don't do much. Likely outcomes: 

  1. Republicans make minor concessions and mildly more progressive climate legislation passes, OR
  2. Republicans continue to be just as obstructionist as they've been for the past 15 years and nothing passes (unless the filibuster is eliminated).

Scenario 2: Republicans are obstructionist, some Democrats push for compromise, while others push for more radical change in conjunction with orgs like Sunrise. Likely outcomes: 

  1. The issue becomes even more partisan and divided and nothing changes OR
  2. Republicans and moderate democrats bow to strong grassroots pressure and strong climate legislation is passed.

This framing would suggest that strong progressive climate action would offer both higher risk and higher potential reward, which seems accurate to me.

My opinion is that it’s going to take a lot for progressive climate legislation to be passed, and I think if we keep saying “the Republicans are effectively controlling the narrative re climate change and that will never change, we have to push gently so as to not ruffle feathers,” we’re only going to get tiny amounts of change (or none at all). Climate change seems like an issue where we can’t afford to wait. Furthermore, narratives aren’t static; they can change! Think of cases such as the civil rights movement in the ‘60s: changing the narrative around civil rights and achieving legislative success came not from finding consensus with recalcitrant segregationists but by an aggressive progressive movement willing to make noise. Of course, the analogy you choose makes a big difference. Feel free to share an analogy that would point to the opposite conclusion, but I’m having trouble thinking of one. 

Thanks for reading, and I’m very eager to hear any rebuttals that folks have.