Scott Alexander

Topic Contributions


"Long-Termism" vs. "Existential Risk"

Thanks, I had read that but failed to internalize how much it was saying this same thing. Sorry to Neel for accidentally plagiarizing him.

Samotsvety Nuclear Risk Forecasts — March 2022

Thank you for doing this. I know many people debating this question, with some taking actions based on their conclusions, and this looks like a really good analysis.

We're announcing a $100,000 blog prize

I see the site lists "our bloggers", including Aria Babu, Sam Enright, Stian Weslake, etc. Are these people who are on your team (and not competing for the prize), or are these people who have already entered the competition?

We're announcing a $100,000 blog prize

The first two issues are the whole point of laundering your opinions through bloggers. 

I don't mean the bloggers should post the documents publicly, or even a play-by-play of the documents ("First Will MacAskill said, then Peter Singer said...") . I mean the bloggers should read the documents, understand the arguments, and post the key points/conclusions, perhaps with a "thanks to some anonymous people who helped me develop these ideas".

I agree the last issue is important, but this could be solved by good channels of communication and explanation about what should/shouldn't be posted.

We're announcing a $100,000 blog prize

EA is producing a ton of thoughtful writing, but the majority takes place in internal discussions and private documents. For some discussions, this would be the only sensible way to have them. But having other discussions in public should help to raise the salience of EA in the broader discourse and bring more people in. It could also help spark new ideas. 


Any thoughts about making some of this discussion available to bloggers so they can popularize it? Asking bloggers unconnected to the EA network to reinvent or equal the level of discourse that the top people have among themselves sounds much harder than figuring out a way to get the originals to the public.

What are some success stories of grantmakers beating the wider EA community?

The coronavirus Fast Grants were great, but their competitive advantage seems to have been that they were they first (and fastest) people to move in a crisis.

The overall Emergent Ventures idea is interesting and worth exploring (I say, while running a copy of it), but has it had proven cost-effective impact yet? I haven't been following the people involved but I don't remember MR formally following up.

Despite billions of extra funding, small donors can still have a significant impact

Thank you for writing this. I've seen a lot of people get confused around this, and it's genuinely pretty confusing, and it's good to have a really good summary all in one place by someone who knows what's going on.

How can we make Our World in Data more useful to the EA community?

Thanks for asking!

On some of your graphs, eg, you have a box you can tick to get "relative change". On other graphs, eg, you don't have that box. You can force the chart to do this by adding "?stackMode=relative" to the URL, but that is annoying and hard to remember. Please add the box to all graphs.

If you generate a graph like , it's hard to see what's going on, because all of the action is crammed into a tiny part of the graph - in this case between 1.3 and 1.6 children. I would be interested in either having it autozoom to the part where things are happening, or at least have an option to zoom into that part. Maybe this already exists and I am just missing it.

Another thing that would be neat (though a lot of work for maybe not much gain) would be the ability to graph algorithms, eg the fertility rate of Hungary minus the fertility rate of Austria, over time.

Fighting Climate Change with Progressive Activism in the US: CEA

Thanks for doing this. It's really interesting to see someone try to quantify the effects of activism. A few questions:

1. Can you further explain your estimate of a 0.5% - 10% higher chance of a bill passing because of climate activism?

2. Does that number claim that the Sunrise Movement in particular increased the chance that much, or that all activism (compared to some world with no active pro-climate grassroots movement) increased it that much? If the latter, is this being divided by the Sunrise Movement's budget, or to something else? Is the claim that the Sunrise Movement represents the majority of climate activism, so that its budget is a fair proxy for the budget of the entire cause area?

3. Is the claim that the marginal effect increases linearly? IE if the existing Sunrise Movement increases the chance of the bill 5%, then increasing their budget by 10% would increase the chance of a bill by 5%*10% = 0.5%? If so, what's the thought process behind this assumption?

Seeking Advice: Arab EA

Whether or not you go this route, you might also want to talk to Lama, a rationalist-adjacent Saudi student who was in the last Emergent Ventures cohort. She might be able to give you some advice and connect you to any existing Saudi community. You can find her at

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