Co-founder @ Impact Academy
486 karmaJoined Nov 2017


Impact Academy is a non-profit organization that enables people to become world-class leaders, thinkers, and doers who are using their careers and character to solve our most pressing problems and create the best possible future.

I also work as an impact-driven and truth-seeking coach for people who are trying to do the most good.

I'm also a medical doctor, author, and former visiting researcher (biosecurity) at Stanford.


Thanks for writing this up and sharing. I strongly appreciate the external research evaluation initiative and was generally impressed with the apparent counterfactual impact. 

Thanks for your response Ben. All of these were on my radar but thanks for sharing. 

Good luck with what you'll be working on too!

Congratulations! I'm looking forward to understanding the strategic direction you and CEA will pursue going forward. Do you have a sense of when you'd be able to share a version of these?

- How do you define guided self-help? Do you mean facilitated group sessions?
- Do you have any specific papers/references that you've used to for those estimates?

Thanks for writing this up. We're running an incubation pilot at Impact Academy and found this post very helpful as a reference class (for comparison in terms of success) as well as providing strategic clarity.
I'm curious, what were the best initiatives (inside and outside of EA) you came across in your search (e.g., y-combinator, charity entrepreneurship, etc.)?


Congratulations on running the pilot and getting these results!

They seem rather promising to me and above a threshold for testing more rigorously and scaling. However, a couple of questions:

  1. When did you measure the end effects and are you planning on doing a follow-up?
  2. How does this compare to interventions such as eight weeks therapy or coaching?

Glad it was useful. Looking forward to seeing the course (fortunate that you had reached out to request feedback on it). 

Great to see how concrete and serious the US is now. This basically means that models more powerful than GPT-4 have to be reported to the government. 

Thanks for posting this!
I appreciate the overview and attempt to build conceptual clarity around this related cluster of ideas that you neatly refer to Very Positive Futures.

To respond to some of your prompts:

  • What are your views on the potential pros and cons of more focus on VPF?  With which points do you agree or disagree? What are other arguments?
    • I think you summarized the pros and cons quite well but I'm just emphasizing the most compelling from my perspective. 
    • IMO, the strongest pros are i) increased clarity on prioritization, ii) motivation/psychology (anecdotally, Martin Luther King's speech started with "I have a dream" not "I have a nightmare" and similarly it seems that positive psychology has made some progress that the original dysfunction-oriented psychology didn't), and iii) being able to attract a different crowd of people.
    • IMO, the strongest cons are i) risk of unconditional enthusiasm that might end up being a distraction from the very pressing risks and suffering.
  • Which term resonates most with you: Existential Hope, Positive Trajectory Change, Utopia, or perhaps a similar term not described in the post?
    • I quite like Existential hope. Another term that resonates is "future vision". 
    • MacAskill briefly talks about procedural visions which I also quite like. Finally, I'd imagine that people within the EA space would also resonate quite a bit with "Existential Security".

I think some interesting initiatives related to VPF are:

  • FLI's world-building contest.
  • Karnofsky's poll of 400 Americans' responses to 16 different scenarios and 22 different traits of utopia.

Finally, I'd like to ask - if you had to design an introductory course that includes VPF, what are the key concepts, resources, or arguments you'd want to include?

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