Visiting Researcher @ MIT Media Lab, Nucleic Acid Observatory
Pursuing a doctoral degree (e.g. PhD)
246Basel, SwitzerlandJoined Mar 2020


Currently a visiting researcher at Kevin Esvelt's research group Sculpting Evolution. Thinking about ways to safeguard the world from bio. Apart from that, I have an assortment of more random EA interests, e.g., how to create better universities, how to make Germany a greater force for technological and social progress, or how to increase high-skilled immigration in the US.


Probably fits max 50-100 people, though I have low certainty and this might change in the future. I think it‘s designed to host smaller events than the above, e.g., cause-area specific conferences/retreats.

On my end, the FLI link is broken:

Agreed that their research is decent, but they are post-graduate institutes and have no undergraduate students.

Thanks, I saw a similar graph on Twitter! Wondering what kind of measurements would most clearly indicate more in-depth-engagement with EA—though traffic to the Forum likely comes close to that.

I liked it a lot. Given that he probably wasn't involved beforehand, the author got a detailed picture of EA's current state.

That makes sense; thanks for expanding on your comment.

I appreciate that many EA's focus on high IQ and general mental ability can be hard to deal with. For instance, I found this quite aversive when I first got into EA. 

But I'm unsure why your comment has 10 upvotes, given that you do not give many arguments for your statements.

Please let me know if anything below is uncharitable of if I misread something!

Focusing on elite universities

[...] why EA's obsession with elite universities is sickening.

The share of highly talented students at elite universities is higher. Thus, given the limited number of individuals who can do in-person outreach, it makes sense to prioritize elite unis. 

From my own experience, Germany has no elite universities. This makes outreach a lot harder, as we have no location to go to where we can be sure to address many highly talented students. Instead, German EAs self-select into EA by finding information online. Thus, if Germany had an elite uni, I would put most of my outreach efforts there.

Returns to high IQ

But I think the returns to lots of high-IQ people in EA are also pretty modest [...]

If you condition on the view that EA is bottle-necked by highly engaged and capable individuals that start new projects or found organizations, selecting for IQ seems as one of the best first steps.

IQ predicts good performance among various tasks and is thus plausibly upstream of having a diversity of skills. 

E.g., a 2011 study of 2329 participants in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth cohort shows no cut-off at which additional cognitive ability doesn't matter anymore. Participants were identified as intellectually gifted (top 1% of mental ability) at the age of 13 years and followed up for 25+ years. Even within this top percentile stratum of ability, being in the top quartile predicts substantially better outcomes: Among the top 0.25%, ~34% of cohort participants have a doctorate, and around 12% have filed a patent 25+ years after being identified as gifted at the age of 13. This compares to 4.5% of the US population holding a doctorate degree in 2018; I couldn't find data on the share of US Americans who have filed a patent, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's at least one order of magnitude lower.

More on this cohort can be found here.


Value of different perspectives/skills

[...] it's much more important to get people with varied perspectives/skills into EA.

Looking at the value of I) varied perspectives and II) skills in turn.

Regarding I), I'd also want to select people who reason well and scrutinize widely held effective altruist assumptions. But, I wouldn't aim to maximize the variety of perspectives in  EA for the sake of having different views alone (as this doesn't account for the merit of each view). 

And again, generating perspectives with lots of merit is likely linked to high IQ.

On II), I agree that having EAs with various skills is important given that  EA-oriented work is becoming increasingly diverse (e.g., doing AI Safety Research, building pandemic shelters, drafting legislation that governs x-risks). 

I was very happy to read this, great to hear that your switch to direct work was successful!

Noting my excitement that you picked up on the idea and will actually make this happen!

The structure you lay out sounds good.

Regarding the winning team, will there be financial rewards? I’d give it >70% that someone would fund at least a ~$1000 award for the best team.

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