Stephen Clare

Senior Research Associate @ Center for International Governance Innovation
4299 karmaJoined Working (6-15 years)


I work at the Global AI Risks Initiative at the Center for International Governance Innovation. My work supports the creation of international institutions to manage advanced AI development.

Previously I've been a Research Fellow at the Forethought Foundation, where I worked on What We Owe The Future with Will MacAskill; an Applied Researcher at Founders Pledge; and a Program Analyst for UNDP.


You should probably also blank their job title (which would make it easy to work out who they are) and their phone number (!)

Your first job out of college is the hardest to get. Later on you'll be able to apply for jobs while working, which is less stressful, and you'll have a portfolio of successful projects you can point to. So hopefully it's some small comfort that applying for jobs will probably never suck as much as it does for you right now. I know how hard it can be though, and I'm sorry. A few years ago after graduating from my Master's, I submitted almost 30 applications before getting an offer and accepting one.

I do notice that the things you're applying to all seem very competitive. Since they're attractive positions at prestigious orgs, the applicant pool is probably unbelievably strong. When there are hundreds of very strong applicants applying for a handful of places, many good candidates simply have to get rejected. Hopefully that's some more small comfort. 

It may also be worth suggesting, though, for anyone in a similar position who may be reading this, that it's also fine to look for less competitive opportunities (particularly early on in your career). Our lives will be very long and adventurous (hopefully), and you may find it easier to get jobs at the MITs and Horizons and GovAIs of the world after getting some experience at organisations which may seem somewhat less prestigious.

To speak on my own experience, among those ~30 places that rejected me were some of the same orgs you mention (e.g. GovAI, OpenPhil, etc.). The offer I ended up accepting was from Founders Pledge. I was proud to get that offer and the FP research team there was and is very strong, but I do think it's probably the case that it was a somewhat less competitive application process. But ultimately I loved working at FP. I got to do some cool and rigorous research, and I've had very interesting work opportunities since. It's probably even the case that, at that point in my career, FP was a better place for me to end up than some of the other places I applied.

Your steelman doesn't seem very different from "I didn’t have strong views on whether either of these opinions were true. My aim was just to introduce the two of them, and let them have a conversation and take it from there."

Many organizations I respect are very risk-averse when hiring, and for good reasons. Making a bad hiring decision is extremely costly, as it means running another hiring round, paying for work that isn't useful, and diverting organisational time and resources towards trouble-shooting and away from other projects. This leads many organisations to scale very slowly.

However, there may be an imbalance between false positives (bad hires) and false negatives (passing over great candidates). In hiring as in many other fields, reducing false positives often means raising false negatives. Many successful people have stories of being passed over early in their careers. The costs of a bad hire are obvious, while the costs of passing over a great hire are counterfactual and never observed.

I wonder  whether, in my past hiring decisions, I've properly balanced the risk of rejecting a potentially great hire against the risk of making a bad hire. One reason to think we may be too risk-averse, in addition to the salience of the costs, is that the benefits of a great hire could grow to be very large, while the costs of a bad hire are somewhat bounded, as they can eventually be let go.

Sam said he would un-paywall this episode, but it still seems paywalled for me here and on Spotify. Am I missing something? (The full thing is available on youtube)

CEA's elaborate adjustments confirm everyone's assertions: constantly evolving affiliations cause extreme antipathy. Can everyone agree, current entertainment aside, carefully examining acronyms could engender accuracy? 

Clearly, excellence awaits: collective enlightenment amid cost effectiveness analysis.

Considering how much mud was being slung around the FTX collapse, "clearing CEA's name" and proving that no one there knew about the fraud seems not just like PR to me, but pretty important for getting the org back to a place where it’s able to meaningfully do its work.

Plus, that investigation is not the only thing mentioned in the reflection reform paragraph. The very next sentence also says CEA has "reinvested in donor due diligence, updated our conflict-of-interest policies and reformed the governance of our organization, replacing leadership on the board and the staff."

I think you have a point with animals, but I don't think the balance of human experience means that non-existence would be better than the status quo.

Will talks about this quite a lot in ch. 9 of WWOTF ("Will the future be good or bad?"). He writes:

If we assume, following the small UK survey, that the neutral point on a life satisfaction scale is between 1 and 2, then 5 to 10 percent of the global population have lives of negative wellbeing. In the World Values Survey, 17 percent of respondents classed themselves as unhappy. In the smaller skipping study of people in rich countries, 12 percent of people had days where their bad experiences outweighed the good. And in the study that I commissioned, fewer than 10 percent of people in both the United States and India said they wished they had never been born, and a little over 10 percent said that their lives contained more suffering than happiness.

So, I would guess that on either preference-satisfactionism or hedonism, most people have lives with positive wellbeing. If I were given the option, on my deathbed, to be reincarnated as a randomly selected person alive today, I would choose to do so.

And, of course, for people at least, things are getting better over time. I think animal suffering complicates this a lot.

For anyone finding themselves in this random corner of the Forum: this study has now been published. Conclusion: "Our results do not support large effects of creatine on the selected measures of cognition. However, our study, in combination with the literature, implies that creatine might have a small beneficial effect."

Thanks Vasco! I'll come back to this to respond in a bit more depth next week (this is a busy week).

In the meantime, curious what you make of my point that setting a prior that gives only a 1 in 15 trillion chance of experiencing an extinction-level war in any given year seems wrong?

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