228 karmaJoined


Sorted by New


Here's some thoughts from DM with Luisa. She said she agreed with these and suggested I just post these now in comments. So here goes!

It might be dangerous to talk too much about 'the good things imposter syndrome may be trying to protect' unless/until we have sufficiently crushed imposter syndrome (ie convinced the readers that it doesn't serve where it doesn't serve). So I think the fact that the intuition to add this section came up for me is a sign that I feel like your article crushed it!

In my mind, the purpose of this section would not be to be a counter-argument, or a reason to have imposter syndrome. It would be to help people keep their eyes open as they take any interventions against imposter syndrome so that they don't accidentally throw some babies out with the bath water.

Some good things that seem to sometimes cause imposter syndrome:

  • Protecting honesty in self and community
  • Defense against overconfidence/delusion
  • Overcoming the unilateralist curse
  • General caution (e.g. the precautionary principle)
  • Incentivizing people to gain better contact with reality, like you did!

OK, I'll stop there, though I'm guessing we can come up with more? Obviously a lot of these are overlapping.

Luisa, I'm so glad you wrote this. I somehow found tears coming to my eyes when you turned towards better epistemics as the solution. Maybe some part of me was expecting you to surround yourself with a lot of positive and true thoughts and people (which would also be good but... not as powerful and awesome?).

Extra joy as I check the byline before leaving this comment and see that this was written by you, a friend from the GiveWell chapter of our journeys!

One section of your article that I was really hoping to see and didn't:  The good things that Imposter Syndrome might be trying to protect.

This section is not yet written in my head but I'm sure I could help you write it if you're interested. Something feels important to me about this piece of the puzzle for reasons I have not yet articulated.

Thank you for all your service toward the greater good over the years.

Since college I've updated away from the importance of planning out my career, and toward the importance of finding a thing that deeply excites me.

In particular, I've noticed that when I have jobs that seem good on paper (e.g. from an EA perspective) but I'm not excited about the day-to-day work of them, I tend to underperform. On the other hand, when I find something that really nerdsnipes me, not only do I tend to use it to do my job better, but I also tend to find an even better job next (with bigger EA impact, even if that application was not initially obvious).

Now obviously, trying to look ahead and plan out a path is a great thing to do. I would expect it to be especially valuable for folks who already know what they want to do ("I love machine learning and I want to make sure the technology is used for good!") and for folks whose chosen career paths are well worn ("I want to be a policy maker.").

Unfortunately, I think that overemphasizing career planning can actually undermine the search for excitement. If I believe success comes to a large extent from careful long term planning, then I'm going to be less open to noticing what I like and what I don't like; less willing to admit that I should abandon the path I've been following for 5 years.

That's why I worry that reading this post in college may actually have done me in particular more harm than good—by helping me put even more moral pressure on myself to get it right, and quick! I suspect that there are a lot of factors here that vary from person to person—perhaps it suited me better to jump industries multiple times than it would have for those more naturally suited to a technical specialty.

Perhaps the version of the above advice I would have benefited from hearing in college is closer to, "Keep noticing what excites you and find ways to do more of that. Don't hesitate to update or abandon your plans—your failures will not matter very much but your successes can take you places you hadn't even imagined. Build your momentum before worrying too much about steering. Seek joy, discover your power."

I am quite curious to understand the funding situation among 'EA startup projects' better. Perhaps the survey Jade Leung recently conducted as part of her incubator project will help shed light on this.

My questions/confusions include:

  • How many EA projects that 'should' get funding don't—and for that reason don't happen? (ie What's the 'false negative' rate for our community answering the question, "Should X startup project be funded?")
  • What are the biggest costs of funding too many such projects?
    • Is the cost of 'false positives' primarily just the money lost?
    • Should we model the time spent by the founders etc as a major cost? (I suspect not—because I would guess that doing projects like these are a great way to increase the skills of the founders, regardless of project success.)
    • Are there significant downside risks for projects with no obvious way to do real harm—such as attracting less-aligned founders into the community?
  • Is it valuable to the success of the project to require certain things in the funding application project (e.g. a solid business plan)? (I have generally attempted to cause as little extra work for donees as possible, but I could imagine the right application process being helpful.)

I suspect that once we answer these questions, the issue of Bay/Hub (or not) will sort of fade away, though there will still be questions of the best ways to get the best would-be-projects to actually happen, and connect them with the right funders.

CFAR's local bank sent out the following email to its clients a few minutes ago. I thought some of you might find it useful to know, especially the part where they claim no one will be getting these loans before next week.

Clients of Community Bank of the Bay,
The SBA issued its Interim Final Report on the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) on Thursday evening at about 6:00 est.  Since then, we and other SBA Preferred Lenders have been reviewing the guidance, and have gotten clarity on some issues and found that others still remain undecided.  You may note that this information comes from the Interim Final Rule.     
What we have found is that all applications will be submitted digitally.  They will be completed directly by you the borrower through our bank’s portal once we provide you with secure access.  Along with the application, which is to be an SBA application (not a U.S. Treasury application) THAT HAS NOT YET BEEN FINALIZED, you will need to provide the following so that the Bank can verify payroll information and comply with applicable regulations.  Specifically, we must be able to do a number of certifications, including but not limited to the following:  
Bank must confirm that borrower was in business and incurred payroll costs on or about February 15, 2020.  (please gather your February 2020 payroll information)
Bank must confirm that the loan amount conforms with borrower’s average monthly payroll in the preceding calendar year. (please gather your 2019 payroll information). 
Conform with all applicable Bank Secrecy Act / Anti-Money Laundering and Beneficial Ownership regulations.  (This will already have been done for borrowing entities that are already clients.  If the borrowing entity is an affiliate of a CBB client, but does not have accounts here, we will need to focus on obtaining this information / documentation.) 
All in all the application process appears to be fairly simple.  The borrower completes the application, certifies to various items of status and provides information on line.  The Bank then approves the loan through its SBA Delegated Authority.  Because we are required to certify recent payrolls using prior calendar year information, my advice would be to not complicate the application by trying to include a lot of special circumstance employees.  For this program, simple equals speed to approval, documentation and receipt of funds. 
The loans will be for two years at an interest rate of 1.00% p.a. and SBA will defer all payments during the first six months.  Eight weeks after the loan is disbursed the borrower provides the Bank with documentation of how the funds were utilized and applies for loan forgiveness.  Per the Interim Final Rule, “ Loan forgiveness will be provided for the sum of documented payroll costs, covered mortgage interest payments, covered rent payments, and covered utilities.  Not more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs.”            
The issue now is of course that the official SBA application and associated on-line portal is not yet finalized.  Therefore we have not yet been able to post it to our website and test it.  It is the same for other banks.  Wells Fargo is stating on their website that they will not offer this loan until Monday at the earliest.  And regarding the application that I know others are telling you is official, Chase Bank literally says on their website, “Please do not send us U.S. Treasury applications”.  To my knowledge only Bank of America has made a portal available to their clients, but they specifically state that they won’t be processing any applications until mid-next week.      
I know this is frustrating, and I assure you it to us as well.  Community Bank of the Bay has been an active, SBA Preferred Lender for over ten years.  We are in direct contact with the SBA and their national servicer.  We assure you that we will keep you informed of the latest information on this Program, and as soon as it is available we will process your application in an efficient and timely manner.   
In the meantime, please gather the payroll information that I cited above.  If you are planning to apply through an entity that is not already a client of the Bank please contact your RM or branch to get started on opening the account.  If you would like to read the Interim Final Report, here is a copy that was distributed by a reputable third party - 
Thank you for your continued partnership with our Bank. 


  • I've posted the audio from my last interview with The Chapter here.
  • I received this update from The Chapter January 10th:
  • we are in the process of signing an agreement with [an organization that has agreed to transfer the funds], should be finished in about a week / then they can accept the transfer (attached)
  • they have a bit nonsense fee structure, so they want 8% of transfers under 25k USD, and 5% over 25k. I asked for a discount, but they decided against it: so it would be actually cheaper if you send us 25 thousand USD, pay 1250 fee and we send you 5120 back (or we can re-send it anywhere you want)
  • we were able to secure additional funding for the gap in "organization" budget sized $3000, so the organization budget is covered no
  • our [draft-for-comments] plan for 2018 is here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NqRum6-kAyl7bUUxjkX-IzVFpZnujy05MbjrUuuVIwg/edit?usp=sharing
  • at least temporarily we split the work into two positions - something like "strategy director" (strategy, public communication, fundraising) and "community directory" (coordination of volunteers, meetups, member onboarding, etc...) with time dotation ca 15h and 30h/week, respectively, and I'm doing the strategy work, while Kristina Nemcova is doing the community part. Timeframe for finding a permanent director is 3 months when Kristina is leaving abroad

They are not planning to hire the outgoing director as that person has already started a new job in a different city.

I've posted an update about my donation plans in the comments of the post that Carl linked above.

I’d like to give a quick update on my plans for the 2016 Donation Lottery winnings.

Of the $45,650, I’ve decided to give $21,000 to the Czech Association for Effective Altruism so they can hire one full time staff (or equivalent) for one year to manage the organization. I have not yet transferred that money, nor decided how to allocate the other $24,650.

I decided to support the Czech Association for Effective Altruism because I am impressed with their ability to execute difficult projects, I believe their projects have the potential to make a large positive impact (including via the impact on the chapter members executing them), I believe they will be able to execute substantially more and higher-quality projects with employed leadership than without one, and I believe funding is the limiting factor for the chapter hiring leadership staff.

I became aware of the Czech Association for Effective Altruism (The Chapter) when they hosted 2 CFAR workshops near Prague in October 2017; CFAR hired me to be one of a handful of instructors for those workshops. Some observations and beliefs from spending time with a few of the leaders from the chapter:

  • The Chapter successfully caused there to be CFAR workshops in Europe in 2017 that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The demand for the workshops was high enough to justify two workshops in rapid succession. Hosting these workshops was one of a few major priorities for The Chapter in 2017.
  • The Chapter handled virtually all of the operations for the two workshops (~10 staff and ~30 participants each workshop), including finding a venue with relatively narrow specifications and providing lodging, food, local transportation, supplies, and instructor support. While there were some hiccups in the operations, it generally went very well, and better than I (and most CFAR staff with whom I discussed it) had expected from a first-time crew. At least one CFAR instructor believed that the operations at the Prague workshops were even better than they are for the typical CFAR workshop in the Bay Area, where they are generally managed by a CFAR employee with support from volunteers.
  • The leaders of The Chapter seem to be observant, thoughtful, self-critical, and dedicated. These attributes make me much more confident that they will be successful, particularly for their ability to observe problems and make adjustments accordingly over time.
  • The Chapter seems less well connected to the global EA movement and possible funders than other equivalently talented EAs with which I’m familiar. I also expect that the global movement would benefit from The Chapter being more influential within it.

Some expectations related to the donation:

  • Much of the success of The Chapter in 2017 seems to be attributable to having a Director that was spending approximately full-time on the chapter (despite very little compensation). The past Director recently left to acquire a paid full-time job, and I expect The Chapter’s effectiveness to drop substantially if they are not able to hire replacement leadership.
  • The Chapter believes that the staff they hire with this donation will be able to lead fundraising efforts to support their own salary and the rest of The Chapter budget for future years.
  • I intend to only make this donation if I can do so legally. The donation process may involve donating the money to another non-profit (with 501(c)3 tax advantaged status) that would in turn consider supporting The Chapter. If not all of the money is passed on to The Chapter, it will reduce the efficiency of the donation. I hope for The Chapter to receive about $20k, since that is what they estimate they need to hire leadership for one year (and they believe other donations can cover their other budgetary needs). I expect I will need to allocate about $21k in order for The Chapter to likely receive $20k.

I’m planning to post audio of my last interview with The Chapter, as well as budgetary and strategic information that The Chapter has shared with me.

Edits: inserted the organization's official name, "Czech Association for Effective Altruism", and corrected bullet formatting.

Load more