vishal

Strategy & governance @ DeepMind. Focus areas: deployment, safety, scenario planning, education, recruiting, norm-shaping, positive futures, trust & coordination, supporting promising ventures.

Studied economics @ Yale; co-author of Machine Learning for Humans; previously led growth @ Upstart.

Enjoys thinking about thinking; pragmatist focused on the meta of things.

Wiki Contributions

Comments

The career and the community

I don't have enough data to know if there are specific paths not enough people are taking, but I'm pretty certain there's a question that not enough people are asking within the paths they're taking: how is what I'm doing *right now* going to lead to a 10x/100x/1,000x win, in expectation? What's the Move 37 I'm making, that nobody else is seeing? This mentality that can be applied in pretty much any career path.

The career and the community

I'm ok with calling this the "Silicon Valley mindset" - since it recommends a growth-oriented career mindset, like the Breakout List philosophy, with the ultimate success metric being impact - though it's important to note that I'm not advocating for everybody to go start companies. Rather, I'm describing a shift in focus towards extreme career capital growth asap (rather than direct impact asap) in any reasonably relevant domain, subject to the constraint of robustly avoiding value drift. This seems like the optimal approach for top talent, in aggregate, if we're optimizing for cumulative impact over many decades, and if we think we can apply the venture capitalist mindset to impact (thinking of early-career talent as akin to early-stage startups).

The career and the community

Thread is too long to fully process, but I'll try to re-phrase what seems to be a crucial & perhaps-not-disputed point here:

If you have big enough wins on your record, early on, you can do pretty much anything.

If you're optimizing for max impact in a decades-long career (which Michelle & Richard both seem to agree is the right framing), then pursuing opportunities with extreme growth trajectories seems like a good strategy.

Where are the Elon Musks and Peter Thiels (early career trajectory-wise) in the EA community? Why are so few EAs making it into leadership positions at some of the most critical orgs?

When talking to someone really talented graduating from university and deciding what to do next, I'd probably ask them why what they're doing immediately might allow for outsize returns / unreasonably fast growth (in terms of skills, network, credibility, money, etc.). If no compelling answer, I'd say they're setting themselves up for relative mediocrity / slow path to massive impact. It's similar to the Sheryl Sandberg(?) quote implying that one should join a breakout stage company to supercharge one's career, no matter what the role: “If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat. Just get on.”

I think the point I'm making here is an extension of this: early on, don't ask which rocket ship, either. Just get on one, and you'll win. (Make sure to build systems that prevent value drift).

Path to impact is much easier once you've solved network, skills, finances, credibility, leadership ability, confidence (this last one is crucial and under-discussed). At that point, time becomes the only bottleneck.

This is written primarily for generalist (i.e. non-technical / non-research) talent. Technical & research-oriented careers probably follow different patterns, though the underlying principles probably still apply.

[@80k/Richard: I'd be curious to get a 1-ish-sentence response, e.g. "You're wrong, and need to go do some reading and come back so we can have an informed discussion" or "You're right, and this matches up with how we think about things". PS, this is my first-ever online interaction with the EA community!]