Will Howard

Software Engineer @ Centre for Effective Altruism
515 karmaJoined Aug 2022London, UK


I'm a developer on the EA Forum (the website you are currently on). You can contact me about forum stuff at will.howard@centreforeffectivealtruism.org or about anything else at w.howard256@gmail.com


Topic contributions

PSA: You can now add buttons to posts and comments:

Click here to maximise utility

We would love it if people started adding these to job opportunities to nudge people to apply. To add a button, select some text to make the toolbar appear and then click the "Insert button" icon (see below)

As always, feedback on the design/implementation is very welcome.

wishlist idea would be to know a bit more about who these users are in terms of interest demographic

Interesting, I hadn't thought of that. It would be possible to implement something like this, one issue would be that a lot of people don't fill out the topics they are interested in, but it could be possible to get round this by basing it on the other posts they read rather than their stated interests.

The thing about reading to the end is something I was planning to add, I have been envisioning a graph like this on the post analytics page (see below, random example from google), would that fit what you're looking for?

YouTube Audience Retention: 3 Channel Boosting Secrets You Need to Know

I'd be interested in any feedback people have about the analytics page we added recently. You can get to it via "Post stats" in the user menu.

Specific areas of feedback that would be helpful:

  • Are the stats displayed useful to you and easy to understand, are there other stats that you think would be more useful?
  • Feedback on the design/layout
  • Do you endorse it as a concept (i.e. you might think this incentivises engagement bait or something, if you notice that motivation in yourself that would be useful to know)?
  • Is it broken in any way? Is it annoyingly slow?

We also updated the analytics page for individual posts at the same time so feedback on that would be helpful as well (you can get to this via the three dot menu on posts you have published, or via the "Post stats" page).

It took me ~1 minute. I already had a favourite candidate so I put all my points towards that. I was half planning to come back and edit to add backup choices but I've seen the interim results now so I'm not going to do that.

Gift Aid related clarification:

Gift Aid is a tax related bonus you can apply to donations in the UK. Apparently the way this works is the money arrives to the charity you're donating to in a big lump from the government some time, possibly months, after the original donations. This means the amount raised (the number here) will likely go up a bit even after the fundraiser closes (on 20th Dec).

For the purposes of the collective rewards here, we will use the amount that is showing on the fundraiser at the time we stop collecting donations. But the actual amount we end up distributing will include any extra that comes through as a result of Gift Aid.

Good idea, we can do this. We'll probably write a retro post at the end and this can be one of the stats we include.

From eyeballing the amounts we have been sent, it looks like the bulk of the pot is made up of large donations (>=$250), and these aren't clustering around the reward amount of $250. I would also guess (based on very little) that, especially for the flair, there is a large second order effect of increasing the general awareness of the donation election and this nudges other people to donate.

I'll be going to this. I just listened to your podcast with Daniel Filan and I thought your point about protests being underrated was a good one

I think this is valuable research, and a great write up, so I'm curating it.

I think this post is so valuable because having accurate models of what the public currently believe seems very important for AI comms and policy work. For instance, I personally found it surprising how few people disbelieve AI being a major risk (only 23% disbelieve it being an extinction level risk), and how few people dismiss it for "Sci-fi" reasons. I have seen fears of "being seen as sci-fi" as a major consideration around AI communications within EA, and so if the public are not (or no longer) put off by this then that would be an important update for people working in AI comms to make.

I also like how clearly the results are presented, with a lot of the key info contained in the first graph.

I see it as "incentives that nudge us to do bad things", plus this incentive structure being something that naturally emerges or is hard to avoid ("the dictatorless dictatorship").

I think "Moloch" gets this across a bit better than just "incentives" which could include things like bonuses which are deliberately set up by other people to encourage certain behaviour.

Tyler Cowen has this criticism of prediction markets which is like (paraphrased, plus slightly made up and mixed with my own opinions): "The whole concept is based on people individually trying to maximise their wealth, and this resulting in wealth accruing to the better predictors over time. But then in real life people just bet these token amounts that add up to way less than the money they get from their salary or normal investments. This completely defeats the point! You may as well just take the average probability at that point rather than introducing this overcomplicated mechanism".

Play money can fix this specific problem, because you can make it so everyone starts with the same amount, whereas real money is constantly streaming in and out for reasons other than your ability to predict esoteric world events. I think this is an underrated property of play money markets, as opposed to the usual arguments about risk aversion. (Of course if you can buy play money with real money this muddies the waters quite a bit)

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