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This is horrifying! A friend of the author just shared this along with a Business Insider post that was just published that links to this post:

I'm curious if you or the other past participants you know had a good experience with AISC are in a position to help fill the funding gap AISC currently has. Even if you (collectively) can't fully fund the gap, I'd see that as a pretty strong signal that AISC is worth funding. Or, if you do donate but you prefer other giving opportunities instead (whether in AIS or other cause areas) I'd find that valuable to know too.

But on the other hand, I've regularly meet alumni who tell me how useful AISC was for them, which convinces me AISC is clearly very net positive. 

Naive question, but does AISC have enough of such past alumni that you could meet your current funding need by asking them for support? It seems like they'd be in the best position to evaluate the program and know that it's worth funding.

Nevertheless, AISC is probably about ~50x cheaper than MATS

~50x is a big difference, and I notice the post says:

We commissioned Arb Research to do an impact assessment
One preliminary result is that AISC creates one new AI safety researcher per around $12k-$30k USD of funding. 

Multiplying that number (which I'm agnostic about) by 50 gives $600k-$1.5M USD. Does your ~50x still seem accurate in light of this?

I'm a big fan of OpenPhil/GiveWell popularizing longtermist-relevant facts via sponsoring popular YouTube channels like Kurzgesagt (21M subscribers). That said, I just watched two of their videos and found a mistake in one[1] and took issue with the script-writing in the other one (not sure how best to give feedback -- do I need to become a Patreon supporter or something?):

Why Aliens Might Already Be On Their Way To Us

My comment:

9:40 "If we really are early, we have an incredible opportunity to mold *thousands* or *even millions* of planets according to our visions and dreams." -- Why understate this? Kurzgesagt already made a video imagining humanity colonizing the Milky Way Galaxy to create a future of "a tredecillion potential lives" (10^42 people), so why not say 'hundreds of billions of planets' (the number of planets in the Milky Way), 'or even more if we colonize other galaxies before other loud/grabby aliens reach them first'? This also seems inaccurate because the chance that we colonize between 1,000-9,999,999 planets (or even 1,000-9,999,999 planets) is less than the probability that we colonize >10 million (or even >1 billion) planets.

As an aside, the reason I watched these two videos just now was because I was inspired to look them up after watching the depressing new Veritasium video Do People Understand the Scale of the Universe? in which he shows a bunch of college students from a university with 66th percentile average SAT scores who do not know basic facts about the universe.

[1] The mistake I found was in the most recent video You Are The Center of The Universe (Literally) was that it said (9:10) that the diameter of the observable universe is 465,000 Milky Way galaxies side-by-side, but that's actually the radius of the observable universe, not the diameter.

I also had a similar experience making my first substantial donation before learning about non-employer counterfactual donation matches that existed.

It was the only donation I regretted since by delaying making it 6 months I could have doubled the amount of money I directed to the charity for no extra cost to me.

Great point, thanks for sharing!

While I assume that all long-time EAs learn that employer donation matching is a thing, we'd do well as a community to ensure that everyone learns about it before donating a substantial amount of money, and clearly that's not the case now.

Reminds me of this insightful XKCD:

For each thing 'everyone knows' by the time they're adults, every day there are, on average, 10,000 people in the US hearing about it for the first time.

Thanks for sharing about your experience.

I see 4 people said they agreed with the post and 3 disagreed, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on this. (I was the 5th person to give the post Agreement Karma, which I endorse with some nuance added below.)

I've considered going on a long hike before and like you I believed the main consideration against doing so was the opportunity cost for my career and pursuit of having an altruistic impact.

It seemed to me that clearly there was something else I could do that would be better for my career and altruistic impact that e.g. taking 6 months to go hike the Appalachian Trail so I dismissed considering the possibility more seriously, as tempting as it was. (Bill Bryson's book A Walk in the Woods tempted me when I read it in 2012.)

I still think that most young people who actually do decide to go on such a long hike could have done something else that would have been better for their career and pursuit of the most good, and I think the same would have been true of my former self had I decided to actually spend 6 months going for such a long walk.

That said, what my life experience thus far (a very lackluster career) makes obvious to me now is that deciding against going for a 6-month hike on the basis that it was almost definitely subpotimal was a mistake. After all, almost every potential path is suboptimal, whether it's a 6-month hike, Job A, Job B, or almost every other concrete option.

A more reasonable way to think about the question is whether the long hike seems better or worse than the other options one is considering. And on that note I'd opine that there are many unideal jobs that one could work for 6 months that'd be worse than spending those 6 months on a long hike that one is really motivated to do.

And I don't just mean trash jobs one isn't considering. Rather, I think going on a 6-month hike can actually often be better than the job-path one would have taken otherwise.

Reflecting on my own past, it's not clear to me that had younger-me spent 6 months going for a long hike that that would have been worse than what I actually did. I've spent a lot of time in mediocre jobs and also a lot of time not working and yet not doing any intentional career-break project like a long hike. So I think going for a long hike would have been quite a reasonable decision had I chosen to do so. It very likely wouldn't have been optimal path, but it may well have been a good decision, better than the likely counterfactuals.

I'll also add that I didn't like the subtitle of the video: "A case for optimism".

A lot of popular takes on futurism topics seem to me to focus on being optimistic or pessimistic, but whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about something doesn't seem like the sort of thing one should argue for. It seems a little like writing the bottom line first.

Rather, people should attempt to figure out what the actual probabilities of different futures are and how we are able to influence the future to make certain futures more or less probable. From there it's just a semantic question whether having a certain credence in a certain kind of future makes one an optimistic or a pessimist.

If one sets out to argue for being an optimist or pessimist, that seems like it would just introduce a bias into one's thinking, where once one identifies as e.g. an optimist, they'll have trouble updating their beliefs about the probability that the future will be good or bad to various degrees. Paul Graham says Keep Your Identity Small, which seems very relevant.

I've been a fan of melodysheep since discovering his Symphony of Science series about 12 years ago.

Some thoughts as I watch:

- Toby Ord's The Precipice and his 16 percent estimate of existential catastrophe (in the next century) is cited directly

- The first part of the script seems heavily-inspired by Will MacAskill's What We Owe the Future
- In particular there is a strong focus on non-extinction, non-existentially catastrophic civilization collapse, just like in WWOTF

- 12:40 "But extinction in the long-term is nothing to fear. No species survives forever. Time will shape us into something new. The noble way to go extinct will be to evolve naturally to a higher species." -- This is kind of ambiguous. I'm not clear what message melodysheep is trying to get across, but it's also vague enough that I don't I have a specific critique of it.

- 14:12 "But the best way to secure our long-term survival is to take the leap that no other lifeform has ever taken, to become a multi-planetary species." "Once a self-sustaining civilization is established on another planet, the chances of our extinction will plummet." -- No argument is made for either of these points in the video, and due to me thinking that colonizing another planet as a strategy to reduce existential risk is quite overrated in general, I'm disappointed about that.

- As usual, melodysheep's music and visuals are stunning, and I can't help but feel that the weakest part of the video is the script.

- Melodysheep's top Patreon tier is $100 per video, and includes a one-on-one hangout with him (John Boswell). Given his videos get millions of views and are on important future-oriented topics, this seems like a cost-effective way to get in touch and potentially positively influence the direction of his videos.

- I skimmed his list of $10+ Patreon supporters and didn't see any names I recognized, so I think it it may be worthwhile for some EAs/longtermists who can provide useful feedback on his scripts to become supporters or otherwise get in touch in order to do that. I'm not sure how open to feedback he is, but it seems worth trying. Anyone potentially interested?

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