Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg and I had EA themes throughout our wedding ceremony. You’re welcome to read and borrow from our ceremony text.
Context: we had our wedding in a planetarium, we had our friends write speeches each according to a theme, those speeches were read while a matching starscape was projected above.
Not exactly EA, but part of a scientific worldview: I had the end of the last paragraph of Origin read at my wedding.
Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
In fact, it’s pretty un-EA to say that “higher” animals are “the most exalted object we are capable of conceiving,” haha.
There’s a lot of Zen stuff about using your intimate relationships as a supportive place to learn altruism which can then be applied to wider and wider circles. That seems pretty appropriate for a wedding. I don’t have any links off the top of my head because I usually hear this kind of thing at dharma talks, but it’s usually along the lines of someone asking a Zen master how to be a better person and getting the answer, “Every day when you wake up, think ‘only for my wife, only for my wife.’ When your wife’s welfare is like your own, think ‘only for my family’” and so on through the neighborhood, the community, the city, the country, the world. The localist hierarchy isn’t EA, but the idea that you have to level up your compassion with the support and commitment of those you are close to brings EA themes together with marriage.
This post seems very insightful to me, and it seems like it worked out very well in terms of upvotes (and it seems like it would increase your chances of getting funding)? I’d be interested to learn who wrote this, but of course no need to say if you prefer not to. :)
When long-termist grant applications don’t get funded, the reason usually isn’t lack of funding, but one of the following:
The grantmaker was unable to vet the project (due to time constraints or lack of domain expertise) or at least thought it was a better fit for a different grantmaker.
The grantmaker thought the project came with a high risk of accidental harm.
This post contains great ideas for resolving the former point, but doesn’t demonstrate high awareness of the latter concern. Awareness of these risks seems important to me, especially for funders: High-quality grant applications tend to get funded quickly and are thereby eliminated from the pool of proposals available to the EA community, while applicants with higher-risk proposals tend to apply/pitch to lots of funders. This means that on average, proposals submitted to funders will be skewed towards high-downside-risk projects, and funders could themselves easily do harm if they end up supporting many of them. I’d be interested in your thoughts on that.
I really like that you’re providing feedback to applicants! In general, I wish the EA community was more proactive with providing critical feedback.
I haven’t yet finished thinking about how the EA Forum Team should go about doing this, given their particular relationship to the site’s members, but here’s a few thoughts.
I think, for a platform to be able to incentivise long-term intellectual progress in a community, it’s important that there are individuals trusted on the platform to promote the best content to a place on the site that is both lasting and clearly more important than other content, like I and others have done on the AI Alignment Forum and LessWrong. Otherwise the site devolves into a news site, with a culture that depends on who turns up that particular month.
I do think the previous incarnation of the EA Forum was much more of a news site, where the most activity occurred when people turned up to debate the latest controversy posted there, and that the majority of posts and discussion on the new Forum are much more interested in discussion of the principles and practice of EA, rather than conflict in the community.
(Note that, while it is not the only or biggest difference, LessWrong and Hacker News both have the same sorting algorithm on their posts list, yet LW has the best content shown above the recent content, and thus is more clearly a site that rewards the best content over the most recent content.)
It’s okay to later build slower and more deliberative processes for figuring out what gets promoted (although you must move much more quickly than the present day academic journal system, and with more feedback between researchers and evaluators). I think the Forum’s monthly prize system is a good way to incentivise good content, but it crucially doesn’t ensure that the rewarded content will continue to be read by newcomers 5 years after it was written. (Added: And similarlycurrent new EAs on the Forum are not reading the best EA content of the past 10 years, just the most recent content.)
I agree it’s good for members of the community to be able to curate content themselves. Right now anyone can build a sequence on LessWrong, then the LW team moves some of them up into a curated section which later get highlighted on the front page (see the library page, which will become more prominent on the site after our new frontpage rework). I can imagine this being an automatic process based on voting, but I have an intuition that it’s good for humans to be in the loop. One reason is that when humans make decisions, you can ask why, but when 50 people vote, it’s hard to interrogate that system as to the reason behind its decision, and improve its reasoning the next time.
(Thanks for your comment Brian, and please don’t feel any obligation to respond. I just noticed that I didn’t intuitively agree with the thrust of your suggestion, and wanted to offer some models pointing in a different direction.)
I hear more people do cold outreach about being a researcher than RA, and my guess is that 3-10x more people apply for researcher than RA jobs even when they are advertised. I think it’s a combination of those two factors.
My recommendation would be that people apply more to RA jobs that are advertised, and also reach out to make opportunities for themselves when they are not.
I think about half of researchers can use research assistants, whether or not they are currently hiring for one. A major reason researchers don’t make research assistant positions available is they don’t expect to find one worth hiring, and so don’t want to incur the administrative burden. Or maybe they don’t feel comfortable asking their bosses for this. But if you are a strong candidate, coldly reaching out may result in you being hired or may trigger a hiring round for that position. Although often strong candidates would be people I have met at an EA conference, that got far in an internship application, or that has been referred to me.
I don’t think the salaries would be any lower than competitive rates.
It’s good to see people trying small low cost experiments like this although I suspect there are diminishing returns to how many people will be interested if you try a similar post again but that’s also why it’s good that you’ve given a framework for others to copy.
At EA London I haven’t given as many books out in the last 12 months as the previous 12 as I’ve usually only given them to people after a 1-1 meeting or significant interest from someone at an event where it seems more likely that they’ll actually read it and want to take away some advice rather than offering to give it to people who are more interested in the idea of a “free book”.
My impression was based mostly on our conversations several months ago—quoting the notes from that time
lot of the discussion and debate derives from differing assumptions held by the participants regarding the potential for bad/risky projects: Benjamin/Brendon generally point out the lack of data/signal in this area and believe launching an open project platform could provide data to reduce uncertainty, whereas Jan is more conservative and prioritizes creating a rigorous curation and evaluation system for new projects.
I think it is fair to say you expected very low risk from creating an open platform where people would just post projects and seek volunteers and funding, while I expected with minimum curation this creates significant risk (even if the risk is coming from small fraction of projects). Sorry if I rounded off suggestions like “let’s make an open platform without careful evaluation and see” and “based on the project ideas lists which existed several years ago the amount of harmful projects seems low” to “worrying about them is premature”.
Reading your recent comment, it seems more careful, and pointing out large negative outcomes are more of a problem with x-risk/long-term oriented projects.
In our old discussions I also expressed some doubt about your or altruism.vc ability to evaluate x-risk and similar projects, where your recent post states that projects that impact x-risks by doing something like AI safety research has not yet applied to the EA Angel Group.
I guess part of the disagreement comes from the fact that I have focus on x-risk and the long-term future, and I’m more interested both in improving the project landscape in these areas, and more worried about negative outcomes.
If open platforms or similar evaluation process also accept mitigating x-risk and similar proposals, in my opinion, unfortunately the bar how good/expert driven evaluations you need is higher, and unfortunately signals like “this is a competent team” which VCs would mainly look at are not enough.
Because I would expect the long-term impact will come mainly from long-term, meta-, exploratory or very ambitious projects, I think you can be basically right about low obvious risk of all the projects historically posted on hackpad or proposed to altruism.vc, and still miss the largest term in the EV.
Milan asked this question and I answered it.
Thanks—both of that happened after I posted my comment, and also I still do not see the numbers which would help me estimate the ratio of projects which applied and which got funded. I take as mildly negative signal that someone had to ask, and this info was not included in the post, which solicits project proposals and volunteer work.
In my model it seems possible you have something like chicken-and-egg problem, not getting many great proposals, and the group of unnamed angels not funding many proposals coming via that pipeline.
If this is the case and the actual number of successfully funded projects is low, I think it is necessary to state this clearly before inviting people to work on proposals. My vague impression was we may disagree on this, which seems to indicate some quite deep disagreement about how funders should treat projects.
I’m not entirely sure what your reasons are for having this opinion, or what you even mean
The whole context was, Ryan suggested I should have sought some feedback from you. I actually did that, and your co-founder noted that he will try to write the feedback on this today or tomorrow, on 11th of Mar—which did not happen. I don’t think this is large problem, as we had already discussed the topic extensively.
When writing it I was somewhat upset about the mode of conversation where critics do ask whether I tried to coordinate with someone, but just assume I did not. I apologize for the bad way it was written.
Overall my summary is we probably still disagree in many assumptions, we did invest some effort trying to overcome them, it seems difficult for us to reach some consensus, but this should not stop us trying to move forward.
John Maxwell brought up some interesting points. He suggests that platforms can experience the chicken and egg problem when it comes to getting started, and that intensive networking is a way to overcome this issue. I agree that platforms often have this problem, but the EA Angel Group resolved this not by networking intensely but instead by offering a lot of value to angels. This would incentivize them to join the platform even without a large number of existing grant applicants which would in turn incentivize grant applicants to apply.
Of course, we do need a stream of incoming grant applications to remain viable, and unfortunately we encountered some unexpected issues when attempting to collaborate with EA Grants and speak to many community members as part of several strategies to acquire grant applications. As mentioned in my progress update comment, I am currently pursuing alternate strategies to achieve this objective which involve steps that I have greater control over (and less steps that require the approval of entities whose decisions I cannot influence). That being said, I think networking and collaboration is highly valuable, and am scaling that up even as I pursue strategies that do not require networking to succeed.
Concerning translation, it can be a mistake to imagine it’s necessary to translate the whole of texts, or large texts.
Instead, translating a title and summary, or first paragraphs, or a contents page or back cover of a book, can be enough to help people decide in if they want to translate the whole thing into their own language, or read with the help of google/dictionary.
If anyone out there is interested in supporting EAs in India, or visiting EAs in India, please feel free to message me via www.ALLFED.info ….or join the Effective Altruism India Facebook group
I wrote a progress update comment regarding the EA Angel Group which covered our grant opportunity discovery activities over the last few months. We spoke with EA Grants several months ago, and to the best of my knowledge they are still determining whether to send and receive grant applications with other funders. At least one major funding group has expressed significant interest in sending and receiving grant applications with the EA Angel Group, and we are in the process of talking with various funders about this.
I mentioned the one concern I heard and my response to it in my progress update comment:
One objection to sharing grant applications among funders is that a funder would fund all of the grant proposals they felt were good and classify all other grant proposals as not suitable to be funded. From the funder’s perspective, sharing the unfunded grant proposals would be bad since other organizations could subsequently fund them, and the funder classified those grant proposals as not worth funding. I personally disagree with this objection because the argument assumes that a funder has developed a grant evaluation process that can actually identify successful projects with a high degree of accuracy. Since the norm in the for-profit world involves large and successful venture capital firms with lots of experienced domain experts regularly passing on opportunities that later become multibillion-dollar companies, I find it unlikely that any EA funding organization will develop a grant evaluation process that is so good it justifies hiding some or all unfunded applications.
Can you elaborate on:
I think for example that a ‘just-another-universal-protocol’ worry would be very reasonable to have here.
Are you suggesting that funders may be concerned about adopting a protocol which ends up providing limited value? As I’ve stated in several other comments, I think sharing grant applications can be of considerable value since arbitrarily limiting the pool of projects seems pretty suboptimal.
To avoid that I think we need to do the hard work of reaching out to involved parties and have many conversations to incorporate their most important considerations and start mutually useful collaborations. I.e. consensus building.
I agree. I did some initial outreach at first and will begin additional outreach shortly.
Thanks for pointing that out! Jan and I have also talked outside the EA Forum about our opinions on risk in the EA project space. I’ve been more optimistic about the prevalence of negative EV projects, so I thought there was a chance that greater optimism was being misinterpreted as a lack of concern about negative EV projects, which isn’t my position.
I actually stated my opinion in writing in a response to you two days ago which seems to deviate highly from your interpretation of my opinion.
I think I’ve seen forum discussions where language has been an unacknowledged barrier to understanding in the past, so it might be worth flagging that Jan is from the Czech Republic and likely does not speak English as his mother tongue.
It seems like Jan is getting a lot of critical feedback, so I just want to say, big ups to you Jan for spearheading this. Perhaps it’d be useful to schedule a Skype call with Habryka, RyanCarey, or others to try & hash out points of disagreement.
The point of a pilot project is to gather information, but if information already exists in the heads of community members, a pilot could just be an expensive way of re-gathering that info. The ideal pilot might be something that is controversial among the most knowledgable people in the community, with some optimistic and some pessimistic, because that way we’re gathering informative experimental data.
I consider having people giving feedback to have ‘skin in the game’ to be important for the accuracy of the feedback. Most people don’t enjoy discouraging others they have social ties with. Often reviewers without sufficient skin in the game might be tempted to not be as openly negative about proposals as they should be.
Maybe anonymity would be helpful here, the same way scientists do anonymous peer review?
Since I view this as an important idea, I think it’s important to get the plan to the strongest point that it can be.
It’s also important not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Seems to me like people are always proposing volunteer-lead projects like this and most of them never get off the ground. Remember this is just a pilot.
I think this is the sort of project where if you do it badly, it might dissuade others from trying the same.
The empirical reality of the EA project landscape seems to be that EAs keep stumbling on the same project ideas over and over with little awareness of what has been proposed or attempted in the past. If this post goes like the typical project proposal post, nothing will come of it, it will soon be forgotten, and 6 months later someone will independently come up with a similar idea and write a similar post (which will meet a similar fate).
This is a good post. But since we hear so much about the value of career capital, I thought it’d be useful to link this old post which encouraged people to deprioritize it, just for the sake of an alternate perspective.
Given that there’s always going to be a social bias towards working at EA orgs
I’m not sure this is true. Just a few years ago, it seemed like there was a social bias against working at EA orgs. The “prioritize talent gaps” meme was meant to address this. (I feel like there might be other historical cases of the EA movement overcorrecting in this manner, but no specific instances are coming to mind.)
In my opinion, organizations may do best to avoid officially endorsing anything other than the most central content that they produce in order to reduce these PR headaches, regarding both
what’s said in the endorsed articles and
which articles were or weren’t chosen to begin with (the debate over the EA Handbook comes to mind).
As an alternative, maybe individual people could create their own non-CEA-endorsed lists of recommended content, and these could be made available somewhere. Having many such lists would allow for diversity based on interests and values. (For example, “The best global poverty articles”, “The best career articles”, “The best articles for suffering-focused altruists”, etc.)
Nope, it’s full-time. Right now two of us are doing a side project, but that’s not usual