Although related, EA has grown and includes many people who don’t share the rationalist/LW most prevalent among EAs concerned with x-risk, so LessWrong and especially the Sequences are probably worth mentioning.
Taxes seem tricky. I view it as generally good that governments allow offsetting of tax burden via donation to allow more flexibility in allocation of money to public goods, and in this way taxes being used for purposes you disagree with can actually incentivize spending on things we each care about more. Of course, it would be nice if you could just give more and be taxed less, and eventually donation offsetting runs out because governments still need some money.
My guess is that tax resistance won’t be an effective cause area unless you especially believe there is large harm caused to people by making them pay taxes (a sort of libertarian suffering consequentialist argument), but for a variety of reasons it is probably worthwhile to minimize the amount you pay in taxes, i.e. don’t give up money to a government that you could have otherwise spent in a way better aligned with your interests.
There is also some impact here based on who you pay taxes to. A citizen of the USA, like me, does more to fund war than a citizen of Switzerland, and thus if I were to pay less tax to the USA than a Swiss citizen were to pay to Switzerland I would more be reducing war spending than a Swiss citizen would, who would likely be more reducing funding of other public goods they would endorse being supported.
On the whole I don’t think we can conclude anything especially strong, but it does at least seem like an interesting case to think about to sharpen our skills!
For what it’s worth, the reason I dislike yay/boo voting is that it incentivizes people towards posting/commenting in ways that maximize applause lights at the expense of saying things that are more useful to other purposes, like becoming less confused and doing more good. I worry that the current voting system is too heavily suffering from Goodhart effects and as a result shaping people’s motivation in posting and commenting in ways that work against what most people would prefer we do on this and its sister forums (though of course maybe many people genuinely want applause lights, though the comments on this post seem to suggest otherwise).
What do you mean by “better” here? That there is a discrepancy suggests to me that people are voting for different reasons between the two places, not that the voting is better in some universal way (compare the way “better” in economics could mean redistribution to things you like or more efficiency so everyone gets more of what they want).
Also, just further noting voting patterns, no disrespect intended to you kbog, but your comment contains little content (in a very straightforward sense: it is short) and is purely a statement of opinion with no justification provided (though some is implied), yet at time of writing has 6 votes for 14 karma, which relative to what I see on average comments on EAF, where more thorough comments receive less karma and less attention, suggests to me you hit an applause light and people are upvoting it for that reason rather than anything else.
None of this is to say people can’t vote the way they like or that you don’t deserve the karma. I merely seek to highlight how people seem to use voting today. The way people use voting is not aligned with how I would like voting to be used, hence why I mention these things and am interested in them, but it is also not up to me to shape this particular mechanism.
I think we lack clear evidence to conclude that, though. I can just as easily believe the story, given what we’ve seen, that EAF users are more likely to downvote anything criticizing EA (just as LW users are more likely to downvote anything that goes against the standard interpretation of LW rationality). I’d be very interested to know if there are posts that both criticize something EA in a cogent way as this post does and don’t receive large numbers of downvotes.
Also, don’t forget many posts that have pro-EA results are about equally well reasoned as what we see here, but receive overwhelmingly positive votes, even if they receive criticism in the comments. So the question remains, why downvote this post when we respond to it and not downvote other posts when we criticize them?
My general algorithm for voting is to vote up that which I would have liked to have recommend for me to read and downvote that which I would be disappointed if it were recommended to me, where the criterion for wanting something recommended is does it thoughtfully engage with a topic in a way that advances my understanding (and in the case that my understanding already includes what is presented, I try to imagine the case that I didn’t know what I know and vote from that place of counterfactual ignorance). I don’t vote on things that either fail to pique my interest or that I feel indifferent on having recommended to me.
Strong votes (up and down) go to things that I would, respectively, be visibly happy or sad if someone recommended it to me, i.e. someone sent me an email about it and I light up and smile or frown and droop when I read the content.
Since I am both mid-career and EA, maybe I can say a little about this even if I can’t give a full answer.
I was concerned about existential risk due to AI prior to the start of my career (heck, prior to going to college, and this was in 2000), but for a variety of reasons I failed to do much directly about this. I got distracted by life, had to get a job to deal with more pressing needs, and spent several years just trying to get along without putting much effort into AI safety.
Then a couple of years ago my life got better, I had more slack, and I used that slack to start working on AI safety as a “hobby”. So far this has proven pretty successful: I’ve published some things, had many interesting conversations with people who are also doing direct work on AI safety (part or full time), and helped influence research directions and progress.
I don’t know what this will turn into, but the hobby model is worth considering as a way to transition mid-career: get interested in and start working on something you care about, and eventually maybe transition to doing that work full time. Plus you’ll be somewhat unique in that you’ll be carrying forward all your existing career capital that others in your chosen space likely won’t have.
The downside of this approach is that it requires you have enough time and energy to do it. To make progress here it may be necessary to take a less demanding job to creating that time and energy or give up other commitments.
Definitely interested to see what others suggest or have tried.
Small formatting tip: it would be nice if you put a very short title to your question in the title and asked the full question in the body of the question. I found it a bit hard to read the question when the whole thing is in title styling.
Also also, just want to register the observation that this post seems further evidence of my continuing claim that votes on LW/EAF/AF are boos/yays: at time of this writing here the score is 0 with 17 votes and on LW it’s 36 with 24 votes. I don’t want to detract from the direct discussion of the topic, but I find that discrepancy very interesting and clearer evidence than we’ve seen in the past of how voting patterns are a poor signal of post quality.
Instead, I use an “unawareness” framework. Rather than “most people are indifferent to these problems”, I say something like “most people aren’t fully aware of the extent of the problems, or do know about the problems but aren’t sure how to address them; instead, they stick to working on things they feel they understand better”.
I would guess that similarly this is why “woke” as caught on as a popular way of talking about those who “wake up” to the problems around them that they were previously ignorant of and “asleep to”: it’s a framing that let’s you feel good about becoming aware of and doing more about various issues in the world without having to feel too bad about having not done things about them in the past, so you aren’t as much on the defensive when someone tries to “shake you awake” to those problems.
I like this idea a lot. I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a bildungsroman around some of my insights into personal development, which of course touches on topics related to EA and rationality, so I’m quite fond of seeing others do this as well.
What’s worth noting is that I haven’t done it because I’m constantly pulled by other things that seem higher priority. This is maybe the big challenge for making more EA art: its comparative benefit. I’m tempted to say “maybe there will be more time for EA art when EA is bigger”, but if that’s the case it’s a chicken-and-egg problem because EA art seems to be a great way to grow the movement.
So on the whole my guess is we can’t directly go for EA art beyond making sure folks in the community are more aware that it’s a thing they could maybe do so that on the margin we might get more EA art replacing EA-relevant art that would have otherwise been produced.
For a related perspective, I’ve written (here for a general audience, here for an academic one) about using self-regulatory organizations, which I think could be a natural extension of this position depending on implementation.
There’s been a good deal of recent, related discussion over on LW with a different framing which is likely relevant to this.
I don’t know the answer to these specific questions, as I’ve not done it. A 501(c)(3) organization is tax advantaged on its “profits”, but only in certain ways and not others, and in my engagement in helping run such orgs it’s never come up (or if it has someone else handled it before I learned about it). It’s probably best to recruit the advice of a CPA or other expert in this area. My main goal was just to warn you that operating as anything other than an LLC (whether passthrough or not) is more complicated, so it’s seriously worth evaluating the options and seeing if you can’t get most of what you want by operating your LLC for public benefit so long as all the partners (so probably just you!) are on board with it.
My experience with organizational design is that the formal structure tends to follow not lead the informal structures that arise among the people in the organizations. Yes, over time organizations become “ossified” such that the formal structure also creates the informal structure, but this is not much the case in early and small orgs, although there are usually some exceptions to this as certain formal relationships develop early, such as the founder(s) or some other persons having authority via legal and financial control that backs their ability to influence others and hence seeds the creation of the org structure.
Overall this is to say my guess is these sorts of structures are either already naturally arising and where they don’t it’s because there are other incentives that push those organizations in other directions.
That’s one way to explain my thinking. Another is this:
I read your post as suggesting something like “hey, what if we tried this different org structure; I think it might be better”, but to actually try a different org structure you have to have people who want to relate to each other in a different way. It’s typically only at large orgs with ossified structures where people are not relating to each other in the way they would like and where suggesting a change of org structure might manage to shift an equilibrium by getting everyone to re-coordinate towards something they prefer.
In a small org you probably can’t make the structure much other than what it is unless you first change the people who are creating the structure to be the kind of people who would create the desired structure. That’s because I expect the existing structure to already be a natural equilibrium that is roughly correlated with the kind of structure desired proportional to the amount of (official) control each person in the org has. Thus unlike in a large org there is not a hope that you can hit reset and get a different outcome by breaking the existing inadequate equilibrium.
When you say “non-profit” what comes to my mind is operating as a legally and financially advantaged organization with special non-profit status. But a non-profit (especially if you are interested in 501(c)(3) tax status) are more complex than LLCs, with more strenuous reporting requirements, so guessing that you’re operating as an LLC since, I’d seriously consider if there’s any actual benefit from operating as a non-profit. Presumably you wouldn’t be taking donations so you wouldn’t need special tax status to allow your donors to deduct their donations, so unless there is also a reduction in taxes on profits that goes along with whatever status you obtain that could not be gained already from donating the profits of an LLC, then it’s probably not worthwhile. If you’re a C-corp then go ahead; it’s probably similarly complex, if different.
I bring all this up because it’s possible and easy to operate an LLC for public benefit, and you can take whatever measures you like to demonstrate that you are doing this to interested folks, so you should probably consider that the default course and only do something different if you reckon there are clear benefits from operating another way.
Having spent significant time around both the EA and the LW community and having written several controversial posts and then subsequently talked with folks who downvoted those posts, I now have strong reason to believe that most downvotes are in fact “boos” rather than anything more substantive. When people have substantive disagreements with posts they more often post comments indicating that and just don’t vote on a post either way.
I’m sure this is not universally true but it’s been my experience, so when I see downvotes on a post that isn’t obviously spam, trolling, or otherwise clearly low-quality (rather than in this case just not containing much content, a kind of post that is clearly not universally downvoted because many low content posts get either neutral or positive responses, which I must assume given their lack of content is a function of agreement with the idea presented), I find it reasonable to ask “why ‘boo’ at this?”. Hence my comment as a possible explanation for more “boos” than “yays”.
I agree it would be preferable if people didn’t use votes as “boos” and “yays”, and I think we could fix this—maybe by only allowing people who comment on a post to vote on it, although I think that risks creating lots of meaningless comments because people just want to vote, so there is probably some other solution that would work better—but unfortunately my experience suggests that’s exactly how most people vote on posts and comments.
Honestly, I think even if you only value getting “productive” things done and don’t much value “unproductive” things, there’s a lot of evidence that you can be more productive by being less productive where the mechanism of action is something like you burn out your capacity to do more work by consistently pushing yourself beyond what you can comfortably do to the point where you “burn out” and then find yourself unmotivated to do anything while you recover. A person can be sustainably more productive by giving themselves unproductive time to recover.
Meta note: that you got downvotes (I can surmise this from the number of votes and the total score) seems to suggest this is advice people don’t want to hear, but maybe they need.
I’d say a teacher is even more important than that.
Meditation is a powerful class of techniques for examining the mind, and sometimes people struggle to deal with what they discover doing it. Meditation is not all upside, as this post suggests; plenty of people have negative experiences as part of meditation practice, although they usually, with some guidance from a teacher, see their way through them and find themselves in a better place at the end of the experience. In fact, meditation can be especially rough if you have a lot of psychological “shadow”, i.e. “stuff” or “baggage” you would normally think of working through in therapy, since meditation won’t on it’s own help with that stuff and can make the experience of it worse as you see it more clearly. A teacher can help you deal with these sorts of issues, offering advice, practices, and the compassion of another human as you deal with the negatives that can come up.
This isn’t to put anyone off meditation, just to give appropriate warning that it’s a very intimate and powerful practice that can bring up positive as well as negative experiences, and navigating that on your own can work out for some people but doesn’t for everyone.
This is a great answer. I would have said something like “leadership” in that EA has leaders but few of them are people you would march into battle and die for. I feel like there’s almost no one in EA proper and only a couple people on the edges (mostly because their cause area was taken up by EA, and they didn’t come from within EA) who has demonstrated something like the 10x skill of leadership and motivation.
Put more colloquially, EA needs a Steve Jobs, an FDR, a Winston Churchill, an Oda Nobunaga.