This is an interesting post by Ramez Naam. He argues that too much attention is given to transportation & energy emissions and not enough to agriculture & industry emissions. Naam thinks that renewable tech will continue to drop in cost, and he’s optimistic that part of the equation will solve itself. He says the highest-leverage action is the development of new tech to address agriculture & industry emissions.
Maybe we could have a classified ads thread every once in a while? (More thoughts here.)
It feels inefficient to second-guess a decision which has already been finalized. I think you could argue that something like a grant decisions thread should get posted before money gets disbursed, in case commenters surface important considerations overlooked by the grantmakers. There might also be value in auditing a while after money gets disbursed, to understand what the money actually did. Auditing right after money gets disbursed seems like the worst of both worlds.
So, for a respective cause area, an EA Fund functions as like an index fund that incentivizes the launch of nascent projects, organizations, and research in the EA community.
You mean it functions like a venture capital fund or angel investor?
Good to know!
This in particular strikes me as understandable but very unfortunate. I’d strongly prefer a fund where happening to live near or otherwise know a grantmaker is not a key part of getting a grant. Are there any plans or any way progress can be made on this issue?
I agree this creates unfortunate incentives for EAs to burn resources living in high cost-of-living areas (perhaps even while doing independent research which could in theory be done from anywhere!) However, if I was a grantmaker, I can see why this arrangement would be preferable: Evaluating grants feels like work and costs emotional energy. Talking to people at parties feels like play and creates emotional energy. For many grantmakers, I imagine getting to know people in a casual environment is effectively costless, and re-using that knowledge in the service of grantmaking allows more grants to be made.
I suspect there’s low-hanging fruit in having the grantmaking team be geographically distributed. To my knowledge, at least 3 of these 4 grantmakers live in the Bay Area, which means they probably have a lot of overlap in their social network. If the goal is to select the minimum number of supernetworkers to cover as much of the EA social network as possible, I think you’d want each person to be located in a different geographic EA hub. (Perhaps you’d want supernetworkers covering disparate online communities devoted to EA as well.)
This also provides an interesting reframing of all the recent EA Hotel discussion: Instead of “Fund the EA Hotel”, maybe the key intervention is “Locate grantmakers in low cost-of-living locations. Where grant money goes, EAs will follow, and everyone can save on living expenses.” (BTW, the EA Hotel is actually a pretty good place to be if you’re an aspiring EA supernetworker. I met many more EAs during the 6 months I spent there than my previous 6 months in the Bay Area. There are always people passing through for brief stays.)
Congratulations on the launch!
Can anyone think of good places to link EA Hub from now that it’s been revamped? I’m worried that people will forget about it in a few weeks once this post falls off the EA Forum homepage.
One strategy: Brainstorm use cases, then figure out where people are currently going for those use cases, then put links to the EA Hub in those places with an explanation of how EA Hub solves the use case. For example (rot13′d so you can think of your own before being primed by mine), one possible use case is crbcyr zrrgvat sryybj RNf juvyr geniryvat. Fb jr pbhyq qebc n yvax gb gur RN Uho va gur RN Pbhpufhesvat Snprobbx tebhc qrfpevcgvba naq fhttrfg gung crbcyr svaq ybpny tebhcf be fraq crefbany zrffntrf gb ybpny RNf vaivgvat gurz sbe pbssrr juvyr geniryvat. (Nffhzvat gung’f pbafvqrerq na npprcgnoyr hfr bs gur crefbany zrffntr srngher—V qba’g frr jul vg jbhyqa’g or gubhtu.)
We could just start calling it the Athena Hotel. That also disambiguates if additional hotels are opened in the future.
Do you have any thoughts on Tetlock’s work which recommends the use of probabilistic reasoning and breaking questions down to make accurate forecasts?
A friend of mine recommends the book Bargaining for Advantage.
You might also try using Google’s Search Console to better understand how Google is scraping the site and what users are searching for (if you aren’t already using it).
You just have to build a propeller which produces relaxing brown noise.
Other naysayers like to complain that “most battery technology right now isn’t ready for anything other than short hops”. The solution to that is also simple: Put battery replacement/charging stations on top of every building. You’d make a series of hops from one battery station to another on flying buses. The entire thing would be run by Lyft, naturally.
Many of them are working on very different projects from each other, and their peers are incentivized to be nice—it’s not the kind of relationship a student has with a teacher or an employee has with a manager.
This is a good point. Maybe the hotel should have events where people anonymously write down the strongest criticisms they can think of for a particular person’s project, then someone reads the criticisms aloud and they get discussed.
I burned out a couple of times. Taking time off allowed me to recover, but overall I updated in the direction that I should self-fund my EA projects, because I put too much pressure on myself if someone else is funding me. If I stay at the hotel again, I think I’ll pay the £10/day “EA on vacation” fee. Then I can always remind myself that technically, I’m on vacation.
I also updated in the direction that a vegan diet is not the best for me physiologically. If I stay at the hotel again, I’ll be more shameless about buying and eating my own non-vegan food.
When I was at the hotel, there was a culture of doing recreational stuff together on the weekends. I know I was usually taking it easy on the weekends. But maybe things have changed since I left.
Use what I’ve read about history to try & think of historical events I think were pivotal which share important similarities with the action in question, and also try to estimate the base rate of historical people taking actions similar to the action in question in order to have an estimate for the denominator.
If I was trying to improve my ability in this area, I might read books by Peter Turchin, Yuval Noah Harari, Niall Ferguson, Will and Ariel Durant, and people working on Big History. Maybe this book too. Some EA-adjacent discussion of this topic: 1, 2, 3, 4.
Startup founders are one possible reference class, but another possible reference class is researchers. People have proposed random funding for research proposals above a certain quality threshold:
Science is expensive, and since we can’t fund every scientist, we need some way of deciding whose research deserves a chance. So, how do we pick? At the moment, expert reviewers spend a lot of time allocating grant money by trying to identify the best work. But the truth is that they’re not very good at it, and that the process is a huge waste of time. It would be better to do away with the search for excellence, and to fund science by lottery.
People like Nick Bostrom and Eric Drexler are late in their careers, and they’ve had a lot of time to earn your respect and accumulate professional accolades. They find it easy to get funding and paying high rent is not a big issue for them. Given the amount of influence they have, it’s probably worthwhile for them to live in a major intellectual hub and take advantage of the networking opportunities that come with it.
I think a focus on funding established researchers can impede progress. Max Planck said that science advances one funeral at a time. I happen to think Nick Bostrom is wrong about some important stuff, but I’m not nearly as established as Bostrom and I don’t have the stature for people to take me as seriously when I make that claim.
Also, if donors fund any charity that has a good idea, I’m a bit concerned that that will attract a larger number of low-quality projects, much like the quality of startups declined near the peak of the dot-com bubble, when investors threw money at startups without much regard for competence.
Throwing small amounts of money at loads of startups is Y Combinator’s business model.
I think part of why Y Combinator is so successful is because funding so many startups has allowed them to build a big dataset for what factors do & don’t predict success. Maybe this could become part of the EA Hotel’s mission as well.
Is it similar to the sort of actions I believe have had a large impact on the future in the past?
Do you think it’s an acceptable conversational move for me to give you pointers to a literature which I believe addresses issues you’re working on even if I don’t have a deep familiarity with that literature?
Sorry, I’m not sure what the official jargon for the thing I’m trying to refer to is. In the limit of trying to be more accessible, I’m basically teaching a class in Bayesian statistics, and that’s not something I’m qualified to do. (I don’t even remember the jargon!) But the point is there are theoretically well-developed methods for talking about these issues, and maybe you shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. Also, I’m almost certain they work fine with expected value.