Not necessarily, because people can believe that multiple kinds of work are significant. I will never be in the military, but I believe there are Generals out there whose decisions are life-and-death for a lot of people. I could presumably believe the same about AI safety.
Or, frankly, that it would make EA seem even more like a cult than it already does.
I was going to raise some similar objections, but you did it better. :) The only extra point I would raise is that my worst fear with project isn’t it being a waste of resources—my worst fear would be that it leads to significantly worse group-think as the “best and brightest” absorb the “right answers” from one or two teachers.
Is this the difference between “I’m a person who eats healthy” vs “I did such a good job avoiding cake at the staff party, so I deserve a couple cookies”?
Elderly people in the West are treated with less regard than they might been a century ago, I think (although I’m not certain—maybe elderly people in the West have always been treated poorly?)
I have done some interviews, actually—the Forum post has just gotten held up by my personal life.
“Given that there is no useful analysis which could be meaningful, I need to make an arbitrary, instinctive decision.”
I agree that analysing which charities best match your goals is difficult, but I’m surprised that you don’t think there’s any useful analysis out there—especially since you’re obviously involved with EA! Can you explain that to me?
Risks of an Effective Thesis Prize
-The entries (and winning dissertation) are low quality and make EA look bad.
-The judge(s) don’t have sufficient expertise to evaluate the submissions properly.
-The person who organizes the competition doesn’t have the skills to run it properly (eg the prize is awarded very late or not at all).
Waste of resources compared to counterfactual:
-Thousands of dissertations could be entered. Even if you spent 5 minutes evaluating each, that’s 100+ hours of your time. Depending on what your time is worth, if you spent the time working instead of evaluating dissertations, you could potentially save a toddler’s life from malaria.
-It’s unlikely that announcing a prize now will impact current PhD students, who probably chose their topic years ago (although it could potentially influence new students).
-Are we sure that prizes influence dissertations? Is there any evidence base for this?
Taking one programming class to test your aptitude (or spending the equivalent time learning online) might also be worthwhile. If your one programming class goes well, you might decide that programming would be a good back-up option in case you don’t end up working at MIRI/GPI/CEA/wherever else you really want to work.
I think people don’t stress enough how important it is to be able to pay your student loan and keep a roof over your head after your graduation. Learning a programming language and, if that goes well, interning or working part time or taking a summer job working in that language, is an excellent way to keep yourself out of poverty.
Easy ways to do more good:
Set up a direct debit to one of GiveWell.com’s top charities. You can always start with $20 a paycheck and change it later; it’s just useful to get started and know you’re helping people.
Work through the 80,000 Hours career guide. Use their career planning tool to think about how you could help more people with your career.
I’m not sure I can answer from an EA perspective, but I’ll try to personally reflect on the most useful university courses I’ve taken:
-I took two postgraduate research methods courses (Quantitative Research Methods and Evaluating Public Policy). I am now much better at evaluating the claims made in social sciences papers, which I’m really happy about.
-My Christian theology courses helped develop my thinking about my faith, which I’ve found personally valuable.
-Sociology / Psychology courses have influenced some of my core beliefs (nature vs nurture; rewards vs punishment; etc), so in a sense I use this knowledge on a daily basis.
-Drama classes can be great for developing your communication skills, as well as your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
-I trained as a teacher, and my classroom management class was surprisingly transferable to an office setting. It really helped me think about how I can influence other people’s behaviour by choosing a meeting’s environment and agenda and through my own verbal and nonverbal communication.
I’m glad you decided to cross-post this to the Forum after all. :)
It’s worth noting that state- or province-level powers are usually not “less important,” they’re just based on particular categories, so they’re worth paying attention to. For example, Canada stopped exporting asbestos to developing countries in 2012 due to a provincial decision. http://www.preventcancernow.ca/canada-has-stopped-mining-and-exporting-asbestos-but-the-battle-to-protect-people-from-asbestos-harm-continues/
There’s a lot to be said for public opinion or “political mood.” I think the legalization of gay marriage in Canada would be a good case study. Factors that led to legalization included:
-Private Member’s bills
-a change in public opinion
For a large-scale issue, working on any of the above would probably be worth your time.
Slight downvote because I don’t think this is what EAs should focus on. The claim that we could make academic knowledge 50% simpler isn’t well-evidenced in the article, and the area seems quite intractable for reasons explained in the article.
The UK Civil Service has several posts which don’t require a degree, including their apprenticeship scheme. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/civil-service-fast-track-apprenticeship
I don’t think it makes sense to donate to an “effective charity” in the typical sense when it comes to obesity because your externality is only affecting taxpayers in your own healthcare system.
Given that the table listed the cost of obesity as affecting socialized medicine, you would presumably donate to something local and medical, like a hospital. You could also potentially donate to (eg diabetes) research or a charity that makes healthy eating easier in your area.
Please tell me you found someone—the small number of comments makes me sad!
Are you looking for people to evaluate your impact based on the data you have, or is your company genuinely willing to research its counterfactual impact if you push for it?