What skills would you like 1-5 EAs to develop?

post by Khorton · 2019-03-01T11:01:11.654Z · score: 28 (23 votes) · EA · GW · 15 comments

This is a question post.


    Gregory_Lewis's answer
    Greg_Colbourn's answer

I’ve read a lot about “talent gaps” and how EA needs more top researchers, operations professionals, and policy analysts. I don’t doubt those gaps are real. You can contribute to the EA community by developing those skills.

However, you can also contribute to the EA community by developing rarer skills. There are many particular skillsets which would be very useful for a few EAs to develop. Although these skills may never turn into full-time jobs, I'd like to see people develop them because I think they could be quite useful.

Some suggestions of skills I'd like a few people to develop:

· Connecting EA and another group. I'd like to see a small number of people connecting EA to each of these:

-Religions (eg Methodists, Bahai)

-Social movements (eg Fair Trade, Black Lives Matter, drug reform/prison reform movements)

-Underrepresented cultural or demographic groups (eg people who haven't gone to university, pensioners, Indonesians)

· Apply a methodology other than RCTs and Cost-Benefit Analysis to an EA problem. Can you measure large-scale education interventions using difference-in-difference? Are you a wizard at process tracing? We could really use your skills evaluating charity and policy interventions!

· Communicate important EA concepts. I'd like to see, for example, an illustrated guide to EA, or an infographic on charity evaluation. I'd like to see high-quality videos created promoting each of GiveWell's top charities. I'd like to see high-quality education within EA, and high-quality PR to the outside world. We only need a couple of people working on each of these at this point, but they could all be quite useful.

Helpful fields: adult education; online education; marketing; writing; lobbying; communications; PR; art; graphic design; video production.

· Global poverty that isn’t health. I'd like to see a handful of people in EA with expertise in, for example, climate policy, or education charities, or energy poverty in a developing world context.

· Research and management. If you are an 80th percentile researcher and 80th percentile manager, I salute you. You should definitely stick around.

· Corporate Social Responsibility. Working in corporate social responsibility in a large corporation could probably have quite an impact? I really don’t know, but I’ve never heard anyone in EA talk about it, so if someone investigated it that would be useful.

· Psychiatry. EA is full of mental health problems. You could help us fix them. Sure, another psychiatrist could help us, but you already understand our weird lingo and worldview. If you could sort out our mental health, we’d be very thankful.

This is just meant to be the start to a long list - what other skills would you like a small number of people in EA to develop?


answer by Gregory_Lewis · 2019-03-07T00:19:14.160Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · EA · GW


This is more a 'skill I'd like to see more of in the EA community', rather than a career track. It seems a generally valuable skill set for a lot of EA work, and having some people develop expertise/very high performance in it (e.g. becoming a superforecaster) looks beneficial to me.

comment by Khorton · 2019-03-07T17:22:11.553Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Do you see this as a niche skill for a few people to highly develop (like software development), or a skill all EAs should ideally develop (like statistics)?

comment by Gregory_Lewis · 2019-03-07T20:53:31.808Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

A bit of both:

I'd like to see more forecasting skills/literacy 'in the water' of the EA community, in the same way statistical literacy is commonplace. A lot of EA is about making the world go better, and so a lot of (implicit) forecasting is done when deciding what to do. I'd generally recommend most people consider things like opening a Metaculus account, reading superforecasting, etc.

This doesn't mean everyone should be spending (e.g.) 3 hours a day on this, given the usual story about opportunity costs. But I think (per the question topic) there's also a benefit of a few people highly developing this skill (again, a bit like stats: it's generally harder to design and conduct statistical analysis than to critique one already done, but you'd want some folks in EA who can do the former).

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2019-03-07T16:06:41.778Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW


To those interested in becoming better forecasters: I strongly recommend the list of prediction resources that Metaculus has put together.

comment by Greg_Colbourn · 2019-03-08T15:09:35.937Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Ozzie Gooen has got funding "to build an online community of EA forecasters, researchers, and data scientists to predict variables of interest to the EA community". Excited to see the outcome of this.

answer by Greg_Colbourn · 2019-03-05T12:10:39.566Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Trades - plumbing, electrics, carpentry, general building and maintenance. I think there is room for at least 1 or 2 EAs with these kinds of skills. Maybe it's peculiar to our situation in the North-West of England, but we've found it very difficult to hire reliable and competent tradespeople to do jobs that need doing for the EA Hotel. The good people are always busy, and the rest are very unreliable (it's often a surprise if they turn up at all). Having someone aligned with our mission would greatly help with reliability and quality of outcome I imagine - this is an area where knowing the right person is a key factor. With the proliferation of other EA hubs (who may face similar challenges in terms of hiring quality tradespeople) there could be opportunities to travel, help build infrastructure, and get more involved in the community. Also, expected earnings are reasonably high, so a decent level of earning-to-give would be possible too.

comment by Greg_Colbourn · 2019-03-06T22:54:10.856Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Would be interested to hear why people think this is a bad idea.

comment by Gregory_Lewis · 2019-03-07T00:12:06.196Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · EA · GW

[Not one of the downvoters]

The leading rationale of "Learn a trade --> use it for EA projects that need it" looks weak to me:

  • There's not a large enough density of 'EA' work in any given place to take up more than a small fraction of a tradepersons activity. So this upside should be discounted by (substantial) time to learn the trade, and then most of one's 'full time job' as (say) an electrician will not be spent on EA work.
  • It looks pretty unlikely to have 'nomadic' tradespeople travelling between EA hubs, as the added cost of flights etc. suggest it might be more efficient just to try and secure good tradespeople by (e.g.) offering above market rates.

As you say, it could be a good option for some due to good earning power (especially for those with less academic backgrounds, cf. kbog's guide) but the leading rationale doesn't seem substantial reason to slant recommendations (e.g. if you could earn X as a plumber, but 1.1X in something else, the fact they could occasionally help out for EA projects shouldn't outweigh this.

comment by Greg_Colbourn · 2019-03-07T11:14:50.363Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Good points. With growth of hubs it could become more viable even if it isn't now. Transport costs (time, money) are probably low enough to make it efficient to travel at least a few times a year. Offering/accepting above market rates might help a bit, but it would still require costs of the search and vetting.

Given training costs and counterfactuals, another option might be to find good tradespeople and get them on board with the EA mission.

(for the curious: kbog's guide [EA · GW])


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by aarongertler · 2019-03-01T23:21:25.992Z · score: 7 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Strong upvote for the topic and examples. This seems like a clear area for progress within EA, so long as we continue to evaluate different interventions using an impartial model. (More education experts within EA gives us a better chance of noticing opportunities there, but could also lead to education interventions getting promoted despite lower impact depending on the incentives and priorities of the experts.)

If our goal is to improve the world as much as possible (and it is), the world is a big place with a lot of different groups. There are a lot of levers we could be trying to pull, and while we have a pretty good idea of which levers tend to be more or less important, the world is changing all the time (and even now, if we did have perfect information, our lists of "top causes" would probably look quite a bit different). I'd love to see more people becoming experts on a particular "lever", just in case.

The idea of having more connections to groups of people (vs. more access to causes, as I discussed above) is even more promising, though it's important to build EA communities // EA presence within a community slowly and carefully, with respect toward community norms and ideas. I've occasionally seen this go badly (e.g. individuals and groups who market EA too aggressively to a new audience, accidentally burning bridges in the process).

comment by Khorton · 2019-03-01T23:31:22.109Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Yeah, ideally I'd like people to invest significant time into genuinely being part of two communities, rather than just "marketing EA." A good example of this would be EA Quakers. I've met a few; that don't explicitly talk about Quaker values at EA events or EA values at Quaker events, but they have a deep understanding of both perspectives.

comment by technicalities · 2019-03-01T15:28:50.980Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Re: CSR. George Howlett started Effective Workplace Activism a couple of years ago, but it didn't take off that much. Their handbook is useful.

I tried quite hard to change my large corporation's charity selection process (maybe 50 hours' work), but found the stubborn localism and fuzzies-orientation impossible to budge (for someone of my persuasiveness and seniority).

comment by aarongertler · 2019-03-01T23:16:40.886Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I'd imagine that "ease of changing selection process" varies considerably by company, so I'll also share my anecdote (though I don't doubt that it's often quite difficult):

The health software company I worked for in 2015-16 offered each employee something like $600 to donate to any charity in a long list they offered, almost all of which were connected somehow to the surrounding city/state or the topic of "healthcare". Using the latter category, I submitted several GiveWell/TLYCS charities for consideration, and one of those was added to the list.

This didn't make a huge difference in employees' overall allocation (the list was on the order of ~100 charities long), but because I'd been running a small EA group at the company, I was able to inform the members and some of my interested coworkers about the new option, so I'd guess we redirected $10,000-20,000 overall.

comment by Khorton · 2019-03-01T15:47:46.123Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I think I have actually heard a couple people talk about trying to influence their workplace fundraisers etc - I guess I was thinking more about careers in CSR.

comment by vaidehi_agarwalla · 2019-03-08T17:20:11.520Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

80K actually has a career profile for foundation grantmakers, which could be related to a career in CSR? I imagine in CSR you would come across the barriers of localism/feel-good charities mentioned by technicalities, but the article is a good starting place.