RyanCarey's Shortform

post by RyanCarey · 2020-01-27T22:18:23.751Z · score: 7 (1 votes) · EA · GW · 14 comments

14 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by RyanCarey · 2020-10-11T09:59:08.089Z · score: 26 (10 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Affector & Effector Roles as Task Y [EA(p) · GW(p)]?

Longtermist EA seems relatively strong at thinking about how to do good, and raising funds for doing so, but relatively weak in affector organs, that tell us what's going on in the world, and effector organs that influence the world. Three examples of ways that EAs can actually influence behaviour are:

- working in & advising US nat sec

- working in UK & EU governments, in regulation

- working in & advising AI companies

But I expect this is not enough, and our (a/e)ffector organs are bottlenecking our impact. To be clear, it's not that these roles aren't mentally stimulating - they are. It's just that their impact lies primarily in implementing ideas, and uncovering practical considerations, rather than in an Ivory tower's pure, deep thinking.

The world is quickly becoming polarised between US and China, and this means that certain (a/e)ffector organs may be even more neglected than the others. We may want to promote: i) work as a diplomat ii) working at diplomat-adjacent think tanks, such as the Asia Society, iii) working at relevant UN bodies, relating to disarmament and bioweapon control, iv) working at UN-adjacent bodies that seek to pressure disarmament etc. These roles often reside in large entities that can accept hundreds or thousands of new staff at a wide range of skill levels, and so perhaps many people who are currently “earning to give” should move into these “affector” or “effector” roles (as well as those mentioned above, in other relevant parts of national governments). I'm also curious whether 80,000 Hours has considered diplomatic roles - I couldn't find much on a cursory search.

comment by RyanCarey · 2020-09-11T10:24:11.609Z · score: 20 (9 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Which longtermist hubs do we most need? (see also: Hacking Academia [EA(p) · GW(p)])

Suppose longtermism already has some presence in SF, Oxford, DC, London, Toronto, Melbourne, Boston, New York, and is already trying to boost its presence in the EU (especially Brussels, Paris, Berlin), UN (NYC, Geneva), and China (Beijing, ...). Which other cities are important?

I think there's a case for New Delhi, as the capital of India. It's the third-largest country by GDP (PPP), soon-to-be the most populous country, high-growth, and a neighbour of China. Perhaps we're neglecting it due to founder effects, because it has lower average wealth, because it's universities aren't thriving, and/or because it currently has a nationalist government.

I also see a case for Singapore - that it's government and universities could be a place from which to work on de-escalating US-China tensions. It's physically and culturally not far from China. As a city-state, it benefits a lot from peace and global trade. It's by far the most-developed member of ASEAN, which is also large, mostly neutral, and benefits from peace. It's generally very technocratic with high historical growth, and is also the HQ of APEC.

comment by HaukeHillebrandt · 2020-09-11T15:03:14.004Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I feel Indonesia / Jakarta is perhaps overlooked / neglected sometimes, despite it being expected to be the world's 4th largest economy by 2050:

comment by RyanCarey · 2020-09-11T16:04:23.450Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Jakarta - yep, it's also ASEAN's HQ. Worth noting, though, that Indonesia is moving its capital out of Jakarta.

comment by Max_Daniel · 2020-09-11T16:27:56.038Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yes, good point! My idle speculations have also made me wonder about Indonesia [EA(p) · GW(p)] at least once.

comment by Prabhat Soni · 2020-09-11T17:04:07.740Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'd be curious to discuss if there's a case for Moscow. 80,000 Hours's lists being a Russia or India specialist under "Other paths we're excited about". The case would probably revolve around Russia's huge nuclear arsenal and efforts to build AI. If climate change were to become really bad (say 4 degrees+ warming), Russia (along with Canada and New Zealand) would become the new hub for immigration given it's geography  -- and this alone could make it one of the most influential countries in the world.

comment by RyanCarey · 2020-08-17T20:15:28.778Z · score: 20 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hacking Academia.

Certain opportunities are much more attractive to the impact-minded than to regular academics, and so may be attractive, relative to how competitive they are.

  • The secure nature of EA funding means that tenure is less important (although of course it's still good).
  • Some centers do research on EA-related topics, and are therefore more attractive, such as Oxford, GMU.
  • Universities in or near capital cities, such as Georgetown, UMD College Park, ANU, Ghent, Tsinghua or near other political centers such as NYC, Geneva may offer a perch from which to provide policy input.
  • Those doing interdisciplinary work may want to apply for a department that's strong in a field other than their own. For example, people working in AI ethics may benefit from centers that are great at AI, even if they're weak in philosophy.
  • Certain universities may be more attractive due to being in an EA hub, such as Berkeley, Oxford, UCL, UMD College Park, etc.

Thinking about an academic career in this way makes me think more people should pursue tenure at UMD, Georgetown, and Johns Hopkins (good for both biosecurity and causal models of AI), than I thought beforehand.

comment by RyanCarey · 2020-09-30T08:28:20.068Z · score: 15 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

EAs have reason to favour Top-5 postdocs over Top-100 tenure?

Related to Hacking Academia [EA(p) · GW(p)].

A bunch of people face a choice between being a postdoc at one of the top 5 universities, and being a professor at one of the top 100 universities. For the purpose of this post, let's set aside the possibilities of working in industry, grantmaking and nonprofits. Some of the relative strengths (+) of the top-5 postdoc route are accentuated for EAs, while some of the weaknesses (-) are attenuated:

+greater access to elite talent (extra-important for EAs)

+larger university-based EA communities, many of which are at top-5 universities

-less secure research funding (less of an issue in longtermist research)

-less career security (less important for high levels of altruism)

-can't be a sole-supervisor of a PhD student (less important if one works with a full-professor who can supervise, e.g. at Berkeley or Oxford).

-harder to set up a centre (this one does seem bad for EAs, and hard to escape)

There are also considerations relating to EAs' ability to secure tenure. Sometimes, this is decreased a bit due to the research running against prevailing trends.

Overall, I think that some EAs should still pursue professorships, especially to set up research centres, or to establish a presence in an influential location [EA(p) · GW(p)] but that we will want more postdocs than is usual.

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2020-09-30T14:05:42.001Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

A quite obvious point that may still be worth making is that the balance of the considerations will look very different for different people. E.g. if you're able to have a connection with a top university while being a professor elsewhere, that could change the calculus. There could be numerous idiosyncratic considerations worth taking into account.

comment by HaukeHillebrandt · 2020-09-30T09:12:04.084Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I once got the advice from highly successful academics (tenured ivy league profs) that if you want become an academic you should "resist the temptation of the tenure track for as long as possible" and rather do another post-doc. 

Once you enter the tenure track, the clock starts ticking and by the end of it, your tenure will be judged by your total publication record. If you do (another) postdoc before entering the tenure track you'll have more publications in the pipeline, which will give you a competitive edge. This might also increase your chances of getting more competitive professorship. 

By the same token, it perhaps pays to do pre-doctoral fellowships and master's degrees. This is also important for picking a Euro vs. US PhD where the 3 year Euro PhD might better for people who do not want to go into academia whereas the 5 year+ US  PhD might be better for academia.

comment by RyanCarey · 2020-01-27T22:18:23.891Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Possible EA intervention: just like the EA Forum Prizes, but for the best Tweets (from an EA point-of-view) in a given time window.

Reasons this might be better than the EA Forum Prize:

1) Popular tweets have greater reach than popular forum posts, so this could promote EA more effectively

2) The prizes could go to EAs who are not regular forum users, which could also help to promote EA more effectively.

One would have to check the rules and regulations.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-01-29T10:23:40.918Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I read every Tweet that uses the phrase "effective altruism" or "#effectivealtruism". I don't think there are many EA-themed Tweets that make novel points, rather than linking to existing material. I could easily be missing Tweets that don't have these keywords, though. Are there any EA-themed Tweets you're thinking of that really stood out as being good?

comment by RyanCarey · 2020-01-29T11:13:14.806Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Tom Inglesby on nCoV response is one recent example from just the last few days. I've generally known Stefan Schubert, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Julia Galef, and others to make very insightful comments there. I'm sure there are very many other examples.

Generally speaking, though, the philosophy would be to go to the platforms that top contributors are actually using, and offer our services there, rather than trying to push them onto ours, or at least to complement the latter with the former.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-01-29T13:13:35.696Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I agree with this philosophy, but remain unsure about the extent to which strong material appears on various platforms (I sometimes do reach out to people who have written good blog posts or Facebook posts to send my regards and invite them to cross-post; this is a big part of Ben Kuhn's recent posts have appeared on the Forum, and one of those did win a prize). 

Aside from 1000-person-plus groups like "Effective Altruism" and "EA Hangout", are there any Facebook groups that you think regularly feature strong contributions? (I've seen plenty of good posts come out of smaller groups, but given the sheer number of groups, I doubt that the list of those I check includes everything it should.)

*****

I follow all the Twitter accounts you mentioned. While I can't think of recent top-level Tweets from those accounts that feel like good Prize candidates, I think the Tom Inglesby thread is great!

One benefit of the Forum Prize is that it (ideally) incentivizes people to come and post things on the Forum, and to put more effort into producing really strong posts. It also reaches people who deliberately worked to contribute to the community. If someone like Tom Inglesby was suddenly offered, say, $200 for writing a great Twitter thread, it's very unclear to me whether this would lead to any change in his behavior (and it might come across as very odd). Maybe not including any money, but simply cross-posting the thread and granting some kind of honorary award, could be better.

Another benefit: The Forum is centralized, and it's easy for judges to see every post. If someone wants to Tweet about EA and they aren't already a central figure, we might have a hard time finding their material (and we're much more likely to spot, by happenstance, posts made by people who have lots of followers).

That said, there's merit to thinking about ways we can reach out to send strong complimentary signals to people who produce EA-relevant things even if they're unaware of the movement's existence. Thanks for these suggestions!