New blog: Cold Takes

post by Holden Karnofsky (HoldenKarnofsky) · 2021-07-13T17:14:33.220Z · EA · GW · 17 comments

I've started a (free) blog/newsletter at .

The target audience for many posts will be people who are interested in EA-ish topics, but don't necessarily have any background in them. Sharing the blog and/or its posts in ways that are likely to find readers like that would be appreciated.

The longer and more EA-relevant pieces will be cross-posted here, and will contain links to the Forum for people interested in discussing them (I won't be hosting my own comments section). I'll also sometimes post a companion piece to a blog post on the Forum only, when the companion piece requires more existing familiarity with EA.

I'm expecting to put out one long piece and a couple of shorter pieces each week (for at least the first few months). The first set of long pieces will be a series laying out the case as I see it that we're in the most important century ever for humanity; this will include topics like "consequences of mind uploading" as well as extensive discussion of the various approaches to forecasting when transformative AI will be developed (a lot of this will be summarizing work like Ajeya Cotra's timelines analysis [LW · GW]).

After that I'm going to write about a number of other topics, including whether life has gotten better over the course of history, whether the world is getting worse at innovation, and pros and cons of the epistemology and ethics common in the rationalist and effective altruist communities.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Linch · 2021-07-13T21:48:58.797Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I too am excited about this! In the "about" page, you say:

Most of the posts on this blog are written at least a month before they're posted, sometimes much longer. I try to post things that are worth posting even so, hence the name "Cold Takes."

So my question here is, what's your preferred feedback policy/commenting norms? Should we bias towards more normal "EA Forum commenting norms" or closer to "write out our comments at least a month before they're posted, sometimes much longer, and only comment if upon >1 month of reflection we still think they're worth your time/attention to read?"

Replies from: IanDavidMoss
comment by IanDavidMoss · 2021-07-14T19:36:28.569Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This comment made me laugh out loud, all the more so because I couldn't tell whether you were joking.

Replies from: Linch
comment by Linch · 2021-07-15T18:33:52.340Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It was a serious question, maybe presented in a slightly glib way.

Replies from: HoldenKarnofsky
comment by Holden Karnofsky (HoldenKarnofsky) · 2021-07-29T21:02:56.382Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

No need to follow any unusual commenting norms! The "cold" nature of the blog is due to my style and schedule, not a request for others.

comment by Peterslattery · 2021-07-14T01:36:33.740Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Holden. The first post was excellent. Really keen to read more of your work. 

The target audience for many posts will be people who are interested in EA-ish topics, but don't necessarily have any background in them. Sharing the blog and/or its posts in ways that are likely to find readers like that would be appreciated.

This is probably not a very useful suggestion but I will make it anyway on the off chance that it is.

Given the target audience and your request for help to grow it have you considered doing some videos in parallel? I think that you could probably reach a pretty large audience on YouTube who are interested in EA-ish topics (particularly stuff around the future and AI) but not really connected to the the forum and EA community.

I think that this audience is probably quite hard to reach/engage (at least initially) with a blog posts or long articles (that feels like work for a lot of people). However, I think that they can probably be engaged relatively easily by short videos, similar to those made by crash course and kurzgesagt. I might be underestimating the work involved though - I have no experience here. 

For instance,  I think that your first post could be the basis for an awesome video that could change a lot of people's predictions about i) how the future might play out and ii) what they should focus on by implication. I imagine that your blog/forum post will have the same effect for readers but will reach a lot fewer people.  A video linking to the post could increase reach while also keeping fidelity pretty high.

One reason I make this suggestion is that I would really like see/watch more engaging short videos on EA related concepts/themes. I like crash course and kurzgesagt etc but feel as thought there isn't anything good out there that is really communicating EA ideas effectively via video. For instance,  this seems to be the only engaging video intro to longtermism that I can find.  

I also think that it would be really good to have a very knowledgeable person, like yourself, lead such a project rather than risk having someone start transmitting key EA ideas with lower fidelity.

More generally, I'd be interested to hear if anyone i) disagrees with any of my thoughts, ii) thinks that  we have already good a pretty good outlet for disseminating EA concepts and themes via video iii) has had similar ideas or wants to set something up. 

Replies from: aarongertler
comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2021-07-14T19:41:12.322Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Rather than Holden creating a video (which takes quite a bit of non-writing work + additional team members), it would probably make more sense for Rational Animations or A Happier World to produce something. Those are both YouTube channels with new EA Funds grants, and Rational Animations produced the video you linked. They currently ask many people in the community to review their EA-based scripts before they film. 

(That said, this may overlap a bit with the Rational Animations video, and I think it would be a worthy post for a bigger creator like Kurzgesagt to take on. That channel has been in touch with some EA orgs before [can't share more details for now], and we might see longtermist content from them in the future.)

Replies from: Peterslattery
comment by Peterslattery · 2021-07-15T00:07:32.217Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for responding Aaron. Yeah, that sounds like a better idea. I'd like to see that happen.

Thanks for mentioning the ongoing funding/networking. I was unaware. I am really glad to hear and keen to watch and share more EA videos! I'll also try to help the new channels if I have time.

In addition to seeing more video content on longtermism on YouTube I would also really like if there were a few good videos on the website. Perhaps in time, there could be a whole series covering the key concepts discussed on the website.  

I wonder if the EA community have a little bit of typical mind fallacy. We are usually the people who quite like reading long in-depth articles/post and also have time to do it. This may leads us to set up all of our content to be geared towards similar types of people in similar situations and miss some people who might be more receptive a different approach. 

I really liked the development of good podcast/audio content (which I give credit to 80k for). The next thing I'd love to see is videos on key concepts. Particularly short and catchy videos that pull people in and make them interested enough to start engaging with our deeper content.

Replies from: aarongertler
comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2021-07-15T17:42:55.145Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We feature a set of selected videos [? · GW] on the website (accessible from the top navbar), along with an "intro playlist" on our YouTube that the site links to. We're well aware that people like videos!

(We did just hire some new developers, so it's likely that the way displays videos will be much better than "just a list of videos on the site" in the medium-term future. )

I wouldn't fault the community for "typical mind fallacy" -- people regularly tell us they want to make videos because they recognize the lack of good video content, and we typically offer to review what they've written + point them to EA Funds and existing channels. The trouble is that good videos are much harder to produce than good writing; multiple things have to go well, and video editing skills aren't nearly as common as writing skills.

CEA's content division (that is, me) is focused on curation right now, rather than creation. If someone produces catchy new videos on key concepts, it will probably have to be an independent person with grant support, or another org (e.g. Giving What We Can, which has done a lot of more intro-level video content lately).

That said, feedback of this kind is still helpful! The more I hear from people who are interested in seeing videos, the more I'll be thinking about this as I consider where I should put my time + encourage others to put theirs. I'm booked for a while as I redo a bunch of our written + online resources to be more friendly to newcomers, but I do expect videos will become a focus at some point after that's done.

Replies from: Peterslattery
comment by Peterslattery · 2021-07-16T00:59:03.948Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Aaron!

Sorry if that sounded like it was stating the obvious :P

Glad to hear about the pending changes to, that sounds great.

I didn't really mean to implicate CEA when I talked about the EA community. I was more so thinking of EAs like myself who tend to  default to always producing a long report/post to relay their findings and never consider adding a video or infographic.  

I agree you that video takes a lot more work and that that's a major barrier.

It makes sense to me that curation should be your focus. I'd mainly like to see more work from other orgs and intellectual leaders on video creation and also more funding for that work to make the curation easier.  

I really like what Luke is doing at Giving What We Can with video (and in general) and that's the sort of thing that I would like to see that as more of a norm.

Thanks for taking the feedback onboard. With that said, I'd be more than happy for other people to take on the responsibility of creating/curating more videos and let you keep focusing on improving the forum!

I can't really overstate how much I like the current forum. It is so enjoyable to engage with that I have to limit my time using it. Thanks for all your work on it.

Replies from: Writer
comment by Writer · 2021-08-05T08:46:17.714Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Rational Animations' writer here. I am just chiming in to say (albeit 20 days later) that we're interested in animating some of the EA introductory articles. We are also interested in adapting blog posts by Holden or anyone else writing about important/interesting stuff.

Before doing more core EA content, though, I want to improve some more. And potentially have someone (paid) always to edit, fact check, and PR-sanity-check my scripts. For now, I will fly pretty close to EA with some videos, but I will avoid EA branding till I'm exceedingly sure that Rational Animations' contribution will be a net positive. Which is probably at least a period of a few months.


Replies from: Peterslattery
comment by Peterslattery · 2021-08-06T00:45:06.849Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Great, really glad to hear. Let me know if you want my help! Are you aware of this group - you could also probably get or even hire some good help there. 

Replies from: Writer
comment by Writer · 2021-08-06T07:34:43.116Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you :) yes I've also asked for feedback in that group on the scripts of our next two videos

comment by lukefreeman · 2021-07-23T07:59:34.858Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Loved this. Was really insightful. Thanks so much for recording the audio too! 

Replies from: Peterslattery
comment by Peterslattery · 2021-07-26T00:57:53.739Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I don't know if I missed that before but I just listened to it now. Agree that it is very good. Thanks! I just subscribed to the podcast. I look forward to listening to it when walking/working etc. 

comment by AppliedDivinityStudies · 2021-07-13T18:52:23.843Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Exciting to hear!

Minor UI nit: I found the grey Sign up button slightly confusing and initially thought it was disabled.

Replies from: HoldenKarnofsky
comment by Holden Karnofsky (HoldenKarnofsky) · 2021-07-29T21:03:14.202Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, I agree it's not ideal, but haven't found a way to change the color of that button between light and dark mode.

comment by clyvewesterlund · 2021-10-12T09:17:07.310Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi there, I just wanted to post on here and say that I just finished the Kindle version of your subject concerning that this is the most important century we are living in. Long story short, I thought it was well written given everything else such as the complexities of the topics and the insurmountable uncertainties covering it. I wrote a whole short review on it on Goodreads but figured just saying what I have said is better than copying and pasting those words here, unless you're interested. But thank you. I have a lot to think about.