EA Forum Prize: Winners for April 2021

post by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2021-07-29T01:12:38.937Z · EA · GW · None comments


  What is the EA Forum Prize?
  About the winning posts and comments
  How I got an entry-level role in Congress
  Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions
  EA Debate Championship & Lecture Series
  Draft report on existential risk from power-seeking AI
  Working in Congress (Part #1): Background and some EA cause area analysis
  The winning comments
  The voting process
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Sorry for the late announcement. The next prize post will cover posts from May - July (we're experimenting with a different structure), so I expect to be caught up soon.

CEA is pleased to announce the winners of the April 2021 EA Forum Prize! 

* Ben works for CEA, and Joe works for Open Philanthropy, a major funder of CEA. In keeping with our conflict-of-interest policy, they won’t receive monetary prizes, and we’ve divided that money between the other winners.

The following users were each awarded a Comment Prize ($75):

See here [? · GW] for a list of all prize announcements and winning posts.

What is the EA Forum Prize?

Certain posts and comments exemplify the kind of content we most want to see [? · GW] on the EA Forum. They are well-researched and well-organized; they care about informing readers, not just persuading them.

The Prize is an incentive to create content like this. But more importantly, we see it as an opportunity to showcase excellent work as an example and inspiration to the Forum's users.

About the winning posts and comments

Note: I write this section in first person based on my own thoughts, rather than by attempting to summarize the views of the other judges.

How I got an entry-level role in Congress [EA · GW]

A few months ago, I was hired for an entry-level role in a Congressional office. In this post I will share my job search and application process. 

I hope this will be helpful to people who are considering Congressional work as a career option. Because I am early in my career, I imagine this will be most helpful/applicable for people who are in undergrad or earlier. 

The original “write about your job [EA · GW]” post — and the author has a good job to write about! 

This is a well-written explanation that covers an important topic for what I hope will be a sizable future audience of would-be Congressional staffers in the EA community. Some features I liked:

Thoughts on being overqualified for EA positions [EA · GW]

Note: I recused myself from voting on this post, as Ben is my manager at CEA.

Very similar to the previous winning post — someone with hugely relevant experience shares their take on a common issue in the EA job market. 

Some features I liked:

It's true that this forum is read by many fewer people than, say, view the home and garden section on Amazon.com, but I suspect that global welfare is more easily increased by improving this site than Amazon.

EA Debate Championship & Lecture Series [EA · GW]

The international debating community mostly consists of undergraduate students from around 50 countries (elite universities are represented across all continents). Debaters tend to be willing to sit and reflect upon themes for hours, both when preparing for a competition and when analyzing their performance after each  debate round. Long online discussions are the norm in the community, similar to EA's. As such, a theme-specific championship is a rare opportunity to engage a highly diverse audience in a meaningful way that can spark interest for a long time.

I suspect that much of this post’s karma was meant to represent “thanks for putting on a cool event!” But even given that boost, the post was still a solid example of what I think event posts should look like (for something this big and complicated):

Also, as a bonus (not applicable to other event posts): 

Draft report on existential risk from power-seeking AI [EA · GW]

My current view is that there is a small but substantive chance that a scenario along these lines occurs, and that many people alive today -- including myself -- live to see humanity permanently disempowered by artificial systems. In the final section, I take an initial stab at quantifying this risk [...] My main hope, though, is not to push for a specific number, but rather to lay out the arguments in a way that can facilitate productive debate.

It was good of Joe to upload this report in the first place — there are a lot of long Google Docs from research orgs that never appear on the Forum, and a lot of good discussions that don’t happen (or happen later) as a result. 

(I don’t mean to criticize the authors of those docs — engaging with the “EA public” takes time and energy that could instead go toward more research, or just enjoying life — but this tendency makes me appreciate exceptions like Joe all the more.)

Given that Joe wrote this report for Open Philanthropy, I’m not surprised that it is clear and well-organized. I’m going to focus on the Forum-relevant element here — namely, Joe’s engagement in the comments. Things I liked about those contributions:

Working in Congress (Part #1): Background and some EA cause area analysis [EA · GW]

Working in Congress could be a highly impactful career choice for EAs who are US citizens and permanent residents, as 80,000 Hours has written about in their Congressional staffer career guide. This two-part overview complements that guide by explaining in more detail how Congress works. The goal is to allow EAs to make informed decisions about (a) whether Congress is a good place for them to work, (b) which Congressional jobs they could/should target and why, and (c) how to find and pursue opportunities.

For some reason, April was Congress month on the Forum. I don’t know whether that will be an annual tradition, but I loved having all three relevant posts this month — the first-place winner, plus this post and its companion post [EA · GW].

This post was excellent throughout — I read a draft before it was published, and every question I had kept being answered before I could ask it. Specific things I liked:

The winning comments

I won’t write up an analysis of each comment. Instead, here are my thoughts on selecting comments for the prize [EA · GW].

The voting process

The current prize judges are:

All posts published in the titular month qualified for voting, save for those in the following categories: 

Voters recused themselves from voting on posts written by themselves or their colleagues. Otherwise, they used their own individual criteria for choosing posts, though they broadly agree with the goals outlined above.

Judges each had ten votes to distribute between the month’s posts. They also had a number of “extra” votes equal to [10 - the number of votes made last month]. For example, a judge who cast 7 votes last month would have 13 this month. No judge could cast more than three votes for any single post.

The winning comments were chosen by me, though other judges had the chance to nominate and veto comments before this post was published.

I also want to mention this comment from Larks [EA(p) · GW(p)], which I thought was very strong. However, I considered a dozen other comments this month, and with so many good options to choose from, decided that it was better not to nominate a fellow judge. (I discussed this with Larks, and we decided to post this notice.) 


If the Prize has changed the way you read or write on the Forum, or you have an idea for how we could improve it, please leave a comment or contact me.

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