richard_ngo's Shortform

post by richard_ngo · 2020-06-13T10:46:26.847Z · score: 6 (1 votes) · EA · GW · 6 comments

6 comments

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comment by richard_ngo · 2020-06-13T10:46:27.161Z · score: 36 (16 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm leaning towards the view that "don't follow your passion" and "try do really high-leverage intellectual work" are both good pieces of advice in isolation, but that they work badly in combination. I suspect that there are very few people doing world-class research who aren't deeply passionate about it, and also that EA needs world-class research in more fields than it may often seem.

comment by richard_ngo · 2020-06-15T13:19:26.934Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Another related thing that isn't discussed enough is the immense difficulty of actually doing good research, especially in a pre-paradigmatic field. I've personally struggled to transition from engineer mindset, where you're just trying to build a thing that works (and you'll know when it does), to scientist mindset, where you need to understand the complex ways in which many different variables affect your results.

This isn't to say that only geniuses make important advances, though - hard work and persistence go a long way. As a corollary, if you're in a field where hard work doesn't feel like work, then you have a huge advantage. And it's also good for building a healthy EA community if even people who don't manage to have a big impact are still excited about their careers. So that's why I personally place a fairly high emphasis on passion when giving career advice (unless I'm talking to someone with exceptional focus and determination).

comment by richard_ngo · 2020-06-15T13:29:41.202Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Then there's the question of how many fields it's actually important to have good research in. Broadly speaking, my perspective is: we care about the future; the future is going to be influenced by a lot of components; and so it's important to understand as many of those components as we can. Do we need longtermist sociologists? Hell yes! Then we can better understand how value drift might happen, and what to do about it. Longtermist historians to figure out how power structures will work, longtermist artists to inspire people - as many as we can get. Longtermist physicists - Anders can't figure out how to colonise the galaxy by himself.

If you're excited about something that poses a more concrete existential risk, then I'd still advise that as a priority. But my guess is that there's also a lot of low-hanging fruit for would-be futurists in other disciplines.

comment by richard_ngo · 2020-07-13T08:51:31.667Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

One use case of the EA forum which we may not be focusing on enough:

There are some very influential people who are aware of and somewhat interested in EA. Suppose one of those people checks in on the EA forum every couple of months. Would they be able to find content which is interesting, relevant, and causes them to have a higher opinion of EA? Or if not, what other mechanisms might promote the best EA content to their attention?

The "Forum Favourites" partly plays this role, I guess. Although because it's forum regulars who are most likely to highly upvote posts, I wonder whether there's some divergence between what's most valuable for them and what's most valuable for infrequent browsers.

comment by Aidan O'Gara · 2020-07-18T01:58:22.011Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

“...whether there's some divergence between what's most valuable for them and what's most valuable for infrequent browsers.”

I’d strongly guess that this is the case. Maybe Community posts should be removed from Forum favorites?

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-07-22T09:48:44.902Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

By default, Community posts don't show up in Forum Favorites, or on the Frontpage at all. You have to check a box to show them.

My recommendation for people interested in EA is to read the EA Newsletter, which filters more heavily than the Forum. effectivealtruism.org ranks first in Google for EA, and has a bunch of different newsletter signup boxes.

As for the Forum, this is part of why the Motivation Series [? · GW] exists (and will soon be linked to from the homepage). As for more up-to-date content, I'd think that the average high-karma Frontpage post probably does a reasonable job of representing what people in EA are working on. But I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on what the Forum could change to better meet this use case!