Posts

[Creative Writing Contest][Referral][Mostly Fiction] - The Parable of the Heartstone 2021-09-17T13:46:57.347Z
Part 2: The advantages of agencies 2021-07-25T13:04:34.488Z
Part 4: Intra-organizational and non-tech agencies 2021-07-25T13:03:50.149Z
Part 3: Comparing agency organisational models 2021-07-25T13:03:28.698Z
Part 1: EA tech work is inefficiently allocated & bad for technical career capital 2021-07-25T13:03:07.733Z
Is it possible to change user name? 2020-06-26T11:09:59.780Z
I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate 2019-07-05T10:27:32.975Z
The almighty Hive will 2018-01-28T17:59:07.040Z
Against neglectedness 2017-11-01T23:09:04.526Z

Comments

Comment by Arepo on Honoring Petrov Day on the EA Forum: 2021 · 2021-09-27T12:40:47.285Z · EA · GW

All of this seems consistent with Peter's pledge to second strike being +EV, as long as he's lying.

Comment by Arepo on Honoring Petrov Day on the EA Forum: 2021 · 2021-09-27T11:27:08.459Z · EA · GW

I can't parse the concept of 'precommitment'. I don't intend to launch a first strike, but maybe something will happen in the next few hours to change my intention, and I don't have any way to restructure my brain to reduce that possibility to 0. The reverse applies for second striking.

Comment by Arepo on [Creative Writing Contest][Referral][Mostly Fiction] - The Parable of the Heartstone · 2021-09-18T11:21:18.044Z · EA · GW

I agree it's a fantastic FAQ! The rest just didn't seem eligible for this contest.

Comment by Arepo on EA Forum Creative Writing Contest: $10,000 in prizes for good stories · 2021-09-13T10:20:37.433Z · EA · GW

The method of submitting someone else's work seems problematic if I understand it right - it sounds like a breach of copyright.

Comment by Arepo on How much should we still worry about catching COVID? [Links and Discussion Thread] · 2021-08-29T10:43:31.509Z · EA · GW

From a friend of mine: 'I'd love to see titles that sounded like they were asking about "among those having completed a vaccine course" (not including Sinovac).' - this makes sense to me. 'We', the people asking this question are almost universally vaccinated, so focusing on that subset of the population seems most relevant to prudential questions.

Comment by Arepo on Part 4: Intra-organizational and non-tech agencies · 2021-08-03T09:51:10.305Z · EA · GW

Appreciate the insight. I imagine I will be directing people to this a lot!

Comment by Arepo on Part 3: Comparing agency organisational models · 2021-08-03T09:14:06.384Z · EA · GW

This would only apply if the org you're working for is a registered charity though, which would rule out many small EA nonprofits.

Comment by Arepo on Part 3: Comparing agency organisational models · 2021-08-03T06:58:30.387Z · EA · GW

An EA-specific agency would have to be low-bono, offering major discounts to EA orgs - otherwise it would be indistinguishable from the countless existing for-profit agencies.

I guess I overstated this. There would be some advantages to a bunch of EA developers working together.

If the only advantage of an EA agency is that it has lower prices, then it's equivalent to donating more money to the organization which hires the developers.

This isn't true if you're getting taxed VAT on the price difference.

Let's suppose there's a way around that, though. As you say in the sentence after this, changing the dynamics of money isn't necessarily neutral, even if it comes from and ends up with the same groups of people. There are the costs you mentioned of an agency, and there are costs of centralisation: eg concentrating risk, diluting focus, and encouraging intra-org groupthink and inter-org siloisation.

What you mention as costs of an agency are mostly (perhaps all) fixed costs, so you would have to believe that it would offer close to 0 or negative counterfactual benefit for them not to be worth paying, especially given the extra value of information from trying. Either a low-bono or full-profit agency would have those discussed in part 2, so which of those would be better depends on what you think of centralisation (and whether you can avoid the extra VAT).

Meanwhile, I think a donor-funded agency has very substantial counterfactual benefits, as listed here.

Comment by Arepo on EA Survey 2020: Cause Prioritization · 2021-07-31T20:41:53.769Z · EA · GW

As we can see, average support for Near-termist causes declines with increases in engagement, while support for Longtermist and Meta causes increases.

I would love to see research into the direction of causality here. I think it's very easy to assume engagement drives the realisation of belief in longtermism, and much EA messaging supports this - eg Will's(?) statement that longtermism might be the biggest breakthrough of the EA movement. But I know many people for whom it seemed to run the other way - they lost interest over time in part because of the movement's obsession with replacing concrete short term value with (as they see it) motivated speculation.

Comment by Arepo on Part 4: Intra-organizational and non-tech agencies · 2021-07-31T08:49:08.265Z · EA · GW

Probably not as we were unfunded and unwilling to self fund to any great extent. What would have helped would be a source of work we could reliably outsource to for free or for a 90% subsidy. I could imagine that we might self-fund up to 1000aud say, for a website/work valued at 10,000 Aud. But that's just speculation. It's hard to say what we might have done as we didn't even consider paying for a website/tech support in the current landscape.

Why didn't you apply for funding from EA meta or similar to hire an agency to fund the website?

Can you please clarify?

The most common pushback I got when writing this is that in a simple counterfactual, a low-bono and donor-funded agency are nearly equivalent, feedback mechanisms aside. In one case, you apply to EA meta or somesuch fund for funding to pay the agency, in the other, in the other the agency applies to a similar fund for operations costs, and then you apply to the agency for 'free' work - approx the same amount of money gets spent either way.

In which case, suppose a low bono agency is available. In a case like this you'd still need to apply for funding for the former and, based on the estimations in part 2, it would be 50-66% cheaper than existing for-profit agencies at most - so if that discount wouldn't have made you a) feel the project was worth paying for out of your own pocket or b) make you optimistic enough about the prospects of getting funding to apply to eg EA meta, then the argument would be that the work you wanted done was low enough value that it wouldn't have been a good use of the movement's money to subsidise an agency to work do pro bono work for you.

Having made a very theoretical argument, I want to hear from someone who's actually been in that position whether you think that counterfactual is valid, and if not, why not.

Comment by Arepo on Stephen Fry narrating a video on effective altruism, explaining the cause-prioritisation framework while giving us the appropriate emotional response to helping others · 2021-07-31T08:15:43.408Z · EA · GW

Woah, cool. Do we know who runs the channel?

Comment by Arepo on Part 4: Intra-organizational and non-tech agencies · 2021-07-27T14:23:03.205Z · EA · GW

Thanks, those are great case studies! Given that it wasn't worth your time to seek funding for and plan a website, would you say that that a 50-66% discount would have made the difference? (ie the total discount you would get directly from a low-bono charity, or that the movement as a whole would get from a donor-funded one)

To play Devil's advocate, that seems like a relatively fine-grained cost-benefit analysis in a movement where a) there's now a lot of money floating around and b) we think the best projects are multiple orders of magnitude more valuable than a typical non-EA charitable project. If there are other considerations that would make you think an EA tech agency would have made a bigger difference in practice, can you describe in your own words what they were?

Comment by Arepo on Part 3: Comparing agency organisational models · 2021-07-27T14:07:12.709Z · EA · GW

I had good interactions with Bitzesty. 8th Light also have a good reputation. I'm surprised you haven't been able to get other good word of mouth recommendations if you're happy to pay full price - what's been the challenge there?

Comment by Arepo on Part 3: Comparing agency organisational models · 2021-07-27T14:05:09.419Z · EA · GW

Looks like you're right, thanks!

Comment by Arepo on Part 2: The advantages of agencies · 2021-07-27T13:57:14.529Z · EA · GW

I think those are all true, but the goal is to maximise good done, not to maximise the on-paper efficiency of any particular organisation. Through that lens, there's a counterpoint to each of these:

  • More embedded in the movement overall = more likely to suggest projects/software solutions to movement problems than an in-house dev would be
  • Capable of triaging across the movement. If your website goes down and something comparably urgent is going on elsewhere, the agency can prioritise whichever is the most important issue (much more true of a donor-funded agency - a low-bono one will be bound to honour its contracts to the best of its ability even in the face of new data)
  • There's reduced overhead in managing demand across the movement vs an uncoordinated approach (though the third bullet in both our cases is arguably a restatement of the first two)
Comment by Arepo on A cause can be too neglected · 2021-07-26T10:14:00.749Z · EA · GW

I think this is a potentially very large problem with a lot of EA work. For eg, with AI research, it seems like we're still at the far left end of the graph, since no-one is actually building anything resembling dangerous AI yet, so all research papers do is inform more research papers.

We should also really stop talking about neglectedness as an independent variable from importance and tractability - IMO it's more like a function of the two, that you can use as a heuristic to estimate them. If a huge-huge problem has had a merely huge amount of resources put into it (eg climate change), it might still turn out to be relatively neglected.

Comment by Arepo on Part 1: EA tech work is inefficiently allocated & bad for technical career capital · 2021-07-26T10:06:08.880Z · EA · GW

Thanks! Much of the challenge of part 3 for me was trying to untangle my own strong intuition that working at a donor-funded agency would be so much more rewarding. If other developers find the low-bono idea more appealing, then I'm confident that such an agency would be enough of an improvement on the status quo that it would be worth setting one up; it'll be interesting to see how developer preferences split.

Comment by Arepo on Part 3: Comparing agency organisational models · 2021-07-26T09:53:14.257Z · EA · GW

Yeah, I probably overstated this difference. Developers at a low-bono agency would surely have some autonomy, since they know their own strengths better. I could be way off, but my intuition is still that a) the barriers to both applying for funding and evaluating applications are sufficiently higher that there'd be substantially more free work - that was actually worth doing - than paid work (Peter Slattery's given some nice further examples in a comment here though YMMV about high value these are) and b) the incentives from higher pay will be quite dominant over those from higher perceived value.

Comment by Arepo on Part 3: Comparing agency organisational models · 2021-07-26T09:43:31.690Z · EA · GW

I might have misunderstood, but wouldn't the same apply to the same customers applying for funding for tech work? Ie the people who systematically overestimate the impact of free tech to their work would systematically overestimate the impact of paid tech to it, and so inasmuch as this is a problem (and I definitely agree with treating EAs and orgs as being at least somewhat selfish/self-biased), it's one that already exists.

If you do think an agency would create new incentives for such gaming of the system, it seems like it could still avoid them by being part of or entirely deferring to a granting agency. This seems basically like the mode in part 4, with all the upsides and downsides that would have. I'm pretty neutral on that mode vs independence, though Luke mentioned in the comments to his recent thread that he was against expanding OpenPhil's domain that way.

Comment by Arepo on Part 4: Intra-organizational and non-tech agencies · 2021-07-26T09:24:01.462Z · EA · GW

Thanks Peter, that's a really helpful set of ideas. Do you know in the cases you mention why in practice they didn't/don't get funded to hire a contractor or agency? Eg did they apply and get rejected? Or not consider it a good use of time to apply? Were they at hoping at any given point that volunteers would be available in less time than it took to turn around a grant application? Or something else entirely?

Comment by Arepo on Part 1: EA tech work is inefficiently allocated & bad for technical career capital · 2021-07-26T08:41:54.859Z · EA · GW

I think Charles' responses are good. I'd also like to see evidence of the claim that these are the main reasons. Occam's Razor says to me that if outsourcing costs 2-3x (or more) than in-house hiring, then that's the main reason lean startups don't go for it. Otherwise, companies could just hire agencies on permanent contracts, effectively treating them as superexpensive (but partially pre-vetted) in-house staff.

Comment by Arepo on Part 1: EA tech work is inefficiently allocated & bad for technical career capital · 2021-07-25T22:12:28.210Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the kind words :)

Maybe I'll regret this, but I'd rather not unpublish having already published. I also think the later posts don't make much sense out of context, so the first post is likely to generate most of the responses; so I'd rather the payoff & call to action in later posts was available while this one's still creating visibility.

Comment by Arepo on A Sequence Against Strong Longtermism · 2021-07-25T12:30:17.075Z · EA · GW

I find it hard to believe that leaving out snarky comments is a drain on anyone's productivity, let alone that the movement should encourage norms where we assume our value is so high that the risks of snark-deprivation outweigh the benefits.

Comment by Arepo on A Sequence Against Strong Longtermism · 2021-07-25T08:02:54.478Z · EA · GW

It's not a trade-off!

Comment by Arepo on A Sequence Against Strong Longtermism · 2021-07-23T13:05:23.916Z · EA · GW

Fwiw, while I have some sympathy with the arguments you advance (and haven't managed to form an opinion on much of it), I find the level of snark in your writing offputting.

Comment by Arepo on The case against “EA cause areas” · 2021-07-22T07:47:51.380Z · EA · GW

One downside of this is that without some cause curation, you could end up with zero sum games when charities or causes were in opposition - encouraging more effectiveness from feminists and MRAs, nuclear power advocates vs Greenpeace, gun control charities and the NRA, etc.

That's not to say a greater emphasis away from central cause areas would be bad, just not an uncritical one.

Comment by Arepo on Should EA have a career-focused “Do the most good" pledge? · 2021-07-22T07:28:06.668Z · EA · GW

80K used to have a pledge almost exactly like this (something like 'contribute at least 10% of my working time to doing the most good), but they moved away from it quite quickly. I can't find the original wording of the pledge now, but I found an email where said they were replacing it with this 'statement of intent':

I declare that I aim to pursue a career as an effective altruist.

This means that I intend to:

(i)                  Devote a significant proportion of my time or resources to helping others.

(ii)                 Use the time or resources I give as effectively as possible in helping others.

(iii)                Make my career decisions based at least in part on how it enables me to further my altruistic aims.


Further to this declaration of intent, every member, in joining the 80,000 Hours community, agrees to report on their altruistic activities every year.

I'm not sure if that's still publicised anywhere - it certainly doesn't seem like they promote it any more.

Comment by Arepo on EA needs consultancies · 2021-07-09T20:22:16.188Z · EA · GW

This is now ready for proofreading for anyone who's interested.  I've left a handful of questions as comments on the doc that I'd be particularly interested in opinions/support on. Part 1 is here - there are five parts, each part linking to the next:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WbMzIQBNKw_2RN0O5hNM_mLuRSnlWHYxcOMxqXNgiYI/edit

Comment by Arepo on The most successful EA podcast of all time: Sam Harris and Will MacAskill (2020) · 2021-07-07T14:44:13.700Z · EA · GW

Although he mentions at the start that he'd be interested in doing further episodes with Bostrom.

Comment by Arepo on The most successful EA podcast of all time: Sam Harris and Will MacAskill (2020) · 2021-07-07T14:42:00.113Z · EA · GW

Toby or Anders, then :P

Comment by Arepo on The most successful EA podcast of all time: Sam Harris and Will MacAskill (2020) · 2021-07-06T08:51:41.350Z · EA · GW

Yeah, just looking at the view counts of a bunch of his YouTube videos in that time. That seems to be his primary platform, so I'd guess its an OK representation of his total listenership

Comment by Arepo on The most successful EA podcast of all time: Sam Harris and Will MacAskill (2020) · 2021-07-05T09:12:25.002Z · EA · GW

Dunno how I missed that! Still, I bet he'd also be really interested in conversations with the FHI crew.

His average viewership seems to have 5xed since then, too.

Comment by Arepo on The most successful EA podcast of all time: Sam Harris and Will MacAskill (2020) · 2021-07-05T06:58:28.324Z · EA · GW

I can imagine Lex Fridman ('s audience) being similarly engaged. Would be great if we could get him to interview someone like Will, Toby, Bostrom etc.

Comment by Arepo on The most successful EA podcast of all time: Sam Harris and Will MacAskill (2020) · 2021-07-05T06:57:48.850Z · EA · GW

I can imagine Lex Fridman being similarly engaged. Would be great if we could get him to interview someone like Will, Toby, Bostrom etc.

Comment by Arepo on EA needs consultancies · 2021-07-04T18:58:05.599Z · EA · GW

Quick note to anyone interested that I've been researching the idea of an EA tech-agency-cum-consultancy for a while now. I'm hoping to post a sequence on it within the next week or two. When the next draft is ready I'll link to it here, but if anyone's curious about the idea feel free to PM me in the meantime.

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T14:06:05.845Z · EA · GW

High Impact Hotel (for the building)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T14:03:55.280Z · EA · GW

The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Do Altruism Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:37:36.812Z · EA · GW

Eapartments (for the org)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:37:21.562Z · EA · GW

Eapartment (for the building)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:36:56.229Z · EA · GW

Erstwhile Athena Hotel - EA Hotel (for the building)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:36:30.820Z · EA · GW

Social Analytics Institute (for the org)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:36:07.028Z · EA · GW

ATHENA - Accommodation for Teaching, Humanitarianism, Education, and Neglected Altruism (for the org)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:35:48.527Z · EA · GW

ATHENA - Accommodation for Teaching, Humanitarianism, Education, and Neglected Altruism (for the building)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:35:08.603Z · EA · GW

Analytic Altruism Incubator (for the org)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:34:35.645Z · EA · GW

Large Utilon Collider (for the building)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:33:51.846Z · EA · GW

Large Utilon Collider (for the org)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:33:06.064Z · EA · GW

Athena Flourishing Fellowship (for the org)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:32:33.713Z · EA · GW

Athena Altruism Centre (for the org)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:32:13.114Z · EA · GW

Nb This one was not Greg's idea, and I suspect he'd be quite uncomfortable with it. But don't vote for it for that reason alone ;)

Comment by Arepo on What should CEEALAR be called? · 2021-06-16T13:30:55.043Z · EA · GW

Athena Altruism Centre (for the building)