EAG Organizing Team Really Dropping the Ball 2023-01-27T21:36:21.447Z
Write More; Edit Less 2022-07-09T07:15:17.726Z
How I torched my biggest career opportunity so far 2022-05-11T06:09:53.856Z


Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Consent Isn't Always Enough · 2023-02-28T03:47:50.335Z · EA · GW

That's the tradeoff you have to accept when you decide to go on the warpath. Smearing completely uninvolved people because they have an ideological orientation in common with the guilty parties makes you the bad guy. Being a victim of one bad thing doesn't give you a free pass to victimize other innocent people with a different bad thing.  Again, it would be like if they published an article saying "Democrats have a sexual harassment problem" without specifying that they mean Bill Clinton and not Barack Obama. 


The military's policy is what I said it is, not the thing you're trying to make it. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Consent Isn't Always Enough · 2023-02-27T02:30:14.758Z · EA · GW

I think this is something that mostly needs to be left up to individual organizations, and the media's framing of "EA has a sexual harassment problem" is really misleading. It should be "Organizations X and Y have a sexual harassment problem"; if people didn't want to name specific orgs then it never should've been published, and if people are going to try to tar others who were uninvolved that should be treated as the dishonest garbage it is. The media coverage and the community debate on this have been like if someone said "Democrats have a sexual harassment problem" and tried to paint Obama as a rapist based on what Clinton did. 

Certainly employers do have an interest in their employees' romantic relationships in the examples you cite and have a right to limit them. But I don't think you can make a blanket rule that works community wide; informal power is often more important than formal power,  especially in a small community, and if you start limiting relationships where there's even informal power dynamics you get either infinite complexity or a total ban on intra-community relationships, neither of which is healthy. Individual employers should make their own decisions about HR policies and people can make their own decisions about how much protection they want. 


Now, on an individual level I think a lot of people should be thinking more about how their relationships/hookups limit their ability to do the most good they could do, and should take a hard look at whether being able to sleep with whoever they want is really worth the losses it may cause in their effectiveness. This is true for all the reasons you cited that an employer may have an interest, but ALSO because public perceptions of them/the community may matter, and for long-term relationships it goes even beyond that because you need to think about the sacrifices people sometimes have to make for their SO. Who is supposed to take the career hit if one of you gets a great job offer far away and the other doesn't have anything comparable to/better than their current job available there? For an EA dating a non-EA, the solution is you demand that your career take precedence and you do everything in your power to make it up to them somehow, but for an EA dating another EA who is approximately their equal in ability and dedication (and presumably you're dating your equal...),  you've created a dilemma that you could have avoided with different relationship choices. 


Side note: "Hookups within a military unit" is an interesting example because those are mostly permitted, and not just in ancient Greece. At least when I was in service, the rule was  no sleeping with anyone in your direct chain of command and no officers sleeping with enlisted even not in chain of command. Now, maybe this is a bad idea; the military does have a sexual assault problem and perhaps you'd reduce that by saying no one in the same platoon/company/whatever can sleep together, period. But that's not the established rule. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on EA, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse · 2023-02-04T07:58:56.941Z · EA · GW

I think you're just playing in to a broader cultural problem here. Too many younger EAs are too invested in getting a job at an EA organization, and/or in having the movement as a part of their identity (as distinct from the underlying ideal). If you think the movement has serious flaws that make it not a good means for doing the most good, then you should not be trying to work for an EA org in the first place, and the access to those opportunities is irrelevant.  


People should not be using the movement for career advancement independent of the goal of doing the most good they can do with their careers (and in most cases, can't do that even if they intend to, because EA org jobs that are high-status within the movement are not similarly high-status outside of it).


I find the EA movement a useful source of ideas and a useful place to find potential collaborators for some of my projects, but I have no interest in working for an EA org because that's not where I expect I'd have the biggest impact. I think the movement as a whole would be more successful, and a lot of younger EAs would be a lot happier, if they approached the movement with this level of detachment. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on EAG Organizing Team Really Dropping the Ball · 2023-01-27T21:57:45.724Z · EA · GW

I asked for clarification the first time around, in addition to providing copious information about my involvement. There is no further information to provide. At this point they should admit or reject, not ask for further edits. Yes, I am sure it's burdensome for the reviewing team if they are creating extra work for themselves by not just making a decision, but that's a burden created by their poor work process, not by the task itself. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on EA for dumb people? · 2022-09-12T14:16:44.482Z · EA · GW

awkward is pretty mild as far as ways to be emotionally stupid go. If that's all you're running into then EAs probably have higher than average emotional intelligence, but perhaps not as high in relative terms as their more classically defined intelligence

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on What are some interventions before 1920 that improved human well-being 100 years later? · 2022-07-12T00:19:37.024Z · EA · GW

Seems unlikely for these examples. It's not the scientific discovery that really matters; it's the public health program implementing it, which is a lot more sensitive to pre-existing conditions than discovering a fact about the world is. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on What are some interventions before 1920 that improved human well-being 100 years later? · 2022-07-11T23:20:18.814Z · EA · GW

why not? smallpox might or might not have died out, but hookworm would still be around

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Write More; Edit Less · 2022-07-09T11:00:19.573Z · EA · GW

I think this response is fully accounted for by adjusting editing time based on the importance of the work, as stated in the post. 

If it's only ~as important as your normal daily work, and you have to do 5 drafts to make it better than existing work on the topic, it's probably not something you should write at all. Do something that will make a unique contribution on the first draft. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on EA Fundraising Through Advantage Sports Betting: A Guide ($500/Hour in Select States) · 2022-06-14T05:10:32.408Z · EA · GW

oh yeah lots of opportunities in nj right now. Won my first two bets but I'm limited by the fact that I didn't plan in advance, and didn't have paypal connected to my bank. My bank's not allowing me to put enough money in and paypal will take several days to get connected. So fyi for anyone trying this, make sure your paypal account is funded in advance. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on The Strange Shortage of Moral Optimizers · 2022-06-09T07:36:44.254Z · EA · GW

I came to the basic idea of EA, long before I found the movement, from a Christian perspective. So I think there's certainly the basis for it in a lot of religions. But I think at that point I was more devout than most Christians, even most of those who go to church every Sunday. This is probably a key factor.

 I'm not sure how seriously most people take any of their goals, even the selfish ones. Lack of commitment is a hell of a thing, and even more so when mental effort and uncertainty are required.  It kind of astounds me how often people say they want something and then don't follow through at all on even minimal efforts. A friend wanted a job in my field, so I introduced him to a connection in his area. He never met with her. Other friends have run for office, but then not bothered talking to any voters. A relative repeats the same financial mistakes over and over and over again despite my attempts to help her with financial planning and her swearing up and down each time that next time will be different. 

And all of these personal goals are a lot more straightforward to sort out than "how do I do the most good I can  do?". I could figure out a plan for all of these examples in an afternoon at most, and after years of effort I still don't know how to be a maximally effective altruist. Most people, when they can't round uncertainty off to "yes" or "no", seem to have this idea that it's uncertain so all actions are the same. I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance who accused me of "only thinking in black and white" because I believe with a high degree of confidence that donating to AMF is a better choice than randomly paying for groceries for the person behind you in line, "because maybe they need it and maybe the kindness will ripple through the world and have other effects".  And several other people witnessing this debate agreed with him!


So in addition to altruism, I think key personality traits that would be necessary for someone to be even an alt-EA are an abnormally high level of goal-commitment, and an unusually high level of comfort making decisions under uncertainty. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Deference Culture in EA · 2022-06-08T05:42:24.170Z · EA · GW

"the EA (Effective Altruism) movement has a pretty strong deference culture."

 Is this some kind of demographic thing? I haven't noticed it except in terms of college students/recent grads being a bit too attached to the idea of working for EA orgs. I defer when I don't feel like I have the appropriate knowledge and can't acquire it in reasonable time, and don't otherwise. 

As someone who was a solo-EA, without knowing there was a whole EA movement, for well over a decade, it's really nice to be able to rely on other people's judgment sometimes instead of having to analyze every little thing for myself. But that deference comes from some intuitive sense of cost-benefit tradeoffs involved in investing my time to dive deeper into something, not from a general idea that I should be deferential, and it goes away the moment I sense that the cost-benefit analysis has flipped.  And I don't feel like some kind of outlier for doing this. Another EA once called me an SBF bootlicker just for supporting Carrick Flynn, for example. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on I'm maximizing good, not my contribution to good · 2022-05-24T14:12:46.170Z · EA · GW

yeah; it seems obvious to me that "the good I accomplish" includes my contribution to allowing others to do good. I'm open to seeing evidence but I suspect the reason field-building, movement-building etc. isn't done as much as OP would like has nothing to do with this kind of confusion. In fact I think it's questionable how much you can do at the meta level if your direct work doesn't measure up. People show up when they see cool stuff being done, not so much when they hear you talk about the cool stuff that someone else should do. Sputnik did a great deal more for science and engineering education than running a bunch of commercials about the importance of science would have. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid · 2022-05-19T07:16:10.457Z · EA · GW

I was going to make essentially the same point. I may have too much political experience for my emotional reaction to be worth anything in judging how a normal voter would feel, but to me, half or more of the money coming from one person feels like a big deal. Less than half feels like something that would receive criticism but that I would  generally write it off as sour grapes.

The fact that it's crypto money specifically probably matters a lot. The partisan valence of crypto among average people is pretty right-wing because of bitcoiners' libertarian fantasies. In a more rational world that wouldn't affect perceptions of crypto generally but in this world it does. This may be too expensive to be worth it, but if SBF is really going to be spending a lot of money on Democratic primaries he may want to give some consideration to how to rehabilitate the image of non-BTC cryptocurrencies among Dem voters. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid · 2022-05-19T06:54:11.999Z · EA · GW

The only EA who's ever been an asshole to me was an asshole because I supported  Flynn, so I don't think there was some hidden anti-donations-to-Flynn movement that self-censored. EAs who opposed the idea were quite loud about it. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Choosing causes re Flynn for Oregon · 2022-05-18T06:52:12.951Z · EA · GW

Also, no such thing as generic "too BOTEC-y to be useful." If you have a more rigorous calculation offer it. Otherwise BOTEC is the best available estimate and you should show it more respect until you do have an alternative. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Choosing causes re Flynn for Oregon · 2022-05-18T06:49:47.585Z · EA · GW

Joe Biden raised 1.69 bn, Trump 1.96 b Little more than I thought but not a whole OOM. Closer to 1b than 10b. Call it 2bn to win if u prefer. 

"Doesn't have much effect" is too vague a statement to be meaningful. 1/1b increase in chance of winning is simultaneously "not much" and also enough to spend money on where the consequences are large enough. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Choosing causes re Flynn for Oregon · 2022-05-18T06:37:43.414Z · EA · GW

This is why I suggest the marginal dollar is only 1/10 as effective as the avg dollar. I don't have any particular reason to think my est is off by an order of magnitude or more. If you do I'd like to hear it, and I suspect so would every campaign in the world. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Choosing causes re Flynn for Oregon · 2022-05-18T06:08:49.141Z · EA · GW

My back of the envelope. Back back back, like maybe even outhouse of the envelope. It's very hard to calculate marginal cost per vote, in part bc there's sort of an efficient markets thing going on w donations in some cases and not others. A senate race in Wyoming costs roughly the same as one in California, because the seat is just as valuable, despite vastly different numbers of votes. But activists getting worked up about a race can change the numbers, and in solid blue states it seems you can win a House seat more cheaply than in swing states, where you have to win a primary and a general and the national partisan orgs dgaf about the primary. 

Approx 10m voters who matter in a Presidential campaign (i.e. the relevant pop of swing states). Takes about a billion to win. Naively this would suggest $100/vote, but multiply by 10x to $1000 for the marginal vote (iirc there IS some fancy econometrics way to estimate marginal dollar's impact better than this and I have seen it before; this is just dumdum math and I am dumdum). 


Do these numbers hold up for campaigns at other levels? Gonna set aside the Flynn campaign bc freakishly large amounts were spent. Normal House primary, maybe  1m spent. Maybe 100k votes cast in a blue district? Idk; it varies widely. I got this estimate from Ayanna Pressley's race, but it looks like in AOC's race only 30k were case, and 63k in Chris Pappas's primary race in a swing district. So, taking AOC as a sort of worst case,  30k votes cost 1m, ($33k each) assume the marginal vote is 10x that, it's $330 each. 

Or, thinking in terms of $ per election and ignoring numbers of votes, assuming 1m gets you a 50% chance of winning, $1=1/2m probability of winning election in a normal election.

But Flynn campaign cost more like $2000/vote (not marginal, avg) if reports of 8-figure SBF spend are to be believed. So under the same methodology this would imply ~20k per marginal vote. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on How many EAs failed in high risk, high reward projects? · 2022-05-15T21:12:33.040Z · EA · GW

I would love to see this!

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on How many EAs failed in high risk, high reward projects? · 2022-05-15T21:10:14.458Z · EA · GW

How many orgs has Charity Entrepreneurship incubated and what's the success rate? 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Should we be hiring more “unqualified” people? · 2022-05-15T01:47:45.791Z · EA · GW

If there are existing bounties, what's stopping random people from just going after the bounties themselves? For example, there was recently a writing contest on imagining positive AI futures; anyone could have written a piece. 


My impression is most of the talent bottlenecks are in areas where random people just don't have the skills, and where you need to be confident people are well-aligned. E.g. government/policy, management, entrepreneurs (broadly construed, to include starting charities). The third category you can't really even hire; you just have to make money available and let ppl come and get it if they're working on something relevant. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on How I torched my biggest career opportunity so far · 2022-05-12T02:09:13.745Z · EA · GW

Time's arrow goes only one way, my friend. Once it's gone you can't get it back, same as if you lit it on fire. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on [Unendorsed] — An update in favor of trying to make tens of billions of dollars · 2022-05-10T02:54:08.583Z · EA · GW

It's a narrow class because the talent is rare, not because situational opportunities are. If you have the talent you can just go get the opportunities. 

What advantages do you propose that having Stanford prof parents provides, beyond those already implied by going to MIT? 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on [Unendorsed] — An update in favor of trying to make tens of billions of dollars · 2022-05-10T02:02:13.387Z · EA · GW

Sure, but the situational opportunity involved here is mostly being an American alive in the 21st century.  If you are the type of person who is capable of starting the next FTX and making $10bn, and you are an American,  you can get access to whatever help you need easily enough. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on [Unendorsed] — An update in favor of trying to make tens of billions of dollars · 2022-05-10T01:55:17.460Z · EA · GW

Then let's see it. I'm not pattern-matching to anything. You said a thing that is simply untrue about advantages you believe a person coming from a lower upper class background would have. I am directly challenging your purported method of action based on my own experience of how easy it is to acquire those same advantages. Maybe they have some other advantages you haven't identified. But if so, let's see it. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on [Unendorsed] — An update in favor of trying to make tens of billions of dollars · 2022-05-10T00:52:39.261Z · EA · GW

As someone who did not come from elite networks, I think most people vastly overrate the usefulness of being from that background, to their own detriment, and I think it's really really important that others from non-elite backgrounds understand it doesn't matter. You maybe have to take a little more initiative instead of just having it handed to you, but I'm not talking about backbreaking amounts. I'm talking like send a handful of cold emails, show up at a few professional events, that kind of thing. If you have the talent, people will help you use it. 


There is some benefit to knowing elite manners more intuitively, and to having the confidence that comes from growing up in those circles, but that's about it. I had some early career struggles because I had a chip on my shoulder about this stuff, but the moment I stopped being a combative little shit, people started opening doors for me. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on [Unendorsed] — An update in favor of trying to make tens of billions of dollars · 2022-05-09T19:50:55.249Z · EA · GW

I think it's less impressive than him going to MIT, at minimum. Parents being smart suggests kid is smart, but kid can still fail to live up to their potential in lots of ways, and Stanford law prof is not that impressive beyond what it says about intelligence. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on If you had an hour with a political leader, what would you focus on? · 2022-05-09T18:13:10.767Z · EA · GW

Note: I make this last proposal as someone who could currently be pushing candidates at a few agencies but don't have any to push. So I know there's demand for it. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on If you had an hour with a political leader, what would you focus on? · 2022-05-09T17:59:23.783Z · EA · GW

I would absolutely not do this. This is going to insult powerful people for the sake of...what exactly? People gotta operate in the environment that actually exists, and we need to be supplying them with shovel-ready opportunities to do that, not asking them to go off on some philosophical exercise. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on If you had an hour with a political leader, what would you focus on? · 2022-05-09T17:56:59.776Z · EA · GW

Immediately: I don't think the Biden admin's pandemic prevention funding bill is particularly controversial, but the Senate killed it because it wasn't a priority for anyone and they just needed to cut $ to make their arbitrary budget numbers. So they could find a senator to champion that. 

Longer term: Better regulation of gene synthesis companies. The most clearly good policy is to require them to apply the International Gene Synthesis Consortium/Australia Group standards for screening customers/orders. 


I believe these are the only two policies Guarding Against Pandemics has actually endorsed, because there is so much complexity around other policies and specific implementation details can make or break it. So if you're in a position to influence their staffing choices, I would try to get them to hire an EA-aligned biosecurity expert to advise them on health/science policy (maybe not mention EA, offer specific names), or at least get to know such people and start relying on their advice informally if none are available to hire.

Maybe a worthwhile project for EAs: much like Mitt Romney had his binders full of women, and many advocacy organizations have vetted lists of job candidates they push when a new President takes office, we need binders full of EAs should we should be trying to get into key positions in government or ask policymakers consult with should an opportunity arise. I don't think the list needs to be public, but it would be helpful to create one. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Demandingness and Time/Money Tradeoffs are Orthogonal · 2022-05-08T23:42:20.749Z · EA · GW

People spend large sums of their own money, plus a year or two of their own time working for free, to get elected to Congress. It seems the job is desirable enough on its own terms that  a salary increase isn't going to make a difference. Similarly for ambassadorships, which are the only type of appointed job where you're routinely allowed to do this. It seems to me the inherent desirability of the jobs is high enough that more salary is not going to attract better people. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Demandingness and Time/Money Tradeoffs are Orthogonal · 2022-05-08T23:26:40.443Z · EA · GW

One extremely under-rated impact of working harder is that you learn more. You have sub-linear short-term impact with increasing work hours because of things like burnout, or even just using up the best opportunities, but long-term you have super-linear impact (as long as you apply good epistemics) because you just complete more operational cycles and try more ideas about how to do the work. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Demandingness and Time/Money Tradeoffs are Orthogonal · 2022-05-08T23:21:12.375Z · EA · GW

In most situations I doubt we should care about costly signals of altruism at all. Effectiveness in the work should be all that matters. If I'm hiring, all else being equal I will naturally prefer the person who will work 7 days a week for a lower salary vs the one who will only work 5 days and demand more. I don't need any signal here, other than making them the job offer on my preferred terms and seeing if they take it. But if the lazier, greedier one is 10x as effective per unit time, I should obviously prefer them despite them being a worse person in some philosophical sense. 

Perhaps in extremely critical positions where people could put important projects at risk by making selfish decisions there should be more of a need for people to prove the altruism part. But ultimately if people reliably do the right thing I don't care if they're doing it for selfish or altruistic motives. That's between them and their conscience. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on US Citizens: Targeted political contributions are probably the best passive donation opportunities for mitigating existential risk · 2022-05-07T15:11:36.880Z · EA · GW

Hmmm....what specific skills are the people getting hired in management and field roles missing?  If you can break that down further maybe it's possible to screen for those specific skills. And digging a bit further into this, how do you know the management problem is with the CMs and not the candidates? At the lower levels, you have this weird situation where you get the top job (candidate) by just showing up, but then there's actually a selection process for the second in command, run by the person who got their job by just showing up. 

I go back and forth on my opinion about hiring from elite schools. IME the schools are quite good at skimming the cream, so you will generally be stuck with less talented people if you don't hire from there. OTOH  the culture of elite schools is not the culture of most places in America and staffers' failure to understand that seems to be a real problem. So idk what the solution is. Hire from elite schools, but only grads who grew up in the state you want them to work in, or a similar state? Hire from the top 10% state schools? 

But maybe the inability to get elite school grads to run competent campaigns does point to the absence of skilled campaign managers. After all, these are people who have been quite good at responding to incentives from an early age, so why are they not sufficiently incentivized to understand local values? 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on US Citizens: Targeted political contributions are probably the best passive donation opportunities for mitigating existential risk · 2022-05-07T00:20:31.178Z · EA · GW

Love the Analyst Institute, which has done herculean amounts of work on figuring this stuff out.


Curious why you think there's an extreme talent bottleneck  for campaign staffing. My impression is they may be hiring the wrong people (i.e. too many people with lots of "experience" but not enough with experience on a modern campaign), but I suspect most decently well-funded campaigns could get the kind of people they wanted if they in fact wanted the right people. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on US Citizens: Targeted political contributions are probably the best passive donation opportunities for mitigating existential risk · 2022-05-06T19:37:14.890Z · EA · GW

They can do things other than ads. The real limitation is that by law candidates are entitled to the best unit rate on ads that a tv, cable, or radio station offers, and other political organizations are not. And the rates for other orgs can be quite a bit higher (the linked article cites other articles saying up to 6 times as much). Additionally, especially early in the race, how much money a candidate has raised directly for the campaign will be taken by other potential donors, volunteers, endorsers, the media, etc. as a sign of whether it is viable, and there are pretty solid reasons for this related to whether the candidate is actually putting in the work, so I don't think money a Super PAC plans to spend would be counted this way in their eyes. So if you like what a PAC or a Super PAC is doing, it's more cost-effective to look at the candidates they support and just give the money directly to the candidate. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on US Citizens: Targeted political contributions are probably the best passive donation opportunities for mitigating existential risk · 2022-05-06T19:29:35.645Z · EA · GW

Political science consensus? Setting aside the generally poor quality of social science research, as noted in the recent replication crisis, Green and Gerber wrote a whole book on what works. See

Canvassing is the most cost-effective thing anyone's run RCTs on, but other things (e.g. phone calls) do definitely move votes. 

A lot of mass media stuff no one has really run good experiments, and political scientists seem to have a bias against doing the experiments because canvassing is more of a feel good story than "yes you can influence people's decisions by impersonal corporate-feeling means", but the little bit of research that has been done suggests print, radio, and tv are all more cost-effective than canvassing. 


Mailers and robocalls are generally ineffective but that's a far cry from "spending money doesn't work". 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on US Citizens: Targeted political contributions are probably the best passive donation opportunities for mitigating existential risk · 2022-05-06T06:23:16.697Z · EA · GW

There's pretty solid research on how to use money effectively in campaigns, and some low-quality, underexplored  research that suggests even better options than what the RCTs suggest. So if the lit says donations make no difference it's very likely that either campaigns are spending their money poorly, or it's just poor quality research. So you could simply donate the money to campaigns that plan to spend it effectively. 


I don't think donating willy nilly to non-federal candidates makes sense. If these are EAs or others who you expect to have a strong alignment on x risks, and who you could plausibly see being a candidate for Congress someday, then it makes sense, after you've exhausted donation opportunities for strong-on-x-risk current federal candidates.  Yes, your contribution has a higher chance of influencing the outcome of a smaller race, but so what? The stakes are just way, way smaller. Even if you were to say, target Massachusetts state legislative candidates in the hopes of banning gain of function research right in the heart of biotech, what does that get you? One year of delay while the researchers transfer to labs in California? And can the state even legally implement a ban when the federal government is funding the research? 


OP, do you have a source for the claim that banning gain of function research is a policy that nearly everyone working on long-term issues would like to see happen? I thought this was the consensus at one point, but there do seem to be potential benefits from it, so I'd like really like to see some harder numbers of what % of longtermists with issue are expertise support this view and how much confidence they hold in it. In fact I originally came to the forum tonight to look for something like that, then got distracted by this post. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Increasing Demandingness in EA · 2022-04-30T04:12:11.764Z · EA · GW

Nice little one-two punch here with you expressing a desire to increase demandingness and Julia telling ppl it's ok to leave EA. Was that planned? 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Big EA and Its Infinite Money Printer · 2022-04-30T04:11:00.088Z · EA · GW

And there's only what, 100 AI safety researchers in the world?  Huge increase relative to the size of the field. But I think what they've actually said is the avg value is more like 3m and it could be 20m for someone spectacular

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Liars · 2022-04-29T05:11:57.109Z · EA · GW

"identifying experts on the TED talk circuit who are doing substantially dishonest or misleading work"--easy: with TED talks, assume guilty until proven innocent. Knowing someone has given a TED talk substantially diminishes my estimate of their credibility unless they are the sort of high-profile person who would be invited to give one as a matter of course (e.g. Bill Gates). The genre positively screams out for the invention of feel-good BS, or counterintuitive "insights" that are just false. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Consider Not Changing Your Forum Username to Your Real Name · 2022-04-29T04:31:40.476Z · EA · GW

Takes a lot less than public cancellation to harm your career. I know powerful people who enthusiastically support my work now who would've been hesitant to work with me if they knew I was an EA because they've had bad experiences with other EAs.  I think I could survive that now bc they've known me long enough to forgive me for it (keeping in mind that I have merely been silent, not lied about it), but if they'd googled me and learned it the day they met me,  I'd be significantly less effective. 


As for the collective action problem,  I would first note that silence is not actually preference falsification. "Silence is complicity" is a false thing people like to say, but in reality you can't verbal diarrhea out everything you believe, even if you try, because you'd spend your whole life doing that and never get any work done. Everyone always has to maintain some level of silence about their beliefs due to time limits if nothing else. Even for actual falsification, it only creates susceptibility to pressure if your falsification also fools the people who share your actual preferences. But if you're on here posting anonymously then they're not being fooled about the number of allies they have. 

Additionally, just realistically here, I'd bet a ton of money that the difference in my impact by using my weirdness points to get work done instead of be a public EA is A LOT more than positive impact that would come from some marginally interested potential EA knowing that I'm an EA.   

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Consider Changing Your Forum Username to Your Real Name · 2022-04-27T15:58:50.729Z · EA · GW

My policy on this, to the extent I have one, is a sort of soft lockdown: I don't mind sharing enough personal info on here that an EA who knows me in real life could figure out my identity, but I need to always have at least plausible deniability in the face of any malicious actor. 

As far as the risks in policy careers, I think the risk is very high for appointed jobs and real but lower for elected ones. Politicians are more risk averse than voters, and when they can pick from a pool of 100, they'll look for any reason to turn you down. When the voters have to pick one of two or a small handful of candidates, they gotta make a decision, by election day, and maybe they don't care so much about a few mildly controversial statements.  

If EA-aligned employers are using ppl saying smart stuff on here as a basis for hiring, but only if they have a real name account, I suggest they simply stop arbitrarily eliminating a major portion of their potential talent pool. Pretty easy to reach out to someone and ask for their identity if u are interested in hiring them. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Consider Changing Your Forum Username to Your Real Name · 2022-04-27T05:57:59.096Z · EA · GW

Nah, I wanna be able to speak freely without it affecting my job. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on FTX/CEA - show us your numbers! · 2022-04-22T00:54:22.741Z · EA · GW

I would prefer that they be less transparent so they don't have to waste their valuable time.

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on The FDA demanded my employer bury inconvenient clinical trial data. What should I do? · 2022-04-19T00:28:50.505Z · EA · GW

But then you lose all mainstream credibility; it just gets written off as a fringe conspiracy theory. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on The FDA demanded my employer bury inconvenient clinical trial data. What should I do? · 2022-04-19T00:27:49.710Z · EA · GW

This is a crime in a lot of places. I would not do it unless a lawyer in your jurisdiction has OK'd it 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on The Vultures Are Circling · 2022-04-18T16:07:21.172Z · EA · GW

I think you are vastly overestimating the access one gains from organizing events. You don't need to organize anything to get access to people. You just have to have something interesting to talk about. I've had access to VIPs in my field since I was 16 because I was working on interesting projects, and my experience within the EA community has been similar--the VIPs are easy to reach as long as you have a reason. And if you are managing someone else who is organizing an event, this should be easy to do,  e.g. you can check up on your subordinates' performance. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on "Drain Putin's brains" (help skilled Russians emigrate) as effective intervention to end the war sooner? · 2022-04-14T06:21:40.942Z · EA · GW

In the US they'd probably be good candidates for asylum if they can make out the case for why they fear persecution in Russia. I don't think the argument about weakening the Russian opposition holds any water; it's not a democracy and their opinions are frankly irrelevant to Russian politics unless they are armed and have personal access to Putin. So we should not encourage dissident Russian generals or palace guards to to seek asylum but everyone else might as well. 

Comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) on Go Republican, Young EA! · 2022-04-14T05:55:01.960Z · EA · GW

If I lived in, or were inclined to move to, a red state and wanted to go into politics, I'd become a moderate Republican for the reasons you mention. Anywhere else I don't think so. Pandemic risk already looks pretty politicized to me. Pre-2016 it didn't; Bush did a lot of good work on it and I suspect Romney would have. But it is now. Biden came up with a decent pandemic prevention plan and the senate killed it just for fun. AI alignment so far is not, and seems like it could realistically remain apolitical if it's mainly treated as a defense or foreign policy issue. 


In a swing state, your participation in one party does seek to, and has a viable chance to, actively grow the number of jobs within that party, i.e. by replacing potential elected officials of the other party (and their appointees) with officials of your party.  And in a blue state Republicans will simply be irrelevant, except in wave years where the state effectively becomes a swing state, with the same attendant problems. So there are quite real costs to this if you are broadly aligned with left-wing values. You're sometimes replacing a generic Republican with yourself, and sometimes replacing a generic Democratic with your (by necessity somewhat more conservative) self.  Maybe worth it for the benefits to AI risk but I'd like to see a Fermi estimate of what you believe the expected value of your contributions on that issue would be vs. the harm done by having to 1) work to elect other Republicans, 2) vote for or otherwise help enact Republican policies once in office (which will depend heavily on the position, so actually I'd like to see the estimates for different positions; i.e. maybe becoming a Republican is a good tradeoff if you're going to work in specialized and mostly apolitical roles in defense or foreign policy but not so much if you're going to have to make it through a GOP primary for Congress). 


You may also be undervaluing people's existing networks, but it depends on what unstated assumptions you are making here.  If you run for office, you have to rely on your friends and family to get at least the first tranche of money. If you come from a liberal background and become a Republican,  are they going to disown you? That's not just cold uggos; it's a serious practical problem with being able to run. Long run I think you can overcome that by building up your network within the GOP. BUT if you're worried about AI risk, which is the one promising reason I see to do this, you may not have enough time to build your network! So this is only a viable strategy if you are primarily concerned about AI risk, AND either expect a long timeline,  OR already have a ready to go GOP/bipartisan network to fundraise from. So if you're serious about this idea, maybe you first need to present it to EAs who'd be interested in donating to a Republican EA candidate and get the fundraising machine set up, so you can solve this problem for anyone who takes your advice.