ChanaMessinger's Shortform 2022-01-08T19:10:23.756Z
How To Raise Others’ Aspirations in 17 Easy Steps 2022-01-06T00:18:46.426Z


Comment by ChanaMessinger on ChanaMessinger's Shortform · 2022-01-16T17:07:11.033Z · EA · GW

I hope to flesh this out at some point, but I just want to put somewhere that by default (from personal experience and experience as an instructor and teacher) I think sleepaway experiences (retreats, workshops, camps) are potentially emotionally intense for at least 20% of participants, even entirely setting aside content (CFAR has noted this as well): away from normal environment, new social scene with all kinds of status-stuff to figure out, less sleep, lots of late night conversations that can be very powerful, romantic / sexual stuff in a charged environment, a lot of closeness happening very quickly because of being around each other 24/7, anything going on from outside the environment that's stressful you have less time and space to deal with. This can be valuable in the sense of giving people a chance to fully immerse themselves, but it's a lot, especially for younger people and it is worth organizers explicitly noting this in organizing, talking about it to participants, providing time for chillness / regrounding and being off the clock, and having people around who it's easy to talk to if you're going through a hard time.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on ChanaMessinger's Shortform · 2022-01-08T19:10:24.318Z · EA · GW

Template for EA Calls

Over the last six months, I've been having more and more calls with people interested in EA and EA careers. Sometimes I'm one of their first calls because they know me from social things, and sometimes I'm an introduction someone else (eg at 80k has made). I've often found that an hour, my standard length for a call, feels very short. Sometimes I just chat, sometimes I try to have more of a plan.  Of course a lot depends on context, but I'm interested in having a bit of a template so that I can be maximally helpful to them in limited time (I can't be a career coach for everyone I'm introduced to) and with the specifics that I can give (not trying to replicate / replace eg 80k advising).

Posting so that people can give advice / help me with it and/or use it if it seems helpful.


  • What's your relationship to EA?
    • I think I currently either spend no time on this or way too much time. I'm hoping this question (rather than "how did you get involved with EA?" or "what do you know about EA" will keep it short but useful). I'm also considering asking this more as a matter of course before the call.
  • What are your current options / thinking?
    • This is a place where, for people early in their thinking (which is most of the people I talk to) I tend to recommend a 5 minute timer to generate more options, advise taking a more explore attitude
    • Frequently recommend looking for small experiments to find out what they might like or are good at
    • I tend to recommend developing a view on which of the options are best by the metrics they care about, including impact
    • When relevant, I want to make a habit of recommending useful reading / podcast
    • Sometimes trying to raise people's ambitions (
  • I want to find out what sets them apart / their skillset, but I don't currently have a really good way of doing this if I don't already know that doesn't feel interview-y
  • The ways I think I can often be most helpful, especially for people really new to institutional EA is to tell them about landscape
    • giving an overview of orgs, foundations, and types of work
    • tell them what I know about who else is working on things they're excited about
    • sometimes that some of their interests aren't a focus of most EA work / money
    • asking about their views on longtermism
    • what people think are the main bottlenecks and do they have an interest in developing those skills
      • management
      • ops
      • vetting / grantmaking
  • If they're talking to me specifically about community building / outreach, I give my view on the landscape there: what's happening, what people are excited about, etc.
  • I also have given my thoughts on how to make 80k advising most helpful
    • Be honest about your biggest uncertainties and what you want help from them on
    • Really try to generate options
    • I wonder what else I can say here

It's possible I should ask more about the cause areas they care about - that feels like it's such a big conversation that it doesn't fit in an hour, but maybe it's really crucial. Don't know! Still figuring it out.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Think about EA alignment like skill mastery, not cult indoctrination · 2022-01-08T18:37:30.743Z · EA · GW

I like the "skill-mastery" framing, and have both "think about it in the shower" and "gears-level mastery" as orientations in my thinking. I didn't have deliberate practice cached as much, nor the cluster of the three, but I think it's good and reminds me of the way the rationality community talks about the need for rationalist dojos and practice to actually become more rational.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA outreach to high school competitors · 2021-12-23T20:10:39.111Z · EA · GW

If any of the people who run debate camps or major tournaments are into EA or open to it, I'd be excited about talking to them or intro-ing them to other people, fwiw.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA outreach to high school competitors · 2021-12-23T12:07:08.543Z · EA · GW

I have a similar model to you about these students. How in touch are you with current high schoolers doing this kind of thing?

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA outreach to high school competitors · 2021-12-23T12:05:35.689Z · EA · GW

Cool! Are you still in contact with friends still in high school and doing LD?

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA outreach to high school competitors · 2021-12-23T12:04:48.812Z · EA · GW

Hey! I have been on the lookout for people connected to debate. I was my school's Public Forum debate coach for four years, but I wouldn't want it to come from me, and I don't work at that school anymore. I spoke with one very good mock trialler recently who might try out speaking to his organizations and the national competitions. If you're still in contact with high school debaters, let's talk!

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA outreach to high school competitors · 2021-12-23T12:02:23.576Z · EA · GW

Agreed that this is promising! From my perspective in the outreach space (high school teacher, SPEAR/ESPR instructor, had lots of conversations about this at EAG with people running other outreach), this is generally well-accepted, though afaik debate and non-math but still STEM competitions haven't been implemented yet*, and I've been pushing for that.

There's few enough people in these competitions (especially in UK/US, which Richard Annilo may not have been talking about) that I think there's a definite risk of over reaching out to the same people (and generally coming on too strong), so I'd recommend communication before action, but I think if folks have specific connections to the relevant communities, they should definitely make that known and they might be the right liasons for suggesting summer programs/readings/internships through the competitions themselves or through the social networks that come out of them.

If someone has these connections, I'm super happy to talk to anyone considering doing this kind of outreach (or can recommend other people to talk to). Just message me through my profile here.

*I've been in touch with a science bowl and mock trial student who is running an EA related science bowl and considering doing some outreach at mock trial national competitions. It's definitely possible there's other outreach I don't know about.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Open Thread: Winter 2021 · 2021-12-15T13:23:48.443Z · EA · GW

Cool! Peter McIntyre is working on things like #1 and might be interested in 2 and 3 as well. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try it on your own, but that might be someone to get in touch with!

Comment by ChanaMessinger on I need help on choosing a research question · 2021-12-12T17:21:14.711Z · EA · GW

Doesn't look like I'm able to access the diigo doc, not sure if others are having that problem. I recommend Michael Aird's repository of tons of open research questions, some organized by topic.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on A Mental Health Podcast Directory · 2021-11-28T17:10:03.033Z · EA · GW

Not a big deal, but Howie's 80k podcast also talks about ADHD, fwiw.

So great of you to put together a compilation! Any chance you would be willing to indicate which you have listened to yourself and found to be good? I'm happy to vouch for the 80k one and the Ezra Klein on anxiety.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA Communication Project Ideas · 2021-11-23T17:15:46.464Z · EA · GW

Will do! First thing has been to write up the workshop I gave at the post EAG student organizer retreat as a Twitter thread. (Link here: Not amazing reach, but something I'll keep playing with.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-23T17:13:27.998Z · EA · GW

I suspect that for all the but the most gung-ho people, the second should come before the first, or take up the first half of the meeting. I remember doing community building for the Jewish community in college and people started to find some of the overweening helpfulness off-putting. (But organizers may just be better at it than I was)

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-23T17:11:18.805Z · EA · GW

Sorry, I meant that if that was the only thing someone had done, it wouldn't have been enough engagement for me to trust they had a good foundation.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-21T08:44:31.892Z · EA · GW

I like that idea too! Maybe could start after a few weeks to gauge interest?

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-21T08:35:29.511Z · EA · GW

True - I wonder if two things that might address that are

  1. Explicitly inviting people (especially those who may not be as connected) to the social and having organizers be warm and attentive (in general I find that explicit encouragement / invitation is quite powerful!)
  2. Ending the mandatory session with either something fun and social, or deep and personal/reflective (appropriate to context and the conversation that's just happened), which could both transition it to social and be engineered to help the intellectual notes be integrated into one's worldview.
Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-20T17:55:30.733Z · EA · GW
  1. Based on this post, conversations with students, and the comments, seems like it might be worth community organizers' time to brainstorm project ideas (as separate from activity ideas within the fellowship) that would be learning opportunities but actually valuable uses of people's time. If someone thinks this has already been well done, or really tried such that we should update that there aren't so many, I'd love to be linked to it.

1a. Categories I've heard of /thought of /mentioned in this comments section are:

  • low intensity but valuable, like communication projects (
  • summarizing / explaining / making cross-media versions of readings (Michael Aird has argued for things like this): can create things that if good, are valuable for other people who want to understand those readings, and in doing the summarization will hopefully learn the ideas more deeply
  • research: there are many lists of open questions and problems, and then the bottlenecks are probably mentors and research skill, but if there's low hanging fruit, or this and previous category can be combined into a literature review, that seems good
  1. Activities and making things more interactive seems great, I'll try to put together a short form soon with some ideas

3a. I wonder if letting highly engaged people go faster is actually easily fixable given how much podcast and other content there is. If someone's excited after the first meeting or two, they can just listen to 80ks intro series or any that look interesting, without going ahead in the fellowship. Is the problem that then they'd be too well informed?

3b. To akash's point below, anyone especially interested in EA content who would benefit from epistemics reading should maybe just read the sequences/scout mindset (there are now 2/6 small, aesthetically nice books of sequence essays, the first one is here: and push them to incorporate those ideas into the fellowship.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-20T17:42:51.859Z · EA · GW

I think I strongly agree with the value of learning about at least the core arguments for a bunch of different causes. Taking seriously that some people are devoting their whole lives to making the future go better, or worrying about lie detection, or pandemics that have never happened, or digital people, or animals that seem to most people nonsentient really pushes your mind in a particular way, and in some ways, the weirder the better, at least for the purpose of really expanding what people think of when they think of "doing good"

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-20T17:40:05.868Z · EA · GW

I had this idea too but worried that you'd need to have gone to previous ones to engage in the later ones. Maybe there's an optional crash course intro in each one? (Doesn't make me super excited, but maybe)

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-20T17:38:50.035Z · EA · GW

Having a structured set of resources that people could engage with on breaks seems really valuable. It could let highly engaged participants who want to go faster do the "Thanksgiving Break" bingeread, or the "One/two week break" set of readings, or so on, with all of those having activities/interactive elements of that seems valuable. Is this something you're thinking of writing up?

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-20T17:35:43.930Z · EA · GW

Agree with value of late night conversations. Can discussions be held later, and over dinner, with an easy way to transition into just talking?

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-20T17:34:40.315Z · EA · GW

The subscription seems like a really exciting point here, since the tabling post made me think that it's possible to get lots of people on your mailing list. Maybe putting all those people in a Facebook group or discord and seeing if that can be made consistently active, which gives low-cost ways to discuss that can also be scaled up to channels to talk about more in depth stuff, allows people who can't make it to the meetings to come, is an easy way of disseminating resources, etc.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-20T17:30:59.869Z · EA · GW

Really like the point of it being good for the to be a lot going on at once. Days of cause-area specific talks and videos and binging, months of weekly discussion groups, small group dinners to talk about the ideas and uncertainties, things going on at different places and rhythms all the time.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships · 2021-11-20T17:29:19.297Z · EA · GW

I like the expo idea a lot; as I was reading I was thinking of whether there could be a retreat that doesn't involve going anywhere, a full Saturday or Sunday of talks, reading, researching, games, watching videos, having 1-1s, that people can drop into and out of.

That said, I'm not sure I'd trust that anyone who just did one if those was really well acquainted with the ideas or way of thinking.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on EA Communication Project Ideas · 2021-11-19T22:29:49.982Z · EA · GW

This is great! I'll be sharing this with anyone in need of ideas of what to work on.

I specifically like the model of "repurpose everything", like after EAG, follow up on it and keep engagement going. I feel like I can use that in my tweeting directly.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on What EA projects could grow to become megaprojects, eventually spending $100m per year? · 2021-10-25T18:57:22.040Z · EA · GW

Samo Burja said at a meetup the other day that he thinks Vitalik Buterin should give a medium university 10 million dollars to put ten top tier internet bloggers on tenure. No idea if that's a good idea or anywhere near possible, but it could use a decent amount of money for a while.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Snapshot of a career choice 10 years ago · 2021-09-27T12:25:04.953Z · EA · GW

Lovely! This reminds me a lot of Holden talking about the "readiness to switch", where you've built up something you're good at, and then, when you find out how it's useful, you have the ability (material, psychological, etc) to switch.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on What EA projects could grow to become megaprojects, eventually spending $100m per year? · 2021-08-07T12:58:18.912Z · EA · GW

Matt makes lots of money on his independent substack now, so that feels less urgent, but funding other things like future perfect in other news sources as the Rockefeller Foundation does now seems great.

Comment by ChanaMessinger on A spreadsheet with titles and links for over 1900 YouTube EA videos · 2021-08-06T14:38:00.323Z · EA · GW

Don't know if this fits the bill, but this channel talks about papers in AI and it's really fun and useful, especially  for examples of improvements in the field and examples of gaming specifications:

Comment by ChanaMessinger on A spreadsheet with titles and links for over 1900 YouTube EA videos · 2021-08-04T15:56:35.322Z · EA · GW

There's a new channel that could be added: (doesn't have much yet, but seems promising)

Comment by ChanaMessinger on Formalising the "Washing Out Hypothesis" · 2021-03-25T14:34:36.677Z · EA · GW

Thanks for writing this up! It's great to formalize intuitions, and this had a bunch of links I'm interested in following up on.

One simplifying assumption that got made was that both interventions cash out in constant amounts of utility for the duration of their relevance. You spoke at the end about the ways in which conclusions would change by changing assumptions; this seems like an important one! If utility increases over time, you have additional juice in that part of the race. 

Is this basically addressed by you saying you weren't assuming the bigness of the universe (since if there's more people, presumably some good intervention will have more impact) + leaving aside attractor states? I think not quite, since attractor states mostly seem good by limiting the unpredictability rather than by increasing the impact, and I can imagine ways besides there being more people that a good intervention will increase in utility generation over time (snowball effects, allowing other good things to happen on top, etc).

But maybe it just doesn't add a lot to the central idea? The question is simply one of comparing integrals, and we can construct more complicated integrands and model a bunch of different possibilities / hopefully test them empirically and that will tell us a lot about how to proceed.

Thanks for this, and would love your thoughts!