Posts

Doing good is as good as it ever was 2020-01-22T22:09:03.527Z · score: 84 (40 votes)
EA Meta Fund and Long-Term Future Fund are looking for applications again until October 11th 2019-09-13T19:34:24.347Z · score: 34 (16 votes)
EA Meta Fund: we are open to applications 2019-01-05T13:32:03.778Z · score: 27 (14 votes)
When causes multiply 2018-08-06T15:51:45.619Z · score: 19 (18 votes)
Against prediction markets 2018-05-12T12:08:35.307Z · score: 18 (20 votes)
Comparative advantage in the talent market 2018-04-11T23:48:56.176Z · score: 24 (27 votes)
Meta: notes on EA Forum moderation 2018-03-16T21:14:20.570Z · score: 9 (9 votes)
Causal Networks Model I: Introduction & User Guide 2017-11-17T14:51:50.396Z · score: 14 (14 votes)
Request for Feedback: Researching global poverty interventions with the intention of founding a charity. 2015-05-06T10:22:15.298Z · score: 19 (21 votes)
Meetup : How can you choose the best career to do the most good? 2015-03-23T13:17:00.725Z · score: 0 (0 votes)
Meetup : Frankfurt: "Which charities should we donate to?" 2015-02-27T20:42:24.786Z · score: 0 (0 votes)
What we learned from our donation match 2015-02-07T23:13:32.758Z · score: 5 (5 votes)
How can people be persuaded to give more (and more effectively)? 2014-10-14T09:49:42.426Z · score: 6 (8 votes)

Comments

Comment by denise_melchin on EA is vetting-constrained · 2020-06-29T16:51:14.621Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, everything I said above is sadly still true. We still do not receive many applications per distribution cycle (~12).

Comment by denise_melchin on Max_Daniel's Shortform · 2020-06-14T18:00:55.192Z · score: 21 (8 votes) · EA · GW

(Have not read through Max' link dump yet, which seems very interesting, I also feel some skepticism of the 'new optimism' worldview.)

One major disappointment in Pinker's book as well as in related writings for me has been that they do little to acknowledge that how much progress you think the world has seen depends a lot on your values. To name some examples, not everyone views the legalization of gay marriage and easier access to abortion as progress, and not everyone thinks that having plentiful access to consumer goods is a good thing.

I would be very interested in an analysis of 'progress' in light of the different moral foundations discussed by Haidt. I have the impression that Pinker exclusively focuses on the 'care/harm' foundation, while completely ignoring others like Sanctity/purity or Authority/respect and this might be where some part of the disconnect between the 'New optimists' and opponents is coming from.

Comment by denise_melchin on What are the leading critiques of "longtermism" and related concepts · 2020-06-03T17:50:14.880Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

That's very fair, I should have been a lot more specific in my original comment. I have been a bit disappointed that within EA longtermism is so often framed in utilitarian terms - I have found the collection of moral arguments in favour of protecting the long-term future brought forth in The Precipice a lot more compelling and wish they would come up more frequently.

Comment by denise_melchin on Finding an egg cell donor in the EA community · 2020-05-30T17:45:59.806Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

You would need to check the legality of this however - this is illegal in at least a few European countries, including the UK and Germany.

Comment by denise_melchin on What are the leading critiques of "longtermism" and related concepts · 2020-05-30T17:42:48.816Z · score: 11 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Most people don't value not-yet-existing people as much as people already alive. I think it is the EA community holding the fringe position here, not the other way around. Neither is total utilitarianism a majority view among philosophers. (You might want to look into critiques of utilitarianism.)

If you pair this value judgement with a belief that existential risk is less valuable to work on than other issues for affecting people this century, you will probably want to work on "non-longtermist" problems.

Comment by denise_melchin on Finding an egg cell donor in the EA community · 2020-05-24T09:47:34.841Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Hi linn!

Which country are you in? I have been putting a lot of thought into becoming an egg donor in the UK over the past few months and am currently in the evaluation process for one egg bank and one matching service.

First I would like to note that while most matching services primarily match on phenotype, there certainly are some where you get a detailed profile from the potential donors. I would be happy to tell you the name of the matching agency in the UK that I have been working with which strongly encourages getting a good personality match.

I would expect finding a donor directly from the EA community to be much harder, but maybe someone will respond to your request (but it would be good to know where you live!). Feel free to PM to chat more.

Comment by denise_melchin on Long-Term Future Fund and EA Meta Fund applications open until June 12th · 2020-05-15T13:41:20.122Z · score: 13 (8 votes) · EA · GW

We have a limited pot of money available, so our decisions are primarily bottlenecked by its size. We have occasionally (once?) decided to not to spend the complete available amount to have more money available for the next distribution cycle, when we had reason to assume we would be able to make stronger grants then.

I am not sure whether that answered your question?

Comment by denise_melchin on New data suggests the ‘leaders’’ priorities represent the core of the community · 2020-05-15T11:10:43.265Z · score: 19 (7 votes) · EA · GW

This is very much an aside, but I would be really curious how many people you perceive as having changed their views to longtermism would actually agree with this. (According to David's analysis, it is probably a decent amount.)

E.g. I'm wondering whether I would count in this category. From the outside I might have looked like I changed my views towards longtermism, while from the inside I would describe my views as pretty agnostic, but I prioritised community preferences over my own. There might also be some people who felt like they had to appear to have or act on longtermist views to not lose access to the community.

Comment by denise_melchin on New data suggests the ‘leaders’’ priorities represent the core of the community · 2020-05-13T16:35:50.749Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, that is what I meant. Thank you so much for providing additional analysis!

Comment by denise_melchin on New data suggests the ‘leaders’’ priorities represent the core of the community · 2020-05-11T17:31:57.102Z · score: 71 (28 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for looking into the numbers! While I don't have a strong view on how representative the EA Leaders forum is, taking the survey results about engagement at face value doesn't seem right to me.

On the issue of long-termism, I would expect that people who don't identify as long-termists to now report to be less engaged with the EA Community (especially with the 'core') and identify as EA less. Long-termism has become a dominant orientation in the EA Community which might put people off the EA Community, even if their personal views and actions related to doing good haven't changed, e.g. their donations amounts and career plans. The same goes for looking at how long people have been involved with EA - people who aren't compelled by long-termism might have dropped out of identifying as EA without actually changing their actions.

Comment by denise_melchin on What will 80,000 Hours provide (and not provide) within the effective altruism community? · 2020-04-19T11:35:15.541Z · score: 53 (26 votes) · EA · GW

Strong upvoted. I think a post like this is extremely useful as a resource to clarify 80,000 hours role for the community. I appreciate 80,000 hours has previously been putting effort into communicating how they see their role in the community in comments on this Forum, but communicating this clearly in one place so people can easily point to it seems very valuable to me.

Comment by denise_melchin on Discontinuous progress in history: an update · 2020-04-18T17:21:26.759Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Great post!

Brief note: I found The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage (basically a history of the telegraph) very useful for training my intuition what the development of a discontinuity like the telegraph looked like both from the scientists' and engineers' perspective as well as the societal changes that followed.

Comment by denise_melchin on My personal cruxes for working on AI safety · 2020-02-13T22:03:43.648Z · score: 11 (8 votes) · EA · GW

This was great, thank you. I've been asking people about their reasons to work on AI safety as opposed to other world improving things, assuming they want to maximize the world improving things they do. Wonderful when people write it up without me having to ask!

One thing this post/your talk would have benefited from to make things clearer (or well, at least for me) is if you gave more detail on the question of how you define 'AGI', since all the cruxes depend on it.

Thank you for defining AGI as something that can do regularly smart human things and then asking the very important question how expensive that AGI is. But what are those regularly smart human things? What fraction of them would be necessary (though that depends a lot on how you define 'task')?

I still feel very confused about a lot of things. My impression is that AI is much better than humans at quite a few narrow tasks though this depends on the definition. If AI was suddenly much better than humans at half of all the tasks human can do, but sucked at the rest, then that wouldn't count as artificial 'general' intelligence under your definition(?) but it's unclear to me whether that would be any less transformative though this depends a lot on the cost again. Now that I think about it, I don't think I understand how your definition of AGI is different to the results of whole-brain emulation, apart from the fact that they used different ways to get there. I'm also not clear on whether you use the same definition as other people, whether those usually use the same one and how much all the other cruxes depend on how exactly you define AGI.

Comment by denise_melchin on Who should give sperm/eggs? · 2020-02-12T21:44:17.321Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I'm fairly surprised by this response, this doesn't match what I have read. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority imposes a limit for sperm and egg donors to donate to a maximum of ten families in the UK, although there is no limit on how many children might be born to these ten families (I'm struggling to link, but google 'HFEA ten family limit'). But realistically, they won't all want to have three children.

I'm curious whether you have a source for the claim that 99% of prospective sperm donors in the UK get rejected? I'm much less confident about this, but this doesn't line up with my impression. I also didn't have the impression they were particularly picky about egg donors, unlike in the US.

But yes, it's true for sperm and egg donors alike that in the UK they can be contacted once the offspring turns 18.

Comment by denise_melchin on Who should give sperm/eggs? · 2020-02-09T19:27:29.284Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

There are also multiple medical and genetic appointments required in advance. I am currently undergoing the process to become an egg donor in the UK (though there is a good chance that I will be rejected) and the process is quite involved. To some extent, this is also true for sperm donors.

Comment by denise_melchin on Who should give sperm/eggs? · 2020-02-09T19:25:33.391Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Adding to what Khorton said, it depends a lot on what your bar for doing good that you consider worth doing is and what you consider 'doing good' to be.

In the UK, there is an egg and sperm donor shortage, so there is some chance you will cause children to exist that wouldn't have existed otherwise (instead of just 'replacing' children).

Comment by denise_melchin on Doing good is as good as it ever was · 2020-01-26T18:18:44.633Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

No, I haven't. Given the amount of upvotes Phil's comment received (from which I conclude a decent fraction of people do find arguments in this space demotivating which is important to know) I will probably read up on it again. But I very rarely write top-level posts and the probability of this investigation turning into one is negligible.

Comment by denise_melchin on Doing good is as good as it ever was · 2020-01-25T19:58:34.442Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Through thinking about these comments, I did remember an EA Forum thread in which ii) and iii) were argued about from 4 years ago: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ajPY6zxSFr3BbMsb5/are-givewell-top-charities-too-speculative

It's worth reading the comment section in full. Turns out my position has been consistent for the past 4 years (though I should have remembered that thread!).

Comment by denise_melchin on Doing good is as good as it ever was · 2020-01-25T19:31:49.411Z · score: 18 (8 votes) · EA · GW

I've been involved in the community since 2012 - the changes seem drastic to me, both based on in-person interactions with dozens of people as well as changes in the online landscape (e.g. the EA Forum/EA Facebook groups).

But that is not in itself surprising. The EA community is on average older than when it started. Youth movements are known for becoming less enthusiastic and ambitious over time, when it turns out that changing the world is actually really, really hard.

A better test is: how motivated do EAs feel who are of a similar demographic to long-term EAs years ago when EA started? I have the impression they are much less motivated. It used to be a common occurrence in e.g. Facebook groups to see people writing about how motivating they have found it to be around other EAs. This is much rarer than it used to be. I've met a few new-ish early 20s EAs and I don't think I can even name a single one who is as enthusiastic as the average EA was in 2013. I wonder whether the lack of new projects being started by young EAs is partially caused by this (though I am sure there are other causes).

To be clear, I don't think there has been as drastic a change since 2018, which is I think when you started participating in the community.

Comment by denise_melchin on Doing good is as good as it ever was · 2020-01-22T22:08:36.926Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

In principle you only need i) and iii), that's true, but I think in practice ii) is usually also required. Humans are fairly scope insensitive, and I doubt we'd see low community morale from ordinary do gooding actions being less good by a factor of two or three. As an example, historically GiveWell estimates of how much saving a life with AMF costs have differed by about this much - and it didn't seem to have much of an impact on community morale. Not so now.

Our crux seems to be that you assume cluelessness or ideas in the same space are a large factor in producing low community morale for doing good. I must admit that I was surprised by this response, I personally haven't found these arguments to be particularly persuasive, and most people around me seem to feel similarly about such arguments, if they are familiar with them at all.

Comment by denise_melchin on Doing good is as good as it ever was · 2020-01-19T09:54:09.803Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Yep, I agree that if i) you personally buy into the long-termist thesis, and ii) you expect the long-term effects of ordinary do gooding actions to be bigger than short-term effects, and iii) you expect these long-term effects to be negative, then it makes sense to be less enthusiastic about your ability to do good than before.

However, I doubt most people who feel like I described in the post fall into this category. As you said, you were uncertain about how common this feeling is. Lots of people hear about the much bigger impact you can have by focussing on the far future. Significantly fewer are well versed in the specific details and practical implications of long-termism.

While I have heard about people believing ii) and iii), I haven't seen either argument carefully written up anywhere. I'd assume this is true for lots of people. There has been a big push in the EA community to believe i), this has not been true for ii) and iii) as far as I can tell.

Comment by denise_melchin on In praise of unhistoric heroism · 2020-01-08T16:39:32.734Z · score: 51 (26 votes) · EA · GW

Thinking about this further, one concern I have with this post as well as Ollie's comment is that I think people could unduly underrate the amount of good the average Westerner can actually do after reading it.

If you have a reasonably high salary or donate more than 10% (and assuming donations don't become much less cost-effective) to AMF or similarly effective charities, you can save hundreds of lives over your lifetime. Saving one life via AMF is currently estimated to cost around only £2,500. If you only earn the average graduate salary forever and only donate 10%, you can still save dozens of lives.

For reference, Oskar Schindler saved 1200 lives and is now famous for it worldwide.

My words at someone's funeral who saved dozens or even hundreds of lives would be a lot more laudatory than what was said about Dorothea.

Comment by denise_melchin on In praise of unhistoric heroism · 2020-01-08T12:01:20.344Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Great post. I also think we could work more on the root cause of people feeling like this. Perhaps the message should be: "Doing good and having an impact is not about you. Doing good is for the world, its people and other living beings."

Comment by denise_melchin on More info on EA Global admissions · 2020-01-06T14:39:43.008Z · score: 34 (13 votes) · EA · GW

This might be a slightly silly suggestion and I'm not sure how best to implement it, but I think it might be useful to remind potential attendees that attending EAG is not obligatory just because you are part of the EA Community and/or care a lot about doing good well. I heard from a few people who weren't particularly excited about attending EAG, but still did it because that's 'what you do as an EA'. It seems sad that these people take up spots from people who are actually keen on EAG itself.

It only occurred to me fairly late last year that attending EAG is actually entirely optional. On a side note, rising ticket prices did help me come to the realisation that I did not actually want to go (and therefore didn't take up a spot from someone who was more keen on going).

Comment by denise_melchin on More info on EA Global admissions · 2020-01-04T23:19:06.691Z · score: 24 (9 votes) · EA · GW

I don't feel like I get more value out of large conferences and I'd be curious about seeing more data on this question. For me, having more people at a conference makes it harder to physically find the people I actually want to talk to. They make up a smaller fraction of attendees and are more spread out. I have also had the impression that conversations at large conferences are shorter. In combination, I get much less value out of very large events compared to small or medium sized ones.

The event size was one of the main reasons I decided not to attend EAG London this year for the first time. It is too big for me to get sufficient value out of it.

Comment by denise_melchin on Thoughts on doing good through non-standard EA career pathways · 2020-01-04T19:56:03.269Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · EA · GW

5. also has a negative impact on the people who are trying to decide between different career options and would actually be happy to hear constructive criticism. I often feel like I cannot trust others to be honest in their feedback if I'm deciding between career options because they prefer to be 'nice'.

Comment by denise_melchin on EA Meta Fund November 2019 Payout Report · 2019-12-11T19:31:17.507Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Well, I'd assume this is because the LTFF team has more time available than the Meta Fund team. Plausibly largely driven by one volunteer who is very happy to spend a lot of time on the LTFF.

Comment by denise_melchin on EA Meta Fund November 2019 Payout Report · 2019-12-11T18:45:46.900Z · score: 14 (9 votes) · EA · GW

I'm part of the Meta Fund committee and was the person who decided against giving feedback in the aforementioned cases.

Unfortunately, giving good feedback is very difficult and something the Meta Fund committee currently isn't reliably able to provide. I have provided candidates with feedback when I felt I could give easily understandable practical suggestions that would actually lead to the project being more likely to be funded in the future (or explained why this was not likely to happen) and I could do this without investing more than a couple of hours per applicant.

In practice, this sadly means applicants do not get provided with feedback very often (I would need to check, but it might be in 20% of cases). I think giving good feedback is very valuable, but this is unfortunately currently beyond our resources.

Comment by denise_melchin on My experience on a summer research programme · 2019-10-10T08:11:40.067Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you Max, strong upvoted. It sounds like you put a lot of thought into making the programme run better than in previous years and succeeded.

Comment by denise_melchin on My experience on a summer research programme · 2019-09-25T10:27:39.190Z · score: 20 (8 votes) · EA · GW

I agree with this. I think the setup of the CEA Summer Fellowship programme is a bit concerning.

Adding to the points you mentioned (little supervision, doesn't provide good evidence for career paths outside EA organisations) it is also an unpaid programme that does not by default result in job offers being made to the best performers. *

I'm worried that students will think this programme will advance their future career, while I doubt this is true in most cases. Instead they might just pay high opportunity costs.


*At least this was true 1-2 years ago, I'm not entirely sure what the most recent iteration of the programme looks like.

Comment by denise_melchin on [Link] What opinions do you hold that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of effective altruists? Anonymous form. · 2019-09-15T21:36:08.166Z · score: 16 (9 votes) · EA · GW

I would expect that apart from contraception global health interventions to be most helpful in reducing deaths of unborn humans. Miscarriages and stillbirths are a much bigger deal than abortions, and in developing countries there is still a lot of room for health interventions to help for little money.

I would be surprised if other interventions to reduce unborn deaths were very cost-effective, even if you have a worldview which values embryos as much as newborns.*

I'd just be curious to see a writeup, especially of the impact of contraception access. Unborn humans don't feature in traditional QALY-based effectiveness analyses and I'd be interested how the results would change if they were included, even if at a discounted rate. I am not expecting this to be a promising area for most people interested in effective altruism.

*An exception might be if you value pre-implantation blastocysts as much as born humans, in which case your priority could well be to sterilize everyone. See also Toby Ord's paper The Scourge.

Comment by denise_melchin on [Link] What opinions do you hold that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of effective altruists? Anonymous form. · 2019-09-13T20:25:35.316Z · score: 35 (17 votes) · EA · GW

A non-trivial fraction of the responses seem to me like widely-held beliefs ('popular unpopular opinions'), at least in my particular EA cluster (UK, mostly London). Some of them and other perhaps less widely-held ones I have expressed to other people, and there at least weren't any immediate obvious social repercussions.

Of course there are also many responses I completely disagree with.

"We should evaluate reducing abortions as an EA cause."

I once even wrote a research proposal on this for the CEA Summer Research Fellowship 2017. I was then invited to the programme.

Comment by denise_melchin on Cause X Guide · 2019-09-03T11:14:57.767Z · score: 18 (8 votes) · EA · GW

For 2.) e.g. in Germany homeschooling is illegal and attending school is a legal requirement for every child.

Comment by denise_melchin on What book(s) would you want a gifted teenager to come across? · 2019-08-07T19:26:04.278Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I think sharing with caveats can make sense. But I don’t think it’s a good idea for a teacher to recommend this book without clarifying that they do not endorse the views by the author.

My vague memory of me reading it at 16 is that I found a lot of the stories interesting, but was also put off by his attitude.

Comment by denise_melchin on What book(s) would you want a gifted teenager to come across? · 2019-08-06T16:12:58.920Z · score: 1 (18 votes) · EA · GW

I wouldn't recommend this book, especially not to gifted women. Feynman is very sexist.

Comment by denise_melchin on EA Forum 2.0 Initial Announcement · 2019-07-12T11:22:03.271Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

>> I've switched off the karma display on all comments and my experience improved. The karma system tends to mess up with my S1 processing.

Fully understand if you don't want to, but I'm curious if you could elaborate on this. I'm not entirely sure what you mean.

Comment by denise_melchin on Applications for EA Global: London 2019 are now open · 2019-07-11T11:51:42.285Z · score: 19 (8 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for posting this and especially organizing the EAGs in general! They are a valuable community contribution.

One thing I'm curious about is why the prize for a ticket has increased?

Comment by denise_melchin on What's the best structure for optimal allocation of EA capital? · 2019-06-05T13:04:59.196Z · score: 33 (15 votes) · EA · GW

I find some of the statements in your post a bit jarring, and this is not the first time I feel like this when reading your writing. The founders of Good Ventures are multi-billionaires who have been influenced by EA ideas which stem to some extent from the EA community. This is excellent. But the EA community does not have ownership over this money. Your writing makes it sound like it does, which I find presumptuous and off-putting.

For the future, I would recommend that you should try to better understand the relationships between different individuals and institutions that are associated with the Effective Altruism community before asking questions like this one.

(writing in personal capacity here, not as a mod)

Comment by denise_melchin on What's the best structure for optimal allocation of EA capital? · 2019-06-05T13:03:12.968Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I find your writing a bit jarring, and this is not the first time. The founders of Good Ventures are multi-billionaires who have been influenced by EA ideas which stem from the EA community. This is excellent. But the EA community does not have ownership over this money. Your writing makes it sound like it does, which I find presumptuous and off-putting.

For the future, I would recommend that you should try to better understand the relationships between different individuals and institutions that are associated with the Effective Altruism community before asking questions like this one.

Comment by denise_melchin on Is preventing child abuse a plausible Cause X? · 2019-05-08T11:05:46.171Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I think it's worth noting what the report says about family structures that fall in neither category - both married and unmarried parents where one parent isn't biologically related to the child but still takes on a parental role as well as single parents without a partner fall somewhere in between married biological parents and single parents with partner in terms of child abuse rates.

(I was a bit confused and thought 'single parents with partner' included cases in which the partner takes on parental responsibility so the high rate seemed off to me.)

Comment by denise_melchin on Why isn't GV psychedelics grantmaking housed under Open Phil? · 2019-05-07T16:49:07.945Z · score: 16 (6 votes) · EA · GW

But asking privately only gives one person the answer, instead of many. I'm a bit surprised by your response - I had expected that the group who knows the answer usually has better things to do than answer random emails, while there are a lot of individuals who probably have knowledge like this whose time isn't as valuable.

Comment by denise_melchin on Will splashy philanthropy cause the biosecurity field to focus on the wrong risks? · 2019-05-01T14:15:18.163Z · score: 11 (8 votes) · EA · GW

This seems like a reasonable piece to me, laying out the basic groundwork for more future scrutiny on philanthropy's impact on the biosecurity field, but not more than that. ('Establishing common knowledge' seems like a good summary to me.)

A large influx of money can significantly change a field, and generally speaking, it is much harder for sudden big changes to improve the state of affairs than to make them worse. That said, sudden large changes, even if net positive overall, will often have some negative side effects, and I would expect more money for a 'do good-ing' field to lead to more good overall.

Something that might be interesting to see would be a survey of top people in the biosecurity field how this has changed their field and whether they view this change as positive. Generally speaking, I would expect them to have a much better grasp of empirical prioritisation questions in biosecurity than a few people at a large foundation, no matter how careful they are and how much work they put in. The more work large foundations put into being in touch with people in the field, the less concerned one needs to be I think.

Similar criticisms also exist in other fields, e.g. about the Gates foundation drowning out primary health care work by focusing on vaccinations and specific diseases and inadvertently causing some harm this way. I have not investigated the merits of this criticism, but it seems like a worthwhile thing to do.

Comment by denise_melchin on Thoughts on 80,000 Hours’ research that might help with job-search frustrations · 2019-04-20T06:14:37.189Z · score: 17 (8 votes) · EA · GW
80,000 Hours thinks earning to give is the best option for a substantial number of people -- those for whom it's their comparative advantage. They are keen, however, to make sure that people fully consider direct work options, instead of defaulting to earning to give because they’ve heard it is the best way to do good with one’s career.

If I remember correctly, 80,000 Hours has stated that they think 15% of people in the EA Community should be pursuing earning to give. Have they revised this opinion or am I remembering it incorrectly?

If not, your description seems a bit misleading to me. Substantial number sounds like a significantly higher fraction of people to me, perhaps something like 40% instead of 15%.

Comment by denise_melchin on EA Forum Prize: Winners for February 2019 · 2019-04-01T12:34:33.303Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA · GW

As one of the people who voted, I was also surprised and disappointed by this. But different voters applied different standards on what kind of content they wish to support.

Comment by denise_melchin on Request for comments: EA Projects evaluation platform · 2019-03-21T18:22:44.095Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · EA · GW

(I still feel like I don’t really understand where you’re coming from.)

I am concerned that your model of how idea proposals get evaluated (and then plausibly funded) is a bit off. From the original post:

hard to evaluate which project ideas are excellent , which are probably good, and which are too risky for their estimated return.

You are missing one major category here: projects which are simply bad because they do have approximately zero impact, but aren't particularly risky. I think this category is the largest of the the four.

Which projects have a chance of working and which don't is often pretty clear to people who have experience evaluating projects quite quickly (which is why Oli suggested 15min for the initial investigation above). It sounds to me a bit like your model of ideas which get proposed is that most of them are pretty valuable. I don't think this is the case.

When funders give general opinions on what should or should not get started or how you value or not value things, again, I think you are at greater risk of having too much of an influence on the community. I do not believe the knowledge of the funders is strictly better than the knowledge of grant applicants.

I am confused by this. Knowledge of what?

The role of funders/evaluators is to evaluate projects (and maybe propose some for others to do). To do this well they need to have a good mental map of what kind of projects have worked or not worked in the past, what good and bad signs are, ideally from an explicit feedback loop from funding projects and then seeing how the projects turn out. The role of grant applicants is to come up with some ideas they could execute. Do you disagree with this?

Comment by denise_melchin on Request for comments: EA Projects evaluation platform · 2019-03-21T15:10:11.348Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · EA · GW
I think it much harder to give open feedback if it is closely tied with funding. Feedback from funders can easily have too much influence on people, and should be very careful and nuanced, as it comes from some position of power. I would expect adding financial incentives can easily be detrimental for the process. (For self-referential example, just look on this discussion: do you think the fact that Oli dislikes my proposal and suggest LTF can back something different with $20k will not create at least some unconscious incentives?)

I'm a bit confused here. I think I disagree with you, but maybe I am not understanding you correctly.

I consider having people giving feedback to have 'skin in the game' to be important for the accuracy of the feedback. Most people don't enjoy discouraging others they have social ties with. Often reviewers without sufficient skin in the game might be tempted to not be as openly negative about proposals as they should be.

Funders instead can give you a strong signal - a signal which is unfortunately somewhat binary and lacks nuance. But someone being willing to fund something or not is a much stronger signal for the value of a proposal than comments from friends on a GoogleDoc. This is especially true if people proposing ideas don't take into account how hard it is to discourage people and don't interpret feedback in that light.

Comment by denise_melchin on A guide to improving your odds at getting a job in EA · 2019-03-19T15:42:27.490Z · score: 18 (11 votes) · EA · GW
EA jobs, unlike many other jobs, do not compare very well to other kinds of work experience,

I'm pretty sceptical of this claim (not just made here, but also made in many other posts). I think this might be true for some roles like the Research Analyst positions at the Open Philanthropy Project which combine academic research with grantmaking which is unusual in the wider job market.

But I don't see why e.g. operations at an average EA organisation would not compare well to other kinds of work experience in operations. I'm happy to hear counterarguments to this.

The underlying crux here might be that I'm generally wary of any claims of 'EA exceptionalism'.

Comment by denise_melchin on A guide to improving your odds at getting a job in EA · 2019-03-19T15:37:26.298Z · score: 25 (15 votes) · EA · GW

This list seems roughly reasonable. What most stands out to me is that your suggestions are extremely time consuming, especially in aggregate. The hours applicants to jobs at EA organisations spend on timed work tests and honing their CVs pale in comparison.

I also think your suggestions are applicable to some other fields which might be of interest to people who are trying to have a high impact. It is not unusual for desirable roles in e.g. international development to require hundreds to thousands of hours of investment.

However, if people are investing those thousands of hours into learning about EA, they will not spend them investing in international development or nuclear security.

While people following your suggestions might benefit individually, as a movement we and the world might be worse off.

Comment by denise_melchin on EA is vetting-constrained · 2019-03-13T13:33:35.392Z · score: 63 (20 votes) · EA · GW

(Funding manager of the EA Meta Fund here)

We have run an application round for our last distribution for the first time. I conducted the very initial investigation which I communicated to the committee. Previous grantees came all through our personal network.

Things we learnt during our application round:

i) We got significantly fewer applications than we expected and would have been able to spend more time vetting projects. This was not a bottleneck. After some investigation through personal outreach I have the impression there are not many projects being started in the Meta space (this is different for other funding spaces).

ii) We were able to fund a decent fraction of the applications we received (25%?). For about half of the applications I was reasonably confident that they did not meet the bar so I did not investigate further. The remaining quarter felt borderline to me, I often still investigated but the results confirmed my initial impression.

My current impression for the Meta space is that we are not vetting constrained, but more mentoring/pro-active outreach constrained. One thing we want to do in the future is to run a request for proposals process.

Comment by denise_melchin on SHOW: A framework for shaping your talent for direct work · 2019-03-13T08:37:38.458Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · EA · GW

This isn't really comparing like with like however - in one case you're doing cold outreach and in others there are established application processes. It might make more sense to compare the demand for researcher positions with e.g. the Toby Ord's Research Assistant position.

But if your point is that people should be more willing to do cold outreach for research assistant positions like you did, that seems fair.