Posts

Why do content blockers still suck? 2021-01-15T22:57:36.480Z
How high impact are UK policy career paths? 2020-12-17T15:04:08.621Z
My mistakes on the path to impact 2020-12-04T22:13:30.309Z
Brief book review 2020 2020-12-03T21:30:07.843Z
Denise_Melchin's Shortform 2020-09-03T06:11:42.046Z
Doing good is as good as it ever was 2020-01-22T22:09:03.527Z
EA Meta Fund and Long-Term Future Fund are looking for applications again until October 11th 2019-09-13T19:34:24.347Z
EA Meta Fund: we are open to applications 2019-01-05T13:32:03.778Z
When causes multiply 2018-08-06T15:51:45.619Z
Against prediction markets 2018-05-12T12:08:35.307Z
Comparative advantage in the talent market 2018-04-11T23:48:56.176Z
Meta: notes on EA Forum moderation 2018-03-16T21:14:20.570Z
Causal Networks Model I: Introduction & User Guide 2017-11-17T14:51:50.396Z
Request for Feedback: Researching global poverty interventions with the intention of founding a charity. 2015-05-06T10:22:15.298Z
Meetup : How can you choose the best career to do the most good? 2015-03-23T13:17:00.725Z
Meetup : Frankfurt: "Which charities should we donate to?" 2015-02-27T20:42:24.786Z
What we learned from our donation match 2015-02-07T23:13:32.758Z
How can people be persuaded to give more (and more effectively)? 2014-10-14T09:49:42.426Z

Comments

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Effective Altruism Polls: A resource that exists · 2021-07-10T17:57:05.248Z · EA · GW

Hi Aaron, thanks for sharing these!

I think it would be best to blur names and pictures however unless you asked for consent by everyone who is depicted. I have not voted in any of the polls, but if I had I would have done it with the assumption that this cannot be traced back to me outside of Facebook.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Rodents farmed for pet snake food · 2021-05-04T18:38:26.168Z · EA · GW

There's something about this exchange I find super charming, thank you for sharing. Maybe how kind you both are, trying to help each other, with both of you earnestly motivated by completely different target audiences - you trying to do well by rats and mice, and the snake owner by snakes.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction' · 2021-04-21T18:23:55.181Z · EA · GW

I like this comment! But I think I would actually go a step further:

I don’t dispute the expertise of the people you listed.

I haven't thought too hard about this, but I think I do actually dispute the expertise of the people Ryan listed. But that is nothing personal about them!

When I think of the term 'expert' I usually have people in mind who are building on decades of knowledge of a lot of different practitioners in their field. The field of global priorities has not existed long enough and has not developed enough depth to have meaningful expertise as I think of the term.

I am very happy to defer to experts if they have orders of magnitude more knowledge than me in a field. I will gladly accept the help of an electrician for any complex electrical problem despite the fact that I changed a light switch that one time.

But I don't think that applies to global priorities for people who are already heavily involved in the EA community - the gap between these EAs and the global priorities 'experts' listed in terms of knowledge about global priorities is much, much smaller than between me and electrician about electrics. So it's much less obvious whether it makes sense for these people to defer.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on My personal cruxes for focusing on existential risks / longtermism / anything other than just video games · 2021-04-13T14:29:25.175Z · EA · GW

Thank you for writing this! I'm currently drafting something similar and your post gave me some new ideas on how to structure it so it would be easy to follow.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time · 2021-04-07T08:37:24.707Z · EA · GW

This is really cool, thank you! :-)

One thought: it is much easier now than it used to be to look at highly upvoted posts. In the old forum old popular posts simply fell by the wayside, now you can sort by them. We also now have the favourites section which encourages people to read highly upvoted posts they haven't read yet.

So I think highly popular posts now look more popular than they really are compared to the past even according to your metric.

Also, I'm proud to say I guessed the most well received forum post according to your metric correctly!

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Jakob_J's Shortform · 2021-04-06T20:43:54.977Z · EA · GW

I was thinking of a salary in the mid £40k range when I said that I feel like I need a higher salary to be able to afford living in London with children as it is my salary as a civil servant. :-) That is significantly above median and average UK salary. And still ~20% above median London salary, though I struggled to quickly find numbers for average London salary.

I think if you have two people earning £40k+ each having kids in London is pretty doable even if both are GWWC pledgers. I think I'd feel uncomfortable if both parents brought in less than £30k, though it would be fine in different areas of the UK.

Only few people in the UK can earn above £80k. Most people have kids anyway. I personally wouldn't think the trade-off you are suggesting is worth it on selfish/child benefiting grounds alone (ignoring EtG potential). But different parents want to make different trade-offs for their children, they value different things.

If you are surrounded by people who think £80k salaries are a necessity to raise children, maybe you would find it helpful to surround yourself more with many different kinds of families of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Their kids can be happy too :-)

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Possible misconceptions about (strong) longtermism · 2021-04-06T15:15:41.817Z · EA · GW

When this post went up, I wrote virtually the same comment, but never sent it! Glad to see you write it up, as well as your below comments. I have the impression that in each supposed example of 'simple cluelessness' people just aren't being creative enough to see the 'complex cluelessness' factors, as you clarify with chairs in other comment.

My original comment even included saying how Phil's example of simple cluelessness is false, but it's false for different reasons than you think: If you try to conceive a child a day later, this will not in expectancy impact when the child will be born. The impact is actually much stronger than that. It will affect whether you are able to conceive in this cycle at all, since eggs can only be fertilized during a very brief window of time (12-24 hours). If you are too late, no baby.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Jakob_J's Shortform · 2021-04-04T17:21:49.012Z · EA · GW

This depends on where you live. But for Europe and the US, usually the biggest expense factors are housing (bigger place required, particularly in the long term) and childcare (both in terms of paid childcare for young children as well as lost wages). In some countries, childcare is subsidized however, sometimes heavily so, reducing the costs.

If just having lots of time was most important for being "successful" in raising a family, it would still cost a lot of money - it is time you cannot spend working.

When I lived in Germany with heavily subsidized childcare, I never felt like I needed to earn a lot of money to have children. Living in the UK now, particularly in London, with very little subsidized childcare, I feel more forced to have a higher earning job.

Julia has written about her experience here.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Some quick notes on "effective altruism" · 2021-03-29T12:47:22.591Z · EA · GW

I personally think the EA community could plausibly grow 1000-fold compared to its current size, i.e. to 2 million people, which would correspond to ~0.1% of the Western population. I think EA is unlikely to be able to attract >1% of the (Western and non-Western) population primarily because understanding EA ideas (and being into them) typically requires a scientific and prosocial/altruistic mindset, advanced education, and the right age (no younger than ~16, not old enough to be too busy with lots of other life goals). Trying to attract >1% of the population would in my view likely lead to a harmful dilution of the EA community. We should decide whether we want to grow more than 1000-fold once we've grown 100-fold and have more information.

I meant this slightly differently than you interpreted it I think. My best guess is that less than 10% of the Western population are capable of entering potentially high impact career paths and we already have plenty of people in the EA community for whom this is not possible. This can be for a variety of reasons: they are not hard-working enough, not smart enough, do not have sufficient educational credentials, are chronically ill, etc. But maybe you think that most people in the current EA community are very well qualified to enter high impact career paths and our crux is there?

While I agree that government jobs are easier to get into than other career paths lauded as high impact in the EA Community (at least this seems to be true for the UK civil service), my impression is that I am a lot more skeptical than other EAs that government careers are a credible high impact career path. I say this as someone who has a government job. I have written a bit about this here, but my thinking on the matter is currently very much a work in progress and the linked post does not include most reasons why I feel skeptical. To me it seems like a solid argument in favour has just not been made.

I would feel excited about a project that tries to find out why donation rates are low (lack of money? lack of room for more funding? saving to give later and make donations more well-reasoned by giving lump sums? a false perception that money won't do much good anymore? something else?) and how we might increase them. (What's your guess for the reasons? I'd be very interested in more discussion about this, it might be worth a separate EA Forum post if that doesn't exist already.)

I completely agree with this (and I think I have mentioned this to you before)! I'm afraid I only have wild guesses why donation rates are low. More generally, I'd be excited about more qualitative research into understanding what EA community members think their bottlenecks to achieving more impact are.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Some quick notes on "effective altruism" · 2021-03-26T20:48:59.335Z · EA · GW

The EA community would probably greatly increase its impact if it focused a bit less on personal donations and a bit more on spending ODA budgets more wisely, improving developing-world health policy, funding growth diagnostics research, vastly increasing government funding for clean meat research, etc.

I think I disagree with this given what the community currently looks like. (This might not be the best place to get into this argument, since it's pretty far from the original points you were trying to make, but here we go.)

Two points of disagreement:

i) The EA Survey shows that current donation rates by EAs are extremely low. From this I conclude that there is way too little focus on personal donations within the EA community. That said, if we get some of the many EAs which are donating very little to work on the suggestions you mention, that is plausibly a net improvement, as the donation rates are so low anyway.

Relatedly, personal donations are one of the few things that everyone can do. In the post, you write that "The longer-term goal is for the EA community to attract highly skilled students, academics, professionals, policy-makers, etc.", but as I understand the terms you use, this is probably less than 10% of the Western population. But maybe you disagree with that?

Accordingly, I do not view this as the longer-term goal of the EA community, but only one of them. Most of the other people who cannot have high-flying high-impact careers, which is most people, should focus on maximizing donations instead.

ii) I think the EA community currently does not have the expertise to reliably have a positive impact on developing world policy. It is extremely easy to do harm in this area. Accordingly, I am also sceptical of the idea to introduce a hits-based global development fund, though I would need to understand better with what you are intending there. I would be very keen for the EA community to develop expertise in this area and some of the suggestions you make e.g growth diagnostics research should help with that. But we are very far from having expertise right now and should act accordingly.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Progress Open Thread: March 2021 · 2021-03-24T10:09:04.980Z · EA · GW

So despite the fact that I spent quite a while thinking about adopting vs. having biological children a few years ago and came out in favour of having biological children for now based on similar concerns you (and Dale) raise about more adverse outcomes in adopted children, I find your conclusion to strongly dissuade from adopting very surprising.

You thinking that adopting might likely be a life-destroying mistake does not seem to line up with the adoption satisfaction data Aaron linked. Maybe you meant this specifically for adopting teenagers? It was not clear from your comment.

In many ways, I prefer more awareness about difficulties in adopting over the naive 'why don't you just adopt?!' do-gooders who want to have children often hear. So I am grateful that this topic is brought up, I would just prefer a more clear pointing out of trade-offs, as well as more emotional sensitivity on the topic.

When I looked into this, I looked more at qualitative accounts (and also tried to answer a slightly different question - does demand from potential parents for low-risk adopted children outstrip how many such children there are?) and less at quantitative data. While this seems like a clear oversight in retrospect, apparently this led me to a more negative impression than is warranted now looking at the data you linked. If you had told me that 1,5% of biological children have substantial drug abuse problems as defined in the paper and asked me to guess the percentage for adopted children, I would have guessed way more than 3,5%. I was also surprised by the adoption satisfaction data Aaron linked. So if anything, you are leaving me with a more positive impression of adoption, and are motivating me to look into the topic again.

Thus I am surprised you are so confident in your position you would be willing to spend so much time on dissuading people to adopt. (You are welcome to try to dissuade me that this is even worth my time looking into it!) To me, the outcomes do not seem to be 'very predictably bad'.

While on average adopted children have worse outcomes than biological children, this really does not need to be true for each individual making this choice. It is also not the only factor which matters. To name some examples which can tilt the decision: infertility, same-sex couples, previous difficult pregnancies or birth trauma, family history of genetic diseases like Huntington's, more garden-variety heritable risk factors for issues like ADHD, autism and depression, how high risk the potential adoptive children actually are, e.g. based on their age and previous history, etc.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Please stand with the Asian diaspora · 2021-03-20T09:39:19.218Z · EA · GW

Despite the lack of good data, I suspect that it is indeed the case that anti-asian crimes have risen significantly this year. We known that violent crime in general has increased significantly since the BLM protests/riots of last summer, and that attacks on asians are disproportionately caused by blacks (28% for 2018, the last year we have data, vs just 15% for white and hispanic victims). So my guess is that reductions in policing as a result of the protests have left many asians exposed. Most races are primarily victimised by others of the same race (62% for whites, 70% for blacks), but this is far less true for asians (24%). Presumably it is these inter-racial crimes that asians disproportionately suffer from which either are, or at least are reported as, hate crimes.

Given the one source you give, I am wondering whether you are talking about the US only? If so, this is something you should clarify in this paragraph, as I would not necessarily expect patterns like this to generalize to other countries.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on AMA: Toby Ord @ EA Global: Reconnect · 2021-03-17T21:41:29.265Z · EA · GW

+1, very interested in this. I didn't find the reasons in the Precipice that compelling/not detailed enough, so I'd be curious for more.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Against neutrality about creating happy lives · 2021-03-15T19:11:32.520Z · EA · GW

Maybe this is just an ex post vs. ex ante distinction? If children with unfortunate lives think they just got unlucky and think their lives would have been positive in expectancy, they might not think that their parents did anything morally wrong. But they might feel differently if the parents knew their children would have a very serious genetic medical condition.

(But this is wild speculation, I have not checked for any empirical data on this.)

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Why do so few EAs and Rationalists have children? · 2021-03-15T16:18:17.640Z · EA · GW

In my answer I was assuming that the children go to school (usually between 9am-3:30pm in the UK) and I'd guess Greg was assuming the same, therefore only having to cover 1-2 hours working while children are present each day.

Otherwise I agree, this is much harder if children don't go to school!

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Why do so few EAs and Rationalists have children? · 2021-03-15T10:14:01.554Z · EA · GW

It seems to me Greg was talking about school-age children where I think having a WFH parent will often be sufficient. I agree having a WFH parent for small children isn't much help, as taking care of them is usually a full-time job on its own.

That said, most of the childcare cost in the UK does seem to come from the first few years (as it is a full-time job) and not from when children are school-age.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Why Hasn't Effective Altruism Grown Since 2015? · 2021-03-10T12:28:27.285Z · EA · GW

I completely agree with this, thank you for writing it up! This is also an issue I have with some elements of the 'drifting' debate - I'm not too fussed whether someone stays involved in the EA community (though I think it can be good to check whether there have been new insights), I care about people actually still doing good.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Progress Open Thread: March 2021 · 2021-03-04T20:54:04.446Z · EA · GW

First of all, it's great that you are considering this (or are already most of the way there?)!

Here was a discussion on the same topic that might interest you. If you have Facebook and would like to join the Parents in Effective Altruism group, there was also a discussion on this topic here.

Good luck!

Edit: I also really enjoyed the story of this couple which adopted over 20 children. They were featured in the book Strangers Drowning covering highly altruistically motivated people, which included stories about EAs as well.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Progress Open Thread: March 2021 · 2021-03-04T20:38:51.603Z · EA · GW

I strongly disagree with this comment for various reasons, and for the sake of my nerves I won't go through them all. Just one thing:

Usually the argument for adopting an older child is not that you can expect to raise their IQ points a bit or their income in adulthood. But twin adoption studies also show, and Caplan discusses that in his book, that treating your children well is something that will make a difference to them by how they remember and relate to you. The foster system is often a pretty awful experience to children, so you will make their life better by giving them a loving home, even if it will never show on their IQ tests. Feeling loved and cared for matters.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Doing good is as good as it ever was · 2021-02-19T19:18:26.911Z · EA · GW

Hi Milan,

This was now quite a while ago but I have spent some time trying to figure out why I don't find cluelessness arguments persuasive. After we spent a bunch of time deconfusing ourselves, Alex has written up almost everything I could say on the subject in a long comment chain here.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Running an AMA on the EA Forum · 2021-02-18T16:23:57.276Z · EA · GW

Maybe a group AMA thread would be a good idea, where everyone can post a comment that they are happy to answer questions?

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Open and Welcome Thread: February 2021 · 2021-02-13T13:32:35.941Z · EA · GW

Your observations is correct. How much karma you start off with depends on the amount of karma you have - unfortunately I don't know the minimum required to start off with 2 karma. The more karma you have, the more weighty your strong upvotes become as well (mine are 7 karma, before I hit 2500 karma it was 6).

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Retention in EA - Part II: Possible Projects · 2021-02-05T21:24:31.357Z · EA · GW

Regarding helping people with major life transitions, I just wanted to mention that there is a (reasonably active) Parents in Effective Altruism Facebook group! We are also keen to hear from people who are not parents yet, but are considering becoming parents in the future.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on CEA update: Q4 2020 · 2021-01-21T22:19:10.471Z · EA · GW

(I'm German, but have lived in the UK for 4.5 years now.)

My best guess is that you are both right, and large cultural differences are at play. I found this really bizarre when I moved to the UK. In Germany, you are an ambitious overachiever if you have a 'career plan' at 22. In the UK this is standard.

Among educated Germans, people take longer to finish their degrees, are more likely to take gap years, change degrees. Internships seem to be much rarer. The 'summer internship' system does not seem to exist as much in Germany, and just is not considered necessary in the same way. Most Germans do Master's (which take 2 years in Germany) as only a Bachelor's degree is taken less seriously. Having children during your degree is more common.

Educated Germans just start full-time employment much later. This is so extreme that in my friendship circle I do not know any German non-EA who has finished their education (all including Master's) and started a full-time job before the age of 27 (!).

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Why do content blockers still suck? · 2021-01-21T17:32:15.945Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the response! Freedom unfortunately just stopped working for me many times. After I uninstalled and reinstalled it for the fifth time (which makes it work again for a while) and the customer service had no idea what was going on, I gave up. I still use it for my phone however.

I don't think there is anything on the market which blocks things by default, which is the primary feature I am looking for, plus much more fine grained blocking (e.g. inability to access or google content containing specific phrases).

Comment by Denise_Melchin on The ten most-viewed posts of 2020 · 2021-01-14T09:47:08.147Z · EA · GW

I'd still be curious how many unique views there are - I'm pretty surprised at the high view counts above. I had expected the discrepancy between unique views and upvotes to be smaller.

Are there just a lot of silent readers who never upvote or do the same readers who already upvoted click on the post again and again (to read the comments)?

Comment by Denise_Melchin on New infographic based on "The Precipice". any feedback? · 2021-01-14T09:02:50.064Z · EA · GW

This looks great! And I agree with Aslan that the minesweeper edition feels very different and I am glad you created it.

One note: existential risks are a distinct concept to both extinction risks and global catastrophic risks. Table 6.1 in Toby's book describes existential risks which is what you are depicting here - existential risks include extinction risk but also the risk that humanity will turn into a permanent dystopia as well as permanent civilisational collapse (but humanity lives on).

Global catastrophic risks are different again: they are risks that kill at least 10% of the human population.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on The Folly of "EAs Should" · 2021-01-13T08:44:05.700Z · EA · GW

Agree with all of the above!

Comment by Denise_Melchin on The Folly of "EAs Should" · 2021-01-12T11:17:14.704Z · EA · GW

I don't currently know of a reliable way to actually do a lot of good as a doctor.

I do know of such a way, but that might be because we have different things in mind when we say 'reliably do a lot of good'.

Some specialisations for doctors are very high earning. If someone was on the path to being a doctor and could still specialise in one of them, that is what I would suggest as an earning-to-give strategy. If they might also do a great job as a quant trader, I would also suggest checking that out. But I doubt most doctors make good quant traders, so it might still be one of the best opportunities for them.

I am less familiar with this and therefore not confident, but there are also some specialisations Doctors without Borders have a hard time filling (while for some, there is an over-supply). I think this would be worth looking into, as well as other paths to deliver medical expertise in developing countries.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Thoughts on being mortal · 2021-01-01T19:38:36.834Z · EA · GW

I appreciated this post.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on What are some potential coordination failures in our community? · 2020-12-20T18:44:35.782Z · EA · GW

I wrote a post on the subject here!

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-17T22:27:50.572Z · EA · GW

Hi Ana,

It's great to hear you are so passionate about learning and doing research! My best guess would be that you should focus on getting some real world job experience for a year or so. While you may not have as much statistical knowledge yet as you might want, I suspect it is better for you to learn them in a supportive 'real work' environment than on your own. Given that you have a PhD and soon two Master's (impressive!) I expect employers will trust they can train you up in the skills you need, so you don't have to learn them outside of a job first.

Something employers will often want to see is some evidence that you can solve their problems outside of a research/academic context. I expect it will be a lot easier for you to find a role you are really passionate about once you have some job experience, even if that means doing something that is not your dream job yet in the meantime.

Good luck!

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-17T18:57:56.183Z · EA · GW

This is not only relevant to my career, but I asked a couple of questions here about the impact of UK civil service careers.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on How high impact are UK policy career paths? · 2020-12-17T15:16:30.199Z · EA · GW

Personal context that I did not add to the main body (as I want it to be helpful for other people too): I am currently a civil servant, just starting in a new role which I expect to stay in for a year or so.

In my previous role, my main goal was to gain generic career capital and become more optimistic about having an impact through my career. In my free time, I have been trying to think about my values, and am currently still thinking about what I believe about cause prioritisation as well as how to practically have an impact in the world (see the above questions).

If I don't find it plausible that the UK civil service has particularly good leverage compared to other options (e.g. earning to give), I will likely still focus on generic career capital in my role until I have a better sense of what my general views on how to best have an impact in the world are. If I do find it plausible that the UK civil service is a very promising path to have a high impact compared to other options, I will try harder to find out how to specifically have a high impact within the civil service and what my personal fit is, given that I am already there anyway.

I am not a UK national and thanks to Brexit unfortunately this will not change, so a few paths are not possible for me: e.g. Dfid now having been merged in the Foreign Office rules it out as well as options related to national security.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on What myths or misconceptions prevent people from supporting EA organizations that work on animal welfare or long-termist causes? · 2020-12-17T13:16:17.928Z · EA · GW

For instance, "the state of the world in 100 years does not affect me so I don't need to give to long-term causes."

This is not answering your question (and probably not very important), but I am a bit confused why you think this is an example of a myth or misconception?

Is this because you think there is a good chance of curing aging within the next 100 years, or because you might interpret the claim non-literally (e.g. people often do care that their grandkids have a good life, even though this still does not affect them personally), or something else?

Comment by Denise_Melchin on richard_ngo's Shortform · 2020-12-16T09:17:37.675Z · EA · GW

Hi Richard, I just wanted to say that I appreciate you asking these questions! Based on the number of upvotes you have received, other people might be wondering the same, and it's always useful to propagate knowledge like Alex has written up further.

I would have appreciated it even more if you had not directly jumped to accusing EA of being misleading (without any references) before waiting for any answers to your question.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on 80k hrs #88 - Response to criticism · 2020-12-14T14:54:12.194Z · EA · GW

Thank you all for your responses, I really appreciated them. Your perspectives make more sense to me now, though I have to say I still feel really confused.

[Following comment not exhaustively responding to everything you said.]

I hadn't intended to communicate in my first comment that Mark deliberately intended to violate the forum guidelines, but that he deliberately decided against being kind and curious. (Thank you for pointing that out, I did not think of the alternative reading.) I didn't provide any evidence for this because I thought Mark said this very explicitly at the start of his post:

To play by gentlemans rules is to their advantage - curtailing the tools in at my disposal to makes bullshit as costly as possible.

I acknowledge there are some negative costs to this (e.g. polluting the information commons with avoidable conflict), and good people can disagree about if the tradeoff is worth it. But I believe it is.

Gentleman's rules usually include things like being kind and curious I would guess, and Mark says explicitly that he ignores them because the tradeoff is worth it to him. I don't understand how these lines can be interpreted in any other way, this seems like the literal reading to me.

I have to admit that even after all your kind elaborate explanations I struggle to understand how anything in the section 'Conflict can be an effective tactic for good' could be read as tongue-in-cheek, as it reads very openly hostile to me (...it's right there in the title?) .

I don't think it is that unlikely that interviewees on the 80k podcast would respond to a kind thoughtful critique on the EA Forum. That said, this is not just about Tristan, but everyone who might disagree with Mark, as the 'Conflict can be an effective tactic for good' section made me doubt they would be treated with curiosity and kindness.

I will take from this that people can have very different interpretations of the same content, even if I think the content is is very explicit and straightforward.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-14T14:18:58.460Z · EA · GW

Hi Michelle,

Sorry for being a bit slow to respond. I have been thinking about your question on how the EA community can be more supportive in situations I experienced, but struggled to come up with answers I feel particularly confident in. I might circle back to this question at a later point.

For now, I am going to answer instead what I suspect would have made me feel better supported while I was struggling to figure out what I should be doing, but I don't feel particularly confident:

i) Mentorship. Having a soundboard to talk through my decisions (and possibly letting me know that I was being silly when I felt like I wasn't allowed to make my own decisions) might have helped a lot.

ii) Having people acknowledge that I maneuvered myself into a position that wasn't great from the perspective of expected impact, and that this all kind of sucked.

That said, for the latter one, the bottleneck might have been me. I had quite a few people who I thought knew me well express surprise at how miserable I felt at the time, so apparently this was not as obvious as I thought.

I would expect my first suggestion to generalise, mentorship is likely very useful for a lot of people!

I had a lot of contact with local and global EAs, and without that I probably would have done worse. I particularly appreciated people's support when I was actually applying to 'real jobs' last year. Both when I was trying to decide whether I should accept a low-ball offer from a tech startup (which I rejected) as well as the wide support I received from civil servants in how to navigate the civil service application process.

In the post I mentioned that I mentally distanced myself from EA a bit, but I wouldn't say that I distanced myself from EA. This was a purely mental shift in how I relate to the community and doing as much good as I can. Please don't kick me out ;-)

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-12T17:18:39.344Z · EA · GW

I just wanted to thank you for starting this thread Ben. I have recently been thinking about how useful it would be to have a more casual EA space to discuss how to have an impact in you career than the options we currently have, and this thread seems like a great step in that direction.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on 80k hrs #88 - Response to criticism · 2020-12-12T09:00:40.985Z · EA · GW

Sure. I am pretty baffled by the response to my comments. I agree the first was insufficiently careful about the fact that Mark is a new user, but even the second got downvotes.

In the past, users of the forum have said many times that posting on the EA Forum gives them anxiety as they are afraid of hostile criticism. So I think it is good to be on the lookout for posts and comments that might have this effect. Being 'kind' and 'approaching disagreements with curiosity' should protect against this risk. But I ask the question: Is Tristan going to feel comfortable engaging in the Forum, in particular as a response to this post? I don't think so.

Quotes I thought were problematic in that I think they would upset Tristan or put him off responding (or others who might work with him or agree with him):

I have a mini Nassim Taleb inside me that I let out for special occasions 😠. I'm sometimes rude to Tristan, Kevin Roose and others.

I read this as Mark proudly announcing that he likes to violate good discourse norms.

Others which I think will make feel Tristan accused and unwelcome (not 'kind' and not 'approaching disagreements with curiosity'):

It is because he has been one of the most influential people in building a white hot moral panic, and frequently bends truth for the cause.

Tristan's hyperbole sets the stage for drastic action.

Generally hostile:

To play by gentlemans rules is to their advantage - curtailing the tools in at my disposal to makes bullshit as costly as possible.

If the 'Conflict can be an effective tactic for good' section had not been written, I would not have downvoted, as it seems to add little to the content, while making Tristan likely feel very unwelcome.

There was a post which was similar in style to Mark's post arguing against Will here and the response to that was pretty negative, so I am surprised that Mark's post is being perceived so differently.

I only rarely downvote. There have been frequent requests in the past that it would be good if users generally explained why they downvoted. This has not come up before, but I took from that that the next time I downvote, it would be good if I explained why. So I did. And then got heavily downvoted myself for it. I am not sure what to make of this - are the people requesting for downvoters to generally explain themselves just different people than the ones who downvoted my comment (apparently so, otherwise they would have explained themselves)? Whatever is the reason, I doubt I will explain my downvotes again in the future.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-11T15:14:37.548Z · EA · GW

Thanks David, this is more or less what I was trying to express with my response to Stefan in that thread.

I want to add that "making intellectual progress" has two different benefits: One is the obvious one, figuring out more true things so they can influence our actions to do more good. As you say, we may actually be doing better on that one.

The other one is to attract people to the community by it being an intellectually stimulating place. We might be losing the kind of people who answered 'stagnation' in the poll above, as they are not able to participate in the professionalised debates, if they happen in public at all.

On the other hand, this might mean that we are not deterring people anymore who may have felt like they need to be into intellectual debates to join the EA community. I don't know what the right trade-off is, but I suspect it's actually more important not to put latter group off.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on 80k hrs #88 - Response to criticism · 2020-12-11T12:08:50.865Z · EA · GW

I did not realise you are a new user and probably would have framed my comment differently if I had, I am sorry about that!

To familiarise yourself with our writing guidelines, you can find them on the left bar under 'About the Forum', or just click.

In the past, other users have stated they prefer when people who downvote give explanations for their downvotes. This does seem particularly helpful if you are new and don't know the ins and outs of our forum guidelines and norms yet.

It is great to see you engage with your expertise, and I think it would be a shame if users are put off from engaging with your writing because your content is framed antagonistically.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on 80k hrs #88 - Response to criticism · 2020-12-11T10:30:41.103Z · EA · GW

I downvoted this post. Some of our writing guidelines here are to approach disagreements with curiosity as well as trying to be kind. You are clearly deciding against both of these.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-10T21:09:56.664Z · EA · GW

This comment made me very happy! If you think you would benefit from talking through your career thoughts with someone and/or be accountable to someone, feel free to get in touch.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-10T10:37:09.177Z · EA · GW

First of all, you have shown an impressive amount of stamina! Well done.

My guess is that if you want to pursue this path, you should focus on getting more political contacts, for example get involved in party politics. I know a lot of people who worked for MPs (albeit in a different country) who got these roles via party political work.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-08T17:21:57.390Z · EA · GW

Something I want to add here:

I am not sure whether my error was how much I was deferring in itself. But the decision to defer or not should be made on well defined questions and clearly defined 'experts' you might be deferring to. This is not what I was doing. I was deferring on a nebulous question ('what should I be doing?') to an even more nebulous expert audience (a vague sense of what 'the community' wanted).

What I should have been doing instead first is to define the question better: Which roles should I be pursuing right now?

This can then be broken down further into subquestions on cause prioritisation, which roles are promising avenues within causes I might be interested in, which roles I might be well suited for, etc, whose information I need to aggregate in a sensible fashion to answer the question which roles I should be pursuing right now.

For each of these subquestions I need to make a separate judgement. For some it makes more sense to defer, for others, less so. Disappointingly, there is no independent expert panel investigating what kind of jobs I might excel at.

But then who to defer to, if I think this is a sensible choice for a particular subquestion, also needs to be clearly defined: for example, I might decide that it makes sense to take 80k at their word about which roles in a particular cause area are particularly promising right now, after reading what they actually say on their website on the subject, perhaps double-checking by asking them via email and polling another couple of people in the field.

'The community' is not a well defined expert panel, while the careful aggregation of individual opinions can be, who again, need to be asked well defined questions. Note that this can true even if I gave equal weight to every EA's opinion: sometimes it can seem like 'the community' has an opinion that only few individual EAs hold if actually asked, if any. This is especially true if messaging is distorted and I am not actually asking a well defined question.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-07T11:38:30.189Z · EA · GW

Thank you for pointing that out, I agree candidates should not consider such a low number of applications not resulting in full-time offers strong evidence against them having a chance.

I am not sure whether the question of whether one has a chance at an 'EA job' is even a good one however. 'EA jobs' are actually lots of different roles which are not very comparable to one another. They do not make for a good category one should be thinking about - but rather about which field someone might be interested in working in, and what kind of role might be a good fit. Some of which may so happen to be at EA orgs, but most will not.

Also, I appreciate I did not clarify this in the post, but I did not get rejected from all 7 roles I applied to in 2018 - I got rejected from 5, dropped out of 1 and could not do the 3-month trial stage I was invited to for visa reasons 1 time.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-07T11:02:34.841Z · EA · GW

I think I probably agree with the general thrust of this comment, but disagree on various specifics.

'Intelligent people disagree with this' is a good reason against being too confident in one's opinion. At the very least, it should highlight there are opportunities to explore where the disagreement is coming from, which should hopefully help everyone to form better opinions.

I also don't feel like moral uncertainty is a good example of people deferring too much.

A different way to look at this might be that if 'good judgement' is something that lots of people need in their careers, especially if they don't follow any of the priority paths (as argued here), this is something that needs to be trained - and you don't train good judgement by always blindly deferring.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-07T10:12:14.875Z · EA · GW

Definitely in 2017, possibly earlier, although I am not sure. I went to the main national event of my political organisation in autumn 2017, after not having been a few years.

I could not generally re-engage as I moved countries in 2016. Unfortunately, political networks don't cross borders very well.

Comment by Denise_Melchin on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-06T10:58:35.311Z · EA · GW

And applying for jobs in EA orgs also doesn't have to come at great personal expense

I want to push back against this point a bit. Although I completely agree that you shouldn't treat working at non-EA orgs as a failure!

In my experience, applying for jobs in EA orgs has been very expensive compared to applying to other jobs, even completely ignoring any mental costs. There was a discussion about this topic here as well, and my view on the matter has not changed much - except I now have some experience applying to jobs outside EA orgs, backing up what I previously thought.

To get to the last stage of a process in the application processes I went through at EA orgs routinely took a dozen hours, and often dozens. This did not happen once when I applied to jobs outside of EA orgs. Application processes were just much shorter. I don't think applying to EA jobs as I did in 2018 would have been compatible with having a full-time job, or only with great difficulty.

Something I also encountered only in EA org application processes were them taking several months or being very mismanaged - going back and forth on where someone was in the application process, or having an applicant invest dozens of hours only to inform them that the org was actually unable to provide visas.