The Application is not the Applicant 2022-01-17T08:10:58.237Z
Enabling more feedback 2021-12-10T06:52:11.852Z
Implication of AI timelines on planning and solutions 2021-08-21T05:11:42.181Z
Getting started independently in AI Safety 2021-07-06T15:20:49.937Z
JJ Hepburn's Shortform 2020-06-15T06:14:24.698Z


Comment by JJ Hepburn on JJ Hepburn's Shortform · 2022-02-10T22:42:37.175Z · EA · GW

What do you think we do?

This is a bit of a side note on my last shortform.


There are (at least) three versions of what we or any project/org does. 

  1. What we think we do
  2. What you think we do
  3. What we actually do

Hopefully these three have a lot of over lap. Even 1 and 3 can have a lot of a gap between what you were wanting to deliver and what actually happens.

I occasionally like to ask people that I haven't interacted with before what they think we do at AISS. I like this to be early in the conversation so that it is their raw belief. Though a little too often people actually start answering as if I'd ask what they think we should do.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on JJ Hepburn's Shortform · 2022-02-10T22:33:23.581Z · EA · GW

On Naming Projects

My general rules or thoughts around naming projects is to avoid trying to give them a name that describes what the project is. The problem is mainly that you end up with lock-in and lose control over how your project is perceived. 

People are very good at taking the name of something and using that to build a model of what they think the project is. We have this problem with AI Safety Support and the word "camp" in "AI Safety Camp" has caused confusion too. When talking to people about what we do we have to remove their beliefs in what we do before building up a more accurate picture.

OpenAI has big problems with this in that outsiders have their own model of what the founders were thinking when they came up with the name. They are often criticised for not living up to their name.  

I'd prefer a mostly meaningless name where people have to ask what you do and you get to control the message. People start with a blank slate with no misconceptions that you have to deal with first. You get to build up the picture of what you do your own way. My default example of this is "Uber" which you would have a hard time coming up with your own picture of what they do. I also really like "Redwood Research" they obviously do research but I struggle to come up with an assumption of what that could be.

There are of course plenty of exceptions where a descriptive name is appropriate. This seems to be the default though and it is worth questioning. If you are struggling to come up with a name that you are really happy with and confident it describes your vision then consider a less descriptive name. 


Comment by JJ Hepburn on Help FLI help new nonprofits start up and run · 2022-01-28T02:51:30.445Z · EA · GW

I love anything that helps to reduce administrative load, duplication of work and friction to get started. So pretty excited about this idea and the hiring agency Nonlinear are incubating.

Yes, I'd be happy to spend time talking to this person. Should you have a sign-up form or something?

Comment by JJ Hepburn on EA Internships Board Now Live! · 2021-12-21T23:15:32.740Z · EA · GW

I would recommend using a custom domain instead of the subdomain. Even if you just have the custom domain redirect to the so that you can share the link around and if you change away from Pory then you control the domain and don't have dead links everywhere.

... Yes, I have made this mistake.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on [Updated] EA conferences in 2022: save the dates · 2021-12-17T21:09:18.314Z · EA · GW

An event for everyone is an event for no one.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on [Updated] EA conferences in 2022: save the dates · 2021-12-15T23:35:43.933Z · EA · GW

This is just a small thing so I feel like I'm being annoying mentioning it. "Summer" doesn't mean the same thing for those in the Southern hemisphere, in particular, but also those in the tropics. Months are much more universal.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on [Updated] EA conferences in 2022: save the dates · 2021-12-15T23:19:08.252Z · EA · GW

I'd be keen to see an EAG Virtual as well and would prefer this over hybrid.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on Help CEA plan future events and conferences · 2021-12-15T00:14:43.627Z · EA · GW

I have many thoughts and always keen for a call.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on Help CEA plan future events and conferences · 2021-12-11T08:44:26.726Z · EA · GW

A Careers Fair

Not just lots of orgs inviting people to come work for them but lots of workshops. 

Comment by JJ Hepburn on Things I often tell people about applying to EA Funds · 2021-10-30T11:14:42.831Z · EA · GW

I often suggest people at the very least daft an application.

Some people I talk to say that they are intending to apply “later” and when I check back in on them they still tell me “later”. I now suggest people draft that application now even if they plan on finishing and submitting it later. This takes what is otherwise a daunting and mysterious task and makes it much clearer what it is you are so hesitant about.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on List of EA funding opportunities · 2021-10-26T22:44:16.407Z · EA · GW

I've already started doing this. Will get in contact with you.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on Getting started independently in AI Safety · 2021-07-07T09:42:30.221Z · EA · GW

Yep, always tricky here. I was actually just reading Reversing Advice just before posting this but wasn't sure how I should manage this.

Advice is like medication. It should come with similar rules, regulations, restrictions and warnings. 

Some advice is over the counter and can be used by almost everyone. Advice should be used in moderation, do not take more than the recommended dose. Prescription medicine is illegal to advertise for (in Australia) because it is not useful for everyone and should only be recommended by a health care professional. Some advice does not mix well with other advice and care should be taken when mixing advice. Do not take advice that has been recommended to someone else as it may not apply to you. A particular problem may have several different advice that is helpful for it but each does not work for everyone, so you may need to try a few before you find the one that works for you.

Having said that I think I would default to aiming for the higher thing when you are not sure. If you aim high you may fall short and if you aim low you can still only fall short. So if you're on the margin, start with a deep RL project. You might quickly find that its hard to do and fall back to doing Spinning Up. 

If symptoms persist, please consult your health care professional.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on EA needs consultancies · 2021-07-07T07:16:36.941Z · EA · GW

Might be worth looking into 180 Degrees Consulting, the low cost consultancy for non-profits. Either to use them directly or learn from their model. 

My understanding of their model is that they use volunteer university students to do most of the work and they are mentored by the big consultancy firms. Students get experience and career capital, consultancies get exposure to future grads and non-profits get low cost consulting. 

I'm not sure what "low cost" is but looking at their 2020 report they ran 550+ projects form 166 branches in 36 countries with $117,300 total contribution from clients. 

This seems achievable to replicate this model in some ways for EA. Already have lots of university groups and would be clients.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on Getting started independently in AI Safety · 2021-07-07T06:21:17.221Z · EA · GW

The best thing to do is the thing that works for YOU.

Yes, reimplementing existing papers is great. Talking to others in the community for ideas is great if you can. 

I don't think there is a right way for everyone. So if you are already making learning a lot through re-implementing or something else then just ignore most of my advice. Also, if my advice isn't helpful for you then try one of the other ideas. 

Comment by JJ Hepburn on Linch's Shortform · 2021-07-06T15:00:58.862Z · EA · GW
  1. Easy steps could be to add a "red team" tag on the forum and point to this post to encourage people to do this.
  2. I have at times given advice to early career EA's mostly in AI Safety similar to this. When people have trouble coming up with something they might want to write about on the forum, I encourage them to look for the things they don't think are true. Most people are passively reading the forum anyway but actively looking for something the reader doesn't think is true or is unconvinced by can be a good starting point for a post. It may be that they end up convinced of the point but can still write a post making is clearer and adding the arguments they found. 
    1. Having said this, most peoples first reaction is a terrified look. Encouraging someone's first post to be a criticism is understandably scary.
  3. It may be hard to get both the benefit to the participants and to the orgs. Anyone not intimidated by this might already have enough experience and career capital. To give juniors the experience you might have to make it more comfortable school work where the paper is written but only read by one other person. This makes it harder to capture the career capital. 
  4. I'd expect this to be unlikely for someone to do individually and of their own accord. At the very least best to do this in small groups to create social accountability and commitment pressures. While also defusing the intimidation. Alternately part of an existing program like an EA Fellowship. Even better as it's own program, with all the overhead that comes with that.
Comment by JJ Hepburn on JJ Hepburn's Shortform · 2021-06-22T00:57:55.349Z · EA · GW

I really don't like writing about myself in a CV. I find it hard to try to talk about how amazing I am. Writing in the third person certain helps ("JJ is amazing" vs "I am amazing") but even better is having someone else write about how amazing I am. So, it's even better if you and your buddy can write for each other.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on JJ Hepburn's Shortform · 2021-06-22T00:52:01.368Z · EA · GW
  • I haven't read "Who" but it is on my list. Manager Tools is another great resource for me. Here is their podcast series How To Scan A Resume.
    • They make if very clear how small things in your resume that might need a little bit of effort from the reviewer can mean you get rejected. Make the reviewers life as easy as possible.
  • I'm never to sure how to phrase the "application drafting" idea. "Drafting" is probably too strong for what I mean but I do mean more than just reading over an application form. Maybe "sketch" is a better term. 
    • Writing it down in some way is important as it makes it much more salient. Doing this a year or two out lets you sketch what your CV will look like given your current path. Considering opportunities that may be available to you over the next couple of years and sketching variations of your CV as if you had already done them to get an idea which options you are most excited about or are most useful.
  • We certainly do have restrictive stories about getting jobs. Apparently about 25% of early career and about 50% of later career jobs are found through networking not applying to open jobs. I personally have worked for 5 different business through networking not applying.
Comment by JJ Hepburn on JJ Hepburn's Shortform · 2021-06-22T00:13:02.054Z · EA · GW

If everyone is holding the door open then nobody is walking through.

I've been in a few situations where an opportunity has come up that I could be interested in (job, volunteering, speaking, mentoring...). I often think that I shouldn't put my hand up for this because someone else is likely to be more suited for this and I don't want to waist others time or take the opportunity ahead of someone. This is a bit of a common EA thing as we are less motivated to compete to advance individually.

Of course if everyone is thinking like this then no one is putting their hand up for the opportunity. It's as if everyone is politely holding a door open to let others through first and we are all left out in the cold.

I've seen this as an organiser myself having too few people apply and talking with people who likely should have. I now consider this when ever an opportunity does come up and I find myself thinking this way. I have at times found that when I do put my hand up in these situations I get some response like "thank goodness you responded", "Do you know anyone else that could help"

The door will hold itself open on it's own, just walk through.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on JJ Hepburn's Shortform · 2021-06-06T15:11:24.363Z · EA · GW

Uncommon career advice

These are some of my lose, unstructured and possibly less common advice related to careers.

• When applying for jobs looking at resources for hiring managers can be much more helpful than resources for applicants.

• Apply too often rather than not often enough. I at times hear people chose not to apply for something because they assume it is unlikely that they will be accepted and their time would be better used upskilling in their field. I think that people should apply more often in these situations to get more experience with the application process. Applications are a skill on its own, you are likely to get a better marginal benefit from practicing apply in a real situation than from a few more hours on your field. (Rejections suck and rejection sensitive dysphoria is real.) You can practice applying without actually applying.

• Draft applications super early. Even as a first year undergraduate ( earlier is even better) look at jobs you could be interested in years from now and draft an application for them. This makes it very clear what things you are missing and can try to fill over the next few years. Even if you don't end up applying for that job years later you are likely to have a lot more of the common signals required for job applications.

• You are almost always rejected because if "failure to demonstrate" required attributes. A cynical view of this is that someone could demonstrate abilities they don't have (can be so hard to fake that faking is a good signal anyway). The important thing though is that someone with the abilities the job requires can be rejected because they failed to demonstrate them.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on How many hits do the hits of different EA sites get each year? · 2021-03-05T13:38:18.930Z · EA · GW

I'd expect Lesswrong and EA Forum to be quite high. 
But it depends what metric you are thinking of. Forums have a lot of active content compared to the other sites that are not updated as often. Forums probably have lower Unique User numbers and higher Page Views compared to these other sites

Comment by JJ Hepburn on How many hits do the hits of different EA sites get each year? · 2021-03-05T13:30:02.339Z · EA · GW

AI Safety Support only started mid last year so hard to get a clear picture

  • In Q3 2020
    • 399 Sessions
    • 863 Page views
  • Q4
    • 1006 Sessions
    • 1764 Page views

So 1405 Sessions and 2627 Page view second half of 2020.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on Ecosystems vs Projects in EA Movement Building · 2021-02-09T01:54:36.785Z · EA · GW

This sounds just like what we are doing at AI Safety Support

Comment by JJ Hepburn on Consider paying me (or another entrepreneur) to create services for effective altruism · 2020-11-11T06:57:44.805Z · EA · GW

Thank you Remmelt for all of the work you have done. Personally I've got a lot of value out of participating in and helping organise the AI Safety Camp and getting to work with you.

I have been donating to Remmelts Patreon for over 2 years. This has been a relatively small cost to me and I feel like I have benefited more than I have contributed.

Comment by JJ Hepburn on Consider paying me (or another entrepreneur) to create services for effective altruism · 2020-11-11T06:49:48.351Z · EA · GW

It seems like you are making contributions to lots of different projects. None of them large enough for you to get a sustainable income.

This is similar to a problem I see in academia a times. People may want to contribute to research, but refuse if they are not able to contribute enough to have their name on the paper (the currency of academia). There are of course people who provide a small amount of help on projects and are mentioned in the acknowledgments. It's like you have ended up only in the acknowledgements.

I find these situations quite frustrating. It usually makes me think of this quote from someone who probably won't mind if I don't credit them.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”