Posts

A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market 2019-05-08T19:33:06.076Z · score: 75 (31 votes)
The Life You Can Save's 2018 Annual Report 2019-04-24T20:47:08.714Z · score: 23 (10 votes)
A new, lower risk way to teach effective giving 2018-12-20T00:47:29.047Z · score: 7 (2 votes)
Narrative but Not Philosophical Argument Motivates Giving to Charity 2018-11-26T18:18:38.587Z · score: 13 (5 votes)
A Research Framework to Improve Real-World Giving Behavior 2018-10-04T18:25:56.012Z · score: 7 (3 votes)
The Giving Game Project's 2017 Annual Report 2018-06-05T20:58:50.122Z · score: 6 (6 votes)
The Life You Can Save's 2017 Annual Report and 2018 Strategic Plan 2018-05-03T19:53:48.663Z · score: 10 (10 votes)
The Giving Game Project's Vision and Strategic Plan 2017-05-23T23:21:42.879Z · score: 4 (4 votes)
Are Giving Games a better way to teach philanthropy? 2017-05-13T00:36:41.371Z · score: 4 (4 votes)
The Life You Can Save's 2016 Annual Report 2017-04-26T22:46:55.707Z · score: 8 (8 votes)
A Request for Funding from The Giving Game Project 2016-08-01T18:17:05.548Z · score: 14 (14 votes)
The Giving Game Project's Annual Report 2016-07-20T18:07:47.070Z · score: 12 (12 votes)
Wish Peter Singer a happy 70th birthday! 2016-06-20T21:03:15.599Z · score: 1 (7 votes)
The Life You Can Save's 2015 Year in Review 2016-02-12T23:22:45.302Z · score: 5 (5 votes)

Comments

Comment by jon_behar on 'Longtermism' · 2019-08-02T19:40:39.794Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

There are plans to use longtermism (both the term and the idea) in disciplines beyond moral philosophy (e.g. the Global Priorities Institute’s longtermist research agenda which includes economics in addition to philosophy). So to “prevent confusion”, it’s important to understand whether other fields are using the term, and what other people are likely to think when they hear it.

FWIW, I think for most people something like “ultralongtermist” would do a better job of communicating the time frames Will is talking about.

Comment by jon_behar on 'Longtermism' · 2019-07-26T18:34:13.941Z · score: 25 (10 votes) · EA · GW
‘Longtermism’ is a new term, which may well become quite common and influential. The aim in giving the term a precise meaning while we still have the chance is to prevent confusions beforethey arise. This is particularly important if you’re hoping that a research field will develop around the idea. I think that this is really crucial.

I don’t have an issue with EAs using ‘longtermism’, but it’s decidedly not a “new term” and already has an existing academic literature in non-EA disciplines. So any attempts at disambiguation (which I applaud) should address how the term is currently being used. If you search for it on Google Scholar, you’ll find lots of results on “long-termism” from a business perspective (typically related to investments or corporate governance). I looked through a few pages of search results without seeing anything related to EA.

Google also provides an interesting perspective on hyphenation. I was originally in the “who cares?” camp, until I noticed that google returns different results for “longtermism” and “long-termism” (I used an incognito window and would advise the same for anyone trying to replicate this). “Long-termism” returns results associated with the business use cases (including various definitions); I don’t see anything EA related until halfway through the 2nd page of search results. This makes sense since the existing literature generally uses a hyphen.

Googling “Longtermism” returns some business/definition results, but has a lot of EA content on the first page including the first result (ForeThought Foundation). That said, Google asks if you meant “long termism” (which gives the same search results as the hyphenated version), suggesting there’s not a ton of people searching for the unhyphenated term. I don’t think EA should adopt a hyphenating convention based on short-term search engine optimization, but this does seem like a relevant consideration.

Comment by jon_behar on Age-Weighted Voting · 2019-07-15T20:32:45.599Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · EA · GW
Age and wisdom: I suspect that this isn’t a major consideration in the choice between these voting systems: if we wanted a more epistocratic system, we would move quite far away from either of the current system or the age-weighting system.

I think you’re being pretty cavalier about the “intelligence vs. wisdom” issue. Paul Christiano’s comment “I personally think that I'm better at picking policies at 30 than 20, and expect to be better still at 40” rings very true to me (I’m 40), and I’m pretty sure my friends (mostly in 30s and 40s) would emphatically feel the same way. I’m curious about the age of the oldest person you got feedback from, and what they thought about this idea.

Re: epistocracy, it’s true there are policies that could increase the average intelligence and/or wisdom of the electorate. But those are typically the same policies that have historically (and/or currently) been used to disenfranchise marginalized people. As one example of the baggage attached to these policies, here’s how Wikipedia describes how literacy tests have historically been used in the US:

From the 1890s to the 1960s, many state governments in the United States administered literacy tests to prospective voters purportedly to test their literacy in order to vote. In practice, these tests were intended to disenfranchise racial minorities. Southern state legislatures employed literacy tests as part of the voter registration process starting in the late 19th century. Literacy tests, along with poll taxes, residency and property restrictions and extra-legal activities (violence, intimidation)[2] were all used to deny suffrage to African Americans. The first formal voter literacy tests were introduced in 1890. At first, whites were generally exempted from the literacy test if they could meet alternate requirements that in practice excluded blacks, such as a grandfather clause or a finding of "good moral character." (emphasis added)

Personally, to give future people more representation I’d favor legislation like limits on budget deficits, overall debt levels, and programs with upfront benefits but big deferred costs (e.g. it’s easy to offer a generous pension if all the costs come down the road). One of the easiest and most common ways to “steal” resources from future generations is to run up big debts they’ll need to pay off.

Comment by jon_behar on Running Effective Altruism Groups: A Literature Review · 2019-07-10T17:04:46.703Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for writing this, great resource!

Couple of things to note re: Giving Games

1) I think it’s really important to distinguish between speed GG (basically tabling events) and longer GG workshops. Groups have had success with both approaches, but they accomplish very different things. Speed GGs are really about starting a lot of conversations, getting people onto mailing lists, and trying to identify a small percentage who seem like they might buy in a lot. GG workshops are about digging into the ideas behind high impact giving, and trying to get people on board with them.

2) This upcoming semester we’ll be working with One for the World to collect a lot of great data on how GG work for groups (pledges, attendance, subscriptions, etc, absolute and relative to a control). This will incorporate a lot of improvements that have been made over the years, and should be the most representative of what groups could reasonably expect going forward.

3) There’s a field experiment from a few years back that found groups running GG workshops attracted more attendees than speaker events, especially if the speaker wasn’t a VIP (such as a charity CEO)

(I founded and operated the Giving Game Project and continue to advise it).

Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T22:48:04.523Z · score: 17 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I suggest a putting a “help” button in the editor, right next to the “save as draft” and “submit” buttons. This info should be super easy to find when someone’s writing a post.

Relatedly, when the instructions are being refreshed for the planned update I think it’s important to run them by someone non-technical (and probably at least one generation older than the person writing the instructions) to see if they can understand them.

Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T20:50:16.099Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Testing a reply with an image copy/pasted from a public google doc (shows up as camera in the editor)

Edit: it worked! Good to know about this workaround (though the direct google doc import Ben mentioned would still be preferable since it'd deal with footnotes too).




Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T20:25:15.497Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Great to learn about that group, maybe worth a top-level link post?

Google Forms is free and very easy to use if you want to do a poll without being restricted to people with FB accounts.


Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T20:21:55.420Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Cool, direct import from g-docs would do the trick from my perspective. Thanks for the update!

Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T19:36:32.694Z · score: 16 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Re: pictures, ability to do pictures in comments would be nice. But my frustration was really around this:

Click the image of a photo on that bar, and you'll be able to add the URL where your image is hosted. The Forum doesn't support attachments, but there are a lot of sites where you can upload an image for free. My favorite is imgbb.

This is a real pain, and a disincentive to using charts or tables. I write in google docs for a variety of reasons, including because it’s easy to get feedback from people. So once I’ve written a draft, edited, sent it out for feedback, revised it, given it a final edit, and at long last have it looking the way I want in a format that’s used around the world, I don’t want to have to upload a bunch of images to some site I'm unfamiliar with, then insert each of them into the post.

I’d like to do be able to do a simple copy/paste. Inserting attachments would still be frustrating, but a significant improvement on the status quo. In either case, I’d like there to be clear and easily accessible instructions (people shouldn't have to figure out the imgbb solution on their own). Hope this clarifies where the frustration stems from, let me know if you still have questions.

Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T19:33:09.614Z · score: 16 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Re: search, “effective altruism” was probably a bad example but I guess I’d like to see that return something like CEA’s guiding principles (or whatever the old search version did). “Bednet” is probably a better example. You’d expect this to turn up something about bednets and/or AMF. Instead, it returns three results that mention bednets but are in no way about them.

1. Charity Entrepreneurship Research Summary (22 karma, 3 years old)

2. The age distribution of GiveWell’s charities (13 karma, 4 years old)

3. What consequences? (25 karma, 2 years old)

Interestingly, searching for “bednets” instead of “bednet” yields very different results:

1. 8 ways to free up donation money without sacrifice

2. Where should anti-paternalists donate?

3. Kidney donation is a reasonable choice for effective altruists and more should consider it.

I’m not sure exactly what my algorithm would be, I imagine it’d involve keyword matching in the title, in the text, karma, recentness, etc. Let’s say someone wanted to find “After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organization”, which I believe is the highest karma post in forum history. And it has a title that you can’t expect people to remember. I’d definitely want that to be the top result if someone searched for “jobs” (it’s the 7th result, requiring an extra click to see) or “ea job market” (doesn’t show up).

Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T18:38:15.728Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Agree with Khorton there’s a balance to be struck. But I think it’s critical to be able to provide feedback like 'The latest version has reached the point where I just don't see the point of visiting the forum any more'. It’s “particularly loaded” in the sense that it conveys a strong opinion, but that’s a good thing. If it were expressed in a mean way, that’d be a big problem. To me, that comment read like a simple statement of a fact that the forum team would definitely want to know.

Michelle, FWIW I haven’t voted on your comment. While I disagree with you on whether the tone was appropriate and how good the new search is, I really appreciate your give a clear explanation of your downvote of the OP and hope others follow this example.

Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T18:24:11.699Z · score: 15 (5 votes) · EA · GW

btw, I had to google what a markdown editor was so perhaps the instructions could be made more accessible to laypeople

Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T18:21:48.041Z · score: 16 (6 votes) · EA · GW

My frustration centered around not being able to take a post I’d written in google docs and simply paste it into the forum to post without extra work. I’ve run into two problems trying to do that: pictures and footnotes. It didn’t help matters that I wrote a post with a ton of footnotes before they became supported, but even now that they are it’s a pain to use the markup editor instead of just copy/pasting things. I’d strongly prefer to get this and the search functionality taken care of before adding new functionality (e.g. sequences).

There are also things I like about the new forum. The notifications about replies is a huge plus, and the question and link post types are a clever nudge to engage people. I’m sort of on the fence about the frontpage/community distinction. I sympathize with the intention, but worry that it buries time sensitive news that EAs need to know about (e.g. when a grant application window opens).

Last but definitely not least, thanks Ben for your openness to feedback (even if some is critical) and lack of defensiveness! Strong upvote.

Comment by jon_behar on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T14:04:02.807Z · score: 24 (11 votes) · EA · GW

Michelle, I’m very surprised you find the new search functionality to be an improvement. I thought the old search worked quite well, but find the new functionality nearly useless. Unless I know the exact title of a post and search for that, I routinely get results that are tangentially/un-related, old, not-well-upvoted, or all of the above. For example, the top results when searching for “effective altruism” are:

1. Effective Altruism and Religious Faiths: Mutually Exclusive Entities, or an Important Nexus to Explore (9 karma, 4 years old)

2. Effective Altruism & Slate Star Codex Readership (3 karma, 6 months old)

3. Effective Altruism subreddit (9 karma, 3 years old)

The comments that are returned are similarly old and low-karma (though I do love that the new search returns both posts and comments). I also tried searching for “bednets”, “artificial intelligence”, and “jobs” all with similar outcomes.

I actually wanted to post screenshots of the search results, but couldn’t figure out how to insert pictures (I figured out a workaround in the past, but I can’t remember what I did, only that it was time-consuming and extremely annoying). More generally, I’ve found the process of posting quite frustrating (which I’m not alone in). I strongly upvoted the OP for these reasons; I hope this isn’t read as a lack of appreciation for the hard and extensive work that people have put in on the new forum.

Comment by jon_behar on EA Survey 2018 Series: Do EA Survey Takers Keep Their GWWC Pledge? · 2019-07-03T21:42:17.036Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Great post, very thought-provoking! I understand the rationale for excluding student pledge-takers from this analysis, but I think looking at the share of this cohort that goes on to give >=10% after graduating could shed some light on the broader attrition question. Also seems highly relevant to the strategy for campus chapters of both GWWC and One for the World.

My hunch is that the graduation stage would be the “leakiest part of the funnel”, because a) it’s a lot more palatable to donate 1% of a small amount than 10% of a larger amount; b) after graduation people’s social circles are likely to be less EA-centric.

Comment by jon_behar on Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018 · 2019-07-03T20:56:31.680Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

To get a better sense of “how many members does EA have?”, going forward I suggest asking organizations for data on unique website visitors rather than pageviews since the latter somewhat conflates number of people and degree of engagement (pages per session).

Comment by jon_behar on Needed EA-related Articles on the English Wikipedia · 2019-06-30T16:24:49.199Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · EA · GW

The original book was well received and got significant amounts of attention (e.g. an excerpt ran in the NYT, Peter was on the Colbert Report to talk about it, etc.). It was also highly influential, and has contributed to the way a lot of EAs (including Cari Tuna) think about giving. I’m not sure how many languages it’s been translated into, but it’s a pretty good number.

The organization has also received attention from a variety of major media outlets and has moved a considerable amount of money to effective charities (~$5.25 million in 2018 and expected to be much higher in 2019). With the publicity push around the release of the new edition, there should be much more media attention around the corner.

Also, Peter Singer is clearly notable and disambiguating the book and the nonprofit will help clarify discussion about Peter. The disambiguation is becoming even more important with the new edition (which will have substantial changes), as there will soon be two books and a charity all with the same name.

Comment by jon_behar on Needed EA-related Articles on the English Wikipedia · 2019-06-28T21:27:30.100Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · EA · GW

The Life You Can Save (which I work for) would be very interested in getting a Wikipedia page set up. My understanding is that Wikipedia doesn’t allow employees or volunteers to create one, but we’d be very happy if someone in the EA community took it on themselves to create one. There’s already a Wiki page for TLYCS the book, so we’d be hoping to get a new separate page for the non-profit organization. And this disambiguation would be particularly helpful prior to the 4Q19 release of the updated and revised 10th anniversary edition of the book.

Comment by jon_behar on Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018 · 2019-06-21T14:44:33.611Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for clarifying Ben!

Comment by jon_behar on Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018 · 2019-06-04T04:04:17.376Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Aaron, very helpful data and context.

Vipul wrote up observations on Forum traffic from Sep 14-Dec 16, which seems to be based on data from Google Analytics. Any way to splice this data together with the more recent history?

Comment by jon_behar on Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018 · 2019-06-03T20:41:48.615Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Re: non-paid traffic, it should be very easy (a few minutes) to pull traffic data ex-adwords for any sites that are set up on Google Analytics. Excluding other types of paid traffic/conversions (e.g. newsletter signups driven by FB ads) would be harder (though generally doable).

One thing I really ought to have included but for some reason didn't think to is also total OpenPhil grants (not just to GiveWell or excluding GiveWell) as this may also capture some of the growth in the broader EA space.

Agree OpenPhil grants would be a helpful perspective on this, both total grants and grants within their EA focus area (which would be a proxy for meta investment)

Comment by jon_behar on Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018 · 2019-06-03T15:54:41.458Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW
[EA Forum traffic] data for 2017 and after is available but I am told that it would take too long to collect, so in the interest of publishing this post in a remotely timely manner, I will save collecting this data to next year.

I’m very surprised that pulling this data is non-trivial; I would have guessed it would take <5 minutes to get from Google Analytics. Is the EA Forum still set up on Google Analytics (which is where the pre-2017 data came from)? If not, why not, and how do those managing the platform measure usage and engagement?

Comment by jon_behar on Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018 · 2019-06-03T15:08:59.608Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

FYI, GiveWell's money moved in 2018 ex Good Ventures was ~$65 million, which makes the donation numbers look somewhat better.

Comment by jon_behar on Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018 · 2019-06-03T15:02:31.391Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Great work Peter, thanks so much for doing this! Super helpful to be able to see all these numbers aggregated in the same place. And I love the categorization of the metrics. Strong upvote.

A couple of thoughts on metrics to include next year:

· I agree with Michelle’s comment that traffic for EA.org is an important metric to look at, especially since that’s the top result when people google EA. I’d be interested in both organic search web traffic, and overall traffic (ex paid traffic).

· In general, I think it’s most helpful to look at numbers excluding paid traffic to give a better sense of organic growth rates. As Aaron notes, this helps explain the EA newsletter trajectory, and it’d be interesting to see how excluding paid traffic might affect the 80k traffic numbers as well.

· Total operational spending by EA orgs could be a helpful perspective on how inputs to EA are changing over time; the current metrics are all focused on outputs, and it would be nice to relate the two.

Comment by jon_behar on EA Meta Fund Grants - March 2019 · 2019-06-02T23:13:13.305Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Copying something I wrote in response to a similar question about OFTW:

FWIW, I don’t think [the average giving level] is a great reference point. The 2015 Money for Good study found a median gift of ~.4% of income in their sample (which overweighted high income households), and 1% giving would be something like to top quintile. So getting young people to (initially) donate 1% to effective causes seems like an excellent win.

(I work at TLYCS, OFTW’s fiscal sponsor).

Comment by jon_behar on I'll Fund You to Give Away 'Doing Good Better' - Surprisingly Effective? · 2019-05-27T21:13:28.149Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

You may want to consider another cheaper and easier way to test a book giveaway, that will have some built in measurement/follow-up processes. As I mentioned on another thread, there’s going to be

an updated 10th anniversary edition of The Life You Can Save coming out in Q4. There will be updated numbers and examples, two new forewords, and increased emphasis on specific calls to action meant for a broad audience (e.g. initially asking people to make a recurring donation vs. a substantial pledge).
The price is also right, as we’ll be able to distribute free copies of the e-book (which will have links so people can take action more easily) and audiobook. The audiobook will have chapters read by celebrity narrators; this isn’t the time or place to list people involved in the project, but they’ll be a great credibility boost.
A lot of EA origin stories start with the first version of TLYCS. We’re about to have a chance to distribute a new and improved version to a much wider audience, and we hope the EA community will help spread it far and wide.
(I work for TLYCS the nonprofit, which is producing and promoting TLYCS the book.)

If you're interested in helping distribute free copies, please let me know!

Comment by jon_behar on EA Still Needs an Updated and Representative Introductory Guidebook · 2019-05-27T21:00:39.867Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Updating DGB is probably doable and possibly worthwhile even after adjusting for opportunity costs. But I don’t see that as a sustainable long-term way of offering high quality and up to date introductory content. It just buys you some time, and then you’re back where you started. There's too much work involved in a re-write for that to be feasible as an ongoing way to keep info up to date.

Over the long-term, I think introductory content needs to be packaged in a structure that’s more modular and flexible, e.g. something like the EA Handbook (though I share many of the concerns that were raised about the specific content chosen for the current iteration).

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-18T16:52:04.394Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

There have been lots of great comments about the EA labor market, thanks to everyone who has been engaging in this discussion! I’m going to be away from internet service for about a week, but once I’m back I’ll respond to discussion that’s happened in the interim. Thanks!

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-17T19:45:31.132Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Howie. Good catch on the rent vs. own distinction, agree renting is the right reference point for junior hires. Seems like for the highest paying EA orgs, there may not be a wage gap for junior roles relative to comparable nonprofits (which I find pleasantly surprising), through presumably there’s still a large gap relative to the private sector.

Big picture, I still think EA salaries (adjusted for cost of living) are still low enough that there will be talent shortages, especially for more senior roles. It doesn’t help that many EA jobs and a very disproportionate number of the highest paying ones are located in extremely high cost of living locations. Even if SF is “only” 20% more expensive than DC (and for senior roles I'd argue for a higher adjustment), DC is an expensive city too.

Anecdotally, I moved from SF ~5 years ago and cost of living was a major factor (but not the only). My wife and I have estimated that roughly our Bay Area friends have moved elsewhere or plan to soon, and cost of living is almost always a huge factor. I heard a while back that the cost of renting a U-Haul was something like 3x higher to go from SF to Salt Lake City(?) than the reverse trip because way more people want to move out of the Bay than want to move to it. Against that backdrop, I don’t think paying what comparable non-profits do is going to be sufficient to attract the talent pool we want. There are a lot of important EA orgs in the Bay, and I'd like them to be able to hire out of the pool of people who want to buy a house and aren't independently wealthy.

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-16T22:24:13.815Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

FYI, I noticed that page also had some outdated info on TLYCS that only went through 2016. You can find updated numbers/charts in TLYCS's 2018 annual report.

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-16T18:33:32.285Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW
Using one industry I personally happen to know well as a comparison, I think entry level salaries for research analysts at these organisations tend to be equal to or higher than salaries for economics research assistants at places like the Federal Reserve or top think tanks in DC.

Does this account for cost-of-living differences? It costs ~75% more to live in SF than DC…

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-16T18:32:32.492Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Howie,

Thanks for clearing that up and updating the website!

At the most competitive EA orgs, entry level salaries in high-cost-of-living areas now typically range from ~$50k to ~$80k. The most competitive positions at those orgs typically pay at the high end of that range. That said, pay may vary outside of that range for specific positions and at other EA organisations. I'll update the page to clarify later today.

My sense is there’s quite a big gap between pay at a handful of “the most competitive EA orgs” and other EA orgs, and that there’s quite a lot of variation across orgs, causes, geographies, etc. Does 80K have a good handle on the size of these differences and/or would it be open getting more information via the annual talent survey as suggested in OP? (I’m glad to see 80K is open to adding questions to this survey, but as I mentioned elsewhere I think there are serious problems with the new question 80K has proposed.)

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-16T16:14:02.193Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Well put Gregory, you nicely captured a lot of concerns I have about the "pay by (reported) necessity" model.

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-16T01:35:52.911Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

As readers of the OP can probably guess, I think 80K is dramatically overstating the earning power of working at an EA organization by ranking it 3/5 stars.

Starting salaries in the US tend to be about $50k and in the UK salaries start on around £25k. We think that these salaries are roughly what you need to be happy, but compared with jobs in the private sector, it is harder to build up a savings buffer to withstand financial difficulties, and to make career transitions which require retraining. It can also be more difficult for people with children. That said, the organisations are often willing to pay more to get the right staff, especially if you have specific skills, like web engineering. Many are also happy to pay more to people who have dependents or student debts. At more senior levels, salaries range from $60,000 – $180,000 in the US.

This analysis doesn’t capture the fact that EA jobs (especially the best paying ones) are often in very high cost of living locations. In the Bay Area $50k to start doesn’t go very far, and $180k isn’t much of an upside for someone senior (especially if they have kids, debt, etc).

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-16T01:34:18.175Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW
[Raising wages across the board] would cause all kinds of problems. It would worsen the already latent center/periphery divide in EA by increasing inequality, it would make it harder for new organisations to compete, it would reduce the net amount of people that we can employ, etc etc.
But I could be wrong, and I sense that some of my thoughts might be ideologically tainted. If you feel the urge to point me at some econ 101, please do.

I think you’re right that these problems in would occur if a handful of orgs with the most money started raising salaries across the board in the current environment. But a commenter on FB summed up my econ 101 read on this perfectly (to reiterate I'm not an economist): “If the community can't afford market rates maybe it's time to start admitting that the community is funding constrained.”

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-15T18:37:54.170Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I'm arguing for point A.

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-15T14:30:44.329Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA · GW
I'm not arguing against the idea that some people exist that should be given the $150k that is needed to unlock their talents. I'm arguing that this group of people might be very small, and concentrated in your bubble.
I think that's the crux of the argument. If a majority of senior people needed $150k to get by, I'd agree that that should be the wage you offer. If these people make up just 1% of the population (which seems true to me), offering $150k to everyone else is just going to cause a lot of subtle cultural damage.

Very well put. Agree this is the crux of our disagreement; my intuition is that there’s a much larger pool of people who would be enticed by the higher pay.

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-15T14:28:17.338Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Using NYC as an (admittedly US-centric and high cost of living) example, the average cost of private school is ~$18k/year, and many of the good ones are around $50k. So if you think of a couple that wants to have a couple of kids, doesn’t want to send them to a bad (possibly dangerous) public school, and would like to put those kids through college, it’s unlikely those people would even consider non-profit work unless they had unusual circumstances that would allow them to do so (e.g. one partner with particularly high earning power, a trust-fund, etc.)

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-14T17:49:23.395Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Great post, strong upvote.

Comment by jon_behar on EA Still Needs an Updated and Representative Introductory Guidebook · 2019-05-14T17:45:33.381Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · EA · GW

To confirm: TLYCS the organization is playing a critical role in the book project; without the organization there absolutely wouldn’t be an updated version. The org has been essential every step of the way (including working to purchase all the necessary rights since ~2014). There’s a ton of work involved and Peter is doing a lot of it, but we’re trying to take as much off his plate as possible including pretty much everything on the promotion and distribution side. There are a lot of skills needed to pull this off, and this model plays to everyone’s comparative advantage: Peter is great at thinking and writing, while the org is better suited to set the distribution strategy (Charlie Bresler, TLYCS’s executive director, ran the marketing department for a large company with an iconic ad campaign).

Our hope is that a lot of people and organizations throughout the EA community will be able to use the book as a way to have more impact, such as GiveWell distributing the book to their donor base, groups/individuals sharing the book with people first learning about EA, making the book available for download at effectivealtruism.org, EA Global, etc. And of course our recommended charities and other effective nonprofits are mentioned throughout the book, with links embedded in the ebook version to make it easier to convert.

This seems like a good time to mention: TLYCS is fundraising for this project, and you can make an earmarked donation here. There’s more background on the book project in TLYCS’s recently released Annual Report.

The EA Meta Fund has made a $10k grant for this project which we’re extremely grateful for, but this barely makes a dent in the barebones budget, let alone what we think we ought to invest in this project. We’d love to see other donors from the EA community get involved as well.

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-14T17:10:49.036Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Related question: what are ways that EA organizations can foster strong cultures that don’t involve low salaries?

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-14T17:09:58.770Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for these thoughtful comments Gregory!

there's an adverse selection worry: low salaries may filter for dedication, but also lower-performers without better 'exit options'.

Hadn’t thought about this before, but agree it’s worrisome. Great point!

A lot has been written on trying to explain why EA orgs (including ones with a lot of resources) say they struggle to find the right people, whilst a lot of EA people say they really struggle find work for an EA org. What I think may explain this mismatch the EA community can 'supply' lots of generally able and motivated people, whilst EA org demand skews more to those with particular specialised skills. Thus jobs looking for able generalists have lots of applicants yet the 'person spec' for other desired positions have few or zero appointable candidates.

Agree with this explanation, and I think both demographics and low salaries contribute. One might frame the problem as: EA needs diverse skillsets, but the EA community is not diverse enough to have all those skillsets and the low pay filters out mission aligned people from outside the community.

Re: the relative glut of generalists, I came across an amazing stat when researching this post. In 2017 and 2018, surveys asked orgs to list up to 6 skills the EA community needs more of. Across both years, not a single person said EA as a whole needs more "People extremely enthusiastic about effective altruism" or more "People extremely enthusiastic about working on x-risk."

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-14T16:46:08.616Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for flagging this, please let me know if this clarifies:

There are a bunch of smart people in the EA community for whom “being paid 60% market rate is basically the same as being paid 90% market rate.” Let’s call them Cohort 1.

But there are also a lot of people for whom it makes a huge difference whether they’re paid 60% or 90% of market; for them it might make all the difference in whether they can even consider the job. Let’s call them Cohort 2. In some cases, people in Cohort 2 look like people in Cohort 1 but with more student loans, poorer parents, or other differences that have nothing to do with ability or mission alignment. In other cases, people are in Cohort 2 for reasons that make them systematically different in important ways. For example, I’d expect Cohort 2 to have more people with high earning power than Cohort 1.

To oversimplify, I think a lot of EAs believe that organizations should hire people from Cohort 1 because that means they can get smart, cheap, mission-aligned people. I agree that gets you smart, cheap, mission-aligned people, but think that hiring from Cohort 2 (or a Cohort 1.5 that’s somewhere in between) might still be a better strategy. In other words, we should be asking questions like “does paying 60% or 90% of market lead to more impact over the long-term?”

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-14T15:06:37.511Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Question: if all you knew about a bank was that the CEO made $75k a year, would that knowledge make you more or less likely to invest in that bank (from a purely financial perspective)? That would make me way less likely to invest.

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-14T15:03:40.602Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Here’s a simple example: imagine that you, or someone you were responsible for taking care of, had medical expenses of $100k/year. In that case, $75k wouldn’t even let you break even, you’d still be taking on lots of debt.

Other examples: you have debt, you have kids (and/or other relatives you’re financially responsible for), you live in a high cost of living location, or various other factors that have no relation to someone’s suitability for a job.

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-14T14:58:22.871Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW
In preventing wage dissatisfaction, I think it's better to look at perceived counterfactuals. This can come from being used to a certain wage, or a certain counterfactual wage being very obvious to you. Or it can come from your peers making a certain wage.
You seem to assume something like "people don't like to accept a wage that is lower than they can get". I suggest replacing that with "people don't like to accept a wage that is lower than they feel they can get".
I know some people that are deliberately keeping their income frozen at 15k so they won't get used to more. They reason that if they did, not only would they be psychologically attached to that wage, to a lesser extent so would their peers. In some sense they are keeping up a healthy cultural environment where it's possible to make little and still be satisfied.

Agree looking at perceived counterfactuals can be a helpful distinction.

I don’t see freezing incomes at 15k as a sustainable or scalable solution, at least in the context of harnessing resources to work on the world’s largest problems. But I think this brings up an interesting point about loss aversion and path dependency. I’d argue (and I think you’re doing the same) that people are much more likely to freeze their income at 15k at the start of their careers, but much less likely to do so after they’ve already started earning more and would need to cut back to that level.

Using @dgjpalmer’s experience as an example, I’d guess most of their Ivy League colleagues started off in the nonprofit industry rather than transitioning to it after some time in the private sector. And this dynamic introduces biases like shortages of skills that people pick up in the private sector.

I've heard of some organisations that don't have a fixed wage for a job, but a maximum. They ask their applicants "how much would you need to be satisfied", and that's how much they get. I'd expect that this practice, combined with a culture that doesn't overly discuss income or flaunt wealth, would be the best way to keep everyone satisfied, compete with industry, and still keep the average wage low.

This sounds very difficult to execute well over time, and my guess is that a lot of resentment would emerge. And doesn’t solve selection bias problems, discussed more here.

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-14T14:56:14.667Z · score: 17 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I find this highly problematic. Candidates who need money more (e.g. those with dependents) will assume a non-profit job won’t pay enough in the first place, and won’t even apply.

It’s also worth noting that we live in a historical context where discouraging employees from disclosing how much they make has been a strategy to suppress wages, often discriminatorily. (See here for why Open Cages has taken the opposite approach and embraced salary transparency.)

Comment by jon_behar on A Framework for Thinking about the EA Labor Market · 2019-05-14T14:55:17.606Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Belatedly noting an obvious conflict of interest: I work in the EA space and would stand to benefit if the ecosystem paid more.

Comment by jon_behar on Recap - why do some organisations say their recent hires are worth so much? (Link) · 2019-05-14T13:46:20.532Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · EA · GW

In addition to asking EA organizations more questions about their talent wants/needs, it’d be nice to get more information about their funding gaps. I suggest asking organizations how much they’d like to raise over 1,3, and 5 year timeframes, and also asking them to rate how difficult they found their last fundraising round.

Comment by jon_behar on Recap - why do some organisations say their recent hires are worth so much? (Link) · 2019-05-14T13:44:09.297Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Great to hear you’re considering new questions for the talent survey! I’ve suggested some specific questions to help get a better understanding of how much EA organizations are paying.

As 80K puts it, “Skill bottlenecks are a matter of degree” and these degrees can vary significantly depending on the specific skills in question. But we have little hard data to quantify skill gaps across various areas.
I suggest adding new questions to the next talent survey of EA organizations to help capture some of these nuances.[9] These questions will hopefully make it easier to answer questions like: Are EA organizations talent constrained? If so, which sorts of organizations and which sorts of talent? How large are these constraints? What can be done about them?
New questions (which should continue past surveys’ practice of asking the same questions about both a junior and senior hire and anonymizing organizational responses due to the sensitivity of the information involved):
● Generally speaking, how easy/difficult do you currently find it to fill roles at your organization? (Scale of 1 = Very difficult to 5 = Very easy)
● What do you pay current employees relative to what they could earn on open market, including jobs in the for-profit sector? (Multiple choice: More; about the same; 0-10% less; 11-20% less, etc)
● What do you pay current employees relative to what they could otherwise earn in the nonprofit sector (including all nonprofits not just EA organizations)? (Multiple choice: More; about the same; 0-10% less; 11-20% less, etc)
● What do you pay current employees relative to what they could otherwise earn at another EA organization? (Multiple choice: More; about the same; 0-10% less; 11-20% less, etc)
● How much do you plan to offer future hires relative to current employees in similar roles? (Multiple choice: More; Less; About the same. If someone answers “more”: Do you plan to increase salaries for existing employees? What factors into this decision?[10]
● Would any of the following steps be helpful in closing your organization’s talent gaps? (Rate the following options on a Scale of 1 =Not at all helpful to 5 = Extremely helpful):
○ Increasing salaries
○ Investing in recruiting
○ Increased publicity of position
○ Better access to interested candidates
○ Other (please describe)
This information is relatively easy to collect and interpret, corresponds to a real-world decision organizations make (how much to pay), is grounded in observable data (market wages), and is comparable across roles, organizations, geographies, and causes.[11] To mitigate the cost of data collection, I suggest abandoning survey questions about non-traditional labor metrics that seem to be producing noisy data and to generally be causing confusion.[12] If we collect compensation data and respondents indicate which types of roles they’re thinking about as junior and senior (which will vary across organizations), we’ll have a rich and actionable picture how EA compensation stacks up to the competition for various types of skills.