Consider canceling your WiFi 2021-07-29T20:19:42.114Z
Writing about my job: Economics Professor 2021-07-28T19:41:29.448Z


Comment by Kevin Kuruc on If you could send an email to every student at your university (to maximize impact), what would you include in it? · 2021-09-04T20:27:50.026Z · EA · GW

Thanks for asking this! I teach a ~400 student principles of macroeconomics course, so I am very interested in the answers people come up with (and eventually seeing the email you sent). I'd like to send something about EA after exposing them to ideas of long-run growth, the current number of people in extreme poverty, etc.

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Mushroom Thoughts on Existential Risk. No Magic. · 2021-08-04T21:14:00.943Z · EA · GW

Great piece, well done! 

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Writing about my job: Economics Professor · 2021-08-02T19:03:12.848Z · EA · GW

I think I've experience drudgery on the end of projects, when I feel like I've learned what I would like to about a sub-topic, but I still need to formalize everything in exacting detail for something like an academic publication. Hopping between and/or  starting new projects -- even within the same sub-discipline -- is not boring for me. 

However, things are probably different when you're near the frontier of a sub-discipline and the research you're working on is generating new knowledge, rather than reading lots of what others have done. It's definitely more exciting. Admittedly, it takes a lot of hard work to get to that point in any field, but I've found it very worthwhile. 

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people · 2021-07-30T21:07:18.414Z · EA · GW

Thanks for writing back -- and for the unnecessary complements of my inaugural posts :) -- Charles! I only know the context of mis-messaging around skills at a high level, so it is hard for me to respond without knowing what 'bad outcomes' look like. I don't doubt that something like this could happen, so I now see the point you were trying to make.

I was responding as someone who read your (intentionally not fleshed out) hypothetical and thought the appropriate response might actually be for someone well-suited for 'biology' to work on building those broad skills even with a low probability of achieving the original goal. 

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Consider canceling your WiFi · 2021-07-30T20:42:36.950Z · EA · GW

No laptop! That's even better :) 

And yes, to build on your caveat, I meant to add one of my own recognizing 'voluntarily having no connectivity because you have a nearby office, library, computer lab is much different than not having the option to be easily connected.'  

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Writing about my job: Research Fellow, FHI · 2021-07-30T20:39:22.787Z · EA · GW

That seems correct to me for the most part, though it might be less inevitable than you suspect, or at least this is my experience in economics. At my University they tried hiring two independent little 'clusters' (one being 'macro-development' which I was in) so I had a few people with similar enough interests to bounce ideas off of. A big caveat is that its a fragile setup: after 1 left its now just 2 of us with only loosely related interests. I have a friend in a similarly ranked department that did this for applied-environmental economics, so she has a few colleagues with similar interests. Everything said here is even truer of the top departments if you're a strong enough candidate to land one of those. 

My sense is that departments are wise enough to recognize the increasing returns to having peers with common interest at the expense of sticking faculty in teaching roles that are outside of their research areas. Though this will obviously vary job-to-job and should just be assessed when assessing whether to apply to a specific job; I just don't think its universal enough to steer people away from academia.

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Is effective altruism growing? An update on the stock of funding vs. people · 2021-07-30T16:22:32.176Z · EA · GW

For an analogy, imagine making a statement about the EA movement needing more “skill in biology”. In response, this updates conscientious, strong EAs who change careers. However, what was actually needed was world class leaders in biology whose stellar careers involve special initial conditions. Unfortunately, this means that the efforts made by even very strong EAs were wasted.

This doesn't immediately strike me as a bad outcome, ex-ante. It's very hard to know (1) who will become world class researchers or (2) if non-world-class people move the needle by influencing the direction of their field ever-so-slightly (maybe by increasing the incentives to work on an EA-problem by increasing citations here, peer-reviewing these papers, etc.). I, by no means, am world class, but I've written papers that (I hope) pave the way for better people to work on animal welfare in economics; participate in and attend conferences on welfare economics; signed a consensus statement on research methodology in population ethics; try to be a supportive/encouraging colleague of welfare-economists working on GPR topics; etc. I also worked under a world-class researcher in grad school and now sometimes serve as a glorified assistant (i.e., coauthor) who helps him flesh out and get more of his ideas to paper. In your example, if the community 'needs more people in biology' I think the scaffolding of the sorts I try to provide, is probably(?) still impactful. (Caveat: I'm almost certainly over-justifying my own impact, so take this with a grain of salt.)

If 80K was pushing people into undesirable careers with little earnings potential, this might be a legitimate problem. But I think most of the skills built in these HITS based careers are transferrable and won't leave you in a bad spot. 

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Writing about my job: Economics Professor · 2021-07-29T18:16:26.961Z · EA · GW

I'm not sure I have much to add aside from things I saw in your post (e.g., morning working, and other Cal Newport-ish tricks). I've found these to be really great.

One thing I experimented with pre-pandemic, and am about to re-up, is canceling my WiFi. Obviously during the depth of the pandemic when I had to work full time from home I needed it, but I'm actually calling up my provider tomorrow to drop back off. I still had some data on my phone for a quick email and/or internet check , but this entirely eliminated useless scrolling, streaming, etc., at home that don't bring me joy. 

I think more people should try this  -- maybe I'll write a short post making the case for it.   

EDIT: I did write that short post up, if anyone's interested.

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Writing about my job: Economics Professor · 2021-07-29T18:04:56.360Z · EA · GW

I agree there is something more exciting about diving into a whole new field, since the fruit become low-hanging again and progress is faster. I guess what I meant is specific to economics, or other fields that give you 'thinking tools';  I underestimated how narrowing in on specific questions/fields teaches you how to learn, such that you can bounce to new disciplines and learn a lot much faster. Maybe another way to say that is that my focusing in on very particular subtopics was more temporary than I forecasted, but necessary for skill building.

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Writing about my job: Research Fellow, FHI · 2021-07-29T14:44:55.486Z · EA · GW

Thanks for writing, sounds like a great career you've got going, congrats! Unsurprisingly, many of your experiences track closely what I jotted down about academic economics yesterday. However, one big benefit of yours - that I didn't think to mention, but is relevant for anyone choosing between a university and a research institute - is the like-minded coworkers.

I'd be very surprised if >2  colleagues of mine knew about EA, and even more surprised if any aside from me had thought about longtermism, etc. This definitely makes it a bit solitary. I imagine I'd be happier and more productive in an environment with even just 1-2 people excited about Global Priorities Research. 

On the other hand, I think its probably useful to have GPR work being done in the wild to mainstream it some, so it's not all negative. 

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Writing about my job: Economics Professor · 2021-07-28T20:58:58.369Z · EA · GW

Hi Madhav, 

That feeling has never completely left me -- I still have varied interests and share your fear that I'm not digging into any single topic deep enough. The thing I've learned is that even if you pick something that feels narrow at the time (economics, for me) there are infinitely many interesting subtopics within that field to keep you interested, excited, and learning. Maybe that helps take some fear out of difficult-to-reverse decisions - like fields of study - if you're worried you may get bored with it. This may not be true for all fields, but there are plenty where it is the case if that's a concern of yours.

Figuring out the most useful skills to build is beyond my expertise, but you should certainly retain the belief that eventually you can and will build skills to create value! (And of course, check out 80000 hours if you haven't).

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on How to reach out to orgs en masse? · 2021-07-28T19:58:08.981Z · EA · GW

Hi Linda! I'm excited to see experienced people bringing hard earned career capital (especially in underrepresented fields) here. 

This is a bit of an obvious answer, but my sense is that a ton of people in the community and at the orgs you're hoping to reach read this forum. If you write something up that looks more like a sales pitch than a question-style post, I'd guess that be the easiest place to start. There is even a 'consultancy' tag, and I saw a recent call here for more EA-consultancies that you could piggy back on.    

Good luck!

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on The problem of possible populations: animal farming, sustainability, extinction and the repugnant conclusion · 2021-07-13T20:37:46.494Z · EA · GW

Thanks! Makes sense.

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on The problem of possible populations: animal farming, sustainability, extinction and the repugnant conclusion · 2021-07-06T19:41:00.776Z · EA · GW

Hi Stijn! Thanks for writing this---I completely agree that getting population ethics on surer footing is an important issue for the EA community. And I agree with your diagnosis that it's super difficult.

I'm wondering if there is a similar dominance argument you could apply to John Broome's argument against the "Intuition of Neutrality". Basically, imagine we're in some World A, where Worlds B & C are available and they only differ in that 1 extra person exists with utility within this range of indifference ("neutrality" in Broome's words) in both worlds, however in World C her utility is higher than in B. Standing at the vantage point of A, we're indifferent between B and C (since her utility doesn't count in either); but C is dominated by B in that this new person has a better life and no one is affected. Very curious if layering the 'range of indifference' with a dominance criteria can be shown to always escape conclusions like the one above where C>B when compared to one another, but C~B when compared from A. 

Apologies if that wasn't clear! And perhaps your dynamic consistency problem is analogous... I just didn't see it as immediately obvious and haven't spent enough time thinking through the details. Thanks again for writing such a detailed post on this!

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Seven things that surprised us in our first year working in policy - Lead Exposure Elimination Project · 2021-05-18T17:06:15.529Z · EA · GW

Wow, really well done! Thanks for doing great work :)  

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Small and Vulnerable · 2021-05-03T18:28:53.533Z · EA · GW

Thank you for taking the time -- and having the courage -- to write this. I appreciate learning about others' experiences from personal accounts.

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on Measuring Animal Welfare: Philosophical Foundations, Practical Indicators, and Overall Assessments · 2021-04-30T17:20:18.398Z · EA · GW

Hi George,

I haven't yet dug into the details, but I am  very much looking forward to doing so. Thanks for doing great work and sharing it here!

Comment by Kevin Kuruc on How do you compare human and animal suffering? · 2021-04-29T19:51:36.132Z · EA · GW

Hi! I agree with basically everything written here, in particular about their lives probably not being worth living. My sense is that this depends less on differences in intensity of experiences across species, which makes it a useful starting point for my thinking. I admittedly know less about on-the-ground conditions than activists in this area, but if their lives are void of good experiences, and include at least some subjectively bad ones, its hard to come up with a rationale for how they could have worthwhile lives. 

So, conditional on focusing on near-term problems, I think there is a very good case for prioritizing factory farming (and many EAs do!). I'm less certain about the longtermist point you make. If factory farming phases out eventually without EA effort (which seems likely to me), then your efforts aren't counterfactually ending an indefinite future of factory farming, just speeding this transition up. Preventing extinction or totalitarian lock-in really would create a counterfactual stream of goodness that's (approximately) indefinite. Though this also assumes the future is likely to be a stream of goodness, rather than badness; here's a related discussion on this point you might find useful.