Posts

Tips + Resources for Getting Long-Term Value from Retreats/Conferences (and in general) 2022-07-24T15:41:07.784Z
Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now 2022-05-09T23:12:14.099Z
Beware Invisible Mistakes 2022-05-04T19:34:52.729Z
Questions That Lead to Impactful Conversations 2022-03-24T17:25:23.842Z
Doing 1-on-1s Better - EAG Tips Part II 2022-03-24T11:22:54.645Z
Stanford Existential Risk Conference Feb. 26/27 2022-02-11T00:56:46.619Z
EA Global Tips: Networking with others in mind 2021-10-28T07:47:06.741Z
The importance of optimizing the first few weeks of uni for EA groups 2021-09-21T21:42:08.243Z
If you could send an email to every student at your university (to maximize impact), what would you include in it? 2021-09-04T19:25:39.646Z
Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI 2021-08-20T14:51:49.564Z
How students, groups, and community members can use funding 2021-08-11T11:35:46.714Z
Summer Research Internship: Stanford Existential Risks Initiative, Deadline April 21st 2021-04-16T22:33:12.206Z
What Questions Should We Ask Speakers at the Stanford Existential Risks Conference? 2021-04-10T00:51:55.289Z
Tips for Engaging Prospective First-Year Students 2021-04-05T15:43:18.109Z
Apply to the Stanford Existential Risks Conference! (April 17-18) 2021-03-26T18:28:39.736Z
Stanford EA has Grown During the Pandemic; Your Group Can Too 2020-12-25T00:25:53.332Z
EA Birthday Posts: An Alternative to Fundraisers 2020-11-07T02:02:14.104Z

Comments

Comment by kuhanj on Organizational alignment · 2022-05-17T23:58:26.407Z · EA · GW

Thanks to Sam Bankman-Fried for comments and for significant influence on these thoughts.

:P

Comment by kuhanj on Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now · 2022-05-10T00:26:21.343Z · EA · GW

I think donations in the next 2-3 days would be very useful (probably even more useful than door-knocking and phone-banking if one had to pick) for TV ads, but after that the benefits diminish somewhat steeply over the remaining days.

Comment by kuhanj on Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now · 2022-05-09T23:39:08.809Z · EA · GW

Amazing, thank you Everett! I'd love to hang out together. :)

Comment by kuhanj on Announcing my retirement · 2021-11-26T08:22:30.282Z · EA · GW

Thank you for all your encouragement over the past few years for students and newer community members to post on the forum, and for actually making it easier and less scary to do so. I definitely would not have felt anywhere near as comfortable getting started without your encouragement and post editing offers. I've replaced Facebook binging with EA Forum binging since I both enjoyed it so much and found it really valuable for my learning. You will be missed, and incredibly hard to replace. Thank you for all your hard work!

Comment by kuhanj on Is it no longer hard to get a direct work job? · 2021-11-26T07:43:36.264Z · EA · GW

Hi Michael, thanks for writing this up! These are important topics, and I'd love to see more discussion of them. Just want to clarify two potential misconceptions: I don’t think it’s no longer hard to get a direct work job, although I do feel reasonably confident that it isn’t as hard to get funding to do direct work as it was a few years ago (either through employment or grants, though I would probably still stand by this statement if we were only considering employment). Secondly, on this part:
 

Kuhan mentioned that to it's not easy to get an EA job if you're not willing to work that hard, both working hard during the job and preparing to get the job. 

Is it the case that if you're hard-working and motivated and aligned with the values of the organizations you're applying for, then it's not that hard to get a job that works on a top cause?

 

There may have been some miscommunication in our conversation - I didn’t mean to imply that just being willing to work hard is enough to get a direct work job, or that people who aren’t able to get direct work positions aren’t able to due to their work ethic. What I meant to communicate is that I’ve found individuals who have a strong understanding of EA ideas, take actions (especially career planning) based on these ideas, and have a strong work ethic have had a lot of success finding direct work opportunities (through applying to jobs at EA orgs, applying for grants to run projects/do research/etc, and starting new organizations).

Comment by kuhanj on The importance of optimizing the first few weeks of uni for EA groups · 2021-09-21T22:19:07.247Z · EA · GW

Edited for clarity - it might be a US thing, but I'd encourage others to try it out and see how it goes unless there are strong reasons not to.

Comment by kuhanj on [deleted post] 2021-08-26T02:57:26.199Z

Regarding the concern of broad distribution of books being low-impact due to  low completion rates/readership/engagement, do you have a sense of how impactful reading groups are for books when coupled with broad distribution? They can have a high initial fixed cost and then pretty low marginal costs for repeated run-throughs (e.g. it takes a long time to make discussion sheets for the first time you run the reading group, but afterwards you have them ready, create breakout rooms, and if you don't participate in them this requires minimal effort/time).  

Comment by kuhanj on What are the EA movement's most notable accomplishments? · 2021-08-24T00:40:21.899Z · EA · GW

80,000 Hours as a (very thorough) resource for individuals trying to do good/maximize their impact with their careers feels like a big accomplishment. I found EA when I googled "Highest impact careers/how to have the biggest impact with your career", and didn't find anything anywhere near as compelling as 80,000 Hours. I think their counterfactual impact is probably quite massive given how insufficient impact-oriented career advice is outside of 80K (and the broader communities/research/thinking/work that have led to 80K being what it is). 

Most of the impact is indirect so I'm not sure how much this answers the original question. But 80K's impact from community building (e.g. being  the most common entry point into EA nowadays, the podcast, etc.), career plan changes, and maybe most importantly, being the best resource for impact-prioritizing people looking for career advice (and especially students), feel very noteworthy. 

Comment by kuhanj on Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI · 2021-08-23T23:44:06.146Z · EA · GW

Thanks Jake! Stanford EA and I would definitely not be where we are now without your initial mentorship/ motivation, and ongoing guidance and support! I can't thank you enough. :) 

Comment by kuhanj on Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI · 2021-08-22T00:50:17.320Z · EA · GW

Great points, thanks for commenting Ben!  Responding to each of the points: 

In my experience, running local group events was like an o-ring process. If you're running a talk, you need to get the marketing right, the operations right, and the follow up right. If you miss any of these, you lose most of the value. This means that having an organiser who is really careful about each stage can dramatically increase the impact of the group. So, I'd highlight 'really caring' as one of the key traits to have.

I think I mostly agree with this (and strongly agree that 'really caring' is a key trait to have - I imagine that comes across in the post but perhaps stating it more clearly would be beneficial). I'm not sure we'd disagree on this, but I do think aggressive 80/20ing often makes sense, rather than being a perfectionist (e.g. it's probably fine not to do follow up with everyone who participates in your fellowship/comes to your intro talk, but you need to do good follow up with the few people who seem most likely to get get highly involved/be very impactful). Maybe that's what you meant by doing things "right" in the first place though, in which case there's no disagreement. 

 I think one-off talks can be powerful, but they have to be combined with one-on-one follow up, or otherwise funnelling people into a fellowship etc. We did a lot of this in the early days and found a lot of great people like this. One-off talks should be optimised for marketing & reach, to find people for the more in-depth programmes.

I agree. One thing I forgot to mention in the post that I'll add in after this comment (although it is already a novel rip :P) is that Mauricio and I spent a bunch of time trying to make our Intro to EA presentation as good as possible (script and slides here - the slides could definitely look much better), and I give it each quarter to get people to sign up for our fellowship and offer 1:1s with anyone at the event who's interested. I think making a good intro to EA presentation is one of the highest value things I've done in the last year. Thanks for bringing this up!

I feel a bit uneasy about encouraging people to live together. It sometimes works well (& I've done it), but it can also lead to drama (e.g. romantic entanglements), a loss of work-life balance / ability to separate your doing good life from your personal life, and for people to lose their friends outside of EA, and I have think having a social network outside of EA is really valuable. One option is just to do it for 1-2yr as a way of making deeper friendships.

Interesting, I guess in the context of student life living with friends is quite normal, and my guess is the upsides (largely becoming better friends, learning a lot about EA, seeing how dedicated EAs lead their daily lives) tend to outweigh the downsides, but of course this depends a lot on the specifics of the person, who they're living with, for how long, etc. 

I agree a career focused pitch seems most attractive - that was part of why we set up 80k in the first place :) I hope we can create some better resources for the local groups to use, like the next version of key ideas (turned into a series of articles more like the old career guide), and eventually a better career-focused book.

These all sound amazing - I can't wait, and would love to help out where I can. Thanks for all your work starting and running 80K, it's how I first found EA (when I googled something like "Highest Impact Careers"), and I've been hooked ever since. Keep up the incredible work, the value you're providing to students (and others/the world) is tremendous! :)

Comment by kuhanj on Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI · 2021-08-22T00:35:07.837Z · EA · GW

That's very sweet, thank you Jonas! I have been in some conversations about EA essay/idea competitions similar to what you've mentioned, but haven't thought much about it. I think we're also thinking about ideas like hackathons as experimental outreach mechanisms to try out. How do you think something like what you're proposing would compare to the more standard intro EA programming (like intro talks and fellowships)?

Comment by kuhanj on New Articles on Utilitarianism.net: Population Ethics and Theories of Well-Being · 2021-08-20T22:07:50.266Z · EA · GW

Pageviews would also go up a lot if (as suggested in the post) articles from the website were included in intro fellowships/other educational programs. I'll discuss adding these articles/others on the site to our intro syllabi. 

One potential concern with adding articles from utilitarianism.net is that many (new-to-EA) people (from experience running many fellowships) have  negative views towards utilitarianism (e.g. find it off-putting, think people use it to justify selfish/horrible/misguided actions, think it's too demanding (e.g. implications of the drowning child argument), think it's naive, etc etc. I think utilitarianism is often not brought up very charitably in philosophy/other classes (again, based on my impressions running fellowships). 

So I worry about introducing ideas through the lens of utilitarianism. So one potential solution is to include these readings in fellowship syllabi after talking about utilitarianism more broadly (for what it's worth, in our fellowship we try to present utilitarianism as we/EAs tend interpret it and address misconceptions, but we can also do so much), or to bring them up in in-depth fellowships/non-intro programs where what I've brought up might be less of a concern. 

Comment by kuhanj on Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI · 2021-08-20T17:17:58.080Z · EA · GW

Thank you Tessa!

Comment by kuhanj on Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI · 2021-08-20T15:53:19.760Z · EA · GW

To clarify/set realistic expectations, much of the growth happened in our second year (2020-2021 academic year), e.g. all the things mentioned in the intro + summary bullets, the first year mostly involved getting 5-10 highly dedicated core organizers and getting SERI started. I also caveat all the things I had going in my favour (including being in the Bay, being on a CBG, and getting lucky with very dedicated and competent co-organizers).

It can be hard to sacrifice career planning/advancement for group organizing purposes, but as I mentioned in my other comment running your group well has lots of career benefits (both from within the EA community, and the skills you develop from becoming a kick-ass organizer :))!

Comment by kuhanj on Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI · 2021-08-20T15:46:21.128Z · EA · GW

Thank you for your kind words Miranda! EA group organizing can be quite difficult when others don't see it as potentially highly impactful and the group isn't doing so well - I hope this post can help change how useful EAs (and in particular students) think community building is, and help us do a better job at it so it feels more intuitively impactful and exciting!

The support system for organizers who want to put a lot of effort into their group is getting better and better. I'm always happy to have calls (or texts/emails) with organizers, to discuss how things could be better, and how to get your group members excited about EA and community building.

I didn't emphasize this much in the post, but putting a lot of effort into community building has been very rewarding for me personally (on top of being good for the group and (hopefully) the world more importantly) - in terms of job opportunities, my EA network/connections/friendships, my skillset, motivation/productivity (from being inspired by the other highly dedicated EAs I surround myself with to run our group), and impact. 

Comment by kuhanj on Lessons from Running Stanford EA and SERI · 2021-08-20T15:34:14.425Z · EA · GW

Thank you so much Kathryn! I'm inspired by all the work you do for WANBAM/mentorship in EA (which I'd love to build on moving forward, it's one of my top priorities), and everything else you do! :) 

Comment by kuhanj on How students, groups, and community members can use funding · 2021-08-15T21:03:25.519Z · EA · GW

Sorry fixed!

Comment by kuhanj on How students, groups, and community members can use funding · 2021-08-11T14:34:21.400Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the catch, should be fixed!

Comment by kuhanj on How students, groups, and community members can use funding · 2021-08-11T14:34:02.195Z · EA · GW

James Aung + Emma Abele funded by EAIF

Comment by kuhanj on How students, groups, and community members can use funding · 2021-08-11T14:13:04.837Z · EA · GW

Strongly agree, I'll add a bullet point on this to the post :)

Comment by kuhanj on Apply to the Stanford Existential Risks Conference! (April 17-18) · 2021-03-27T06:06:17.223Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the comment, just edited the post. :)

Comment by kuhanj on What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others? · 2021-03-06T08:32:44.967Z · EA · GW

I just stumbled across this on my Facebook newsfeed eradicator today and it reminded me of the inspiring quotes thread: 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.”

~ Anne Frank

Comment by kuhanj on EA Birthday Posts: An Alternative to Fundraisers · 2020-12-30T21:53:42.381Z · EA · GW

Ooh I like the changing profile picture idea, can I add that to the post? (I'll give you credit of course)

Comment by kuhanj on Stanford EA has Grown During the Pandemic; Your Group Can Too · 2020-12-30T21:50:45.143Z · EA · GW

Do you mean two or more people are sharing their screen at the same time? How does that work? We share our screens for group meetings, but I've never heard of screen-sharing during co-working sessions. Also, wouldn't people feel like they are being watched (or that they might show something private) if they are screen-sharing while working?

Yea we allow multiple participant screen-sharing on Zoom, which does run the risk of people seeing something private, but at least for me it really helps me not succumb to distractions, so the risk is worth it. You can't see other people's screens while sharing yours on Zoom, but everyone has the option of stopping sharing for a while and checking in on others, so the chance of that is often enough to keep us motivated. I think Focusmate might be another alternative, I haven't looked into other options yet. 

 

2. When you said you have "around twice as much weekly programming as pre-pandemic", around how many events on average is that per week exactly?  Also, how do you know that this is the right amount (and not too little or too much)? Is it your hope that every member at Stanford EA is showing up to at least 1 event per week?

It's hard to count since some members are involved in multiple daily activities (e.g. goal setting and co-working) while others just come to weekly programming (like our exec meetings/discussions/board game nights) but I've listed all of our recurring programming in the above post. I would love for every member of Stanford EA to show up to at least 1 event per week, and we have some systems in place to help with this (e.g. lots of mentors for our fellowships, many cause area subgroups to cater to all members' interests, etc.), but in practice this isn't the case. As for deciding how much  is too much, if attendance for an event is low and it doesn't seem to  be very valuable we're pretty comfortable cutting things. 

Comment by kuhanj on Stanford EA has Grown During the Pandemic; Your Group Can Too · 2020-12-30T21:50:29.474Z · EA · GW

Do you mean two or more people are sharing their screen at the same time? How does that work? We share our screens for group meetings, but I've never heard of screen-sharing during co-working sessions. Also, wouldn't people feel like they are being watched (or that they might show something private) if they are screen-sharing while working?

Yea we allow multiple participant screen-sharing on Zoom, which does run the risk of people seeing something private, but at least for me it really helps me not succumb to distractions, so the risk is worth it. You can't see other people's screens while sharing yours on Zoom, but everyone has the option of stopping sharing for a while and checking in on others, so the chance of that is often enough to keep us motivated. I think Focusmate might be another alternative, I haven't looked into other options yet. 

 

2. When you said you have "around twice as much weekly programming as pre-pandemic", around how many events on average is that per week exactly?  Also, how do you know that this is the right amount (and not too little or too much)? Is it your hope that every member at Stanford EA is showing up to at least 1 event per week?

It's hard to count since some members are involved in multiple daily activities (e.g. goal setting and co-working) while others just come to weekly programming (like our exec meetings/discussions/board game nights) but I've listed all of our recurring programming in the above post. I would love for every member of Stanford EA to show up to at least 1 event per week, and we have some systems in place to help with this (e.g. lots of mentors for our fellowships, many cause area subgroups to cater to all members' interests, etc.), but in practice this isn't the case. As for deciding how much  is too much, if attendance for an event is low and it doesn't seem to  be very valuable we're pretty comfortable cutting things. 

Comment by kuhanj on EA Birthday Posts: An Alternative to Fundraisers · 2020-11-12T02:51:00.192Z · EA · GW

Hey Akash! Thanks for your comment, and apologies for my late response!

Let me respond to  your individual thoughts:

1- I'd love to hear more about your decision to go with a career-focused post rather than a donation-focused post. I see how someone changing their career could have an immense impact (especially if they are able to find something impactful that they're also very good at). However, I'm skeptical about the proportion of people who would seriously consider changing their career paths as a result of this. Maybe my forecast is off, though-- I wouldn't have expected 5 messages/calls! Would love to hear more about how those go.

I think that students, especially young students (like 1st/2nd/3rd year undergrads) are often open to many different career paths, or don't know what they want to do yet. I've noticed that with advertising for Stanford EA's fellowship, career-focused mentorship and readings are the part of the fellowship students are most excited about, since many students want to go into high-impact careers, but don't know what options are out there. This is corroborated by post-talk survey data after an intro to longtermism/EA talk with Will MacAskill last year, where many more people said they were interested in learning more about how to enter high-impact career paths (~90%) than finding out the most cost-effective donation opportunities (~60%).

2. I wonder if a post that had info about careers and donations would be effective. Maybe readers would be left feeling confused and it's better to focus on one thing. But maybe adding a paragraph about GiveWell and including a quick blurb would be enough for some people, without distracting too much from the focus on 80k hours. What do you think?

I wanted to focus on career choice exclusively rather than give people multiple options to increase the likelihood of them checking out 80K, and also to counter the misconception that EA is primarily about donations as mentioned in the post. 

3. At first glance, I think it would've been net positive to explicitly mention EA. Personally, I think people would have seen this as a "birthday post" (especially because of your great/clear hook) rather than "just another EA post."

Yea, I spent some time debating what was best and wasn't sure of my decision in the end. I maybe mistakenly assumed everyone who read this would know this was indirectly about EA given how much I talk/post about it, but I think that was an incorrect assumption. That being said, the comments have lots of mentions of EA so hopefully that compensates somewhat. I also imagine most of the value of this post comes from people checking out 80K, in which case they're likely to find out about EA anyway. 
 

4. I think your description of existential risk is great-- one of the most accessible/engaging that I've seen. I wonder if mentioning existential risk might turn people off, though (then again, it seems like you would've had to mention it since you're working at the Existential Risks Initiative).

I think terms like "existential risks/threats/etc." are fairly commonplace (e.g. they were brought up in a U.S. presidential  debate earlier this year in reference to climate change), so I didn't worry too much about it throwing people off, but did also try to describe their scope/scale in a way that would make people take the issue seriously without being too sensational.

Thanks for all the feedback and for your kind words! :) I'd be happy to edit a draft of your birthday post if you'd like!

Comment by kuhanj on "EA residencies" as an outreach activity · 2019-11-18T00:56:55.054Z · EA · GW

Here are some of my thoughts on EA residencies/moving people into the full-time EA recruiting pipeline that I shared with Buck: 

Bottlenecks

The primary bottlenecks preventing people (who are already interested in EA) from doing high-impact EA work full-time from what I’ve seen in no particular order (based on 2 years running Stanford EA and a few conversations with non-student EAs and community group leaders):

1. Full time EA work, and the transition required feels too costly (in terms of time, money, moving, social costs, preserving optionality, sunk cost fallacy, mental/physical energy, etc.) compared to the path of least resistance

2. Not having (or thinking they don’t have) the right skillset for high-impact EA work (specifically the paths that 80K recommends)

3. Lack of belief that they can be (really) impactful (not trying because why bother)/ High levels of uncertainty about whether investing the time to try to pursue EA work full-time will pan out. (This was really huge for me - once I updated towards thinking I could be impactful if I just tried really hard a lot of the other bottlenecks solved themselves somewhat).

4. Different models of the world (e.g. different credences for person affecting views, different cause prioritization, differing views on the importance of earning to give, relative impact of working on different cause areas, etc.)

5. Lack of clarity on how to progress/next steps

6. System 1 misalignment (Wanting to want to do impactful things in theory but in  practice preferring other things for various reasons, some of which are listed above). 

Prioritizing the Bottlenecks to address:

The time needed to successfully address each of these can be drastically different (at least this was the case for me, and I still grapple with a few of the above bottlenecks). Ability to move the needle on each of these probably varies a lot by person and the relationship between the EA resident and whomever they’re speaking to. 

For example it might be hard for a stranger (the person doing the EA residency) to convince an interested EA that their specific skillset is actually valuable for EA, but it might be easier to clear up misunderstandings that lead to different world views (but even here the willingness of people to meaningfully update might depend a lot their relationship with the person).  Although on the skillset front maybe listing what skills are needed for several kinds of important jobs, and which of these can be learned/developed with practice can give people a better sense of what might suit them, since it’s probably hard to learn enough about someone’s skillset from limited interactions/familiarity to give good personal advice.

This being said, I think that if you’re able to change someone’s mind about certain important things, other bottlenecks will resolve themselves (for example once my self-belief increased, I felt motivated to tackle my uncertainty about next steps and work on my career plan). 

I think EAs with authority/clout/working at an EA org can particularly help with some of these - #2, 3, and 4 depending on how knowledgeable and good at communicating ideas they are (the resident EA).  And #5 is also probably doable if you’re good at career-coaching/problem solving. It seems like being good at EA career coaching would be a really useful skill for someone doing an EA residency (good knowledge of EA landscape, what the gaps are, what skills are needed to fill the gaps, good at figuring out what someone’s skillset is, good at communicating, motivating people, etc).

Helping move the needle on 1 and 6 seem really important, and pretty time-intensive to change on average, and probably hard to do so predictably/reliably. It’s also unclear how much an EA residency can help with this. I don’t think it’s impossible but explicitly thinking about how to do this seems good. For example, reading Strangers Drowning and On Caring by Nate Soares really helped me with #6 and a few other serious EAs I know (at least 3 but I haven’t had this conversation with many people). Maybe certain types of conversations can also be reliably/reproducibly high impact. 

Logistics:

It might be hard for an outsider to integrate into various social settings/I’m not sure realistically how much high-quality social interactions you’d be able to have during a residency, especially with students who are busy/not the best at managing time. I’d imagine planning sufficiently far enough in advance can help a lot with this. If you know/reach out to an  organizer in the area you can coordinate with them to set up a bunch of 1:1s and group discussions with promising members.

I think these residencies could be really useful, especially in places where people don't have access to full-time EAs very regularly (basically anywhere other than Oxford/London/Bay Area) to mobilize people, and help them see that doing EA work full-time (to be clear not necessarily at an EA org) is a real, viable option. The above points were just things to take into account to make the residencies go well.