Posts

I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA 2019-12-04T10:53:43.030Z · score: 88 (33 votes)
Keeping Absolutes in Mind 2018-10-21T22:40:49.160Z · score: 49 (25 votes)
Making Organisations More Welcoming 2018-09-12T21:52:52.530Z · score: 38 (17 votes)
Good news that matters 2018-08-27T05:38:06.870Z · score: 22 (24 votes)
New releases: Global Priorities Institute research agenda and posts we’re hiring for 2017-12-14T14:57:22.838Z · score: 17 (17 votes)
Why Poverty? 2016-04-24T21:25:53.942Z · score: 11 (11 votes)
Giving What We Can is Cause Neutral 2016-04-22T12:54:14.312Z · score: 10 (12 votes)
Review of Giving What We Can staff retreat 2016-03-21T16:31:02.923Z · score: 8 (8 votes)
Giving What We Can's 6 monthly update 2016-02-09T20:19:08.574Z · score: 15 (15 votes)
Finding more effective causes 2016-01-01T22:54:53.607Z · score: 18 (20 votes)
Why do effective altruists support the causes we do? 2015-12-30T17:51:59.470Z · score: 19 (27 votes)
Giving What We Can needs your help this Christmas! 2015-12-07T23:24:53.359Z · score: 11 (17 votes)
Updates from Giving What We Can 2015-11-27T15:04:48.219Z · score: 8 (12 votes)
Giving What We Can needs your support — only 5 days left to close our funding gap 2015-06-25T16:26:31.611Z · score: 7 (9 votes)
Giving What We Can needs your help! 2015-05-26T22:11:33.646Z · score: 5 (11 votes)
Please support Giving What We Can this Spring 2015-04-24T18:22:16.230Z · score: 10 (16 votes)
The role of time in comparing diverse benefits 2015-04-13T20:18:52.049Z · score: 2 (4 votes)
Why I Give 2015-01-25T13:51:48.885Z · score: 20 (16 votes)
Supportive scepticism in practice 2015-01-15T16:35:57.403Z · score: 17 (17 votes)
Should Giving What We Can change its Pledge? 2014-10-22T16:40:35.480Z · score: 8 (18 votes)

Comments

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2020-01-06T13:13:14.456Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I think he donated £25 for that year, but I'm not sure how he picked that number and I have to admit I haven't been very systematic since then. I think the following year I donated £100 to ACE, then missed a year, then for 2 years did 10% of my annual donations to the animal welfare EA fund (I'm a member of Giving What We Can, so that's 1% of my salary).

I'm not sure I have a reasoned case for donating to animal welfare charities as offsets, since the animals that are helped are different to those I harm and consequentially it would surely be best to make all my donations to the organisation I think will help sentient beings most. But it seems pretty good to remember that I think it's important and impactful to help various groups to whom I don't give the lions share of my donations, and it seems plausibly good to show to others that I care about them by doing something concrete. With those considerations in mind it simply seems important for the donation to be an amount that feels non-negligible to me and others, rather than an amount exactly equal to the harm I'm doing. (That may simply be a rationalisation though, because I would rather not know exactly how much harm I'm causing and it would be a hassle to figure it out.)

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-10T17:30:34.666Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · EA · GW
Do you actually use the A/B/Z career planning tool described here? Is that out of date? Do you think that's a very good way to plan your career, or might you suggest others?

We still endorse the general gist of 'come up with an A/B/Z plan', but no longer use that specific tool. Our more up to date framework is here.

I think the idea of doing an A/B/Z plan is a really good one. My impression is that because applying for jobs is so aversive, people often minimise the number of things they apply for both by not aiming as high as they could and by not considering what they would do if things really went worse than they're expecting. Hiring processes seem to contain quite a lot of randomness, and even when they don't are hard to predict from the outset. That means it seems worth both shooting for things that you have only a small chance of getting but would be excellent if you do get them, and worth making sure you know what your back up would be if things go much worse than you expect.

One thing to say about these is that people sometimes read 'plan A' as 'the role I most want' and 'plan B' as 'another role, which is easier to get'. In fact, 'plan A' is intended to be some type of role - for example, going to grad school - so would itself involve applying to a whole range of specific options of differing levels of competitiveness.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-09T09:41:21.609Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW
"Can you say more about the relative value with advising of you being "a sounding board" and "helping people think through a fundamentally difficult and personal decision", compared to you "hav[ing] a bunch of information [advisees] don't"?
My underlying question is whether I (and other EAs) should spend much more time concretely planning my career than I am. (See here for my background thoughts.) If advising is valuable because it forces people to sit down and seriously plan their careers, then people could get the same value by planning on their own time. On the other hand, if the value of advising is something unique to 80k - information, insights, abilities, connections - then people probably can't replicate the success of advising alone.
In general, do you think most EAs aren't spending enough time on concrete career planning? In your opinion, how much of the benefit of advising could be achieved by someone independent of 80k by seriously researching and planning for a day?"

As much as possible, we try to write up or discuss on the podcast information which we think would help people with career decisions, so in a way you might expect that the vast majority of the benefit of advising should be coming from things like being a sounding board. It is of course hard to find specifically the information that applies to you amongst all the information available, so that's something I'd expect to be able to continue to help with. And people often have specific gaps in their knowledge where they haven't come across some specific concept / possible role yet. But overall I do think it's the case that a lot of the benefit is coming from people taking the time to sit down and think seriously about their career in a way they might not have otherwise. Some evidence for this is the fact that people fairly often report that simply filling in the preparation document for the call is useful for them. (It asks: what options are you considering and why; what kinds of roles are you most suited for; what are your key uncertainties)

I very much agree with the comment you linked to, and I'm really glad to hear you're thinking of turning it into a top level post. I guess I don't know how much time most EAs spend planning their career, but I would expect that for most people they could get a lot of benefit by doing more of it. Thinking through what the best types or roles apply for would be, researching specific roles and then applying to competitive things you think you only have a small chance of getting are all really aversive. Standard careers advice doesn't tend to give a terribly helpful framework for doing these in a way that will be most impactful. So I think there are good reasons why almost all of us put too little time into this, and why having specific time allotted to it and a person to talk it through with would be helpful. I definitely think people can put themselves in a good position to make these decisions though. This article gives an outline of the process people could follow to make a career decision. Once you have some of these thoughts written down, getting a friend to give comments on it and discuss it through with you seems useful. They might also be able to be an accountability buddy, to help you apply widely even when that feels frustrating and time consuming. For many people this can get quite a bit of the benefit of our advising. That's particularly true of those who have already read widely about EA topics and know others in the community. Having done this before doing advising with us is also really helpful because it means we can tell better which people we'll be most useful for, and with them focus on the the parts that we can add that the person couldn't as easily do themselves (like more in depth information, or making introductions).

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-08T10:25:40.359Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I'm afraid it's not out yet. It will come out in the new year, likely when I'm back at work.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-07T09:35:09.024Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · EA · GW

> Which individual parts of advising do you think are the most and least valuable? You listed these components above, which are most critical?

From the advising sessions I've done, the cases where I've been able to add most value seem to be the ones where I knew about some specific organisation / role / project that the person wasn't aware of and would be a good fit for, which I could tell them about and encourage them to apply for. I actually think this is rather unfortunate, because I'd like EAs to be exploring broadly and getting involved in many different sectors and organisations. For this reason, I think the work Maria is doing on expanding our job board is really important - it means being able to discuss concretely roles at many different foundations, specific roles to get research assistant experience etc.

From looking through past cases where people made large impactful plan changes based on talking to the team a couple of things seemed to come out as particularly significant: recommending particular resources and providing encouragement. (Note that the number of plan changes I was looking over here wasn't super long - it was only the ones that were most significant, and for which we had enough information that I could put together a pretty comprehensive story of what caused them to change their plans.) 'Encouragement' sometimes here meant providing an outside view that the person's plan seemed sensible and plausibly impactful despite being non traditional, and sometimes meant making clear that the person was very welcome in the EA community and that it was worth their applying to various specific opportunities even though they might feel that they were underqualified. Another which seemed useful was making introductions, though that is less dependable, because while there are usually useful resources to point a person to on whatever they'd be interested to know more about, it's more hit and miss whether we happen to know someone it would be sensible for them to be introduced to.

It's a bit more difficult to say which things are least valuable - there are various things which came up in fewer cases of people making impactful career changes, but I didn't notice ones where I thought it would be very useful to people and then they never came up as useful. All the others I mentioned came up sometimes but not frequently as being useful. I think discussing cause prioritisation might be something that is less useful than I would have intuitively thought, where my guess at why is that it requires a lot of thought, not just a couple of minutes conversation.

For some components it seems particularly tough to figure out whether or not they're useful - in the case of helping someone to form a concrete plan, or simply getting the person to think seriously about their long term career, it's really hard to figure out whether the session made any difference or whether they would have done that themselves anyway. It seems pretty likely the person themselves doesn't know the answer to this counterfactual.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-06T17:30:25.619Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

You might be interested in this section though, which says how many plan changes were rated 10 in previous years, but have subsequently been downgraded.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-06T17:20:27.963Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I would expect not, since it would be hard to give much information which isn't identifiable to individuals. The longer term follow up is factored into our overall impact numbers though, so in that sense it is.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-06T16:55:28.927Z · score: 23 (11 votes) · EA · GW

I think a key piece of advice I'd have is to think of what you're doing more as sound boarding rather than as trying to convey information. People asking for careers advice are often pretty keen to get 'answers', and tend to assume that others have a bunch of information they don't. I often feel I fall into this trap, of thinking that others must know the answer to 'how impactful is x', when usually they have little more information than me. So I think it's important to push back on the idea that we can give people answers to what role will be most impactful for them, and make clear that what we're doing is helping them think through a fundamentally difficult and personal decision. I think reading articles like our one on making tough careers decisions might be helpful for doing that. I think the community as a whole will do better if we try to get lots of people working on the hard problem of what's most impactful, than if we expect to get answers from just a few people and then try to propagate them (also because doing the latter means the information is likely to get distorted if people aren't thinking it through for themselves).

I'd also try to be well versed in what resources there are around on different causes, career paths, jobs etc. You're usually only talking to someone for an hour, but if you can use that hour to suggest a bunch of articles/books/podcasts/videos to them, they might end up spending many hours on those.

Coordination amongst local communities seems like it's really valuable - particularly if you can find other local groups that are particularly similar to yours, or have also experienced some particular problem that you're currently having. There's an EA groups slack, with a career planning 1-on-1s channel, which seems very useful for getting people working together. This seems all the more valuable for new local group leaders getting up to speed.

Unfortunately we don't have capacity to write a guide on this, or to train people on how to do it. We might in the future, but unfortunately it won't be soon. My impression is that the Oxford local group has written a brief guide on it which they're considering sharing with others.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-06T16:33:38.687Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I'm not exactly sure of the extent to which I'm risk averse. I don't tend to have super strong views about the kinds of advice I'm giving people, which means that usually I feel able to give my actual view along with how uncertain I am about it. That has the advantage that I can usually be totally open and candid, though the disadvantage that it's obviously a bit less useful to get an answer along the lines of 'here's a reason to think A is higher impact, here's a reason B is higher impact, on balance I might go for B, but I think there's a strong case for each...' than 'B seems much better'. I also tend to be naturally risk averse, which means that my natural inclination is to suggest people go for the safer of different routes. Eg I'm very hesitant to suggest someone drop out of a degree, and hesitant to recommend someone quitting a job to take time to study or similar, rather than only quitting when they have another lined up. (I'm decidedly more on the risk averse end of the spectrum than some of my colleagues, for example)

There are probably a few cases where I feel the need be extra risk averse though:

  • In cases where someone would go into debt in order to pursue some course of action, I feel very hesitant to advise them doing that (particularly if they themselves are clearly worried about it). I find this a difficult trade off to make, because particularly for undergraduate it seems really important to me to go to a top university, and I'd definitely expect people to be able to pay off debt they go into in order to go those. But at the same time, I'd never want to push someone into taking on more debt than they're comfortable with.
  • I worry about cases where a particular role seems like it might be very stressful, and even possibly lead to burn out. It's really hard to know for a specific person whether a role will be stressful for them, even if there's reason to think it would be for some people. It feels emotionally much worse to me to have nudged someone towards a role that ends up being very stressful for them than to have nudged them away from a role that turns out to work really well for them. Some part of that seems right in expected value terms - leading someone to burn out is likely much worse for them than their alternative job, while it's likely there's only so much better the role would be for them than the alternative. But I also think as an adviser I have some extra duty of care to make sure I don't give advice that leads to harm.
  • Not quite to do with 'risk aversion' but related is that I don't always push people as hard on their values as I might naturally. People don't typically expect when going into a careers advising session that they'll end up talking much about what their values are and what they care most about, but that's critical for determining what the most impactful role by their lights is. For that reason, I usually start advising sessions with a discussion of values - what causes they care most about and why. That mostly involves me trying to work out what a person's values are, rather than trying to change them. Since my PhD is in philosophy, my natural inclination would be to be a bit more opinionated than that. In particular, when someone says that they don't care at all about people who aren't alive yet, I'd usually be interested in pushing more on that (since that was the topic of my thesis). For example, by discussing hypotheticals like 'if we shouldn't care about those as yet unborn, does that mean I shouldn't donate to AMF if it will take a while for a malaria net to be bought with the money, and so it will save the life of a baby who isn't born yet'. But these are huge questions which people need to read about and think through over a long period of time, rather than trying to argue through in 10 minutes of a 40 minute call.
Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-06T15:41:32.747Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · EA · GW

One thing that's making my work less valuable is how well the EA community is growing - the fact that for a lot of the kinds of information I might give people, many people are already coming across it from other means! (Which is why we tend to talk to people who have had less contact with the EA community so far.)

More seriously: I think the two main things that feel most limiting are information and time/capacity (which also interrelate, because if we had more time we could gather more information). On the former, I both mean that I feel limited by not knowing as much as I'd like to about specifically what parts of advising are the most useful for people and that I'd like to know more about different careers - their impact, how to get into them etc. One specific thing I'd like to know more about is concrete organisations and roles that seem really high impact, because it's so much more actionable for a person to have specific things suggested that they could apply for than to discuss how they could go out and research the organisations in a particular sector. I think this is one of the reasons that effective altruists tend to talk as if working for organisations that identify as effective altruist is the best thing to aim for - these orgs are few in number and therefore easily identifiable, whereas (for example) the UK government is huge and there are lots of choices to make about departments you might work for and specific types of roles to apply to.

With regard to time, I would appreciate more time to be able to talk to more people, to be able to talk to people for longer, and to be able to work on a greater number of projects - for example working with local groups on their giving careers advice. This object level work also trades off against spending time on building up the capacity of the team so that in future we'll have more time for object level work (and of course against improving my advice in other ways, such as learning more!).

In terms of which of these limiting factors seem best to work on: For now, I'm keen not to decrease the cost-effectiveness of advising, which means likely not spending more time per person we talk to (for example). I'm aware that I could always learn more in order to finesse the advice I give, so while I want to continue working on this, I try to prioritise what seems most important to learn about. On balance, the most limiting thing after having time to do work (since I'm on maternity leave) probably seems to me to be having an accurate enough understanding of what parts of advising are most valuable to scale the team up further (for example, knowing whether we should be hiring specialist advisers in specific areas, or more generalists). I'll be trying to work more on that in the new year when I'm back to work (along with getting through our waitlist).

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-06T15:16:43.179Z · score: 34 (10 votes) · EA · GW

Overall, yes - I think it's truly incredible. I still have trouble believing how it went from an idea between students in a college common room to global movement with thousands of people acting on it in countries around the world.

How I'd nudge it feels like a really difficult question, because for any change I'd make it's hard to know how it would actually end up cashing out. One simple thing I'd say though is that it would have been good if different parts of the movement had coordinated more early on. Nowadays it feels like people travel between different hubs pretty often, and EAG and the leaders forum brings people together at least annually. In the early days it didn't seem like people travelled as much, partly because everyone was trying hard to live frugally. I think that was likely a mistake, because it meant much less communication and coordination between people in the US and UK.

Things I'm less sure about are ones around taking into account what has actually happened sooner. For example, I mentioned above that we've become more ambitious, for example that the broader idea of effective altruism was more appealing to people than we thought. If we had known that earlier, I think we could have focused more on discussing the broader ideas rather than starting with narrower ones. Another way in which we could have been more ambitious is discussing longtermism more earlier on. I think longtermism is a hugely important part of effective altruism. People who haven't been born yet are in an even worse position to claim our attention than those the other side of the world and non-human animals, and there are so many more of them than of the former two groups. Our initial assumption that we wouldn't be able to get others to care about people in the future seems to have been proven wrong by the way the movement is going, and it would have been great if we had realised that sooner.

Also in the spirit of being more ambitious, it might have been good if there had been more concentration on thoroughly and carefully building out the ideas of effective altruism before doing as much mass outreach as we did. Even around 2010, Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours got quite a bit of press attention. I think in a way, our pushing for growing quickly was down to some lack of ambition - it was a great way to grow to having a community of 1000 or so, but if we had realised how big the movement could grow, maybe we'd have done so more slowly and carefully. It's really difficult to know though - that media attention got some great people involved who otherwise wouldn't have known about it, so maybe in the world with less media attention at an earlier point it wouldn't have been possible to grow this much.

A final thing I might have tried to push is consistency. By virtue of trying to do the most effective thing, as a community we're always reassessing what we're doing, thinking of better things to try, setting up new organisations etc. It seems like there's huge value in having a specific mission and just spending years getting great at carrying that out (as evidenced by GiveWell and OpenPhil's success).

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-06T14:16:58.033Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Again, I'll give a pretty brief answer since this is a question about broader 80,000 Hours strategy rather than advising specifically.

Around the end of the year we do an annual impact review. At that point we follow up with people we think have made a significant plan change, and people who we knew about from the past who had made large plan changes to see how those panned out. For cases where it seemed we made a particularly large impact we've continued following up for years, in order to update how much impact the plan change had. It's not viable for us to do this with everyone who reports any kind of change (our impact survey gets more than 1000 answers each year), so we just do it with the cases where we seemed to have had the most counterfactual impact on the person's career (as opposed to, say, the people who just say they read something on our website and it made them slightly more likely to follow a different path)

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-06T09:24:51.062Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

This is really a broader 80,000 Hours strategy question, which as I said I don't plan to discuss. I think there has been some thought put into such partnerships but I don't know about the details.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-05T17:53:17.059Z · score: 71 (31 votes) · EA · GW

One thing I often see on the forum is a conflation of 'direct work' and 'working at EA orgs'. These strike me as two pretty different things, where I see 'working at EA orgs' as meaning 'working at an organisation that explicitly identifies itself as EA' and 'direct work' as being work that directly aims to improve lives as opposed to aiming to eg make money to donate. My view is that the vast majority of EAs should be doing direct work but not at EA orgs - working in government, at the think tanks, in foundations and in influential companies. Conflating these two concepts seems really bad because it encourages people to focus on a very narrow subset of 'direct impact' jobs - those that are at the very few, small organisations which explicitly identify with the EA movement.

A trap I think a lot of us fall into at some time or other is thinking that in order to be a 'good EA' you have to do ALL THE THINGS: have a directly impactful job, donate money to a charity you deeply researched, live frugally, eat vegan etc. When, inevitably, you don't live up to a bunch of these standards, it's easy to assume others will judge you. That has usually turned out to be wrong in my experience. People greatly differ in how much of a sacrifice specific things are to them, and how comfortable they are with different levels of sacrifice. I felt very guilty about eating meat for years, without succeeding in really changing my eating habits at all, until a colleague (who was vegan) donated to ACE on my behalf as an off-set and told me to quit spending emotional energy on my diet and get back to work. Another colleague, on joining the organisation, was worried people would be judging her ring for being a waste of money (which was an artificial diamond, and so cheaper than it appeared), but not a single person had noticed it except to think how pretty it was. In my experience, people we meet in this community are all trying hard to help others, and while doing that they're appreciating the great work of those around them doing the same, regardless of what form that takes. 10 years into Giving What We Can's life, it still blows me away that there are so many people willing to give away 10% of their incomes to make the world a better place. It's great that we're all pushing ourselves to do more, but I hope people feel appreciated rather than judged by the larger community.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-05T17:24:41.683Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Could you clarify the question? Is it 'what are things you would say if you didn't need to be risk averse?'?

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-05T17:21:37.297Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · EA · GW

One is thinking more about how to make social interactions go well. For example, I have a tendency in 'work' settings to want to jump straight to business. So that was my initial inclination on advising calls. But it's actually important when discussing career decisions with people that they feel at ease and like you find it easy to communicate with each other. So I've tried to increase the friendliness of our initial interaction, rather than jumping straight in with really specific questions.

Most of the cases where I've been most helpful to people are ones where I had really specific things to recommend: a particular job they seemed suited to, an internship they could immediately apply for, or just a specific person likely to know of a research project they could get started on. Whether I happen to know of an opportunity really suited to the person is of course often a matter of luck, but it's made me more likely to check our job board before I talk to someone for things that might match their background. It's also made me appreciate how important it is to talk in concrete terms about the specific next steps the person might take after the conversation (including things like when they might take those steps).

Providing people with encouragement is surprisingly often useful. Job hunting is really stressful and time consuming, which makes people pretty keen to apply for fewer options than might be ideal. Also, trying to go for the most impactful job often means taking a less traditional route, or doing something that doesn't follow naturally from your background. So you could easily be in a position where your family and classmates all think that the option you're considering is pretty weird, which makes it very natural to question whether you could really be right in pursuing it. Getting an outside view from someone who has the same values as you and can look at your situation more dispassionately than you can often be surprisingly helpful for counteracting both these effects.


Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-05T14:23:06.685Z · score: 26 (11 votes) · EA · GW

I always find this a bit hard to answer, because I often feel really uncertain about the big / important questions, such that it's hard to know what my view exactly is or how it changes. Here are a few things I've been surprised about recently though:

  • The research in 'Destined for War' on how one superpower overtaking another has usually led to a war throughout history, and its conclusion that the US and China need to work hard at avoiding that trap. I don't think I would otherwise have thought about war as being in some sense the 'default' outcome of China's growth surpassing that of the US. It definitely made me more worried about that relationship.
  • I would have thought there were a lot of resources going into peace building, and that many of those would be focused on avoiding great power war. But talking to people about this area it seems like there is less work being done on it than I would have thought. (That's not to say we should work on it, it maybe means that only governments can really do anything on this, and there's no point philanthropists putting money towards it.)
  • I had thought that if you wanted to work in a particular area in government in the UK as a civil servant (eg on biotechnology) you should aim to get a job in the most relevant department for that and stay there. But from talking to people it seems that it's actually well thought of to have experience with multiple departments, and it can be easier to move up quickly by moving around. That doesn't feel intuitive to me compared to getting more specific expertise.
  • I've been finding it interesting seeing what biases I've had from being around academia so much. One that was particularly noticeable to me was that coming out of a philosophy PhD onto the philosophy job market you expect to apply for at least 10s of jobs, plausibly over 100, and to get almost none (or in fact none) of them. Obviously, that makes applying for jobs a gruelling and thankless task, but I think there's some sense of it being less personal because everyone is applying to tonnes of things and getting rejected by the vast majority of them. That culture seems pretty different from what some people experience coming out of university.
Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-05T12:14:22.091Z · score: 57 (24 votes) · EA · GW

I think setting up GPI with Hilary is probably my biggest success. I think having a well thought of academic institute doing global priorities research and encouraging other academics to do the same is a really important step towards effective altruism getting more in depth answers to questions of how to do the most good, and to these ideas gaining traction in spheres of influence like government. In a sense we were starting from scratch in setting it up, and needed to get buy in from different parts of Oxford university (involving going through around 7 committees), employ great researchers, fundraise and develop a strategy and research agenda. It felt as if it took a while at the time, but looking back going from idea to fully fledged Oxford institute in less than two years feels pretty rewarding.

In terms of mistakes - I'm not sure this is the biggest I've made, but I think it's a significant one that I've made more than once: Insufficiently taking cultural fit and trust into account when building teams. I think making well-functioning organisations of people who work smoothly together and trust each other is decidedly harder than I would have anticipated, and is crucial for people working effectively. One example of this was when Giving What We Can, Effective Altruism Outreach and the Global Priorities Project merged into a single CEA team. I was very much in favour of that merger, because it seemed so inefficient to have multiple teams supporting different local groups, multiple teams doing overlapping research etc. I thought it would be much better to have a unified strategy and plan. At the time, I also thought it would be a good idea if 80,000 Hours merged with those orgs. Looking back, I don't think I anticipated nearly strongly enough how much the different organisations had individual cultures which meant their teams worked well within themselves, and which meant that the amalgamation didn't have a cohesive culture and vision for people to get behind. I now think it's extremely important to have a strong organisational strategy and team culture which is constant over time, and to make sure that new people are thoroughly on board with that before hiring them. That's in no way to say that you should only hire people who agree with every aspect of the strategy, or have similar approaches to problems. But it's crucial for a team to deeply trust each other and be executing on a shared vision.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-05T11:28:49.541Z · score: 24 (10 votes) · EA · GW

We seem to have fairly good evidence for the cost-effectiveness of the current model (one-off conversations of around 45 minutes, gathering some information from people beforehand, and with some email follow up afterwards). So we expect that model won't change a huge amount over the next year.

One thing we'll be focusing on early in the new year is getting a more fine grained sense of where the value in advising comes from. There are a whole bunch of different things we do in an advising call, with different people getting value from different parts. This includes: discussing cause prioritisation, suggesting career options the person hadn't yet considered, helping rank options, providing encouragement to apply for things where the person might be too diffident, making introductions, giving more information / context on specific roles or organisations, recommending particular resources, brainstorming a concrete plan / next steps. We have some sense of which of these are more commonly helpful and for which people, but not yet as much understanding as we'd like of what parts we should be focusing on. Learning more about this seems important to do while the team is small, because the answer is likely to affect what kinds of hires we make in the future, and because changing strategy is harder to do with a larger team.

There are a few other specific things we're likely to want to experiment with over the next year. One is thinking through ways to make our advising process more efficient, for example by writing up bits of advice we find ourselves often giving. We did a bit of that by producing a podcast episode on advising. Another is thinking through how much we should be a team of specialists (in the way that Niel is a US AI policy specialist) versus generalist advisers (which Jenna and me currently are). At the moment, we sometimes get feedback that it would be helpful if the person an advisee talked to had a more in depth knowledge of some field, but on the other hand we also frequently talk to people who are considering a broad range of options and would like to discuss and compare all of them.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-05T11:10:29.917Z · score: 37 (25 votes) · EA · GW

He's super cute, pretty chill, and growing crazily fast - he's gone from 8 pounds to 10 pounds in the 3 and a half weeks he's been alive! And he's already enjoying getting to know the 80,000 Hours team. Photographic evidence of my claims.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-04T15:23:51.965Z · score: 33 (16 votes) · EA · GW

A couple of things I think have been really significant to its success are it being part of Oxford University and it having a very well respected and talented director (Hilary Greaves). I think this gave it a credibility from the get go which has allowed it to hire really top researchers. Doing that seems incredibly important if global priorities research is going to become a well respected field.

Fundraising-wise, we started off by applying for academic grants, since they have lower opportunity cost than being funded by EA funders. We had some early success with a small grant, but didn't get any of the larger ones we applied for. We decided that that wasn't worth the time commitment, since to get them we needed large time input from talented researchers, and EA funders actually preferred to pay for the time of those researchers to go towards actual research. In addition to the time commitment for fundraising from EA donors being smaller, it was extremely useful to get the input of those donors - they tended to have excellent advice, which they might not have had time to give us had we not been fundraising from them.

Two important ways in which GPI roles differ from many academic roles is that they require people only to do research (rather than teaching or admin) and that the institute functions pretty collaboratively - it has a central research agenda, mandatory seminars and an aim of research working together on papers. The former acts as an incentive to get top researchers to want to work there, as well as being a more valuable use of their time. The latter aims to make the research produced more goal oriented and impactful (central agenda) and to make the most of the fact that different people have different comparative advantages (some are great at coming up with ideas, others at meticulously working through a problem in detail).

One challenge we faced was getting economists as well as philosophers on board - our network was far more philosophy heavy, and Oxford's Philosophy department is much stronger than its Econ one, so it's harder to get economists to want to move there. We tried fairly hard to make it interdisciplinary from the get go, but I think it's still something they're keen to do more on.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-04T14:56:53.591Z · score: 23 (12 votes) · EA · GW

I worry that there's a bit more antagonism and unfriendliness in the movement now. I think this is mostly just due to it being bigger: when there are few enough of you, you all know each other somewhat and so are likely to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Whereas when lots of people only know each other online, it feels easier to assume the worst of each other. Plus engaging online rather than in person tends to be less friendly in general. I'm not sure if this is a real effect though.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-04T14:54:48.694Z · score: 28 (14 votes) · EA · GW

We seem to have gotten better at engaging with experts and other communities. In the early days, it felt as if a large part of EA narrative was 'look at all these things the rest of the world is getting wrong'. That might have been partly necessary for carving out a niche, and was usually picking up on something true. But it wasn't a great way of engaging with others. Whereas now it seems like we do a better job of finding out what others are doing really well that we want to learn about and build on (eg with things like speakers at EA global and the interviews on the 80,000 Hours podcast)

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-04T14:50:42.980Z · score: 43 (20 votes) · EA · GW

I think we've gotten a bunch more ambitious over the years. It feels like in the early days we thought we'd only get traction encouraging people to take really specific, concrete actions: for example, donating to demonstrably more effective global development interventions. Whereas it seemed that actually people found the broader ideas of effective altruism appealing. Plus EA's research agenda seems to have gotten more ambitious - rather than only trying to figure out what current charities have most effect, EAs are now trying to figure out what we can do that will improve the long run future as much as possible. And again it feels as if the research there has shifted in the more difficult and general direction: how to make sure that transformative AI is developed safely is an incredibly difficult challenge but feels a bit more concrete and contained than how to prevent global power war and how to build the best long-term institutions (though this difference might well be simply how I think of these problems). In the early days these latter problems were discussed, but it didn't feel as if we had much constructive to say about them, beyond having done a bit of research into things like how to become a politician.


Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-04T14:28:03.758Z · score: 42 (19 votes) · EA · GW

A number of factors, but the biggest was suitedness to the role. I tend to get a lot of energy from talking to other people. My role at GPI was very independent - at the time I was the only operations person there, and academics tend to work fairly individually on their research. By comparison, my current role involves not just talking to people I advise, but the team is also more collaborative in general (for example, it makes sense for the research team and advising team to collaborate quite a bit because advising calls are both how we get out quite a bit of our research and a good way to find out what research we might want to do more of). I also enjoy discussing and having an incentive for keeping more up to date on EA research, which was less the case in a purely operations role. I was actually surprised how much my greater enjoyment of the role has led me to working more hours and therefore being more productive. I found the GPI role engaging and loved the team, so I hadn't thought of myself as not enjoying the job. But my greater enjoyment of and therefore productivity at the 80,000 Hours role has updated me some to the importance of finding a role you really like.

There were also various situational factors: I had done the initial set up of GPI, at which point my role was pretty amorphous and hard to hire for. But by the time I left, when the initial grant I got was running out so we were issuing a new contract anyway, it was a more well defined role so it was easier to find a good replacement. In addition, I had just had a late term stillbirth, and so was emotionally keen on a change.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA · 2019-12-04T14:11:55.932Z · score: 24 (12 votes) · EA · GW

A combination of the people most likely to be able to fill the skill gaps we currently regard as most crucial (so, people who have specific experience or talents - though this may be pretty general) and people I think I can help most. The latter tends to mean people who aren't in-person involved in the effective altruism community, since those people are likely to have already heard a lot of the advice I might give, and to have other people they can usefully chat to about their career decisions.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Are comment "disclaimers" necessary? · 2019-11-26T18:51:08.577Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I'm not that much of a fan of adding disclaimers to my posts because it feels cumbersome and assumes that I'd be writing as an employee rather than an individual, when I'd prefer my comments on the forum to be assumed to be the latter. But I tend to include them because my perception has been that people on the forum tend to appreciate precision, and this gives a better sense of what capacity you're writing in, plus I'm not sure I'd be best to judge under what circumstances people would appreciate a disclosure.

Having said that, it has happened to me that something I said informally was quoted in a more formal context and attributed to me as a representative of my organisation, which makes me feel better about commenting off the cuff on things if I can add a disclaimer to try to prevent that.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Are comment "disclaimers" necessary? · 2019-11-26T18:45:35.809Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

If you're adding a disclosure already, surely having it be a disclaimer also isn't more distracting? I'm assuming these look like [I work for 80k] and [I work for 80k but this is my personal opinion] respectively - let me know if that's not how you think about them.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on EA Leaders Forum: Survey on EA priorities (data and analysis) · 2019-11-22T16:44:51.581Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · EA · GW

[I went to the leaders forum. I work for 80,000 Hours but these are my personal thoughts.]

One thing to say is in terms of next steps, it’s actually pretty useful just to sync up on what people thought were the problems we should be putting attention to: like that we should be thinking more about how to be overtly appreciative. For example, in my case that means that when I do 80,000 Hours advising calls I pay a bit more attention to making sure people realise I’m grateful for the amazing work they’re doing, or how nice it is to talk to someone working hard at finding the most impactful career path.

We did also brainstorm specific ways in which lots of people can do more to increase that vibe. One example is to point out on the forum when there are particular things you found useful or appreciated. (Eg: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/wL6nzXsHQEAZ2WJcR/summary-of-core-feedback-collected-by-cea-in-spring-summer#4KHwoAjsiED7tQEg3) I think that’s the kind of thing it’s easy to overlook doing, because it doesn’t seem like it’s moving dialogue forward in a way that offering constructive feedback does. But actually it seems really valuable to do, both because it gives writers on the forum information about what’s useful to people in a way that’s more specific than just upvotes, and because it gives everyone the sense that the forum is a friendly space to contribute.

We also discussed specific ways those at the Leaders Forum might use to try to improve the culture. In particular, we considered ways to have more open discussions about effective altruism as appreciative and inclusive. For example, many of us thought we should be doing more to highlight how amazing it is for someone to be earning a typical US salary and donating 10% of that, and thereby saving someone’s life from malaria every year. On the side of inclusivity, it seemed as if some people worried about effective altruism needing to be something that took over your life to the exclusion of other important life goals. Doing AMAs (like the one Will did recently) and podcast episodes in which people can candidly talk about their views seemed like good ways for some of us to talk about how we feel about these things. (For example, I just recorded a podcast episode about 80,000 Hours advising, in which I also chat briefly about how I’m about to go on maternity leave.) These are all small steps to take, but the hope would be that together they can influence the general culture of the effective altruism community towards feeling friendlier and more inclusive.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Summary of Core Feedback Collected by CEA in Spring/Summer 2019 · 2019-11-08T11:13:48.756Z · score: 18 (12 votes) · EA · GW

> We think individuals and leaders can make a difference in their own communities and organizations in this regard, and hope that our efforts encourage others to do the same. As some examples:

I particularly appreciate this, and the specific examples given. Something I struggle with is that I would like the EA community to be welcoming to new people, and for it to be easy for people who have been around it for ages to mix with people who have just starting to explore it. But I'm somewhat shy, and typically find it tiring talking to new people. Since my day job involves talking to a lot of new people (I'm an adviser at 80,000 Hours), going to meet ups for new EAs outside of work typically feels daunting rather than appealing. I worry that a lot of EAs are similar to me in being somewhat geeky and introverted, and so finding it hard and tiring to do a lot of meeting people new to EA outside work. This makes me really grateful that CEA is taking this on as a project, and thinking through systematically how to make the community more welcoming and friendly.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Summary of Core Feedback Collected by CEA in Spring/Summer 2019 · 2019-11-08T11:00:20.614Z · score: 17 (9 votes) · EA · GW

I was glad to see this included in the post, although I can see why it could seem weird / surprising. Since an important part of CEA's role is to grow the EA community in a healthy way, it seems like an important outcome measure of whether CEA is doing its job is whether the EA community is in fact growing in a healthy way (and more specifically what parts of that are going well and badly). That seems like a particularly hard outcome to measure, and it would seem easy and understandable to blame others the parts that aren't going well rather than taking responsibility and thinking about how to improve things. It's great that you're finding ways to get a sense of how things are going, and figuring out what CEA can do to improve things.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Only a few people decide about funding for community builders world-wide · 2019-10-27T20:47:50.643Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

It seems worth bearing in mind that what's essentially happening here is you're setting up a new charity which needs to fundraise, which happens pretty frequently in lots of different formats. There are often local advice groups around. Eg the one I used when we were setting up CEA was Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action - https://ocva.org.uk/ They give free sessions for people setting up charities to come in and ask questions - whether that's about how to write their constitution, or what groups there are around which are looking to fund new charities.

Supporting embryonic charities often feels like an exciting proposition donors / foundations, because it feels like you can have strong counterfactual impact. So there are various organisations around which look specifically for charities that are at really early stages, eg The Funding Network - https://www.thefundingnetwork.org.uk/about-us


Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Only a few people decide about funding for community builders world-wide · 2019-10-25T09:55:19.019Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Sorry my example wasn't clear. I meant to be distinguishing the level of granularity of the intervention, and saying that the more specific the intervention, the less worrying it seems if there's only one funder in the space.

A clearer example might be: if the Gates foundation was the only funder of malaria interventions, that would be really bad not just because it would mean insufficient funding was going to fighting malaria, but also because they might focus on the wrong types of interventions, and because it's showing a really surprising lack of interest in funding malaria interventions by the rest of the world. On the other hand, if there's some particular malaria vaccine being researched and the funding from that is all coming from Gates, you might think that was less worrying: the optimal level of funding for such a vaccine is much lower than for the whole set of malaria interventions, and it's less surprising that something that specific is funded by just one donor so it's less likely to indicate systemic problems with the malaria-funding-space.

For similar reasons, it would seem much more worrying to me if there were only one funder for 'EA community building' than if there were just one funder for (for example) EA Global.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Only a few people decide about funding for community builders world-wide · 2019-10-23T10:00:38.023Z · score: 61 (29 votes) · EA · GW

This doesn't seem to be quite comparing things at the right level to me. It compares 'AI safety research' as a priority cause area to 'EA movement building', which seems very reasonable, but then says that 'EA movement building' constitutes only funding local groups of a particular type (for example, it seems to be leaving out student groups run by current students, who get funding from their university for doing it; it seems to leave out work being done on thinking through how effective altruism might grow in China).

It strikes me that in the sense in which 'EA movement building' is a priority cause area like 'AI safety research' it in fact has quite a few other donors, including OpenPhil and the Meta fund. EA movement building in this sense would surely include lots of different interventions from running EA Global to the EA Facebook group to curating what news coverage EA gets to Will writing a book on the importance of longtermism. Building EA local groups seems more plausibly compared to a specific AI safety research agenda. You might well think that eg MIRI's agenda should be more widely worked on, or that it would be better if MIRI had more sources of funding. But it doesn't seem worrying that that isn't case.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on How to do EA Global well? How can one act during EA Global so as to make the most effective changes afterwards? · 2019-10-16T18:01:17.609Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · EA · GW

This depends a bunch on your temperament, but I find general 'mingling' - going into a large room full of people and speaking to whoever I come across - really exhausting. I've gotten a lot out of looking through the people coming on the app beforehand, seeing who I'd particularly like to meet, and then setting up times/places to meet with them in advance. It makes the experience feel less rushed and more targeted to me.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on [Link] What opinions do you hold that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of effective altruists? Anonymous form. · 2019-10-04T09:52:50.134Z · score: 19 (10 votes) · EA · GW

At the level of generality where the disclaimer you're asking for is more like 'this represents our true views and we followed our conflict of interest policy on it', I agree that sounds very reasonable.

I'm not convinced that the conflict of interest policy should be modelled on large financial institutions and lotteries though, given their huge sizes. As a small intellectual community, it seems that it would be far more limiting to simply rule anyone with any kind of relationship to any judge out of receiving a grant. I imagine this is more analogous to academic procedures around sub-disciplines. For example, in deciding who to invite to a normative ethics conference on contractualism, it seems unwise to say that no views can be given on people you have a personal relationship with, since there are few people doing tonnes of work on contractualism, and they would naturally often interact with each other and so are likely to friends in some form. It seems better to have some clear idea of when you have to declare what relationships and what measures should be taken in cases of which relationships.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on [Link] What opinions do you hold that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of effective altruists? Anonymous form. · 2019-10-03T09:55:16.607Z · score: 37 (19 votes) · EA · GW

I haven't voted on this post, but if I had to guess I'd expect it got downvoted because it strikes me that it would seem strange to have at the bottom of write-ups 'none of us have romantic/sexual relationships with the recipients'. I wouldn't expect that to be the kind of thing that ordinary grant makers would put on their write ups. I'd have thought it would have the following problems:

  • Personally, I'd find it intrusive to have to make repeated specific comments about people I was not romantically or sexually involved with (despite, in fact, being longtime married and monogamous and therefore always being trivially able to do so)
  • This would seem to either rule out a class of people for grants for whom it might be unfair to do so or force even more intrusive specific public comments ('none of the judges have had relationships with any of the recipients except that judge A once slept with recipient B'). A better alternative seems to be to ask people to declare internally their conflicts of interest and have the person with the conflict of interest step out of the decision on that particular grant. (Incidentally, this harm would presumably disproportionately affect women, since the majority of the grant makers are men.)

I would expect the usual way to handle this would be to have a clear conflict of interest policy, stating in advance what constituted conflicts of interest (presumably family members, for example, would also be included) and what should be done in those cases.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on [Link] What opinions do you hold that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of effective altruists? Anonymous form. · 2019-10-03T09:34:40.541Z · score: 31 (14 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks John, really useful to hear specifically how this has been used and why that was problematic. I certainly wouldn't have predicted this would be the kind of thing that would be of interest to your org such that it got shared around and commented on, and it makes me aware of a risk I wouldn't have considered.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on To what extent is Paradigm Academy a front organization for, or a covert rebrand of Leverage Research? · 2019-09-03T11:34:57.281Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · EA · GW

My impression is that Paradigm is a spin off from Leverage Research. Where Leverage functions as a think tank for producing research, Paradigm is a training organization, which draws somewhat from Leverage’s research. They seem to have separate staff, though as you say, staff often seem to move between them. You might expect people to move from one to the other if you think it’s a good idea for someone to do some research which then prepares them for teaching that research. Having organisations branching off from each other when some members want to pursue some new mission seems relatively common – to take an example I know about (because I was involved in it), the initial researchers at the Global Priorities Institute were all employees of FHI until GPI split off from FHI.

Hopefully this will be clearer when Leverage launches a website of its own.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on I find this forum increasingly difficult to navigate · 2019-07-05T13:07:48.242Z · score: 7 (16 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for bringing up suggestions like filtering by subject matter and rankings - I imagine it's really useful for the forum team to hear what improvements people most want, and how people typically use the forum.

I downvoted though, because I think it could be expressed in a kinder and more constructive way. It would have been nice if the title was more like a specific feature request rather than a general attack on someone's hard work, and if the post included some appreciation for things that have been improved over the years, and the hard work people have put in to make that happen. It might also be good to rephrase particularly loaded statements like 'The latest version has reached the point where I just don't see the point of visiting the forum any more'. Being in effective altruism is kind of challenging, because we're always trying to do everything as well as we can, and optimise. I think that makes it all the more important for us all to try to be as supportive and caring to each other as we can.

My impression, incidentally, is that the search functionality is decidedly better than it was on the old forum: the search results seem to be more related to what I'm looking for, and be easier to sort through (eg separating 'comments' and 'posts')

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Announcing plans for a German Effective Altruism Network focused on Community Building · 2019-07-04T10:08:21.442Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · EA · GW

As Aaron says, it seems that the team is doing a great job of forming a thorough and considered plan. Have you thought much about what a minimum viable product (as described eg in the Lean Start-up) would look like, and how to use that to test your assumptions? That might be particularly useful given the complexity of the project.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018 · 2019-06-03T11:06:00.870Z · score: 19 (10 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this, really interesting.

It might be useful to include page views of ea.org in future, given that that's arguably the page that has been most designed to be a good landing page for EA.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Which scientific discovery was most ahead of its time? · 2019-05-17T13:05:08.636Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · EA · GW

AI Impacts' project on discontinuities in technological progress might have some relevant examples for this: https://aiimpacts.org/cases-of-discontinuous-technological-progress/

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on How does one live/do community as an Effective Altruist? · 2019-05-16T11:57:19.047Z · score: 21 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for opening this discussion - this feels like a really important topic. I've never been religious, and my parents moved around a lot when I was young. So I didn't have the experience of growing up in a community, but it has always seemed really appealing to me. One thing I've been particularly glad about being surrounded by EAs is that it's so accepted that living in group houses is a good idea. My parents generation, and even my non-EA friends, tend to feel that it's weird to live with other adults, particularly when you're married. But I've found living with friends to be immensely supportive and an easier way than usual to forge strong, lasting friendships. At the extreme of this, when I had a late term still birth my housemates cleared all evidence of baby away before I came home from hospital, made sure that all the friends I wanted to be told knew without me having to talk about it, bought groceries and cooked for me. This kind of community seems immensely valuable, quite apart from it being cheaper to share houses!

If you haven't come across it yet, you might be interested to go to Secular Solstice gatherings (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/ERboWueanAyqwKbiQ/boston-solstice-2018). They talk about challenges humanity has overcome and ones we still need to face, and sing songs like these (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/ERboWueanAyqwKbiQ/boston-solstice-2018). Unfortunately they're just once a year though!

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Is preventing child abuse a plausible Cause X? · 2019-05-08T11:04:57.585Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

As far as I'm aware, no grantmaking happened, for the reason in the paragraph before that line - that no charities doing effective work on it were found.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Is preventing child abuse a plausible Cause X? · 2019-05-06T16:57:16.243Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Only tangentially related, but you might be interested in the report on child marriage that Jacob Williamson did a few years ago from an EA point of view. In addition to discussing the harms caused by child marriage, it discusses various possible interventions for tackling it.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B57LagYEumRfLWhHLXZOS1QwOVk/edit

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-04-10T15:56:20.665Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · EA · GW

This sounds pretty sensible to me. On the other hand, if people are worried about it being harder for people who are already less plugged in to networks to get funding, you might not want an additional dimension on which these harder-to-evaluate grants could lose out compared to easier to evaluate ones (where the latter end up having a lower minimum threshold).

It also might create quite a bit of extra overhead for granters having to decide the opportunity cost case by case, which could reduce the number of grants they can make, or again push towards easier to evaluate ones.

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Long-Term Future Fund: April 2019 grant recommendations · 2019-04-10T14:02:54.368Z · score: 46 (28 votes) · EA · GW

I strongly agree with this. EA funds seemed to have a tough time finding grant makers who were both qualified and had sufficient time, and I would expect that to be partly because of the harsh online environment previous grant makers faced. The current team seems to have impressively addressed the worries people had in terms of donating to smaller and more speculative projects, and providing detailed write-ups on them. I imagine that in depth, harsh attacks on each grant decision will make it still harder to recruit great people for these committees, and mean those serving on them are likely to step down sooner. That's not to say we shouldn't be discussing the grants - presumably it's useful for the committee to hear other people's views on the grants to get more information about them. But following Ben's suggestions seems crucial to EA funds continuing to be a useful way of donating into the future. In addition, to try to engage more in collaborative truthseeking rather than adversarial debate, we might try to:

  • Focus on constructive information / suggestions for future grants rather than going into depth on what's wrong with grants already given.
  • Spend at least as much time describing which grants you think are good and how, so that they can be built on, as on things you disagree with.
Comment by michelle_hutchinson on Why animal charities are much more effective than human ones · 2019-04-09T14:00:29.395Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · EA · GW

You might also want to take longer-run effects into account, as is discussed in this article: http://globalprioritiesproject.org/2014/06/human-and-animal-interventions/

Comment by michelle_hutchinson on The career and the community · 2019-03-26T17:23:03.558Z · score: 31 (12 votes) · EA · GW

I actually don’t agree that the majority of of roles for our first 6 priority paths are ‘within the EA bubble’: my view is that this is only true of ‘working in EA organisations’ and ‘operations management in EA organisations’. As a couple of examples: ‘AI policy research and implementation’ is, as you indicate, something that could be done at places like FHI or CSET. But it might also mean joining a think tank like the Center for American Security, the Belfer Center or RAND; or it could mean joining a government department. EA orgs are pretty clearly the minority in both our older and newer articles on AI policy. ‘Global priorities researcher’ in academia could be done at GPI (where I used to work), but could also be done as an independent academic, whether that simply means writing papers on relevant topics, or joining/building a research group like the Institute for Future Studies (https://www.iffs.se/en/) in Stockholm.

One thing that could be going on here is that the roles people in the EA community hear about within a priority path are skewed towards those at EA orgs. The job board is probably better than what people hear about by word of mouth in the community, but it still suffers from the same skew - which we’d like to work towards reducing.