Can anyone seize the opportunity to advise philanthropists on the war? 2022-03-12T13:29:04.255Z
Nuclear attack risk? Implications for personal decision-making 2022-02-27T12:57:03.011Z
Personal Perspective: Is EA particularly promising? 2022-01-18T12:57:46.507Z
Coaching: Reduce Struggle and Develop Talent 2021-10-01T15:16:33.294Z
Interrogating Impact 2020-11-21T11:16:50.363Z
How to give advice 2020-10-31T13:56:40.489Z
Strategy-development for EA groups: Lessons learned from EA Denmark 2019-08-17T14:05:39.113Z
EA community building grant: Lessons learned from working part-time on EA Denmark 2018-09-28T11:18:44.366Z


Comment by SebastianSchmidt on The most important lesson I learned after ten years in EA · 2022-09-24T08:06:01.983Z · EA · GW

I really enjoyed this. Deep truths that address some of my current overconfident tendencies and insecurities while being entertaining! Thank you. :) The post could've been even more awesome if you linked to the other insights (e.g., the post on hiring). 

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Retrospective on Teaching Rationality Workshops · 2022-09-10T11:59:09.189Z · EA · GW

Thanks for sharing this! How long after the workshop(s) were the follow-ups you did?

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Against the "smarts fetish" · 2022-08-07T23:00:57.896Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the disclaimer.

  1. It does seem important to understand the underlying scale dynamic. However, it's still unclear to me how to evaluate this claim as it depends a lot on the underlying Thery of Impact for the impact scale. E.g., I'd imagine that it'd be more or less relevant depending on the role (e.g., it might hold more true for a researcher than a community-builder or coach). Practically, I'd also claim that a strong focus on IQ among existing HEAs are less valuable. I.e., the answer to "how can we best increase the expected impact of HEA?" is unlikely to involve things directly related to IQ. E.g., anecdotally, I can say things such as emotional stability (opposite of neuroticism) and concrete ways of increasing conscientiousness is likely much more likely to come up (if I restrain the search query to validated constructs).
  2. We might already have such a scale with the proto-EA scale. Additionally, I think it's valuable to look for other proxies for impact (e.g., having done impressive things like starting a non-profit at an early age).
  3. Thanks. That paper does seem to propose correlations in the ballpark you're suggesting although I haven't had the time to think about to what extent I find this convincing.
  4. I agree. Especially because our model of what's impactful is likely to change quite substantially across time (5-10 years).
Comment by SebastianSchmidt on EA Global Tips: Networking with others in mind · 2022-07-24T19:39:35.620Z · EA · GW

Thanks so much for this Kuhan!
I notice that I tend to become much more self-centered around conferences and hyper-networking social interactions. This is a great +1 for calibrating one's priorities more towards focusing on being of service rather than being served.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Against the "smarts fetish" · 2022-07-18T10:33:43.930Z · EA · GW

Thanks for attempting to hold yourself to the standards you wish to see in others (although hypocrisy can be warranted sometimes). :)

  1.  Just to be clear, is your claim causal? I.e., would you claim that if we magically increased a sufficiently large sample of random HEA's IQ by 10%, then we'd see a 3% increase in the groups five-year impact compared to a control group? (please take this as a purely hypothetical scenario where you don't have to worry about tractability of raising IQ, etc.)
  2. That IQ is the greatest predictor of five-year impact compared to everything else we could plausibly measure psychometrically (e.g., Grit/conscientiousness, openness (one of the BIG5), self-efficacy, courage, and psychological well-being)?
  3. What's the best resource you have for this claim? I'd love a couple of concrete papers.
  4. That with all of the data we currently have available for EAs we can't predict more than 50% of the variance in impact?
Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Altruism as a central purpose · 2022-04-13T10:21:01.734Z · EA · GW

Thank you, Joey. This resonated a lot with me and I think this is an important contribution.

I agree that it's important to distinguish between high emotions "fireworks passion" and deeper "compass" passion ~ purpose. A deeply felt sense of pursuing something greater that transcends emotions and personal needs (although they are important too and can easily be neglected. Perhaps, especially by EAs). 

While I'm increasingly talking about this with people around me, I still feel some perceived barrier to doing so in some  EA contexts but this post just expanded my perception of the Overton window. 

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Underinvestment at the top: what I discovered coaching a dozen EA leaders · 2022-04-11T15:52:11.848Z · EA · GW

Yes, I agree.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Underinvestment at the top: what I discovered coaching a dozen EA leaders · 2022-04-11T15:50:20.638Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this. I agree, it's a potential pathway to becoming a coach which involves more than building skills. E.g., forming an identity as a coach - for me it took a long time to be comfortable in the skin of being a coach (likely amplified by doing this during covid and moving to another country where I knew one person only). Ideally, I would have added more nuance and an illustration as it's not a simple linearly progressing approach but when we're new to something we need simplicity.

Would love to read about your path!

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Underinvestment at the top: what I discovered coaching a dozen EA leaders · 2022-04-11T15:32:50.920Z · EA · GW

I appreciate this although having a list of not-recommended programs for people starting might also be highly valuable. Especially, as it takes quite a bit of nuance to steer clear of the lower quality ones. With that said, I'm curious to hear what high quality you'd like to promote. I'm guessing Paradigm?

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Business Coaching/Mentoring For EA Organisations · 2022-04-11T07:55:41.691Z · EA · GW

Great initiative! The time is definitely ripe for something like this and it's wonderful that you're pivoting your business in this way. 

I have one concern, namely that the things you and your clients appear to be optimizing for are growth and revenue/profit. Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with this but I worry that the expertise and skills of your coaches might deviate considerably from what EA leaders want to be optimizing for (e.g., different measures of impact over very long timelines and in epistemic terrain that's very messy). But ultimately, this is an empirical question and I wouldn't be surprised if what you offer is already valuable and my concerns are more important slightly down the line. Did you have any leaders sign up and do you collect feedback from them?

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Underinvestment at the top: what I discovered coaching a dozen EA leaders · 2022-04-06T18:01:51.189Z · EA · GW

If I were to add a gross simplification of an alternative strategy (that I've used over the past 2 years)

  1. Experiment with different coaches and find a coach whose theory of change, style, and approach you like.
  2. Become an "apprentice" of that coach by getting regular coaching from him/her while reverse engineering/deliberately practice that coaching method.
  3. Get your first coachees and use the simple versions you've acquired this far to incrementally build your own coaching "style". #LearnByDoing
    1. Crucially, get good at requesting feedback from your coachees to grow.
  4. Find peers and mentors with whom you can have many conversations to reflect on and improve your coaching. Hero version: Move together with other coaches.
  5. Follow situational inspiration (i.e., use the challenges and questions you encounter from your individual coaching practice to seek out models, skills, and additional mentors)
  6. Build your map of the coaching landscape and experiment with an at least moderately promising coaching course.
Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Underinvestment at the top: what I discovered coaching a dozen EA leaders · 2022-04-06T17:49:10.033Z · EA · GW

Overall I like this approach a lot and agree with a lot of it (I'm also a coach)

Could you share an example of each of the four categories of coaching courses that you mention? 

While I broadly agree with your assessment, I recognize that I could also easily be wrong as I haven't done a particularly systematic search and I've only done one coaching course myself and spent 15-180 minutes researching 7 other courses.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Underinvestment at the top: what I discovered coaching a dozen EA leaders · 2022-04-05T09:45:03.600Z · EA · GW

The bigger coaching landscape:

  1. I appreciate your emphasis on leaders and can clearly see how someone like you would be particularly well-positioned to doing this. However, I think it's worth high-lighting that there are other promising "audiences" who can benefit massively from coaching even though they're currently less impactful. In particular, I'm thinking about underutilized talent (there's so much out there!) as they have much lower opportunity cost on their time (and can more diligently carry out the actions and reflections) and are more flexible about certain worldviews, strategies, etc..
    1. A simple toymodel to describe this with tentative ballpark numbers (sorry for the numbers. We're all intrinsically valuable people capable of living our purpose for the greater good - I hope no one will be offended here):
      1. EA leaders might have an expected lifetime impact of 100 points and great medium-term coaching might increase their lifetime impact by 30% [5%-60%]. 100*1.3 (coaching effect)=130. I.e., 30 counter-factual impact points.
      2. Underutilized talent might currently have an expected lifetime impact of 5 points but can experience astonishing effects from great medium-term coaching and associated "growth time". Concretely, it might increase by 250% [50%-500%]. 5*3.5 =17.5. I.e., 12.5 additional impact points which is the counter-factual.
    2. These numbers are very rough and could easily be off by a factor of 5 in either direction but they do seem kind of reasonable to my first-hand experiences although it's probably more likely than not that they'll be overestimates. However, they broadly show that focusing on underutilized talent might be similarly promising to focusing on leaders although a group of coaches should seek to serve various groups.
    3. What do you think about this - in particular the numbers that I brought forth?
  2. How much unmet (known as well as unknown) demand do you think there currently are within the community? I.e., given the eagerness of the participants (as well as my personal experience) I'm inclined to think that virtually all EA leaders should have a coach.
Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Underinvestment at the top: what I discovered coaching a dozen EA leaders · 2022-04-05T09:44:45.542Z · EA · GW

The specifics of coaching leaders and the trial:

  1. I'm struck by the effects reported after just around 4 sessions ~ 7 hours. I can't help but question whether these effects will last for more than a month after the coaching. When did they fill in the survey relative to the coaching? For how long do you predict that the effects will last?
  2. What do you think the ideal coaching frequency is for people in this reference class? I.e., every week, every other week, once per month? (Assume that we'll have unlimited supply of high quality coaches).
  3. One of the main rooms for improvement (from my perspective) might be if the evaluation had been conducted by a third person and I'll probably see if I can find someone like this if/when I do a trial myself. Do you have any thoughts or reactions to that?
Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Underinvestment at the top: what I discovered coaching a dozen EA leaders · 2022-04-05T09:44:22.689Z · EA · GW

Thanks so much for this. Super inspiring that you decided to do something as rigorous and transparent as this and thus contributing beyond your own coaching practice.

I find the results mindblowing - especially as it's on people who are steering the trajectory of one of the more promising (youth) communities of our time.  Even just the simple fact that people with so high opportunity cost on their time want to continue says a lot. In other words, if this is as good as it seems, one should prioritize providing this kind of coaching (or something similarly valuable) to all leaders within EA. 

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Nuclear attack risk? Implications for personal decision-making · 2022-02-27T18:28:46.377Z · EA · GW

Also, see this 60 second advice article:

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Nuclear attack risk? Implications for personal decision-making · 2022-02-27T18:22:39.674Z · EA · GW

To me it seems that potential nuclear war is a lot more concerning than proximal country invasion as it would escalate much more slowly. 

While it might be excessive I'm more worried about status-quo bias. Most of us haven't experienced a serious war and will be overly focused on how good and safe things seem now plus the highly inconvenient short-term personal implications.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Nuclear attack risk? Implications for personal decision-making · 2022-02-27T18:03:05.406Z · EA · GW

I appreciate the line of thought but it also seems important to focus on decreasing the risk and/or severity of nuclear war.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Nuclear attack risk? Implications for personal decision-making · 2022-02-27T18:01:22.603Z · EA · GW

I'm not an expert but it does seem highly alarming.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Personal Perspective: Is EA particularly promising? · 2022-01-27T14:55:08.166Z · EA · GW

Great that you like it. I'm so happy for you!

The best way of getting more involved would be one of the following:

  1. Look for a meet up via or elsewhere.
  2. Join their coaching course.
  3. Become a Founding member of their upcoming app and/or wait for the launch of their social media platform.
  4. Become an early investor (you don't have to invest much - $100  used to be perfectly fine as there crowd-funding the enterprise) and you'll be invited to a couple of talks.
Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Personal Perspective: Is EA particularly promising? · 2022-01-20T14:50:12.420Z · EA · GW

I agree that it seems likely that there were selection effects. However, I'd be surprised if the true proportion is less than 40% (the survey had 71%). I base this on Lynette Bye's estimate in this footnote  and my own anecdotal impressions from FB, conferences, the public discussions around taking anti-depressants, and friend groups. Given the ramifications that this might have in terms of immense loss in instrumental value and needless human suffering, I still think it's a massive growth area for EA if the community wants to approximate its flourishing state.

To mention but a few of the potential instrumental effects: Organizations not doing what they're capable of (e.g., due to lack of hope and excitement around the vision and people not being able to work purposefully and productively) and individuals not doing what they’re capable of (e.g., because they are feeling overwhelmed and depressed about the day ahead instead of being excited and on a long-term mission). Also, this might have substantial negative signaling effects for people new to the community as I think EAs might be particularly high on a certain sub-set of unfortunate dynamics (e.g., guilt)  while probably being similar to the general population wrt. some conditions (e.g., depression). But I feel this would benefit from being a full post.


Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Personal Perspective: Is EA particularly promising? · 2022-01-18T19:59:39.007Z · EA · GW

Excellent comment. I'm mainly considering the first set of options that you're pointing to which means that the mission and community is pretty closely connected. I'm curious, where did you get the "lifetime impact mindset from"? It seemed original to a small group of people so I'm happy that it's used more widely. With that said, very early on I think it's more useful to think in terms of experiments, heuristics, and (maybe) a decade hence because early on most have lot of experience to gather about themselves and the world (although this can still be done within the larger frame of lifetime impac). But I'm starting to move away from early career and have more data and conviction in personal fit so I can make stronger decisions. I can also recommend the podcast with Holden Karnofsky and the book Range by David Epstein.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on EA Librarian: CEA wants to help answer your EA questions! · 2022-01-18T16:20:56.883Z · EA · GW

It seems to me that the EA Librarian will make more progress on navigating the knowledge space and learning what's already consensus. Whereas something like creating a separate entity on the forum where people are explicitly encouraged to question/examine some of the major claims and build inside views ("An EA fact-checker" or something) would more directly address the deferral problem. As for knowing whether this is achieved, perhaps create a pilot with a local group and then specifically ask them about this before and after the pilot?

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on EA Librarian: CEA wants to help answer your EA questions! · 2022-01-18T14:32:59.833Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the initiative! Do you think that this will cultivate curiosity and help address the deferral problem and help EAs to be critical around claims that they perceive to be well-established? Or is it mainly thought to help EAs navigate the vast space of knowledge within EA?

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on How to give advice · 2021-12-19T13:29:39.301Z · EA · GW

Especially with career decisions. I actually think that it can be good to start out with some noticeable gesture that makes people realize this clearly and use language like "this is my impression" or "my tentative judgment call is".

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on How to give advice · 2021-12-19T13:27:13.327Z · EA · GW

-I agree. We live in a time where people are seeking a lot of validation and just want to be told what to do. It's super important to encourage them to take agency and not just defer completely to others.

-Excellent point. If people are in a challenged state, I also see the priority as changing their state. E.g., increase their hope, agency, and light-heartedness.

-Reasoning transparency is great. Especially, because people will otherwise be inclined to overanchor on the specific suggestion instead of the consideration that led to the specific consideration.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Coaching: Reduce Struggle and Develop Talent · 2021-10-28T16:15:31.323Z · EA · GW

Thanks for sharing this Max!

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Coaching: Reduce Struggle and Develop Talent · 2021-10-04T12:46:27.227Z · EA · GW

Solid. What about the duration of each session? Is it one hour?

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Coaching: Reduce Struggle and Develop Talent · 2021-10-04T12:45:11.444Z · EA · GW

Thanks for sharing Jan. I knew that coaching had an exceptional impact on you but this description puts it in a completely new light: 5x increase in your (expected) lifetime impact and 2x in productivity indicates an exceptional cost-effective intervention considering that you (as far as I know) perhaps invested around 500-1000 hours in total on this (when including personal development more broadly).

Super inspiring - thanks for sharing!

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Coaching: Reduce Struggle and Develop Talent · 2021-10-02T14:50:06.676Z · EA · GW

              I think this link needs to be updated now that this is a post rather than a doc?

Thanks for noticing!

          That spreadsheet seems to be missing the vast majority of the info from the doc that it's based on. Not sure why. I remember seeing a spreadsheet version that had more info.

Wow! Thanks for pointing this out. Apparently, someone recently removed 90% of all info from the spreadsheet. I just restored the newest version so now that spreadsheet is more updated than the doc. Hope that the original owner of the doc is okay with this!

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Coaching: Reduce Struggle and Develop Talent · 2021-10-02T14:33:03.703Z · EA · GW

Interesting. What kind of effects are people experiencing as a consequence of this? Also, what's the typical duration?

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Coaching: Reduce Struggle and Develop Talent · 2021-10-02T08:26:44.465Z · EA · GW

Hi Misha!

Thanks so much for bringing this up (also, I agree that Kuhn's post is excellent). In particular, I appreciated his emphasis on the importance of caring a lot about the coachee and their progress. 

This does indeed sound like a solid 80/20 option. In fact, Henning Bartsch (co-author of this post) and Paul Rohde (who is now one of the best coaches I know) started their journey by doing peer coaching after Paul had tried professional coaching and are still doing it five years later.

With that said, a trained coach can have substantial object-level expertise (e.g., how to do deliberate practice, eliciting dysfunctional beliefs, and setting good goals) and process-level expertise (e.g., asking good questions, giving the right emotional support, and motivate people to take action).

One concrete opportunity for you to level up your 80/20 solution might be for one or both of you to experiment with professional coaching for 2-3 months and then integrate what you learn in your one-on-ones. Alternatively, you can also consider checking out this post on an algorithm for giving advice. It was before I knew much about coaching and certainly highly imperfect but perhaps it's useful.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Coaching: An under-appreciated strategy among effective altruists · 2021-08-11T15:26:53.565Z · EA · GW

Thanks for writing this! I'm currently writing a similar blog post. In particular, I benefitted from your brief, yet useful overview of the academic landscape of coaching.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Interrogating Impact · 2020-11-24T20:07:48.887Z · EA · GW

Yes, that's why I find my initial reasoning unnuanced. Upon slightly further reflection, it seems obvious that his wealth and dedication have enabled a lot of good initiatives and I frequently see initiatives crediting Gates. 

However, would  you break that impact further down? Some quick approaches that I can think of:

i) Simply use the heuristic of money pledged ~ impact ("wow, that's a lot of money. That has to be super impactful".) 

ii) Look into the causes supported in order to adjust the donations to the impact of actual causes supported.

iii) Go with the heuristic of if we have repeatedly heard someone (or something) being credited for his/her impact, then he/she must be very impactful.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Interrogating Impact · 2020-11-24T20:06:39.992Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the resources! 

3. I'm aware of the cluelessness but I don't think that we as a community act as if we're clueless. At least, we prioritize a relatively narrow set of paths (e.g. 80K's priority paths) compared to all of the possible paths out there. 

4. Very interesting. Clearly, others have thought much more about the complexity of this issue than me. Nuno's post was rather insightful and the examples used made Shapley Values seem more intuitive to me than counterfactual impact. However, the discussions in the comments made it less obvious that Shapley Values is what we should use going forward. Do you use Shapley values when thinking about your personal impact contribution?

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Strategy-development for EA groups: Lessons learned from EA Denmark · 2019-08-22T15:22:33.651Z · EA · GW

One shouldn't include failure-mode thinking in the brainstorming part. However, while defining the project (prior to voting) it can be useful to talk about the failure-modes. E.g. prior to voting on our project on how to offset one's climate impact we specified that we should be careful about letting it develop into a project which also focused on how people can offset the animal suffering they induce.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Strategy-development for EA groups: Lessons learned from EA Denmark · 2019-08-19T19:15:17.851Z · EA · GW

That seems like some good takeaways. However, I'd expect that other groups (with more resources) can come up with more impactful projects than those you'll find in the project ideas.

As for your three-dimensional tool:

How do you determine who the leader of a given activity should be? Also, I think it could be useful to include worst-case scenario/failure-mode thinking.

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on Effective Altruism Sweden plans for 2018 · 2018-02-10T13:07:51.810Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the post! I’ve two questions:

  1. Have you been concerned with how having one paid member of your Org could affect the volunteerism of the rest of the members? E.g. that there will arise a hierarchy which will keep “regular” members from taking on certain type of projects or feel as if they have less of a say in various decisions.

  2. Could you elaborate on the metrics you intend to use? E.g. by “the funnel of 80k” do you then mean their significant plan changes or how many of your members receive personal coaching from them? Also, how do you track the donations made to GWWC/EA Funds?

Comment by SebastianSchmidt on An algorithm/flowchart for prioritizing which content to read · 2017-11-13T11:19:59.030Z · EA · GW

Thank you for sharing! It seems pragmatic and I find it likely that it'll make my reading more focused and productive - I'll definitely try it out.