Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on ACE's Spring 2019 Effective Animal Advocacy Fund Grants · 2019-04-22T19:41:42.653Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Would it be possible to know a breakdown of the grants by geography and outcome type?

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Should EA grantmaking be subject to independent audit? · 2019-04-21T01:41:27.174Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I was going to mention this post as well, to summarize it: Open Phil has deliberately lowered their transparency levels on the grants they make because unlike GiveWell they aren't making direct recommendations to the public and because the projects are too complex/would take too many resources to justify/sharing information would have 'programmatic risks', and they wouldn't be able to be completely transparent.

So Open Phil has actively moved away from public discussion. Given the feedback process for the Long Term Funds recently, I can understand this decision, although if it wasn't so research intensive I'd like to see more write-ups, especially for US policy grants. I think international opportunities (not just global health but on a whole plethora of issues) are very neglected and tractable, but currently there is an overwhelming focus on NTD's (mainly GiveWell's research). I'm assuming Open Phil doesn't want to crowd out/double up on GiveWell's research, or because of Good Ventures' interests. I predict these international opportunities will become less neglected as EA reaches developing countries and is able to incubate local EA's who have comparative advantage in those areas.

The flipside of less transparency is that Open Phil has been doing the most active recruiting over the last two years within EA, and so it's position as such is relatively strong in the community, not just in terms of money but also from a careers perspective.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Thoughts on 80,000 Hours’ research that might help with job-search frustrations · 2019-04-19T22:38:12.182Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW
It did not make me want to pursue the most impactful job. It made me want to find my most impactful job. Advice like "Don’t do something you won’t enjoy in order to have more impact" was helpful in getting me to think this way.

I think this is super important, and the current guide does a good job of emphasizing it with the multiplicative effect of personal fit.

whether ops management will still be a skill bottleneck in 5-10 years

I think getting 5-10 year forecasts for different careers would be really helpful for many career paths, especially ancillary ones like operations which can be really important if they get bottlenecked.

This may be more difficult to estimate versus a research role, since its likely current EA orgs will expand in the near future and need more analysts, but its probably harder to say for other roles - although I think it's super important. Also, since 80K focusing on mid-level and senior roles, and filling immediate vacancies they may not prioritize this.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Thoughts on 80,000 Hours’ research that might help with job-search frustrations · 2019-04-19T20:19:37.991Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Ideally doing both is definitely nice - and I think it's true that the trade off is definitely important. As I mentioned above in my comments to Rob, targeted advice may solve the trade-off question.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Thoughts on 80,000 Hours’ research that might help with job-search frustrations · 2019-04-19T16:01:11.350Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW
If a certain piece of advice turns out to be good for most students but bad for most EA students, then I could see it being possibly interesting and useful for 80K to make a page like "Here's how our advice to most students would differ from our advice to EA students." That could then serve a dual purpose by clarifying what sensible "baseline" advice looks like. I think it would also be fine for 80K to link to some offsite, non-80K-branded career advice that they especially endorse for other students, even though they specifically don't endorse it for maximizing your career's altruistic impact.

I think this is a good idea. I personally don't think general advice (that I've been referring to about personal fit and flexible career capital) would actively harm individual EAs personally (it might, but I doubt it) as a general framework. I also don't think it would harm the community in the long term either, because we don't want people to be demoralized or burn out. But, what you suggest might alleviate some of these concerns.

An alternative is to have clear paramterized if X then Y lists, like cole_haus suggests above would solve this issue of not getting the best advice. That way, there is not dilution, simply targeting different audiences. Any kind of mass-outreach has the problem that not everything will apply to everyone.

My biggest concern with what you suggest is that 80K as a major first point-of-contact for new EAs. According to the most recent EA Survey, 25% of new EAs in 2018 first heard of EA through 80K, way up from previous years of 5%. For the reasons I gave above, I think giving general (but still impact-related) advice is going to be really important for people to continue engaging with the community. It also probably won't help the diversity issue (in professional expertise) with EA (although it seems like that's fairly low-priority across the board). So, hardcore EA advice might be too much for newcomers vs. the more general "ease into the EA mindset" approach of the original 80K guide, which is still EA branded in some way so maintains engagement with the community.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Thoughts on 80,000 Hours’ research that might help with job-search frustrations · 2019-04-18T22:35:29.823Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I would disagree with this too, especially for advice given to college students (the students in our course are mostly first- and second-years, added to my original comment for clarity). We recommend they try out different paths because often their go-to career options may not be particularly high-impact. Our advice is targeted mostly for the 4 years of College. But I think it's generally good advice for most people to know, because of your own personal interests and inclinations.

I also noticed in the link you provide that 80K suggests going straight to graduate school, which I would also not recommend unless you are certain of what you want to do (and because it can be a substantial financial burden, especially in the US).

One of 80K's strongest features was (since they seem to be moving in a different direction) giving good generic career advice, especially for undergraduates. It would be a shame to lose this because I think it makes a great initial impression to newcomers and convinces them straight off the bat of how useful EA can be in helping them make meaningful impact, even if they aren't convinced by all of the ideas behind EA immediately.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Does climate change deserve more attention within EA? · 2019-04-18T17:50:11.468Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I would say the question at least warrants thorough research from the community (I'm unaware if this has already been done) - on whether public opinion can change through education, on promising countries/regions with higher rates of public support (no history of nuclear disaster) that are equipped to implement it safely. This may not be a globally scalable solution, but if even a few players adopt nuclear it could draw more investment/improve the technology and potentially make it more feasible for others.

For example, in Pennsylvania 40% of all energy and 93% of carbon-free energy comes from nuclear, but only 1 in 10 know that nuclear energy is carbon-free with certainty. It seems to me that public education could potentially be effective, especially because there appears to be conservative support for nuclear.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Does climate change deserve more attention within EA? · 2019-04-18T01:17:49.781Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW
So for the sake of Filipinos and the other 3+ billion people living in tropical latitudes, I think we should be very concerned about the effect of just the warming itself on humanity's quality of life.

...

Consider also that if the Philippines becomes more prosperous, they will respond to the high temperatures by extensive use of air conditioning, which is energy intensive. If we don't stop using fossil fuels soon, air conditioning itself can become a significant contributor to further global warming.

I'd like to second this point, as someone who comes from a prosperous rainforest nation (Singapore) with an average of 85% humidity and ~30°C weather. Not only does quality of life go down, but carbon footprint will increase - with AC bills, need for cold refrigeration (especially in transportation), preferencing private cars/taxis over public transport and walking. Singapore has made large infrastructural investments to have thousands of kilometers of covered walkways and air-conditioned public transit to combat this but most cities in these regions don't have the governance capacity or capital for such investments.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Thoughts on 80,000 Hours’ research that might help with job-search frustrations · 2019-04-18T00:47:19.361Z · score: 24 (11 votes) · EA · GW

Speaking from experience running workshops based on 80K for college students (1st and 2nd years) we always emphasise the personal list view and balance it with more general 80K career/cause profiles in the following ways:

1) Exploring unfamiliar careers and career paths 80K covers some unusual careers that are worth spending time on, both on cause areas and job types (like the High Impact Management profile). This helps expand peoples' options, especially early in their college career.

2) Build flexible career capital Unless someone is sure of their interests we suggest building flexible career capital and experimenting with different experiences/internships before committing to one career path. Edit: We also try to emphasize the flexibility of different paths, and how each choice closes off or opens different paths, so people are making the best choices based on their interests.

3) Personal fit & Comparative advantage I've been surprised at how quickly people evaluate their own personal fit, and encourage them to use 1) to consider jobs that they might be good at but unfamiliar with. We also emphasize comparative advantage to further personalize this.

4) Critiquing 80K's claims We try to engage students to critically think about the claims we (and 80K) make and push back against them. We have had some really good discussions about moral frameworks and the article What skills make you most employable?

In general, I think the first step to 80K is really to develop this robust framework first with the advice that is generally true for all careers, get exposure to different career paths and come to your own list before looking at the annual reports and more recent recommendations.

I also think that 80K should create resources for local group leaders, many of whom engage in one-on-one career advice, and that more effort should be made to track EAs pursuing different careers.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Does climate change deserve more attention within EA? · 2019-04-17T15:40:04.587Z · score: 10 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for writing this post you bring up several excellent points, especially with regards to climate change permanently reducing the potential of humanity. I'd like to expand on a few of the points you raised:

Point 12: EAs can skills-build working in climate change

The EA movement could learn about movement-buidling, public policy work and professionalization from the climate change movement. If we consider the breadth and depth of the professionalization of climate change it's impressive, covering: environment engineering, environmental sciences, geography & geology (they've had environmental agendas for decades) and environmental studies (society/culture/policy side).

There are many opportunities to engage with climate change fairly easily, which could add to the collective intelligence of the community and help individual EA's skills-build while doing direct work (preventing moral drift). It would be good for the EA community to identify the most promising opportunities within the climate change movement because there are a vast range and not all are equally effective.

Points 14/15: Climate change is not talent- or (comparatively) funding-constrained

The climate change sector is professionalized, a priority (if nominal) for corporations, governments and research institutions. This means that, potentially, a really great EA-aligned climate change charity could attract significant funding from outside the community (counterfactually these resources probably wouldn't be easily moved to a different cause area).

This is good because a) the community is not splitting its monetary resources over fewer and fewer cause areas of and b) it raises the profile of EA and spreads EA-like thinking into a movement which already values evidence-backed reasoning, long-termism (or mid-termism) and grappling with complex problems.

Point 16: Why we may lose out potential EAs

Many potential EA's probably know a good deal about climate change, much more so than wild animal welfare or AI safety risk. By not seriously considering climate change, these people might stick to their priors since they have more confidence in them and have developed them over a long period of time. Engaging with people at their level of knowledge, showing evidence that the community has committed serious time and consideration to climate change could (eventually) convince these people it's not a priority (if that's the conclusion we come to).

The level of depth of the 80K article is "Exploratory". Further, Founder's Pledge suggests 2 charities where it's harder to measure an individual's marginal impact (unless they have significant money to donate).

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on My new article on EA and the systemic change objection · 2019-04-14T23:29:02.814Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Two points:

1) The discussions of rationality/irrationality in the links I cited don't consider irrational actors at all, but rather to be motivated by a set of understandable and even rational beliefs and norms. Fireman and Gamson are critiquing the "irrational actor in social movement" paradigm. Their behavior is "irrational" (in the rationalist sense).

2) From the relevant portion of the article, it appears that this concern with rationality/irrationality is more about how to convince newcomers to join the movement. However, the main contribution of social movement theory is to improving the existing movement and the movement's existing resources more effectively. And for that, I think there is a lot that the literature can contribute, even older literature because the medium of communicaton (Internet) hasn't fundamentally changed the core of a social movement. Instead we can understand as altering the amount and form of the resources. For example, we can attract more resources and members through the internet, but local EA groups are still necessary to create a sense of personal community, provide grounds for collaboration and prevent drift out of the movement.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on My new article on EA and the systemic change objection · 2019-04-12T00:08:48.862Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for your thoughtful reply - I agree that these are not directly related to EA and have edited to clarify that. I also agree that they are older and I was trying to give some exemplars in the discipline, not necessarily the relevance to EA. As to your comment about it being older, and about old examples - I agree, I looked back and realised my comment above didn't acknowledge that, although I meant it to so I've edited to update. Apologies for the lack of clarity there.

Looking at what he says in the theoretical section - the talk of rationality/irrationality seems directly related to what Hanson has written on signaling theory and what Scott Alexander has written about tribalism. They are covering the same ground, this is not a topic that EAs have been ignoring. Arguably Hanson/Alexander have a more up-to-date and accurate view.

I didn't refer to precise chapters, my apologies (that has also been updated, and thank you for the link). The most relevant sections are Chapter 10 and 11 on the organization of protests, specifically his discussions of membership and leadership-organized protests, more so than the rationality part (Chapter 9). I also agree that a paper would be more accessible - I will try to find some in the future when I have some time.

Also, could you expand on the signaling theory part and its link to rationality?

Finally, and this is a point I probably will not adequately express here, I think there is some use to older texts and scholarship if not for rapid adoption but from an academic standpoint. I find that well-written, logical texts often help me consider a separate problem with more clarity than recent scholarship that is about the same empirical topic. (On a more pragmatic note, my familiarity with older texts is because I've researched older social movements where these texts were useful, but I will be doing detailed research in the future on more recent scholarship). This is not time-efficient for people who aren't already in the field, so perhaps the recommendations above were not accesible enough.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on My new article on EA and the systemic change objection · 2019-04-11T22:06:42.457Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Edit: Upon consideration I think that these papers are more helpful for those already in the field of sociology, and less useful for EAs - specifically in the context of Ben's question. I do believe they are especially useful texts in thinking about social movements and conceptualizing them holistically, and from there drawing insights and connecting these to EA as a social movement.

If I could reply to the two papers question - social movement theory is a subdiscipline of sociology that EA could draw from and contribute to. These aren't directly related to EA but are representative of the literature.

The two papers:

1) An article by Bruce Fireman and WA Gamson called "Utilitarian logic in the resource mobilization perspective" which is absolutely brilliant, it breaks down why social movement theory cannot cut and paste from neoclassical economic theory as was done in the 70s and 80s (see: Mancur Olson's The Logic Of Collective Action). It provides a rationale for using a sociological framework to consider social movements, something that I think is often discovered in EA/rationalist community even though literature exists.

2) Chapter 10 and 11 - Michael Schwartz's Radical Protest and Social Structure: The Southern Farmers' Alliance and Cotton Tenancy, 1880-1890

At some point I will compile a better list for newcomers, and include more recent scholarship, regarding internet-age movements and with insights more directly related to EA (if I find them). A generic social movement theory reader might be a good starting point in the interim. I am also planning on writing a few posts about some observations I have drawn from the literature that are relevant to the EA movement.

Timothy - I haven't read your paper yet but I hope to do so soon, it looks very interesting.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Announcing EA Hub 2.0 · 2019-04-09T16:45:41.408Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I think what will get people using the platform is if it offer some useful feature that isn't available on minimal effort groups (like facebook). For example, once EA platforms is set up I can envision that drawing people in on its own and engaging.

I quite like your idea and i'd even be down for a "open to meeting/hosting" button or something like that. one reservation I would have is that how professional/work oriented the Hub wants to be, and whether reaching out to people for more social reasons might be better left to social platform like facebook.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Announcing EA Hub 2.0 · 2019-04-09T16:34:06.209Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hi David, thanks for your reply! I'm looking forward to these features.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Announcing EA Hub 2.0 · 2019-04-09T01:29:21.144Z · score: 7 (6 votes) · EA · GW

One thing I have noticed is it is difficult to find EA's with specific skills who may be willing to offer their advice or services on the EA Hub. There is no way to filter member profiles by cause areas, availability to volunteer, or expertise, only by name and geographic location. Is this a feature EA Hub is working on in some way?

Currently, there is not easy way to do this on other platforms easily either, such as Facebook or LinkedIn (the EA/80K groups only let you search by individual).

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on EA Angel Group: Applications Open for Personal/Project Funding · 2019-03-26T14:51:19.892Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW
This is something most grantmakers in the EA community are doing a pisspoor job at right now IMO (e.g. see our earlier Messenger exchange on online communication of EA Funds).

Could you link to this exchange or expand on this point more?

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation · 2019-03-22T01:42:53.557Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Michelle, thanks for your response! I hadn't noticed that at the bottom of the job board page. I think that's a good place for it - but I was also thinking of the other resources of organizations outside of EA that could be good places to skills-build. I know there are a few unofficial job boards (like Tom Wein's) on various cause areas that could be very useful if they were located more centrally.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on Profiting-to-Give: harnessing EA talent with a new funding model · 2019-03-08T21:47:03.672Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I agree strongly with the last point in this comment,- and the post in general. I have a few responses to the first points. I imagine the EA-certification would have many benefits:

  • certification of successful companies could set an example for other companies to follow, and set a high bar for CSR - not just to dontate x% but to give it to an effective charity.
  • keeping track of EA-Corps as the movement grows so that they can attract EAs outside the personal networks of the creators
  • spreading EA values beyond the non-profit industry and tight social networks of current EAs
  • potentially create a new model for socially-minded businesses to follow (and allow socially-minded investors a new business model which could have better results than the social benefit companies model)
Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on What skills would you like 1-5 EAs to develop? · 2019-03-08T17:20:11.520Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

80K actually has a career profile for foundation grantmakers, which could be related to a career in CSR? I imagine in CSR you would come across the barriers of localism/feel-good charities mentioned by technicalities, but the article is a good starting place.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on What to do with people? · 2019-03-08T04:47:21.731Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I think Jan's point actually solves the problem of people resorting to EtG because they feel dejected. I assume these people are bright, talented and have a lot to contribute (implied from the recent EA jobs post). This method is encouraging people to contribute to fields they are interested in in perhaps more unorthodox ways which have important effects on the movement: preventing drift, allowing for innovation (I favor any structure which encourages startup-like activity, especially in an org like EA where there is a good track record to follow through, develop and work collaboratively), creating a more thoughtful and well-informed community and allowing for more experiential/experimental learning and exposure to someone's Cause X. These effects are, unfortunately, fuzzy and hard to measure, but ultimately I think which have a lot of really important effects on the movement - someone who is risk averse and concerned with the value of their efforts paths could pair this with another strategy like EtG. I think we should consider different types of jobs/ways to make impact as percentages - you may begin your career spending 10% of your resources (time, energy, money) on EtG, 70% on skills-building (getting a PhD, working) and 20% participation in movement building, 10 years later you might change to 30% EtG, 40% volunteering for a Cause X project and 30% movement building.

Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation · 2019-03-05T20:13:09.282Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Is there a website/central place where these kinds of community-made resources and 80K's list of recommended orgs (such as the one for global health on the 80k wiki) are linked? I have only ever seen them mentioned in comments, but I imagine someone on the 80K website or even on the forums could miss them.