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toonalfrink comments on EA Hotel with free accommodation and board for two years - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: toonalfrink 18 June 2018 01:53:40PM 4 points [-]

Hi Vollmer, appreciate your criticism. Upvoted for that.

While it's really impressive how low the rent at the hotel will be, rent cost is rarely a major reason for a project's funding constraints

Do you realise that the figure cited (3-4k a year) isn't rent cost? It's total living cost. At least in my case that's 4 times as little as what I'm running on, and I'm pretty cheap. For others the difference might be much larger.

For example a project might have an actually high-impact idea that doesn't depend on location. Instead of receiving $150k from CEA to run half a year in the bay with 3 people, they could receive $50k and run for 3 years in Blackpool with 6 people instead. CEA could then fund 3 times as many projects, and it's impact would effectively stretch 623=36 times further. Coming from that perspective, staying in the world's most expensive cities is just non-negotiable. At least for projects (coding, research, etc) that wouldn't benefit an even stronger multiplier from being on-location. And this isn't just projection. I know at least one project that is most likely moving their team to the EA hotel.

Instead, the hotel could become a hub for everyone who doesn't study at a university or work on a project that EA donors find worth funding, i.e. the hotel would mainly support work that the EA community as a whole would view as lower-quality.

I'm pretty sure EA projects find many projects net-positive even if they don't find them worth funding. For the same reason that I'd buy a car if I could afford one. Does that mean I find cars lower-quality than my bicycle? Nope.

Imo it's a very simple equation. EA's need money to live. So they trade (waste) a major slice of their resources to ineffective endeavors for money. We can take away those needs for <10% the cost, effectively making a large amount of people go from part-time to full-time EA. Assuming that the distribution of EA effectiveness isn't too steeply inequal (ie there are still effective EA's out there), this intervention is the most effective I've seen thus far.

Comment author: vollmer  (EA Profile) 25 June 2018 07:43:21AM *  1 point [-]

Do you realise that the figure cited (3-4k a year) isn't rent cost? It's total living cost. At least in my case that's 4 times as little as what I'm running on, and I'm pretty cheap. For others the difference might be much larger.

Yes, I do. But in times when talent is the bigger constraint than funding, I'd rather create $100k worth of impact at a financial cost of $25k than $50k at a cost of $4k. Often, interacting in-person with specific people in specific places (often in major hubs) will enable you to increase your impact substantially. This isn't true for everyone, and not always, but it will often be the case, even for coding/research projects. E.g. it's commonly accepted wisdom that for-profit (coding) startups can increase their value substantially by moving to the Bay, and individual programmers can increase their salaries by more than the higher living cost by moving there. Similar things might apply to EA projects in Oxford / London / Berkeley / San Francisco.

So the potential benefits of the EA hotel might be somewhat limited, and there might also be some costs / harms (as I mentioned in the other comments).