Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 09 August 2018 05:37:20PM *  0 points [-]

The website is now up at eahotel.org. It's possible to book via the Booking page, and the Wiki has information for guests and an FAQ. People can also book video calls to talk about proposals for free stays working on EA stuff via the Contact page (I have updated the Next Steps section in the OP to reflect this).

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 21 June 2018 11:23:30PM 3 points [-]

Greg this is awesome - go you!!! :-D :-D

To provide one extra relevant reference class: I have let EAs stay for free / donations at my place in London to work on EA projects and on the whole was very happy I did so. I think this is worthwhile and there is a need for it (with some caution as to both risky / harmful projects and well intentioned free-riders).

Good luck registering as a CIO - not easy. Get in touch with me if you are having trouble with the Charity Commission. Note: you might need Trustee's that are not going to live for free at the hotel (there's lots of rules against Trustees receiving any direct benefits from their charity).

Also if you think it could be useful for there to be a single room in London for Hotel guests to use for say business or conference attendance then get in touch.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 08 July 2018 08:48:09PM 0 points [-]

Thanks :) Yes I have two independent Trustees now, we're in the process of registering the CIO. Good of you to offer of the London room, will let you know if anyone needs to go to London for (EA) business!

Comment author: Dunja 18 June 2018 10:21:37PM *  2 points [-]

Congrats on such a creative idea and the commitment in wanting to realize it! :) My main worry concerns a very basic premise that seems to underlie the project: that providing an optimal space for individuals to do research is likely to result in efficient and effective research. While conducting online courses may indeed be useful, conducting unguided research is not only hard, but unlikely to lead anywhere concerning effectiveness and efficiency. A junior researcher, without an access to a supervisor who has in-depth knowledge of the given subject domain, is likely to end up tapping in the dark and trying out all kinds of paths that are far from being optimal. This is why the task of a supervisor is so important: one learns which topics to focus on, which gaps in the knowledge should first be filled in, how this should be done, which blind spots are hindering one's research, etc. And that only concerns knowledge acquisition.

Knowledge production is probably even harder: without having an access to guidance concerning how to conduct e.g. empirical research, how to write academic papers, which workshops and conferences are optimal places for receiving critical feedback, which journal would be good for the given paper, etc. - one's own output is likely to remain unknown, unrecognized by the relevant community (academic or EA-related) and hence entirely ineffective.

I am not sure which steps could be taken to tackle these problems. The only solution I currently see is opening the hotel for larger project applications, by experts willing to coordinate the research done in the center, and who would regularly visit the place to guide junior researchers.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 20 June 2018 10:42:55PM 3 points [-]

Remote supervision of research is a possibility, but depends on people with relevant knowledge and experience being available. Peer support from other guests will be available to some extent, especially given the preponderance of people in the movement with postgraduate degrees. However, plenty of research can be self-directed, especially things that are more a case of collating existing knowledge than developing new science (e.g. meta-analyses, review articles, writing books). And the hotel will probably appeal to autodidacts who can plow through published texts and then build on top of them (without much need for explanation additional to what they find in writing).

The hotel is open to hosting research groups, and also conferences and workshops.

Comment author: Dunja 19 June 2018 12:09:17AM *  0 points [-]

Oh I agree that for many ideas to be attractive, they have to gain a promising character. I wouldn't reduce the measure of pursuit worthiness of scientific hypotheses to the evidence of their success though: this measure is rather a matter of prospective values, which have to do with a feasible methodology (how many research paths we have despite current problems and anomalies?). But indeed, sometimes research may proceed simply as tapping in the dark, in spite all the good methodological proposals (as e.g. it might have been the case in the research on protein synthesis in the mid 20th c.).

However, my point was simply the question: does such an investment in future proposals outweigh the investment in other topics, so that it should be funded from an EA budget rather than from existing public funds? Again: I very much encourage such camps. Just not on the account of spending the cash meant for effectively reducing suffering (due to these projects being highly risky and due to the fact that they are already heavily funded by say OpPhil).

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 19 June 2018 12:20:00AM 0 points [-]

My point (and remmelt's) was that public funds would be harder/more time (and resource) consuming to get.

There is currently a gap at the low end (OpenPhil is too big to spend time on funding such small projects).

And Good Ventures/OpenPhil also already fill a lot of the gap in funding programs with track records of effectively reducing suffering.

Comment author: Dunja 18 June 2018 11:14:40PM *  0 points [-]

But this is not about whether academia is on the same page or not; it's about the importance of pushing the results via academic channels because otherwise they won't be recognized by anyone (policy makers especially). Moreover, what I mention above are funding institutions offering the finances of individual projects - assessed in terms of their significance and feasibility. If there is a decent methodology to address the given objectives, even if the issue is controversial, this doesn't mean the project won't be financed. Alternatively, if you actually know of decent project applications that have been rejected, well let's see those and examine whether there is indeed a bias in the field. Finally, why do you think that academia is averse towards risky projects?! Take for instance ERC schemes: they are intentionally designed for high-risk/high-gain project proposals, that are transformative and groundbreaking in character.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 18 June 2018 11:51:27PM 0 points [-]

There is an analogy with speculative investing here I think - for something to be widely regarded as worthwhile investing in (i.e. research funded by mainstream academia) it has to already have evidence of success (e.g. Bitcoin now). By which point it is no longer new and highly promising in terms of expected value (like Bitcoin was in, say, 2011) i.e. it is necesssarily the case that all things very high in (relative) expected value are outside the mainstream.

AGI alignment is gaining more credibility, but it still doesn't seem like it's that accepted in mainstream academia.

Anyway, I think we are probably on a bit of a tangent to what AISC is trying to achieve - namely help new researchers level up (/get a foot in the door in academic research).

Comment author: Dunja 17 June 2018 05:41:14PM *  1 point [-]

I very much understand your hope concerning the AI talent and the promising value of this camp. However, I'd also like to see the objective assessment of effectiveness (as in effective altruism) concerning such research attempts. To do so, you would have to show that such research has a comparatively higher chance of producing something outstanding than the existing academic research. Of course, that needs to be done in view of empirical evidence, which I very much hope you can provide. Otherwise, I don't know what sense of "effective" is still present in the meaning of "effective altruism".

Again: I think these kinds of research camps are great as such, i.e. in view of overall epistemic values. They are as valuable as, say, a logic camp, or a camp in agent-based models. However, I would never argue that a camp in agent-based models should be financed by EA funds unless I have empirically grounded reasons that such a research can contribute to effective charity and prevention of possible dangers better than the existing academic research can.

As for the talent search, you seem to assume that academic institutions cannot uncover such talents. I don't know where you get this evidence from, but PhD grants across EU, for instance, are precisely geared towards such talents. Why would talented individuals not apply for those? And where do you get the idea that the topic of AI safety won't be funded by, say, Belgian FWO or German DFG? Again, you would need to provide empirical reasons that such systematic bias against projects on these topics exists.

Finally, if the EA community wants to fund reliable project initiators for the topic of AI safety, why not make an open call for experts in the field to apply with project proposals and form the teams who can immediately execute these projects within the existing academic institutions? Where is this fear of academia coming from? Why would a camp like this be more streamlined than an expert proposal, where a PI of the given project employs the junior researchers and systematically guides them in the given research? In all other aspects of EA this is precisely how we wish to proceed (think of medical research).

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 18 June 2018 11:09:49PM 0 points [-]

For more on the thinking behind streamlined non-mainstream funding, see https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/hits-based-giving

I don't think academia is yet on the same page as EA with regard to AI Safety, but may well be soon hopefully (with credibility coming from the likes of Stuart Russell and Max Tegmark).

Comment author: Denkenberger 18 June 2018 04:15:13AM -1 points [-]

This says 20% of EA is vegan or vegetarian, so I would guess less than 10% vegan. Granted, the hard core EAs you are attracting may be more likely vegan, and you are lowering the barrier if someone else is reading labels and is hopefully a good cook. But I still think you are really limiting your pool by having all meals vegan. I understand you want to be frugal, and vegan from scratch is cheaper, but animal product substitutes are generally more expensive than animal products.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 18 June 2018 02:14:29PM 8 points [-]

I've not yet had anyone say it's a dealbreaker (and of course people are allowed to buy meat from takeaways - or microwaveable burgers etc - with their spending money if they are really craving it..). Whilst frugality comes into it, the main reason for the all vegan catering is ethics.

Also, I'd put money on the 2018 survey coming out with higher numbers for veg*anism :)

Comment author: Khorton 11 June 2018 05:17:40PM *  4 points [-]

"In many ways this won’t be a typical hotel (non-profit, longer term stays, self-service breakfast and lunch, simplified dinner menu, weekly linen/towel changes, EA evening events etc), so I’m not sure how much prior hotel experience is relevant. Really anyone who is a reasonably skilled generalist, passionate about the project, and friendly should be able to do it."

I think this is where we disagree. It's taken me years to develop the (rather basic) domestic skills I have. I think it would be quite a challenge for someone like me, who can competently manage a household, to competently manage a hotel with 17 people. For example, when I organized EA London's weekend retreat and oversaw the housing, cooking and cleaning for 25 people, it was really hard and I made some significant mistakes.

This worries me because a large majority of the EAs I meet in London are worse at cooking/cleaning/household management than I am. If I'm not currently capable of the task, and most EAs are less capable than I am, then I wonder who CAN do the job.

There are a couple of things I might be wrong about: maybe people are better at domestic tasks outside of London, or maybe there are one or two exceptional candidates (and that's really all it takes!). But based on my experience, I really don't think "anyone who is a reasonably skilled generalist, passionate about the project, and friendly should be able to do it" - or at least, not to a high standard, not right away.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 12 June 2018 01:36:48PM 0 points [-]

when I organized EA London's weekend retreat and oversaw the housing, cooking and cleaning for 25 people, it was really hard and I made some significant mistakes.

Would be interested to hear more details about this (fine to PM).

Also, it's unlikely to be 17 guests all at once to start with, things are ramping up gradually so far (have a few people booked in over the next few weeks), so the learning curve should be relatively gentle.

Comment author: Liam_Donovan 10 June 2018 05:59:29AM *  4 points [-]

From my perspective, the manager should 1. Not (necessarily) be an EA 2. Be paid more (even if this trades off against capacity, etc) 3. Not also be a community mentor

One of the biggest possible failure modes for this project seems to be hiring a not-excellent manager; even a small increase in competence could make a big difference between the project failing and succeeding. Thus, the #1 consideration ought to be "how to maximize the manager's expected skill". Unfortunately, the combination of undesirable location, only hiring EAs, and the low salary seem to restrict the talent pool enormously. My (perhaps totally wrong) impression is that some of these decisions are made on the basis of a vague idea of how things ought to be, rather than a conscious attempt to maximize success.

Brief arguments/responses:

  • Not only are EAs disproportionately unlikely to have operations skills (as 80K points out), but I suspect that the particular role of hotel manager requires even less of the skills we tend to have (such as a flair for optimization), and even more of the skills we tend not to have (consistency, hotel-related metis). I'm unsure of this but it's an important question to evaluate.

  • The manager will only be at the ground floor of a new organization if it doesn't fail. I think failure is more likely than expansion, but it's reasonable to be risk averse considering this is the first project of its kind in EA (diminishing marginal benefit). Consequently, optimizing for initial success seems more important than optimizing for future expansion.

  • The best feasible EA candidate is likely to have less external validation of managerial capability than a similarly qualified external candidate, who might be a hotel manager already! Thus, it'll be harder to actually identify the strong EA candidates, even if they exist.

  • The manager will get free room/board and live in low-CoL Blackpool, but I think this is outweighted by the necessity of moving to an undesirable location, and not being able to choose where you stay/eat. On net, I expect you'd need to offer a higher salary to attract the same level of talent as in, say, Oxford (though with more variance depending on how people perceive Blackpool).

  • You might be able to hire an existing hotel manager in Blackpool, which would reduce risk of turnover and guarantee a reasonable level of competence. This would obviously require separating the hotel manager and the community mentor, but I'm almost certain that doing would maximize the chances of success either way (division of labor!). I'm also not sure what exactly the cost is: the community mentor could just be an extroverted guest working on a particularly flexible project.

  • Presumably many committed and outgoing EAs (i.e. the people you'd want as managers) are already able to live with/near other EAs; moving to Blackpool would just take away their ability to choose who to live with.

Of course, there could already be exceptional candidates expressing interest, but I don't understand why the default isn't hiring a non-EA with direct experience.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 11 June 2018 01:40:02PM 0 points [-]

vague idea of how things ought to be, rather than a conscious attempt to maximize success.

I would say it’s a bit more than vague ;) I think it’s important to have someone who really understands and shares the goals of the project. Someone who doesn’t get EA is not likely to care about it much beyond seeing it as a means to get paid. It would then be largely up to part time volunteers (the other Trustees) to direct the project and keep it aligned with EA. This scenario seems more likely to lead to stagnation/failure to me.

less of the skills we tend to have (such as a flair for optimization)

I think a flair for optimisation is needed in any kind of ops role. The more you optimise, the greater your capacity (/free time).

and even more of the skills we tend not to have (consistency, hotel-related metis)

Conscientiousness would be required. But there are a fair amount of EAs with that trait, right?

optimizing for initial success seems more important than optimizing for future expansion.

In practice I think these are mostly the same thing. The more initial success there is, the more likely expansion is. The point I was making is that the manager will have a large stake in the course the project takes, so it will depend on what they make of it (hence meaning it should be seen as an exciting opportunity. I mean yeah, there will be some amount of “boring” (mindfulness promoting?) tasks - but it could be so much more fun than “Hotel Manager in Blackpool” initially sounds).

less external validation of managerial capability than a similarly qualified external candidate, who might be a hotel manager already!

In many ways this won’t be a typical hotel (non-profit, longer term stays, self-service breakfast and lunch, simplified dinner menu, weekly linen/towel changes, EA evening events etc), so I’m not sure how much prior hotel experience is relevant. Really anyone who is a reasonably skilled generalist, passionate about the project, and friendly should be able to do it.

I expect you'd need to offer a higher salary to attract the same level of talent

Salary is open to negotiation (have amended ad).

require separating the hotel manager and the community mentor

I think that once everything is set up, the day-to-day management of the hotel itself won’t require full time hours. Would prefer to have one full time employee rather than two part-time employees, but as I’ve said previously, I am open to splitting the role.

division of labor

As mentioned above, part of optimisation can be outsourcing tasks you are less good at (or don’t like doing). e.g. hiring someone else to do the cooking or laundry (depending on how much you value your time/money).

Comment author: Khorton 07 June 2018 09:58:12PM 4 points [-]

Several of the reasons listed in that article don't matter for the hotel because the hotel manager will be the only full time member of staff. For example, the hotel manager won't be likely to switch into other roles/be promoted at the same organization and won't need to communicate with other staff about EA-specific things. Additionally, the article suggests that being involved in the EA community is a benefit, but not the only thing to consider when hiring. That sounds about right to me.

I would seriously consider splitting up the hotel manager role and the community mentory person. It's hard enough to find an awesome cook who can do 17 people's laundry, keep everything clean, pay all the bills, and keep everything legal. Requiring them to be one of a couple thousand EAs IN THE WORLD sounds really hard.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 08 June 2018 11:19:54AM 0 points [-]

the hotel manager won't be likely to switch into other roles/be promoted at the same organization

But they would be in at the ground level of a new organisation that could potentially grow (if the model is franchised, or expands to supporting digital nomads). It should be seen as an exciting opportunity to co-create and mould an institution.

and won't need to communicate with other staff about EA-specific things.

But they will need to communicate with lots of EA guests about EA-specific things.

splitting up the hotel manager role and the community mentory person.

I'm open to doing this as a plan B. A good manager should be able to optimise/outsource the tasks they find tedious though.

View more: Next