Comment author: lifelonglearner 25 December 2017 05:35:32AM 0 points [-]

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! Very informative and helpful!

Comment author: lifelonglearner 10 May 2017 12:32:01AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for linking my Murphyjitsu write-up!

Slight correction to TAP's: They're typically referred to as "Trigger Action Plans" (and not 'potentials').

Comment author: Tor 27 March 2017 01:00:55AM 4 points [-]

I wanted to dedicate myself to making youtube-videos at some point, but I have another project that I'm prioritizing instead so I'm not spending much time on this at the moment. However, with enough outside help I think that together we might achieve a good impact.

Making videos for existing channels (like e.g. Vox) without expecting payment from them, is a possibility to look into, although convincing them probably would be hard, and the requirements for quality would be challenging. The most likely scenario is publishing to a channel of our own though.

Here is a google-document with some relevant thoughts (ideas and drafts for episodes, etc):

Video-production is a kind of task where a large fraction of the work can be done while listening to podcasts and such once one has done the necessary learning, but many hours are required. If anyone could be interested in working on this, and could see themselves potentially making this project a significant priority in their lives for several years, then feel very free to search up "Tor Barstad" on Facebook and get in touch for a video-conversation or something :)

In response to comment by Tor on Concrete project lists
Comment author: lifelonglearner 29 March 2017 02:06:31AM 1 point [-]

Just want to respond that I'd be interested in doing this sort of thing for a short period of time (a few months) to test to waters.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 26 February 2017 04:44:58AM 3 points [-]

Thank you for writing this up. I haven't spent cycles thinking this through, but my first glance says that this hits a lot of obvious avenues, which seems good.

I think I had a disjoint model of most of the things above, but it was all scattered and not consolidated. Putting them together (so that learning more, coordination, donating, gruntwork are all here) was a good way for me to update my own thoughts.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 26 February 2017 04:42:09AM 2 points [-]

I'm sure what their respective funding constraints are.

Should there be a "not" in the middle here, or are you just saying that you have good info on their funding situation?

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 10 June 2016 09:22:51PM *  1 point [-]

Yeah, I went to CFAR for unconventional reasons and with unconventional expectations. E.g., I went for personal reasons without an expectation it would make my altruism itself more effective. I think CFAR is worth it for a lot of people, and I respect people's preferences enough that if:

  • they're not into EA
  • they wouldn't have donated the money anyway
  • they're a working college graduate

A CFAR workshop is probably worth it and more valuable than the next closest thing, like a professional development workshop or something. I mean, nobody is saying people should spend $4k on a CFAR workshop instead of rent, food, and bills, but if they're in the position where their savings and lifestyle needs are covered, and they're shopping around to spend on, a CFAR workshop is a decent bet. However, I think EAs in particular demand a higher bar to make the case for CFAR workshops, and why EAs in particular should go, and I think we as CFAR alumni should rise to that challenge. I'm part of both the CFAR alumni community and EA, and the overlap between the two isn't 100%, so I respect the boundaries and norms of both, and switch which hat I'm wearing depending on the context.

I think the CFAR staff themselves have done a better job of making the case to attend their workshop than any written review by a CFAR workshop alumnus/alumna. However, a more rigorous review from someone not working for them is what the more skeptical/risk-averse aspects of the EA community demands before more of them attend CFAR workshops themselves. The above comment was a note to myself as much as it was to anyone else, in that I might very well be the person best suited to writing that review, if nobody else does it. There are actual several members of the EA community I think would benefit from a CFAR workshop, and would find what they learn and the skills they gain worth the expense, but I don't think as many will go until their is a more rigorous evaluation.

Also, I'm aware university is more expensive in the US, and varies wildly. I was generalizing from my own experience as a Canadian because that's what I know, and because it seems just as valid to use a non-US example as a US example, because there are roughly as many EAs outside of the US as there are in the US, and because the university systems of countries like Australia, Germany, Switzerland, and Britain are likely more like that in Canada than that of the U.S. This is relevant as CFAR has held workshops in Europe and Australia in the past, and I anticipate they'd do so again if they knew there was sufficient demand for it.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 11 June 2016 03:58:44PM 0 points [-]

Awesome, thanks for taking the time to give more background on your thinking process!

It was helpful to see your overall thoughts on ways CFAR can make a case for EA's to attend, given their understanding of measuring impact.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 09 June 2016 05:24:07PM 1 point [-]

Being part of these projects run by different organizations, like EA Global or a CFAR workshop, often face queries about their value. I think it's obvious attending these events are valuable in an absolute sense. If something like a CFAR workshop is free, anyone should go, because they won't be doing anything better with their weekend. However, most reviews of CFAR workshops don't address the question I most hear from members of our community: what is the relative value of a CFAR workshop to what else I would do with the money? CFAR workshops have been $3900 per participant for the last several years, and this seems to be a solid price not set to drop in the near future.

$3900 is a lot of money. Thinking in terms of 'dead children currency', and according to Givewell's estimates, $3900 saves the live of a child, i.e., generates ~39 QALYs. Would the value I personally get out of a CFAR workshop be worth more to me than a life saved, never mind how the person whose life I've saved feels about it? Can I really justify that cost? Of course, this question-begging gives rise to a naive evaluation of a CFAR workshop.

The case CFAR staff or alumni themselves will make is that a member of this community can benefit by not only gaining better skills which will save time and make them more productive, but gain greater insight which may allow them to make better choices, upon which much value hinges, or even get more in touch with what they really value, in a way that might change their cause selection. If someone was able to think more clearly through their priorities, and realized future generations, or non-human animals, do or don't matter as much as they previously did, that itself is a learning experience definitely worth thousands of dollars.

Of course, this is something that might happen at a CFAR workshop, but there isn't evidence that this is what someone can realistically expect out of attending a workshop. I don't know how much university courses cost in the United States, but in Canada where I'm from, $3900 USD pays for almost a year worth of university. If I was an undergraduate, I can think of some classes I could take, like in moral philosophy, and microeconomics, and computer science. These are just a handful of courses which will give a student the pieces to understand the rationale behind effective altruism, and equip them with valuable foundational skills they can use to help others. Now, there are some courses which I don't think will be instrumentally valuable in saving lives. I don't begrudge anyone for taking an intro pottery class at university, but unless they become a world-class potter who can sell their wares for thousands apiece after one class, I don't think it will contribute to saving more lives relative to something else.

So, CFAR workshops could definitely be worth more to an effective altruist than even a year of university classes. However, is a one-weekend workshop worth more than a year of the most important classes one takes in a degree? I don't think so. Each of us here is, in theory, interested in getting the most out of the money we spend, not merely any positive experience. Whether we're exclusively interested in increasing our personal effectiveness for altruistic or self-centered goals, I think there are projects or learning experiences with a price tag of $3900 worth more than a CFAR workshop. Of course, I've only used one example: a year of university courses. I think a college freshman will get more value out of their first year of study than a CFAR workshop. During the last year of their degree, when a student may be taking only electives which don't directly contribute to their skills or personal capital, a CFAR workshop could easily be worth more.

Ultimately, people who attend CFAR workshops fall into some common categories, like graduate researchers, entrepreneurs, of software engineers. I'd like to see more evaluations of CFAR which attempt to quantify the value of their workshop relative to the value of an experience of equivalent price a would-be attendee might spend $3900 on instead, like a professional development course, or a portion of a post-graduate certificate.

However, I think what is often understated about CFAR workshops, and which Gleb points out in his review above, is the most value might be the little skills, new habits of thought, which automate moments of indecision or hesitation we face everyday. I think many CFAR alumni would agree if they applied them, they could use each of the 5-second skills multiple times a day. This could compound to save multiple hours of wasted time per week, and may help us with important decisions we don't see coming, in ways we don't easily anticipate. I think these are the skills CFAR offers which should undergo quantification in an evaluation of their workshop. Whether it's anecdotes or real studies, there is much more evidence that this is the real value of a CFAR workshop, rather than some big and magical epiphany some might hope for. That's what I was hoping for when I went, but I didn't get it.

As a CFAR alumnus, I'd like to see any attempt at more rigorous evaluations of CFAR workshops, ideally from someone who attended the workshop in the last year. However, I've been a bit uncharitable to CFAR here. For those would-be attendees who face the steepest opportunity costs, CFAR often and graciously offers scholarships. It is true that members of the effective altruism community, who also often work at non-profits or are students, are much likelier to get a partial or full scholarship. Assuming other costs (e.g., travel costs) are negligible or taken care of, I'd recommend anyone who receives a full scholarship to go. It may or may not be worth it if one only receives a partial scholarship, but that will really vary from person to person. If this is the case, I encourage anyone to reach out to me so I or another alumnus/alumna in a similar position to you can help work out whether it's worth going to a CFAR workshop at the price offered to you.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 09 June 2016 06:18:28PM 1 point [-]

Hi Evan!

You bring up some good points about quantifying CFAR's relative impact, which I would like to see them address in the near-future, especially given their connection to EA.

It sounds like your own CFAR experience wasn't exactly helpful in the way you expected it to be. Could you talk a little more about that? I'd be interested in hearing how your actual results stacked up with your expectations.

Lastly, as just a little note, university here in the US is more expensive than Canada, in case you were wondering.

A year at a public university for an in-state student is about $9,000, while a year at a private institution averages about $32,000.

(It is around $3,000 for 1 year at a 2-year college, but I'm not sure that's what you had in mind when you talked about universities. The courses offered at the 2-year college tend to have less of the high-level courses in the fields you mentioned above, like CS, econ, and moral philosophy)

Link here (