Comment author: lincolnq 14 September 2018 09:30:33AM 3 points [-]

I think you're right that hiring your first staff/online signup put you onto the exponential curve. And you didn't fall off of the exponential until you de-emphasized it -- if you fit the exponential from 2014-2017 and extrapolate to today, you might hit something like 8000 members. So if you think staying on-curve seems plausible if you were to have continued working on it, I would guess that de-emphasizing growth still cost you users, even as you continued to grow linearly.

Comment author: lincolnq 19 October 2016 03:54:15PM 3 points [-]

What do you think of OpenAI?

In particular, it seems like OpenAI has both managed to attract both substantial technical talent and a number of safety-conscious researchers.

1) It seems that, to at least some degree, you are competing for resources -- particularly talent but also "control of the AI safety narrative". Do you feel competitive with them, or collaborative, or a bit of both? Do you expect both organizations to be relevant for 5+ years or do you expect one to die off? What, if anything, would convince you that it would make sense to merge with them? What would convince them it was a good idea to merge with you?

2) Assuming you don't merge, how does OpenAI's existence change your strategy if at all?

Comment author: Gregory_Lewis 23 September 2016 08:47:14PM 2 points [-]

What %age of market rate are these jobs offering? I think 'people who are willing to sacrifice (e.g.) 30% of their potential salary are pretty rare independent of field.

Comment author: lincolnq 09 October 2016 11:45:15AM 3 points [-]

At Wave, we offer market-ish for a startup ($90-180k for engineers depending on experience, plus equity). That said, several of the engineers we've hired took a substantial pay cut in nominal terms (usually from Google) to join us. Hopefully the equity will equalize or exceed the cut over time, but that's always a risk. That said, I'm skeptical of anyone who says that an engineer "needs" a 150k salary to be happy; the marginal value of each extra $10k seems to drop dramatically around $70k and maybe more like around $100-120k if you have a family.

Comment author: lincolnq 09 October 2016 11:37:27AM *  4 points [-]

(I'm one of the founders of Wave.) Thanks for mentioning us!

We have indeed found it tricky to hire engineers. Our EA pedigree makes it easier though, since lots of people want to make an impact with their career; as does being a full distributed team so we can hire people from anywhere in the world. We're exclusively hiring via our networks right now and the EA community has been quite helpful for us. Most of the engineers we've hired had heard of EA before joining, although I think not all. I don't think many of them identify as explicitly EA (though a few do, myself included).

When we've rejected engineering candidates from the EA community, it's been mainly for technical reasons (not enough experience or velocity doing the things we do), followed by cultural homogeneity risk. To expand on the latter risk: we often reject people who seem "too EA" because we are afraid of importing too much cultural baggage from an existing community - it would feel outgroupish if you didn't know much about EA but there were all these EA memes flying around the slack channel. So far we've mostly avoided that.

That said, I don't think anyone should self-exclude from our hiring process for being too EA; we can decide that for ourselves. Get in touch if you might be interested.

Comment author: lincolnq 13 May 2016 08:38:18AM *  5 points [-]

I'm concerned about the SMS reminder thing for a weird reason: it looks too easy.

A number of reasons this is concerning -- not sure which apply in this case since I don't fully understand the process by which this list was created, but off the top of my head here they are:

  1. The idea is so simple and "obvious" (yes, I know, retrospect) that there are probably lots of people who have tried various forms of it.
  2. You may be subject to biases which cause it to look better than it is because you want the best interventions to be easy to execute.
  3. There are no (obvious) schleps, which may be a corollary of #1 or #2, but it still seems concerning. From Paul Graham's schlep blindness essay: "Most hackers who start startups wish they could do it by just writing some clever software, putting it on a server somewhere, and watching the money roll in—without ever having to talk to users, or negotiate with other companies, or deal with other people's broken code. Maybe that's possible, but I haven't seen it." Swap "money" for "QALYs" and "startups" for "organizations". (

Again, this may indeed be a good idea despite the above. But my alarm bells are going off.

Edit: Further thoughts -- unsure if this ever could become a GiveWell top charity. It seems like the "room for more funding" isn't that high, because the impact of this project doesn't seem blocked on money.

Comment author: lincolnq 11 October 2015 02:45:01AM 2 points [-]

I have a fear/uncertainty/doubt about excessive cause-prioritization as a focus of the Effective Altruism movement's message.

Let's say Tess goes to an Ivy League school and wants to make an impact through work in education. She does Teach for America and teaches underprivileged kids in the US for a few years, and gradually rises within the schools she works at until she is an administrator and can allocate resources for an entire district. Because she's very good at it and deeply cares about her work, she ends up making an enormous impact with her career, transforming a bad public school system into a great one, and substantially positively affecting the lives of thousands of kids per year.

I think the EA movement would disapprove of the early steps in this career path. So if Tess discovered the current EA movement too early in her career, she would either become disenchanted with EA, or "drop out" of TFA and instead go earn-to-give, or something like that -- i.e., follow a career path which is more approved by EAs, but ultimately less impactful. Of course, this would be justified since she would have no way to know that she has the "plot armor" to succeed at her original path. But by dropping out of something she is passionate about and doing earning-to-give, she is sacrificing her potential upside through the passion/resonance she has with her work.

I guess I worry about a lot of people saying such-and-such isn't really EA because it doesn't maximize a narrow ideal of "effectiveness", and that can either turn people off of EA, or turn them off of careers in which they might actually have real upside through resonance.

Comment author: Alexander 11 October 2015 12:16:17AM 1 point [-]

I am wondering if someone can explain, or point me to a link on, why they think global poverty charity matters compared with policy. For example, one statistic from GWWC was that the Iraq war cost more than all government foreign aid from the developed world for 50 years, and I would guess that the war's economic effects on Iraq were comparable to its costs. Also, African exports and imports are worth about $35 billion each but total US international charity (to all countries, not just Africa) was $19 billion in 2012, according to this source. This suggests to me that (from an EA standpoint) policies on trade alone are more important than charity.

Comment author: lincolnq 11 October 2015 01:56:52AM 0 points [-]

I think the default explanation is that it's surprisingly ineffective in practice to try for stuff that requires overcoming intelligent opposition. Obviously there are cases where this doesn't apply, but it does seem reasonably sensible as a default, both from a decision-theoretic perspective and a practical perspective. You quote a 50x impact multiplier; I suppose it depends on how smart you think the opposition is, but it doesn't seem unreasonable that a smart opposition would be able to reduce your impact by 50x.

Comment author: PeterMcIntyre  (EA Profile) 06 May 2015 11:19:46PM 3 points [-]

Thanks for posting this. I think explicitly asking for critical feedback is very useful.

If the intervention is not currently supported by a large body of research then we want to fund/carry out a randomized controlled trial to test whether it’s worth pursuing this intervention.

RCTs are seriously expensive, would take years to get meaningful data, would need to be replicated as well before you could put much faith in it, and it wouldn't align with the core skillset I'd imagine you'd need to be starting an organisation (so you'd need to outsource it, which would increase the costs even more). As Ryan said, it might be more useful to useful to aim to be recommended by OPP, or search for another kind of EA market inefficiency. Your other ideas of finding supportable but neglected interventions and doing them sounds pretty useful though.

Comment author: lincolnq 13 May 2015 02:26:45PM 1 point [-]

But all those costs of RCTs are clearly worth it. Expensive? If your intervention is vaguely promising then EAs will throw enough money at you to get started. Time? Better get started now. Replication? More cost, EAs will fund. Outsource? Higher quality, EAs will fund.

Comment author: Bitton 28 November 2014 06:24:48PM 0 points [-]

The Roxanne Heston link doesn't work.

Comment author: lincolnq 29 November 2014 12:19:30AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 07 October 2014 07:38:50AM 4 points [-]

Thanks for posting this Topher. When I was vegan, my diet was very similar to the one you described, and all in all I didn't find it that difficult. You'll notice the "was" in that sentence though - the thing that got me was eating out or eating socially with friends - I found it very difficult to maintain a vegan diet then, and so I found myself slipping. I'd be interested in how you deal with this - do you stick to a vegan diet even when eating out or going to friends houses, and if so, how difficult do you find it?

My solution for a while was to have a strict rule that I am entirely vegan in what I cook and by for myself, and vegetarian in other situations - like eating out - where being vegan is very difficult or inconvenient. This worked pretty well for a while. It's harder now because I'm living in a house with people who frequently cook together - which has a lot of benefits of saved time, money, and being more enjoyable and sociable - but aren't vegan. So I've slipped back to just being vegetarian across the board, but I feel somewhat uncomfortable about it.

Comment author: lincolnq 08 October 2014 02:28:26AM 7 points [-]

Currently, I beemind (using a Do Less goal) "non-vegan meals per week". This has provided the mild positive pressure for me to choose to be vegan for most of my meals but allow myself to eat a few meals a week with friends without paying a social penalty.

View more: Next