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Austin

Cofounder @ Manifund & Manifold
3140 karmaJoined San Francisco, CA, USA

Bio

Hey there~ I'm Austin, currently building https://manifund.org. Always happy to meet people; reach out at akrolsmir@gmail.com, or find a time on https://calendly.com/austinchen/manifold !

Comments
185

Indeed, I spoke loosely and the sentence would have been more accurate if I had replaced "57 speakers" with "57 special guests", for which I apologize. I don't consider this to be a major distinction, however, and have used these terms fairly interchangeably throughout event planning. It's a quirk of how we run Manifest, where there are many blurry boundaries.

Most, but not all of our "special guests" presented a session[1]. Not all of the sessions were presented by special guests: Manifest allowed any attendee to book a room to run a talk/session/workshop/event of their choice (though, we the organizers did arrange many of the largest sessions ourselves.) Most special guests did not receive housing or travel assistance; I think we provided this to 10-15 of them. Not all of our special guests even received complimentary tickets: some, such as Eliezer, Katja, Nate and Sarah, paid for their tickets before we reached out to them; we're very grateful for this! And we also issued complimentary tickets to many folks, without listing them as special guests.

What is true about all our special guests is that we chose them for being notable people, who we imagined our attendees would like to meet. They were listed on our website and received a differently-colored badge. They were also all offered a spot at a special (off campus) dinner on Saturday night, in addition to those who bought supporter tickets.

  1. ^

    Off the top of my head, these special guests did not give talks: Eliezer Yudkowsky, Katja Grace, Joe Carlsmith, Clara Collier, Max Tabarrok, Sarah Constantin, Rob Miles, Richard Hanania, Nate Soares

For the EA Phillipines grant, curious if the $43k granted is inclusive of two donations made through Manifund? On https://manifund.org/projects/support-a-thriving-and-talented-community-of-ea-filipinos- , there were two large donations of 43000/4 = 10750, and I know that at least Anton was a participant in MCF.

This is totally fine fwiw (we're very happy to have these on Manifund!), I'm just checking so we don't double-assign credit for these donations.

Some reflections on the Manifest 2024 discourse:

  1. I’m annoyed (with “the community”, but mostly with human nature & myself) that this kind of drama gets so much more attention than eg typical reviews of the Manifest experience, or our retrospectives of work on Manifund, which I wish got even 10% of this engagement. It's fun to be self-righteous on the internet, fun to converse with many people who I respect, fun especially when they come to your defense (thanks!), but I feel guilty at the amount of attention this has sucked up for everyone involved.

    This bit from Paul Graham makes a lot more sense to me now:

    > When someone contradicts you, they're in a sense attacking you. Sometimes pretty overtly. Your instinct when attacked is to defend yourself. But like a lot of instincts, this one wasn't designed for the world we now live in. Counterintuitive as it feels, it's better most of the time not to defend yourself. Otherwise these people are literally taking your life.

    Kudos to all y'all who are practicing the virtue of silence and avoiding engaging with this.
  2. While it could have been much, much better written, on net I’m glad the Guardian article exists. And not just in a "all PR is good PR" sense, or even a “weak opponents are superweapons” sense; I think there's a legitimate concern there that's worthy of reporting. I like the idea of inviting the journalists to come to Manifest in the future.
  3. That said, I am quite annoyed that now many people who didn’t attend Manifest, may think of it as "Edgelordcon". I once again encourage people who weren't there to look at our actual schedule, or to skim over some of the many many post-Manifest reports, to get a more representative sense of what Manifest is like or about.
  4. If Edgelordcon is what you really wanted, consider going to something like Hereticon instead of Manifest, thanks.
  5. Not sure how many people already know this but I formally left Manifold a couple months ago. I'm the most comfortable writing publicly out of the 3 founders, but while I'm still on the company board, I expect Manifold vs my own views to diverge more over time.
  6. Also, Rachel and Saul were much more instrumental in making Manifest 2024 happen than me. Their roles were approximately co-directors, while I'm more like a producer of the event. So most of the credit for a well-run event goes to them; I wish more people engaged with their considerations, rather than mine. (Blame for the invites, as I mentioned, falls on me.)
  7. EA Forum is actually pretty good for having nuanced discussion: the threading and upvote vs agreevote and reactions all help compared to other online discourse. Kudos to the team! (Online text-based discourse does remain intrinsically more divisive than offline, though, which I don't love. I wish more people eg took up Saul on his offer to call with folks.)
  8. Overall my impression of the state of the EA community has ticked upwards as a result of this all this. I’m glad to be here!
  9. Some of my favorite notes amidst all this: Isa, huw, TracingWoodgrains, and Nathan Young on their experiences, Richard Ngo against deplatforming, Jacob and Oli on their thoughts, Bentham's Bulldog and Theo Jaffee on their defenses of the event, and Saul and Rachel on their perspectives as organizers.

Yeah -- in practice, I know that conference invites are consequential (and we discussed this as a team, eg very abbreviated Apr 22 meeting notes). I use the words "scaled up house party" to try to implant a bit of how bizarre it feels to me that, like, something that was just an idea in my head 1.5 years ago, now has attracted many of my favorite writers in the world, received multiple major media mentions, and is viewed as consequential. I also think that there's something special about our invite process which leads to the feeling of "how it feels to attend Manifest", and I and many attendees are overall quite happy with the outcome -- TracingWoodgrains talks more about this here. While I want to continue to improve on how we shape who comes to Manifest, I also don't want to kill the golden goose.

While Manifest is a forecasting festival, I'm not sure I'm really trying to build up the field of forecasting in general, rather than something more specific and tautological like "the Manifest community". Even more than EA, forecasting is a formless vague entity, without a clear leader or in/out distinction.

I agree the comment is reductive; many sentences are, due to the fractal nature of information. I generally wrote trying to balance correctness with informativeness with "actually publishing the damn post, rather than being maximally defensive".

In any case, I appreciate that you linked to our finances, and that you like how we publish our numbers openly to the world!

Thanks; I also appreciate you sharing your rationale here. I think this makes sense from your perspective, and while I think Manifest and Manifold in fact would be great experiences for people of all kinds, including underrepresented folks, I totally understand if we haven't proven this to you at this point. Next time I'm in NYC, I'd enjoy speaking with you or other members of EA NYC, if you'd like that!

(I also want to note that my views shouldn't reflect on "forecasting" any more than they reflect on "EA"; see Ozzie and Peter Wildeford's comments for what forecasting more broadly is like. I'm in the awkward position of having run a platform for many forecasters, but not participating much as a forecaster myself.)

Thanks for this writeup! I especially found the linked doc, in the category of "nuts and bolts of event organizing", to be quite interesting and helpful; as a sometimes-organizer myself, it's cool to read about the design decisions and rationale that goes into other events. I was also impressed to see that you self-funded this event with ~$5.7k -- I'd be interested in providing some retroactive funding to help cover this, if you want to put up this retrospective doc on https://manifund.org/ !

To preface, I don't think this point is load-bearing/cruxy to the question of "is Manifold EA?" or "is Manifold a large player in the EA space?", which itself is also something of a side point.

I was referring specifically to Manifold Markets as the we in "We've received some EA funding, but most of our funding comes from venture capital sources." -- right afterwards I agree that Manifund (aka Manifold for Charity) is an EA org.

Manifold Markets has received ~2.9M in investment and ~1.5M in grants, which were the figures I had in mind when I said "most of our funding comes from VC". One complicating factor is that of the investment, 1M came from a FTX Future Fund regrant, structured as an equity investment through Alameda Research. Does that count as EA funding or VC? Idk, I think that counts in both categories, but if you characterize that as exclusively EA funding I agree it would be fair to say "Manifold has received more in EA funding than in venture capital".

Just for the record, I actually invited Brian a few days before he launched AFTF; I proposed a debate afterwards. I would have enjoyed listening to his explanation of the e/acc position even outside a debate context; I think his past background as being solidly EA, eg organizing his university's EA group, means that he has a unique perspective on this. (And he did end up giving a separate talk, which was very on theme for Manifest - "The Economics of Envy".) So from my perspective it was less of a case of "diplomatic immunity" and more me genuinely wanting to hear from him.

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