Neel Nanda

3733 karmaJoined Nov 2019neelnanda.io


I lead the DeepMind mechanistic interpretability team


To me this post ignores the elephant in the room: OpenPhil still has billions of dollars left and is trying to make funding decisions relative to where they think their last dollar is. I'd be pretty surprised if having the Wytham money liquid rather than illiquid (or even having £15mn out of nowhere!) really made a difference to that estimate.

It seems reasonable to argue that they're being too conservative, and should be funding the various things you mention in this post, but also plausible to me that they're acting correctly? More importantly, I think this is a totally separate question to whether to sell Wytham,and requires different arguments. Eg I gather that CEEALAR has several times been considered and passed over for funding before, I don't have a ton of context for why, but that suggests to me it's not a slam dunk re being a better use of money.

I also work at Google, and a surprising amount of people (including EAs) aren't aware of the substantial annual donation match! I only noticed by happenstance.

I didn't know there were useful tools online for this, I agree this seems like a great thing for EA orgs/charities to have on their website if it's easy to do

It still seems like a mistake to not point out to people that they can substantially increase their donation and thus lives saved, even if it doesn't count towards the pledge

I think in hindsight the response (with the information I think the board had) was probably reasonable

Reasonable because you were all the same org, or reasonable even if EA Funds was its own org

Maybe it would have been cleaner if it wasn't about Ben, though I don't think a hypothetical person would have made the lesson as clear, and if Ben wasn't fair game for having written that article, I don't know who would be.

Thanks! This line in particular changed my mind about whether it was retributive, I genuinely can't think of anyone else it would be appropriate to do this for

They were shocked at his lack of concern for her suffering and confirmed that he would probably really hurt her career if she came forward with her information.

Re-reading that section, it was surprisingly consistent with that interpretation, but this line seems to make no sense if it's about Kat's experience - if the trauma is publishing the previous post then "probably really hurt her career if she came forward with her information" does not make sense because the trauma was a public event

I also think orgs generally should have donor diversity and more independence, so giving more funding to the orgs that OP funds is sometimes good.

I'd be curious to hear more about this - naively, if I'm funding an org, and then OpenPhil stops funding that org, that's a fairly strong signal to me that I should also stop funding it, knowing nothing more. (since it implies OpenPhil put in enough effort to evaluate the org, and decided to deviate from the path of least resistance)

Agreed re funding things without a track record, that seems clearly good for small donors to do, eg funding people to do independent research or start a small new research group, if you believe they're promising

Yeah, that intermediate world sounds great to me! (though a lot of effort, alas)

Ah, gotcha. If I understand correctly you're arguing for more of a "wisdom of the crowds" analogy? Many donors is better than a few donors.

If so, I agree with that, but think the major disanalogy is that the big donors are professionals, with more time experience and context, while small donors are not - big donors are more like hedge funds, small donors are more like retail investors in the efficient market analogy

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