3154 karmaJoined Dec 2014Working (6-15 years)Reykjavik, Islande


Now: TYPE III AUDIO; Independent study.

Previously: 80,000 Hours (2014-15; 2017-2021) Worked on web development, product management, strategy, internal systems, IT security, etc. Read my CV.

Also: Inbox When Ready; Radio Bostrom; The Valmy; Comment Helper for Google Docs.


Topic contributions

I also don't see any evidence for the claim of EA philosophers having "eroded the boundary between this kind of philosophizing and real-world decision-making".

Have you visited the 80,000 Hours website recently?

I think that effective altruism centrally involves taking the ideas of philosophers and using them to inform real-world decision-making. I am very glad we’re attempting this, but we must recognise that this is an extraordinarily risky business. Even the wisest humans are unqualified for this role. Many of our attempts are 51:49 bets at best—sometimes worth trying, rarely without grave downside risk, never without an accompanying imperative to listen carefully for feedback from the world. And yes—diverse, hedged experiments in overconfidence also make sense. And no, SBF was not hedged anything like enough to take his 51:49 bets—to the point of blameworthy, perhaps criminal negligence.

A notable exception to the “we’re mostly clueless” situation is: catastrophes are bad. This view passes the “common sense” test, and the “nearly all the reasonable takes on moral philosophy” test too (negative utilitarianism is the notable exception). But our global resource allocation mechanisms are not taking “catastrophes are bad” seriously enough. So, EA—along with other groups and individuals—has a role to play in pushing sensible measures to reduce catastrophic risks up the agenda (as well as the sensible disaster mitigation prep).

(Derek Parfit’s “extinction is much worse than 99.9% wipeout” claim is far more questionable—I put some of my chips on this, but not the majority.)

As you suggest, the transform function from “abstract philosophical idea” to “what do” is complicated and messy, and involves a lot of deference to existing norms and customs. Sadly, I think that many people with a “physics and philosophy” sensibility underrate just how complicated and messy the transform function really has to be. So they sometimes make bad decisions on principle instead of good decisions grounded in messy common sense.

I’m glad you shared the J.S. Mill quote.

…the beliefs which have thus come down are the rules of morality for the multitude, and for the philosopher until he has succeeded in finding better

EAs should not be encouraged to grant themselves practical exception from “the rules of morality for the multitude” if they think of themselves as philosophers. Genius, wise philosophers are extremely rare (cold take: Parfit wasn’t one of them).

To be clear: I am strongly in favour of attempts to act on important insights from philosophy. I just think that this is hard to do well. One reason is that there is a notable minority of “physics and philosophy” folks who should not be made kings, because their “need for systematisation” is so dominant as to be a disastrous impediment for that role.

In my other comment, I shared links to Karnofsky, Beckstead and Cowen expressing views in the spirit of the above. From memory, Carl Shuman is in a similar place, and so are Alexander Berger and Ajeya Cotra.

My impression is that more than half of the most influential people in effective altruism are roughly where they should be on these topics, but some of the top “influencers”, and many of the ”second tier”, are not.

(Views my own. Sword meme credit: the artist currently known as John Stewart Chill.)

I hesitate to post things like this, because “short, practical advice” posts aren't something I often see on the Forum.

I'm not sure if this is the kind of thing that's worth encouraging as a top-level post.

In general I would like to read more posts like this from EA Forum users, but perhaps not as part of the front page.

Thanks for this. I'd be keen to see a longer list of the interesting for-profits in this space.

Biobot Analytics (wastewater monitoring) are the only for-profit on the 80,000 Hours job board list.

As an employer, it's particularly helpful to look at small solo projects. With a solo project it's easy to tell how you contributed—you did everything.

Hi Lia. I think the RSS links above are correct.

To confirm, the RSS links are as follows:

Does this help?

Back in March I asked GPT-4:

I recently graduated from medical school but I'm worried that being a doctor in the rich world is not very impactful, because there are already lots of doctors and I can't help that many people every year by providing primary care. Would 80,000 Hours say that this is a legitimate concern? What might they suggest for someone in my position?

The answer (one shot):

Yes, 80,000 Hours might consider your concern as legitimate. While being a doctor is a valuable and impactful profession, it's true that in the rich world, there are already many doctors providing primary care. However, there are several ways you can increase your impact as a medical professional, and 80,000 Hours might suggest the following options:

Specialize in a high-impact area: Some medical specialties have a higher potential for impact than others. For example, you could specialize in infectious diseases, pandemic preparedness, or global health, areas where your expertise can make a considerable difference.

Global Health: Consider working in low-income or underserved regions where there is a more significant shortage of medical professionals. Your skills and expertise can have a more considerable impact in these areas.

Medical research: You could focus on research that addresses pressing global health issues, such as finding new treatments or improving existing ones for various diseases. Medical research can have a significant long-term impact on many lives.

Public health and policy: Engage in public health work, such as designing and implementing health programs or advocating for evidence-based policies. This can have a broader systemic impact on healthcare and health outcomes.

Effective altruism: Use your medical career to earn a good income, and then donate a significant portion of it to effective charities or causes. This approach is sometimes referred to as "earning to give." By supporting high-impact organizations, you can indirectly contribute to addressing global problems.

Health-related advocacy: Use your medical expertise to raise awareness of important global health issues, advocate for policy changes, or support interventions that can have a large-scale impact.

It's essential to consider your interests, strengths, and values when choosing a path. Remember that you can always change directions or pivot throughout your career. For more tailored advice, you can consult 80,000 Hours' resources or engage with their community.

I didn't give it any other text as context, just the prompt above.

Congratulations on making it to 5 years, and thank you for the work you've done so far.

Could you give us a sense of the inputs that lead to these outputs? In particular, I'd be interested to know:

  1. Total expenditure.
  2. Total years of staff labor (full-time equivalent).

The application form is short and includes the following questions:

What are the most important technical projects the UK government needs to do within the next few months to advance AI safety?

What do you want to be doing to drive those projects forward?

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