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Venkatesh

Student @ University of Texas at Dallas
235 karmaJoined Sep 2016Pursuing a graduate degree (e.g. Master's)Plano, TX, USA
venkiverse.com

Bio

I am majoring in Social Data Analytics and Research at UTDallas and looking for opportunities in the social sector. I have previously worked as a Data Analyst at a botique consulting firm for ~2.7 years.

If you are considering reading something I have written on this forum, please see: Interpreting the Systemistas-Randomistas debate on development strategy

I got into the EA van thanks to 80k hours. And I got into the 80k hours van when I saw it on HackerNews. And I got into the HackerNews van since CGP Grey mentioned it on the Hello Internet podcast. And I got into Hello Internet (the first podcast I ever listened to) because my family was finally willing to get an internet connection. And my family was able to get an internet connection because of rising internet penetration in India.

So, pop quiz - is increasing internet penetration a good intervention for EA community building? Feel free to DM me your answer and say hi to me! :-)

How others can help me

Point me to opportunities for a Data Analyst to work in the social sector

Comments
40

Really liked this one -brief and to the point! Here is my attempt to condense it further presuming I understood the author properly and also understood the ITN framework properly (correct me if I'm wrong about either!) :

Say I subscribed to the ITN (Importance, Tractability, Neglectedness) framework before I started my work on cause area X and wrote down my scores for I, T and N. When I look at an example of someone failing and giving up (like the one OP mentions in the post), my first instinct would be to do 2 things:

  1. Increase the N score I had given earlier for X, since I now see one less person/entity working on X.
  2. Reduce the T score I had given earlier, since there is failure.

If I understood it correctly, this post argues that 2 should be modified: Modified 2. Maintain the T score I had given earlier, since the devil is in the details and the details of my solve are different from the failed solve I am looking at.

So, I still update my neglectedness (a small update) but maintain my tractability score (no update). Overall, not an "over-update".

Ah! That makes sense.

I agree that the EA thing to do would be to work on and explore cause areas by oneself instead of just blindly relying on 80k hours cause areas or something like that.

If someone said "I am not going to wear masks because I am not going to defer to expert opinions on epidemiology of COVID19" how would someone taking the advice of this article respond to that?

Overall, being a noob, I found the language in this article difficult to read. So, I am giving you a specific scenario that many people can relate to and then trying to learn what you are saying from that.

I am pretty sure this is not worthy of a full cross post, but I think a shortform could be tolerable.

I wrote a piece about Economic Complexity. I have seen a few posts on the forum (Like 1 and 2) about Complexity Science and I appreciate the healthy skepticism people have of it. If you are also such an appreciator, you might like my piece.

I attended EAGx Berkeley event on Dec 2, 2022. Previously I had engaged with EA by participating & later facilitating in Intro to EA Virtual programs, writing on this forum and attending the US Policy careers speaker series. All these previous engagements were virtual. This was the first time I was in a room full of EAs! I want to thank the organizers for giving me a travel grant for this event. It would have been impossible for me to attend this event without it.

It was a net positive experience for me. I had 4 goals in mind. 3 of them went much better than expected and 1 of them didn't go as well. I explain my goals and how they went below. They are listed in priority:

  1. Find an internship (especially in DC)
  • When I applied to the event, this goal was Find an internship (anywhere) and it was 2nd priority. But I was getting closer to the final rounds of a fellowship program which was conditional on getting a DC internship. So, I increased priority before the conference.
  • This goal didn't go as well as I thought it would. Many orgs I spoke to didn't have applications open. They just asked me to fill some sort of 'general interest form' on their website and told me when positions might open. I guess December is not really hiring season (at least for the orgs I was interested in)
  1. Get advice on if I should stop at my Masters or go all the way to a PhD
  • When I applied to the event, this goal was originally What after Masters and it was 3rd priority. But one of my profs at uni spoke with me to consider a PhD a week before the conference. So, it changed and got higher priority before the conference.
  • I got some of the best advice on this. The 1-on-1 and office hours really helped me. Also, on day 1 of the conference Alex Lawsen spoke about An easy win for hard decisions.. So I ended up writing up a Google doc on this decision and sending it to many of the people I did 1-on-1s with. In addition, I attended a session on 'Theory of Change' by Michael Aird and it is going to play a huge role in how I finally make this decision.
  1. Get advice on starting a student group
  • This was actually priority 1 when I applied. But my cofounder also ended up getting selected for the event and since he could also talk about it with folks it made sense to push this down, given there were other goals that had to be prioritized as well.
  • I got good suggestions for this. My cofounder spoke with Jessica Mccurdy. I spoke with another student group organizer who got me into the 'EA Groups' Slack channel.
  1. Learn if there is any intersection between AI safety and policy
  • I made up this goal on day 2 of the conference given the number of AI safety events that happened. That is why it is bottom priority.
  • I learnt that the jargon here is "AI Governance". I saw that many AI safety orgs didn't really hire folks to do this (with notable exceptions). I hope to spend a few hours this winter break looking into this given that a few people told me that this is a fairly neglected area. If I find it really interesting, I might end up writing up something on the forum about this.

Other thoughts:

  • Given that the FTX scandal happened recently, I was kind of worried the event would be all about that. I had read enough about it on social media and on the forum, felt bad for the people who got cheated, recognized what I can learn from it and by the time the conference rolled on I was over it. I didn't want it to be stirred up all over again. So, I was glad to not be forced into any conversations about it. There were some events on the agenda on that topic but I was able to avoid them. So, discussions on this very important disaster did happen but it was out of the way for those who had worked through it which I really appreciated.
  • I was generally encouraged and felt optimistic seeing a bunch of people who (are atleast trying to) care about the world. Some of them were eccentric, some of them were too gloomy (IMO) about x-risks but all were kind people.
  • I personally felt that I was generally being too risk averse. Seeing people daring to try out of the ordinary stuff has helped me update a little bit more towards risk taking (of course keeping in mind to internalize risks to the max)

Thanks a lot for making this! I just started research on something Econ growth adjacent and this reading list could come in handy. So I really appreciate it.

I do not think its about discount rates. I was recently corrected on this point here. It looks like conservatives and moderates thinking closer to the present have other better reasons like population axiologies or tractability concerns or something along those lines.

There is ambiguity in the terminology here. So here is how I visualize it with my own terminology. Its not a Venn diagram but this is how I see it.

imgur

I thoroughly enjoyed this! The tone of the writing matched perfectly with the idea that is being conveyed.

If I may add a category:

  1. Desi EA - Someone not from a developed country kinda feeling out of place and totally inadequate to do anything about most mainstream EA cause areas. Mostly English-speaking educated elite from developing countries who possibly watch a lot more Hollywood than their local genres. (Also has some inability to parse slang. I honestly didn't understand what the moniker "IDW" and "A-aesthetic" meant although I think I understood the explanation)
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