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It was my great pleasure to speak once again to Tyler Cowen. His most recent book is Talent, How to Find Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Across the World.We discuss:how sex is more pessimistic than he is,why he expects society to collapse permanently,why humility, stimulants, intelligence, & stimulants are overrated,how he identifies talent, deceit, & ambition,& much much much more!Watch on YouTube. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast platform. Read the full transcript here.Follow me on Twitter for updates on future episodes.More really cool guests coming up, subscribe to find out about future episodes!You may also enjoy my interviews of Bryan Caplan (about mental illness, discrimination, and poverty), David Deutsch (about AI and the problems with America's constitution), and Steve Hsu (about intelligence and embryo selection).If you end up enjoying this episode, I would be super grateful if you shared it. Post it on Twitter, send it to your friends & group-chats, and throw it up on any relevant subreddits & forums you follow. Can't exaggerate how much it helps a small podcast like mine.A huge thanks to Graham Bessellieu for editing this podcast and Mia Aiyana for producing its transcript.Timestamps(0:00) -Did Caplan Change On Education?(1:17) - Travel vs. History(3:10) - Do Institutions Become Left Wing Over Time?(6:02) - What Does Talent Correlate With?(13:00) - Humility, Mental Illness, Caffeine, and Suits(19:20) - How does Education affect Talent?(24:34) - Scouting Talent(33:39) - Money, Deceit, and Emergent Ventures(37:16) - Building Writing Stamina(39:41) - When Does Intelligence Start to Matter?(43:51) - Spotting Talent (Counter)signals(53:57) - Will Reading Cowen's Book Help You Win Emergent Ventures?(1:04:18) - Existential risks and the Longterm(1:12:45) - Cultivating Young Talent(1:16:05) - The Lifespans of Public Intellectuals(1:19:42) - Risk Aversion in Academia(1:26:20) - Is Stagnation Inevitable?(1:31:33) - What are Podcasts for?TranscriptDid Caplan Change On Education?Tyler Cowen Ask Bryan about early and late Caplan. In which ways are they not consistent? That's a kind of friendly jab.Dwarkesh Patel Okay, interesting. Tyler Cowen Garrett Jones has tweeted about this in the past. In The Myth of the Rational Voter, education is so wonderful. It no longer seems to be true, but it was true from the data Bryan took from. Bryan doesn't think education really teaches you much. Dwarkesh Patel So then why is it making you want a free market?Tyler Cowen It once did, even though it doesn't now, and if it doesn't now, it may teach them bad things. But it's teaching them something.Dwarkesh Patel I have asked him this. He thinks that education doesn't teach them anything; therefore, that woke-ism can't be a result of colleges. I asked him, “okay, at some point, these were ideas in colleges, but now they're in the broader world. What do you think happened? Why did it transition together?” I don't think he had a good answer to that.Tyler Cowen Yeah, you can put this in the podcast if you want. I like the free podcast talk often better than the podcast. [laughs]Dwarkesh Patel Okay. Well yeah, we can just start rolling. Today, it is my great pleasure to speak to Tyler Cowen about his new book, “Talent, How to Find Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Across the World.” Tyler, welcome (once again) to The Lunar Society. Tyler Cowen Happy to be here, thank you!Travel vs. HistoryDwarkesh Patel 1:51 Okay, excellent. I'll get into talent in just a second, but I've got a few questions for you first. So in terms of novelty and wonder, do you think travelling to the past would be a fundamentally different experience from travelling to different countries today? Or is it kind of in the same category?Tyler Cowen You need to be protected against disease and have some access to the languages, and obviously, your smartphone is not going to work, right? So if you adjust for those differences, I think it would be a lot like travelling today except there'd be bigger surprises because no one else has gone to the past. Older people were there in a sense, but if you go back to ancient Athens, or the peak of the Roman Empire, you'd be the first traveller. Dwarkesh Patel So do you think the experience of reading a history book is somewhat substitutable for actually travelling to a place? Tyler Cowen Not at all! I think we understand the past very very poorly. If you've travelled appropriately in contemporary times, it should make you more skeptical about history because you'll realize how little you can learn about the current places just by reading about them. So it's like Travel versus History, and the historians lose.Dwarkesh Patel Oh, interesting. So I'm curious, how does travelling a lot change your perspective when you read a work of history? In what ways does it do so? Are you skeptical of it to an extent that you weren't before, and what do you think historians are probably getting wrong? Tyler Cowen It may not be a concrete way, but first you ask: was the person there? If it's a biography, did the author personally know the subject of the biography? That becomes an extremely important question. I was just in India for the sixth time, I hardly pretend to understand India, whatever that possibly might mean, but before I went at all, I'd read a few hundred books about India, and it's not like I got nothing out of them, but in some sense, I knew nothing about India. Now that I've visited, the other things I read make more sense, including the history.Do Institutions Become Left Wing Over Time?Dwarkesh Patel Okay, interesting. So you've asked this question to many of your guests, and I don't think any of them have had a good answer. So let me just ask you: what do you think is the explanation behind Conquest's Second Law? Why does any institution that is not explicitly right-wing become left-wing over time?Tyler Cowen Well, first of all, I'm not sure that Conquest's Second Law is true. So you have something like the World Bank which was sort of centrist state-ist in the 1960s, and by the 1990s became fairly neoliberal. Now, about what's left-wing/right-wing, it's global, it's complicated, but it's not a simple case of Conquest's Second Law holding. I do think that for a big part of the latter post-war era, some version of Conquest's Law does mostly hold for the United States. But once you see that it's not universal, you're just asking: well, why have parts? Why has the American intelligentsia shifted to the left? So that there's political science literature on educational polarization? [laughs] I wouldn't say it's a settled question, but it's not a huge mystery like “how Republicans act wackier than Democrats are” for example. The issues realign in particular ways. I believe that's why Conquest's Law locally is mostly holding.Dwarkesh Patel Oh, interesting. So you don't think there's anything special about the intellectual life that tends to make people left-wing, and this issue is particular to our current moment?Tyler Cowen I think by choosing the words “left-wing” you're begging the question. There's a lot of historical areas where what is left-wing is not even well defined, so in that sense, Conquests Law can't even hold there. I once had a debate with Marc Andreessen about this–– I think Mark tends to see things that are left-wing/right-wing as somewhat universal historical categories, and I very much do not. In medieval times, what's left wing and what's right wing? Even in 17th century England, there were particular groups who on particular issues were very left-wing or right-wing. It seems to me to be very unsatisfying, and there's a lot of fluidity in how these axes play out over real issues.Dwarkesh Patel Interesting. So maybe then it's what is considered “left” at the time that tends to be the thing that ends up winning. At least, that's how it looks like looking back on it. That's how we categorize things. Something insightful I heard is that “if the left keeps winning, then just redefine what the left is.” So if you think of prohibition at the time, it was a left-wing cause, but now, the opposite of prohibition is left-wing because we just changed what the left is.Tyler Cowen Exactly. Take the French Revolution: they're the historical equivalent of nonprofits versus 1830s restoration. Was everything moving to the left, between Robespierre and 1830? I don't pretend to know, but it just sure doesn't seem that way. So again, there seem to be a lot of cases where Conquest's Law is not so economical.Dwarkesh Patel Napoleon is a great example of this where we're not sure whether he's the most left-wing figure in history or the most right-wing figure in history.Tyler Cowen 6:00Maybe he's both somehow.What Does Talent Correlate With?Dwarkesh Patel How much of talent or the lack thereof is a moral judgment for you? Just to give some context, when I think that somebody is not that intelligent, for me, that doesn't seem like a moral judgment. That just seems like a lottery. When I say that somebody's not hard working, that seems like more of a moral judgment. So on that spectrum, where would you say talent lies?Tyler Cowen I don't know. My default is that most people aren't that ambitious. I'm fine with that. It actually creates some opportunities for the ambitious–– there might be an optimal degree of ambition. Well, short of everyone being sort of maximally ambitious. So I don't go around pissed off at unambitious people, judging them in some moralizing way. I think a lot of me is on autopilot when it comes to morally judging people from a distance. I don't wake up in the morning and get pissed off at someone in the Middle East doing whatever, even though I might think it was wrong.Dwarkesh Patel So when you read the biographies of great people, often you see there's a bit of an emotional neglect and abuse when they're kids. Why do you think this is such a common trope?Tyler Cowen I would love to see the data, but I'm not convinced that it's more common than with other people. Famous people, especially those who have biographies, on average are from earlier times, and in earlier times, children were treated worse. So it could be correlated without being causal. Now, maybe there's this notion that you need to have something to prove. Maybe you only feel you need to prove something if you're Napoleon and you're short, and you weren't always treated well. That's possible and I don't rule it out. But you look at Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg without pretending to know what their childhoods were like. It sure sounds like they were upper middle class kids treated very well, at least from a distance. For example, the Collison's had great parents and they did well.Dwarkesh Patel It could just be that the examples involving emotional neglect stuck out in my mind in particular. Tyler Cowen Yeah. So I'd really like to see the data. I think it's an important and very good question. It seems to me, maybe one could investigate it, but I've never seen an actual result.Dwarkesh Patel Is there something you've learned about talent spotting through writing the book that you wish wasn't so? Maybe you found it disturbing, or you found it disappointing in some way. Is there something that is a correlate for talent that you wish wasn't? Tyler Cowen I don't know. Again, I think I'm relatively accepting of a lot of these realities, but the thing that disappoints me a bit is how geographically clustered talent is. I don't mean where it was born, and I don't mean ethnically. I just mean where it ends up. So if you get an application, say from rural Italy where maybe living standards are perfectly fine–– there's good weather, there's olive oil, there's pasta. But the application just probably not that good. Certainly, Italians have had enough amazing achievements over the millennia, but right now, the people there who are actually up to something are going to move to London or New York or somewhere. So I find that a bit depressing. It's not really about the people. Dwarkesh Patel When you do find a cluster of talent, to what extent can that be explained by a cyclical view of what's happening in the region? In the sense of the “hard times create strong men” theory? I mean at some point, Italy had a Renaissance, so maybe things got complacent over time.Tyler Cowen Again, maybe that's true for Italy, but most of the talent clusters have been such for a long time, like London and New York. It's not cyclical. They've just had a ton of talent for a very long time. They still do, and later on, they still will. Maybe not literally forever, but it seems like an enduring effect.Dwarkesh Patel But what if they leave? For example, the Central European Jews couldn't stay where they were anymore and had to leave.Tyler Cowen Obviously, I think war can destroy almost anything. So German scientific talent took a big whack, German cultural talent too. I mean, Hungarian Jews and mathematics-–I don't know big of a trend it still is, but it's certainly nothing close to what it once was.Dwarkesh Patel Okay. I was worried that if you realize that some particular region has a lot of talent right now, then that might be a one-time gain. You realize that India, Toronto or Nigeria or something have a lot of talent, but the culture doesn't persist in some sort of extended way. Tyler Cowen That might be true for where talent comes from, but where it goes just seems to show more persistence. People will almost certainly be going to London for centuries. Is London producing a lot of talent? That's less clear. That may be much more cyclical. In the 17th century, London was amazing, right? London today? I would say I don't know. But it's not obvious that it's coming close to its previous glories. So the current status of India I think, will be temporary, but temporary for a long time. It's just a very big place. It has a lot of centres and there are things it has going for it like not taking prosperity for granted. But it will have all of these for quite a while–– India's still pretty poor.Dwarkesh Patel What do you think is the difference between actual places where clusters of talent congregate and places where that are just a source of that talent? What makes a place a sink rather than a source of talent?Tyler Cowen I think finding a place where people end up going is more or less obvious. You need money, you need a big city, you need some kind of common trade or linguistic connection. So New York and London are what they are for obvious reasons, right? Path dependence history, the story of making it in the Big Apple and so on. But origins and where people come from are areas that I think theory is very bad at understanding. Why did the Renaissance blossom in Florence and Venice, and not in Milan? If you're going back earlier, it wasn't obvious that it would be those places. I've done a lot of reading to try to figure this out, but I find that I've gotten remarkably not far on the question.Dwarkesh Patel The particular examples you mentioned today–– like New York, San Francisco, London, these places today are kind of high stakes, because if you want to move there, it's expensive. Do you think that this is because they've been so talented despite this fact, or because you need some sort of exclusion in order to be a haven of talent?Tyler Cowen Well, I think this is a problem for San Francisco. It may be a more temporary cluster than it ought to have been. Since it's a pretty recent cluster, it can't count on the same kind of historical path dependence that New York and Manhattan have. But a lot of New York still is not that expensive. Look at the people who work and live there! They're not all rich, to say the least. And that is an important part of why New York is still New York. With London, it's much harder, but it seems to me that London is a sink for somewhat established talent––which is fine, right? However, in that regard, it's much inferior to New York.Humility, Mental Illness, Caffeine, and Suits Dwarkesh Patel Okay, I want to play a game of overrated and underrated with you, but we're going to do it with certain traits or certain kinds of personalities that might come in when you're interviewing people.Tyler Cowen Okay, it's probably all going to be indeterminate, but go on.Dwarkesh Patel Right. So somebody comes in, and they're very humble.Tyler Cowen Immediately I'm suspicious. I figure most people who are going to make something of themselves are arrogant. If they're willing to show it, there's a certain bravery or openness in that. I don't rule out the humble person doing great. A lot of people who do great are humble, but I just get a wee bit like, “what's up with you? You're not really humble, are you?”Dwarkesh Patel Maybe humility is a way of avoiding confrontation–– if you don't have the competence to actually show that you can be great. Tyler Cowen It might be efficient for them to avoid confrontation, but I just start thinking that I don't know the real story. When I see a bit of arrogance, I'm less likely to think that it may, in a way, be feigned. But the feigning of arrogance in itself is a kind of arrogance. So in that sense, I'm still getting the genuine thing. Dwarkesh Patel So what is the difference? Let's say a 15-year-old who is kind of arrogant versus a 50-year-old who is kind of arrogant, and the latter has accomplishments already while the first one doesn't. Is there a difference in how you perceive humility or the lack thereof?Tyler Cowen Oh, sure. With the 50-year-old, you want to see what they have done, and you're much more likely to think the 50 year old should feign humility than the 15-year-old. Because that's the high-status thing to do–– it's to feign humility. If they can't do that, you figure, “Here's one thing they're bad at. What else are they bad at?” Whereas with the 15-year-old, maybe they have a chip on their shoulder and they can't quite hold it all in. Oh, that's great and fine. Let's see what you're gonna do.Dwarkesh Patel How arrogant can you be? There are many 15 year olds who are really good at math, and they have ambitions like “I want to solve P ≠ NP” or “I want to build an AGI” or something. Is there some level where you just clearly don't understand what's going on since you think you can do something like that? Or is arrogance always a plus?Tyler Cowen I haven't seen that level of arrogance yet. If a 15-year-old said to me, “in three years, I'm going to invent a perpetual motion machine,” I would think “No, now you're just crazy.” But no one's ever said that to me. There's this famous Mark Zuckerberg story where he went into the VC meeting at Sequoia wearing his pajamas and he told Sequoia not to give him money. He was 18 at a minimum, that's pretty arrogant behavior and we should be fine with that. We know how the story ends. So it's really hard to be too arrogant. But once you say this, because of the second order effect, you start thinking: “Well, are they just being arrogant as an act?” And then in the “act sense”, yes, they can be too arrogant.Dwarkesh Patel Isn't the backstory there that Mark was friends with Sean Parker and then Sean Parker had beef with Sequoia…Tyler Cowen There's something like that. I wouldn't want to say off the top of my head exactly what, but there is a backstory.Dwarkesh Patel Okay. Somebody comes in professionally dressed when they don't need to. They've got a crisp clean shirt. They've got a nice wash. Tyler Cowen How old are they?Dwarkesh Patel 20.Tyler Cowen They're too conformist. Again, with some jobs, conformity is great, but I get a little suspicious, at least for what I'm looking for. Though I wouldn't rule them out for a lot of things–– it's a plus, right?Dwarkesh Patel Is there a point though, where you're in some way being conformist by dressing up in a polo shirt? Like if you're in San Francisco right now, it seems like the conformist thing is not to wear a suit to an interview if you're trying to be a software engineer.Tyler Cowen Yeah, there might be situations where it's so weird, so over the top, so conformist, that it's actually totally non-conformist. Like “I don't know anyone who's a conformist like you are!” Maybe it's not being a conformist, or just being some kind of nut, that makes you interested again.Dwarkesh Patel An overall sense that you get from the person that they're really content, almost like Buddha came in for an interview. A sense of wellbeing.Tyler Cowen It's gonna depend on context, I don't think I'd hold it against someone, but I wouldn't take it at face value. You figure they're antsy in some way, you hope. You'll see it with more time, I would just think.Dwarkesh Patel Somebody who uses a lot of nootropics. They're constantly using caffeine, but maybe on the side (multiple times a week), they're also using Adderall, Modafinil, and other kinds of nootropics.Tyler Cowen I don't personally like it, but I've never seen evidence that it's negatively correlated with success, so I would try to put it out of my mind. I sort of personally get a queasy feeling like “Do you really know what you're doing. Is all this stuff good for you? Why do you need this?” That's my actual reaction, but again, at the intellectual level, it does seem to work for some people, or at least not screw them up too much.Dwarkesh Patel You don't drink caffeine, correct? Tyler Cowen Zero.Dwarkesh Patel Why?Tyler Cowen I don't like it. It might be bad for you. Dwarkesh Patel Oh really, you think so? Tyler Cowen People get addicted to it.Dwarkesh Patel You're not worried it might make you less productive over the long term? It's more about you just don't want to be addicted to something?Tyler Cowen Well, since I don't know it well, I'm not sure what my worries are. But the status quo regime seems to work. I observe a lot of people who end up addicted to coffee, coke, soda, stuff we know is bad for you. So I think: “What's the problem I need to solve? Why do it?”Dwarkesh Patel What if they have a history of mental illness like depression or anxiety? Not that mental illnesses are good, but at the current margins, do you think that maybe they're punished too heavily? Or maybe that people don't take them seriously enough that they actually have a bigger signal than the people are considering?Tyler Cowen I don't know. I mean, both could be true, right? So there's definitely positive correlations between that stuff and artistic creativity. Whether or not it's causal is harder to say, but it correlates. So you certainly should take the person seriously. But would they be the best Starbucks cashier? I don't know.How does Education Affect Talent?Dwarkesh Patel Yeah. In another podcast, you've pointed out that some of the most talented people you see who are neglected are 15 to 17 year olds. How does this impact how you think? Let's say you were in charge of a high school, you're the principal of a high school, and you know that there's 2000 students there. A few of them have to be geniuses, right? How is the high school run by Tyler Cowen? Especially for the very smartest people there? Tyler Cowen Less homework! I would work harder to hire better teachers, pay them more, and fire the bad ones if I'm allowed to do that. Those are no-brainers, but mainly less homework and I'd have more people come in who are potential role models. Someone like me! I was invited once to Flint Hill High School in Oakton, it's right nearby. I went in, I wasn't paid. I just figured “I'll do this.” It seems to me a lot of high schools don't even try. They could get a bunch of people to come in for free to just say “I'm an economist, here's what being an economist is like” for 45 minutes. Is that so much worse than the BS the teacher has to spew? Of course not. So I would just do more things like that.Dwarkesh Patel I want to understand the difference between these three options. The first is: somebody like you actually gives an in-person lecture saying “this is what life is like”. The second is zoom, you could use zoom to do that. The third is that it's not live in any way whatsoever. You're just kind of like maybe showing a video of the person. Tyler Cowen I'm a big believer in vividness. So Zoom is better than nothing. A lot of people are at a distance, but I think you'll get more and better responses by inviting local people to do it live. And there's plenty of local people, where most of the good schools are.Dwarkesh Patel Are you tempted to just give these really smart 15-year-olds a hall pass to the library all day and some WiFi access, and then just leave them alone? Or do you think that they need some sort of structure?Tyler Cowen I think they need some structure, but you have to let them rebel against it and do their own thing. Zero structure strikes me as great for a few of them, but even for the super talented ones, it's not perfect. They need exposure to things, and they need some teachers as role models. So you want them to have some structure.Dwarkesh Patel If you read old books about education, there's a strong emphasis on moral instruction. Do you think that needs to be an important part of education? Tyler Cowen I'd like to see more data. But I suspect the best moral instruction is the teachers actually being good people. I think that works. But again, I'd like to see the data. But somehow getting up and lecturing them about the seven virtues or something. That seems to me to be a waste of time, and maybe even counterproductive.Dwarkesh Patel Now, the way I read your book about talent, it also seems like a critique of Bryan's book, The Case Against Education.Tyler Cowen Ofcourse it is. Bryan describes me as the guy who's always torturing him, and in a sense, he's right.Dwarkesh Patel Well, I guess more specifically, it seems that Bryan's book relies on the argument that you need a costly signal to show that you have talent, or you have intelligence, conscientiousness, and other traits. But if you can just learn that from a 1500 word essay and a zoom call, then maybe college is not about the signal.Tyler Cowen In that sense, I'm not sure it's a good critique of Bryan. So for most people in the middle of the distribution, I don't think you can learn what I learned from Top 5 Emergent Ventures winners through an application and a half-hour zoom call. But that said, I think the talent book shows you my old saying: context is that which is scarce. And you're always testing people for their understanding of context. Most people need a fair amount of higher education to acquire that context, even if they don't remember the detailed content of their classes. So I think Bryan overlooks how much people actually learn when they go to school.Dwarkesh Patel How would you go about measuring the amount of context of somebody who went to college? Is there something you can point to that says, “Oh, clearly they're getting some context, otherwise, they wouldn't be able to do this”?Tyler Cowen I think if you meet enough people who didn't go to college, you'll see the difference, on average. Stressing the word average. Now there are papers measuring positive returns to higher education. I don't think they all show it's due to context, but I am persuaded by most of Brian's arguments that you don't remember the details of what you learned in class. Oh, you learn this about astronomy and Kepler's laws and opportunity costs, etc. but people can't reproduce that two or three years later. It seems pretty clear we know that. However, they do learn a lot of context and how to deal with different personality types.Dwarkesh Patel Would you falsify this claim, though, that you are getting a lot of context? Is it just something that you had to qualitatively evaluate? What would have to be true in the world for you to conclude that the opposite is true? Tyler Cowen Well, if you could show people remembered a lot of the facts they learned, and those facts were important for their jobs, neither of which I think is true. But in principle, they're demonstrable, then you would be much more skeptical about the context being the thing that mattered. But as it stands now, that's the residual. And it's probably what matters.Dwarkesh Patel Right. So I thought that Bryan shared in the book that actually people don't even remember many of the basic facts that they learned in school.Tyler Cowen Ofcourse they don't. But that's not the main thing they learn. They learn some vision of how the world works, how they fit into it, that they ought to have higher aspirations, that they can join the upper middle class, that they're supposed to have a particular kind of job. Here are the kinds of jerks you're going to meet along the way! Here's some sense of how dating markets work! Maybe you're in a fraternity, maybe you do a sport and so on. That's what you learned. Dwarkesh Patel How did you spot Bryan?Tyler Cowen He was in high school when I met him, and it was some kind of HS event. I think he made a point of seeking me out. And I immediately thought, “Well this guy is going to be something like, gotta keep track of this guy. Right away.”Dwarkesh Patel Can you say more - what happened?Tyler Cowen His level of enthusiasm, his ability to speak with respect to detail. He was just kind of bursting with everything. It was immediately evident, as it still is. Bryan has changed less than almost anyone else I know over what is now.. he could tell you how many years but it's been a whole bunch of decades.Dwarkesh Patel Interesting. So if that's the case, then it would have been interesting to meet somebody who is like Bryan, but a 19 year old.Tyler Cowen Yeah, and I did. I was right. Talent ScoutingDwarkesh Patel To what extent do the best talent scouts inevitably suffer from Goodhart's Law? Has something like this happened to you where your approval gets turned into a credential? So a whole bunch of non-earnest people start applying, you get a whole bunch of adverse selection, and then it becomes hard for you to run your program.Tyler Cowen It is not yet hard to run the program. If I needed to, I would just shut down applications. I've seen a modest uptick in bad applications, but it takes so little time to decide they're no good, or just not a good fit for us that it's not a problem. So the endorsement does get credentialized. Mostly, that's a good thing, right? Like you help the people you pick. And then you see what happens next and you keep on innovating as you need to.Dwarkesh Patel You say in the book that the super talented are best at spotting other super talented individuals. And there aren't many of the super talented talent spotters to go around. So this sounds like you're saying that if you're not super talented, much of the book will maybe not do you a bunch of good. Results be weary should be maybe on the title. How much of talent spotting can be done by people who aren't themselves super talented?Tyler Cowen Well, I'd want to see the context of what I wrote. But I'm well aware of the fact that in basketball, most of the greatest general managers were not great players. Someone like Jerry West, right? I'd say Pat Riley was not. So again, that's something you could study. But I don't generally think that the best talent scouts are themselves super talented.Dwarkesh Patel Then what is the skill in particular that they have that if it's not the particular thing that they're working on?Tyler Cowen Some intangible kind of intuition, where they feel the right thing in the people they meet. We try to teach people that intuition, the same way you might teach art or music appreciation. But it's not a science. It's not paint-by-numbers.Dwarkesh Patel Even with all the advice in the book, and even with the stuff that isn't in the book that is just your inarticulable knowledge about how to spot talent, all your intuitions… How much of the variance in somebody's “True Potential” is just fundamentally unpredictable? If it's just like too chaotic of a thing to actually get your grips on. To what extent are we going to truly be able to spot talent?Tyler Cowen I think it will always be an art. If you look at the success rates of VCs, it depends on what you count as the pool they're drawing from, but their overall rate of picking winners is not that impressive. And they're super high stakes. They're super smart. So I think it will mostly remain an art and not a science. People say, “Oh, genomics this, genomics that”. We'll see, but somehow I don't think that will change this.Dwarkesh Patel You don't think getting a polygenic risk score of drive, for example, is going to be a thing that happens?Tyler Cowen Maybe future genomics will be incredibly different from what we have now. Maybe. But it's not around the corner.Dwarkesh Patel Yeah. Maybe the sample size is just so low and somebody is like “How are you even gonna collect that data? How are you gonna get the correlates of who the super talented people are?”Tyler Cowen That, plus how genomic data interact with each other. You can apply machine learning and so on, but it just seems quite murky.Dwarkesh Patel If the best people get spotted earlier, and you can tell who is a 10x engineer in a company and who is only a 1x engineer, or a 0.5x engineer, doesn't that mean that, in a way that inequality will get worse? Because now the 10x engineer knows that they're 10x, and everybody else knows that they're 10x, they're not going to be willing to cross subsidize and your other employees are going to be wanting to get paid proportionate to their skill.Tyler Cowen Well, they might be paid more, but they'll also innovate more, right? So they'll create more benefits for people who are doing nothing. My intuition is that overall, inequality of wellbeing will go down. But you can't say that's true apriori. Inequality of income might also go up.Dwarkesh Patel And then will the slack in the system go away for people who are not top performers? Like you can tell now, if we're getting better.Tyler Cowen This has happened already in contemporary America. As I wrote, “Average is over.” Not due to super sophisticated talent spotting. Sometimes, it's simply the fact that in a lot of service sectors, you can measure output reasonably directly––like did you finish the computer program? Did it work? That has made it harder for people to get paid things they don't deserve.Dwarkesh Patel I wonder if this leads to adverse selection in the areas where you can't measure how well somebody is doing. So the people who are kind of lazy and bums, they'll just go into places where output can't be measured. So these industries will just be overflowing with the people who don't want to work.Tyler Cowen Absolutely. And then the people who are talented in the sectors, maybe they'll leave and start their own companies and earn through equity, and no one is really ever measuring their labor power. Still, what they're doing is working and they're making more from it.Dwarkesh Patel If talent is partly heritable, then the better you get at spotting talent, over time, will the social mobility in society go down?Tyler Cowen Depends how you measure social mobility. Is it relative to the previous generation? Most talent spotters don't know a lot about parents, like I don't know anything about your parents at all! The other aspect of spotting talent is hoping the talent you mobilize does great things for people not doing anything at all. That's the kind of automatic social mobility they get. But if you're measuring quintiles across generations, the intuition could go either way.Dwarkesh Patel But this goes back to wondering whether this is a one time gain or not. Maybe initially they can help the people who are around them. Somebody in Brazil, they help people around them. But once you've found them, they're gonna go to those clusters you talked about, and they're gonna be helping the people with San Francisco who don't need help. So is this a one time game then?Tyler Cowen Many people from India seem to give back to India in a very consistent way. People from Russia don't seem to do that. That may relate to the fact that Russia is in terrible shape, and India has a brighter future. So it will depend. But I certainly think there are ways of arranging things where people give back a lot.Dwarkesh Patel Let's talk about Emergent Ventures. Sure. So I wonder: if the goal of Emergent Ventures is to raise aspirations, does that still work given the fact that you have to accept some people but reject other people? In Bayesian terms, the updates up have to equal the updates down? In some sense, you're almost transferring a vision edge from the excellent to the truly great. You see what I'm saying?Tyler Cowen Well, you might discourage the people you turn away. But if they're really going to do something, they should take that as a challenge. And many do! Like “Oh, I was rejected by Harvard, I had to go to UChicago, but I decided, I'm going to show those b******s.” I think we talked about that a few minutes ago. So if I just crushed the spirits of those who are rejected, I don't feel too bad about that. They should probably be in some role anyway where they're just working for someone.Dwarkesh Patel But let me ask you the converse of that which is, if you do accept somebody, are you worried that if one of the things that drives people is getting rejected, and then wanting to prove that you will reject them wrong, are you worried that by accepting somebody when they're 15, you're killing that thing? The part of them that wants to get some kind of approval?Tyler Cowen Plenty of other people will still reject them right? Not everyone accepts them every step of the way. Maybe they're just awesome. LeBron James is basketball history and past a certain point, it just seems everyone wanted him for a bunch of decades now. I think deliberately with a lot of candidates, you shouldn't encourage them too much. I make a point of chewing out a lot of people just to light a fire under them, like “what you're doing. It's not gonna work.” So I'm all for that selectively.Dwarkesh Patel Why do you think that so many of the people who have led Emergent Ventures are interested in Effective Altruism?Tyler Cowen There is a moment right now for Effective Altruism, where it is the thing. Some of it is political polarization, the main parties are so stupid and offensive, those energies will go somewhere. Some of that in 1970 maybe went to libertarianism. Libertarianism has been out there for too long. It doesn't seem to address a lot of current problems, like climate change or pandemics very well. So where should the energy go? The Rationality community gets some of it and that's related to EA, as I'm sure you know. The tech startup community gets some of it. That's great! It seems to be working pretty well to me. Like I'm not an EA person. But maybe they deserve a lot of it.Dwarkesh Patel But you don't think it's persistent. You think it comes and goes?Tyler Cowen I think it will come and go. But I think EA will not vanish. Like libertarianism, it will continue for quite a long time.Dwarkesh Patel Is there any movement that has attracted young people? That has been persistent over time? Or did they all fade? Tyler Cowen Christianity. Judaism. Islam. They're pretty persistent. [laughs]Dwarkesh Patel So to the extent that being more religious makes you more persistent, can we view the criticism of EA saying that it's kind of like a religion as a plus?Tyler Cowen Ofcourse, yeah! I think it's somewhat like a religion. To me, that's a plus, we need more religions. I wish more of the religions we needed were just flat-out religions. But in the meantime, EA will do,Money, Deceit, and Emergent VenturesDwarkesh Patel Are there times when somebody asks you for a grant and you view that as a negative signal? Let's say they're especially when well off: they're a former Google engineer, they wanna start a new project, and they're asking you for a grant. Do you worry that maybe they're too risk averse? Do you want them to put their own capital into it? Or do you think that maybe they were too conformist because they needed your approval before they went ahead?Tyler Cowen Things like this have happened. And I asked people flat out, “Why do you want this grant from me?” And it is a forcing question in the sense that if their answer isn't good, I won't give it to them. Even though they might have a good level of talent, good ideas, whatever, they have to be able to answer that question in a credible way. Some can, some can't.Dwarkesh Patel I remember that the President of the University of Chicago many years back said that if you rejected the entire class of freshmen that are coming in and accepted the next 1500 that they had to reject that year, then there'll be no difference in the quality of the admits.Tyler Cowen I would think UChicago is the one school where that's not true. I agree that it's true for most schools.Dwarkesh Patel Do you think that's also true of Emergent Ventures?Tyler Cowen No. Not at all.Dwarkesh Patel How good is a marginal reject?Tyler Cowen Not good. It's a remarkably bimodal distribution as I perceive it, and maybe I'm wrong. But there aren't that many cases where I'm agonizing and if I'm agonizing I figure it probably should be a no.Dwarkesh Patel I guess that makes it even tougher if you do get rejected. Because it wasn't like, “oh, you weren't a right fit for the job,” or “you almost made the cut.” It's like, “No, we're actually just assessing your potential and not some sort of fit for the job.” Not only were you just not on the edge of potential, but you were also way on the other edge of the curve.Tyler Cowen But a lot of these rejected people and projects, I don't think they're spilling tears over it. Like you get an application. Someone's in Akron, Ohio, and they want to start a nonprofit dog shelter. They saw EV on the list of things you can apply to. They apply to a lot of things and maybe never get funding. It's like people who enter contests or something, they apply to EV. Nothing against non-profit dog shelters, but that's kind of a no, right? I genuinely don't know their response, but I don't think they walk away from the experience with some deeper model of what they should infer from the EV decision.Dwarkesh Patel How much does the money part of Emergent Ventures matter? If you just didn't give them the money?Tyler Cowen There's a whole bunch of proposals that really need the money for capital costs, and then it matters a lot. For a lot of them, the money per se doesn't matter.Dwarkesh Patel Right, then. So what is the function of return for that? Do you like 10x the money, or do you add .1x the money for some of these things? Do you think they add up to seemingly different results? Tyler Cowen I think a lot of foundations give out too many large grants and not enough small grants. I hope I'm at an optimum. But again, I don't have data to tell you. I do think about this a lot, and I think small grants are underrated.Dwarkesh Patel Why are women often better at detecting deceit?Tyler Cowen I would assume for biological and evolutionary reasons that there are all these men trying to deceive them, right? The cost of a pregnancy is higher for a woman than for a man on average, by quite a bit. So women will develop defense mechanisms that men maybe don't have as much.Dwarkesh Patel One thing I heard from somebody I was brainstorming these questions with–– she just said that maybe it's because women just discuss personal matters more. And so therefore, they have a greater library.Tyler Cowen Well, that's certainly true. But that's subordinate to my explanation, I'd say. There are definitely a lot of intermediate steps. Things women do more of that help them be insightful.Building Writing StaminaDwarkesh Patel Why is writing skill so important to you?Tyler Cowen Well, one thing is that I'm good at judging it. Across scales, I'm very bad at judging, so there's nothing on the EV application testing for your lacrosse skill. But look, writing is a form of thinking. And public intellectuals are one of the things I want to support. Some of the companies I admire are ones with writing cultures like Amazon or Stripe. So writing it is! I'm a good reader. So you're going to be asked to write.Dwarkesh Patel Do you think it's a general fact that writing correlates with just general competence? Tyler Cowen I do, but especially the areas that I'm funding. It's strongly related. Whether it's true for everything is harder to say.Dwarkesh Patel Can stamina be increased?Tyler Cowen Of course. It's one of the easier things to increase. I don't think you can become superhuman in your energy and stamina if you're not born that way. But I think almost everyone could increase by 30% to 50%, some notable amount. Dwarkesh Patel Okay, that's interesting.Tyler Cowen Put aside maybe people with disabilities or something but definitely when it comes to people in regular circumstances.Dwarkesh Patel Okay. I think it's interesting because in the blog post from Robin Hanson about stamina, I think his point of view was that this is just something that's inherent to people.Tyler Cowen Well, I don't think that's totally false. The people who have superhuman stamina are born that way. But there are plenty of origins. I mean, take physical stamina. You don't think people can train more and run for longer? Of course they can. It's totally proven. So it would be weird if this rule held for all these organs but not your brain. That seems quite implausible. Especially for someone like Robin, where your brain is just this other organ that you're gonna download or upload or goodness knows what with it. He's a physicalist if there ever was one.Dwarkesh Patel Have you read Haruki Murakami's book on running?Tyler Cowen No, I've been meaning to. I'm not sure how interesting I'll find it. I will someday. I like his stuff a lot.Dwarkesh Patel But what I found really interesting about it was just how linked building physical stamina is for him to building up the stamina to write a lot.Tyler Cowen Magnus Carlsen would say the same with chess. Being in reasonable physical shape is important for your mental stamina, which is another kind of simple proof that you can boost your mental stamina.When Does Intelligence Start to Matter?Dwarkesh Patel After reading the book, I was inclined to think that intelligence matters more than I previously thought. Not less. You say in the book that intelligence has convex returns and that it matters especially for areas like inventors. Then you also say that if you look at some of the most important things in society, something like what Larry and Sergey did, they're basically inventors, right? So in many of the most important things in society, intelligence matters more because of the increasing returns. It seems like with Emergent Ventures, you're trying to pick the people who are at the tail. You're not looking for a barista at Starbucks. So it seems like you should care about intelligence more, given the evidence there. Tyler Cowen More than who does? I feel what the book presents is, in fact, my view. So kind of by definition, I agree with that view. But yes, there's a way of reading it where intelligence really matters a lot. But it's only for a relatively small number of jobs.Dwarkesh Patel Maybe you just started off with a really high priori on intelligence, and that's why you downgraded?Tyler Cowen There are a lot of jobs that I actually hire for in actual life, where smarts are not the main thing I look for.Dwarkesh Patel Does the convexity of returns on intelligence suggest that maybe the multiplicative model is wrong? Because if the multiplicative model is right, you would expect to see decreasing returns and putting your stats on one skill. You'd want to diversify more, right?Tyler Cowen I think the convexity of returns to intelligence is embedded in a multiplicative model, where the IQ returns only cash out for people good at all these other things. For a lot of geniuses, they just can't get out of bed in the morning, and you're stuck, and you should write them off.Dwarkesh Patel So you cite the data that Sweden collects from everybody that enters the military there. The CEOs are apparently not especially smart. But one thing I found interesting in that same data was that Swedish soccer players are pretty smart. The better a soccer player is, the smarter they are. You've interviewed professional basketball players turned public intellectuals on your podcast. They sound extremely smart to me. What is going on there? Why, anecdotally, and with some limited amounts of evidence, does it seem that professional athletes are smarter than you would expect?Tyler Cowen I'm a big fan of the view that top-level athletic performance is super cognitively intense and that most top athletes are really extraordinarily smart. I don't just mean smart on the court (though, obviously that), but smart more broadly. This is underrated. I think Michelle Dawson was the one who talked me into this, but absolutely, I'm with you all the way.Dwarkesh Patel Do you think this is just mutational load or––Tyler Cowen You actually have to be really smart to figure out things like how to lead a team, how to improve yourself, how to practice, how to outsmart the opposition, all these other things. Maybe it's not the only way to get there, but it is very G loaded. You certainly see some super talented athletes who just go bust. Or they may destroy themselves with drugs: there are plenty of tales like that, and you don't have to look hard. Dwarkesh Patel Are there other areas where you wouldn't expect it to be G loaded but it actually is?Tyler Cowen Probably, but there's so many! I just don't know, but sports is something in my life I followed. So I definitely have opinions about it. They seem incredibly smart to me when they're interviewed. They're not always articulate, and they're sort of talking themselves into biased exposure. But I heard Michael Jordan in the 90s, and I thought, “That guy's really smart.” So I think he is! Look at Charles Barkley. He's amazing, right? There's hardly anyone I'd rather listen to, even about talent, than Charles Barkley. It's really interesting. He's not that tall, you can't say, “oh, he succeeded. Because he's seven foot two,” he was maybe six foot four tops. And they called him the Round Mound of Rebound. And how did he do that? He was smart. He figured out where the ball was going. The weaknesses of his opponents, he had to nudge them the right way, and so on. Brilliant guy.Dwarkesh Patel What I find really remarkable is that (not just with athletes, but in many other professions), if you interview somebody who is at the top of that field, they come off really really smart! For example, YouTubers and even sex workers.Tyler Cowen So whoever is like the top gardener, I expect I would be super impressed by them.Spotting Talent (Counter)signalsDwarkesh Patel Right. Now all your books are in some way about talent, right? Let me read you the following passage from An Economist Gets Lunch, and I want you to tell me how we can apply this insight to talent. “At a fancy fancy restaurant, the menu is well thought out. The time and attention of the kitchen are scarce. An item won't be on the menu unless there's a good reason for its presence. If it sounds bad, it probably tastes especially good?”Tyler Cowen That's counter-signaling, right? So anything that is very weird, they will keep on the menu because it has a devoted set of people who keep on ordering it and appreciate it. That's part of the talent of being a chef, you can come up with such things. Dwarkesh Patel How do we apply this to talent? Tyler Cowen Well, with restaurants, you have selection pressure where you're only going to ones that have cleared certain hurdles. So this is true for talent only for talents who are established. If you see a persistent NBA player who's a very poor free throw shooter like Shaquille O'Neal was, you can more or less assume they're really good at something else. But for people who are not established, there's not the same selection pressure so there's not an analogous inference you can draw.Dwarkesh Patel So if I show up to an Emergent Ventures conference, and I meet somebody, and they don't seem especially impressive with the first impression, then I should believe their work is especially impressive. Tyler Cowen Yes, absolutely, yes. Dwarkesh Patel Okay, so my understanding of your book Creative Destruction is that maybe on average, cultural diversity will go down. But in special niches, the diversity and ingenuity will go up. Can I apply the same insight to talent? Maybe two random college grads will have similar skill sets over time, but if you look at people on the tails, will their skills and knowledge become even more specialized and even more diverse?Tyler Cowen There are a lot of different presuppositions in your question. So first, is cultural diversity going up or down? That I think is multi-dimensional. Say different cities in different countries will be more like each other over time.. that said, the genres they produce don't have to become more similar. They're more similar in the sense that you can get sushi in each one. But novel cuisine in Dhaka and Senegal might be taking a very different path from novel cuisine in Tokyo, Japan. So what happens with cultural diversity.. I think the most reliable generalization is that it tends to come out of larger units. Small groups and tribes and linguistic groups get absorbed. Those people don't stop being creative and other venues, but there are fewer unique isolated cultures, and much more thickly diverse urban creativity. That would be the main generalization I would put forward. So if you wanted to apply that generalization to talent, I think in a funny way, we come back to my earlier point: talent just tends to be geographically extremely well clustered. That's not the question you asked, but it's how I would reconfigure the pieces of it.Dwarkesh Patel Interesting. What do you suggest about finding talent in a globalized world? In particular, if it's cheaper to find talent because of the internet, does that mean that you should be selecting more mediocre candidates?Tyler Cowen I think it means you should be more bullish on immigrants from Africa. It's relatively hard to get out of Africa to the United States in most cases. That's a sign the person put in a lot of effort and ability. Maybe an easy country to come here from would be Canada, all other things equal. Again, I'd want this to be measured. The people who come from countries that are hard to come from like India, actually, the numbers are fairly high, but the roots are mostly pretty gated.Dwarkesh Patel Is part of the reason that talent is hard to spot and find today that we have an aging population? So then we would have more capital, more jobs, more mentorship available for young people coming up, than there are young people.Tyler Cowen I don't think we're really into demographic decline yet. Not in the United States. Maybe in Japan, that would be true. But it seems to me, especially with the internet, there's more 15-year-old talent today than ever before, by a lot, not just by little. You see this in chess, right? Where we can measure performance very well. There's a lot more young talent from many different places, including the US. So, aging hasn't mattered yet. Maybe for a few places, but not here.Dwarkesh Patel What do you think will change in talent spotting as society becomes older?Tyler Cowen It depends on what you mean by society. I think the US, unless it totally screws up on immigration, will always have a very seriously good flow of young people that we don't ever have to enter the aging equilibrium the way Japan probably already has. So I don't know what will change. Then there's work from a distance, there's hiring from a distance, funding from a distance. As you know, there's EV India, and we do that at a distance. So I don't think we're ever going to enter that world..Dwarkesh Patel But then what does it look like for Japan? Is part of the reason that Japanese cultures and companies are arranged the way they are and do the recruitment the way they do linked to their demographics? Tyler Cowen That strikes me as a plausible reason. I don't think I know enough to say, but it wouldn't surprise me if that turned out to be the case.Dwarkesh Patel To what extent do you need a sort of “great man ethos” in your culture in order to empower the top talent? Like if you have too much political and moral egalitarianism, you're not going to give great people the real incentive and drive to strive to be great.Tyler Cowen You've got to say “great man or great woman ethos”, or some other all-purpose word we wish to use. I worry much less about woke ideology than a lot of people I know. It's not my thing, but it's something young people can rebel against. If that keeps you down, I'm not so impressed by you. I think it's fine. Let the woke reign, people can work around them.Dwarkesh Patel But overall, if you have a culture or like Europe, do you think that has any impact on––Tyler Cowen Europe has not woken up in a lot of ways, right? Europe is very chauvinist and conservative in the literal sense, and often quite old fashioned depending on what you're talking about. But Europe, I would say, is much less woke than the United States. I wouldn't say that's their main problem, but you can't say, “oh, they don't innovate because they're too woke”, like hang out with some 63 year old Danish guys and see how woke you think they are once everyone's had a few drinks.Dwarkesh Patel My question wasn't about wokeism. I just meant in general, if you have an egalitarian society.Tyler Cowen I think of Europe as less egalitarian. I think they have bad cultural norms for innovation. They're culturally so non-egalitarian. Again, it depends where but Paris would be the extreme. There, everyone is classified right? By status, and how you need to wear your sweater the right way, and this and that. Now, how innovative is Paris? Actually, maybe more than people think. But I still think they have too few dimensions of status competition. That's a general problem in most of Europe–– too few dimensions of status competition, not enough room for the proverbial village idiot.Dwarkesh Patel Interesting. You say in the book, that questions tend to degrade over time if you don't replace them. I find it interesting that Y Combinator has kept the same questions since they were started in 2005. And of course, your co-author was a partner at Y Combinator. Do you think that works for Y Combinator or do you think they're probably making a mistake?Tyler Cowen I genuinely don't know. There are people who will tell you that Y Combinator, while still successful, has become more like a scalable business school and less like attracting all the top weirdos who do amazing things. Again, I'd want to see data before asserting that myself, but you certainly hear it a lot. So it could be that Y Combinator is a bit stale. But still in a good sense. Like Harvard is stale, right? It dates from the 17th century. But it's still amazing. MIT is stale. Maybe Y Combinator has become more like those groups.Dwarkesh Patel Do you think that will happen to Emergent Ventures eventually?Tyler Cowen I don't think so because it has a number of unique features built in from the front. So a very small number of evaluators too. It might grow a little bit, but it's not going to grow that much. I'm not paid to do it, so that really limits how much it's going to scale. There's not a staff that has to be carried where you're captured by the staff, there is no staff. There's a bit of free riding on staff who do other things, but there's no sense of if the program goes away, all my buddies on staff get laid off. No. So it's kind of pop up, and low cost of exit. Whenever that time comes.Dwarkesh Patel Do you personally have questions that you haven't put in the book or elsewhere because you want them to be fresh? For asking somebody who's applying to her for the grant? Tyler Cowen Well, I didn't when we wrote the book. So we put everything in there that we were thinking of, but over time, we've developed more. I don't generally give them out during interviews, because you have to keep some stock. So yeah, there's been more since then, but we weren't holding back at the time.Dwarkesh Patel It's like a comedy routine. You gotta write a new one each year.Tyler Cowen That's right. But when your shows are on the air, you do give your best jokes, right?Will Reading Cowen's Book Help You Win Emergent Ventures?Dwarkesh Patel Let's say someone applying to emergent ventures reads your book. Are they any better off? Or are they perhaps worse off because maybe they become misleading or have a partial view into what's required of them?Tyler Cowen I hope they're not better off in a way, but probably they are. I hope they use it to understand their own talent better and present it in a better way. Not just to try to manipulate the system. But most people aren't actually that good at manipulating that kind of system so I'm not too worried.Dwarkesh Patel In a sense, if they can manipulate the system, that's a positive signal of some kind.Tyler Cowen Like, if you could fool me –– hey, what else have you got to say, you know? [laughs]Dwarkesh Patel Are you worried that when young people will encounter you now, they're going to think of you as sort of a talent judge and a good one at that so they're maybe going to be more self aware than whether––Tyler Cowen Yes. I worry about the effect of this on me. Maybe a lot of my interactions become less genuine, or people are too self conscious, or too stilted or something.Dwarkesh Patel Is there something you can do about that? Or is that just baked in the gig?Tyler Cowen I don't know, if you do your best to try to act genuine, whatever that means, maybe you can avoid it a bit or delay it at least a bit. But a lot of it I don't think you can avoid. In part, you're just cashing in. I'm 60 and I don't think I'll still be doing this when I'm 80. So if I have like 18 years of cashing in, maybe it's what I should be doing.Identifying talent earlyDwarkesh Patel To what extent are the principles of finding talent timeless? If you're looking for let's say, a general for the French Revolution, how much of this does the advice change? Are the basic principles the same over time?Tyler Cowen Well, one of the key principles is context. You need to focus on how the sector is different. But if you're doing that, then I think at the meta level the principles broadly stay the same.Dwarkesh Patel You have a really interesting book about autism and systematizers. You think Napoleon was autistic?Tyler Cowen I've read several biographies of him and haven't come away with that impression, but you can't rule it out. Who are the biographers? Now it gets back to our question of: How valuable is history? Did the biographers ever meet Napoleon? Well, some of them did, but those people had such weak.. other intellectual categories. The modern biography is written by Andrew Roberts, or whoever you think is good, I don't know. So how can I know?Dwarkesh Patel Right? Again, the issue is that the details that stick in my mind from reading the biography are the ones that make him seem autistic, right?Tyler Cowen Yes. There's a tendency in biographies to storify things, and that's dangerous too. Dwarkesh Patel How general across a pool is talent or just competence of any kind? If you look at somebody like Peter Thiel–– investor, great executive, great thinker even, certainly Napoleon, and I think it was some mathematician either Lagrangian or Laplace, who said that he (Napoleon) could have been a mathematician if he wanted to. I don't know if that's true, but it does seem that the top achievers in one field seem to be able to move across fields and be top achievers in other fields. I
Most societies commemorate and revere distant ancestors, with portraits, statues, streets, buildings, and holidays. We are fascinated with the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in England and the earliest origins of our species in the savannas of Africa. Our interest in humankind's deep past has created a collective blind spot about the prospects of our distant descendants thousand years into the future. For most of us, the deep future is a fantasy world, something you read about in science fiction novels. But a growing number of thinkers are pushing back against the attitude that the future is a hypothetical we can discount in the favour of the here and now. Instead, they argue it's high time we start thinking seriously about the idea that humanity may only be in its infancy. That as a species we could potentially be around for thousands of years, with trillions of fellow humans to be born, each with vast potential to shape our future evolution, possibly even beyond Earth. In sum, humankind urgently needs a thousand year plan or it risks losing millennia of human progress to the existential risks that stalk our all too dangerous present. William MacAskill is a leading global thinker on how humanity could and should think about a common future for itself and the planet. He is an associate professor in philosophy at the University of Oxford and co-founder of Giving What We Can, the Centre for Effective Altruism, and 80,000 Hours, all philosophically inspired projects which together have raised hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousand of life years to support charities working to preserve human kind's potential for the millenia to come. He is the author of the international bestseller, Doing Good Better and What We Owe The Future. QUOTE: "The future could be very big, indeed, at least if we don't cause humanity's untimely demise in the next few centuries. We could have a very large future ahead of us. And that means that if there is anything that would impact the well-being of, not just the present generation, but all generations to come, that would be of enormous moral importance." The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg. Tweet your comments about this episode to @munkdebate or comment on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/munkdebates/ To sign up for a weekly email reminder for this podcast, send an email to email@example.com. To support civil and substantive debate on the big questions of the day, consider becoming a Munk Member at https://munkdebates.com/membership Members receive access to our 10+ year library of great debates in HD video, a free Munk Debates book, newsletter and ticketing privileges at our live events. This podcast is a project of the Munk Debates, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to fostering civil and substantive public dialogue - https://munkdebates.com/ Producer: Marissa Ramnanan Editor: Adam Karch
This week we are joined by Kelsey Piper to discuss effective altruism, its popularity, and if it succeeds or fails as an institution. Recommendations: Reasons and Persons by Daron Parfit In Shifra's Arms The Precipice by Toby Ord
We are unlocking a recent episode about a topic that remains very relevant. We dig deep into Effective Altruism and Longtermism, laying out the origins, beliefs, and actions of this ideological moral system and the networks of influence and wealth that it's plugged into. Along the way we critique the extreme logical conclusions it leads to, the extremely simpleminded fairy tales it's based on, and the extremist group of moral zealots, useful idiots, and cynical bullshiters that rule this rationalist religion. Some stuff we reference: ••• The Case for Longtermism https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/05/opinion/the-case-for-longtermism.html ••• The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altruism https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/08/15/the-reluctant-prophet-of-effective-altruism ••• Stop the Robot Apocalypse https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v37/n18/amia-srinivasan/stop-the-robot-apocalypse Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Grab TMK gear: bonfire.com/store/this-machine-kills-podcast/ Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl)
Neuroscientist Erik Hoel talks about why he is not an "effective altruist" with EconTalk host, Russ Roberts. Hoel argues that the utilitarianism that underlies effective altruism--a movement co-founded by Will MacAskill and Peter Singer--is a poison that inevitably leads to repugnant conclusions and thereby weakens the case for the strongest claims made by effective altruists.
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: (EA needs) advertising for infrastructure projects, published by Arepo on September 23, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. There are a number of EA infrastructure projects that provide free or cheap support to other effective altruists, two of which I'm involved with. Something they all seem to have in common is that a major limiting factor is spreading the word about the availability of the service or product and keeping the word spread. One can justify a handful of posts on here and in Facebook groups about any given project, but after that, unless it has changed in some way, further posts seem increasingly like spam - even when the project is still useful and still limited by EAs' remembering or ever knowing of it. So this is a quick post with a few related objectives: to call for better standardisation of norms for promoting such projects to open discussion of some kind of such advertising on this forum, since it's probably the single place where it would be most visible to discuss the possibility of advertising in other venues. Eg such projects could promote each other - although again a limiter is that not all such projects know about all the others partly to help with 3, partly for its own sake, to provide a list of such projects. I'll mention all the ones that occur to me below with the best description I can easily find. Please let me know any I've missed in the comments, and I'll edit them into this post The last could be quite subjective since anything could qualify as a resource and I don't want the list to become overwhelming, so I'll give some initial guidelines - feel free to persuade me they should be changed: The resource should be free to use, or at available at a substantial discount to relatively poor EAs It should be aimed specifically at EAs It should make the people using its lives better, not just 'enable them to do more good' It should be available to people across the world (ie. not just a local EA group) It should be a service or product that someone is putting ongoing work into (ie not just a list of tips, or Facebook/Discord/Slack groups with no purpose other than discussion of some EA subtopic) At the very least, hopefully this post can then become a useful reference for people looking to see what benefits the community can provide them. Coworking/socialising: EA Gather Town - An always-on virtual meeting place for coworking, connecting, and having both casual and impactful conversations EAVR - A community for people interested in Effective Altruism who use VR to connect and collaborate EA Anywhere - An online EA community for everyone EA coworking Discord - A Discord server dedicated to online coworking Professional services: Altruistic Agency - provides free tech support and development to organisations Legal advice - a practice under consideration with the primary aim of providing legal support to EA orgs and individual EAs, with that practice probably being based in the UK. 80,0000 Hours career coaching - Speak with us for free about using your career to help solve one of the world's most pressing problems EA mental health navigator - aims to boost people's well-being by connecting them with mental health resources considered to be effective and to have the greatest likelihood of being helpful Financial and other material support: CEEALAR/formerly the EA hotel - Provides free or subsidised serviced accommodation and board, and a moderate stipend for other living expenses. Effective Altruism Funds - Whether an individual, organisation or other entity, we're eager to fund great ideas and great people. Nonlinear fund - We incubate longtermist nonprofits by connecting founders with ideas, funding, and mentorship FTX Future Fund - Supports ambitious projects to improve humanity's long-term prospects Survival and Flourishing Fund - A “v...
In this workshop, Neel outlines why you might care about forming your own views about AI safety, common traps, pitfalls and misconceptions, and concrete first steps for trying to do this. Attendees will then pick a concrete question about AI, and practice forming their own views on it. This is aimed at attendees with some prior knowledge of AI safety, but who feel that they often defer to people on the topic. View the original talk and video here.Effective Altruism is a social movement dedicated to finding ways to do the most good possible, whether through charitable donations, career choices, or volunteer projects.
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: My Personal Story of Rejection from EA Global, published by Constance Li on September 23, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. I am the person rejected from EA Global who was anonymously featured in the Scott Alexander post about Opening EAG. I have decided to publicly identify myself and offer my story as an in-depth case study on the EAG admissions process. I've dedicated much of my life to EA principles since 2010 and yet I kept getting rejected from attending EAG. This experience brought up a lot of sadness and frustration as I felt like I was being pushed out of a community that I had always closely identified with. In the process of creating this post, I had a lot of time to reflect on EA as a personal identity vs a philosphy vs a community vs organizations. They are distinct from one another and yet are still tangled together. I will share many criticisms about the admissions process and will also be proposing some solutions to improving it. By posting my story, I hope to lower the barrier for an honest discussion about EAG Admissions, EA disillusionment, gatekeeping, community building, and solutions for improving EA communities and organizational processes. Goals: To allow reader to compare my application to the fact that I was rejected 3 times from EAG To offer more insight into the EAG admissions process by showing all my correspondences with CEA To critically discuss problems I see with the admissions process and propose some solutions To promote more easily accessible EA communities such as Gather Town To create a safer space for others to share their own stories so more experiences can be heard and accounted for Meet Up at Gather Town During EAG DC Since I had already blocked out my schedule in anticipation of EAG DC, I will be available most of this weekend (September 23 - 25) on EA Gather Town to video chat with anyone who wants to. Disclosures: This is my first forum post. Since I know this post could potentially come across as bitter, I want to say upfront that it's always easy to criticize the actions of others and imagine that one could do things better. I make no claim about being able to do a better job at conference admissions. Through sharing my perspective, I hope to contribute to a discussion that helps everyone create a better event. Please feel free to skip to the “Criticisms and Proposed Solutions” section if you want to skip my lengthy personal story. To optimize for both transparency and brevity, I have also created an appendix which I will link to throughout this post. TLDR Timeline Summary: 2001 - 2010 - Hadn't learned about Effective Altruism yet, but tried my best to do good for non-human animals 2010 - 2021- Discovered effective altruism and was engaged in EA work for 10+ years. Around 2012, I pivoted career paths because earning to give was the main EA recommendation at the time and went on to become a physician. I still pursued independent projects effectively and altruistically throughout medical school and residency, but was not directly involved in the EA community. Fall 2021- Decided to rejoin the EA community after EAGxVirtual Winter 2021 - Got rejection #1 for EAG London April 19, 2022 - Applied to EAG DC and heard no response (4 months) so assumed I was rejected July 2022- Made my original post as a reaction to a friend's facebook post about EA Disillusionment August 15, 2022 - Had a long video chat with a sympathetic CEA staff member, “X,” who saw my post and received feedback, tips for re-integrating with the EA community, and encouragement for reapplying to EAG DC August 18, 2022 - Attended my first EA NYC event because of my talk with X August 22, 2022 - Got official rejection #2 for EAG DC (felt sad, but figured it was because my application from 4 months earlier was not that great) Aug - September, 2022 - Continued ...
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: The Hundred Billion Dollar Opportunity that EAs mostly ignore, published by JeremiahJohnson on September 22, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Epistemic Status: Relatively confident but also willing to take advantage of Cunningham's Law if I'm wrong. May lack deep knowledge of EA efforts in this area. About me: I'm a sometime EA and looking to dive into the EA world more fully, including potentially shifting my career to work in EA. I currently work in US politics and specialize in online movement building and communications. I trend towards near-termist and global health EA causes, although I think the argument below also has long-termist implications. The Central Premise There is a potentially massive method of doing good out there that's mostly ignored. This method is at the absolute heart of the very concept of Effective Altruism, and yet is rarely discussed in EA communities or spaces. We should try harder to influence the average non-EA person's donation. The Current Charitable Landscape A few quick facts: The United States donated almost $500 billion just in 2021. Without listing every individual country, European charitable donations are on the scale of hundreds of billions as well. Overall, yearly charitable donations in rich countries worldwide are in the high hundreds of billions of USD. Most of this money, from an EA perspective, is wildly inefficiently spent. While it's impossible to break down exactly where each of these dollars goes, a little bit of common sense and some basic statistics paints a discouraging picture. Of this giant pile of money, only 6% is donated internationally, despite donations to poor countries usually having a better per-dollar impact than donations inside a rich country. The largest categories for donation are religious organizations. The second largest category is educational donations. Three quarters of that educational money is given to existing 4-year colleges and universities. Much of that is the stereotypical worst kind of donation, a huge donation to an elite school that already has billions in endowment. Beyond the statistics, any casual glance at how normal people donate their money can confirm this. People give to local schools, their friend's charity, or generally whatever they feel a connection to. My parents, who are highly charitable people who gave >10% of their income long before it was an EA idea, have made significant charitable donations to a children's puppetry program. This is the landscape in which the better part of a trillion dollars is being spent. None of this should be surprising to EAs. The core of Effective Altruism is the argument that when you attempt to do good, you should try to be effective in doing so. The equally core fact about the world that EAs recognize is that historically, most people have not been very good at maximizing how much good they do. For the vast majority of charitable dollars, that's still true. The Argument for Impact I believe Effective Altruism should spend more time trying to shift the behavior of the general public. I believe this area has the potential for large impact, and that it's currently neglected as a way to do good. Scale - Enormous. Not going to spend much time on this point, but obviously changes to how hundreds of billions of charitable dollars are given would be huge in scale. Tractability - This problem is likely more difficult and less tractable than many other cause areas. It's very difficult to simply spin wide-ranging cultural changes into existence. But it's not impossible, and the enormous size of the pile of money mitigates the low tractability. Using some relatively low numbers - If you had even a 1% chance of success, and success meant only shifting 5% of US charitable dollars, that's still 250 million dollars of donations going to more effect...
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Announcing “Effective Dropouts”, published by Yonatan Cale on September 21, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. TL;DR: “Effective Dropouts” is meant to be a casual fun excuse for reminding people that dropping out of a degree can be a good decision, as a counter to all the existing pressure for degrees being the default/only/obvious way. The rest of the post is mostly a joke. Our values We strive to have the values of Effective Altruism plus the inverse of the values of universities. Who can join Anyone who drops out of a degree. But, having the inverse of university values, we are not strict about our criteria. For example, one of our founders, Yonatan, didn't drop out of a degree, but he can join anyway. He's also writing these lines right now by the way. What can joining provide? You can, if you want, join as a co-author of this post and change it however you want. Universities would tell you what to do. We would just open a new “organization” if we don't like what you did with ours. Ah, and also moral support, and if things go really well, we might have stickers. Do we know anything about university? Yeah, one of the co-founders, Vorathep, is Head of Coaching at Effective Thesis and used to have his own coaching company targeted at university students. Vorathep is a PhD student right now, but thinks dropping out can happen at any level, so don't lose hope! What about the other cofounder(s)? Yonatan visited his friend in university for one day to see what all the fuss is about, after which he convinced his friend to quit. This was a pretty productive day overall, and Yonatan wonders if this means he should actually start going regularly. Gavin is a weird choice for a co-founder because he has 4 degrees, but this too is aligned with our values. Do we think everyone should drop out? No. We'll be politically correct and say “only some people”. Saying “here is the path everyone should go” is against our values. We encourage people to consider their own specific situation, and maybe tell us more about it. Are we giving a balanced view of both sides? No, but unlike universities, we are not pretending to give a balanced view, so we think it's more fair. What do we recommend doing instead of university? Well, if you're going to university in order to get accepted to some company, X, then as a naive suggestion, try getting accepted to X right now. Maybe it will just work? Unless you plan, for example, on working in a nuclear power plant, in which case please get the appropriate training first, whatever they say it is, university or otherwise. Or actually, apply and if you don't get accepted, ask for feedback on what to learn, why not? Homer getting some on-the-job training. Might not be ideal for this specific line of work. What about all the useful courses there are in university? Looking at the useful courses is what we call “glass half full thinking”. We try encouraging “glass half empty thinking”. What about all the un-useful courses? Or more to the point, can you do the useful courses online? But university will help open more doors, no? Yeah, it will help in a non-zero amount, but we think this is the wrong question. We like asking “will it help more than the alternative”. Did you consider any alternative? As a naive example, “doing a Udemy course will get me a job in X time, and doing a degree will get me a job in Y time”. We call this “thinking outside the box”, where in this case the box is university. We also think about this from the Effective Altruism values. We prefer not asking “will this donation help anything”. we prefer asking “will it help more than the alternative”. Yep, I just made that into a title because I wanted to. But university teaches the basics, no? University teaches things that they brand as “the basics”. It's a marketing trick that went to...
In this episode of 80k After Hours, Rob Wiblin interviews Kuhan Jeyapragasan about effective altruism university groups.From 2015 to 2020, Kuhan did an undergrad and then a master's in maths and computer science at Stanford — and did a lot to organise and improve the EA group on campus.Links to learn more, highlights and full transcript.Rob and Kuhan cover: The challenges of making a group appealing and accepting of everyone The concrete things Kuhan did to grow the successful Stanford EA group Whether local groups are turning off some people who should be interested in effective altruism, and what they could do differently Lessons Kuhan learned from Stanford EA The Stanford Existential Risks Initiative (SERI) Who this episode is for: People already involved in EA university groups People interested in getting involved in EA university groups Who this episode isn't for: People who've never heard of ‘effective altruism groups' People who've never heard of ‘effective altruism' People who've never heard of ‘university' Get this episode by subscribing to our more experimental podcast on the world's most pressing problems and how to solve them: type ‘80k After Hours' into your podcasting app. Or read the transcript below.Producer: Keiran HarrisAudio mastering: Ryan KesslerTranscriptions: Katy Moore
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Announcing EA Pulse, large monthly US surveys on EA, published by David Moss on September 20, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Rethink Priorities is excited to announce EA Pulse - a large, monthly survey of the US population aimed at measuring and understanding public perceptions of Effective Altruism and EA-aligned cause areas! This project has been made possible by a grant from the FTX Future Fund. What is EA Pulse? EA Pulse aims to serve two primary purposes: Tracking changes in responses to key questions relevant to EA and longtermism over time (e.g. awareness of and attitudes towards EA and longtermism, and support for different cause areas). Running ad hoc questions requested by EA orgs (e.g. support for particular policies, responses to different messages EAs are considering). We welcome requests for questions to include in the survey of either of these types. Please comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, ideally by October 20th. By tracking beliefs and attitudes towards issues related to effective altruism and longtermism, we can better get our finger on the pulse of movement building efforts over time, and potentially identify unforeseen risks to the movement. We will also be able to determine whether particular subgroups of the population appear to be missed or turned off by our outreach efforts. We also believe that surveying the broader public can provide a new window for looking at how the ideas generated by the EA community are being taken up by the wider population. In turn, it can help us communicate more effectively and efficiently about what matters most. Due to space constraints this survey is best suited to asking about relatively short, straightforward questions. If you are interested in surveys with more complex designs, a larger number of questions or experimental manipulations, complex instructions, or which involve asking respondents to read lengthy text or view videos, we are potentially able to accommodate these in separate surveys (funding permitting). Please feel free to reach out to discuss possibilities. Thanks for listening. To help us out with The Nonlinear Library or to learn more, please visit nonlinear.org.
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Author Rutger Bregman about effective altruism and philanthropy, published by Sebastian Schwiecker on September 20, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Rutger Bregman, historian, and author (including Utopia for Realists and Humankind: A Hopeful History) describes his personal view on philanthropy in a conversation with Effektiv Spenden here (German here). In the Effektiv Spenden post donation survey he was mentioned more than any other person (e.g. more than Will MacAskill and more than Peter Singer). Our explanation is that he particularly good at reaching people from outside the existing EA community. Some quotes: On effective altruism: "Sometimes people can get the impression that “Oh, so you know what all the effective causes out there are and you are very dogmatic about that?” That's not the case at all. Effective altruism is a question. It's not an answer. It's all about continuously asking yourself the question, is this the best use of my time, resources, and money? That's what it's really about. And I think intellectual humility is a really important value, and I think that's also quite present in the movement." On systemic change vs. individual change: "There's now this discussion going on amongst progressives and people on the left like: “Oh, we shouldn't talk about individual change because that's neo-liberal. We should all talk about system change”, but obviously we need to do both. If you look at the most impressive reformers and prophets and campaigners and activists throughout history, they all did it both. I'm now reading a book about Anthony Benezet who was one of the most important abolitionists, he's called the father of abolitionism. He led the fight against the slave trade and slavery in the 18th century. If you would have said to him: “Oh, it's all about the system. It's not about the individual”. He would have said: “You're a hypocrite.” Of course, it's also about the individual, because he knew that he would be much more convincing if he actually did what he preached." On why he signed the Giving What We Can Pledge: "Because human behavior is contagious. We're not individuals, we're not lone atoms, but we influence each other all the time by our behavior. It's just contagious. Giving can be like that as well. That's why I think it's important to be public about your giving, not to show off, you need to be a little bit careful there, but that's also why I signed the Giving What We Can pledge to say. Look, people, if you like my work, this is what I find really important and it has made a big difference in my life to donate at least 10% of my income to highly effective causes. I think that actually, as a best seller author, you can go a little bit higher than 10%, but 10% is a good place to start." Since the interview is quite long feel free to share the video below with everyone who might be interested but can't be bothered for more than one minute. Thanks for listening. To help us out with The Nonlinear Library or to learn more, please visit nonlinear.org.
View the original talk and video here.Effective Altruism is a social movement dedicated to finding ways to do the most good possible, whether through charitable donations, career choices, or volunteer projects.
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: "Doing Good Best" isn't the EA ideal, published by Davidmanheim on September 16, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Holden recently claimed that EA is about maximizing, but that EA doesn't suffer very much because we're often not actually maximizing. I think that both parts are incorrect. I don't think EA requires maximizing, and it certainly isn't about maximizing in the naïve sense that it often occurs. It is also my view that Effective Altruism as a community has in many or most places gone too far towards this type of maximizing view, and it is causing substantial damage. Holden thinks we've mostly avoided the issues, and while I think he's right to say that many possible extreme problems have been avoided, I think we have, in fact, done poorly because of a maximizing viewpoint. Is EA about Maximizing? I will appeal to Will MacAskill's definition, first. Effective altruism is: (i) the use of evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to maximize the good with a given unit of resources, tentatively understanding ‘the good' in impartial welfarist terms, and (ii) the use of the findings from (i) to try to improve the world. Part (i) is obviously at least partially about maximizing, in Will's view. But it is also tentative and cautious, rather than a binary - so even if there is a single maximum, actually doing part (i) well means we want to be very cautious about thinking we've identified that single peak. I also think it's easy to incorrectly think this appeals to utilitarian notions, rather than benficentric ones. Utilitarianism is maximizing, but EA is about maximizing with resources dedicated to that goal. It does not need to be totalizing, and interpreting it as "just utilitarianism" is wrong. Further, I think that many community members are unaware of this, which I see as a critical distinction. But more importantly, part (ii), the actual practice of effective altruism, is not defined as maximizing. Very clearly, it is instead pragmatic. And pragmatism isn't compatible with much of what I see in practice when EAs take a maximizing viewpoint. That is, even according to views where we should embrace fully utilitarian maximizing - again, views that are compatible with but not actually embraced by effective altruism as defined - optimizing before you know your goal works poorly. Before you know your goal exactly, moderate optimization pressure towards even incompletely specified goals that are imperfectly understood usually improves things greatly. That is, you can absolutely do good better even without finishing part (i), and that is what effective altruism has been and should continue to do. But at some point continuing optimization pressure has rapidly declining returns. In fact, over-optimizing can make things worse, so when looking at EA practice, we should be very clear that it's not about maximizing, and should not be. Does the Current Degree of Maximizing Work? It is possible in theory for us to be benefitting from a degree of maximizing, but in practice I think the community has often gone too far. I want to point to some of the concrete downsides, and explore how maximizing has been and is currently damaging to EA. To show this, I will start from exclusivity and elitism, go on to lack of growth, to narrow vision, and then focusing on current interventions. Given that, I will conclude that the "effective" part of EA is pragmatic, and fundamentally should not lead to maximizing, even if you were to embrace a (non-EA) totalizing view. Maximizing and Elitism The maximizing paradigm of Effective Altruism often pushes individuals towards narrow goals, ranging from earning to give, to AI safety, to academia, to US or international policy. This is a way for individuals to maximize impact, but leads to elitism, because very few people are ideal for any giv...
It's the second episode in the Neoliberal Podcast's new series on Effective Altruism, the movement that tries to do the most good possible for the world. Jeremiah welcomes Christine Parthemore to discuss catastrophic risks to humanity from nuclear and biological weapons. How likely is it that nuclear weapons or bioweapons are actually used in the next 50 years? What can be done to minimize those risks? Is technology developing too quickly and exposing us to existential risk? Suggested Reading: The Council on Strategic Risks - https://councilonstrategicrisks.org/ George Washington University's National Security Archives - https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/ 'The Dead Hand' by David Hoffman To make sure you hear every episode, join our Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/neoliberalproject. Patrons get access to exclusive bonus episodes, our sticker-of-the-month club, and our insider Slack. Become a supporter today! Got questions for the Neoliberal Podcast? Send them to email@example.com Follow us at: https://twitter.com/ne0liberal https://www.instagram.com/neoliberalproject/ https://www.twitch.tv/neoliberalproject Join a local chapter at https://neoliberalproject.org/join
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Improving "Improving Institutional Decision-Making": A brief history of IIDM, published by Sophia Brown on September 12, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Note: I'm undertaking a larger project to assess the potential of improving institutional decision-making (IIDM)—sometimes referred to as “institutional decision-making,” “effective institutions”, etc.—as a cause area or strategy within EA. My goal is to have more public discourse about IIDM. This is my first post in a series, which is the product of my conversations with EAs and research over the last 6 months. My conclusions are all tentative, and I invite all to collaborate with me in understanding and improving institution-focused work in EA. Thank you to Lizka Vaintrob, Konrad Seifert, John Myers, Nathan Young, Nuño Sempere, Jonathan Schmidt, Ian David Moss, Dan Spokojny, and Nick Whitaker for comments during the writing process. Mistakes are my own. Improving institutional decision-making (IIDM) has emerged as a term and point of discussion within EA in the last five years. It's been discussed both as a cause area in itself and as a strategy within cause areas. It's associated with other EA areas of interests, such as forecasting and political engagement. There's an obvious guiding intuition here: institutions are powerful forces in world history and drastically affect global well-being and the longterm future. At the same time, many see EA's emphasis on IIDM, at least in its current state, as highly uncertain, intractable or, if it is tractable, posing downside risks. There's a lot to disentangle. Several long posts and articles take stabs at how to understand IIDM, measure its impact, and where to focus attention. 80,000 Hours considers it among the “second-highest priority areas,” alongside nuclear security and climate change. But in comparison, it has a less certain theoretical basis and has seen few projects involving practice. In this post, I trace the development of IIDM in EA. In brief, I believe that, because of its history in EA, IIDM is thought of too much in group rationality and forecasting terms, deemphasizing other tractable and worthwhile institutional reforms. Tracing IIDM Origins There is a deep literature on how governments function, how companies are organized, etc. Academics, particularly economists, political scientists, and sociologists, have studied institutions. Others in epistemology, psychology, and behavioral science have studied decision-making. The general arc of IIDM within EA begins with early conversations about how to engage with institutions broadly, dating back to at least the early 2010s. Around the same time—though as far as I can tell somewhat separately—the Rationality Community began growing in prominence as they investigated how to make better—more rational—decisions. These discussions began in Overcoming Bias (2006), the blog by Robin Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky, and later the group blog LessWrong (2009). I understand current conceptions of IIDM in EA as blends of these two threads of institutional and decision-making work. The 80,000 Hours problem profile on IIDM—the first big piece making the case for IIDM as an area of interest—drew predominantly from the decision-making thread. But broader notions of institutional work persisted. IIDM was further elevated by the IIDM working group of 2019-2020, which evolved into the Effective Institutions Project (EIP). Since then, several organizations and projects have done explicitly IIDM-branded work, and more have done work that is implicitly or related to IIDM. There has also been a massive growth of adjacent work, like policy advocacy and political engagement. I'll now go a bit more deeply into each of the originating threads. Effective Altruism and Institutions Early discussion in EA about institutions seems to have...
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: CEA Ops is now EV Ops, published by EV Ops on September 13, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Effective Ventures (EV) is a federation of organisations and projects working to have a large positive impact in the world. EV was previously known as the Centre for Effective Altruism but the board decided to change the name to avoid confusion with the organisation within EV that goes by the same name. EV Operations (EV Ops) provides operational support and infrastructure that allows effective organisations to thrive. Summary EV Ops is a passionate and driven group of operations specialists who want to use our skills to do the most good in the world. You can read more about us at. What does EV Ops look like? EV Ops began as a two-person operations team at CEA. We soon began providing operational support for 80,000 Hours, EA Funds, the Forethought Foundation, and Giving What We Can. And eventually, we started supporting newer, smaller projects alongside these, too. As the team expanded and the scope of these efforts increased, it made less sense to remain a part of CEA. So at the end of last year, we spun out as a relatively independent organisation, known variously as “Ops”, “the Operations Team”, and “the CEA Operations team”. For the last nine months or so, we've been focused on expanding our capacity so that we can support even more high-impact organisations, including the GovAI, Longview Philanthropy, Asterisk, and Non-trivial. We now think that we have a comparative advantage in supporting and growing high-impact projects — and are happy that this new name, “Effective Ventures Operations”' or “EV Ops”, accords with this. EV Ops is arranged into the following six teams: The organisations EV Ops supports We now support and fiscally sponsor several organisations (learn more on our website). Alongside these we support a handful of Special Projects: smaller, 1-2 person, early-stage projects which may grow into independent organisations of their own. We're keen to support a wide range of projects looking to do good in the world, although we're close to current capacity. To see if we could help your project grow and develop, visit or complete the expression of interest form. Get involved We're currently hiring for the following positions: Project Manager for Oxford EA hub Senior Bookkeeper / Accountant Operations Associate Executive Assistant for the Property team Operations Associate - Salesforce Admin Finance Associate If you're interested in joining our team, visit. If you have any questions about EV or EV Ops, just drop a comment below. Thanks for reading! Thanks for listening. To help us out with The Nonlinear Library or to learn more, please visit nonlinear.org.
In this episode of 80k After Hours, Habiba Islam reads Benjamin Todd's career review on founding new projects tackling top problems.Here's the original piece if you'd like to learn more.You might also want to check out these relevant pieces: The growth of effective altruism: what does it mean for our priorities and level of ambition? — Benjamin Todd Notes on good judgement and how to develop it — Benjamin Todd What we learned from a year incubating longtermist entrepreneurship — Rebecca Kagan, Jade Leung, Ben Clifford Get this episode by subscribing to our more experimental podcast on the world's most pressing problems and how to solve them: type 80k After Hours into your podcasting app.Producer: Keiran HarrisAudio mastering: Beppe Rådvik and Ben Cordell
We're joined by our friend Yusuf to discuss EA, liberialism, longtermism, AI, nukes, and more. Yusuf is a video essayist, blogger, first year law student at Harvard Law School and Bastiat Fellow at the Mercatus Center. His blog, Longterm Liberalism, focuses on the intersection of existential risk, classical liberalism, and effective altruism. His YouTube channel, Leveller, also covers similar topics. His other interests include artificial intelligence, emerging technology, science, philosophy, economics, and music. https://twitter.com/YusufTwt https://twitter.com/LevellerTV https://www.leveller.tv/ https://longtermliberalism.substack.com/ -- Listen to the Non Serviam Podcast on your favorite podcast platform! iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and more. If you'd like to see more anarchist and anti-authoritarian interviews, please consider supporting this project financially by becoming a Patreon www.patreon.com/nonserviammedia
Philosopher Will MacAskill argues that protecting the future of humanity is the moral priority of our time. Historian Tyrone McKinley Freeman explains philanthropy's rich tradition within the African American community.
View the original talk and video here. This session starts with an introduction to leveling frameworks and how they can help people manage their careers, as well as give helpful feedback to others. The introduction walks through Ought's operations and product levels. Break out discussions follow, facilitating more intimate reflections on individual careers and development goals. This talk is primarily focused on operations and product career trajectories, but the leveling frameworks are broad enough to apply to most roles.Effective Altruism is a social movement dedicated to finding ways to do the most good possible, whether through charitable donations, career choices, or volunteer projects.
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Zzapp Malaria: More effective than bed nets? (Wanted: CTO, COO & Funding), published by Yonatan Cale on September 9, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. TL;DR: This post describes Zzapp's approach and effectiveness from their own perspective, intended as an intro aimed at the Effective Altruism community, as an invitation to investigate further and maybe fund them. They claim to be 2x more cost effective than bed nets in reducing malaria in urban and semi-urban areas (over 70% of Africa's population). Epistemic status: Based on conversations with Arnon, the CEO of Zzapp Malaria, not cross checked with other info such as Givewell's review of Against Malaria Foundation. Zzapp's approach and theoretical reason to think it would work You can skip to their experiment and how it went, if you prefer. TL;DR: Spray water bodies with larvicide to prevent mosquitoes from reproducing, and do it extra well by managing the considerable ops work of finding and spraying the water bodies using satellite imaging and an app for the people on the ground. Spraying water bodies with larvicide - is tried and works, unrelated to Zzapp Sources [link] [link]. Theoretical advantages compared to bed nets In every place that malaria was eliminated (which happened many times), larvicide (the treatment of standing water bodies) was the main component. Bed Nets only help people indoors during the night. Many people don't use their bed nets. Mosquitos developed resistance to the bes nets' insecticide in many countries Note I think Givewell already took the problems into account in their analysis, and Arnon emphasizes he thinks bed nets are great, and this is a pitch for using larvicide in urban (and semi urban) areas, not for stopping distributing bed nets. Zzapp think the ideal solution would probably combine many interventions. We are writing this as a comparison with bed nets since EAs already think bed nets are great. Problems in existing larvicide approaches Existing solutions: Problems in theory Coverage is important It's important [how many water bodies you find] and [how many of those you spray], and the difference between 95% and 50% is really big, similarly to the situation when vaccinating 95% or 50% of the population, because of the effect on R (reproduction number) - less infected people will infect less other people, it snowballs but in a good way (hopefully), and the same is true about reproduction of mosquitos. Existing solutions have bad coverage People miss water bodies in the areas they are assigned to search People miss entire areas Even when water bodies are found, the spray team sometimes may still skip them or forget to treat them according to schedule Small RCT Ref to a (tiny) randomized controlled trial run by Zzapp and AngloGold Ashanti Malaria Control (AGAMal), where two groups scanned the same square kilometer, one group used the app and one didn't and the group with the app found 28% more water bodies. Scanning an entire town In a different operation, when scanning an entire town with AGAMal, they found 20x more water bodies when using Zzapp's app. (publication in progress, we'll add a link when it's ready). From that they think that on a larger scale the app has an even greater impact.What happened behind the scenes is that without the app - the scanners skipped entire neighborhoods. Not a problem: Poisoning water bodies The larvicide in the relevant quantities (bti) isn't poisonous to humans, animals, or other insects except for mosquitoes and black flies. Zzapp's advantages compared to “manual” larvicide Zzapp has an app they give to the people “on the ground”: The app follows “where do the people go go” and lets the people mark “I checked this house's garden” and “I found a water source here” and “this house didn't let me in” The control room shows a map with ״Here...
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: 'Psychology of Effective Altruism' course syllabus, published by Geoffrey Miller on September 7, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. In case anyone's interested, here's a link to the syllabus for a course titled 'The Psychology of Effective Altruism' that I've taught 3 times at University of New Mexico (in 2018, 2019, and 2020): I'd posted an earlier version of this syllabus to EA Forum in 2018 (see ) Feel free to borrow any of this material if you teach a course on EA, X risk, longtermism, moral psychology, etc. This is an advanced undergraduate seminar with about 20-25 students, mostly psychology majors. It was designed to be suitable for diverse students at a large state university. Whereas some other EA courses have focused mostly on technical moral philosophy, this is pitched more towards the psychology of EA -- both why it's appealing, and why it's difficult. The course's main topics are EA principles, cause prioritization, utilitarian ethics, moral psychology, charity evaluation, global poverty and health, existential risks, AI safety, moral & cognitive enhancement, near-term technologies (robots, EMs, VR), animal sentience & welfare, and career choices. I'm currently updating this course to teach it again in spring 2023, so would welcome anybody else's syllabi that might be helpful, and any other suggestions of good readings, videos, exercises, etc. (I've already looked at the helpful course materials mentioned on this Open Philanthropy site:/ ) -- Geoffrey Thanks for listening. To help us out with The Nonlinear Library or to learn more, please visit nonlinear.org.
Effective altruism, in a slogan, aims to 'do the most good.' Utilitarianism, in a slogan, says we should act to 'produce the greatest good for the greatest number.' It's clear enough why utilitarians should be interested in the project of effective altruism. But what about the many people who reject utilitarianism? Today's guest, Andreas Mogensen — moral philosopher at Oxford University's All Souls College — rejects utilitarianism, but as he explains, this does little to dampen his enthusiasm for the project of effective altruism. Links to learn more, summary and full transcript. Andreas leans towards 'deontological' or rule-based theories of ethics, rather than 'consequentialist' theories like utilitarianism which look exclusively at the effects of a person's actions. Like most people involved in effective altruism, he parts ways with utilitarianism in rejecting its maximal level of demandingness, the idea that the ends justify the means, and the notion that the only moral reason for action is to benefit everyone in the world considered impartially. However, Andreas believes any plausible theory of morality must give some weight to the harms and benefits we provide to other people. If we can improve a stranger's wellbeing enormously at negligible cost to ourselves and without violating any other moral prohibition, that must be at minimum a praiseworthy thing to do. In a world as full of preventable suffering as our own, this simple 'principle of beneficence' is probably the only premise one needs to grant for the effective altruist project of identifying the most impactful ways to help others to be of great moral interest and importance. As an illustrative example Andreas refers to the Giving What We Can pledge to donate 10% of one's income to the most impactful charities available, a pledge he took in 2009. Many effective altruism enthusiasts have taken such a pledge, while others spend their careers trying to figure out the most cost-effective places pledgers can give, where they'll get the biggest 'bang for buck'. For someone living in a world as unequal as our own, this pledge at a very minimum gives an upper-middle class person in a rich country the chance to transfer money to someone living on about 1% as much as they do. The benefit an extremely poor recipient receives from the money is likely far more than the donor could get spending it on themselves. What arguments could a non-utilitarian moral theory mount against such giving? Many approaches to morality will say it's permissible not to give away 10% of your income to help others as effectively as is possible. But if they will almost all regard it as praiseworthy to benefit others without giving up something else of equivalent moral value, then Andreas argues they should be enthusiastic about effective altruism as an intellectual and practical project nonetheless. In this conversation, Andreas and Rob discuss how robust the above line of argument is, and also cover: • Should we treat thought experiments that feature very large numbers with great suspicion? • If we had to allow someone to die to avoid preventing the World Cup final from being broadcast to the world, is that permissible? • What might a virtue ethicist regard as 'doing the most good'? • If a deontological theory of morality parted ways with common effective altruist practices, how would that likely be? • If we can explain how we came to hold a view on a moral issue by referring to evolutionary selective pressures, should we disbelieve that view? Get this episode by subscribing to our podcast on the world's most pressing problems and how to solve them: type 80,000 Hours into your podcasting app. Producer: Keiran Harris Audio mastering: Ben Cordell and Beppe Rådvik Transcriptions: Katy Moore
What is longtermism? Is the long-term future of humanity (or life more generally) the most important thing, or just one among many important things? How should we estimate the chance that some particular thing will happen given that our brains are so computationally limited? What is "the optimizer's curse"? How top-down should EA be? How should an individual reason about expected values in cases where success would be immensely valuable but the likelihood of that particular individual succeeding is incredibly low? (For example, if I have a one in a million chance of stopping World War III, then should I devote my life to pursuing that plan?) If we want to know, say, whether protests are effective or not, we merely need to gather and analyze existing data; but how can we estimate whether interventions implemented in the present will be successful in the very far future?William MacAskill is an associate professor in philosophy at the University of Oxford. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest associate professor of philosophy in the world. A Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneur, he also cofounded the nonprofits Giving What We Can, the Centre for Effective Altruism, and Y Combinator–backed 80,000 Hours, which together have moved over $200 million to effective charities. He's the author of Doing Good Better, Moral Uncertainty, and What We Owe The Future.
In this episode of 80k After Hours, Rob Wiblin interviews Andrés Jiménez Zorrilla about the Shrimp Welfare Project, which he cofounded in 2021. It's the first project in the world focused on shrimp welfare specifically and now has six full-time staff.Links to learn more, highlights and full transcript.They cover: The evidence for shrimp sentience How farmers and the public feel about shrimp The scale of the problem What shrimp farming looks like The killing process, and other welfare issues Shrimp Welfare Project's strategy History of shrimp welfare work What it's like working in India and Vietnam How to help Who this episode is for: People who care about animal welfare People interested in new and unusual problems People open to shrimp sentience Who this episode isn't for: People who think shrimp couldn't possibly be sentient People who got called ‘shrimp' a lot in high school and get anxious when they hear the word over and over again Get this episode by subscribing to our more experimental podcast on the world's most pressing problems and how to solve them: type ‘80k After Hours' into your podcasting app. Or read the transcript below.Producer: Keiran HarrisAudio mastering: Ben Cordell and Ryan KesslerTranscriptions: Katy Moore
My guest today is Will MacAskill. Will is an associate professor of philosophy at Oxford University. He is the co-founder and president of the Centre for Effective Altruism. Will is also the director of the Forethought Foundation for Global Priorities Research. In this episode, we discuss his new book "What We Owe the Future". We talk about whether we have a moral obligation to the billions of humans that will be born in the next several 1000 years, and how to weigh those obligations against those of living humans. We discuss population ethics in general, and Derek Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion thought experiment. We discuss the role of economic growth in humanity's long-term future and how to weigh that against present-day wealth inequality. We talk about the ethics of abortion, and the notion of moral progress. We also discuss the possible AI futures that lie ahead of us and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In this talk, Jade gives her perspective on why the x-risk focused AGI governance research field needs to focus more tightly and urgently on producing actual governance plans which solve directly for the main routes to existential risk from advanced AI. She also says more about what she thinks are features of good plans. View the original talk and video here.Effective Altruism is a social movement dedicated to finding ways to do the most good possible, whether through charitable donations, career choices, or volunteer projects.
Val Zavala, former anchor/reporter for the long-running KCET (L.A. PBS station) series SoCal Connected and Life & Times talks about: The ‘Extinction Circle' group that she was part of for a couple years, meeting once a month to discuss likely human extinction (before the pandemic led the group to slowly disband; meantime she continues to be an active member of her local ‘Death Café'); how approaching humanity's future is akin to Elisabeth Kubler Ross' five stages of grief; the oil industry's campaign of disinformation and its effect on the climate crisis; a profoundly thoughtful Buddhist take on our (humankind's) fate; relating extinction to former guest Fernando Dominguez Rubio's study of the preservation of artworks in the museum, and what Val thinks of the lengths museums go to maintain artworks' longevity; the concept of EA, or Effective Altruism, in relation to human longevity; “Seeding” the future, which is to say leaving a better foundation for future civilizations; and her “New 10 Commandments for Future Generations.”
Holden talks about what he most wishes more people were doing today (career-wise), from a longtermist perspective, and then take questions on that topic or any others people want to ask about. View the original talk and video here. Effective Altruism is a social movement dedicated to finding ways to do the most good possible, whether through charitable donations, career choices, or volunteer projects.
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: An Evaluation of Animal Charity Evaluators, published by eaanonymous1234 on September 2, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Introduction Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is an effective altruism aligned organization which aims to provide information and recommendation to donors and advocates about the effectiveness of various interventions and charities. As one can expect, ACE reviews animal charities based on the effectiveness of their programs and recommends a small number of charities as “top” and “stand-out” charities. ACE also has a Movement Grants program, which provides small grants to various organizations. According to ACE, it has a budget over one million US dollars, and granted and influenced over ten million US dollars worth donations to its recommended charities and promising projects in 2021. This amount (10 million US dollars) is larger than the total amount of Effective Altruism Animal Welfare Fund grants in 2021. One can say that ACE is positioned to take the role of GiveWell in the Effective Altruism animal welfare cause area. It functions as an expert authority which evaluates different interventions and comes to conclusions about which ones are the most effective and which charities carry them out in the most effective way. One can also say that ACE's role is even more significant than GiveWell, since it is not just donors who may follow its advice, it is also the animal advocates who may benefit from this expert authority by following its advice on which interventions are the most effective to help animals. In this essay I will put forward three points of criticism, which I believe can uncover certain defects that ACE has, and can help ACE to overcome them: 1) ACE's current style of reasoning is somewhat opaque and therefore may mislead ordinary donors and advocates. 2) ACE is omitting from making substantial claims about the most effective ways to help animals, and thus failing in its primary role of evaluating the effectiveness of different interventions and charities. 3) ACE is currently underrating the effectiveness of programs which aim for animal welfare reforms relative to the effectiveness of other interventions. In the first criticism, I will argue that while ACE makes cost-effectiveness comparisons between charities which carry out similar programs (for example two charities which both engage in animal welfare campaigns), it does not comment how it is comparing charities which carry out different programs (for example, one charity which engage in animal welfare campaigns and another charity which has a vegan pledge program). I will claim that some of the terms that ACE is using such as “relative to other charities” or “highly cost-effective” is likely to be understood by ordinary donors and advocates differently than ACE's understanding, and ACE is not providing clear context when making these statements. In the second criticism, I will show that in its current form, ACE seems to accept that almost all programs in farmed animal advocacy may be effective and does not seem to answer fundamental questions which an evaluation organization has to answer, like “which program(s) help animals the most?” or “which programs should an animal charity or an advocate prioritize?” or “which charities should a donor prioritize?”. I will argue that starting from its foundation and in its current form, ACE functions more like a hits based giving “fund”, rather than an evaluation organization, and these multiple roles make it difficult for Animal Charity Evaluators to achieve its primary role: evaluation. I will suggest that ACE should not be timid to put forward its views on the effectiveness of different programs, whatever those views are or will be. I will also have some proposals such as applying stricter and clear cut evaluation criteria, focusing ...
We discuss how Sean got into mental health, StrongMinds' work-life balance, the benefits and cost effectiveness of group interpersonal psychotherapy, how treating depression can improve other interventions, what it takes to found a charity and change the world, the number one thing Sean wants people to know, and more! StrongMinds is a social enterprise founded in 2013 that provides life-changing mental health services to impoverished African women. Since many African women cannot even begin to tackle issues like poverty and economic development until they overcome depression, StrongMinds provides treatment for women who suffer from this pervasive and debilitating mental illness. By providing group talk therapy delivered by community health workers, StrongMinds is the only organization scaling a cost-effective solution to the depression epidemic in Africa.Effective Altruism is a social movement dedicated to finding ways to do the most good possible, whether through charitable donations, career choices, or volunteer projects. If you would like to do an interview on EARadio or know someone who does, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Effective altruism in the garden of ends, published by tyleralterman on August 31, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Huge thanks to Alex Zhu, Anders Sandberg, Andrés Gómez Emilsson, Andrew Roberts, Anne-Lorraine Selke (who I've subbed in entire sentences from), Crichton Atkinson, Ellie Hain, George Walker, Jesper Östman, Joe Edelman, Liza Simonova, Kathryn Devaney, Milan Griffes, Morgan Sutherland, Nathan Young, Rafael Ruiz, Tasshin Fogelman, Valerie Zhang, and Xiq for reviewing or helping me develop my ideas here. Further thanks to Allison Duettmann, Anders Sandberg, Howie Lempel, Julia Wise, and Tildy Stokes, for inspiring me through their lived examples. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal [.] should demand the denial of life & joy. – Emma Goldman, Living My Life This essay is a reconciliation of moral commitment and the good life. Here is its essence in two paragraphs: Totalized by an ought, I sought its source outside myself. I found nothing. The ought came from me, an internal whip toward a thing which, confusingly, I already wanted – to see others flourish. I dropped the whip. My want now rested, commensurate, amidst others of its kind – terminal wants for ends-in-themselves: loving, dancing, and the other spiritual requirements of my particular life. To say that these were lesser seemed to say, “It is more vital and urgent to eat well than to drink or sleep well.” No – I will eat, sleep, and drink well to feel alive; so too will I love and dance as well as help. Once, the material requirements of life were in competition: If we spent time building shelter it might jeopardize daylight that could have been spent hunting. We built communities to take the material requirements of life out of competition. For many of us, the task remains to do the same for our spirits. Particularly so for those working outside of organized religion on huge, consuming causes. I suggest such a community might practice something like “fractal altruism,” taking the good life at the scale of its individuals out of competition with impact at the scale of the world. If you're a Blinkist or Sparknotes person, you can stop here. If you read on, you might find that everything written has been said already in the history of philosophy. This is a less rigorous experiential account that came from five years of personal reckoning. I thought my own story might be more relatable for friends with a history of devotion – unusual people who've found themselves dedicating their lives to a particular moral vision, whether it was (or is) Buddhism, Christianity, social justice, or climate activism. When these visions gobble up all other meaning in the life of their devotees, well, that sucks. I go through my own history of devotion to effective altruism. It's the story of [wanting to help] turning into [needing to help] turning into [living to help] turning into [wanting to die] turning into [wanting to help again, because helping is part of a rich life]. There's also an implicit critique of the Effective Altruist movement here. As far as I can tell, my dark night experience represents a common one for especially devoted, or “hardcore” EAs – the type who end up in mission-critical roles. If my experience is in fact representative, then I suspect it is productive (even on consequentialist grounds) for the movement to confront its dark night problem. Of course, there has been much discussion about burnout and mental health in EA. The movement has responded: there are support groups and more. But I doubt that ordinary mental health interventions – therapy, coaching, etc – are sufficient for hardcore EAs. Instead, I think that hardcore segments of the movement, who are bound by philosophy, might be helped by examining whether their philosophy is, in fact, in agreement, rathe...
This week, I had the opportunity to chat with the multi-talented Natasha Mott, a neuroscientist, writer, and podcaster. We talked about her views on multiple intelligences, epigenetics, absurdism, acceptance commitment therapy, and more!Time stamps: 1:26 IQ and multiple intelligences2:50 Emotional intelligence (EQ)3:50 System 1 and system 2 thinking5:27 Impulsivity and emotional self-regulation8:02 Acceptance commitment therapy9:00 Epigenetics and transgenerational trauma10:14 Cancel culture12:19 The nature of science and falsifiability16:19 Postmodernism and absurdism18:34 Anti-intellectualism20:22 Absurdism as a counterculture movement23:08 Being present and living intentionally32:34 Effective altruism34:39 Natasha's daily dialectical bookSubscribe to Natasha's newsletter and follow her on Instagram and TikTok! This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit nitajain.substack.com
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Will MacAskill Media for WWOTF - Full List, published by James Aitchison on August 30, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Never before have we had the chance to enjoy so much Will MacAskill. He seems to have been everywhere. What a superb and exhaustive job he and his team have done to promote 'What We Owe The Future.' So far I have counted 16 podcasts, 18 articles and 6 other bits and pieces. I have listed all these below with links and brief comments. Podcast Appearances The 80,000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin. A warm and comprehensive three-hour discussion. Making Sense Podcast with Sam Harris. Harris is strongly supportive, MacAskill particularly inspiring on the sweep of history. Mindscape Podcast with Sean Carroll. Carroll asks questions about utilitarianism, metaethics and population ethics which MacAskill handles well. The Ezra Klein Show Podcast. A fine conversation on long-termism. Klein structures the discusion around ‘Three simple sentences: Future people count. There could be a lot of them. And we can make their lives better.' Good discussions about history - the contingent nature of the abolition of slavery and that certain times have plasticity. Tim Ferriss Podcast. A lively discussion with much humour and several gems from MacAskill. Includes recommendation of Joseph Henrich's 'The Secret of Our Success.' Deep Dive with Ali Abdaal Podcast. A relaxed, friendly and wide-ranging three-hour conversation. Covers a lot of ground including EA psychology and MacAskill's work methods. This is a high-quality YouTube production as well as a podcast and is my favourite among the appearances. Conversations with Tyler Podcast . Tyler Cowan's questioning focuses on the limits of utilitarianism. The Lunar Society Podcast with Dwarkesh Patel. Mainly on the contingency of moral progress. Global Dispatch Podcast with Mark Goldberg. Discussion on longtermism and the United Nations. Goldberg enthusiastic about the UN adopting some longtermist thinking. Modern Wisdom Podcast with Chris Williamson. An accessible discussion of longtermism. Conversations with Coleman with Coleman Hughes Includes population ethics, economic growth and moral change. Daily Stoic Podcast with Ryan Holiday. Mainly on altruism and moral change. Kera Think with Krys Boyd. 30 minutes conversation. Freakanomics Podcast with Steve Levitt. Discussion mainly on the economic themes in WWOTF, which MacAskill handles very well. 1a Podcast on NPR. David Gurn discussion on EA as a life changing philosophy. Includes comments from Sofya Lebedeva and Spencer Goldberg. Ten Percent Happier Podcast with Dan Harris. A warm discussion on donations, EA and longtermism. There are transcripts for the podcasts by Wiblin, Carroll, Klein, Cowan, Patel, Goldberg and Levitt. Articles and Book Reviews The New Yorker: The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altruism by Gideon Lewis-Kraus. A fine 10,000-word article profiling MacAskill and setting out the history of the EA movement. The author spent several days with his subject and covers MacAskill as an individual and the ideas and dynamics of the movement. MacAskill comments on the article in this Twitter Thread Time: Want to Do More Good? This Movement might have the Answer by Naina Bajekal . A beautifully written and inspiring profile of MacAskill and the EA movement. Vox: How Effective Altruism Went from a Niche Movement to a Billion-Dollar Force by Dylan Matthews. A well-informed and thoughtful article on EA's evolution by an EA insider. Wired: The Future Could be Blissful - If Human's Don't Go Extinct First. Shorter interview with Will Macaskill by Matt Reynolds. New York Times: The Case for Longtermism by Will MacAskill A Guest Essay adapted from the book. BBC Futures: What is Longtermism and Why Does it Matter? by Will MacAskill. Another essay based on the book. Foreig...
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Effective altruism is no longer the right name for the movement, published by ParthThaya on August 31, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. TL;DR As some have already argued, the EA movement would be more effective in convincing people to take existential risks seriously by focusing on how these risks will kill them and everyone they know, rather than on how they need to care about future people Trying to prevent humanity from going extinct does not match people's commonsense definition of altruism This mismatch causes EA to filter out two groups of people: 1) People who are motivated to prevent existential risks for reasons other than caring about future people; 2) Altruistically motivated people who want to help those less fortunate, but are repelled by EA's focus on longtermism We need an existential risk prevention movement that people can join without having to rethink their moral ideas to include future people and we need an effective altruism movement that people can join without being told that the most altruistic endeavor is to try to minimize existential risks Addressing existential risk is not an altruistic endeavor In what is currently the fourth highest-voted EA forum post of all time, Scott Alexander proposes that EA could talk about existential risk without first bringing up the philosophical ideas of longtermism. If you're under ~50, unaligned AI might kill you and everyone you know. Not your great-great-(...)-great-grandchildren in the year 30,000 AD. Not even your children. You and everyone you know. As a pitch to get people to care about something, this is a pretty strong one. But right now, a lot of EA discussion about this goes through an argument that starts with "did you know you might want to assign your descendants in the year 30,000 AD exactly equal moral value to yourself? Did you know that maybe you should care about their problems exactly as much as you care about global warming and other problems happening today?" Regardless of whether these statements are true, or whether you could eventually convince someone of them, they're not the most efficient way to make people concerned about something which will also, in the short term, kill them and everyone they know. The same argument applies to other long-termist priorities, like biosecurity and nuclear weapons. Well-known ideas like "the hinge of history", "the most important century" and "the precipice" all point to the idea that existential risk is concentrated in the relatively near future - probably before 2100. The average biosecurity project being funded by Long-Term Future Fund or FTX Future Fund is aimed at preventing pandemics in the next 10 or 30 years. The average nuclear containment project is aimed at preventing nuclear wars in the next 10 to 30 years. One reason all of these projects are good is that they will prevent humanity from being wiped out, leading to a flourishing long-term future. But another reason they're good is that if there's a pandemic or nuclear war 10 or 30 years from now, it might kill you and everyone you know. I agree with Scott here. Based on the reaction on the forum, a lot of others do as well. So, let's read that last sentence again: “if there's a pandemic or nuclear war 10 or 30 years from now, it might kill you and everyone you know”. Notice that this is not an altruistic concern – it is a concern of survival and well-being. I mean, sure, you could make the case that not wanting the world to end is altruistic because you care about the billions of people currently living and the potential trillions of people who could exist in the future. But chances are, if you're worried about the world ending, what's actually driving you is a basic human desire for you and your loved ones to live and flourish. I share the longtermists' concerns about bio-risk, un...
Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: The Nietzschean Challenge to Effective Altruism, published by Richard Y Chappell on August 29, 2022 on The Effective Altruism Forum. In ‘The Strange Shortage of Moral Optimizers', I noted that it's difficult to criticize Effective Altruism in a thoroughgoing way, since the foundational idea of beneficentrism (roughly: utilitarianism minus all the controversial bits) seems so indisputable. That leaves plenty of room for superficial/empirical/internal critiques of the form “The EA movement as it actually exists isn't fully living up to its admittedly excellent values/potential; here's how it could do better.” But is there space for a more fundamental, philosophical critique of EA's core values? In this post, I'll play Devil's Advocate and try to set out what I think is the most philosophically pressing critique of EA's beneficentrism, drawing on the classic critique of utilitarianism as a “philosophy for swine” (developed, in its most sophisticated form, in Andrew Huddleston's interpretation of Nietzsche's perfectionism). The idea, in a nutshell, is that we go wrong in thinking that anything resembling happiness (or the avoidance of suffering) is what ultimately matters for a good life. We are lazy creatures, drawn to creature comforts. But that isn't what's truly good for us. What truly gives our lives dignity and meaning is to contribute, whether directly or indirectly, to cultural excellence. Better to be a Socrates—or his servant—dissatisfied, than to be a pig satisfied. (Unless Socrates eats the pig. Then you're good either way.) The upshot: I'll argue that there's some (limited) overlap between the practical recommendations of Effective Altruism (EA) and Nietzschean perfectionism, or what we might call Effective Aesthetics (EÆ). To the extent that you give Nietzschean perfectionism some credence, this may motivate (i) prioritizing global talent scouting over mere health interventions alone, (ii) giving less priority to purely suffering-focused causes, such as animal welfare, (iii) wariness towards traditional EA rhetoric that's very dismissive of funding for art museums and opera houses, and (iv) greater support for longtermism, but with a strong emphasis on futures that continue to build human capacities and excellences, and concern to avoid hedonistic traps like “wireheading”. The Meaningful Life In the final chapter of Practical Ethics, Peter Singer addresses the question: ‘Why Act Morally?' One answer he's drawn towards invokes the common wisdom that our lives are more meaningful insofar as we contribute to something larger than ourselves. Universal altruism—in a world as full of unmet needs as ours is—provides us with a suitably monumental goal to meet this deep human need of our own. To illustrate this motivation, Singer asked Henry Spira (an accomplished twentieth-century animal- and civil rights activist), as his death from cancer drew near, “what had driven him to spend his life working for others.” Spira answered: I guess basically one wants to feel that one's life has amounted to more than just consuming products and producing garbage. I think that one likes to look back and say that one's done the best one can to make this a better place for others. [W]hat greater motivation can there be than doing whatever one possibly can to reduce pain and suffering? This sounds compelling! But it's in this context that the Nietzschean challenge looms large, as advancing human civilization is also monumental—sometimes literally!—and arguably feels “deeper” than merely promoting comfort. (It may also prove more legible than chasing the drab shadows of distant strangers in accordance with traditional welfarism.) We appreciate the enduring magnificence of the Great Pyramids, while the suffering of the slaves who built them is lost to history. Contributing to a lasting...
In their first episode following the summer hiatus RJ, Sarah, and Dave talk Frederick Buechner, worker productivity scores, Effective Altruism, and Afrikaner sadness. Also, Sarah's sabbatical diverts her somewhere fabulous. Recommendations: The Brothers Zahl (https://thebrotherszahl.fireside.fm/) podcast, Soultime (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/soultime-christian-meditation/id1369059690), Radical Love (https://amzn.to/3cw8FcY) by Zachary Levi, Better Call Saul, and The Neal Morse Band (https://www.nealmorse.com/) Click here (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/18/opinion/columnists/frederick-buechner-inner-depths.html) to read David Brooks' "The Man Who Found His Inner Depths". Click here (https://mbird.com/literature/corresponding-with-buechner/) to read Mischa Willet's "Corresponding with Buechner". Click here (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/08/14/business/worker-productivity-tracking.html) to read about The Rise of Worker Productivity Score by Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaramin the NY Times Magazine. Click here (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/08/15/the-reluctant-prophet-of-effective-altruism) to read about The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altuisim by Gideon Lewis-Kraus Click here (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/07/south-africa-apartheid-white-afrikaners-the-inheritors/670554/) to read Eve Fairbanks's piece taking the pulse of contemporary Afrikaners in The Atlantic.
Karthik Sekar, Ph.D, says, “I've seen some profoundly twisted takes on alternative foods and how "processed" they are. In this article, I clarify some confusion, explain the chemistry and biology behind food digestion, and argue why "processed" is a meaningless food descriptor. If we genuinely want tasty, affordable, healthy, kinder, and more sustainable food, we should use the better metrics and concepts already out there.” Original Post: https://karthiksekar.com/ Related Episodes: 171: Technical Outrage: Innovating to Reduce Animal Use 170 Fermentation for Alternative Protein Production 327: Shifting to a Better World Karthik's Interviews on other Podcasts: Vegan Family Kitchen Hope for the Animals Karthik Sekar, Ph.D is the author of After Meat: The Case for an Amazing Meat-Free World. He is a trained scientist and engineer. He finished his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina, his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University, and a postdoctoral position in Systems Biology at ETH Zurich. He currently works on the front lines of the alternative food industry in the San Francisco Bay Area. Please visit www.aftermeatbook.com to learn more. “The movement away from animal-based foods is already proceeding with tremendous momentum,” says Karthik Sekar, Ph.D. and author of AFTER MEAT (November 16, 2021). According to Dr. Sekar, Burger King and McDonalds have both introduced veggie burgers sourced from well-known, next-generation vegan food companies, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, and the publication, The Economist, declared 2019 to be the “Year of the Vegan”. AFTER MEAT explores the technological reasons for moving away from animal products. “Animals are awful technology,” says Dr. Sekar, who supports his opinion by examining how inefficient it is to use cows, for example, to produce steaks, leather, and milk. According to Dr. Sekar, it takes more than a year to grow food to feed animals, and we “waste” more than ninety percent of what we feed the animal to reach the desired result, due to the fundamental physics of cow biology. These are irretrievably terrible metrics. We can do much better with alternative technology such as microbial fermentation, which will also be easier to innovate for taste, nutrition, and other qualities we care about. And all indications are that the future of food will ultimately be tastier, healthier, cheaper, kinder, and better for the environment. This will happen because we won't use animal products. 100% of the proceeds of AFTER MEAT will be donated to the following charities: The Good Food Institute; Animal Charity Evaluator's Recommended Charity Fund; Effective Altruism's Animal Welfare Fund; and Faunalytics. How to support the podcast: Share with others. Recommend the podcast on your social media. Follow/subscribe to the show wherever you listen. Buy some vegan/plant based merch: https://www.plantbasedbriefing.com/shop Follow Plant Based Briefing on social media: Twitter: @PlantBasedBrief YouTube: YouTube.com/PlantBasedBriefing Facebook: Facebook.com/PlantBasedBriefing LinkedIn: Plant Based Briefing Podcast Instagram: @PlantBasedBriefing #vegan #plantbased #veganpodcast #plantbasedpodcast #plantbasedbriefing #fermentation #alternativeprotein #microbialfermentation #plantbasedmeat #processedfood #aftermeat #altprotein #veganfood #plantbasedfood
Most people have never heard of "Longtermism." Long term? That sounds like it might be a pretty good thing. But many critics are suggesting that it is a dangerous philosophy, with many societal and social risks connected with it. And it's also been adopted by many wealthy and influential people, including Elon Musk. In this episode Dave sits down with Émile Torres, a philosopher at Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany. Torres has been a leading critic of longtermism and its related philosophy of so-called "Effective Altruism," and has written multiple essays on why it may be one of the most dangerous secular belief systems. For more info: https://longtermism-hub.com Follow Émile Torres: https://twitter.com/xriskology Keywords: Longtermism, Bostrom, Musk, Lesswrong, Effective Altruism, Computronium, Phil Torres, William MacAskill, Leverage Research, Paradigm, Peter Thiel, Libertarianism, seasteading.
Welcome to the first episode in the Neoliberal Podcast's new series on Effective Altruism, the movement that tries to do the most good possible for the world. Jeremiah welcomes Lewis Bollard to the show to talk about animal welfare as an EA topic. Why should people care about the suffering of animals vs the suffering of people? How bad are conditions really in the factory farms that supply most of the meat we eat? Which methods are the most cost-effective ways to help reduce animal suffering? We dive into why many effective altruists are working in this space and what they're doing to help farm animals around the world. Suggested Reading: Farm Animal Welfare Newsletter - https://www.openphilanthropy.org/content-type/farm-animal-welfare-newsletters/ Eating Animals - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eating_Animals To make sure you hear every episode, join our Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/neoliberalproject. Patrons get access to exclusive bonus episodes, our sticker-of-the-month club, and our insider Slack. Become a supporter today! Got questions for the Neoliberal Podcast? Send them to email@example.com Follow us at: https://twitter.com/ne0liberal https://www.instagram.com/neoliberalproject/ https://www.twitch.tv/neoliberalproject Join a local chapter at https://neoliberalproject.org/join
https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/effective-altruism-as-a-tower-of I have an essay that my friends won't let me post because it's too spicy. It would be called something like How To Respond To Common Criticisms Of Effective Altruism (In Your Head Only, Definitely Never Do This In Real Life), and it starts: Q: I don't approve of how effective altruists keep donating to weird sci-fi charities. A: Are you donating 10% of your income to normal, down-to-earth charities? Q: Long-termism is just an excuse to avoid helping people today! A: Are you helping people today? Q: I think charity is a distraction from the hard work of systemic change. A: Are you working hard to produce systemic change? Q: Here are some exotic philosophical scenarios where utilitarianism gives the wrong answer. A: Are you donating 10% of your income to poor people who aren't in those exotic philosophical scenarios? Many people will answer yes to all of these! In which case, fine! But…well, suppose you're a Christian. An atheist comes up to you and says “Christianity is stupid, because the New International Version of the Bible has serious translation errors”. You might immediately have questions like “Couldn't you just use a different Bible version?” or “Couldn't you just worship Jesus and love your fellow man while accepting that you might be misunderstanding parts of the Bible?” But beyond that, you might wonder why the atheist didn't think of these things. Are the translation errors his real objection to Christianity, or is he just seizing on them as an excuse? And if he's just seizing on them as an excuse, what's his real objection? And why isn't he trying to convince you of that?
We dig deep into Effective Altruism and Longtermism, laying out the origins, beliefs, and actions of this ideological moral system and the networks of influence and wealth that it's plugged into. Along the way we critique the extreme logical conclusions it leads to, the extremely simpleminded fairy tales it's based on, and the extremist group of moral zealots, useful idiots, and cynical bullshiters that rule this rationalist religion. Some stuff we reference: ••• The Case for Longtermism https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/05/opinion/the-case-for-longtermism.html ••• The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altruism https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/08/15/the-reluctant-prophet-of-effective-altruism ••• Stop the Robot Apocalypse https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v37/n18/amia-srinivasan/stop-the-robot-apocalypse Subscribe to hear more analysis and commentary in our premium episodes every week! patreon.com/thismachinekills Grab TMK gear: bonfire.com/store/this-machine-kills-podcast/ Hosted by Jathan Sadowski (twitter.com/jathansadowski) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (twitter.com/bigblackjacobin). Production / Music by Jereme Brown (twitter.com/braunestahl)
We might consider how our actions will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren. But what about the dozens of generations that hopefully come next? William MacAskill is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford and co-founder of the Centre for Effective Altruism. He joins host Krys Boyd to discuss why we must make long-term thinking a priority if we truly care about the descendants we'll never meet. His book is called “What We Owe the Future.”
When Tyler is reviewing grants for Emergent Ventures, he is struck by how the ideas of effective altruism have so clearly influenced many of the smartest applicants, particularly the younger ones. And William MacAskill, whom Tyler considers one of the world's most influential philosophers, is a leading light of the community. William joined Tyler to discuss why the movement has gained so much traction and more, including his favorite inefficient charity, what form of utilitarianism should apply to the care of animals, the limits of expected value, whether effective altruists should be anti-abortion, whether he'd would side with aliens over humans, whether he should give up having kids, why donating to a university isn't so bad, whether we are living in “hingey” times, why buildering is overrated, the sociology of the effective altruism movement, why cultural innovation matters, and whether starting a new university might be next on his slate. Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links, or watch the full video. Recorded July 7th, 2022 Other ways to connect Follow us on Twitter and Instagram Follow Tyler on Twitter Follow Will on Twitter Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org Subscribe at our newsletter page to have the latest Conversations with Tyler news sent straight to your inbox.