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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Feb 10, 2022


Medical training is a wild ride. You do four years of undergrad in some bio subject, ace your MCATs, think you’re pretty hot stuff. Then you do your med school preclinicals, study umpteen hours a day, ace your shelf exams, and it seems like you're pretty much there. Then you start your clinical rotations, get a real patient in front of you, and you realize - oh god, I know absolutely nothing about medicine.

This is also how I felt about running a grants program.

I support effective altruism, a vast worldwide movement focused on trying to pick good charities. Sometimes I go to their conferences, where they give lectures about how to pick good charities. Or I read their online forum, where people write posts about how to pick good charities. I've been to effective altruist meetups, where we all come together and talk about good charity picking. So I felt like, maybe, I don't know, I probably knew some stuff about how to pick good charities.

And then I solicited grant proposals, and I got stuff like this:

A. $60K to run simulations checking if some chemicals were promising antibiotics.
B. $60K for a professor to study the factors influencing cross-cultural gender norms
C. $50K to put climate-related measures on the ballot in a bunch of states.
D. $30K to research a solution for African Swine Fever and pitch it to Uganda
E. $40K to replicate psych studies and improve incentives in social science

Which of these is the most important?