People

This page lists other people whose websites you might be interested in visiting if you found my website useful or interesting. I begin by listing some people I’ve collaborated with closely in the past or have regular current interaction with, and can provide more color on. At the end, I list some others whom I don’t know that well but whose work I’ve found interesting and enlightening.

Issa Rice

Living in: Seattle area, Washington state, United States

Personal website: issarice.com

Other online projects: AI Watch (GitHub), Cause Prioritization Wiki

As of January 2018, Issa is a freelance researcher who mostly does contract work for me (but may be open to other opportunities as well).

I first came to know Issa on January 1, 2014, when he contacted Cognito Mentoring, an experimental mentoring service that Jonah Sinick and I had announced on LessWrong on December 28, 2013. We had some email correspondence in the next few months. Starting around August 2014, after Cognito Mentoring had gone in standby mode, I began more one-on-one online interaction with Issa and I played a key role in influencing him to start the Cause Prioritization wiki, which he officially launched in November 2014. Issa started doing contract work with me in 2015 and ramped up the volume of work significantly around the end of April 2016.

See also Issa’s lengthy piece on Cognito Mentoring and his note on cause prioritization on his personal website.

Based on my lengthy experience working with Issa, I wrote a LinkedIn recommendation for him, that you can see on his LinkedIn profile. I quote it in full below:

I’ve paid Issa $40,000+ for contract work over the past two years. My big takeaway: Issa Gets Things Done. I rely on him for drudgery, which he’s often able to speed up through his coding skills with Python, SQL, shell scripting, and numerous other languages and frameworks. Where needed, he’ll patiently get through mundane data entry with an eye for detail. I know I can bank on him for hard, bang-head-against-the-wall open-ended projects. Apart from thinking, coding, free-form article writing, and systematic tabulation, he shines at communicating and negotiating. He pushes back against unreasonable projects, and comes up with evidence-backed, better-for-all-sides alternatives to my ill-considered project proposals. He has proved an adept manager of both people and systems: he’s helped me coordinate contract work tasks I give out to others, and he’s helped manage and grow the codebases of many of my projects. He is good at toggling between nailing down the little details and stepping back to ponder the big picture. He’s continually sharing ideas on a range of subjects, and offering solid critiques of my own. Work with Issa Rice to expand your imagination of what’s possible and learn what it means to truly offload the work part of your projects and still feel the excitement of making progress on them!

See https://contractwork.vipulnaik.com/worker.php?worker=Issa+Rice for all the tasks I’ve paid him for.

Peter Hurford

Living in: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Personal website: peterhurford.com

In 2017, I corresponded extensively (primarily via Facebook) with Peter Hurford, primarily on topics related to GiveWell, the Open Philanthropy Project, global health, donations, and effective altruism. Peter also sponsored some contract work done by Issa Rice and Sebastian Sanchez; I acted as the payment intermediary for smoother handling of tasks and finances. You can see the list of tasks sponsored by Peter here.

You can see the Donations List Website profile for Peter Hurford (note that the site is preliminary and not all data on it has been vetted).

Sebastian Sanchez

Living in: Resistencia, Argentina

Sebastian is a freelancer who currently works mostly for me. He started work in April 2016 after seeing my solicitation for contract workers. Sebastian saw the solicitation on Facebook; we were already Facebook friends at the time, having been introduced through Sebastian Nickel previously.

Sebastian has worked extensively with me, first on Wikipedia and then on Timelines Wiki, making timelines related to diseases and global health, transportation and communication, water, sanitation, and hygiene, and specific nonprofits and technology companies.

Ethan Bashkansky

Living in: Seattle area, Washington, United States

Professional website: bashkansky.academy

Ethan Bashkansky is a recent graduate from the University of Washington and a private tutor in the Seattle area of Washington state. He is a friend of Issa Rice from their days together at the University of Washington, and previously did contract work for me (having been recruited by Issa); details of the contract work can be found here.

Katja Grace

Living in: Ward Street, Berkeley, California, United States
Personal website: katjagrace.com

Blog: Meteuphoric

Other online projects: AI Impacts

Katja is involved with effective altruism and LessWrong. She’s an expert on the anthropic reasoning problem. She’s currently working on AI Impacts, which is funded via MIRI but a mostly independent project (receiving only funds specifically earmarked for it).

My first substantive contact with Katja was in May 2013, when she got in touch with me for a Workflowy on the costs and benefits of open borders and migration liberalization at large. You can see a list of similar links on Katja’s site here.

With some assistance from Paul Christiano (mentioned later on this page), Katja began work on the AI Impacts site in 2014 and has been blogging regularly on it in 2015. Although I haven’t played any direct role in the site, I’ve encouraged Katja to work on it and also given her some suggestions.

Sebastian Nickel

Living in: London area, United Kingdom

Personal website: sebastiannickel.com

Blog: NickelBook

Sebastian Nickel holds degrees in psychology and in mathematics. After making a living as a freelance translator alongside his studies for several years, he is now transitioning into the field of natural language processing. He has also taken up distance studies of computer science at the graduate level.

I first encountered Sebastian in the comments section of a Facebook post by Bryan Caplan. We became Facebook friends on October 26, 2012. Since then, we’ve interacted a lot on Facebook and worked together in many small ways. Sebastian has written blog posts for openborders.info, and in November 2014, we co-launched the Libertarian Effective Altruists Facebook group. We’ve both learned a lot from each other on how to use Facebook.

Jonah Sinick

Living in: Berkeley, California, United States

Personal website: jonahsinick.com

Other online projects: Cognito Mentoring (with me)

Jonah did a Ph.D. in mathematics and has recently switched into the programming, machine learning, and data science realms. He has also been involved with effective altruism and has contributed to LessWrong.

I friended Jonah in November 2011 on Facebook after interacting with him on GiveWell’s mailing list. We began interacting more substantively in November 2012, and in December 2013, we decided to try out Cognito Mentoring together. We shifted the project to standby mode in May 2014, due to a failure to obtain enough traction. Working with Jonah was an enjoyable and stimulating experience.

Jonah is currently head of data science at BioAge Labs, a company doing biomedical research related to combating aging.

Carl Shulman

Living in: Neighborhood of Berkeley, California, United States

Blog: reflectivedisequilibrium.blogspot.com

Research habits Google Doc (prepared with Claire Zabel): Disclaimer: off-the-cuff, unverified, personal habits. No warranties that these are beneficial.

Full list of publications: Timeline of Carl Shulman publications

Carl Shulman and I have been in sporadic touch over the last few years to discuss topics related to cause prioritization, effective altruism, AI risk, migration policy, libertarianism, ethics, psychology, and philosophy. I friended Carl in 2012 on Facebook and started talking to him online in 2013.

Carl is a highly respected thinker known for his objectivity, rationality, and sharp thought, and has been memed in the rationality community. He can be found in the comments sections on numerous blogs and Facebook posts in the effective altruism and rationality communities, as well as the acknowledgements of numerous works in those spaces. For an example of how people feel about Carl, see Luke Muehlhauser’s Just the facts, ma’am!

Michael Dickens

Living in: California, United States

Personal website: mdickens.me

Michael Dickens is a software engineer and a passionate effective altruist. He has written lengthy pieces on his site and on external blogs describing the thought process behind the large donations that he has made. You can also see his Donations List Website (DLW) profile. Note that the Donations List Website data is preliminary and has not been thoroughly vetted.

Michael and I have interacted sporadically, mostly to discuss things related to his donation choices and effective altruism.

Claire Zabel

Living in: California, United States

Claire Zabel and I first became acquainted in connection with Cognito Mentoring. We have since stayed in sporadic touch. Claire is an influential thinker and passionate altruist who joined as a Research Analyst the Open Philanthropy Project (then part of GiveWell) after finishing her Masters at Stanford University. She became a Program Officer at the Open Philanthropy Project around September 2017; you can see her biography on the Open Philanthropy Project website here. If you want to hear her talk, check out this video.

Others

  • Gordon Irlam: Like me, he has made a number of websites and has an extensive online presence. He is a philanthropist who has donated a lot of money to causes related to effective altruism as well as other causes. Some of his websites that might be of interest: GRI Charitable Foundation, Back of the Envelope Guide to Philanthropy (possibly one of the earlier online efforts at systematic cause prioritization), and AI Policies Wiki. He also has a relevant conversation with Katja Grace. I have not had any direct interactions with Irlam but readers interested in me are likely to find him interesting!
  • Paul Christiano: Paul is an IMO Silver Medalist and top-notch math/CS thinker. After completing a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, Paul joined OpenAI to work on AI risk/safety/alignment issues. He has three current and two abandoned blogs as of January 2018; see here for a list.
  • Brian Tomasik: A former software engineer at Bing, Brian is deeply committed to improving the world and has thought a lot about it. One of the areas he considers most important is reducing animal suffering, but he has written about a wide range of other topics.
  • Ben Kuhn: Ben graduated from Harvard in three years, and currently works at international money transfer company Wave. He has been actively involved with effective altruism and LessWrong. He was in charge of the Harvard Effective Altruism Club, one of the first and most successful college effective altruism groups.
  • Luke Muehlhauser: Luke is a former Director of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI), and currently works as a Research Analyst at the Open Philanthropy Project. He is active on LessWrong as lukeprog. (Disclosure: I did contract work for MIRI between January and July 2014).
  • Julia Galef: Julia was president and co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR), an organization that helps promote rationality for people to be more effective in their personal lives and as contributors to society. CFAR was a spinoff from MIRI and shares an office with MIRI. Julia is now a freelance researcher who has worked on The Update Project, sponsored by the Open Philanthropy Project.

Basic information