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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on SIAI Fundraising - Less Wrong

59 [deleted] 26 April 2011 08:35AM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 April 2011 01:16:34AM 18 points [-]

Large air-conditioned living space, healthy food, both for 2 people (myself and girlfriend). My salary is at rough equilibrium with my spending; I am not saving for retirement. The Bay Area is, generally speaking, expensive.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 27 April 2011 05:09:24AM *  15 points [-]

Wow, my intuition was rather off on what $95,550 in compensation means for someone living in the Bay Area. Here's some actual calculations for others who are similarly curious. (There are apparently quite a few of us, judging from the votes on my comment.)

Assuming salary is 75% of compensation, that comes to $71662. $4557 in CA state tax. $11,666 federal income tax. $5,482 FICA tax. So $49957 after tax income.

For comparison, my wife and I (both very frugal) live in Seattle and spend about $35000 (excluding taxes and savings) per year. Redwood City's rent is apparently double the rent in Seattle, which perfectly accounts for the additional $15000.

Eliezer, you might want to consider getting married, in which case you can file your taxes jointly, and save about 6 thousand dollars per year (assuming your girlfriend has negligible income).

Comment author: ciphergoth 27 April 2011 10:36:07AM 4 points [-]

You're not saving for retirement because you think that, one way or another, it's unlikely you'll be collecting that money?

Comment author: VNKKET 02 July 2011 07:26:24AM *  2 points [-]

Is the Singularity Institute supporting her through your salary?

I hope you're not too put out by the rudeness of this question. I've decided that I'm allowed to ask because I'm a (small) donor. I doubt your answer will jeopardize my future donations, whatever it is, but I do have preferences about this.

(Also, it's very good to hear that you're taking health seriously! Not that I expected otherwise.)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 July 2011 05:31:56PM 6 points [-]

My salary is my own, to do with as I wish. I'm not put out by the rudeness, per se, but I will not entertain further questions along these lines - it is not something on which I'm interested in having other people vote.

Comment author: V_V 18 December 2012 12:40:50AM 0 points [-]

Quiz: Who said it?

I would be asking for more people to make as much money as possible if they’re the sorts of people who can make a lot of money and can donate a substantial amount fraction, never mind all the minimal living expenses, to the Singularity Institute. This is crunch time. This is crunch time for the entire human species. […] and it’s crunch time not just for us, it’s crunch time for the intergalactic civilization whose existence depends on us. I think that if you’re actually just going to sort of confront it, rationally, full-on, then you can’t really justify trading off any part of that intergalactic civilization for any intrinsic thing that you could get nowadays

Comment author: wedrifid 18 December 2012 01:34:40AM 1 point [-]

Context please.

Comment author: hairyfigment 18 December 2012 04:11:08AM 0 points [-]

By a startling coincidence, V_V's editing seems deliberately deceptive:

So for example, if you’re making money on Wall Street, I’m not sure you should be donating all but minimal living expenses because that may or may not be sustainable for you. And in particular if you’re, say, making 500,000 dollars a year and you’re keeping 50,000 dollars of that per year, which is totally not going to work in New York, probably, then it’s probably more effective to double your living expenses to 100,000 dollars per year and have the amount donated to the Singularity Institute go from 450,000 to 400,000 when you consider how much more likely that makes it that more people follow in your footsteps. That number is totally not realistic and not even close to the percentage of income donated versus spent on living expenses for present people working on Wall Street who are donors to the Singularity Institute.

Question 5, if you don't want to paste into Find. Ph33r my drunken library school graduate skillz!

Comment author: V_V 18 December 2012 10:14:35AM 1 point [-]

I didn't edit it myself, I pasted it from there

Anyway, the editing doesn't seem to be particularly deceptive: apparently there is a special clause for Wall Street bankers that allows them to trade the bright future of our intergalactic (sic) descendants for their immediate personal luxuries.

Comment author: MugaSofer 09 January 2013 12:58:07PM -1 points [-]

... are you implying that Eliezer is wrong to be working to save the world, because he could earn significantly more money and pay others to do better? How much do you think his current "crunch time" efforts would cost?

Comment author: V_V 10 January 2013 05:51:57PM *  -1 points [-]

No. Yudkowsky is paid by the SI, hence he could just donate to the SI just by accepting a lower salary.

He claims that any single dollar of extra funding the SI has could make the difference between an exceptionally positive scenario (Frendly superhuman AI, intergalactic civlization, immortality, etc) and an exceptionally negative one (evil robots who kill us all). He asks other people to forfeit a substantial part of their income to secure this positive scenario and avert the negative one. He claims to be working to literaly save the world, therefore, to be working on his very own survival.

And then, he draws from the SI resources that could be used to hire additional staff and do more research, just to support his lifestyle of relative luxury.

He could live in a smaller house, he could move himself and the SI to a less expensive area (the Silicon Valley is one of the most expensive areas in the world, and there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason for the SI to be located there). If he is honest about his claimed beliefs, if he "confronted them, rationally, full-on", how could he be possibly trading any part of the bright future of ours (and his) intergalactic descendants, how could he be trading the chance of his own survival, for a nice house in an expensive neighborhood?

I'm not suggesting he should move to a slum in Calcutta and live on a subsistence wage, but certainly he doesn't seem to be willing to make any sacrifice for what he claims to believe, expecially when he asks other people to make such sacrifices.

Of course, I'm sure he can come with a thousand rationalizations for that behavior. He could say that a lifestyle any less luxurious than his current one would negatively affect the productivity of his so much important work. I won't buy it, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Comment author: gwern 10 January 2013 06:48:00PM *  5 points [-]

he could move himself and the SI to a less expensive area (the Silicon Valley is one of the most expensive areas in the world, and there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason for the SI to be located there)

There are compelling reasons to be there: it is the epicenter of the global tech world. You will not find a place more interested in these topics, with more potential donors, critics, potential employees, etc.

This is the same reasoning for why the WikiMedia Foundation moved from St Petersburg, Florida to San Francisco back in 2007 or 2008 or so: that they would be able to recruit more talent and access more big donors.

I was a little disgusted at the high cost of living since I thought the WMF's role ought to be basically keeping the servers running and it was a bad idea to go after more ambitious projects and the big donors to pay for those projects. But sure enough, a year or two later, the multi-million dollar donations and grants began to come in. Or notice that Givewell is still located in NYC, even after spending a while working out of India with a much lower cost of living (Mumbai, not your Calcutta, but close enough).

I still think the projects themselves are largely wasted, and that the WMF should have been obsessed with reducing editor attrition & deletionism rather than SWPL projects like African DVDs and so I stopped donating long ago; but the move itself performed as advertised.

Comment author: V_V 11 January 2013 09:50:33AM -2 points [-]

There are compelling reasons to be there: it is the epicenter of the global tech world. You will not find a place more interested in these topics, with more potential donors, critics, potential employees, etc.

This is the same reasoning for why the WikiMedia Foundation moved from St Petersburg, Florida to San Francisco back in 2007 or 2008 or so: that they would be able to recruit more talent and access more big donors.

AFAIK the SI doens't do software development or direct computer science research. Other than operating Less Wrong, their main outputs seem to be philosophical essays and some philosophical pubblications, plus the annual Singularity Summits (which makes sense to do in the Silicon Valley, but don't have to be physically close to the SI main location). A cursory look on the SI team pages suggests that most of the staff are not CompSci professionals, and many of them didn't get their education or did research at Stanford or other Silicon Valley colleges.

From the donors point of view, IIUC, most of the money donated to the SI comes from very few big donors, Peter Thiel in particular donates much more than everybody else (maybe more than everybody else combined?). I suppose that such donors would continue to support the SI even if it was relocated.

Even assuming that there are benefits from staying in the Silicon Valley that outweight the costs, the point stands that Yudkowsky could accept a lower salary while still staying well above subsistence level.

Comment author: gwern 11 January 2013 05:13:52PM 2 points [-]

AFAIK the SI doens't do software development or direct computer science research. Other than operating Less Wrong, their main outputs seem to be philosophical essays and some philosophical pubblications, plus the annual Singularity Summits (which makes sense to do in the Silicon Valley, but don't have to be physically close to the SI main location). A cursory look on the SI team pages suggests that most of the staff are not CompSci professionals, and many of them didn't get their education or did research at Stanford or other Silicon Valley colleges.

The audience and donors are there, which is enough, but your point about the people is not strong: most of the people in Silicon Valley was not taught at Stanford, does that mean they are wasting their time there? Of course not, it just points out how California sucks in strange people and techies (and both) from around the world eg. my elder sister was raised and went to college on the east coast, but guess where she's working now? Silicon Valley.

From the donors point of view, IIUC, most of the money donated to the SI comes from very few big donors, Peter Thiel in particular donates much more than everybody else (maybe more than everybody else combined?). I suppose that such donors would continue to support the SI even if it was relocated.

You suppose that because it is convenient for your claim that being in Silicon Valley is wasteful, not because it is true. The widespread absence of telecommuting in corporations, the worldwide emphasis on clustering into cities so you can be physically close to everyone, how donors in every charity like to physically meet principles and "look them in the eyes", the success of LW meetups - all these point to presence being better than absence.

SI would never have gotten Thiel's support, I suspect, if it had remained in Atlanta. Having gotten his support, it will not keep it by moving out of Silicon Valley. Having moved out of Silicon Valley, it will find it hard to find any more donors.

What, like Thiel is guaranteed to never drop support? Even in such an absurd situation, why would you risk it by ignoring all other big donors? And what if you wanted to grow? If SI were to leave Silicon Valley to save some money on salaries, it would be a major long-term strategic mistake which would justify everything critics might say about SI being incompetent in choosing to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Even assuming that there are benefits from staying in the Silicon Valley that outweight the costs, the point stands that Yudkowsky could accept a lower salary while still staying well above subsistence level.

Dunno, but that wasn't the point I was addressing.

Comment author: V_V 11 January 2013 07:10:53PM -2 points [-]

Of course not, it just points out how California sucks in strange people and techies (and both) from around the world eg. my elder sister was raised and went to college on the east coast, but guess where she's working now? Silicon Valley.

Yes, of course the Silicon Valley attracts CompSci professionals from all over the world, but the SI doesn't employ them. Strange people you say? I've never been to San Francisco, but I've heard that it's considered home to weirdos of every possible kind. Maybe that's the people the SI panders to?

SI would never have gotten Thiel's support, I suspect, if it had remained in Atlanta. Having gotten his support, it will not keep it by moving out of Silicon Valley. Having moved out of Silicon Valley, it will find it hard to find any more donors.

Well, I dunno. It's not like Peter Thiel doesn't know how to use the Internet or can't afford flying. Facebook, for instance, was located in Massachusetts and only moved to the Silicon Valley in 2011.

Comment author: gwern 11 January 2013 08:13:55PM 2 points [-]

Yes, of course the Silicon Valley attracts CompSci professionals from all over the world, but the SI doesn't employ them. Strange people you say? I've never been to San Francisco, but I've heard that it's considered home to weirdos of every possible kind. Maybe that's the people the SI panders to?

All people who like SI are by definition out of the mainstream, but not all people out of the mainstream are whom SI 'panders' to.

It's not like Peter Thiel doesn't know how to use the Internet or can't afford flying.

And yet...

Facebook, for instance, was located in Massachusetts and only moved to the Silicon Valley in 2011.

How wasteful of them. Don't they know they can just use the Internet to do this thing called 'social networking'? There's no reason for them to be in Silicon Valley. Hopefully their shareholders will do something about that.

Comment author: hairyfigment 18 December 2012 04:08:19AM 0 points [-]

Who said:

There are maybe two or three people in the entire world who spend only the bare possible minimum on themselves, and contribute everything else to a rationally effective charity. They have an excuse for not signing up. No one else does.