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Hanging Out My Speaker's Shingle

6 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2008 02:00PM

I was recently invited to give a talk on heuristics and biases at Jane Street Capital, one of the top proprietary trading firms ("proprietary" = they trade their own money).  When I got back home, I realized that (a) I'd successfully managed to work through the trip, and (b) it'd been very pleasant mentally, a nice change of pace.  (One of these days I have to blog about what I discovered at Jane Street - it turns out they've got their own rationalist subculture going.)

So I've decided to hang out my shingle as a speaker at financial companies.

You may be thinking:  "Perhaps, Eliezer, this is not the best of times."

Well... I do have hopes that, among the firms interested in having me as a speaker, a higher-than-usual percentage will have come out of the crash okay.  I checked recently to see if this were the case for Jane Street Capital, and it was.

But more importantly - your competitors are learning the secrets of rationality!  Are you? 

Or maybe I should frame it as:  "Not doing too well this year?  Drop the expensive big-name speakers.  I can give a fascinating and useful talk and I won't charge you as much."

And just to offer a bit of a carrot - if I can monetize by speaking, I'm much less likely to try charging for access to my future writings.  No promises, but something to keep in mind.  So do recommend me to your friends as well.

I expect that, as I speak, the marginal value of money to my work will go down; the more I speak, the more my price will go up.  If my (future) popular book on rationality becomes a hit, I'll upgrade to big-name fees.  And later in my life, if all goes as planned, I'll be just plain not available.

So I'm offering you, my treasured readers, a chance to get me early.  I would suggest referencing this page when requesting me as a speaker.  Emails will be answered in the order they arrive.

Comments (37)

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Comment author: burger_flipper2 05 November 2008 02:41:08PM 0 points [-]

For anyone who encounters trouble with the three links to the speaker page, here's the direct address:http://yudkowsky.net/contact/speaking

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2008 03:18:19PM 0 points [-]

BF, what kind of trouble did you encounter? I don't see any on my end (Firefox 3 / XP).

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 05 November 2008 03:43:41PM 1 point [-]

Why do people, including you apparently, always hide the price for this kind of thing? Market segmentation? Trying to get people to mentally commit before they find out how expensive it is? Maintaining a veneer of upper-class distaste for the crassness of money (or similarly, a "if you have to ask how much it is, you can't afford it" type thing)?

Sorry, I just hate it when I'm looking at some product or service for sale on a webpage and they won't tell you the damn price. I usually assume that it must be overpriced.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2008 04:06:57PM 3 points [-]

Personally, I'm doing it mainly because everyone else is (stop laughing, it's an important heuristic that should only be overridden when you have a definite reason).

But it does make some sense, I think. A talk isn't a fungible widget. Different levels of inconvenience to talk at different places and different times. A website that won't tell me how much a fungible widget costs - now *that's* annoying.

In general terms, I'd say that my price is in the $$ range, as opposed to $ or $$$$.

Comment author: Jack_Christopher 05 November 2008 04:21:46PM 0 points [-]

EY, were you ever in Toastmasters?

"Not doing too well this year? Ditch the expensive big-name speakers. I can give a fascinating and useful talk and I won't charge you as much."

The conventional wisdom the says that charging more will get you *more* gigs. The line of reasoning being, "If he cost that much, he must me an authority."

But you have a while before you'll be viewed that way outside of H+ (and OB now too, great to see ).

But do you think people who hire you to speak will adjust for that and end up paying you less?

Comment author: Peter3 05 November 2008 06:20:53PM 0 points [-]

I don't even know what this blog is supposed to be about anymore. Also, your popular book on rationality - has that come out yet?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2008 06:33:04PM 1 point [-]

Peter, my plans call for me to compile the already-written material into ebooks, and then, once I've looked over everything I have to say, decide which parts to rewrite as a popular book. In other words, not for an appreciable amount of time.

Jack, I've spoken on many occasions previously but I was never in Toastmasters.

Comment author: Roland2 05 November 2008 07:00:14PM 0 points [-]

@Jack Christopher: what is H+?

Comment author: Anonymous46 05 November 2008 07:32:05PM 0 points [-]

H+ -> transhumanism

Comment author: Peter3 05 November 2008 07:48:58PM 0 points [-]

H+ -> Bronsted-Lowry acid

I'm much less likely to try charging for access to my future writings. No promises. . . If my (future) popular book on rationality becomes a hit, I'll upgrade to big-name fees. And later in my life, if all goes as planned, I'll be just plain not available.

Why? That's really very elitist of you, in my opinion. Bear in mind that even if "rationalize" the property owning gentry (which may or may not be possible), the poor, uneducated, and irrational groups will still oppose your AI and H+ on the grounds that they are unnatural. Information and education should be free - you're planning on eventually charging people money, just for access to your writing? That's very selfish, and, if you do so, I actually expect that the quality of your work will deteriorate proportionally.

Comment author: Caledonian2 05 November 2008 08:25:21PM 2 points [-]

Personally, I'm doing it mainly because everyone else is (stop laughing, it's an important heuristic that should only be overridden when you have a definite reason).

Most smart people I know think that "because everyone else does it" IS a definite reason.

Information and education should be free

Why? People don't value what they get for free. Education was once valued very highly by the common folk in America. That changed once education began to be provided as a right, and children were obliged to go to school instead of its being a sacrifice on the family's part.

That's very selfish

You say that like it's a bad thing. I am neither a Randian nor a libertarian, but comments like yours push me closer to that line every day.

Comment author: Zubon 05 November 2008 10:09:17PM 1 point [-]

you're planning on eventually charging people money, just for access to your writing? That's very selfish, and, if you do so, I actually expect that the quality of your work will deteriorate proportionally.

Just to warn you, if you see a building labeled "Borders" or "Barnes and Noble" around, use caution. The culture shock could be a bit jarring. Similarly with online references to amazons.

(Also note "popular" in the sense of "for a popular audience (non-specialists)" rather than the Wicked musical sense.)

Comment author: Peter3 05 November 2008 11:21:32PM 0 points [-]

Why? People don't value what they get for free. Education was once valued very highly. . . that changed once education began to be provided as a right, and children were obliged

Nice try. I'm not advocating that we force other people to read Eliezer's writing (I would never advocate that), in the same manner that children are forced to undergo American indoctrination at a young age. By your reasoning, the Nordic countries should value education less than the US since higher education is free there - except that the Nordic people are some of the most educated on Earth.

You think people value the access provided by the internet and libraries less, simply because they're essentially free (especially when compared to products of the publishing industry)?

The main distinction, I think, is that I'm talking about the free availability of information whereas you're trying to make it appear as though I'm talking about forcing it on somebody (like making children go to public school). There's free, and then there's "free because it's required".

You say that like it's a bad thing. I am neither a Randian nor a libertarian, but comments like yours push me closer to that line every day.

Whether or not selfishness is a bad thing depends on the context in which it exists. Also, your philosophical stances should not be reactionary but pragmatic and rational. If my mere commentary can push you towards Rand or libertarianism, then something else is wrong entirely and I should not be blamed.

Just to warn you, if you see a building labeled "Borders" or "Barnes and Noble" around, use caution. The culture shock could be a bit jarring. Similarly with online references to amazons.

I already believe the publishing industry is evil, so I'm not sure effect you're going for - because the distributors can't be much better.

Comment author: Zubon 05 November 2008 11:41:32PM 0 points [-]

I already believe the publishing industry is evil, so I'm not sure effect you're going for - because the distributors can't be much better.

Interesting. Do you believe that books should not be published? That they should be published for free (i.e., will not be published)? Something else? Do you also work for free? I am curious about how this works.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil3 05 November 2008 11:46:10PM 0 points [-]

how much will you be charging for bar mitzvahs?

Comment author: Matthew_C.2 06 November 2008 12:45:03AM 0 points [-]

This is off topic, but bestselling author and OB reader and occasional commenter Michael Crichton has died.

Comment author: John_Maxwell 06 November 2008 12:47:10AM 1 point [-]

I don't even know what this blog is supposed to be about anymore.

I think we should rename it "Robin and Eliezers' Varied Thoughts".

Comment author: Peter3 06 November 2008 01:00:58AM 0 points [-]

Do you believe that books should not be published?

Is that a serious question, or is it rhetorical? I don't object to publishing, I object to the publishing industry, its orientation, and the treatment of authors. Of course I believe writers' work should be published. In fact, in a lot of cases it is the publishing industry which prevents this - because it is too often a game of politics and capital. Most books don't get published anyway, as I'm sure you know - making this objection a moot point. So really, if you support the publishing industry, I should be asking you this question... Well?

I'm not limiting my arguments domain to book publishing, either.

>Do you also work for free?

Writing is only lucrative for a very small minority. Most writers effectively work for free, partly because their work never gets published. And for most of the rest, writing is not a primary source of income - meaning that if they had to live off writing, they would be living in poverty.

Anyway, to really answer this question I would have to get into a discussion about the merits of guaranteed income.

But if you're really curious, and not just trying to draw me into a debate, then I suggest you start by inverting or redirecting all of your questions to the publishing industry itself. And if you want to investigate alternatives, look to the internet - which definitely has the potential to destroy the industry.

And like I said, I'm not limiting my argument to book publishing either. The internet is already destroying newspapers. You realize what we're doing now would have had to go through a newspaper's editorial page some time ago - with some editor picking and choosing which of our opinions to publish, and the obligatory inclusion of his own thoughts on the matter (not that it doesn't happen here, also, as I've heard that comments getting deleted on OB is not as rare as we all think)?

There are also good possibilities for applications to academic journals.

Point being, the industry is a dinosaur. And there are as many reasons for it being evil as there are for perceiving it as ancient - the way writers are treated, its affect on the assimilation/dissemination of information, the way readers are treated, elitism, etc.

Comment author: Compromising_Position 06 November 2008 03:01:47AM 0 points [-]

Sheesh. Perhaps EY has found a way around this, but I've found that charging money compromises your ability to be completely honest. You are motivated to make money by giving people what they will pay for, and you are motivated to preserve future opportunities to make money by being what people want/will pay for.

The only way to guarantee honesty is to take away any reason to need to lie.

Comment author: Alex6 06 November 2008 03:47:03AM 0 points [-]

Does Eliezer realize there was a fairly monumental election (as these things go) yesterday? Most of the time this blog seems like it could've been written on some distant planet in the year 5050, totally sealed off from the rest of today's humanity. There's a whole, messy, real, non-speculative world out there. Surely, from time to time, there's something in it worth commenting on?

Comment author: Court3 06 November 2008 04:20:59AM 0 points [-]

Peter,

Go on.

Eliezer,

I'd be interested to hear your comments on the election, also.

Comment author: Michael_G.R. 06 November 2008 05:18:06AM 0 points [-]

"Jack, I've spoken on many occasions previously but I was never in Toastmasters."

If you're planning to be speaking for money, Toastmasters might be a good investment. I would recommend at least checking it out to see what you could get out of it. Since you are not a beginner, you should check out 'advanced' clubs.

With public speaking, there's nothing like experience. TM allows you to practice in a friendly environment where you can try new approaches (doesn't matter if they fail), and to benefit from the knowledge of a group of people who have been doing this for a while and should be able to give you more useful feedback than most other groups.

You can also use the club as a way to practice for media appearances (tv interviews, radio, etc).

Comment author: Z._M._Davis 06 November 2008 05:40:47AM 1 point [-]

Alex: "Most of the time this blog seems like it could've been written on some distant planet in the year 5050, totally sealed off from the rest of today's humanity."

Don't you prefer it that way?

Comment author: Alex7 06 November 2008 06:14:35AM 0 points [-]

ZM,

I don't want to see daily commentary on current events -- god knows there's plenty of that out there already. But the readership might benefit from seeing Eliezer's mode of analysis trained upon something outside his somewhat narrow range of interests. The blog is called "Overcoming Bias," after all; I'm fairly sure there are ways to improve our thinking and "overcome bias" in domains other than the Singularity, AI, etc. If anything, some broadening of scope (without sacrificing analytical rigor) might attract a larger audience, many of whom currently may be getting turned off by the strong whiff of sci-fi geekdom that pervades most of Eliezer's posts. Just a thought.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 November 2008 06:24:51AM 0 points [-]

Alex, I posted on the election on the day of the election. However, it's not like the results were significant news, since Intrade already gave Obama a 93% chance of winning.

(j/k)

Compromising, I agree that this is a problem, and would estimate that it's only 300 times less worrying for me to be exposed to this in the domain of talking to hedge funds about rationality, versus my actual day job in AI. In other words, any income I get from this is a liberating factor with respect to my real job, which you should be vastly more worried about - though talking about rationality also counts for something.

Comment author: Ben_Jones 06 November 2008 12:31:45PM 0 points [-]

I think we should rename it "Robin and Eliezers' Varied Thoughts".

John, Alex; Meh. Long as it's interesting who cares? Nobody promised anyone posts on any particular topic, and nodoby's forcing your mouse clicks. If it makes you feel better, rename your bookmark 'Metaphysical Singularity Sci-Fi'.

the strong whiff of sci-fi geekdom that pervades most of Eliezer's posts.

You say it like it's a bad thing.

Comment author: talisman2 06 November 2008 02:45:18PM 0 points [-]

Is Michael Crichton cryopreserved?

Comment author: Yvain2 06 November 2008 03:46:00PM 0 points [-]

"Why do people, including you apparently, always hide the price for this kind of thing? Market segmentation? Trying to get people to mentally commit before they find out how expensive it is? Maintaining a veneer of upper-class distaste for the crassness of money (or similarly, a "if you have to ask how much it is, you can't afford it" type thing)?"

I agree with that, and I have a policy of never buying from anyone who does this.

Often I don't know how much something would cost even to an order of magnitude; for example, I have no clue whether Eliezer charged Jane Street closer to $1,000 or $10,000 for his talk. This is probably because I'm not a finance company talk arranger, but I have the same problem with things that are targeted at normal people like me (vacation packages especially). I find (though I can't explain this) that I very rarely bother asking someone who provides no price information for a quote.

Even a "my base fee is $2,000, but varies based on this and this" or a "My fee is in the low four figures" would be better than "my fee is low".

Comment author: Friend 06 November 2008 07:05:52PM 0 points [-]

"If my (future) popular book on rationality becomes a hit, I'll upgrade to big-name fees. And later in my life, if all goes as planned, I'll be just plain not available."

What do you mean by later in your life? 30, 40, 50 years old? I'm asking because this seems to imply that you're not very confident that you'll initiate a hard takeoff anytime soon. It seems like you've come to accept that the world will be basically the same in 20-30 years as it is now. I guess what I'm saying is, you've created a situation where the best you can do is try, and trying likely won't get the job done. You need to do: you need to create friendly AI and believe that you will (even if this turns out to be misinformed in the long run).

Comment author: Caledonian2 06 November 2008 07:28:52PM 1 point [-]

You can't escape the temptation to lie to people just by having them not pay you in money. There are other forms of payment, of renumeration, besides money.

In fact, if you care about anything involving people or capable of being affected by them in some way, there can always arise situations in which you could maximize some of your goals or preferences by deceiving them.

There are only a few goals or preferences that change this -- chief among them, the desire to get what you want without deception. If you possess those goals or preferences in a dominant form, there's no temptation. If you don't, there's also no temptation, because you have no objection.

'Temptation' only arises when the preference for doing things one way is not stably dominant over not doing things that way.

Comment author: Glen_Raphael 06 November 2008 08:15:57PM 0 points [-]

Look here or here to find out how much it costs to get a talk by Adam West ($20-30k), or Bill Cosby($100k+), or Scott "Dilbert" Adams ($45k) or hundreds of other speakers of varying status. As soon as you are giving enough talks to have a handle on what your market value might be, it's probably to your advantage to join one or more speaker registries and just list it.

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 06 November 2008 08:33:59PM 0 points [-]

"I'm asking because this seems to imply that you're not very confident that you'll initiate a hard takeoff anytime soon."

Au contraire, Eliezer being spectacularly successful would be a scenario in which he with a clean conscience could then make himself unavailable for as long as he likes.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight3 07 November 2008 02:12:21AM 0 points [-]

Trying to get people to mentally commit before they find out how expensive it is?

Bah, that's nothing. For American healthcare, you have to actually commit before learning the price.

Comment author: Friend 07 November 2008 02:41:06AM 0 points [-]

Aleksei, alls I'm saying is it seems like Eliezer Yudkowski has lost his edge. The fire that was once in his gut is now in the part of his brain implicated in money making. With that said, I like the Bloomingdales Executive Training program for him.

Comment author: Savage 07 November 2008 02:58:32AM 0 points [-]

Yeah, I mean... who needs Friendly AI anyway?

No big deal, we can just put that off until later, or better yet- indefinitely!

There is no need for a single Friendly AI researcher AT ALL!

Right? Am I reading this wrong?

Comment author: Hopefully_Anonymous 07 November 2008 11:00:21AM 0 points [-]

wow there's some haters in this thread. You can tell when Caledonian feels compelled to defend Eliezer. Peter? Apt name.

Comment author: Friend 08 November 2008 03:37:17AM -2 points [-]

I love Eliezer. When I'm feeling down I take a sleeping pill and try to lucid dream about Eli. Eli is very aloof in real life but he and I are really close friends in dream life.