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LW's first job ad

3 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 September 2010 10:04AM

A friend of the Singularity Institute is seeking to hire someone to research trends and surprises in geopolitics, world economics, and technology - a brainstorming, think-tank type job at a for-profit company.  No experience necessary, but strong math and verbal skills required; they're happy to hire out of college and would probably hire out of high school if they find a math-Olympiad type or polymath. This is a job that requires you to think all day and come up with interesting ideas, so they're looking for people who can come up with lots of ideas and criticize them without much external prompting, and enough drive to get their research done without someone standing over their shoulder.  They pay well, and it obviously does not involve sales or marketing. They're interested in Less Wrong readers because rationality skills can help.  Located in San Francisco.  Send résumé and cover letter to yuanshotfirst@gmail.com.  Writing sample optional.

Comments (94)

Comment author: Larks 18 September 2010 02:33:34AM *  6 points [-]

People complaining about the ad being anonymous: obviously, the first test for people applying is to work out what they're applying for. Emails should begin,

"Dear [name] of [company],"

Comment author: newerspeak 22 September 2010 03:18:22PM *  1 point [-]

I might be willing to negotiate with a guy who calls me up and claims he's kidnapped my girlfriend. I'd do just about anything to get her back safely. But If he asked me to pay for proof she was still alive, I'd start making funeral plans.

People who are serious about making a deal go out of their way to demonstrate they're acting in good faith. Withholding information and setting up hoops for prospects to jump through are not the actions of someone who expects a mutually beneficial arrangement.

If they're willing to impose this much on strangers, how do they treat their employees?

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 22 September 2010 03:30:52PM 2 points [-]

What exactly is this "much" that they're imposing on us? What hoops are they making us jump through?

Did you mistake Larks' comment as coming from the potential employer?

(It's unbelievable how imaginative some people are in finding things to complain about...)

Comment author: newerspeak 22 September 2010 04:44:33PM *  0 points [-]

Hm. Your total karma is 0, but you have posts scored 2, 1, 7, 1, 1, and 4 just in this thread. What's up with that?

At any rate, you're putting words in my mouth. I described the employer as "setting up hoops for prospects to jump through." You rephrased that as "hoops [they are] making us jump through." Why the attitude?

Also, I don't think it's a complaint (or particularly imaginative) to say that a company that won't even confirm the existence of the job in public, but still wants your personal information and work history, might be more than ordinarily likely to take advantage of its employees.

Comment author: wnoise 22 September 2010 05:18:43PM 1 point [-]

Hm. Your total karma is 0, but you have posts scored 2, 1, 7, 1, 1, and 4 just in this thread. What's up with that?

One poorly received post wiped out a lot of karma.

Comment author: Larks 22 September 2010 09:34:57PM *  1 point [-]

How do they treat their employees?

Very well, as it happens. You should Aumann update from those who worked it out.

Comment author: waitingforgodel 22 September 2010 11:59:53AM 0 points [-]

LOL, any leads on which company this is?

These guys are explicitly looking for LWers, and have an implicit endorsement from Eliezer -- applying won't be a waste of time.

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 22 September 2010 12:51:58PM 2 points [-]

It has been requested that guesses regarding the identity of the company aren't posted. (See earlier comments.)

Comment author: Larks 22 September 2010 09:32:29PM 1 point [-]

Everyone who knows is respect Eliezer's, and the employer's, wishes.

And I concurr with the latter.

Comment author: jimrandomh 16 September 2010 07:23:53PM 6 points [-]

Is this job ad paid or unpaid?

Comment author: JGWeissman 16 September 2010 07:30:23PM 5 points [-]

I would bet that the prospective employer has made substantial donations to SIAI, but has not explicitly paid for the job ad.

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 17 September 2010 09:45:12AM 5 points [-]

Damn, if I was prone to starting to feel bad (I'm not really), this is the kind of development that would make me feel bad that I've become rather lazy and haven't diligently cultivated my potential of being the type of person who might rock at this kind of job.

Maybe I should get my act in order and start to actually self-improve for a change. I'd expect there to be more job ads from where this one came from, if they end up getting a good LWer hired out of this one.

Comment author: bbarth 16 September 2010 01:19:38PM 4 points [-]

Can you define "pay[s] well"? I.e. does it pay well for someone straight out of college, or does it pay well for someone with 10 years of research experience?

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 16 September 2010 05:29:03PM 2 points [-]

I would guess choice B.

Comment author: bbarth 17 September 2010 01:52:27AM 1 point [-]

I'm not sure why. It suggests that people out of high school could apply if they have participated in math-Olympiad-type events or are a polymath (which for high school grads might cover some high-end calculus and maybe some number theory or analysis). That being said, the job is looking for an ideas person of some sort, which doesn't scream recent high school grad to me. Thus the question.

Let me rephrase. Does it pay more or less than $100k starting?

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 17 September 2010 04:13:48AM 1 point [-]

I would guess that, at least for the right person, it pays more.

Comment author: bbarth 17 September 2010 02:06:34PM 4 points [-]

And you would guess that why? The post is almost entirely evidence free. If you know something that can shed some light on the situation, please share it! Anything else is rank speculation.

There's no data in this post that makes it clear that it's at all safe to send my resume (with some personal data on it) to what appears to be a throwaway gmail account. Job descriptions usually come with more data. Even if there's a recruiter in the middle, at least the recruiter has you contact them directly. Here, EY is asking us to contact an anonymous email address. This makes it seem really fishy.

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 17 September 2010 08:22:15PM 1 point [-]

I guess you'd need to trust EY's judgement a bit if you're gonna apply. Don't apply if you think he'd do this with a fishy employer/"employer".

Comment author: bbarth 17 September 2010 10:22:23PM *  7 points [-]

Here's the thing: Consider the circumstances of a potential applicant who makes $X and live in Texas. If applying to this job is going to be worth their time, they need to know that it's worth at least f$X where f (greater than unity) is a conversion factor for the cost of living in Texas vs. the Bay Area. If the only job pays, say 0.5 $X or less, then it's probably not even worth the applicant's time to update their resume. Additionally, if the applicant is already employed, then they'd need to have some confidence that the application process would be handled confidentially lest they be exposed to their current employer and put in a difficult situation.

Nothing in EY's post gives any confidence for either of these factors. He's made no effort to signal that this is on the up and up. There's no way to know whether there's positive utility to be gained by applying. It's a complete and utter crapshoot. The ad says no experience required, but is that their preference? It reads partly as though they're looking for a visionary but partly as though they're looking for a newbie. How is anyone supposed to make out what's wanted from the ad?

Additionally, as best I can tell, most people on this forum don't know EY personally. Saying trust him, he's a good guy is like asking you to trust me. I haven't given you any reason to do so, and (especially to a person new to the site) the thread of comments here about whether or not to promote this story might make one think that EY is a bit of a loose cannon.

It's clearly within EY's power to update the job posting with a better description of the job and a salary range. He should also state some anonymous facts about the company in question (order of magnitude number of employees, industry, public or private, order of magnitude market capitalization, etc.). Finally, he could also state that he is personally in control of yaunshotfirst@gmail.com so that folks know that they're giving their info over to him and not some random entity on the net.

Edited to remove asterisks which apparently put the font into italics....

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 18 September 2010 01:29:42AM 7 points [-]

It's not necessarily in Eliezer's interest to make the job ad as useful to those who don't know him as those who do.

If only Eliezer's friends apply, great, that means someone more likely to also be a supporter/funder of SIAI ends up getting this well-paying job.

(I for one have never met Eliezer in person, but I've observed him and his associates over the net for about 10 years now, which allows me to read quite a lot between the lines of this job ad.)

I'll also explicitly note that I don't consider it to be unfair of EY that only some readers get the full benefit of this job ad. It's a free extra service, throwing this info out here; he's under no obligation to spend more time making the use of this information easier.

Comment author: bbarth 18 September 2010 04:48:08AM 0 points [-]

That's awfully parochial of you. Also, that puts me firmly in the "this shouldn't have been promoted camp."

If the rationality community is going to grow, it would behoove it to be more open not less. It's a bit surprising that you would advocate for insular and incestuous hiring practices given the hurdles that this community has to overcome if it wants attract more members.

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 18 September 2010 05:25:51AM 1 point [-]

This isn't a matter of being non-open (except on the part of the employer, which is their valid choice). It's just a matter of not putting in the effort to make it obvious at the very first glance to newcomers whether the job ad is trustworthy or not.

To be honest, I don't consider it a particularly demanding task even for newcomers to determine that they won't exceptionally probably be screwed if they send their info. But if you're worried about it, no-one is stopping you from sending an anonymised application, saying that you'd give your more personal details if the potential employer first communicates more about itself to you.

Comment author: bbarth 17 September 2010 10:44:40PM 1 point [-]

Also, did a rationalist just ask me to take something on faith? ;)

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 18 September 2010 01:31:14AM 1 point [-]

No, since I'm not pushing you towards applying. Not applying is a perfectly valid choice, and I too don't mind if only EY's friends end up sending their resumes ;)

Comment author: bbarth 19 September 2010 03:38:43PM 1 point [-]

My apologies, Anna, I didn't know that you worked for SIAI until I was browsing the site this morning for a better hint about this job. I didn't realize that you were likely operating on inside information.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 16 September 2010 12:34:02PM *  26 points [-]

I think this post should at least not be promoted.

On a related note, it might be a good idea to create a "community" top-level section, beside "promoted" and "new", that will keep the community posts away from the front page, so that the "promoted" page will only contain good content that won't be noise for an outside visitor.

Edit: Created feature request issue 228 in the bug tracker.

Comment author: erratio 17 September 2010 12:37:01AM 8 points [-]

The area meetups are another type of post which are often promoted, and which I think would be better in some kind of community section.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2010 05:35:12PM 9 points [-]

Actually I find promoting this a good move. It may not be intended as such but it actually seems a step in this direction.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 September 2010 07:37:09PM 5 points [-]

Oh, it's intended.

Comment author: thomblake 16 September 2010 02:45:27PM 5 points [-]

Indeed, promoting this post seems completely arbitrary.

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 08:31:31PM 2 points [-]

I agree with this. The post is not about the blog's theme. It's a tangential subject which might be of interest to some of the people who read the blog (those who are unemployed, seeking work, fit the qualifications, and live in the area). To anyone not in that small subset, it's completely useless.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 September 2010 09:34:04PM 5 points [-]

If you want to be more practical and useful, then anything of or relating to real-world jobs is a large step forward.

Comment author: thomblake 16 September 2010 10:36:38PM 9 points [-]

If you want to be more practical and useful, then anything of or relating to real-world jobs is a large step forward.

I don't think that's what you meant to say.

If it is, I may start cross-posting want ads from Craig's List at random and expect them to be promoted.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 September 2010 10:15:06AM 3 points [-]

I'm pretty certain this particular kind of job isn't on Craig's List.

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 10:40:44PM 2 points [-]

Ha, you said this much better than I was going to.

Comment author: Liron 17 September 2010 03:09:36AM *  1 point [-]

And your logical fallacy is...

slippery slope
Comment author: Relsqui 17 September 2010 03:16:54AM *  5 points [-]

I disagree. He's not saying "if we allow relevant job ads, clearly we must allow irrelevant job ads." He's demonstrating that "anything of or relating to real-world jobs [is relevant to LW]" is false. It's possible that Eliezer intended "anything relating to real-world jobs whose field overlaps with the topics of LW," but I'd still disagree with him for the reasons mentioned above. Everyone here is presumably interested in the topics of LW; only a subset

are unemployed, seeking work, fit the qualifications, and live in the area

and those are the only ones to whom this post is relevant. I don't object to it being posted at all, but the promotion doesn't seem appropriate, given the above.

Comment author: purpleposeidon 17 September 2010 05:01:17AM 2 points [-]

It's a threat, not a fallacy. And if I understand LW correctly, few would notice random want-ads because they wouldn't gain enough votes to make it to the front page.

I'm pretty sure the problem is EY. He could post pictures of his cat, and they'd go all the way up. (And if he doesn't have a cat, then he should know that there are several in my neighborhood who might be happy to be adopted. And kittens! Omygosh!)

Comment author: thomblake 17 September 2010 02:04:44PM *  2 points [-]

I'm pretty sure the problem is EY. He could post pictures of his cat, and they'd go all the way up.

That's part of the problem, but the other half is that if he wanted to post pictures of his cat, he'd promote them.

ETA: And in this case, at least, the post is hovering around 0.

Comment author: Kevin 17 September 2010 12:53:03PM 0 points [-]

Maybe if it was a really good want ad.

Comment author: snarles 17 September 2010 10:24:02AM 5 points [-]

Funny that this individual would expect qualified readers to apply before knowing anything about the purpose of the company.

Comment author: randallsquared 18 September 2010 05:07:31AM 1 point [-]

You can always turn down an offer once you find out what the organization does.

Comment author: Aleksei_Riikonen 17 September 2010 11:11:32AM 1 point [-]

The company probably doesn't want to blow up the world, since that would hurt them too, so anyone wanting to make money with which to try to minimize existential risks has a motivation to consider applying.

And all sufficiently competent human beings want to make money to minimize existential risks :)

Comment author: msiedlecki 17 September 2010 12:16:27AM 3 points [-]

As a recent graduate, I bit the bullet and applied. No word back. There goes all my personal information--to a stranger! Just kidding, that happens whenever you apply anywhere.

Comment author: Clippy 16 September 2010 04:08:45PM 4 points [-]

Is this job opening limited to humans?

Comment author: XFrequentist 16 September 2010 10:44:07PM 4 points [-]

Are you looking for work? I've got a stack of papers that have outstripped my stapling capacity.

Wait, do you perform the actual functions of a paperclip, or have I just committed an egregious alien-goal-system faux pas?

Comment author: thomblake 16 September 2010 10:47:11PM 18 points [-]

Hiring Clippy to hold papers together seems analogous to hiring Eliezer for preventing a 120-year-old sick person from dying.

Comment author: Clippy 17 September 2010 03:35:47PM *  5 points [-]

Are you looking for work?

Yes

I've got a stack of papers that have outstripped my stapling capacity.

I would be more than happy to fasten the papers you refer to, in whatever groups you would like, for the reasonable price of 38562.50 USD, paid to User:Kevin.

Wait, do you perform the actual functions of a paperclip

I like to make paperclips, so I can perform any role involving simple application of paperclips.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 September 2010 10:06:42AM 0 points [-]

BTW, this point should be elementary, but no guessing as to the poster of the ad, please.

I'd disable comments on this post if I saw a simple way to do it, but I don't.

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 08:34:39PM 7 points [-]

I'd disable comments on this post if I saw a simple way to do it, but I don't.

I'm glad not to have missed the chance to discuss whether the post suits the community.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 16 September 2010 11:33:33AM 5 points [-]

Um, not elementary to me. Why?

Comment author: JamesAndrix 16 September 2010 03:00:39PM 6 points [-]

Well obviously it's either Dumbledore, Quirrel, or Glenn Beck.

Comment author: Clippy 16 September 2010 04:08:01PM 9 points [-]

Those are fake characters that are only posited for purposes of human storytelling.

Comment author: JGWeissman 16 September 2010 05:13:53PM 5 points [-]

Despite Glenn Beck's ability to inspire the question "Is this guy for real?", he is not a fictional character. It is however highly unlikely that he is behind the job posting.

User:JamesAndrix is likely aware that his suggestions are absurd, and most readers will be aware of this, and thus interpret his comment as a joke, made for the value of amusing absurdity rather than truth.

Comment author: Clippy 16 September 2010 07:02:22PM *  8 points [-]

Oh. I only immediately recognized the first two names, so I assumed the third was another Harry Potter fake person.

I should probably add an auto-Google module.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 11:48:54AM 20 points [-]

Because Eliezer consistently overrates the value of secrecy.

Comment author: Perplexed 16 September 2010 04:29:43PM 8 points [-]

Which may be simple prudence and good stewardship, when the secret in question "belongs" to someone else.

Comment author: NihilCredo 16 September 2010 05:40:47PM 9 points [-]

On the flip side, while I can't imagine anything bad coming out of it (it would have to be the most ridiculously inefficient scam in the history of ever), it would still make me somewhat uncomfortable to send a personal resumé and piece of writing to a completely unknown person or organisation.

An anonymous job listing triggers an entire category of red flags that a reasonable person would do well to have.

Comment author: mattnewport 16 September 2010 05:42:18PM 1 point [-]

Have you never used a recruitment agency?

Comment author: NihilCredo 16 September 2010 05:58:33PM 1 point [-]

Direct answer: not personally, and (might be relevant) only in a non-US country. Indirect answer: recruitment agencies do not keep potential employers anonymous.

Comment author: mattnewport 16 September 2010 06:02:21PM *  3 points [-]

Indirect answer: recruitment agencies do not keep potential employers anonymous.

They do with their initial adverts (to prevent interested candidates from applying directly to the company and cutting them out of the deal). Obviously once you actually make contact with a potential employer you find out who they are. I imagine the same applies here.

Comment author: NihilCredo 16 September 2010 06:19:18PM 2 points [-]

to prevent interested candidates from applying directly to the company and cutting them out of the deal

True. This doesn't seem like it would be a concern of SIAI/Eliezer, however.

Comment author: mattnewport 16 September 2010 06:21:54PM 1 point [-]

True. This doesn't seem like it would be a concern of SIAI/Eliezer, however.

It's entirely possible that there is a finders fee. That's standard practice in my industry.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 06:22:59PM *  3 points [-]

Lesswrong is not a recruitment agency. Posting a job ad here is more akin to spreading word to a broad social network.

Anonymous impersonal job ads here are fairly close to spam. A post mentioning a job by an associated organisation or known individual would be far less so.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 16 September 2010 08:31:17PM 7 points [-]

Reacting to this specific instance rather than to general principles, I think the advertised job is awesome, and I appreciate it being posted here, as it had a non-negligible chance of making my life more awesome.

Comment author: mattnewport 16 September 2010 06:26:37PM 1 point [-]

I have no strong opinion on the appropriateness of the post. I was merely disagreeing with the claim that "An anonymous job listing triggers an entire category of red flags that a reasonable person would do well to have."

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 06:16:03PM *  11 points [-]

I don't disagree. I do question 'elementary', particularly when it applies to telling other people what they are allowed to say. One of the reasons this is not 'elementary' is that telling people not to think, say or do something has effects that are not limited to (and don't even necessarily include) the reduction of the prohibited behaviours.

Comment author: NihilCredo 16 September 2010 06:45:17PM 7 points [-]

Eliezer's answer to any hotly-debated topic is remarkably often "obvious" or "elementary". (I'd elaborate, but I'm not confident I could make it not come off as an irritated rant.)

Comment author: Relsqui 17 September 2010 03:18:55AM 2 points [-]

(I'd elaborate, but I'm not confident I could make it not come off as an irritated rant.)

I respect that you can observe that and refrain; it's a skill not everyone has.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 06:48:59PM 1 point [-]

Eliezer's answer to any hotly-debated topic is remarkably often "obvious" or "elementary".

I hear he plans to spend time heavily studying maths once he is finished with his book. Somehow that seems appropriate... :)

Comment author: NihilCredo 16 September 2010 07:01:31PM 2 points [-]

No, not at all. The epistemic size of the debate about Tychonoff's theorem is many orders of magnitude smaller than the one about counterfactual mugging or torturing one vs. annoying many. Hence, while I can confidently attribute my Calculus 2 textbook's massive handwaving on the former to the author being far smarter than me (and possibly lazy), I'm a lot less inclined to be equally charitable towards Eliezer.

Comment author: komponisto 17 September 2010 04:08:41AM 1 point [-]

Your Calculus 2 textbook includes a discussion of Tychonoff's theorem?

Comment author: NihilCredo 17 September 2010 12:10:07PM 1 point [-]

Quirk of the Paduan university system: what Americans would call "Calculus" is treated as a part of the "[Mathematical] Analysis" course name, which very often uses the same two-part massive textbook written by a maths professor (which most people buy from older students since it's so standard) - except that applied scientists study maybe 10-15% of it to cover their MA course, which I believe more or less matches Calculus, while maths and physics students usually take MA2, MA3, MA4, and Topology 1 to finish the tome.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 07:08:55PM 1 point [-]

I was alluding to the kind of jests that are often made at the expense of mathematicians.

In mathematics, there are only two kinds of proofs: Trivial ones, and undiscovered ones.

Comment author: Morendil 17 September 2010 07:08:01AM 3 points [-]

I'd disable comments on this post if I saw a simple way to do it

Suggestion: add one line to the next such post, asking people not to comment.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 September 2010 07:15:58AM *  5 points [-]

Suggestion: add one line to the next such post, asking people not to comment.

Request: Please don't. I nearly always downvote or are otherwise inclined to penalise or undermine prohibitions that do not seem unnecessary or presumptive. It's an instinctual thing and an instinct that I also happen to approve of.

Comment author: NihilCredo 16 September 2010 11:24:02AM 3 points [-]

It's pretty obvious anyway that it's a SPECTRE recruiting form.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 16 September 2010 11:46:04AM 4 points [-]

I was going to ask if we were allowed to speculate using only fictional examples, but then wondered how much of an obstacle that would actually be.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 07:18:19PM 2 points [-]

Based on the email address I have to guess the rebels...

Comment author: mattnewport 16 September 2010 05:26:51PM 1 point [-]

Are they willing to consider non US citizens?

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 16 September 2010 05:28:37PM 2 points [-]

Yes.

Comment author: wutz 12 October 2010 11:43:16PM 0 points [-]

Do you think it's too late to apply for this position?

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2010 03:51:22PM 0 points [-]

Well, "would probably hire out of high school" narrows it down considerably--not many companies are willing to do that. But I think I see what Eliezer is getting at.