ACX Grants Results
Thanks to everyone who participated in ACX Grants, whether as an applicant, an evaluator, or a funder.
Before I announce awardees, a caveat: this was hard in lots of ways I didn't expect. I got 656 applications addressing different problems and requiring different skills to judge. I'll write a long post on it later, but the part I want to emphasize now is: if I didn't grant you money, it doesn't mean I didn't like your project. Sometimes it meant I couldn't find someone qualified to evaluate it. Other times a reviewer was concerned that if you were successful, your work might be used by terrorists / dictators / AI capabilities researchers / Republicans and cause damage in ways you couldn't foresee. Other times it meant it was a better match for some other grant organization and I handed it off to them.
Still other times, my grant reviewers tied themselves up in knots with 4D chess logic like "if they're smart enough to attempt this project, they're smart enough to know about XYZ Grants which is better suited for them, which means they're mostly banking on XYZ funding and using you as a backup, but if XYZ doesn't fund these people then that's strong evidence that they shouldn't be funded, so even though everything about them looks amazing, please reject them." I have no idea if things really work this way, but I needed some experienced grant reviewers on board and they were all like this. I took these considerations seriously and in some marginal cases they prevented funding.
My point is, (almost) all of you are great. But only some of you are great and also going to get money, and your names are below.
I’m still getting slight updates on the amount of funding available. Some of you may notice you’re getting more money than I told you in the private email I sent you, because a few funders increased their contributions last-minute. There is a very small chance that some people may decrease their contributions last minute, in which case I may have to decrease some of these numbers again. If that happens I will try to make it up to you however I can. I estimate the chance of this as less than 5%, so I’m not waiting on this to settle before announcing results.
Without further ado:
ACX Grants Awardees
Pedro Silva, $60,000, to use in silico reverse screening and molecular dynamics simulations to discover the targets of seven promising natural antibiotics and to try to develop wider-spectrum derivatives. Antibiotic resistant infections kill a 5-6 digit number of people each year, and this is the kind of basic research that could lead to new drugs somewhere down the line.
Troy Davis, $10,000, to help fund his campaign for approval voting in Seattle. Approval voting is one of the approximately 100% of voting systems better than the one we currently use, with the potential to defuse partisanship and let people support outsider candidates without "wasting their vote". Campaigns to switch to alternative voting systems have recently succeeded in several US cities, most notably St. Louis, and Troy thinks Seattle's time has come. You can read more about his efforts at Seattle Approves or see the discussion here. He wants your help getting this on the November 2022 ballot, especially from Washington State residents (email, donation link)
Michael Sklar, $100,000, to automate part of the FDA approval process. Statisticians spend a lot of time designing faster and more efficient studies, but drug companies who want to use one of these creative study designs need the FDA's permission. Right now that's hard because FDA statisticians need to analyze it manually which takes a long time. Sklar is a statistics postdoc at Stanford working on mathematical techniques to model study design. He would like to create programs that FDA statisticians can use to quickly understand how a study works and have an opinion on it. He's given talks to the FDA and they seem interested. If he can make the program and the FDA can adopt it, that might make drug companies feel more secure proposing novel trial designs and make the approval process faster and easier. Sklar is also seeking a programmer with experience in cloud computing; if interested, please email email@example.com to receive further details on the project and compensation. He also has room for more funding.
Alice Evans, $60,000, for sabbatical and travel to fund her research and associated book on "the Great Gender Divergence", ie why some countries developed gender equality norms while others didn't. A large body of research shows that gender equality, aside from its moral benefits, is also deeply important for economic development. Dr. Evans is an expert on the interaction of gender, history, and economics, whose work has been cited on BBC, Al Jazeera, and Sky News. She blogs here and podcasts here.
Trevor Klee, $20,000, to help with pharmacokinetic modeling of a possible treatment for neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases in advance of phase 1 trials. You may have already read some of Trevor's excellent essays on pharmacology, and I look forward to reading more about his successes and failures leading his new pharmaceutical startup. He's looking for a technical cofounder/CSO who's interested in drug repurposing, neurodegeneration, or autoimmune diseases. If that sounds like you or someone you know, please reach out through https://highwaypharm.com/
Yoram Bauman, $50,000, to help fund his campaign for economically literate climate change solutions. Bauman was the sponsor of the 2016 Washington carbon tax ballot initiative, which failed by a small margin. Now he's built up a coalition of economists, environmentalists, and friendly politicians to try to get climate measures passed or on the ballot in seven states by 2024. Bauman is the world's only “stand-up economist”, and also on track to be the world's only person to win a bet with Bryan Caplan. You can follow or donate to the effort he’s part of in Utah at CleanTheDarnAir.org, connect via email or twitter to chat about Nebraska, South Dakota, Arizona, Michigan, or your favorite state (firstname.lastname@example.org, @standupecon), or sign up for overall updates and see comedy videos at https://standupeconomist.com/videos/.
Nuño Sempere, $10,000, to fund his continued work on https://metaforecast.org/ and the @metaforecast bot. The website aims to be an easy way to search for predictions on a given topic; the bot aims to predict, resolve, and tally predictions and bets made by other people. People actually in the forecasting space (unlike me, who is just a poseur) who I talked to described really appreciating Nuño's work, and thought this was a valuable extension to the Internet's general forecasting infrastructure. Nuño is also a researcher at the Quantified Uncertainty Research Institute and the author of a monthly forecasting/prediction markets newsletter.
D, $5,000, to help interview for CS professor positions. D is a PhD student at a top university, with interests in EA and x-risk. He's ready to go on the professorship interview circuit, and thinks he could do a better job if he had some money to help with travel expenses and lost income beyond what schools already cover. If he gets it, he thinks there's a decent chance he could end up teaching CS at a top college. Everyone with experience in movement-building says that getting your members into top positions at top colleges is important, and this is a surprisingly cheap opportunity to make that happen.
Delia Grace, $30,000, to begin work aimed at bringing mobile slaughterhouses to Uganda. Ugandan farms are being devastated by African Swine Fever, and farmers are currently incentivized to sell their sick pigs to people who don't know they're sick, spreading the disease around the country. A system of dedicated mobile slaughterhouses could change the incentives and help arrest the spread of disease. Delia is a veterinarian, epidemiologist, and senior scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya.
Nell Watson, $1,000, to work on a hazard symbol for endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals found in plastics and other artificial products that mimic natural hormones and probably contribute to obesity and other health issues. Eleanor says she is less interested in money than in spreading the word, so I am giving her a token grant and a link to her website https://www.endohazard.org/
The Oxfendazole Development Group, $150,000, to develop oxfendazole. This is a next-generation antiparasitic drug which may one day replace albendazole and mebendazole, the current choices for deworming. Several hundred million children worldwide suffer from parasitic worm infections; this certainly affects their health, and a growing body of research suggests it might affect their cognitive ability, educational attainment, and future income. GiveWell endorses deworming as one of the most effective charitable interventions; the successful development of new antiparasitics would further this effort. Oxfendazole has done well in early studies and this group wants to follow them up in the hopes of eventually getting FDA approval. To learn more or send a donation, see this site
NA, $90,000, to buy a year of his time. NA is an experienced Australian political operative "on a first name basis with multiple federal politicians". You might remember some of his comments and stories from the ACX comment section, where he goes by AshLael. He's interested in using his expertise to promote effective altruism, either by lobbying directly or by training EAs in how to produce political change. I have no idea what to do with him right now but I am going to figure it out and then do it. If you're in EA and have a good idea how to use this opportunity, please let me know.
The Segura Lab at Duke, $50,000, to continue work on materials that promote healthy tissue regrowth after stroke. They say their experiments are difficult to fund because regrowing dead brain tissue is a long shot that requires a lot of out of the box thinking and is hard to explain. If you want to learn more about their work, check out http://seguralab.duke.edu. If you’re a stroke survivor and want to share your story, they’d like you to check out their Patient Connection page. They’re also looking for help spreading their ideas. If you have knowledge of both science and writing/visual communication, apply to work with them here; if you want to donate, you can do so here.
1DaySooner and Rethink Priorities, $17,500, to research public attitudes around human challenge trials. Human challenge trials are studies where scientists deliberately try to infect volunteers with a disease to see if a treatment can prevent or cure it. They're much faster than waiting for people to get the disease naturally, and could have significantly shortened the wait for coronavirus vaccines. But they're controversial and nobody was able to get approval to do a challenge trial for COVID until 2021, which is why we had to wait so long for good treatment. Preliminary research suggests lots of people support these trials; I think building common knowledge of this is a first step towards making them available during future pandemics. Rethink Priorities is a respected effective altruist research organization. 1Day Sooner is a group lobbying for challenge trials. They’re currently seeking $10 million to use challenge studies to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine. Email email@example.com if you can help
Spencer Greenberg, $40,000, as seed money for his project to produce rapid replications of high-impact social science papers. Right now, when a new social science paper comes out, we often have to wait as long as several months to discover that it was false. Spencer and his team dream of a world where we can learn that almost immediately, soon enough that it's within the same news cycle and the journals involved feel kind of bad about it. This money will sponsor a pilot, after which he’ll be seeking additional funding - if you think you can help, you can reach him here. Spencer's been involved in rationality and EA about as long as either has existed, blogs at Optimize Everything, is the founder of ClearerThinking.org (which offers free digital tools related to rationality, decision-making and happiness) and runs the Clearer Thinking podcast, with guests including Daniel Kahneman, Tyler Cowen, and Sam Bankman-Fried.
Nils Kraus, $40,000, to experiment with new ways of measuring precision weighting in humans. The precision-weighting of mental predictions is one of the absolute basics of the predictive coding model of the mind, but we know very little about it and have trouble testing hypotheses about how it works. Nils wants to compare and refine some of the leading candidate ideas and hopefully put this whole field on firmer ground. He is currently finishing up his PhD at Psychologische Hochschule Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin.
Alfonso Escudero, $75,000, to create a platform for scientific collaborations. Alfonso and his team already made something like this for COVID research, which got 40,000 scientists to sign up, matched collaborator requests to experts willing to help, and resulted in some useful papers. Now they want to expand this model to other types of science. My father has been stalled on an important research project for years for lack of the right kind of statistician; Crowdfight (or whatever the final name turns out to be) aims to take requests like this and process them within 72 hours. I regret only being able to fund this at the minimum level, but I'm pretty sure that once they're up and running they'll be able to prove their value to richer people's satisfaction. You can also contribute by donating, by joining their community (if you want to be matched with scientists who might need your expertise) or, if you’re a professional scientist, by using their service to find a collaborator (it's free).
D, $10,000, to support him taking some time between his masters and PhD to re-orient, learn some new skills, and maybe end up choosing a better topic to do his thesis on. D studies the evolution of aging, and is interested in things like why seemingly-similar species of rockfish have lifespans ranging "from a decade to a couple centuries". He thinks this extra time would help direct him into higher-value areas of his field.
Nikos Bosse, $5,000, to seed a wiki about forecasting. Articles would include technical topics like scoring rules, interviews with superforecasters, and links to existing prediction markets and forecasting platforms. Think the Investopedia or Bogleheads of investing in prediction markets. This is another leg of my "improve forecasting infrastructure" goal area. Nikos is a PhD student working on infectious disease forecasting. If you think you can help with the wiki, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
L, $17,000, to breed a line of beetles that can digest plastic. Darkling beetles (and their associated gut microbes) can already do this a little. Maybe if someone selectively bred them for this ability, they could do it better. Plastic is generally considered bad for the environment because it's "not biodegradable", but maybe everything is biodegradable if you have sufficiently advanced beetles. This project will find out!
Morgan Rivers, $30,000, to help ALLFED improve modeling of food security during global catastrophes. ALLFED studies the effects of major disasters - nuclear wars, pandemics, economic collapses - on the food supply. If the disaster blotted out the sun or paralyzed the technological-economic infrastructure underpinning food production and delivery, millions more could die of starvation. ALLFED tries to develop solutions, from high-tech stuff like "produc[ing] high quality protein from natural gas and sugar from forest biomass" and low-tech stuff like relocating crops farming and eating more seaweed. Their current project is to update the National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment program, which is "used widely to assess and prioritize responses to disasters globally", to better model food shocks - raising awareness and making it easier for large organizations to think about them. ALLFED is also looking for more funding for many other projects.
Jimmy Koppel, $40,000, to support his work on intelligent tutoring systems. We know 1-on-1 tutoring is the best way to learn, but human tutoring doesn't scale to the number of students who need it. Computer tutoring systems can ask questions, identify areas where people need to improve, and notice/respond to specific error patterns. I was originally skeptical about this but reading things like this essay have gotten me excited. Pure AI tutoring is hard because "it takes 300 hours to develop 1 hour of intelligent tutoring system curriculum", so Jimmy is working on a hybrid model where computers do lots of the work but there's still a human in the loop. Jimmy has a PhD in computer science from MIT and currently runs a company doing advanced training for professional software engineers.
Allison Berke, $100,000, for biosecurity work at Stanford. Biosecurity is the study of protecting against pandemics, bioweapons, and other biological threats. Despite the growing importance of this field, there are relatively few technical biosecurity centers in the US, and the West Coast is underrepresented. This causes serious problems like poor pandemic readiness, limited understanding of biowarfare risks, and the biosecurity grad student who I'm dating living 3,000 miles away from me. A group of Stanford professors wants to solve at least the first two problems by gradually building a new biosecurity hub there. This grant would help fund a few grad students in the hopes that bigger funders would follow. If you're interested in research on the technological aspects of biosecurity, such as new models of pathogen sensing or encrypted sharing of genetic sequences, please email email@example.com
Jeffrey Hsu, $50,000, to support his startup Ivy Natal. Ivy Natal works on in vitro gametogenesis, the process of turning ordinary cells into gametes like egg cells. This would solve a lot of infertility problems, remove the need for difficult egg freezing cycles, and allow same-sex couples to have biological children; it would also allow some more exciting forms of embryo screening. Jeffrey has a PhD in molecular medicine and did his postdoctoral research at the Cleveland Clinic; Ivy Natal has raised initial capital from Indie Bio and is advised by George Church.
Legal Impact For Chickens, $72,000, to help kickstart their project of suing factory farms that violate animal cruelty laws or otherwise expose themselves to legal action. They write: "If we sue a company that kills 100 million chickens a year, then success would mean incrementally improving the lives of a significant number (perhaps 80 million) of these chickens". Alene, their founder, graduated from Harvard Law School and is a veteran of animal welfare campaigns at PETA, ALDF, and the Good Food Institute. My review team said this was an unusually high-impact animal welfare opportunity; if you’d like to donate too, you can do so at https://www.legalimpactforchickens.org/donate .
M, $100,000, for a project involving CRISPR "spellchecking" of tissues. The team behind this prefer not to have all the details public, but they're very smart people with a really neat idea and hopefully I'll be able to release more information at some point.
Alex Hoekstra, $100,000, for the Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative (RaDVaC) to make open-source modular affordable vaccines. They've made a coronavirus vaccine which about fifty people (mostly scientists and biohackers) have self-administered, though there's no hard data on whether or not it works. They don't have regulatory agency approval for anything and probably won't get it, and they cannot sell their vaccine - the only way to get it is to manufacture it in your lab (or home lab) from the blueprints they make available. So what's the pitch for them being useful? First, global inaccessibility of vaccines has been a problem in past and present pandemics and will probably continue; RadVaC thinks their open source model might “drive up vaccine access, diversity, and security in the future”. Second, if there's ever a pandemic much worse than COVID - super-Ebola or whatever - I'm not waiting nine months for the FDA to have the right number of meetings, neither is anyone else, and I think we’ll all be grateful if we previously built the capacity to have a vaccine production group that moves fast and breaks things. Third, I think it's possible that their comparative freedom lets them come up with something genuinely better than Big Pharma, at which point hopefully it will encourage or embarrass Big Pharma into stealing it (did you know RaDVaC offers nasal spray coronavirus vaccines?) Fourth, I think it has positive...let's say "moral"...effects for people to know that ordinary people can do the same things big corporations do, and that it's possible (and sometimes even legal) to innovate without getting anyone's permission first. RaDVaC still needs more funding (go here to donate) and are looking for collaborators with experience in open-source development (RaDVaC wants to build infrastructure for decentralized vaccine R&D, including: construction of standards for sourcing, production, & testing; data-sharing platforms; and other online & accessible scientific tools). Reach out to them here. You can read more about RaDVaC's work here, here, here, here, and here, and find their YouTube channel here.
Beny Falkovich, $25,000, to fund his work on a platform for screening compounds to find potential new psychiatric drugs. Despite this space being littered with the skulls of the people who tried it before him, he thinks that new imaging technology he is helping develop can make it possible. Beny is a 3rd year PhD student in the Bathe lab at MIT; he comments on ACX as "Chebky", and he's the brother of Jacob of Putanumonit.
Siddhartha Roy, $25,000, for citizen surveillance of pathogens in drinking water. Some pathogens, notably legionella, grow in water pipes. There's not a lot of scientific or legal structure for monitoring them, and this team wants to solve this by sending kits to volunteer citizens who will use them to test their tap water. This is useful for avoiding legionella outbreaks, but my reviewers were most impressed by its ability to scale to other things and raise citizen awareness of pathogen detection. Dr. Roy is a Virginia Tech research scientist who helped uncover the Flint water crisis.
Nathan Young, $5,000, to fund his continued work writing Metaculus questions and trying to build bridges between the forecasting and effective altruist communities. Nathan is a Metaculus moderator, the author of a prediction market blog I've used as a source before, and has useful connections with people who might be convinced to use formal forecasting methods for their organizations. This grant is a vote of confidence in him to continue this work, and another part of my effort to fund more forecasting infrastructure. You can read his newsletter, the UK Policy Forecast, here. If you have suggestions for forecasting questions he asks that you DM him on twitter or add them to this open Google doc.
Will Jarvis and Lars Doucet, $55,000, to create an automated land value assessment model for two Pennsylvania counties. You all know Lars as the guy who keeps writing guest posts here about Georgism. Now he wants to take it to the next level and start building tools for the Georgist future. This program would act as proof of concept that counties can assess land value relatively easily and accurately. I was on the fence about funding it because they can create a beautiful program with 100% success and then counties can just continue to not be Georgist for the same reasons as usual. I'm going ahead with it because I trust Lars who believes this is the best way forward, and because it seems like the sort of thing that could eventually grow into a Georgist think tank at some point in the future. They’re interested in talking to anyone who has experience in mass appraisal, Georgist or not, as well as applied data scientists and machine learning researchers. Fill out this form here if that’s you. You can follow their progress at https://gameofrent.com/
Michael Todhunter, $40,000, to continue work on automating testing cell culture media. Several of my biologist reviewers gave assessments like "I'm not sure anyone will use this, except for me personally I WOULD LOVE THIS SO MUCH". Michael himself describes this project as "unsexy", but annoying cell culture media trial-and-error is part of a big fraction of biology experiments, and anything that makes it go faster is a big force multiplier for a lot of other things. Michael's postdoc is ending and he needs funding to continue this work; mine will last him a few months, but he says he has room for lots more. If you'd like to learn more about this project and or discuss funding, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org; there will also be a website up at https://www.todhunter.dev/ in a few days.
SD, $5,000, to fund an honors' thesis on neutrino research. S is an undergraduate who wants to work on neutrino physics with one of his professors, but needs outside funding to be sure it will work. He thinks if he can get this thesis, he's more likely to be able to get into a neutrino physics grad school program and continue this career. He's interested in the applications of neutrinos for nuclear disarmament; illegal fuel enrichment produces neutrinos which could theoretically be detected from thousands of miles away, reducing the need for dictators to eg let in UN inspectors. I think the potential value of adding one more person to this field is pretty high and this seems like a cheap way to do it.
James Grugett, Stephen Grugett and Austin Chen, $20,000, for a new prediction market. If every existing prediction market is Lawful Good, this team proposes the Chaotic Evil version: anyone can submit a question, questions can be arbitrarily subjective, and the resolution is decided by the submitter, no appeal allowed. And the submitter/decider gets a small cut (1%?) of the money traded on the question. I honestly have no idea how this would play out. Certainly it would incentivize lots of people to write lots of great questions and promote them widely. It sort of incentivizes a strategy of always deciding fairly so you get a good reputation and more people use your questions - but also sort of a strategy of doing that for a while to build up credibility before betraying people, making false rulings, and stealing all their crypto (of course it's crypto). The part I'm most fascinated by is the idea of not-necessarily-super-objective resolution criteria - we could have markets in things like "Will the Democrats' agenda succeed [according to Scott]?" They think a clear use case is minor Internet celebrities using their brand to make and shill markets related to their interests, since these people at least have some reputational reasons not to take the money and run. They have a play-money beta version up at https://mantic.markets/
S, $10,000, to support his political career. The first way I'm supporting his political career is by not naming him here or giving any further details.
Erik Mohlhenrich, $6,000, for work on Seeds of Science, a scientific journal which publishes articles that are nontraditional in content or style with peer review conducted through voting and commenting by a community of "gardeners" (free to join, visit this page for details). Mohlhenrich has been exploring the role of amateurs in science, most recently in this journal article (non-conflict of interest note: the article mentions the SSC Surveys as an example of good amateur science, but this grant decision was made primarily by an outside reviewer). He also writes under the name Roger's Bacon at Secretum Secretorum.
Stuart Buck, $50,000, to help launch the Good Science Project, “a science policy think tank that will focus on essays, blog posts, videos, and other public advocacy about how to improve science funding in the US.” Buck was VP of Research at Arnold Ventures, helped start the Center for Open Science, and has lectured at DARPA and IARPA and written pieces for Science and Nature. You can read more about his philosophy of science funding here or follow @GoodSciProject for updates.
Kartik Akileswaran and Jonathan Mazumdar, $75,000, for Growth Teams, a group that supports low-income countries in developing economic growth. They believe that there's no one-size-fits-all solution to development and the most helpful intervention is to give countries experts who stay there over the long run, try to understand their priorities, and help them chart their own course and build their own decision-making capacity. They have a team with lots of history working in development, a country interested in cooperating with them, and my reviewers say that their approach makes a lot of sense. They also need a lot more funding, so if any of you have a spare $150,000 lying around, please let them know.
Other Ways Grants Might Still Get Funded
…via the Long Term Future Fund: This is an EA grants program that volunteered to evaluate and judge all applications that had anything to do with AI or the rationalist and effective altruist communities. They have more grant-making expertise and more money than I do, so I was happy to send those applications their way without considering them further. If you sent in an AI or rationalist/EA community-related grant and didn’t see your name above, don’t despair! LTFF hasn’t made their decisions yet, so I’m not able to announce these at the same time as the others. When they’re done, I’ll make sure you know.
…via investors: Two grant applications seemed really excellent, but beyond my price range and probably more suitable for traditional investment. I’ve started the process of connecting both to investors, but this is sensitive enough that I’m not going to list their names here yet. If you’re in this category, I’ve already told you about it by email.
…via ACX Grants + : This is the part where I sent your grants around to interested rich people and foundations, and let them decide if they wanted to fund some on their own. Unfortunately, rich people and foundations don’t have huge amounts of time to evaluate grants on super-short notice around the Christmas season, so I haven’t heard back from many of them yet. I know of two projects that are on track to get funded this way. but I don’t have permission to talk about them here yet. Your funders should be reaching out to you shortly.
…via ACX Grants ++: This is the part where I post applications publicly on the blog (if you gave me permission) and readers can look at them and decide to support them or not. About 500 of you gave me permission to do this, and your applications together total about 1,500 pages of text. Substack probably won’t let me write a blog post this long, and you guys won’t read it even if I do, so I’m still thinking about how I want to handle this. Please give me until sometime in January to work something out, but rest assured, I haven’t forgotten about this.
Networking Or Something
Many people said that the true value of Emergent Ventures and other mini grant programs was the opportunity to be part of a network and make use of the funder’s non-financial resources. Unfortunately I have no idea how to set this up and I’m not sure I have a lot of non-financial resources. So here’s what I can offer:
If any awardee (including people who get funded via LTFF, Grants+, or investors) needs a message or advertisement broadcast - you’re looking for more funding, you’re looking for employees, you want everyone to gaze in awe at the cool thing you’ve developed - please send me an email with your message, and I’ll signal-boost it on an Open Thread. I will do this at least once for everyone, maybe more if I don’t feel like you’re abusing the privilege.
If you do your project and it works, or doesn’t work, and you learn something interesting (including “man, this was harder than I thought”) and you think other people would be interested, you can pitch me your essay. If I like it, I may publish it as an ACX post. This isn’t meant to be a demand or an exchange-in-kind for getting the money; I’m expecting fewer than 10% of awardees to take me up on this. But you can if you want. I have high standards and expect not to publish most posts pitched to me.
Everyone else who’s done this has created some kind of group where awardees can talk to each other. I will probably get around to this too, though I’m kind of confused by the whole idea. Why would somebody working on biochemistry want to talk to someone working on political activism just because they got a grant from the same person? Once I figure this out what people expect to get from this I’ll create some structure that maximizes my ability to give it to them.
If you’d like an introduction to someone I can plausibly introduce you to, let me know. And if there’s anything else I can do for you, let me know that too.
How To Get Your Money
I don’t know yet, I’m still waiting for an answer from the people who are going to handle this for me. When I know, I’ll send you all an email. I’m expecting this to be sometime in early January. If you need the money before then, contact me at scott[at]slatestarcodex[dot]com and we’ll figure something out informally.
This was a ridiculous thing for me to try to do, and I ended up way out of my depth (I’ll write more about why later). Everything worked out okay anyway (so far! I think!) because many people rescued me and handled the parts I couldn’t. I got permission to include most people’s names, but when I forgot or haven’t heard back, I’m thanking them anyway by initials. If anyone is unhappy with how they’re represented here (either you want your name off, or you want me to add it in) please email me.
Oliver Habryka of Lightcone Infrastructure helped explain how grants work, connect me to everyone else, and ensure I didn’t have to rely on my own experience, good judgment, or other things I don’t have. He is also part of the Long-Term Future Fund and has taken over my AI grant evaluation work along with Asya Bergal and the rest of the LTFF team.
The Effective Altruism Funds team handled most of the financial infrastructure for me. Thanks especially to Sam Deere, Jonas Vollmer, Helena Dias, and Chloe Malone for handling my increasingly frantic questions that I needed immediate responses to over the holiday season.
I originally planned to spend $250,000 on these grants; this came partly from subscribers like you, partly from unsolicited gifts from rich patrons, and partly from someone who paid an unexpectedly large amount for an NFT of a blog post. Thanks to everyone involved in helping me have this extra money.
But I was also able to get another $1.3 million (!) from extremely generous outside funders, of whom only two would let me reveal their names: Vitalik Buterin and Misha Gurevich. Thank you Vitalik, Misha, and other anonymous people!
Evaluating applications was much harder than I expected, and I was saved by several teams of people who agreed to read over some large fraction of 656 grant applications for free or at least for much less money than they deserved. These include: Merrick Smela, Ruth Hook, Samira Nedungadi, Tessa Alexanian, and AG for Biology; Kieran Greig for Animals; Clay Graubard for Forecasting; José Luis Ricón for Science & Progress; Andrew Martin for Global Health & Development, [anonymous] for Politics, Misha Gurevich for everything I could force him to read, and a few other people who gave me miscellaneous advice on specific proposals. I made all final decisions and you shouldn’t blame these people if I got something wrong.
Tyler Cowen gave me publicity and good advice at several points, along with bad advice at one point (he said it would be “great fun”).
656 of you took a risk and bared your secret dreams before a random blogger you barely knew. You faced a barrage of dumb follow-up questions, demands for extra information on short deadlines, and the possibility of rejection (sorry! I can’t emphasize enough that I rejected many of them for reasons unrelated to their inherent goodness). You were the core of this project and I’m suitably grateful.
This was one of the harder things I’ve tried and it’s not quite finished. Insofar as it works, it’s thanks to hard work by these people and many others I forgot to mention. I think we accomplished something good here and I have a lot of hope that some of these projects will go on to do great things for the world. Deep and sincere thanks to everyone involved!