Continue building tools to elicit probability trees from groups, especially expert groups.
What are this project's goals and how will you achieve them?
As a forecaster, I pin down key factors and analyse complexity. But currently forecasting isn’t very useful for decision makers. Forecasts focus on the wrong outcomes and don’t consider the tractable inputs. Forecasts rarely seem to add usefully to discussion. And where they do, the feedback mechanism is slow.
I want to make easy-to-use tools for building probability trees, to help people think about inputs, outputs and likely worlds, and to trial them with decision makers and forecasters. I want to be able to:
Map the problem space quantitatively
Capture tractable decisions and relevant outcomes
Understand and display expert models of cause and effect
Share simple visual models of these
Refine and develop methods
I will test the tools and process by approaching top EA decision makers and forecasters. I will have succeeded when organisations pay a small fee for them, or users routinely express it was valuable for them.
The tools are currently open source.
Currently I work on:
Estimaker - a tool for quickly building probability trees. It has had 70 users, which has included at least 1 set of key decision makers. It is similar to Guesstimate but easier to move nodes around to change the framing of the problem. It has taken about 3 months of development so far, on and off. Currently working on a more flexible v2.0
Viewpoints - a tool for aggregating opinions from large groups. I have run 3 events with it and have more planned. Several people have noted its value so far. It is like Polis but easier to use and for me to extend.
Odd and Ends podcast - I interview experts on important issues and the likelihood they happen. A few forecaster friends have complimented me on it.
Previously I have worked on:
Projects I’m interested in exploring. I would perhaps use this grant on these too, but feedback suggests that giving the main project I'm interested in is more useful to people.
Wikis with forecasts - Currently wikis talk well about the past, but less so about the future. What are the key blockers for nerdy wikis to use forecasts as references for what will, won’t and might happen?
Better debates - People often want to have public debates, but they rarely create value for me. How can we have debates between experts that better inform listeners?
How will this funding be used?
A year of:
As I have currently been doing, I will design and interview users for the projects. The above projects took about 3 months of development time and .3 FTE of my own time. I will aim produce 8x the above projects per year.
Who is on your team and what's your track record on similar projects?
Me (Nathan Young) - @NathanpmYoung
I have built estimaker and viewpoints in the last 6 months. I am confident that with more runway I can deliver growth on these or other products.
Austin Chen - “[thanks to] Nathan, for trying out mechanisms like this market and viewpoints.xyz to facilitate good conversation on a heated topic”
Luke Freeman, ED, Giving What We Can “[referring to a viewpoints poll] I always love how quickly you turn things into polls. Find it pretty interesting to get a more granular and clustering view of what people thing that’s often not reflected by upvotes and comments.”
Marcus Buffet, after a user interview using Estimaker - “Knowing the value I got, I would have paid for this consultation"
Viewpoints was initially funded by Vitalik Buterin
Estimaker and Doubtful were funded by FTXFF
I am a forecaster for the Swift Centre.
I co-founded the Coronavirus Tech Handbook. In the early days of Covid I launched a repository of resources that was viewed 600,000 times, connected teachers, doctors and engineers across the world. It has its own wikipedia page and was mentioned in 100 articles.
What are the most likely causes and outcomes if this project fails? (premortem)
There is some chance that forecasting and polling are a dead end and that there aren’t good tools to build in this space. People often like Viewpoints but I’m pretty uncertain if it is deeply useful.
After that, I consider the largest chance is that for some reason just not much progress is made. Perhaps I fall very ill.
There is some chance that the US government tries to claw back the money I got from FTX and bankrupts me and takes this money in the process.
After that I think there is a small chance of very bad relationship breakdown with a dev team that writes off a chunk of work done, but this doesn’t seem very likely. I generally work on a month by month basis so even in the past relationship breakdown hasn’t written off work.
What other funding are you or your project getting?
Viewpoints was funded about a year ago for $110k by Vitalik Buterin. I have about half of this left, but I need more to work stably in the long term.
FTX money. I have $45k left, but it’s liable to be clawed back.
I intend to apply to basically anywhere I can think of for individual projects and this more fluid funding
I'd appreciate feedback in the comments here or anonymously