Reed Shafer-Ray


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Reed Shafer-Ray

3 months ago

Hi all, thanks for the feedback! I will try my best to respond to Renan's questions below:

  1. Renan is right to point out that the partners that Mountaintop works with are not solely focused on x-risk, global development, or great power of conflict. The theory of change, similar to my previous work with Lead For America, is less on short term outcomes through our host partnerships and more on building a network of very high level civic and political leaders in the future who will influence policy and other large-scale levers in their home countries, and ensuring that these leaders are well-informed and equipped to effectively deal with high-impact issues such as x-risk, global development, and great power conflict in the future. While we would love to work with host organizations already directly aligned with x-risk (such as Jonas Kgomo's organization), we are limited by a budget that requires us to work with hosts that can afford the cost of the Fellow's stipend this year, so we can't afford to be too selective. However, in future years we hope to be able to host Fellows with more directly EA-aligned organizations as we strengthen our fundraising.

  2. On Renan's questions about ideal partnerships with x-risk organizations, I'd love for Mountaintop to serve as a talent pipeline for x-risk organizations operating in underserved areas that struggle to attract and retain great talent, thus limiting their outcomes. Without naming specific names here (but will share more with Renan and Joel over email), one example is we were working to support a pandemic prevention organization operating in Africa to host a Fellow to strengthen their outreach, recruitment, and operations, but there were budgetary constraints that prevented us from moving forward.

  3. On the specific questions in the third point:

    1. How does this program reduce catastrophic risks? By partnering with x-risk organizations in the short term (pending additional funding), and by investing in future world leaders who will be much better informed on x-risk than the median world leader. I believe that Mountaintop can recruit elite talent likely to be world leaders based on four facts: 1) Lead For America, a similar nonprofit I co-founded has had dozens of Fellows with elite pedigrees, such as going to top-five universities, being student body presidents, and winning Truman Scholarships (most prestigious public service postgraduate award in US). Alumni already include elected officials and run charities that have raised $20m+ for charity; 2) Mountaintop already has over 2,000 registrants, with many of the most elite young leaders (Mandela Washington Fellows, Obama Scholars, etc.) applying and expressing great enthusiasm; 3) Emerging leadership programs can be effective at predicting future world leaders. For example, the US State Department's exchange program has cultivated future leaders that now include "more than 50 Nobel Laureates and over 350 current and former heads of state and government;" 4) Just a few successful cases could make this a high impact investment. Imagine a leader who goes through the program becomes a head of state that invests hundreds of millions of dollars in AI safety or pandemic prevention programs that otherwise wouldn't be made. This could then mean a program with a <$1 million budget could see a 100x+ return on investment. I acknowledge that this is a longer-term play than many proposed initiatives, but I believe that by investing in early career leaders you can have a much more cost-effective impact on their long term trajectory, world view, and overall potential impact than investing in later stage leaders.

    2. After people go through the leadership institute, what do you expect to change? How will you know you're on track? The goal is that the leaders 1) become acquainted with key concepts from EA/longtermism; 2) are much more likely to support EA-aligned decisions in positions of power in the future; 3) in 5+ years, the leaders hold serious positions of influence.

    3. After people go through the placement, how will you track success? We'll track success by counterfactual surveys/interviews comparing Fellows going through our program and those who were named Finalists or didn't accept the fellowship offer, analyzing their knowledge and intended goals related to EA/longtermism and how quickly they advance in careers of leadership within their countries and regions.