01 July 2022

Blog Prize Digest: June

It’s been another huge month for the blog prize. Read on to hear about the winners of our second Post Prize, and read until the end to hear about the theme for June’s prize.

Post Prizes!

Announcing the winners of Post Prize #2: Increasing Agency

We had many great responses to our second Post Prize, on how to actually increase your agency — and were very excited to see so many new bloggers join the discourse. We’re awarding prizes of $1,000 to:

Seven Ways to Become Unstoppably Agentic by Evie Cottrell — Evie writes about strategies she has learned in the last year that have help her become more agentic. We liked that she has actually used the strategies and that she recognizes the difficulties they pose.

Agency and Epistemic Cheems Mindset by Richard Chappell — Richard writes about us lacking agency in our epistemics, what he calls the Epistemic Cheems Mindset. As he writes:

We need not just good epistemics, but also epistemic ambition: a willingness to form (tentative, revisable) judgments, even in the face of uncertainty.

We like that Richard looks at an unusual but profound aspect of agency: It’s not just about whether we send the cold email, but whether we are asking the right questions at all.

Validation as a Bottleneck for Agency by Finn Hambly — Finn writes about the limits to any advice on being more agentic. Agency, in his view, needs to be cultivated and nurtured by an environment. So Finn discusses what sorts of norms are needed in an enviorment for agenctic people to flourish.

Honorable mentions

Two old favorites on agency

These weren’t written for the Post Prize, but we wanted to highlight two other great posts on agency.

Some of our favorites from the blog roll

We won the war on infectious diseases, but now we need to learn from it

Eric Gilliam writes on our massive success in fighting infectious diseases, and how that success alone counts for much of the decline in mortality in the 20th century. But that decline isn’t all due to vaccines and modern hospitals, as popular conception often dictates. It turns out to have been due to a series of public health interventions, most of all clean water. Gilliam writes:

I’m excited to announce that this is the first post of the Engineering Innovation Newsletter in partnership with Good Science Project. Good Science Project is a new organization dedicated to improving the funding and practice of science.

Researching Alignment Research: Unsupervised Analysis

Jan Hendrik Kirchner writes on the state of AI alignment research, a field that seeks to align future AI values with human values, using a new dataset that he collected with AI Safety Camp. Some of the most interesting results include the growth of the field over the last 10 years and the clustering ofof subfields. We love to see participants using blogging as a way to share original research in an easily digestible way. Kirchner summarizes:

We collected and analyzed existing AI alignment research which we make publicly available. We found that the field is growing quickly, with several subfields emerging in parallel. We looked at the subfields and identified the prominent researchers, recurring topics, and different modes of communication in each. Furthermore, we found that a classifier trained on AI alignment research articles can detect relevant articles that we did not originally include in the dataset.

Two other exciting newsletter launches

Scientific Discovery

Saloni Dattani, Nick’s colleague at Works in Progress and a researcher at Our World in Data just launched a Substack, Scientific Discovery. She plans to send weekly updates on new good and important scientific research. Her most recent post explains one new study on the flu vaccine lowering risks of heart attack and stroke and another on the largest bacterium. Her second update writes on “Vaccines against heart attacks, giant bacteria, plus some great new books and podcasts.”

#2: Big studies and very big findings – by Saloni Dattani

The Swift Centre launches their first newsletter

It’s not for the Blog Prize, but the Swift Centre, a new forecasting organization backed by the FTX Future Fund regranting program, has launched a new newsletter. Their first post explains their current thinking around monkeypox. The Centre is aiming to make forecasting more useful by explaining the “why” behind their probability estimates and looking at conditional scenarios.

Monkeypox: the outlook for 2022

The last thing the world wanted to hear, as it started to put the two years of the pandemic behind it, was that a new infectious disease was spreading unexpectedly. That is, however, what happened, when towards the end of April 2022 cases of the viral disease monkeypox were detected.

From the judges:

If you are still hungry for more posts