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.

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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.

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

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.

Indeed, promoting this post seems completely arbitrary.

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.

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

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.

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

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

And your logical fallacy is...

slippery slope

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.

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!)

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.

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],"

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?

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...)

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.

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.

How do they treat their employees?

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

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.

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

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

And I concurr with the latter.

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

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

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

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 :)

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.

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?

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

Are you looking for work?


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.

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?

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?

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

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.

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".

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....

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.

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.

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.

God, the people here go on and on about such a trivial issue! Sorry if I offend anyone, but really. Petty microanalysis of the type seen nowhere else on the Internet. If you don't like the ad, don't apply. If you don't want to promote it, don't. Is it really worth having a debate about whether it is worth promoting?

Petty microanalysis of the type seen nowhere else on the Internet.

Your Internet sounds like a nice place to visit, nothing like the one in our world.

If you don't want to promote it, don't

A brief note on terminology: When people complain about it being "promoted", they mean moved to the front page. Only some mods (or just Eliezer?) has that power. We have no choice whether it is "promoted" or not in this sense.

I'm not fussed myself.

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

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 ;)

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Because Eliezer consistently overrates the value of secrecy.

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

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.

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.)

(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.

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... :)

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.

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.


You went to university in Padua? Are you from there? Any interesting reflections on the experience?

Moved to PM (or to the Open thread should more people manifest interest).

(or to the Open thread should more people manifest interest).

In that case, allow me to manifest my interest.

(ETA: All the more so since I see that your current location is Uppsala, Sweden.)

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Finally, I was already afraid I'm the only one to see it that way.

Though I will admit when I first read that I thought P(Elizer is messing with us) > P(Awesome job opening here).

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."

I have no strong opinion on the appropriateness of the post.

Nor do I come to think of it. I was reacting to the idea that lesswrong is free advertising for a job agency. That would be inappropriate.

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.

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.

Using the readership to make money does not make this post less like spam.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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