My favourite Holden Karnofsky essays (pre Cold Takes)

I’m a big fan of Holden Karnofsky and view him to be one of the most important and interesting thinkers around. In addition to his impact in the EA world, his essays have had a significant influence on my development as a thinker.

A lot of EA conversation is very philosophical in nature. I find Holden to be unique in his ability to synergize the philosophical with the practical.

I am so pleased to see the success of Cold Takes and the proliferation of his ideas to new audiences. Holden published a lot prior to Cold Takes, but the writing spans several different websites. Given this, I thought it would be helpful to share a number of my favourite essays in one place.

I recommend reading these essays for anyone interested in EA. They are still relevant and provide a great framework for thinking through uncertain thorny problems, in addition to showcasing an important part of EAs history and development.

If you have other favourite Holden essays I’m missing, please share them as I would love to re-read them.

Sequence Thinking vs Cluster Thinking (2014)

  • Where and when to apply a single EV based model of the world vs employing multiple perspectives.

The Moral Value of the Far Future (2014)

  • An meta discussion on weak-longtermism

Modeling Extreme Model Uncertainty (2014)

  • The third in a sequence of Holden’s post on how to reason through uncertainty

Flow through Effects (2013)

  • Why near term impact often leads to long term impact

Broad Market Efficiency (2013)

  • On the efficiency of philanthropic opportunities

01-16-2014 conversation between Luke Muehlhauser, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and Holden Karnofsky, about existential risk

  • Fascinating conversation that encompasses nearly everything else discussed in the other essays listed here. Really great to read with the following post.

Some Key Ways in Which I’ve Changed My Mind Over the Last Several Years (2016)

  • How Holden updated his views since his 2014 conversation with Eliezer and Luke in favour of AI risk and what that means for the future.

Radical Empathy (2017)

  • How to think about who we should be helping

Hits-based Giving (2016)

  • A new framework for thinking about how to do good

Worldview Diversification (2016)

  • How to do good when facing moral uncertainty

The Straw Ratio (2007)

  • A classic Givewell post about overhead costs in charity

Transparency, Measurement, Humility (2007)

  • Why its good to be transparent

Challenges of Transparency (2014)

  • Why its hard to be transparent

Details on Making a Power Smoothie (2014)

  • Notionally a guide on how to make a smoothie but also a great primer on what it looks like to solve thorny challenges in the real world