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How to Survive EAG: San Francisco FOMO

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Update (Sept 1, 2022): This post has recently gotten attention again as the result of a post on EA Forum by Scott Alexander, so I want to emphasize that I did not apply to EAG: SF 2022, as I was on a digital sabbatical during the application period. I want to be fair and make it clear that I do not fault EAG organizers for my absence, and I did not feel sad or rejected. In fact, when I was in graduate school last October, I attended EAG: London, and even received funding to be able to attend (cost of EAG ticket + travel), which I am grateful for. I have fond memories from EAG: London, and it has had a positive impact on decisions I have been making with my career. Missing out on events is one of the risks of unplugging for a bit, and I accepted that risk. It was a bummer to miss EA Global, but sitting this one out was on me. Nevertheless, I had a very fun time writing this post and connecting with others online. Okay, back to the original post.

It is July 2022 in San Francisco, and something is in the air. Is it the California fires that are burning right now? No, you realize the sweet fragrance of Huel and Soylent in the air is even more pungent than usual, and the concentration of people wearing matching hoodies has dramatically increased. One twitter scroll later, you're reminded that EA Global is this weekend.

EA Global is this weekend, and you're not going. Your heart rate increases, and a bead of sweat trickles down your forehead. As the world spins, you desperately search WebMD to make sure you're not dying.

The diagnosis: You are dying. Or, you have a case of EAG FOMO.

Never fear, because now there is a whole guide on how to survive EAG FOMO:

*Results not guaranteed

Step 1. Take a deep breath, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Hold on to your seats, because as long as you follow this guide to the letter, you'll make it through this.

Step 2. Don't lose hope, all is not lost, because Future Forum is next week! Apply to attend even though it is quite past the primary deadline.

Step 3. Get rejected from Future Forum.

Step 4. Respond to the rejection email very professionally. Or send a meme.

Step 5. Overthink about how you'll probably never be taken seriously again.

Step 6. Acknowledge that the Future Forum strategy did not work. Back to the drawing board!

Step 7. Take a few gummies for that anxiety, and write a blog post.

Step 8. Avoid thinking about how you flew from California to London last October for EAG, and now you're within driving distance of EAG SF.

Step 9. Curse that internet/social media break you took during the application period because apparently mental health is important.

Step 10. Decide to hold "EAGxHome" at your place of living. Attendees: You and Maple the dog.

EAGxHome group picture

Step 11. Make sure you break out the EA swag.

Step 12. Have a 1:1 with Maple the dog. Discuss why he should care more about AI alignment, but then he counters that you should put more effort into animal welfare, then you respond, "But Maple, you ate chicken last week," to which he responds,

"What about my welfare? I propose a new cause area: More treats for Maple."

"Touché," you yield. You realize the gummies may be kicking in.

Step 13. Attend Maple's session, "Why You Should Let Maple Chew on His Food Bowl: Cost-Effective Interventions for Maple to Have More Fun and Become Self-Actualized."

Step 14. Question why you aren't a speaker at your own EAGx conference.

"Shhhhh..." Maple interjects.

"EAGxHome was highly selective in choosing speakers this year," Maple declares. "Maybe try again next year." Conclude this makes sense, and move on.

Step 15. Take a break. Go for a walk, then make a Beyond Burger for lunch.

Step 16. Listen to the latest 80,000 Hours podcast.

Step 17. Peruse the 80,000 Hours job board to satisfy your curiosity.

Step 18. Meditate and write down some goals.

The smartest of goals.

Step 19. Pick apart the methodologies of research papers for a review you're writing. Mutter something under your breath about the replication crisis.

Step 20. Read EA Forum and enter an EA contest or two.

Step 21. Be happy for those with "is at EAG SF" in their twitter usernames, and remember there will always be a next time. Well, maybe not always, with X-risk and all that.

Step 22. End EAGxHome with a cuddle puddle and a movie night.

Congratulations, your FOMO is [maybe] cured!

In all seriousness, if you go to EA Global this weekend, I hope you have an enriching experience, strengthen connections, and come away with goals and direction. Take care of yourself (take breaks when you need them). Be open to meeting new people. If you are not going to EAG, maybe spend some time engaging with EA ideas and materials, set some goals, do something fun, and engage in self-care. Either way, be in touch with your needs, but be open to pushing out of your comfort zone. Growth is not usually comfortable, but it can lead to opportunities we might not have thought of before.

Happy EAG (and EAGxHome)!

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