These roles are just like many others in the field, companies are supposedly desperate to fill them, but set unrealistically high expectations for the hiring bar so the role is never filled.
Context: 6 years professional experience, open to moving anywhere in US, experience at two SV unicorns, fine taking a reasonable pay cut to work on these things, still rejected or never heard back from every job of this type I've applied to/interviewed for.
Having been offered positions at a number of companies who "really need" someone with my skillset, a lot of these places are shockingly inflexible on pay. I make 3-4x what (I infer) they normally pay people in nominally similar positions, and they seem absolutely unable to match that for procedural reasons, even though based on their description that seems like a reasonable investment for a specialist they really really need. The companies I end up working for are typically outsize successful, and I attribute a lot of that to their willingness to fork over some extra cash when it makes rational sense, and shockingly few companies in SV fit this description.
Having been in a form of ea myself for around 10 years I'd also add that it takes a long time to start being effective. Lots of skills besides tech to learn, which will be very specific to whichever form of altruism you're involved with. So although I haven't looked at those job postings, the simultaneous over and under supply could possibly be explained by skills mismatch.
A few factors involved here:
1- The 'Full Stack' Developer
You'll often see companies looking for 'full stack' developers, and in their mind they are expecting someone who is a master of both the backend and frontend.
But, that is, in fact, exceedingly rare. Most people will gravitate towards a part of development that they are most comfortable in. That's not to say that a developer can't be good at both, but the number of people who are great at both is a small group indeed.
Node.js is a symptom of this problem IMO: Whatever you say about JS as a backend language, the drive to have web developers to not have to 'learn another language' to do backend work is fairly obvious.
So, rather than looking for a mix of team members that are good at either backend or frontend, they look for this godlike 'full stack' developer. What they often get instead is whomever is best at convincing them they can handle it all.
2 - RDD Driven development
Oftentimes, rather than picking the existing tools/paradigms that are right for the job, the tools marketed as the solution to the problem are instead chosen. And of course, the expectations for those marketed tools wind up being out of whack (i.e. the recent job posting looking for 12 years of Kubernetes experience.)
3 - It's easier/better to get a better job somewhere else than an internal promotion
Many orgs make it difficult to advance, or advancement doesn't have the same gains as taking a similar role elsewhere. As a result, people often leave, and because of corporate/cultural norms (screw offboarding, we need to finish the sprint commitments!) knowledge loss is a result.
4 - The Second order effects of the above
Basically, the points above feed into a vicious cycle: The developers better at bullshitting (that also realize the above) will produce RDD driven projects and hop to the next space. But because they have spent most of their time studying 'persuasion' rather than good development practices, they leave a huge mess, which only makes the hiring manager's expectations that much more unreasonable.
It broke my reading flow to have to go and look the term up.
Effective altruism. I had no idea that was a thing.
Also, I don't see what's particularly altruistic about working at Deep Mind or OpenAI - they pay pretty well from what I know.
There probably is a genuine shortage of programmers willing to work full time at a socially or environmentally oriented non-profit in the Bay Area.
The core point of effective altruism is to maximize the positive impact you have on the world. That doesn't really have any correlation how much you're getting paid.
> There probably is a genuine shortage of programmers willing to work full time at a socially or environmentally oriented non-profit in the Bay Area.
Would that be more impactful than working at high paying job and then donation that money somewhere? I doubt these non-profits are constrained by their lack of programmers.
Imagine that everyone he knows who want to change jobs go and filling those openings. Brilliant, now the other companies new to open new positions to fill those who left. In big companies, particularly in places like SV, the attrition rate is so high that they need to constantly hire just to keep their numbers even over time.
- "I'm going to start working out"
- "I'm going to 'learn to code'"
- "I'm going to follow through on that thing from Craigslist"
- "I'm going to meet up for coffee"
- "I'm going to change jobs"
- "I'm going to find somebody to fill this job"
Aziz on flakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RbMv7HUiO4
Aziz talks about commitment-phobia, but on the other hand, one of the most frequently given personal growth advice I've seen in the last 20 years was: learn to say no. Stop trying to agree to every single thing someone proposes to you. I suppose they're flip sides of the same coin - say "yes" only when you mean it, and say "no" otherwise.
People don't post job ads or tweet about wanting to work in EA because their friends and family are nagging them about it.
My answer to the question is that people have an idealized version of the person they'd like to be, and this differs from how much work they're actually willing to put in to follow through. This goes for both the people claiming to want to find work and the company (i.e. people) claiming that they're looking for someone to hire. In other words, there is a simultaneous shortage and oversupply because people are flakes.
"The EA movement has a ton of programmers ..."
Today's problems - like "AI" systems that replicate existing biases; decisions too opaque to check whether they're based on protected characteristics; and systems with higher error rates for some minority group - are about 75% politics/advocacy.
After all, no matter how good your solutions to those problems, you've got to persuade companies to adopt them voluntarily - or legislators to force them to.
Tough to find that skill set.