Continuing our efforts to be more transparent about the events we organize, we want to share that we’re running the Meta Coordination Forum 2023 (an invite-only event scheduled for late September in the Bay) and provide community members with the opportunity to give input via a pre-event survey.
- Event Goal: Help key people working in meta-EA make better plans over the next two years to help set EA and related communities on a better trajectory.
- Updates from subject-matter experts from key cause areas.
- Discussions on significant strategic questions.
- Clarification of project ownership and forming of actionable plans.
- Attendees: A group of key people focused on meta / community-building work. Not focused on other key figures beyond the meta space.
- Organizing Team: The Partner Events team at CEA (Sophie Thomson, Michel Justen, and Elinor Camlin) is organizing this event, with Max Dalton and other senior figures in the meta space advising on strategy.
- Community Engagement: We’d like to hear your perspectives via a survey by 11:59 PM PDT on Sunday, 17 September. The survey asks about the future of EA, the interrelation between EA and AI safety, and potential reforms in meta-EA projects.
- Post-Event: A summary of survey responses from the event will be made public to encourage wider discussion and reflection in the community.
The event is a successor to past “Leaders Forums” and “Coordination Forums” but is also different in some important ways. For further details, please see the post below.
Why we’re running this event
Now seems like a pivotal time for EA and related communities
The FTX crisis has eroded trust within and outside the EA community and highlighted some important issues. Also, AI discourse has taken off, changing the feasibility of various policy and talent projects. This means that now is an especially important time for various programs to reconsider their strategy.
We think that more coordination and cooperation could help people doing meta work make better plans
We think it could be useful for attendees to share updates and priorities, discuss group resource allocation, and identify ways to boost or flag any concerns they have with each other’s efforts. (But we don’t expect to reach total agreement or a single unified strategy.)
What the event is and isn’t
We think it’s important to try to give an accurate sense of how important this event is. We think it’s easy for community members to overestimate its importance, but we’re also aware that it might be in our interests to downplay its importance (thus inviting less scrutiny).
The event will potentially shape the future trajectory and strategies of EA and related communities
First, some ways in which the event is fairly important:
- It will bring together many important decision-makers in the meta-EA space (more on attendees below).
- These people will be discussing topics that are important for EA’s future, and discussions at the event might shape their actions.
- The event aims to improve plans, and hopes that this leads to a better trajectory for EA and related communities.
- The event may facilitate further trust and collaboration between this set of people, possibly further entrenching their roles (though we’re also trying to be more careful about how much we limit this; see below).
The event will not foster unanimous decisions or a single grand strategy
Some ways in which the event is less important:
- It is not a collective decision-making body: all attendees will make their own decisions about what they do. We expect that attendees will come in with lots of disagreements and will leave with lots of disagreements (but hopefully with better-informed and coordinated plans). This is how previous versions of this event have gone.
- Relatedly, we are not hoping or expecting that we’ll agree on a single grand strategy.
- We think that many attendees have spent a long time thinking about these questions. We hope that they’ll learn some new things and find opportunities to collaborate, but these will likely be second-order tweaks to their models and plans, with the main shape of their plans determined by work outside of the event.
- It is only focused on the “meta”/community-building space rather than object-level decisions in any cause area.
We don’t want this event to slow down other efforts to build a better world
While this event is aimed at improving the trajectories of EA and related communities, we think it will be very far from solving all of the problems that exist, and we support others trying to do other work that could help (e.g., running projects to address a problem they see, trying to coordinate important decision-makers). Please don’t rely on this event for too much, and don’t let it slow down any efforts you’re considering to build a better world. Just because there are private discussions, don’t assume that those private discussions will solve everything!
What we’re aiming to do with the event
Our Goal: Help key people working in meta–EA make better plans over the next two years
The event aims to help key people working in meta-EA make better plans over the next two years, to help set EA and related communities on a better trajectory.
Our Strategy: Build shared context, discuss disputed strategy questions, clarify project ownership, and maintain professional relationships
We’re aiming to help key people working in meta-EA make better plans over the next two years by:
- Building shared context by syncing up about EA and its associated cause areas:
- Hosting expert presentations and Q&As to discuss recent developments and field needs.
- Generating reports on meta-EA topics such as the growth rates of key programs and data on program cost-effectiveness.
- Discussing disputed meta-EA strategy questions
- We’re focusing discussions on significant yet tractable disagreements with direct implications for important decisions.
- We’re using a pre-event survey and memos to identify and draw out these disagreements.
- We’re not trying to reach agreement on big strategy questions. For many big strategy questions, we think that this is likely intractable, and it’s often fine/good for people to pursue a variety of complementary strategies.
- Clarifying who’s owning which projects
- We’re gathering a list of important projects through the pre-event survey, memos, and throughout the event.
- Towards the end of the event, we’ll host a session to rank, discuss, and assign ownership for highly-ranked proposals.
- We’ll share a list of unowned projects publicly so that people outside of the event know which projects might be good to pursue.
- Building professional relationships with calibrated trust
- While past events have emphasized trust-building, we want to take a balanced approach here. We want to help people to understand each other’s goals, thinking, strengths, and weaknesses better so that they have a better sense of when and how to trust and coordinate with each other.
- We think that this will be built throughout the event, especially in 1:1s and informal discussions.
Who’s attending the event
We designed the attendee list in consultation with Claire Zabel and James Snowden, as well as suggestions from our initial invitees. Our objective was to assemble a group of attendees that is roughly representative of the meta work that is going on (e.g., in terms of the split between effective giving, EA principles, existential risk community building, etc.)
43 people working in EA meta are currently planning to attend the event. These include:
- Alexander Berger
- Amy Labenz
- Anne Schulze
- Arden Koehler
- Bastian Stern
- Ben West
- Buddy Shah
- Caleb Parikh
- Chana Messinger
- Claire Zabel
- Dewi Erwan
- James Snowden
- Jan Kulveit
- Joey Savoie
- Jonas Vollmer
- Julia Wise
- Kuhan Jeyapragasan
- Lewis Bollard
- Lincoln Quirk
- Max Dalton
- Max Daniel
- Michelle Hutchinson
- Nick Beckstead
- Nicole Ross
- Niel Bowerman
- Oliver Habryka
- Rob Gledhill
- Sim Dhaliwal
- Sjir Hoeijmakers
- William MacAskill
- Zach Robinson
Note this isn’t the full list; some people preferred not to be publicly listed.
What the attendee list is not
This is not a canonical list of “key people working in meta EA” or “EA leaders.” There are plenty of people who are not attending this event who are doing high-value work in the meta-EA space. We’ve invited people for a variety of reasons: some because they are leaders of meta EA orgs or run teams within those orgs and so have significant decision-making power or strategic influence, and others because they have expertise or work for an organization that we think it could be valuable to learn from or cooperate with.
Invitation to this event is not proof of trustworthiness. Post FTX, we want to make it especially clear that being an important player in EA doesn't guarantee a high degree of trustworthiness or endorsement from others. We value collaboration and learning among people, taking place in an environment of well-calibrated trust.
How You Can Help
We value the insights and perspectives of the community and understand that the event could influence decisions that impact some community members. So, we wanted to ask you to share your input through a brief survey to inform and shape the discussions at the event (deadline: 11:59 PM PDT on Sunday, 17 September).
Because we’re in the final sprint of event planning, we will prioritize responding to comments that could influence the event, and our responses to other questions will be delayed.
After the event, we plan to publish a summary of the survey responses and a list of unowned projects publicly (edit: see footnote). We will also encourage attendees to share their memos on the EA event and think about what other updates we can share that will aid transparency and coordination.
Two years is obviously a bit arbitrary, but feels like the right sort of time frame. We think that decisions made at the event will have an impact over months, but that relationship-building will have an impact over years (but especially the next couple of years, before turnover in leadership and weakening ties causes the effect to decrease).
We’ve decided to call off sharing the list of owned and unowned projects.
We’ve shared an extensive summary of Meta Coordination Forum's pre-event survey, and the cost-benefit for sharing this additional project list didn’t look great. This is because: 1) The existing MCF recaps posted received relatively little attention, suggesting limited benefit; 2) sharing this post still requires significant work from the organisers to check in with project owners about what they’re happy to share; 3) the organisers are currently very busy with another upcoming event. We wish we didn’t have to drop this, but it seems like the best call.