[ Question ]

Should we think more about EA dating?

by anonymoususer1 min read25th Jul 202048 comments


EA LifestyleCommunity

Let's face it, many of us EAs are weird. Good weird...but weird nonetheless.

A lot of us don't like to spend much money...at all. Many of us forgo animal products on our plates. Some of us like discussing people who don't even exist yet, and pretty much all of us like to think more with our head than our heart when it comes to doing good.

In the eyes of many people out there this pretty much makes us "undateable". I mean, who wants to go out with a frugal vegan? Well...perhaps another frugal vegan?

The point I'm making is, maybe we'd be best shacking up with each other, and maybe there are things we can do to make this easier. We have the socials and events, but this brings me to another fact about EAs: we can sometimes be pretty socially awkward. How many of us have the social skills to find a girlfriend at EA Global? Well, maybe some of us (that Will MacAskill is awfully dreamy).

So I do wonder if there's anything we can do to make it easier for EAs to find other romantically-compatible EAs. An EA Tinder/match.com? EA speed dating? EA singles events?

Or maybe I've gone off my rocker. Maybe the existing social events are good enough. Maybe we should go on regular tinder and find someone who can tolerate us. Maybe I get off the EA Forum, go outside and tell that cute girl I pass every day all about Peter Singer's drowning child thought experiment.

What do you all think? Am I off my rocker?

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9 Answers

Believe it or not, you're not the first person to think about this. There's an EA dating site made years ago called reciprocity.io, although I'm not sure it gets much use anymore.

Some arguments I've seen in favor of this:

  • Dating another EA might prevent value drift.
  • If a relationship with a non-EA goes sour, that person might have a negative association with EA as a result.
  • Having a partner is generally associated with more happiness, which is perhaps intrinsically good, and perhaps good for helping one feel more motivated to do good in the world.

Some arguments against:

  • The skewed gender ratio in EA might make this difficult. (I'm not sure how this plays out when you take LGBTQ+ people into account.)
  • Dating a non-EA might persuade them to become an EA.

Personally, I feel a bit icky about actively encouraging inter-EA dating, as it feels a bit culty to me, and I think it further insulates us from the rest of the world (which I think is bad, but I think others might disagree with me on). But, at the same time, a lot of different subcultures have their own dating apps and mingling events, and I don't think those are culty, so maybe my concerns aren't well-founded.

I just want to add my experience is that "Maybe I get off the EA Forum, go outside and tell that cute girl I pass every day all about Peter Singer's drowning child thought experiment" has worked really well for me so far.

Marisa's answer seems great to me.

Two small things I'll add:

  • Here's a hilarious article on "marrying to give", written as a parody of 80,000 Hours
  • It could be interesting to learn what proportion of EAs date/form long-term relationships with other EAs vs with non-EAs, and whether there's a notable difference between those cases in how successful the dating/relationships are
    • But I'd guess that that information would be much less valuable than a lot of other information we could spend our resources gaining, and I'd also worry about becoming/appearing navel-gazing or cult-like

I think it's a great idea. For me it's impossible to have an intimate long-term relationship with someone without shared worldview and values, and I'm sure it's the same for many people. Both of my partners are EAs. One of them lives on a different continent, and there's a reason I had to go so far afield to find someone compatible. Having a dedicated website would make it that much easier.

The concerns about "cultishness" are IMO overblown, and ironically some of those concerns feel *more* "culty" than the thing they are concerned about. If there is a significant subset of the community that feels like they would benefit from something that would help them date other EAs, it's not something other people should have the right to veto. Probably this is unintentional, but to me those concerns sound much too dismissive of serious challenges some members of this community face in their personal lives.

Btw, reciprocity.io is not a good solution since it only helps you to find dates among your Facebook friends.

I don't think this idea is very practical -- atleast for the next few years. EA is a very global and spread-out community. Directly quoting the EA Survey 2019 Series: Geographic Distribution of EAs:

In the figure below it is clear that the number of EAs in the top “major hubs” is dwarfed by the number of EAs in “Other” cities which are not named in the figure below due to having fewer than 10 EAs.

Link to the figure they were talking about.

Let's take an extreme case, where you happen to live in the city with the highest number of EAs (i.e. San Francisco Bay Area). Even that is like 150 EAs, divided into ~100 males and ~50 females. Even this is a "barely enough" selection pool -- due to low number of people.

Ofcourse, if you're fine with long-distance/virtual dating, then that's a different story.

Hypocrite 101 here as I am dating / have dated EAs, but anyway...

The problem this post is trying to solve is "EAs are a bit too weird for other people", and the proposed solution is "let's pair up romantically". This solution would, in my opinion, aggravate another significant problem which is best laid out by this post here about risks of insularity within the community from excessive value alignment. The writer makes a much more rigorous than I am about to, but I think one element of it applies to this case: the quote "EA will miss its ambitious goal by working with only an insular subset of the people it is trying to save."

Having friendships / relationships outside EA would diversify your own thought as well as potentially diversifying the pool of people interested in EA / EA thinking. So if you accept the arguments of this post that insularity / strong value-alignment is a threat, then friendships / relationships outside of EA are intrinsically valuable. Dating other EAs does not in itself create cultural and community insularity, but encouraging it as a solution to a problem of EAs not being great at external social integration would entrench community insularity.

The best counter-argument is that promoting friendships / relationships / any social interaction outside of EA won't go far enough, and that the real problem is insularity at leadership levels within EA, that's what we should break and give the non-dating a break. Which I think is fair. But withstanding that, still benefits for individuals or local groups (e.g. city-based) around external integration.

Other counter-arguments:

Most liberals marry liberals; most cultists marry cultists; people marry those from their fellow religion (and hunt them on dating apps) this is normal for humans to assortatively mate?

Or why can't we have friends who bring us diversity instead?


Addition: I think this is a serious need for many people and it would save a lot of time and energy to make the process more effective. I think worries about cultishness are quite overblown; there are dating sites for various kinds of groups. Solutions could look like either intra-EA dating or a consultancy solving the dating problems for particular EAs, matchmaking them with people outside the movement. Working on this would also be a great way to create a startup that could scale to millions of customers (see also Roam, which started out catering to individual EAs and is now a fast-growing success).

I loved this post and its comments. I'd add:

1. You should totally tell that girl (and maybe everyone else) about the drowning child, the real challenge is to find the best way to do that. Now, instead of emphasizing how having a significant other aligned with your goals might improve your prospects, I wonder how it affects your own personal happiness. People don't have to identify as EAs to support you or share your ultimate goals, but it sure helps; this might be demanding, as other people emphasized above, but actually the effect of your personal lifestyle is usually not so big, so you can compromise a little bit if your acquaintances do it, too. The real problem, in my opinion, is that you'll probably live way better if your significant other understands why something is important to you, instead of just accepting it as some sort of peculiar hobby. Now if that significant other loves you because of that...

Plus, the opposite is also true. You may fall in love with someone for their charm, wit & beauty, but passion fades; now if you're with someone because you love what they do and you can in some sense feel a part of it...

I'm definitively outside of my expertise here (I can only provide negative examples); I'd not say "Nuca Zaria: Effective Dating", but I'd advise young people to seriously entertain the idea that their choice of partners might be comparable (from a personal POV) to some decisions on career paths.

2. This problem extrapolates to friends, though in a milder way. I'm profoundly grateful to my EA friends for the way they make me feel comfortable. I've always felt sort of an outsider in my personal social life, but now, with other people, I'm often that guy who stops in the middle of a sentence to refrain from quoting The Precipice or shedding some tears for human suffering and dreams, etc. I don't want to be the one who lends EA a cult-like appearance.

3. I'd totally welcome EA tips on social life in general; not about how to be charming (that's useful, but I learned one trick or two), but focused on how to be happy with this. Besides my own welfare, I believe it could make me more effective; even if I'm not always trying to "convert" my acquaintances, I want to have a positive impact on / through them. Personally, sometimes I admit to my old friends - at least those who I think can sort of understand it - that I'm trying to "use" them to maximize something like general expected utility through our interactions. I don't think that's the optimal strategy, but it's hard to lie to smart friends, and I sort of see this as a higher form of friendship; so they might forgive my lame or cynical comments like "Wow, this wine is totally worth 20 bednets", or "Now you face Global Warming, the Red Dragon, Destroyer of Worlds; roll initiative."

4. MacAskill is just too handsome, it's counterfactually more effective to pick less dreamy characters. I'd be prefer Toby Ord, which sees the present as a more hingey moment.

What's our gender ratio?