This post was co-written by the EA NYC team: Arthur Malone, Alex Rahl-Kaplan, Megan Nelson, and Rocky Schwartz
This post is part of the new Forum Sequence EA in NYC. Our central thesis is that NYC is already home to a flourishing EA community and we recommend that the EA community as a whole invests more into leveraging the city's unique impact potential. We explore how we came to believe this below and in subsequent posts.
In May of this year, EA NYC turned ten, and in August New York will host its first official EA conference, EAGxNYC (applications still open until July 31)! Inspired by these milestones, we’re sharing a series of posts detailing our community, our approach to community building, and our larger goals.
We've found that EAs outside of NYC often know surprisingly little about our community here. This contrasts the EA Survey consistently finding that NYC is the city with the third-highest number of respondents. And while some in the community joke we should keep EA NYC low-profile, lest we get invaded by EAs from other locales, NYC itself is far from low-profile by its very nature. And we actually really love newcomers! So we’d like to spotlight the incredible work being done here and hopefully provide some context and guidance for other local groups as they grow.
The first post in this new sequence is about our community health infrastructure and can be found here. And, if this series inspires you to check out our little town, we’ve also just published a guide to visiting NYC.
In future posts, we intend to cover questions including:
- What makes a location an EA hub and is NYC one?
- What EA-related work is underway in NYC?
- What is EA NYC's current strategy and programming?
We also welcome feedback on topics you would find valuable for us to cover.
To kick things off, let's first take a stab at answering a foundational question:
What makes NYC important to EA?
New York City has an overwhelming presence in relevant EA domains. The statistics below only gesture toward the available resources. In NYC, no one industry dominates; and as we'll show in later posts, in the EA NYC community, no one cause area dominates. Instead, NYC is a massive, dynamic metropolis positioned for high-impact initiatives that cross cause areas, industries, and academic disciplines.
- HNWI/Finance: NYC has the most millionaire residents in the world, and among the highest number of billionaires. Wall Street concentrates an incredible volume of capital and efficiency-oriented individuals. Attracting donors from these pools seems like one of the most plausible paths to reducing EA's funding constraints, and attracting new talent. (It is no coincidence that GiveWell started in a hedge fund!)
- Philanthropy: NYC has ~2.7% of the US population, but between 14-20% of the largest grantmaking organizations are based here (20% by market value, 14% by total giving). Helping direct philanthropic giving to more impactful efforts is a core pillar of effective altruism, and we believe it can be accelerated by focusing deliberate attention on NYC’s concentration of foundations.
- Universities: The NYC metro area is home to ~80-116 institutions of higher education. This leads to the most faculty and enrolled students in one area (600k to 1M+). The ranges are broad as there aren’t standard definitions of universities or “metro areas,” but by most reasonable metrics, NYC has the highest enrollment in at least the US, and possibly the world. The EA community has demonstrated impressive success via outreach on university campuses, but many NYC universities have not yet established an EA presence.
- Activism: NYC has a longstanding culture of activism that predates and is comparable to that of DC and the Bay Area. This represents a reservoir of potential talent and a path to impact via directing activists toward more effective interventions.
- Legacy journalism: NYC is the center of US journalism, with the largest media companies all either based here or with significant presence here. No matter your position on optics and EA branding, the practical reality is that media coverage will influence all paths to significant impact, and EA can do a better job “meeting journalists where they’re at” (both conceptually and geographically).
- Technology: While Silicon Valley in California is often seen as the epicenter of technology innovation, NYC has a growing tech scene, with some parts being referred to as "Silicon Alley." Because of its diverse economy, New York is often not considered a tech hub (e.g. it places low on rankings of “tech cities” that use the proportion of total population who work in tech). Nevertheless, New York City has more tech workers than any other city, the state receives the second most VC funding after California, and Manhattan just edged out SF for most early-stage startups. New York City is consequently a high-priority target for recruiting skilled individuals for AI alignment work, people with resources for EtG, and others who can contribute to the movement.
- International Collaboration
- United Nations: The UN is a natural reason to center more EA efforts to impact US-international relations in NYC. Some EAs in the city already work in related areas (e.g. nuclear non-proliferation), and we believe that cause areas like Improving Institutional Decision Making and AI governance will increasingly benefit from connections with the UN and the community and infrastructure built around it. Of particular interest is the September 2024 UN Summit of the Future, a major opportunity for international longtermist governance.
- International Commerce: NYC is one of the world's major financial centers. It is home to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ, two of the largest stock exchanges by market capitalization. Many Fortune 500 companies also have their headquarters in NYC, in industries as diverse as finance, media, advertising, technology, and fashion. This makes it a critical decision-making hub for these industries. NYC is also a significant player in international trade, with goods from around the world passing through its ports. The Port of New York and New Jersey is the busiest port on the East Coast of the United States, and one of the largest in the world. Economic interventions are crucial to address various EA causes, from AI governance to farmed animal welfare. Thus, New York City, with its economic significance, serves as an ideal hub for such initiatives.
In later posts that describe EA NYC’s current strategy and programming, we will address how we are working to leverage these significant and unique resources. We will also detail a call to action for local EAs as well as the broader EA movement. We believe this small snapshot illustrates the untapped potential in New York City for EA impact, which requires more investment to fully utilize.
In our next post, we will discuss what makes for an EA Hub, how NYC holds up to some suggested standards, and why a deliberate focus on geographic areas could be useful to the EA movement.
We are not at all trying to overstate or claim that NYC "does more tech" than the Bay; by relevant metrics (e.g. total funding, number of established companies, perception among tech workers and by the general public) the Bay clearly dominates. Our linked statistics here are to demonstrate that despite the Bay's clear lead, NYC's tech ecosystem is also quite substantial and growing relative to other locations.