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This is a reply to Ozy’s thoughts on Doing EA Better by ‘ConcernedEAs’

Our reply is mostly structured along the section headings of Ozy’s post.

We acknowledge that Ozy probably wrote it in a short amount of time and also wanted to vent off some steam. As we are not sure which parts of the text they would rewrite differently, we reply to everything, reading it as it is written. If some of our comments to some parts become obsolete because the parts were not to be taken so seriously, that is great.

Homogeneity of Effective Altruism

  1. ConcernedEAs do not make judgment calls about most of these traits, so we do not understand why you seem so defensive.
  2. ConcernedEAs describe the "average" EA and the homogenous tendency. It does not make a generalisation of every EA being like that.
  3. ConcernedEAs acknowledged clearly and often that their perspective is based on the longtermism subcommunity, so we do not understand why the counterexample of the animal welfare subcommunity is made so aggressively. We like that the animal welfare community has a different demographic and that they still engage in the EA community. Which is exactly why we are worried that the animal welfare topic is losing support and traction in the total community, see e.g. total funding amount losing out against longtermism or being ranked down on 80k.

The Animals And Global Poverty Cause Areas Exist

We appreciate that you outlined good practices in the animal welfare subcommunity. But again we do not understand the need to point out a counter to a critique of general homogeneity and its negative consequences, on the basis of a sub-community’s good practices, if the critique's aim was to make good practice being implemented in the entire community.

The secularism over atheism/irreligion in EA

Whilst we both identify as agnostic atheists, we believe that a secular discourse and exchange of ideas, is beneficial to all communities and considering the fact that a large set of people world-wide are religious the inclusion of religious people with secular and EA related mindset is beneficial. As you mentioned dharma voices for animals, which is a buddhist lead organisation, we would lose out on an effective animal charity, on the account of maintaining a non-religious EA landscape. Nonetheless maintaining secular causes is of great importance and any religious/irreligious group should conform to secular standards.

**Personally I (Ansgar) have had some of my best discussions with Christians in EA, and they lead me to useful insights on infinite ethics. Furthermore, by excluding a large subset of people on the basis of their beliefs from EA, we lose insight into problems that particularly relate to people from such communities. And if someone holds a false belief (be it atheists or theists), how would we be able to obtain truth if we insulate ourselves from other forms of belief? As long as no religious or irreligious tenets are used to avoid discussion or claim superiority, there are no grounds on why we should exclude religious diversity as an option.

A Lot Of Your Best Critiques Are Shallow Critiques

  1. We do not think it was only about deep critiques and not all critiques have to be fully formulated. 
  2. A lot of them also are not shallow critiques.
  3. Reading your counterexamples, we want to clarify: While really good work is being done at ALLFED and regarding preventing great power war, considered/discussed approaches are often limited to the orthodox EA lense as far as we know. And this is in our understanding one core element of ConcernedEAs’ argument.

Career Consequences For Criticism Are Hard To Avoid

  1. It is a difference whether there has been support before a shitstorm happend or after  and, e.g. Zoe et al, did not seem to have received much support before they went public. Good-faith critiques need to be welcomed during the critiquing process as well because that is a phase where people can feel very unsure about their thoughts.
  2. We do not understand why you digress to the topic of who to be friends with or not.
  3. ConcernedEAs never said an organisation should fund research that has nothing to do with them. They said that it should fund different approaches to the problem to reduce biases and get robust results.
  4. We do not know how to phrase it better, but we think that you do not seem to understand the argument about the importance of different epistemic backgrounds.
  5. We do not understand why you are making a naturalistic argument about how grants are supposed to work. Isn't EA about doing what is best?
  6. The last bit seems unfair to us. ConcernedEAs clearly wrote this because they think EA has potential to do actual good in the world, see that it is not on the best path of doing so and want to change that. Isn’t this exactly what we want from engaged EAs?

Ideologies Are Fine Actually

  1. ConcernedEAs are not making a claim about how much the perspectives should broaden. **My (Emil) initial attraction to EA stemmed from the belief that (a bit) different ideologies could come together to do the most good. So I would like it to be ideologically more diverse.
  2. We also think ideologies are fine and that there actually are no ways around being ideological. But we think it is important to understand one’s own ideology to know what the implied epistemic blindspots are.

Overconfident Claims About What The Science Says

Here we are not well-read enough, but would like to see some literature to support your statements as Doing EA better is doing a bit.

We Are Not Really Clear On How You Think The Effective Altruism Movement Is Supposed To Work

  1. We think doing EA better is rather clear on how different levels of organisations could be restructured and how decision making processes in different settings can be improved.
  2. We think it is important to understand the lottery idea claims that some(!) randomisation prevents lock-ins into 'EA-traditional' approaches.

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:38 PM

I found the implication in Ozy's piece that the homogeneity section was trying to say that any of those traits were bad, particularly because ConcernedEAs said the 'Sam'description fit them all very well. It seems really strange therefore, to suggest they think neurodivergent people are somehow bad. Also, I found the implication that saying the avergae EA was culturally protestant is Antisemitic a little bit bizarre, and I would quite like Ozy to justify this a bit more