Epistemic status: A lot of this is speculative. I’ve done a fair amount of promotion of EA ideas anonymously, and it’s difficult to gauge the results.
A major issue in effective altruism is having a finite number of “weirdness points” that an individual can spend promoting certain ideas outside the Overton window. Since promoting too many “weird” ideas may result in an individual losing social status or otherwise not be taken seriously, effective altruists should try to find ways to get around this, such as by finding ways to promote effective altruist ideas without spending weirdness points, or by finding ways to increase the number of weirdness points per capita, such as by trying to make society less conformist in general.
One possible way EAs could promote effective altruist ideas without losing weirdness points is by promoting effective altruist ideas as anonymously as possible. The advantage to doing this is that EAs can promote lots of different EA-aligned cause areas without fear of social backlash, instead of being forced to choose a few key issues in order to limit their perceived weirdness. For example, EAs should consider putting up posters or fliers promoting certain effective altruist ideas, or creating ads for effective altruism on the internet. Doing this would allow the ideas to spread efficiently without being associated with anyone’s name or face. Additionally, some communities have “little free libraries'' in front of people’s yards where people can donate books anonymously. EAs should consider buying EA-related books and placing them in little free libraries so that non-EAs can read them and learn about effective altruism. On the internet, EAs may want to consider having multiple accounts on forums or subreddits where they are promoting EA ideas, such as by having one account for promoting veganism or wildlife suffering reduction, one account for promoting AI safety and existential risk reduction, etc. Certain imageboards also allow users to post without logging in, so users can post completely anonymously. Research could also be done on what anonymous methods of promoting effective altruism are the most effective and generate the most exposure, such as by measuring pageview statistics for certain websites that are being promoted.
EAs may also want to consider doing cause prioritization research on weirdness points and the most effective ways to promote EA ideas while spending the fewest weirdness points. For example, effective altruists should consider surveying non-EAs in order to determine which EA ideas are perceived as being the weirdest and least socially accepted, and which ideas are the most widely accepted. EA cause areas with the highest ratios of importance to perceived weirdness may therefore be the areas where EA activism will have the greatest effectiveness. Additionally, certain demographics may perceive certain EA ideas as less weird than others, which could be used to determine the best target audiences for spreading EA ideas. Vegans, for example, may be more receptive to reducing wild animal suffering as a cause area than the general population, and people interested in futurism may be more receptive to things like AI safety and S-risks as cause areas. Doing this will allow the Overton window to be mapped out in great detail throughout all of society. Additionally, EAs should consider researching ways to identify individuals who are high in openness, as these individuals on average may be far more receptive to effective altruism and other fringe ideas in general.
One last strategy for dealing with weirdness points is by trying to increase the number of weirdness points for everyone by increasing the overall social acceptability of weirdness in general. One way EAs could increase weirdness points in the population is by increasing the general population’s exposure to a wide variety of different opinions. Exposure to a wide variety of different opinions and ideas may cause people to be more open-minded in general. Censorship and political polarization likely have an extremely deleterious effect on people’s openness to new ideas, since censorship and polarization make it easier for echo chambers to form. In the United States, political polarization has risen dramatically over the last few decades. The contact hypothesis states that intergroup contact under appropriate conditions can reduce prejudice between two different groups. If forums or other communities where echo chambers are an issue allow for people with opposing opinions to go uncensored, this may help to expose the people in the forum to counterarguments to their beliefs, which may reduce the effect of the echo chamber and increase overall openness. Forums that censor or ban users from posting opposing opinions have the opposite effect, reinforcing the echo chamber and allowing wrong beliefs to go unchallenged. Additionally, fringe ideas being able to spread without the threat of censorship may result in a larger proportion of the population espousing fringe ideologies or other fringe ideas, which may result in fringe ideas in general being more socially accepted. Censorship and societal polarization may therefore be issues that effective altruists should be strongly fighting against.
If anyone here has any other ideas on how weirdness points could be increased or how effective altruist ideas could be spread while spending fewer weirdness points, please post them below.