Many EAs seem to feel that most critics misunderstand EA. 

I think this should be seen as a failing by EAs, not by our critics!

In general, I don't feel like most introduction to EA type essays do a good job of concisely explaining EA. And obviously, people who initially form a negative impression of EA aren't going to spend their time reading 50 posts on the EA Forum to better understand EA before making criticisms!

I think having more people attempt to write better short explanations of EA will help other people understand EA and offer us better criticisms.

Here are some things I think a good explanation would include:

  • Central ideas in EA (ITN framework, efficiency / cost effectiveness, cause prioritisation, counterfactual thinking, expected value, optimising career impact, effective philanthropy, internationalism)
  • stuff that EAs probably value more than other people (empirical data, "made up" probabilities, forecasting, future generations, animals)
  • stuff that EAs probably value less than other people (nationalism)
  • stuff EA has achieved + influence of EA (UK Prime Minister quoting Toby Ord) + stuff EA is working on / important EA orgs (CEA, 80000 hours, Giving What We Can, GiveWell, FHI, GPI, Open Phil, FTX Funds, Wave, Alvea)
  • descriptive information of EAs from the EA surveys eg - (cause area focuses, age distribution, gender distribution, national distribution)
  • attributes of EA culture (lots of charity, high rates of veganism, probably higher than average rates of polyamory, probably higher than average rates of childlessness)
  • a little bit about key figures in EA (Will MacAskill, Toby Ord, Peter Singer, Nick Bostrom, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Holden Karnofsky, Dustin Moskovitz, Cari Tuna, Sam Bankman-Fried)

I think a good explanation would exclude things like 'related ideas / ideas that influenced EA' since I think these only encourage 'guilt by association' criticisms, and it would exclude discussion of 'earning-to-give' since that doesn't tend to be a widely recommended path anymore.

I'd love to hear thoughts on what else a good explanation would include / exclude.

I'd encourage anyone to have a go in the comments section here or in the forum, but ideally it would be cool if someone funded a prize! It could be something like $100 for the best intro within a given word limit, selected based on number of upvotes in the comments section of an EA Forum post. 

I'll try to write an 'intro to EA' myself at some point this summer.


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