I learned about the EA Blog Prize earlier this year. If you write a blog that changes the paradigm of EA, you can win $100,000, no strings attached. I’ve got some mixed feelings about it.
On one hand, it’s a great incentivizer for people to think deeply about important issues. Maybe the next great idea will come out of this competition. It’s certainly possible.
From a high level vantage point though, this strategy looks a lot like perfectionism. We’re working so hard on improving our ideas, endlessly researching and debating, while, strangely, not doing much to tell the outside world about our organization.
EA can be improved upon, sure. But we’ve nailed the basics: We’ve honed in on the most important issues to work on, we have systems dedicated to measuring the effectiveness of charities, and we’ve secured enough funding to see thousands of projects to fruition.
The biggest issue is that EA is not a household name.
From my vantage point, the best thing we can do right now is invest in EA’s branding.
For example, what if the next big competition was to give $10,000 to whoever created the most viral EA-based Tiktok challenge?
What if we paid Bangladeshi influencers to tell people about the lead found in turmeric all throughout their country?
I imagine a world where Kim Kardashian pledges 10% of her wealth to Giving What We Can, inspiring millions to do the same.
Why is this not a good idea?
I’ve heard some legitimate criticism of this idea: If we make EA a household name, we’ll dilute the seriousness of the effort. Tiktokers, generally, are not the people who are going to be researching AI risk, or going to Africa to hand out mosquito nets. Instead, we should let the interested parties find us.
Furthermore, I definitely believe that expanding will have negative side effects. We’ll have to work hard to stop our values from drifting, and there will certainly be growing pains that come with the transition from a small, reputation-based community to a large-scale organization. I’m here to argue that it’ll be worth it.
Why it will be worth it
In marketing, there’s the concept of the funnel. For this example, let’s pretend you own a gym. At the top of your funnel, you have 100 clients that dabble with your service. These people are using your free week-long trial. A little further down the funnel, we have 70 clients who decided to pay, but only for the cheapest version- the gym membership without the classes.
As we go further and further down, we have fewer people who are paying more money for services. At the lowest level, we have 5 clients who are paying for your $10,000 package which involves on-on-one personal training, catered meals and blood work analysis.
What all these clients had in common is that they all started at the top- they all began with the free trial.
TikTok is like the free trial of EA. It involves no commitment at all, but a certain percentage of people who view these videos will go on to be involved in the movement.
It seems that one of the biggest funding challenges is the fact that we don’t have enough good projects to fund. Making EA popular will solve that problem.
But it’s not just about attracting the super-intelligent, super-dedicated parts of the population. We don’t just need AI programmers and heads of charity to fulfill EA’s mission. We also need regular people who write emails to their local congress. Heck, we need the local congressperson’s 14 year old daughter to ask them what they’re doing about AI risk.
It’s time to get the message out there, and maybe create a new dance in the process.
I have a podcast in which I interview all sorts of people, EA and non-EA alike! Here’s an earlier podcast in which I talk to Luke Freeman from Giving What We Can.
If you have an interesting project you’re working on and would like to talk to me about it, please send me a message!