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! 


 

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7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:26 PM

Hey, thanks for writing. 

I also used to feel extremely confused about this (e.g. I thought that in-person university groups were "woefully inefficient" compared to social media outreach). I did not understand why there weren't EA youtubers or social media marketing campaigns. Much of my own social conscious had been shaped by online creators (e.g. veganism and social justice ideas), and it felt like a tragedy that EA was leaving so much lying on the table. 

I now am less optimistic about short-form social media outreach. Mostly because:

  • It seems really hard to preserve epistemics in low fidelity mediums like TikTok;
  • I don't see that much value in EA being a house-hold name, if it's a meme-y, low-resolution version (but my mind could easily be changed on this); 
  • I care about selecting for nerdiness and intellectual curiosity;
  • I'm cautious of EA being associated too much with specific influencers;
  • I don't want EA to become (or be perceived as) a social media trend.

All that being said, I do think there are versions of social media outreach that could be great (and aren't currently being done).

I'm excited about more longer form youtube content (e.g. Rob Miles). It would be cool if one of the LEEP founders/ CE incubatees started vlogging about the experience of running a high impact charity (or something similar). 

Fwiw, youtuber Ali Abdaal has some videos promoting longtermism, 80k, and GWWC. And 80k is currently ramping up their marketing and starting to pay influencers to promote 80k.

The part about being associated with specific influencers could be a major downfall. If someone gains a negative reputation on the internet, will the movement as a whole suffer? Quite possibly.

I'm unsure about whether EA being a low resolution household name would be net good or bad. I wonder how often people don't give to charity because it's too much effort to find good organizations. If this is a legitimate problem, having EA in the back of their mind might make it easier to donate without thinking about it.  Also, it may simply introduce people to the concept that we can measure the usefulness of charities, and we have a really good idea of which ones are the best.  

Selecting for nerdiness and curiosity is great, but I believe EA becoming a household name will attract more nerdy, curious people. I believe there are lots of people who would be involved in EA, but simply don't know it exists. I don't think we should expect people to find EA by themselves- part of our job should be to pique their interest. 

I follow a lot of internet debaters, and I'm just not seeing that sort of stuff in the EA space. Why? Youtube is a great place for people to hash out ideas, have conversations, and for the audience to get involved. Blogs aren't as accessible as long form video content. 

As for short-form content, it has a lot of downsides. The upside however, is that we can reach a lot of people with a single message, which I believe could have large scale political influence (something I believe EA lacks). 

Thanks for writing this post. I recently saw Simone Giertz introducing 80k in one of her videos and liked the result very much. I think one needs to distinguish the different kinds of content to mitigate the risks you described, and I don't think the goal here has ever been to explain everything EA on TikTok - that is indeed quite unrealistic and dangerous. When it comes to pointing to resources that are freely available and have already been written for a broad audience, though, such as the 80k career guide, using influencers seems like an obvious way to reach more people with negligible downsides. It seems like directing more people toward 1. working on one of the well-researched career paths and/or 2. donating to effective charities has quite some unused potential. Not all of them will (want to) understand the more complex concepts, but that is arguably also not necessary.

strangely

It does look strange! But it was pretty intentional: see this post for the rationale. 

Recently people have been massively expanding university and "quality press" coverage. But these are relatively low-risk ways of doing mass outreach and the original rationale might stand.

Quality press sounds like an intelligent idea to be associated with the EA brand. 

I wonder if we could convey simple ideas through influencers without them mentioning EA. For instance, what if we paid an influencer to compare how much money it costs for various charities to complete their goals? We don't need to mention EA, but it may give many charities a significant boost in awareness and (probably) donations. 

Hi Serena. I am the CEO and co-founder of School of Thinking, a fully EA-aligned media project with 25.000 followers across three social media profiles (YouTube, TikTok and Instagram) in two languages (Italian and English). Last month we had 700.000 views on the Italian IG profile only. So I guess we can already qualify as EA micro-influencers. 

Followed! Keep up the good work!