User Zvi recently posted a Criticism of EA Criticism Contest. The criticism of the criticism contest was well-received in general but the criticism wasn't the most interesting part. To do anything with a theory well, including criticize it, one must understand it. 

As a participant in the rationality and long-termism communities without being so much of a participant in EA, Zvi is well-placed to be a relative outsider who has the opportunity to really understand EA like those in EA do. He analyzes EA as a paradigm with 21 assumptions based, not necessarily on how EA really is but how it is perceived to be. Zvi has done so with about as much accuracy as anyone ever has. What's more, he has essentially characterized some of the most common perceptions of EA, both true and false, hold not only outside the movement but many in it as well. 

Only a few, if any, of the principles Zvi posited as among the core assumptions of EA are false. Yet there is a lack of precision about the ways in which the analysis is wrong, the ways it's right and the ways EA must change, to the extent any of the assumption are problems. The items on Zvi's list of EA's core assumptions are not the only purported norms of EA that this sequence will evaluate but they're a solid foundation to begin from. 

The trajectory of EA depends on its members having a shared and true understanding of their own movement. Both internally and externally, EA has been dogged and restrained by over a decade for a lack of that common understanding. To publish some correction about some misunderstanding of EA but to do nothing more is an idle tactic that has almost always failed. What distinguishes this sequence is that the goal is to present an accurate representation of EA with enough force to set the record straight permanently.




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It shouldn't matter who is doing the messaging, so one of my goals with this sequence is to make it matter less. There are unfortunately thousands of people who disagree with you. Setting the record straight isn't about criticism but about solving the problem. As to different personal experiences, the experience can be valid while it's attributed to the wrong cause.

For example, if someone is excluded in some activities in EA because they are not a utilitarian, that's a problem but the problem doesn't exist because EA is exclusively for utilitarians. That's false on account of, among other facts, that EA for Christians and EA for Jews already exist as outreach projects. Whether someone is marginalized in EA on account of nothing but the fact they don't share a utilitarian identity is, then, not a binary but a matter of degree. Efforts to be more inclusive of other worldviews may not have reached where someone is in EA, so those efforts should be extended to those places in EA too.

The exact details of the problems people experience in EA and relevant facts must be well-understood for those problems to be solved. The focus can remain on the experience as valid and to not disrespect those that have them. 

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