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To Community Build or Not

One underrated factor in whether to engage in community-building[1] is how likely you are to move to a hub.

I suspect that in most cases people can achieve more when they are part of a group, rather than when they are by themselves. Let's assume that your local community doesn't already provide what you need. Let's further assume that an online community isn't sufficient for your needs either:

Then you have two main options:

• If there's already a hub that provides the community that you need, then you could move there
• You could try to build up the local community

There are a lot of advantages to the former. It can be quicker than trying to build up a community yourself and being in the hub will probably lead to you having more direct impact than you could have even if you managed to build up your local community quite a bit. So while either option could end up being more impactful, there's a lot of reasons why it might make sense for people who are willing to move to just focus on figuring out how to set themselves up in a hub as soon as possible.

However, there are some people who are just not going to move to a hub, because they're too rooted in their current location. My suspicion is that more of these people should be focusing on building up the community.

Since there are less opportunities outside of the hub, the opportunity cost is lower, but more importantly, someone who is planning to stay in the same location over the longer term is likely to capture more of the value from their own community-building efforts.

Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone and there are definitely people who can have far more impact through direct work, even whilst outside of a hub, than through community building. I would just like to see more people who are planning to stay put pick up this option.

  1. ^

    Here I'm using community-building in a broad sense.

I think I posted in one of the threads that I have no knowledge of what private evidence Nonlinear may have, but I just realised that I actually do. I don't think it's a big enough deal for me to go back and try to track down the actual comments and edit them, but I thought it was good practise to note this on short form nonetheless.

If we run any more anonymous surveys, we should encourage people to pause and consider whether they are contributing productively or just venting. I'd still be in favour of sharing all the responses, but I have enough faith in my fellow EAs to believe that some would take this to heart.

One of the vague ideas spinning around in my head is that maybe in addition to EA which is a fairly open, loosely co-ordinated, big-tent movement with several different cause areas, there would also in value in a more selective, tightly co-ordinated, narrow movement focusing just on the long term future. Interestingly, this would be an accurate description of some EA orgs, with the key difference being that these orgs tend to rely on paid staff rather than volunteers. I don't have a solid idea of how this would work, but just thought I'd put this out there...

Oh, I would've sworn that was already the case (with the understanding that, as you say, there is less volunteering involved, because with the "inner" movement being smaller, more selective, and with tighter/more personal relationships, there is much less friction in the movement of money, either in the form of employment contracts or grants).

I suspect that it could be impactful to study say a masters of AI or computer science even if you don't really need it. University provides one of the best opportunities to meet and deeply connect with people in a particular field and I'd be surprised if you couldn't persuade at least a couple of people of the importance of AI safety without really trying. On the other hand, if you went in with the intention of networking as much as possible, I think you could have much more success.