We wanted to quickly share another perspective on recent events. We don’t intend to interpret or respond to the current situation (and we think it’s extremely important that others do so - we're only adding to the conversation), but rather offer an outlook that focuses on the past and future of the movement.

From an outside perspective, what happened to the movement in the past year? 

  1. We received insane access to money. 
  2. We've gradually realized we are no longer funding-constrained (at least for longtermist projects).
  3. We encouraged each other to be more ambitious and adopt a “moonshot” mindset.

And what happened to the movement now?

  1. We lost this access.
  2. We’re back to being funding-constrained. This means we’re likely to tune back up back the emphasis on fundraising we had before this influx of funding. 
  3. But we still have the ambitious plans we made. And we could still have the ambition that developed these plans. Compared to before, when we fundraise and donate now, we know what we can do. We’ve gathered many concrete plans and ideas for mega projects - so now we know what we can aim for. Internally, we gained motivation from having a better sense of what our donations and fundraising can do, and externally, we can use these plans to excite potential donors. 

Looking a few months ahead, the movement is also likely to gain better mechanisms for self-checking, which is important for our future resilience.

The next few weeks might be quite shaky regarding PR. But remember that whatever negative PR we receive soon - there is no other movement that is spreading ideas and tools for seriously helping others the most. Therefore, it is up to us to recover as a movement from these waves. Whatever people say about the infrastructure of the movement - we need to remind ourselves that we're here for its ideas

The fog will clear in several weeks and we’ll probably find ourselves in a new EA landscape, quite different from how it was before this influx of funding - not that different regarding our finances, but with a better understanding of what we can do when we’re ambitious.




Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:54 AM

I strongly disagree with this. While there is some trivial sense of the word "ambition" I'd endorse, I think it is time for the EA community to slow down, forget mega projects and reflect. And maybe do some boring, old school stuff, like buying malaria nets.


We absolutely think (and stated this clearly) that this outlook shouldn't replace the discussion and reflection on the current situation. 
What I've noticed when discussing with EAs during the past few days, is that many feel like this is a disaster we wouldn't recover from. I do think it's important to emphasize that we're not back to ground zero.

I don't mean to claim that you think it should replace discussion. I think just reading your text I felt that you bracketed off the discussion/reflection quite quickly and moved on to what things will be like after which feels very quick to me. I think the discussions in the next few months will (I hope) change so many aspects of EA that I don't feel like we can make any meaningful statements about the shape of what comes next.

I see from your comment here that you also want to be motivational in the face of people being disheartened by the movement. I can see that now and think that that aspect is great.

Mind expending on this?

I don’t know, I wouldn’t suggest choosing cause areas based on FTX collapsing, but I’d think more carefully about mega-projects given the potential of the funding situation to substantially change.

I agree - I don't think that the FTX debacle should define cause areas per se and I think all of the cause areas on the EA menu are important and meaningful. I meant more to say that EA has played more fast and loose over the years and gotten a bit too big for its britches and I think that is somehow correlated with what happened, although like everyone else I am working all of this out in my head like everyone else. Just imagine that Will was connecting SBF with Elon Musk as one example that was made public and only because it had to be, so we can assume it was one of many behind the scenes dealing where billions are on the line. My point isn't to condemn anyone with that example, my point is more that I think a humble and sobering shift back to something that would generate ideas of "boring old malaria nets" (and not the cause area per se) feels like it would do the EA movement good. Loose thoughts in my head from someone trying to work it out.

Many of the larger ambitions appear to rely on a common assumption: that at least the broad shape of consequences of actions are forseeable by this community, and forseeable on the time scale of centuries or longer.

Assuming its leaders are not complicit in the fraud, the community might reflect that they have been catastropically wrong on a time scale of weeks.

More accurately, the big assumption here is that impact can't be negative. This is of course not an assumption that is actually true, which is the issue here.