Hi all, using a throwaway as this feels a bit anti-social to post! 

Basically, I'm aligned with & live via the basic concepts of EA (use your career for good + donate some of your earnings to effective causes), but that's where my interest really kind of ends. 

I'm not interested in using my free time to read into EA further, I don't feel motivated to learn more about all the concepts that people use/ discuss, etc (utilitarianism, expected value, etc etc). I really like having non-EA friends and don't get any enjoyment from having philosophical discussions with people. 

I really like the core ethos of EA, but when I've gone to in-person meetups (including Prague Fall Season) I've felt like a fraud because I'm not at all versed in the language, and actually have no interest in discussion all the forum talking points. I just want to meet cool people who care about doing good! 

Of course a clear rebuttal here would be "ok then dude just talk to people about other stuff", but I've often felt at these events like people are there to discuss this kind of stuff, and to talk about more normal/ "mundane" stuff would make people think I'm wasting their time. 

So I guess my question is like - is there anyone else out there who feels this way? Any tips? I'd really like to make friends through the EA community but in the same breath I only want to be involved in a straightforward way (career + key ideas), rather than scouring the forums & LessWrong and hitting all the squares on the EA bingo card. Also, is it kind of in my head that you need to be a hardcore EA who has strong opinions on ethics & philosophy & etc, or is that the general mood?

(I also appreciate that the people who end up reading this will be more "hardcore EA" types who check the forum regularly...)


Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:26 PM

I'd guess that less that half my conversations at EA social events are actually related to EA. 

(EA Global is an exception to this, since I think of it as a work event and it's mostly focused meetings.)

The texture of an event will vary, but I think most people at most events will be open to talk about other things. Common topics I've encountered:

  • Books, movies, TV, webfiction, etc.
  • Personal stories and anecdotes
  • Icebreaker questions (sometimes philosophical, but they don't have to be)
    • "Would you rather fight X or Y? What's your D&D alignment? What's the best cheap thing you bought recently?"
  • Current events
  • The rules and strategy of whatever board game you happen to be playing (if it's game night)

Realistically, the vast majority of EA-focused conversations at parties have ~0 impact, because people chitchatting while drinking aren't likely to make progress on important issues. I hope that people won't resent you for wanting to talk about mundane stuff sometimes.


That said, if your local group tends to have very EA-focused events, it's realistically up to you to either:

  • Change the tone (host a game night or karaoke or something else that doesn't naturally lead to focused conversation), or
  • Find a virtual space/community where people are interested in other things (maybe the EA Corner Discord channel? I'm not super connected to digital EA spaces outside the Forum)

This is a big part of why I used to basically not go to official in-person EA events (I do somewhat more often nowadays after having gotten more involved in EA, though still not a ton). It makes sense that EA events are like this, because after all, EA is the topic that all the people there have in common, but it does seem a bit unfortunate for those of us who like hanging out with EAs but aren't interested in talking about EA all the time. Maybe community event organizers should consider occasionally hosting EA events where EA is outright banned as a discussion topic, or if that's too extreme, maybe just events where there's some effort to create/amplify other discussion topics?


Even though I’ve been told that I’m one of the people who makes people feel the way you are feeling, I do relate. Nowadays, talking about EA stuff is usually only interesting to me when it’s quite directly relevant to decisions that I or others in the conversation might make. The moment I open an EA book or 99% of EA forum posts, my first thought is “do I need to know this?” For some reason, I can read about the most niche aspects of NBA basketball indefinitely and that question will never enter my mind. I wish I found the EA stuff inherently interesting again, it has much more potential to be useful in ways I can’t foresee than basketball stuff. Not sure I have any advice though.

Perhaps explain this to the organizers? At our local meetup we have weekly events that are casual and mainly focused on socializing, as it sounds like you want.

Hopefully your organizers are open to doing something similar - you could always offer to host the events yourself too! Local organizers usually welcome help in my experience.

I'm not interested in using my free time to read into EA further, I don't feel motivated to learn more about all the concepts that people use/ discuss, etc (utilitarianism, expected value, etc etc). I really like having non-EA friends and don't get any enjoyment from having philosophical discussions with people. 


As a 5 second take, yeah seems like you shouldn't. Or at least take this feeling seriously. If you don't want to do something that's a reasonable sign not to do it. Thanks for your work! Seems like you have a pretty great time. I'm glad to hear it. 

I can relate. I like fixing things and being helpful. And I like to know that what I am helping with is important. However, I am not sure I should spend significant time understanding the philosophical debates in EA, nor to get into details of cause prioritization. Instead I think I should put my head down and try to fix something it seems I might be able to help with. 

I am happy to defer to experts on philosophy and cause prioritization. EA seems so much better than the state of affairs outside EA where there is very little information if what you are working on is among the most important things you can work  on (everyone outside EA seems to be yelling about CC, capitalism, species going extinct, water, etc. but nobody I came across could articulate clearly why "their" problem was more important than the others).

I kind of see EA as a menu of important problems to work on - with several of them seeming like something I can help with. It is fantastic!