(to something along the lines of: EA Careers Conference or EA Direct Work Conference)

Earlier this year, Scott Alexander made a thread titled Open EA Global that caused a big stir.

My summary of events is that people interpreted EA Global to represent different things and have different aims, leading to many to have different expectations as to who should attend EA Global. This ambiguity led to many people feeling hurt when they (or others they care about) were rejected from EAG.

The organizers of EAG seemingly had done a bad job explaining what EAG is and had incorrect/out of date/misleading information about EAG on various online platforms/communications.

To Eli Nathan’s credit (the CEA lead for EAG), he provided a lot of helpful context in the ensuing thread and updated lots of EAG related communications to be more clear.

The EAG website now states:

“EA Global is designed for people who have a solid understanding of the main concepts of effective altruism, and who are making decisions and taking significant actions based on them. EA Global conferences are not the only events for people interested in effective altruism!”

Still, several months after Scott’s thread, I still feel there has not been an adequate resolution to this.

In Eli’s response to Scott, he provided:

  • "EAG is primarily a networking event."
  • “I wanted to clarify: EAG exists to make the world a better place, rather than serve the EA community or make EAs happy”
  • “The conference is called "EA Global" and is universally billed as the place where EAs meet one another, learn more about the movement, and have a good time together.” It’s possible we should rename the event, and I agree this confusion and reputation is problematic, but I would like to clarify that we don’t define the event like this anywhere (though perhaps we used to in previous years). It’s now explicitly described as an event with a high bar for highly engaged EAs (see here). "

Even though there is now much accurate information about EAG online, I still find it problematic.

As stated above, the primary description of who EAG is for is: “EA Global is designed for people who have a solid understanding of the main concepts of effective altruism, and who are making decisions and taking significant actions based on them.”

I think EAG is still not meant for the majority of people who fit this description.

Those who earn to give, those who donate significant sums of their annual income to charity, those who decided to become vegans, those who spend large amounts of time reading EA content/attending Ea meet ups etc. all meet this description yet are not ideal candidates for EAG.

If EAG is intended to be a conference for people doing direct work to network and to help motivate others (particularly, students/early career workers) to do direct work, then I think the conference should be clear about this.

I feel this way for two reasons:

  1. Despite the updated branding/communications, people are still going to feel excluded and hurt.
  2. Because there is already a conference titled EA Global, people are less likely to create new Effective Altruism conferences for other purposes like being the place where EAs meet one another, learn more about the movement, and have a good time together etc.


 

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 9:36 AM

I agree that the name needs to be changed. I'm surprised there was so little consistent pushback after Scott Alexander's article.  

Especially now that travel/food funding is going to be curtailed, it is clear that EA Global is primarily designed to bring together elite, credentialed, or wealthy people in the movement who have connections and will use the event for networking. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as often those types of people can have outsized impact. However I'm a firm believer that to maximize our effectiveness, Effective Altruism as a whole needs to start making itself more attractive to the general populace.

Even though we've had a lot of success carving out a niche space in the altruism community, the worldwide market for charity and 'do-gooding' makes EA look like a tiny unimportant blip. Even just in America, there was a total of $471 billion dollars given to charity last year. Instead of courting billionaires we need to be courting the folks who already donate, just ineffectively.

Instead of courting billionaires we need to be courting the folks who already donate, just ineffectively.

Without explicitly running the numbers, my guess is that billionaires count as 'folks who already donate'. In fact, enough (US) billionaires have promised to give away >50% of their money that I wouldn't be surprised if, as a class, they gave away a higher percentage than the population as a whole.

EA crossroads?

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