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Dear Beloved EA Colleagues,

 

Thank you for everything you do to try to make the world better, and to help sentient beings, living now and in the future. I wish the best for everyone during these rocky times.

 

And I write to you with a bold proposal:

 

I propose that we change the name of Effective Altruism to "Mass Good." 

 

Hear me out:

 

1. EA is an amazing movement because it promotes doing the best things we can do to make the world better, to reduce suffering, etc. 

 

2. I personally think it would be great if more people joined the EA movement! That'd mean more donors (and thus more money for EA orgs), more EA founders (and thus perhaps more and better orgs), more employees for EA orgs (and thus more options for orgs to pick from when hiring), and more people to vote for EA politicians (and thus EA politicians would be more likely to win).

 

3. At a minimum, it would be great if people outside of the EA movement felt neutral-to-positive towards EA.

 

4. "Effective Altruism" is a less-than-ideal name for accomplishing the goals listed above. 

4a. For instance, the word "effective" sounds like an insult to all people who aren't yet involved with the EA movement. It sounds like we're saying that all charities outside the EA movement are simply bad at their jobs and thus 'ineffective.' It's like we're saying that a non-EA soup kitchen fails to successfully feed its local community. Of course, we aren't actually saying any of those mean things! We're really just saying that we want people to try to think about factors like scope and neglectedness, which sometimes get overlooked. But people outside the movement don't know that. They just hear "effective" and feel hurt. And why wouldn't they? 

4b. "Effective" also sounds conceited. It sounds like everyone who considers herself an EA thinks she is actually "effective," as in successful, at her work. When we say "I'm an effective altruist," it sounds like we're saying "I am really good at doing altruism!" Really, of course, we just mean that we are trying to do the most good for the greatest number, or something along those lines. We don't mean to pat ourselves on the back! But how would a stranger know that?

4c. "Altruism" is a fancy word that most people don't use in everyday conversation. So when some people hear the word "altruism," they may think whoever said the word is elitist or trying to show off.

4d. "Effective Altruism" is 7 syllables. 

4e. I have seen recent news articles criticizing EA as being elitist, in the wake of the recent news events. Those articles make me feel sad. And I wonder, when I read the articles, if the name "Effective Altruism" contributes to the impression that we're elitist. I wonder if our name makes it harder for the public to see us as the kind people we are, who just want to do as much good as possible!

 

5. So, I think we should consider a new name. And the one I came up with is "Mass Good." "Mass Good" has many benefits:

5a. "Mass Good" is only 2 syllables! 

5b. "Mass" and "Good" are both relatively common words that many people use in everyday language. That makes them sound less elitist. 

5c. In fact, the word "Mass"  sounds the opposite of elitist! It sounds like we are a movement of the masses! Perhaps one day we will be. And "mass" notes, correctly, that we're looking out for the wellbeing of the masses.

5d. I think that "Mass Good" is a decent simplification of what EA is trying to accomplish. We want to do good for the masses. For as many sentient beings as possible, now or in the future. 

 

WDYT?

 

Love,

Alene

 

PS I realize that I'm just a random person and have no right to suggest a new name for the EA movement. But I figured I'd share my thoughts and see what others think, just in case others like the idea too!

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[anonymous]14
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Thanks for sharing Alene! I agree that effective altruism isn't a great name but disagree that Mass Good is a better one. I unfortunately don't have time to discuss all my reasons. With this said, I really do appreciate you taking the time to write up and share your arguments and would welcome more thoughts about how to best communicate the ideas of EA.

In addition to the above, I also want to use this comment to signal that I would like a way to agree and disagree vote on posts, rather than just comments.

I don't want to downvote well intended posts that I disagree with but I do want a way to signal my level of agreement with them. I also want a way to observe other people's degree of agreement with the post.

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Do other people on the forum want agreement voting on posts? Feel free to indicate your view by voting on this comment.

Hi Alene! Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts! You might find the discussion under this post interesting and relevant:

Some quick notes on "effective altruism"

Thanks Emre!

Hi Alene!

  1.  I like this! In accordance with some of the past discussions on the name 'EA,' I always felt a bit awkward leaning into the group name for most of the reasons you note above. I was also struck by a recent episode of Bad Takes (Laura McGann and Matt Yglesias' new podcast) about SBF where she describes not wanting to like EA because of this 'we -- a bunch of nerds -- have figured it out' vibe. She was eventually positive after learning more, but it seems really bad to be screening out people like that. 
  2. Scale seems to be one of the most important drivers of things EAs care about (factory farming, malaria prevention, future generations). +1 for 'Mass' capturing that in an intuitive way. Though, to be fair, I haven't spent any time exploring other name ideas. 
  3. Minor point: 'Mass Good' struck me as having a religious undertone (maybe just because of the word 'mass'). I actually kind of liked it for that reason! As much as some want to avoid it, EA really does feel like a secular-religion to me -- it's a community with shared values, supporting one another in pursuit of living those values. What's not to like?

I'm not confident this is the right rebranding, but a community shake-up might be the right time to be thinking seriously about one. So I'm glad you wrote this!

That’s a great point about mass having a double meaning! I hadn’t thought of that!

I really dislike the term Mass Good, but like the speculation on what alternative names to EA there could be.

Mass Good sounds very clunky, with lots of back of the mouth vowels I dislike hearing. It also originally made me think of “mass” as in a catholic mass, then “mass” as in matter (making me click on the article, thinking I’d see a funny post about a cause area devoted to maximizing the amount of mass in the universe or something).

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