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Note: This question is very heavily focused on the EA Community - specifically it's governance - rather than ideas, cause areas or similar. As such readers might find the subject overly navel-gazing.

A turbulent year

The EATM Community[1] has had quite the bumpy 2023.[2] Quoting bits of Toby Ord’s Bay Area talk:

The spring and summer of 2022 were a time of rapid change..the most famous person in crypto had become the most famous person in EA… [there was a shared]… feeling of visceral acceleration: like a white knuckled fairground ride, pushing us up to vertiginous heights faster than we were comfortable with. And that was just the ascent.

And then of course, there was the descent. The FTX collapse (Nov 2022) and Sam Altman’s firing / re-hiring (Nov 2023) come to mind as the two most publicly known events with some relation to EA. In addition, there have been several controversies internal to the community through 2023 (which I won’t cover in depth here).

A changing of the guard?

Alongside these events, there have been a lot of governance changes within major EA organisations over the past 12-15 months:[3]

  • 80,000 Hours
    • Niel Bowerman took over as CEO from Ben Todd.[4] [1]
  • Effective Ventures
    • Effective Ventures is planning to offboard many (all?) of it’s major projects [2]
    • UK: Tasha McCauley [3], Claire Zabel [3], Will MacAskill [4], Owen Cotton-Barratt [5] and Nick Beckstead [6] stepped down from the EV UK Board. Lincoln Quirk [7] Eli Rose [3] and Johnstuart Winchell [3] have joined.
    • US: Rebecca Kagan [8], Nicole Ross [3] and Nick Beckstead [6] stepped down from the EV US board. Anna Weldon [3], Eli Rose [8] and Zach Robinson [8] have joined the US board 
    • CEOs: Rob Gledhill [9] and Zach Robinson [10] have joined as CEOs of EV UK and US respectively.[5]
  • Centre for Effective Altruism
    • Zach Robinson was recently announced as CEO [11], after Ben West took the role on for an interim period [12] following Max Dalton stepping down [13]
  • Open Philanthropy
    • Alexander Berger became the sole CEO [14] after Holden Karnofsky moved to Director of AI strategy [15]
    • Howie Lempel and Emily Oehlsen became Managing Directors for GCR and GHW respectively [16]
    • Claire Zabel stepped down from leading GCR Capacity Building, with Eli Rose filling the role [16]

To my mind, the Effective Ventures changes are particularly striking. The names on the  below diagram - from 12 months ago - are now entirely out of date, except for Zac Robinson:

What next?

I would guess the changes outlined above will have fairly significant downstream effects on the EA community. But I have very little idea about which direction it will point. 

I’m curious for anyone’s opinions on how this might affect the community going forward. I’m especially interested in the views of those who have recently been appointed to one of the positions mentioned above, given that they will likely have a steering effect over the whole community. 

  1. ^

     By the “EATM community” I’m mostly talking about the EA brand, or “the group of people who identify as effective altruists”. I don’t mean areas that the EA community has focused on (AI safety, animal welfare, etc) or EA as an intellectual project.

  2. ^

     I’m including events from November 2022 to January 2024 here, as a “long 2023”

  3. ^

     This list might not be comprehensive

  4. ^

     Brenton Mayer served as interim CEO from late 2022

  5. ^

     Howie Lempel served as interim CEO of EV US from November 2022

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I'm an outgoing person, not a new appointee, but I wrote Third Wave Effective Altruism last year and still think that discussions about post and the rest of EA strategy fortnight are helpful frames for what 2024 might be like.

I think this is a critical question for EA right now. I do want to try to make some distinctions about what the 'EA Community' means though:

  • I think the "EA brand' or "public/elite perception of EA" should be evaluated as separate from the "EA Community", otherwise I think it's too broad. And I think this is doing very badly, in fact in many areas that used to be friendly-ish to EA (e.g. silicon valley and highly-educated-online-twitter) it seems to be absolutely toxic right now.
    • I also think the public perception of EA is almost unrelated to the truth. People seem to think that ~95%+ of funding goes to bonkers galaxy-brained AI research, instead of most AI research being mech interp, and most EA Funding still going to GH&D.
  • “the group of people who identify as effective altruists” is also quite loose. Like, I'm aware of people who hang around EAs and donate almost exclusively to GiveWell recommended charities who personally 'wouldn't identify as an effective altruists',[1] so I don't know how meaningful that is either.
    • My particular beef here is that I think the 'EA Community' has been used unfairly as a punching bag over the last year. The EAs I interact with are basically all kind, humane, thoughtful, not totalising or involved in any of the shenanigans that I see mostly coming from the Bay Area and Bay Culture rather than EA at all.
  • 'EA Leadership' is also a vague and nebulous term but I also want to highly distinguish that from the broader EA Community. People disagree about who these are, and why they matter, and what they believe, and how much it should matter! I agree that there seems to be a lot of changing of the guard, which is interesting, and a lack of people stepping up to be 'leaders' in the community in the Long 2023.

tl;dr - agree that these are very important questions, I'd like people (including myself) to be more precise about what they mean when they talk about the Community, as I think that would be more likely to lead to productive changes

  1. ^

    whereas to me, if it talks like an EA and if it donates like an EA...