The Meta Trap

If you think a typical EA cause has very high impact, it seems quite plausible that you can have even higher impact by working one level of “meta” up -- working not on that cause directly, but instead working on getting more people to work on that cause.

For example, while the impact of a donation to the Against Malaria Foundation seems quite large, it should be even more impactful to donate to Charity Science, Giving What We Can, The Life You Can Save, or Raising for Effective Giving, all of which claim to be able to move many dollars to AMF for every dollar donated to them. Likewise, if you think an individual EA is quite valuable because of the impact they’ll have, you may want to invest your time and money not in having a direct impact, but in producing more EAs!

If you take meta-charity too far, you get a movement that's really good at expanding itself but not necessarily good at actually helping people. This is “the meta trap” and this sequence explores why falling into it is a bad idea.