Some comments Duncan made in a private social media conversation:
(Resharing because I think it's useful for EAs to be tracking why rad people are
bouncing off EA as a community, not because I share Duncan's feeling—though I
think I see where he's coming from!)
That seemed like a potential warning sign to me of cultural unhealth on the EA
Forum, especially given that others shared Duncan's sentiments.
I asked if Duncan would like to share his impression on the EA Forum so EAs
could respond and talk it out, and he said:
(He was willing to let me cross-post it myself, however.)
On Socioeconomic Diversity:
I want to describe how the discourse on sexual misconduct may be reducing the
specific type of socioeconomic diversity I am personally familiar with.
I’m a white female American who worked as an HVAC technician with co-workers
mostly from racial minorities before going to college. Most of the sexual
misconduct incidents discussed in the Time article
[https://time.com/6252617/effective-altruism-sexual-harassment/] have likely
differed from standard workplace discussions in my former career only in that
the higher status person expressed romantic/sexual attraction, making their
statement much more vulnerable than the trash-talk I’m familiar with. In the
places most of my workplace experience comes from, people of all genders and
statuses make sexual jokes about coworkers of all genders and statuses not only
in their field, but while on the clock. I had tremendous fun participating in
these conversations. It didn’t feel sexist to me because I gave as good as I
got. My experience generalizes well; Even when Donald Trump made a joke about
sexual assault that many upper-class Americans believed disqualified him,
immediately before the election he won, Republican women
[https://www.vox.com/2016/10/9/13217158/polls-donald-trump-assault-tape] were no
more likely to think he should drop out of the race than Republican voters in
general. Donald Trump has been able to maintain much of his popularity despite
denying the legitimacy of a legitimate election in part because he identified
the gatekeeping elements of upper-class American norms as classist
[https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/a-modest-proposal-for-republicans]. I am
strongly against Trump, but believe we should note that many female Americans
from poorer backgrounds enjoy these conversations, and many more oppose the kind
of punishments popular in upper class American communities. This means strongly
disliking these conversations is not an intrinsic virtue, but a decision EA
Proposing a change to how Karma is accrued:
I recently reached over 1,000 Karma, meaning my upvotes now give 2 Karma and my
strong upvotes give 6 Karma. I'm most proud of my contributions to the forum
about economics, but almost all of my increased ability to influence discourse
now is from participating a lot in the discussions on sexual misconduct. An
upvote from me on Global Health & Development (my primary cause area) now counts
twice as much as an upvote from 12 out of 19 of the authors of posts with
200-300 Karma with the Global Health & Development tag. They are generally
experts in their field working at major EA organizations, whereas I am an
electrical engineering undergraduate.
I think these kinds of people should have far more ability to influence the
discussion via the power of their upvotes than me. They will notice things about
the merits of the cases people are making that I won't until I'm a lot smarter
and wiser and farther along in my career. I don't think the ability to say
something popular about culture wars translates well into having insights about
the object level content. It is very easy to get Karma by participating in
community discussions, so a lot of people are now probably in my position after
the increased activity in that area around the scandals. I really want the
people with more expertise in their field to be the ones influencing how visible
posts and comments about their field are.
I propose that Karma earned from comments on posts with the community tag
accrues at a slower rate.
Edit: I just noticed a post by moderators that does a better job of explaining
why karma is so easy to accumulate in community posts:
SOME POST-EAG THOUGHTS ON JOURNALISTS
For context, CEA accepted at EAG Bay Area 2023 a journalist who has at times
written critically of EA and individual EAs, and who is very much not a
community member. I am deliberately not naming the journalist, because they
haven't done anything wrong and I'm still trying to work out my own thoughts.
On one hand, "journalists who write nice things get to go to the events,
journalists who write mean things get excluded" is at best ethically
problematic. It's very very very normal: political campaigns do it, industry
events do it, individuals do it. "Access journalism" is the norm more than it is
the exception. But that doesn't mean that we should. One solution is to be very
very careful about maintaining the differentiation between "community member"
and "critical or not". Dylan Matthews is straightforwardly an EA and has
reported critically on a past EAG
[https://www.vox.com/2015/8/10/9124145/effective-altruism-global-ai]: if he was
excluded for this I would be deeply concerned.
On the other hand, I think that, when hosting an EA event, an EA organization
has certain obligations to the people at that event. One of them is protecting
their safety and privacy. EAs who are journalists can, I think, generally be
relied upon to be fair and to respect the privacy of individuals. That is not a
trust I extend to journalists who are not community members
the linked example is particularly egregious, but tabloid reporting happens.
EAG is a gathering of community members. People go to advance their goals: see
friends, network, be networked at, give advice, get advice, learn interesting
things, and more. In a healthy movement, I think that EAGs should be a
professional obligation, good for the individual, or fun for the individual. It
doesn't have to be all of them, but it shouldn't harm them on any axis.
Someone might be out ab
LEARNING FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL'S MANAGEMENT MALPRACTICE CRISIS
The recent discussions of harms caused by EAs vaguely reminded me of
controversies around misbehaviour committed by leaders of Amnesty International.
Very horribly, these apparently only came to light due to two suicides that were
as I understand partially caused by workplace bullying at AI offices.
POTENTIAL NEXT STEPS
(I likely won't find time to do more here. :/ )
Amnesty hired the Konterra Group which subsequently wrote the "AMNESTY
INTERNATIONAL Staff Wellbeing Review"
which seems generally insightful and potentially applicable to EA on a very very
* Skim the report and extract useful lessons for EA.
* Make a quick evaluation whether the report's quality and value suggests that
EAs might want to work with the Konterra Group
review the EA community:
Would an AI governance book that covered the present landscape of gov-related
topics (maybe like a book version of the FHI's AI Governance Research Agenda
[https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/GovAI-Agenda.pdf]?) be useful?
We're currently at a weird point where there's a lot of interest in AI - news
coverage, investment, etc. It feels weird to not be trying to shape the
conversation on AI risk more than we are now. I'm well aware that this sort of
thing can backfire, and I'm aware that most people are highly sceptical of
trying not to "politicise" issues like these, but it might be a good idea.
If it was written by, say, Toby Ord - or anyone sufficiently detached from
American left/right politics, with enough prestige, background, and experience
with writing books like these - I feel like it might be really valuable.
It might also be more approachable than other books covering AI risk, like, say,
Superintelligence. It might also seem a little more concrete, because it might
cover scenarios that are easier for most people to imagine/scenarios that are
more near-term, and less "sci-fi".
Thoughts on this?
There are different ways to approach telling people about effective altruism
(or caring about the future of humanity or AI safety etc):
* "We want to work on solving these important problems. If you care about
similar things, let's work together!"
* "We have figured out what the correct things to do are and now we are going
to tell you what to do with your life"
It seems like a lot of EA university group organisers are doing the second
thing, and to me, this feels weird and bad. A lot of our disagreement about
specific things, like how I feel it is icky to use prepared speeches written by
someone else to introduce people to EA and bad to think of people who engage
with your group in terms of where they are in some sort of pipeline, is about
them thinking about things in that second frame.
I think the first framing is a lot healthier, both for communities and for
individuals who are doing activities under the category of "community building".
If you care deeply about something (eg: using spreadsheets to decide where to
donate, forming accurate beliefs, reducing the risk we all die due to AI,
solving moral philosophy, etc) and you tell people why you care and they're not
interested, you can just move along and try to find people who are interested in
working together with you in solving those problems. You don't have to make them
go through some sort of pipeline where you start with the most appealing
concepts to build them up to the thing you actually want them to care about.
It is also healthier for your own thinking because putting yourself in the
mindset of trying to persuade others, in my experience, is pretty harmful. When
I have been in that mode in the past, it crushed my ability to notice when I was
I also have other intuitions for why doing the second thing just doesn't work if
you want to get highly capable individuals who will actually solve the biggest
problems but in this comment, I just wanted to point out the distinction betwe
Load more (8/12)
Calling all Lithuanians!
I'm on the lookout for people who are interested in effective altruism /
rationality and living in Lithuania.
If you happen to know anyone like that, let me know, so I could invite them to
apply to the upcoming EAGxNordics conference
For context, I am on the organising team for EAGx Nordics and one of our goals
is to grow the smaller EA communities in the region. Most notably Lithuania,
which is the largest country in the Baltics, but has the smallest EA presence.
My hope is that the conference will help connect existing EA-aligned individuals
living in Lithuania, who might not know each other.