David_Moss

I am the Principal Research Manager at Rethink Priorities working on, among other things, the EA Survey, Local Groups Survey, and a number of studies on moral psychology, focusing on animal, population ethics and moral weights.

In my academic work, I'm a Research Fellow working on a project on 'epistemic insight' (mixing philosophy, empirical study and policy work) and moral psychology studies, mostly concerned either with effective altruism or metaethics.

I've previously worked for Charity Science in a number of roles and was formerly a trustee of EA London.

David_Moss's Comments

EA Survey 2019 Series: How EAs Get Involved in EA

I just added him a mention of this to the bullet point about these open comments.

Some thoughts on deference and inside-view models

Most of us had a default attitude of skepticism and uncertainty towards what EA orgs thought about things. When I talk to EA student group members now, I don’t think I get the sense that people are as skeptical or independent-thinking.

I've heard this impression from several people, but it's unclear to me whether EAs have become more deferential, although it is my impression that many EAs are currently highly deferential. It seems quite plausible to me that it is merely more apparent that EAs are highly deferential right now, because the 'official EA consensus' (i.e. longtermism) is more readily apparent. I think this largely explains the dynamics highlighted in this post and in the comments. (Another possibility is simply that newer EAs are more likely to defer than veteran EAs and as EA is still growing rapidly, we constantly get higher %s of non-veteran EAs, who are more likely to defer. I actually think the real picture is a bit more complicated than this, partly because I think moderately engaged and invested EAs are more likely to defer than the newest EAs, but we don't need to get into that here).

My impression is that EA culture and other features of the EA community implicitly encourage deference very heavily (despite the fact that many senior EAs would, in the abstract, like more independent thinking from EAs). In terms of social approval and respect, as well as access to EA resources (like jobs or grants), deference to expert EA opinion (both in the sense of sharing the same views and in the sense of directly showing that you defer to senior EA experts) seem pretty essential.

I have the sense that people would now view it as bad behavior to tell people that you think they’re making a terrible choice to donate to AMF

Relatedly, my purely anecdotal impression is basically the opposite here. As EA has professionalised I think there are more explicit norms about "niceness", but I think it's never been clearer or more acceptable to communicate implicitly or explicitly, that you think that people who support AMF (or other near-termist) probably just 'don't get' longtermism and aren't worth engaging with.

EA Survey 2019 Series: How EAs Get Involved in EA

Thanks Jon.

I agree Peter Singer is definitely still one of the most important factors, as our data shows (and as we highlighted last year. He's just not included in the bullet point in the summary you point to because that only refers to the fixed categories in the 'where did you first hear about EA?' question.

In 2018 I wrote "Peter Singer is sufficiently influential that he should probably be his own category", but although I think he deserves to be his own category in some sense, it wouldn't actually make sense to have a dedicated Peter Singer category alongside the others. Peter Singer usually coincides with other categories i.e. people have read one of his books, or seen one of his TED Talks, or heard about him through some other Book/Article or Blog or through their Education or a podcast or The Life You Can Save (org) etc., so if we split Peter Singer out into his dedicated category we'd have to have a lot of categories like 'Book (except Peter Singer)' (and potentially so for any other individuals who might be significant) which would be a bit clumsy and definitely lead to confusion. It seems neater to just have the fixed categories we have and then have people write in the specifics in the open comment section and, in general, not to have any named individuals as fixed categories.

The other general issue to note is that we can't compare the %s of responses to the fixed categories to the %s for the open comment mentions. People are almost certainly less likely to write in something as a factor in the open comment than they would be to select it were it offered as a fixed choice, but on the other hand, things can appear in the open comments across multiple categories, so there's really no way to compare numbers fairly. That said, we can certainly say that since he's mentioned >200 times, the lower bound on the number of people who first heard of EA from Peter Singer is very high.

EA Survey 2019 Series: How EAs Get Involved in EA

Thanks. That makes sense. I try not to change the historic categories too much though, since it messes up comparisons across years.

EA Survey 2019 Series: How EAs Get Involved in EA

I think it's fair to say (as I did) that LessWrong is often thought of as "primarily" online, and, given that, I think it's understandable to find it surprising that these are the second most commonly mentioned way people hear about EA within the LessWrong category (I would expect more comments mentioning SlateStarCodex and other rationalist blogs for example). I didn't say that "surprising that people mention LessWrong meetups" tout court. I would expect many people, even among those who are familiar with LessWrong meetups, to be surprised at how often they were mentioned, though I could be mistaken about that.

(That said, a banal explanation might be that those who heard about EA just straightforwardly through the LessWrong forum, without any further detail, were less likely to write anything codable in the open comment box, compared to those who were specifically influenced by an event or HPMOR)

EA Survey 2019 Series: How EAs Get Involved in EA

Thanks Jonas!

You can see the total EAs (estimated from year first heard) and the annual growth rate here:

As you suggest, this will likely over-estimate growth due to greater numbers of EAs from earlier cohorts having dropped out.

Applying speciesism to wild-animal suffering

I occasionally see people make this kind of argument in the case of children, based on similar arguments for autonomy (see youth rights), though I agree that more people seem to find the argument that we should intervene convincing in the case of young children (that said, from the perspective of the activist who holds this view, this just seems like inappropriate discrimination).

Applying speciesism to wild-animal suffering

It seems worth noting that some people also make the argument that it is x-ist to "think we have the right to intervene in the lives of" x oppressed group. As such, they probably won't be convinced by the analogy (though I agree that some people do think that we should intervene in human cases relevantly similar to wild animal suffering cases and so will be convinced).

2019 Ethnic Diversity Community Survey

Thanks Jonas! We'll be discussing this in more detail in our forthcoming post on EA Engagement levels.

2019 Ethnic Diversity Community Survey

Thanks Vaidehi. I agree that this is still useful information, I was simply responding to your direct comparison to the EA Survey ("The survey seems to have achieved this goal [solicit the experiences of people from ethnic minorities in EA] compared to the annual EA survey, a much higher proportion of respondents to this survey were non-white.").

By the way if you have specific questions that you would like us to include in the EA Survey please let us know (though no hurry).

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