5267Joined Oct 2018


Policy and International Relations Primer


I think there's a place for private criticism,  but it needs to be accompanied by public removal of the offending behavior, and/or apologies. Otherwise, other people don't see that the norms are being reinforced. (And as originally, this applies much more to the more senior / well known EAs.)

I think this is trying to do something good - but it's fundamentally wrong in most particulars.

I agree - and have written on the forum about about how - it is critically important to balance your personal needs and wants with altruism. But claiming that you're not really saving human lives because expected value isn't reality, or that spending money on personal consumption is somehow altruistic, i.e. making fundamental mistakes in reasoning, isn't helpful. I'd be happy to have a longer conversation about this, but will first point here for some of my thoughts on what a healthier EA looks like.

I think that there should be a high bar for posting, and also that the community needs a better way to respond than up/downvotes. 

Perhaps for new Forum users, their first couple posts should probably be moderated / held in a queue for feedback, to ensure that someone more experienced gives them personal feedback before they can post?

Note that this is the first part of what might be a sequence, if people are interested in my further thoughts, which will need to touch on the more controversial issues I avoided for now. The other two parts I have planned are looking at the priorities, and then the community.

Without knowing more about your resume and background, I strongly suspect that the first priority, for your initial job, is going to be to get experience in a top/impressive firm, and not focus on finding an EA-aligned job until you have a couple years of experience.

You say you agree, but I was asking questions about what you were claiming and who you were blaming.

Yes, that's how all organizations work. Obviously there are cases where employees of an organization should not be publicly commenting to support their organization, because that can be harmful compared to allowing the organization to manage its own reputation.  That's not at all the same as suppressing criticism. For example, not responding to trolls is a good thing. I'm all in favor of, say, telling employees not to "defend" EA against claims that it's a secret conspiracy to help rich people. Telling someone not to engage in highlighting dumb bad-faith arguments isn't suppressing their opinions.

I am very concerned that there is implicit pressure not to criticize, but the explicit encouragement by funders and orgs seems to have done a good job pushing back - and the criticism contest was announced well before FTX and the recent attention, and criticisms of EA were common among EA org employees well before any of the Cremer criticism. And I'd note that the highlighted blog is by someone who doesn't identify as EA, but works for GPI.

Strong disagree for misattributing blame and eliding the question.

To the extent that "EA is counterfactually responsible for the three primary AGI labs," you would need to claim that the ex-ante expected value of specific decisions was negative, and that those decisions were because of EA, not that it went poorly ex-post. Perhaps you can make those arguments, but you aren't. 

Ditto for "The decisions which caused the FTX catastrophe" - Whose decisions, where does the blame go, and to what extent are they about EA? SBF's decision to misappropriate funds, or fraudulently misrepresent what he did? CEA not knowing about it? OpenPhil not investigating? Goldman Sachs doing a bad job with due diligence?

Minor complaint / disagreement:

Norms must be enforced consistently, applying to senior EAs just as much as newcomers. 

I think this is unreasonable, in the other direction. Newcomers (and outsiders) can and should be reminded or informed about norm violations the first time or times they screw up, and it should certainly take more than one time before there is any censure. Senior EAs should get far less flexibility and understanding.  And I'm not blameless - there are at least two times that can recall I was rebuked for things privately, and I think it was good, and plausibly should have been more stringent and/or public; I have little excuse.

This is especially unfortunate because the level of discourse we aspire to, in my view, needs to be even better than what is already normal here. And many of the things that improvement entails are the points being made in this post!  (And that's true even though the current norms are far better than what is seen elsewhere - the failures that the current post suggests correcting are already fairly egregious compared to my current expectations.) So I, at least, can say I hope to be held to a higher standard, and am happy to be told if and when I am failing to do so.

I agree that this is tricky to do, because the processes aren't so well publicly documented. (Not that they should be - funders providing information about their processes make them more gameable, as most government funding is!) 

I do think that you could have asked more people with knowledge of the process to review the post, and also think that the Survival and Flourishing Fund documents what they do pretty clearly, including both their writeup, and at least one forum post by a reviewer documenting it pretty extensively.

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