405 karmaJoined Mar 2022danfrank.ca



I stayed at an EA House last summer and had a very positive experience (you can read about my positive testimonial here).

I shared this idea in the original spreadsheet, but I think it deserves more attention: using EA houses or a similar platform to facilitate home exchanges for effective altruists who work remotely.

There are many effective altruists who work remotely, and many of them would benefit from being able to spend time in different cities, whether for work, community engagement, or personal enjoyment. However, working remotely in new cities can be very expensive, largely due to high accommodation costs.

At the same time, many people cannot host on EA houses because they only have one room or bed available in their home, which is otherwise occupied when they are at home. By creating a home exchange platform, we can increase the supply of potential places to stay and provide a lot of additional utility for those who would benefit from it.


I find the discourse on this quite confusing.

In the thread you linked to defending the purchase of Wytham Abbey, it's suggested that CEA shouldn't be criticized for the Wytham Abbey purchase as it was carried out by a separate organization in EVF. It's then suggested EVF shouldn't be criticized because EVF merely accepted a gift from a third party organization.

My understanding of the the sequence of events is:

Owen, a trustee of EVF, acting in his capacity as an advisor to the CEA (an organization under the control of EVF), asked fellow EVF Trustee Claire Zabel to fund the purchase of Wytham Abbey through Open Phil. Once funding was secured, Owen brought the purchase to the other three EVF Trustees of for approval.

In response to commentary on Wytham Abbey, Owen provides: "So EVF made two decisions here: they approved fiscal sponsorship, agreeing to take funds for this new project; and they then followed through and bought the property with the funds that had been earmarked for that. The second of these is technically a decision to buy the building (and was done by a legal entity at the time called CEA), but at that point it was fulfilling an obligation to the donor, so it would have been wild to decide anything else."

Separate from any analysis of if Wytham Abbey was a worthwhile investment,  the organizational concerns the Wytham Abbey purchase highlighted seem important to discuss.

Between the organizational conflation of CEA and EVF, and multiple EVF Trustees working in multiple capacities, I don't even understand who is supposed to be subject to criticism.


Thank you sharing this. As a distinct matter, the specific way FTX failed also makes me more concerned about the viability of a certain type of mindset that seems somewhat common and normalized amongst some in the EA community.

  • holding the belief that by being very very smart, you can work in areas you have minimal experience and know better than others
  • having (experienced) adults in the room/adhering to formal compliance norms is overrated
  • understating the risks posed by conflict of interest issues
  • accepting ends justify the means type reasoning

I believe Sam's adherence to the above referenced beliefs played a critical role in FTX's story.  I don't think that any one of these beliefs is inherently problematic, but I have adjusted downwards against those who hold all of them.


Very curious to learn if first prize winning Paul Romer is Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Romer


I appreciate it may be worthwhile for OP to fund the acquisition of a dedicated EA events space, but the shift from:

"we should fund a dedicated EA events space"


"we should specifically fund the purchase of Wytham Abbey"

is alarming given the obvious challenges with Wytham Abbey (both with the property and the COI issues).

If EVF or OP wanted to purchase a dedicated event space and solicited applications/proposals for it, given all of the stated concerns, I am confident Wytham Abbey would not have won. I think it is worthwhile for OP to reflect on what went wrong here.


I don't know if an EA community is a good thing, but as a related point, I think it's worthwhile to share that I think the EA community as it currently exists, and in particular, EA leadership, has done a very poor job in advancing the interests of EA causes.

At present, EA has an awful reputation and most people view the community with contempt and it's ideas as noxious.

Candidly, I'm embarrassed to share any affiliation I have with EA to colleagues and non-close peers.

This didn't have to be this way and frankly, given the virtue of EA, it takes a special type of failure to have steered the community down this path.

I think EA would be significantly better served if a number of leading EA orgs and thought leaders dramatically reevaluated their role, strategy and involvement with EA.


You write: "We are delighted to announce the 2023 Effective Altruism Africa Residency Fellowship, to be hosted on the island of Zanzibar."


Who is we? I even clicked on the application form and still don't know.


This is a really great post Holden; thank you for writing it.

And I’m nervous about what I perceive as dynamics in some circles where people seem to “show off” how little moderation they accept - how self-sacrificing, “weird,” extreme, etc. they’re willing to be in the pursuit of EA goals. I think this dynamic is positive at times and fine in moderation, but I do think it risks spiraling into a problem.

As a somewhat outside observer, it seems a larger number of EAs, including many of those who drive the zeitgeist of this forum, are orienting their entire lives around EA (working directly + EA dominated social life + dating within EA + consumption of media through twitter/podcasts  largely consisting of EA curation). I think this is a serious concern for many reasons,  but one important one is that I suspect an insular community is more likely to produce behaviours like those described in your post.


If the concern is less committed EAs working in EA organizations, could EA orgs shift compensation to a structure  like:

65% compensation through income; 35% "compensation" through donating to the employee's organization of choice?

Percentages are ofcourse arbitrary for the purposes of this post. This has tax benefits as well.

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