Dylan Richardson

52 karmaJoined Seeking work


  • Attended an EA Global conference
  • Attended more than three meetings with a local EA group


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I suppose I can see that. The word "disadvantaging" though seems to have a fairly uncontroversial definition to me. If we take "disadvantaging" to mean "insufficiently compensated for", then what word means "generally harmful to the achievement of personal aims, relative to baseline ambitions"? 

I took the answer more as (at best) a way of saying "I support disability rights". Which I might actually be kinda OK with in a different context. Maybe while giving a public speech to a particular crowd. But this is an anonymous academic survey. At a certain point you have to put your foot down and say "this is what words mean". 

Results give some support to the notion that bioethicists are more like PR professionals, geared to reproducing common sentiments rather than a group that is OK with sometimes taking difficult stances. Questions 6 & 7 especially seem like vague left-wing truisms.

On the other hand, there does seem to be a substantial (minority?) which isn't this way, so perhaps it's not fair to condemn all bioethicists, as some tend to. Or maybe much of actual research is OK and there's too much worrying about certain in-group signals. Maybe critics are doing a motte-and-bailey:

...it is worth some eyebrow-raising if it turns out that the ingroup defense is something along the lines of “well, by bioethicists, we mean research ethicists, and by research ethicists we mean research bureaucrats, and by research bureaucrats, we mean research bureaucracy.” It feels like blaming congressional gridlock on political philosophers at a certain point.

This seems plausible. But I still can't get over 40% thinking being blind would be not disadvantaging if society was "justly designed". Even if individual opinions aren't everything, surely it matters that the supposed experts, who are plausibly themselves in positions of influence, exhibit such poor reasoning?

This seems like a common group misperception to me, that (other) EAs have turned against earning to give. Take this comment for instance - zero disagrees. 

But maybe there's a vague unease as opposed to explicit beliefs? Like student clubs just not broaching the subject as much as they had before? Self-censoring? If so, it's not obviously represented in any forum activity I've seen, neither is it obvious on the EA survey, which finds "further de-emphasize ETG" in only 5% of responses. Maybe that's enough to be worried anyways?

I'm pretty pro-ETG. But I do agree with these points Lilly.

I wonder if showcasing and building on the fun of giving effectively would be helpful? I actually have very little experince to draw on here myself - but it seems to me that doling out one's wealth actually can pretty be enjoyable, if we attempt to make it so?

There's the basic fuzzies - but also the impression of building something. Some people collect old cars or stock tropical aquariums. In so far as value erosion is typified by declining interest when one leaves fertile EA social circles in college (I think ideology and lifestyle changes as causality are a little bit over empathized comparatively), keeping up those networks might help. Giving as a fun hobby you do with your friends. Just like other hobbies, but it's donation data spreadsheets and counterfactual impact that you collect instead of rare coins or vintage sneakers.

Relatedly - I've heard of parties where people came together to compile donations on giving days? Never been to one, but these seem great.

There's a good (but somewhat muddled) forum post on this: What to do with people? https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/oNY76m8DDWFiLo7nH/what-to-do-with-people

Especially for people without direct involvement like ETG people and recent grads - we can't just assume they'll stay in EA because "it's true/right", some people need that social push. EAGs are good, but are simply too big, too costly and too formal.

Skills & background: Recent graduate, some internship experience in research related roles. Current legislative intern at the Animal Welfare Institute.

Location/remote: Currently located in San Diego, California. Willing to relocate.

Availability & type of work: Part time, or full time starting in May.

Contact: DM me here or on my LinkedIn.

Other notes: Interested interested in policy roles, animal welfare roles, GHD, movement building, longtermism and more.

I'm sympathetic to the problem of measuring "marginal cost effectiveness" for ACE's movement grants, that does seem difficult and at risk of measurement bias. But let's change the topic for now: 

I'm curious how much thought has gone into considering the dilemmas here as "spread movement infrastructure broadly everywhere vs concentrate it in particular social groups/geographies/municipalities/political levers/corporate targets"?

There's an extent to where establishing footholds widely is important, maintaining the universality of the movement and maybe benefiting from a wide diffusion of tractable goals.

But on the other hand, it seems to me that concentration of funds may benefit from possible social tipping points? 

  • Protests and leafleting both seem to more likely to happen with, say 20 individuals, 5 of whom show up on a given day. 
  • Likewise, the salience of such acts seems somewhat predictable - 5 fill a sidewalk, 20 might be enough to pressure a particular target, 100 enough for a march/parade.
  • "Friend group", "social scene", "group identity", all seem dependent on different scales.
  •  Social media effectiveness might require 10,000 viewers.
  • Major (positive) media attention might require 250 moderately dedicated individuals. 
  • Signature collecting clearly benefits from concentration, as do "letters to your representatives"
  • More abstractly, there are possible tipping points for achieving clear social consensus on topics, what ideas are conformed too rather than against, how many are needed to veto dinner party decisions, and so on

Obviously this isn't remotely an empirical matter, there are no objective numbers to refer to, I made these up. And I'm of course equivocating between $$$ and social network building, there's plenty of room for particularly capable organizations and individuals to dominate. 

But what if we concentrated millions in groups in Berkeley, California? What if hundreds of thousands go to fueling activism against one single provision in a particular bill? What about 10-timing the funding of a single university group? 

I may not be "on the ground" enough to get a good sense of actual movement dynamics, so feel free to discount what I've said on that basis. And maybe I'm just naive as to the amount of funds that can actually be productively used by a given group?

But it seems like one essential problem of the movement is that it is drowning in just causes. Random barn fire happens, 10k cows burn alive - what now? 

I agree with GWWC's case that AWF may be overestimating the value of addressing geographic neglectedness. But I'm wondering if the problem is wider? Could animal movement-building giving in general do with a bit more concentration? EA has been great at pioneering new, neglected frontiers in animal welfare; but perhaps there's a point where we should shy away from novelty and bet everything on a few choice picks?[1]


  1. ^

    I realize that the emphasis on the humane league could be construed as doing just this, but I vague notion that "corporate campaigning" isn't exactly a movement-builder tactic and so may have more of ceiling on possible benefits? Very uncertain on this.

I'm a bit skeptical that all identitarian tactics should be avoided, insofar as that is what this is. It's just too potent a tool - just about every social movement has promulgated itself by these means, by plan or otherwise. Part of this is a "growth of the movement" debate; I'm inclined to think that more money+idea proliferation is needed.

I do think there are some reasonable constraints:

  1. Identitarian tactics should be used self-consciously and cynically. It's when we forget that we are acting, that the worst of in/out groupiness presents itself. Do think we could do with some more reminding of this.

  2. I would agree that certain people should refrain from this. Fine if early-stage career people do it, but I'll start being concerned if Macaskill loses his cool and starts posting "I AM AN EA💡" and roasting outgroups.

  1. This neglects a considerable amount of my probability mass that says "ASI is dangerous", due to not considering the possibility of an Oracle ASI, or otherwise one with bad outcomes that would be worsened by China's AI plausibly getting to ASI before us.
  2. For a further reason "But China!" does matter, consider the greatly reduced bargaining position under that scenario. Much easier I think (with admittedly no understanding global-power bargaining dynamics) that building international agreements is easier when costs aren't to the competitive disadvantage of the opposing side.
  3. I'm not convinced that alignment is not ~90% capabilities. That Open AI and Anthropic are at least somewhat dedicated to explicitly pursuing alignment also shouldn't be taken for granted. 

Great! Perhaps at a conference like this, dedicated to this particular field of inquiry, there could be commitment to start writing papers in a non-anthropocentric fashion? There's a problem I've written about before where academics tend to presume the obvious human interests on topics like climate change and environmental harms where discourse norms are normalized, but for anything pertaining to animal welfare, they slip into "and animal rights groups have historically called for", rather than "lessened meat-eating (or other adjacent welfare concern) lessens animal suffering".

This is less problematic in philosophy and in economics to a degree, but it tends to persist in other sciences. Part of the problem is a lack of interdisciplinary connection - just what this conference is posed to help with! 

That's the first I've heard of that disruption threat. But - just judging from that sentence - it sounds completely reasonable to me!  Asymmetric weapons and improving the discourse are good aims generally, yes, but there are substantial barriers in place to these actually occurring.

 I don't really have enough info to judge what the actual counterfactual would be here, but generally the counterfactual reality in these sorts of discussions isn't everyone coming together in harmonious logical debate. Incrimination and the four Ns are a strong countervailing force! That we have a norm in 2023 where quite disparate people (in background, field) come together on eating vegan is pretty much unprecedented. 

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