4592 karmaJoined Apr 2021


My ethics are closest to asymmetric, person-affecting prioritarianism, and I don’t think the expected value of the future is as high as longtermists do because of potential bad futures. Politically I'm closest to internationalist libertarian socialism. 


Topic Contributions

“we shape the ideology to steer clearer of RB & naive consequentialism?”

I’m strongly in favour of this as something for CEA to aim for via the content of EA intro fellowships.

Specifically, EA should actively condemn law-breaking in the pursuit of doing good as a general principle and accept that EA isn’t just applied consequentialism and does accept broad deontological principles like “don’t break the law”, “don’t lie” etc.

I agree that we should be wary of falling into the "risk-averse bureaucracy" failure mode, and I also think co-living for co-workers at a similar seniority level is fine (it is also normal outside EA). I also think there might be a good case for EA houses trying to have people from different orgs.

However, I'd like to point out that any Fermi estimates here would be fairly pointless. There are many different inputs you would need, and the reasonable range for each input is very wide, particularly with "potential reputational harm to EA from bad thing happening", which can range from nothing to FTX-level or far worse.

"In general the law is not necessarily well-aligned with doing the most good" 

I agree with this, but I think deontological principles like "don't ask people who you have power over to break the law" are good and should be followed, even when in specific situations, this might be misaligned with the act which generates the greatest utility in the short term.

There's of interesting work inside and outside EA which I would recommend, on the relationship between consequentialism and deontology (including stuff about naive consequentialism, rule utilitarianism, etc).

I don't think employers should tell employees to do illegal things, it's about both power dynamics and legality.

I would very strongly recommend that employers do not ask employees to illegally move melatonin across borders.

Obviously jaywalking is much less bad and asking your employees to jaywalk is much less bad - but I would still recommend that employers do not ask employees to jaywalk. Generally I'd say that it's much less bad to ask your employees to do an illegal thing that lots of people do anyway, but I would recommend that employees still do not ask employees to do them. (Jaywalking would fit into this category, moving drugs illegally across borders and driving without a license in Puerto Rico would not).

Oops sorry I’m not really sure why I put his name there, edited to remove, sorry Drew!

This is my main question, since it appears that in your conversation with Ben, you a) essentially agreed that you asked employees to break the law, b) didn't seem to think it was a big deal?

Can we add "ask their employees to break the law" to this

"I’m concerned that people still think that if you have good enough character (or are smart enough, etc), you don’t need good boundaries and systems."

I strongly agree with this.

I think EA fails to recognise that traditional professional boundaries are a safeguard against tail risks and that these tail risks still remain when people appear to be kind / altruistic / rational.

Based only on the allegations which Nonlinear admits to, which I think we can assume are 100% true, I would:

a) very strongly discourage anyone from working for Emerson Spartz and Kat Woods. 


b) very strongly encourage CEA and other EA orgs to distance themselves from Nonlinear.


"First; the formal employee drove without a license for 1-2 months in Puerto Rico. We taught her to drive, which she was excited about. You might think this is a substantial legal risk, but basically it isn't, as you can see here, the general range of fines for issues around not-having-a-license in Puerto Rico is in the range of $25 to $500, which just isn't that bad."

This is illegal. Employers should not be asking employees to do things which are illegal, even if the punishment is a small fine.


"Third; the semi-employee was also asked to bring some productivity-related and recreational drugs over the border for us. In general we didn't push hard on this. For one, this is an activity she already did (with other drugs). For two, we thought it didn't need prescription in the country she was visiting, and when we found out otherwise, we dropped it. And for three, she used a bunch of our drugs herself, so it's not fair to say that this request was made entirely selfishly. I think this just seems like an extension of the sorts of actions she's generally open to."

Employers should not be asking "semi-employees" to transport illegal drugs, regardless of context.


Saying you're "saving the world" does not give you a free pass to ask your employees to break the law.

I really want to emphasise, particularly to younger EAs and EAs in college who want to work for EA orgs, that it is not normal for employers to ask you to do illegal things and you will almost certainly be able to very easily find impactful work with employers who are better than this.

Also, please do not work for employers who want you to live with them and be "a part of their family" - this situation is very unusual for a good reason and leaves you at very high risk of exploitation, abuse and mistreatment.


Part of being successful when running any organisation is being a good employer so you can hire and retain the best talent. Asking your employees to do illegal things is preposterously stupid and means you are an exceptionally bad employer, and means your organisation is probably not going to do a very good job of saving the world. This kind of behaviour also puts EA's reputation at risk and makes you a massive liability to the rest of us. Please do not do this.

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