Thanks for posting this! I think it all seems right to me. A colleague of mine put it well that while EAs often have many advantages (e.g., highly educated), they often lack institutional knowledge. That is, a sort of informal knowledge of an organisation, field, and so on that one acquires from experience. On more than one occasion I've seen the sort of attitude of "If I can't read it in a book/article/forum post then it's not important." The nuance of healthy organisational function obviously has a lot written on it, but it's also something that manifests as knowledge held by people within a field (often non-EA people).
You point out many reasons for this (youth, the influence of start-up culture), and I think that is correct. Sometimes we as EAs think that we are exempt from the rules that other groups hold for themselves because of our commitment to EA principles. But often the follies of non-EA institutions should be taken seriously because they may act as predictions for EA, not as things we will avoid because, hey, we're EA and they're not.
Thanks for this thought-provoking post!
Along this axis of systemic-individual behavioral change, I think there is also a question about what, in fact, qualifies as systemic change. So, assuming we decide that indeed institutional reforms are the best way to go, we then need to be clear about what qualifies as one and what doesn't. Factory farming bans/moratoriums are very clearly systemic. But I think it is an open question if, say, cage-free pledges are indeed "systemic". They certainly don't appear to be individual, but I don't feel fully comfortable saying that they are institutional either.
I think that the institutional-individual question is merely the first question needing to be answered.
Thanks so much for posting this, George. I am a fan of this idea! As a lover of tofu dishes, I am excited to see where this goes. However, I have some significant objections to pose. In no particular order:
Thanks again George for your work on this and for seeking feedback. I don’t mean to sound overly skeptical. I’ve been working in the food world for a while, and it seems like every day there is a new product claiming it will be the new big thing. And while this idea is very different (in many good ways!) to another plant-based chicken nugget, for example, I think in order to be more confident in the possible success of this project I would need more information.
Thanks again and keep up the great work,
My sense is that before we putting even a little political capital into some kind of proposal like this, we need to determine if cancel culture is actually something worth worrying about to this extent.
Like, I 100% agree that in principle it's objectionable to "cancel" someone, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is manifesting to a degree worth caring about, or that it ever will. My intuition is that many people say and do bad things all the time and only a very, very small number of them are canceled.
This doesn't mean that it couldn't become an issue, but I wonder how much of this is something that EA should keep talking about as a serious issue, or if it's just a "Very Online" kind of thing. I often have heard otherwise brilliant people comparing cancel culture to, like, the cultural revolution under Mao, and needless to say, that's a pretty big overreaction.
Also, my gut tells me that if cancel culture is becoming a thing, which perhaps it is, then nothing that anyone has proposed so far appears, on the face of it, to have done anything to curb the phenomena. And I have doubts that this proposal would either, for reasons people already have stated. If anything, at least in the United States, there is now a completely asinine culture war over cancellation, which then distracts from more important issues like foreign aid and refugee policy.
I guess maybe I think that EA doesn't have the tools to "solve" or "fix" cancel culture, it's probably out of our abilities, so maybe let's focus on things we can have an impact on.
This isn't totally surprising to me, but it also strikes me as pretty big news. I've been involved in the animal welfare side of EA for a while now, including running a local chapter, and in my experience, the people interested in AW almost always are interested in cultivated meat. More importantly, they are interested in it because of the perception that it is on its way and is basically inevitable. They deserve to know that things are a bit more complicated than the hyperoptimisim of the field often implies. This news should give folks some pause, even if it's not that surprising. I don't think we should just be content with being this wrong because other fields may also often be wrong.
I know that in my future EA syllabi I will be including this information along with more optimistic views to create a more balanced perspective.