James Herbert

Co-director @ Effective Altruism Netherlands
524 karmaJoined Mar 2022Working (6-15 years)Amsterdam, Netherlands


I'm currently a co-director at EA Netherlands (with Marieke de Visscher). We're working to build and strengthen the EA community here.

Before this, I worked as a consultant on urban socioeconomic development projects and programmes funded by the EU. Before that, I studied liberal arts (in the UK) and then philosophy (in the Netherlands).

Hit me up if you wanna find out about the Dutch EA community! :)


Yes, I noticed that. Certain news organisations, which are trusted by an important subsection of the US population, often characterise progressive movements as uninformed mobs. That is clear. But if you define 'reputable' as 'those organisations most trusted by the general public', which seems like a reasonable definition, then, based on the YouGov analysis, Fox et al. is not reputable. But then maybe YouGov's method is flawed? That's plausible.

But we've fallen into a bit of a digression here. As I see it, there are four cruxes:

  1. Does a focus on the inside game make us vulnerable to the criticism that we're a part of a conspiracy? 
    1. For me, yes.
  2. Does this have the potential to undermine our efforts?
    1. For me, yes.
  3. If we reallocate (to some degree) towards the outside game in an effort to hedge against this risk, are we likely to be labelled an uninformed mob, and thus undermine our efforts?
    1. For me, no, not anytime soon (although, as you state, organisations such as Fox will do this before organisations such as PBS, and Fox is trusted by an important subsection of the US population).
  4. Is it unquestionably OK to try to guide society without broader societal participation?
    1. For me, no.   

I think our biggest disagreement is with 3. I think it's possible to undermine our efforts by acting in such a way that organisations such as Fox characterise us as an uninformed mob. However, I think we're a long, long way from that happening. You seem to think we're much closer, is that correct? Could you explain why?

I don't know where you stand on 4. 

P.S. I'm enjoying this discussion, thanks for taking the time!

Chloe Cockburn, who used to lead Open Phil's criminal justice reform work, gives a useful definition here

'Mass mobilization and structure organizing make up the “outside game.” Those making change by working within government, or other elite or dominant structures, are part of the inside game.' 

Using that definition, a coup feels very inside game. But I agree with your general characterisation, Dušan.

I also think it's worth pointing out that the outside game is not just protesting. In the quote, Chloe refers to structure organising and mobilisation. 

Here's a contrast between the two:

Structure Organising:

  • Long-term Approach: It is a sustained effort that builds power over time through the development of leaders and the cultivation of dedicated members.
  • Hierarchy and Leadership: There's a clear hierarchy with defined roles, responsibilities, and lines of accountability.
  • Defined Membership: Membership is clear and often requires commitment, leading to a strong sense of identity among participants.
  • Skill Development: Emphasis on training members and leaders to build their skills and capacities.
  • Relationships: Focus on building deep one-to-one relationships among members, fostering trust and shared commitment.
  • Clear Goals and Strategies: Goals are specific, and there's a clear strategy in place, broken down into actionable steps.


  • Short-term Approach: It is often a burst of activity aimed at rallying people around a particular issue or event. Once the event or action concludes, the mobilisation effort may dissipate.
  • Broad Participation: Mobilisation casts a wide net, seeking to involve as many people as possible, often regardless of their prior involvement or commitment.
  • Event or Issue-driven: It is typically driven by a particular event, crisis, or issue that demands immediate attention.
  • Limited Training: There's less emphasis on long-term skill and capacity building compared to structure organising.
  • Mass Communication: Use of broad communication strategies, such as mass media or social media, to reach and rally a large audience.
  • Immediate Goals: The goals are often immediate, such as turning out a large crowd for a protest or getting a specific response from decision-makers.

In essence, while structure organising focuses on building long-term power and capacity, mobilisation is about rallying people for immediate action. Both approaches have their strengths and can be complementary. For example, a well-organised group with a clear structure can mobilise its members more effectively when the need arises.

I've written more about the difference between structured organising and mobilisation here.

Nice post! If anyone reading this would like to see examples of outside game interventions, check out the Existential Risk Observatory and PauseAI.

For sure progressive publications will be more positive, and I don't think conservative media ≠ reputable. 

When I say "reputable publications" I am referring to the organisations at the top of this list of the most trusted news outlets in the US. My impression is that very few of these regularly characterise the aforementioned movements as "uninformed mobs". 

Maybe I'm in a bubble, but I don't recall seeing many reputable publications label large-scale progressive movements (e.g., BLM, Extinction Rebellion, or #MeToo) as "uninformed mobs". This article from the Daily Mail is about as close as it gets, but I think I'd rather have the Daily Mail writing about a wild What We Ourselves party than Politico insinuating a conspiracy. 

Ultimately, I don't think any of us know the optimal split in a social change portfolio between the outside game and the inside game, so perhaps we should adapt as the criticism comes in. If we get a few articles insinuating conspiracy, maybe we should reallocate towards the outside game, and vice versa.    

And again, I know I sound like a broken record, but there's also the issue of how appropriate it is for us to try to guide society without broader participation. 

I think there's a good chance we broadly agree. If you had to put a number on it, what would you say is our current percentage split between inside game and outside game? And what would your new ideal split be? 

In addition to Rocky's comment, there's also the fact that only a tiny proportion of the attendees have experience with CB outside the anglosphere (Sjir and Jan are the two I know of, but I might be missing some). This seems disproportionate given that approx 40% of the 2022 survey respondents reside in non-English speaking countries. 

I think JanPro is talking about the EA and Brussels article I referenced in the OP ('Stop the killer robots! Musk-backed lobbyists fight to save Europe from bad AI'). This was published in November last year. 

Many of the EAs I know who work in policy feel like they ought to keep their involvement in EA a secret. I once attended an event in Brussels where the host asked me to hide the fact I work for EA Netherlands. This was because they were worried their opponents would use their links with EA to discredit them. This seems like a very bad state of affairs. 

Great resource! Some Dutch suggestions: 

The Biosecurity Office: "The Biosecurity Office is a national information centre for the government and for organisations that work with high-risk biological material.

The Biosecurity Office shares knowledge and information about biosecurity and increases awareness about biosecurity, in order to minimise the risk of misuse of high risk pathogens, knowledge and technologies. The Biosecurity Office increases biosecurity awareness in the Netherlands by organizing a Biosecurity Knowledge Day in the Netherlands annually, by giving lectures and workshops, by developing knowledge products and web applications, and by joining international biosecurity initiatives."

The Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Centre: "Erasmus MC, TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam have joined forces in the Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Center (PDPC).

PDPC aims to prepare society for future pandemics and disasters. We will reduce vulnerabilities and risks and build resilience through effective disaster prevention, preparedness and recovery measures. Convergence of the technical, medical and social sciences is essential for developing the next generation of approaches to disasters and pandemics.’"

Thanks for your comment Chris! Although it appears contradictory? In the first half, you say we've made the right choice by focusing on the inside game, but in the second half, you suggest we expend more resources on outside game interventions.  

Is your overall take that we should mostly do inside game stuff, but that perhaps we're due a slight reallocation in the direction of the outside game? 

Load more