James Özden

3342Joined Oct 2020


Currently doing social movement and protest-related research at Social Change Lab, an EA-aligned research organisation I've recently started.

Previously, I completed the 2021 Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program. Before that, I was the Director & Strategy lead at Animal Rebellion + in the Strategy team at Extinction Rebellion UK, working on movement building for animal advocacy and climate change.

My blog (often EA related content)

Feel free to reach out on james.ozden [at] hotmail.com or see a bit more about me here


The Farm Animal Welfare Newsletter


Can you share any other examples of what you've asked?  Feeling somewhat uncreative on how to apply LLMs to day-to-day work!

+1 to different presentation - a few graphs and/or tables would have helped me get my head around this much quicker! Very interesting research so thank you for doing it :) 

I think there are tradeoffs here though (and I have also talked to women who like the status quo and I assume men do).

Just flagging that this sentence made me quite uneasy. Of course when you're talking about removing the institutional power of an oppressing group (e.g. men, white people, humans, etc.) that group will not want to lose their power or status. This doesn't make it any less important or moral though!

An exaggerated version of this might look like "There are some trade-offs to giving black people the right to vote. Most white people enjoy our political system the way it is, so we would have to consider what they would lose as well".

If it's not clear, I think this is the wrong way of thinking about it. I also don't have any obvious solutions, but I think men should be much more willing to take steps to try correct unearned social power e.g. basic reading on feminist topics, don't talk over women (or considering how much men are speaking vs women in a group discussion), be mindful of your social power, err on the cautious side for physical touching / sexual advances, don't be defensive when you get called out, etc. 

Adding to your points, I think the Time article is very likely understating (I think by a significant margin) the amount of sexual harassment or otherwise unwanted male advances. For example, there was only one case about Owen in the article but he himself admits (see below quote) there were at least 4 other occasions where his actions might have been misguided / overstepped the mark. 

Was this incident an isolated case? Yes and no. I think this was by some way my most egregious mistake of this type. However, in my time in EA there have been four other occasions on which I expressed feelings of attraction towards someone in a way that — in retrospect as I’ve developed a more nuanced understanding of power dynamics — I regret.

Generally, I think we can expect to see some "survivorship bias" e.g. reporters who want to uncover instances of sexual harassment might struggle because people who have faced these experiences might never engage properly with the EA community. For example, say someone new attends an EA event and faces some level of misogyny by male attendees  - they will just never attend an EA event again. So of course an article about reported cases will miss a significant proportion of incidents! As a result, it is very hard to track these incidences, especially if they occur at the early stages of someone's exposure to EA.


(There's a whole other point about internalised patriarchy where women will just tolerate some non-negligible level of sexism and not report it or even think it's a problem, but that's probably another conversation).

I’m very much a layman to the field of nuclear risk but I found this piece extremely engaging and interesting! I definitely think applying the principles of robust diversification to important issues is a key way for EAs to bring value, and would love to see it applied to other cause areas.

I appreciate you clarifying your thinking but just wanted to flag some disagreement with aspects of your comment.

If you think it was a waste of money, I have made much worse interior design decisions (in-general furniture is really annoyingly expensive, and I've bought couches for $2000 that turned out to just not work for us at all and were too hard to sell), and I consider this one a pretty strong hit.

I find this a weird counterargument to the claim that "X  was not a cost-effective use of money" as you're essentially saying "You think X is bad? You should have seen Y and Z, they were much worse!"

(To clarify, the reason why it's so expensive is because it's a kinetic sculpture with a moving magnet and a magnetic ball that draws programmable patterns into the sand at the center of the table, so it's not just like, a pretty coffee table)

Maybe I have too low an appreciation of art but a table that has programmable sand patterns does literally sound like "a pretty coffee table". I'm not convinced that this additional benefit is worth the additional $1900 (or whatever is required to buy a reasonably nice coffee table that achieves 99% of the same benefit). 

The table is currently serving as a centerpiece of our central workspace social room, and has a pretty large effect on good conversations happening since it seems to hit the right balance of being visually interesting without being too distracting while also being functional

I'm just extremely sceptical about this claim that the table has a pretty large effect on good conversations. In what way is it having a pretty large (positive) effect on conversations? And how can you even know that (say) a $300 dollar table wouldn't have provided the same effect? This feels a lot like motivated reasoning to me e.g. "I will buy very nice things for myself/my team because it helps me/us be more productive, which is very important to making sure we do good in the world" when I would guess that the counterfactual impact on doing good is trivially small.

my counterfactual earning rate being in the hundreds of dollars per hours, and I think it definitely is sometimes worth my time/money to buy an occasional expensive piece of furniture.

Even by your own lights, I think your analysis seems wrong. I think it's very reasonable that a $500 dollar would have achieved approximately the same (alleged) impact on improving conversations relative to your $2200 table. So since you don't value your time at more than $1700 per hour, it would have been very reasonable to spend an hour finding a cheaper table (maybe ignoring the situation with Atlas), which is very doable. That said, I also think this kind of reasoning "My time is worth so much per hour I can make somewhat counter-intuitive trade-offs for very rational reasons" can sometimes be quite suspect, for similar motivated reasoning concerns. I agree it might be reasonable to use this logic sometimes, but I'm not sure this is a good example of it.

How come you think that? Maybe I'm biased from spending lots of time with Charity Entrepreneurship folks but I feel like I know a bunch of talented and entrpreneurial people who could run projects like the ones mentioned above. If anything, I would say neartermist EA has a better (or at least, longer) track record of incubating new projects relative to longtermist EA!

My guess is that this new neartermist-only EA would not have the resources to do a bunch of things which EA currently does--it's not clear to me that it would have an actively maintained custom forum, or EAGs, or EA Funds. James Snowden at Open Phil recently started working on grantmaking for neartermist-focused EA community growth, and so there would be at least one dedicated grantmaker trying to make some of this stuff happen. But most of the infrastructure would be gone.

This paragraph feels pretty over the top. When you say "resources" I assume you mean that neartermist EAs wouldn't have enough money to maintain the Forum, host EAGs, run EA Funds, etc. This doesn't feel either that accurate, partially on the account that I don't think those infrastructure examples are particularly resource or labour-intensive, or sufficient money is available to make them happen:

  • Forum: Seems like 1-2 people are working FTE on maintaining the forum. This doesn't seem like that much at all and to be frank, I'm sure volunteers could also manage it just fine if necessary (assuming access to the underlying codebase).
  • EA Funds: Again, 1-2 FTE people working on this, so I think this is hardly a significant resource drain, especially since 2.5 of the funds are neartermist.
  • EAGs: Yes, definitely more expensive than the above two bits of infrastructure, but also I know at least one neartermist org is planning a conference (tba) so I don't think this number will fall to 0. More likely it'll be less than it is right now, but one could also reasonably think we currently have more than what is optimally cost-effective.

Overall it seems like you either (1) Think neartermist EA has access to very few resources relative to longtermist EA or (2) that longtermist EA doesn't have as much direct work to spend money on so by default they spend a higher % of total funds on movement infrastructure?

For (1): I would be curious to hear more about this, as seems like without FTX, the disparities in neartermist and longtermist funding aren't huge (e.g. I think no more than 10x different?). Given that OP / Dustin are the largest funders, and the longtermist portfolio of OP is likely going to be around 50% of OP's portfolio, this makes me think differences won't be that large without new longtermist-focused billionaires. 

For (2): I think this is largely true, but again I would be surprised if this led to longtermist EA being willing to spend 50x more than neartermist EA (I could imagine a 10x difference). That said, a few million for neartermist EA, which I think is plausible, would cover a lot of core infrastructure.

Funnily enough, I think EA does worse than other communities / movements I'm involved with (grassroots animal advocacy & environmentalism). My partner and other friends (women) have often complained about various sexist issues when attending EA events e.g. men talking over them, borderline aggressive physical closeness, dismissing their ideas, etc., to the point that they doesn't want to engage with the community. Experiences like this rarely, if ever, happen in other communities we hang out in. I think there are a few reasons for why EA has been worse than other communities in my cases:

  • I think our experiences differ on animal issues as when groups /movements professionalise, as has been happening over the past decade for animal welfare, the likelihood that men will abuse their positions of power increases dramatically. At the more grassroots level, power imbalances often aren't stark enough to lead the types of issues that came out in the animal movement a few years back. EA has also been undergoing this professionalisation and consolidation of power, and seems like the article above highlights the negative consequences of that. 
  • As has been noted many times, EA is currently about 70% male, whilst environmentalism/animal advocacy is majority women.  I would be fairly confident that a more balanced gender ratio would mean less misogyny towards women. 
  • Some EAs have a kind of "anti-woke" sentiment to the point where I actually think it could be fairly damaging e.g. it causes people to think issues related to race, gender, nationality etc aren't important at all. I think it would be pretty valuable if everyone read a few core texts on things like racism, sexism, ableism, etc. to actually understand the every-day experiences of people facing various forms of discrimination and bigotry. 
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