Jonathan Mannhart

173 karmaJoined Aug 2021Tübingen, Germany


I value the “it is something that everyone in EA can work on“-sentiment.

Particularily in these times, I think it is excellent to find things that (1) seem robustly good and (2) we can broadly agree on as a community to do more of. It can help alleviate feelings of powerlessness (and help with this is, I believe, one of the things we need.)

This seems to be one of those things. Thanks!

I have a lot of other issues with this comment, but I think just from reading Owen's statement your portrayal of "if anyone feels feels the need to harm someone's career to such an extent just because they felt uncomfortable from a single comment" is just objectively false?

who said in a recent email to me "I deliberately did not name you as I want to draw attention to [systemic issues]"

The mischaracterisation of people who come forward like this is something I really really wish nobody in the EA community would do. It can be incredibly hard to come forward. (And comments like this one make it harder.)

(Edit: you edited your comment, and your new wording I also disagree with. It seems to me that "someone's career deserves to be harmed" wasn't her motivation. It was drawing attention to systemic issues. Which would make sense and is plausibly very altruistic. To  just strongly assume otherwise seems bad faith.

Personally, your phrasing "should grow up" is what I  disagree with most. This is a serious conversation and that is not an argument, just an insult, which should have no place here.)

Yeah, we can in that way, agree 100%. I just meant "I can't do it in my head for the purpose of this comment". Otherwise, completely agree.

I appreciate your comment! Learned a lot. I've never been to the bay area EA/tech scene, so I can't speak to that. But from what I can tell by reading all the things today, to me there does seem to be a  difference between  EA spaces.

It's only a guess of course, as I don't have numbers (would really appreciate if somebody had any, although probably hard to get good data), but I'm ~90% confident that other EA spaces are better than that particular one. Especially the ones I know well (EA Germany, EA Netherlands, other small EU countries, and what I've heard from Australia & Chile) seem more like the other spaces you mention, at least to me. (But I want to reiterate that I don't have data. I'm not in the community health team for EA Germany or anything, so I could be wrong.)

I think it might somewhat map to gender ratios. From what I can tell, the bay are EA/tech spaces perform particularly bad with those. And of course it doesn't help with stuff like this if there are mostly (or just) men around, so that intuitively checks out for me.

My priors also map to your experience regarding the sex positivity scene. From what I can tell, those spaces are way above average in how  clear they are about interpersonal stuff (consent, consent, etc.) and people are (usually) more conscientious and better than average at communication. I think a lot of tech spaces go more the other direction than not. Especially if the gender ratio is skewed a lot.

So, my guess (although I don't know how much it is worth) would be that a lot of it might be the intersection of EA/tech/bay area. I  don't know how strong each factor is & too hesitant to speculate. But my experience with EA at least (and a lot of people I talked about this topic today) has been  different (not perfect, but... better.)

(I want to add that of course this comment is not meant to defend the EA bay area scene, I really have no experience with that other than what I read here, so I'm just updating on what you and others write. Also want to add that there's a good chance my estimation of how it is in other EA spaces is wrong, as everything is so underreported, and it's incredibly hard to try to correct for that.)

I voted disagree & want to explain why:

I don't think it's a “sacred cow" in EA and I don't think there are a number of reasons our priors should be that way.  I very strongly don't think it can be generalised to that extent. (Background: I've been on the receiving end of some bad social dynamics in which polyamory kind of played a role. Think unwanted attention of a person with more social power, not knowing what to do about it, etc. So I think I  know what I'm talking about, at least to a small extent.)

I think the main negative prior should be "is there a distinction between professional and romantic/sexual relationships and do people feel pressured/unsafe". 

In the Time piece, in every instance, this has been problematic. I think once social groups remove too many barriers between "professional" and "romantic/sexual", you can run into problems (i.e. become more "cult-like"). Unhealthy interplay between romantic and professional connections is exactly one of the big things what the community team and people like Julia Wise are concerned with (and what they are for), and I personally think they're doing a good job.

I think it's perfectly okay (and extremely possible) to be in polyamorous relationships while not violating those boundaries. I think most people do this! (This also shouldn't matter, but I'm not polyamorous myself.)

I think one can make an argument that goes like "but polyamorous relationships make it more likely for these borders to fade away". I think that's not a terrible argument. But again, the job of the people in polyamorous relationships is to not make people uncomfortable and violate their boundaries, especially in professional settings, irrespective of the relationship style they choose! Polyamory itself does not mean "violating people's boundaries is okay". So it's up to the individual people to not behave unethically.

I think if we were to somehow try to intervene in people's personal lives (i.e. try to discourage or ban polyamorous relationships or try to "inform" people how bad they are), it would go terribly. It's  exactly the kind of lack of separation of professional and romantic spaces that usually leads to problems.

We should let people live their personal lives as they wish, as long as they don't harm anyone. And an insufficient lack of separation between professional and personal spaces (power dynamics making people feel romantically/sexually pressured) counts as harm.


(Edit: While trying to steelman your argument, I came up with this:

I think one can make a very good case for why social groups (like EA) should be really cautious about “are we encouraging people to become poly even if they might not want to". I think this could be quite bad, and I think it can happen quite easily, even without it being intended. (E.g. most people in one social bubble being poly, it seeming "cool" because it's modern and open, etc.). 

I think that is a dynamic we/EA should be cautious with, and I think it does sometimes play a role in interactions like the ones described in the Time piece, although I absolutely have no idea how often. I've also felt small amounts of pressure in that direction myself. But I also see that almost nobody actually intends for that pressure to happen. It's just a really tricky subject to navigate! But I think "being conscious of that dynamic" is highly likely to be a good thing. And I think your comment is making that argument in a way, which I agree with.)

For what it's worth, I don't think Matt and Kelsey are "piling on" in an unfair way here. This thread was about wealth signals & EAG food. I don't think it's bad faith criticism comparable to Torres.

In the case of the FTX disaster, people in the thread were speculating that obvious non-frugal behaviour might have been one of the only good signals/red flags regarding SBF prior the public scandal. I think that's somewhat fair and at least a reasonable hypothesis. CEA spending lots of money on things like food at conferences are also less frugal behaviour compared to the past. I think "being sceptical" is not unreasonable (coupled with the obvious mistakes made regarding trust put in SBF by CEA).

(This doesn't mean that CEA decisionmaking is obviously flawed in a big way, at all. I don't think they're saying that. I think they're updating something like from CEA making 99.9% correct decisions to 98% correct decisions, non-frugality likely being one of them. We all just have very high standards here!)