Currently conducting independent biosecurity research funded by Open Philanthropy as part of its Biosecurity Scholarships program while upskilling in biosecurity. Previously contractor RA for Alvea, new uni groups contractor at CEA, intern at LEEP, president of EA Blue. Lean more about me here: https://kirstenangeles.com/about
biosecurity policy research work and upskilling at the end of 2023
ea blue, ea in the philippines, my work experiences, RSI management, etc.
Hey Aella, just wanted to say I found this a very well-written post and this particular quote struck me:
“I think in large part because of those experiences I've had. We're dealing with something high visibility (EA), where the most popular political coalition in journalism (people on the left side of the political aisle) can score points by hating you (insufficiently woke), and that is politically controversial (polyamory, weird nerds, SBF). It seems obvious to me that the odds of having some people with personal experience in the community who also regularly uncharitably misinterpret interactions, and uncharitably speak to a journalist (with both political and financial incentives to be uncharitable), are very high.”
The TIME article definitely sparked something in me, and I did agree or relate with some of it. Maybe part of me had some skepticism about the caliber of journalism it had, but this quote of yours impresses the need to be just a bit more cautious when we read future stuff about us… we need to take it in, but also, understand that people can just hate.
In honesty, I’ve had some discomfort with some tweets of yours before but I’ve appreciated that they’ve challenged a lot of me and got me to think deeply. I’m sad and also sad that I got surprised about this strong dislike and hate others have said about you.
I’m not in any way famous, but I’ve experienced some hate from people the more I got connected to others or the more others knew me (despite me never interacting with them), and also have had false rumors spread about me, and it’s sadly happened in this community.
I just wanted to comment to appreciate you posting something like this and telling a part of your story!
I agree that the article had an anti-polyamory vibe and that doesn’t seem helpful in it of itself and damaging to some who are not doing anything wrong. But I do think some discussion is warranted, not to be against polyamory, but for how our community treats it in such a way that it affects some dynamics (‘cause it can be tricky!)
For me, the broader picture is,
The blurry professional/personal line EA generally has + a polyamory subculture used negatively + powerful men who are more likely to harass gives a complex equation that can lead to behavior like that discussed in this article. The article could’ve been more explicit about this. In sum for me, what seems damaging is qualities of the community that encourage/enable people to cross lines in such a way that allows some minorities to get harassed in this way.
Also just to add, most poly people I know in EA are respectful and the explicit culture I’ve been exposed to doesn’t encourage crossing lines; perhaps the implicit culture is a bit more sensitive.
I agree with this (what Peter said) and also have a couple stuff to add:
Maybe what you say is because there are more men in the movement, but I don’t think it’s simply because men “quantify charity more;” I think that statement is very limiting. There are a ton of factors as to why predominantly white men are those who are into EA, and I think even just the idea that they generally can afford to be philanthropic is one of them (not that this is negative since it’s good they help and presumably wanna help effectively).
Agreed... I think similar stuff happen in many communities and social groups, and I think maybe EA gets tricky 'cause it's like, hey, aren't we generally good people? So shouldn't we like... be outliers and like... be people who are sensitive and stuff and by a given, never sexually harrass? So not that it's any less important, but EA ends up sticking out because of that.
To me, EAs being nice is usually the case, as per the usual impression of non-EAs who see EA conferences ("wow, this was the nicest crowd I've ever seen!) but we are not infallible, and should never justify bad behavior and keep improving especially given who we are (i.e., EAs; like what you said, "is EA as good as it could be"). And I think we should keep assessing how norms/spaces enable/allow upsetting behavior like those in the article to happen
(This might be a rambly comment but these are thoughts that plopped out of me after reading the article, particularly after reading the quote by Julia Wise, “How do you figure out what is a community problem versus what is a Bay Area problem or sex problem or something else?”)
I generally think sexual harassment in EA is just extremely more complicated because of how intertwined we all are, and how much we would be willing to put aside (e.g. bad feelings in interpersonal relationships) for optimizing working for "the greater good" (e.g. let's not ruin this person's career)
This "intertwinement" leads to many complicated things. If you report someone, they might be reprimanded in some form, either subtly or in a big way. Then depending on how they were reprimanded, you'd figure out a way how to deal with them in case you see them again since they're in the EA community, after all. And if they're banned, but online, you can be emotionally mature, but I don't think those feelings go away easily for everyone.
And if you choose not to report (e.g. because it was too "small" to be a report, because they're friends with your friend, because they're working in an environment near you), they'll still be there in the community, attend events, etc. and you just have to deal with them. And if you have a hard time "dealing with them" then that burden seems to be on you. Maybe some people say it's because, "well we're EAs, this is what we believe in, so be emotionally mature, and put this aside..."
This also applies to not just sexual harassment, but let's say, negative interactions with someone. If someone is disliked, that can have ramifications depending on who is disliked. E.g. Alice had negative interactions with Bob. Alice is friends with Carol. Carol has to work with Bob. Alice ends up being connected to Bob in that way, Carol can't do much because she's working with Bob, bip bam boom, negative feelings for Alice, but for the sake of being emotionally mature, Alice sucks it up.
And this might be true outside of EA too (I think it is) but it gets complicated when putting the issue aside, or letting go, gets mixed with the fundamental philosophy of EA, or even rationality. It's kinda the Broken Windows Theory to me, subtly ignoring, downsizing, or casting aside these kinds of things... ultimately blowing up in exposés like this one, or to people bitterly/sadly leaving the community... and I do get somewhat sad too when people just go like "okay if they don't wanna be here then okay, we're filtering them out."
I'm quite sad to see "When Gopalakrishnan said she wasn’t interested, she recalls, they would “shame” her or try to pressure her, casting monogamy as a lifestyle governed by jealousy, and polyamory as a more enlightened and rational approach." – I've only supposed this was possible due to my personal feelings of some dynamics in the community, and I actually feared it (as someone who has had personal issues with polyamory) but am sad to have heard it actually concretely happened in this way; I really hope it doesn't happen anymore.
(as of Feb 24) So far there’s a Cambodian girl that has already contracted H5N1 and died, others possibly detected. How does this update everyone? https://fortune.com/well/2023/02/23/h5n1-bird-flu-death-cambodian-girl-multiple-contacts-sick/