12 karmaJoined Jun 2022


EA Criticism and EA as a City

Quote from the 80,000 Hours newsletter

 Enter a new contest, EA Criticism and Red Teaming, where participants critique a theory or empirical work from effective altruism.

This is one kind of EA criticism. There's another, pretty different kind of criticism, which is criticism of EA as a city. Eg. is EA a good place to live? What are the messages that EA sends to it's inhabitants? Are they good messages? 

Another way of getting at this distinction: critiquing EA ideas vs. EA culture. 

I have some criticisms of/ beefs with/ constructive feedback for EA which I've procrastinated writing for a long time/ felt a bit stuck on. One of the (charitable) reasons for my procrastination, is, I think, that I've been trying to critique EA as a theory, but actually what I want to critique is more EA as a city. A bad analogy: Like someone living in New York, not really liking the vibe, and aiming to understand or communicate this by writing a long google doc about New York's policies. 

Cities and Ambition and EA

Paul Graham has an essay ‘Cities and Ambition’ where he talks about cities and ambition. 

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.

Cities have messages, things they are saying you should do or ways you should be. Eg. according to Paul Graham, the message in Cambridge/ Boston is you should be smarter, in Silicon Valley it's you should be more powerful, in  Paris it's do things with style.

I’ve found this an interesting lens for viewing EA - eg. seeing EA as a ‘city’.