Ok, my best idea is to highlight a Marxist theory of labor vs. capital at the small scale. I know this sounds very high brow but I think a distillation of it could work?
Give someone a loaf, they can eat it. Teach them to bake, they can join the labor market and work hard to feed themselves. Give them money for an oven, they can own the means of production.
Ok, I mostly agree with you, but let's reframe as a devil's advocate: what if "EA" is a shaky concept in the first place (doesn't carve reality at joints)? Would you then agree that borders should be redrawn to have a more coherent mission, even if that ends up cutting out some bits of the "old EA"?
Very clear - makes a point that I've been struggling to think about and explain to people. Thanks for writing this.
Great post! It inspired me to write this, because I worry that such posts might accidentally discourage others from working on this cause area. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/e8ZJvaiuxwQraG3yL/don-t-over-update-on-others-failures
(to be clear: I really appreciate postmortems and want more content like it!)
hm, at a minimum: moving lots of money, and making a big impact on the discussion around ai risk, and probably also making a pretty big impact on animal welfare advocacy.
Nice. Thanks. Really well written, very clear language, and I think this is pointed in a pretty good direction. Overall I learned a lot.
I do have the sense it maybe proves too much -- i.e. if these critiques are all correct then I think it's surprising that EA is as successful as it is, and that raises alarm bells for me about the overall writeup.
I don't see you doing much acknowledging what might be good about the stuff that you critique -- for example, you critique the focus on individual rationality over e.g. deferring to external consensus. But it seems possible to me that the movement's early focus on individual rationality was the cause of attracting great people into the movement, and that without that focus EA might not be anything at all! If I'm right about that then are we ready to give up on whatever power we gained from making that choice early on?
Or, as a metaphor, you might be saying something like "EA needs to 'grow up' now" but I am wondering if EA's childlike nature is part of its success and 'growing up' would actually have a chance to kill the movement.
It’s interesting to me, because many entrepreneurs like myself get into entrepreneurship with (we sincerely believe) a goal of making the world a better place. Some are seemingly frauds. It is good to read this, to gain perspective on what not to do.
The problem with considering optics is that it’s chaotic. I think Wytham is a reasonable example. You might want a fancy space so you can have good optics - imagining that you need to convince fancy people of things, otherwise they won’t take you seriously. Or you might imagine that it looks too fancy, and then people won’t take you seriously because it looks like you’re spending too much money.
Pretty much everything in “PR” has weird nonlinear dynamics like this. I’m not going to say that it is completely unpredictable but I do think that it’s quite hard to predict, and subtleties really matter, and most people seem overconfident; I think “bad optics” only looks predictable in hindsight. It also changes quickly, like fashion: what seems like bad optics now could be good countersignaling in year, and standard practice in three.
It’s a better heuristic to focus on things which are actually good for the world, consistent with your values. I think in most cases if you can justify your actions being consistent with a set of values you can survive most short term optical disasters and even come out of it stronger.
Thanks Patrick - glad to see you on EA forum.
Did you reach out to EA funders for VaccinateCA? From the linked article:
I called in favors and pled our case up and down the tech industry, and scraped together about $1.2 million in funding.
I have the sense that (at least today) a project with this level of prioritization, organizational competence and star power would be able to pull down 5x that amount with 1/10th the fundraising effort through the EA network. I think that was approximately still the case in early 2021.
(FWIW I've been a fan of yours since you started posting on HN, well before this website or even Less Wrong existed, so that contributes to the 'star power'; but there is certainly a big tech/EA overlap and a lot of people who have heard of you so I don't think this is just me.)
Everything here is based on friends' recommendations and very lightweight research, I didn't do much original research and didn't measure my levels. I'll probably get around to measuring soon and I expect this plan to change a bit. Philosophically I have chosen a low effort/low risk plan which I think is sustainable for me.
I take creatine and b12 when I remember to take them, which tends to be on days I go to the gym and make a smoothie afterwards. I take D3 sporadically when I think of it during the winter months (although this winter I didn't bother for various reasons). I take a dental probiotic. And finally, I just bought some algae oil for omega 3s that I haven't actually tried yet but I expect to find a way to incorporate into my diet.
Most of my supplements I incorporate into other foods, rather than taking pills. It seems more sustainable habit-wise that way.