67Joined Sep 2014


It's a shame that you think that EA isn't for you. We could use more people like you.

Please remember that I don't represent the whole movement. If you can and you are interested, It would be nice if you could look what other EAs have to say. You may like it a lot more.

Hi :)

I used Google Analytics and I constantly tracked all the activity on the Facebook page and groups, comparing the performance of each text in many ways. I also talked to a lot of people about the texts and what perception they had of the EA movement so far. Apart from that, I frequently offered my contact information, and we have a Facebook group for EA in Spanish in which interested people could ask questions(almost all of them were either about effective animal activism or off-topic).

These methods allowed me to get a very good general idea. We could have done more things to track changes, but we had a small team team and limited time, so we focused on the main things.

If I ever start this project again working full time and with a strong team, I will definitely look for the most precise ways to track impact.

I do stand by the title (in the sense that I don't think it's false) because I added a "yet". I think that EA in spanish-speaking countries is quite far from getting really started. At the very least, six months. And it's very likely it will only catching on little by little if I decide to work full time on this with a strong team. Due to the enormous talent constraint, it seems unlikely that it will happen soon.

I think that the title may lead to misunderstandings and that it is quite problematic, but it certainly isn't wrong. Since It leads to misunderstanding, I regret choosing it, and you are right when you point out the problems with it.

Hi not-an-ea. I completely agree with you when you say that some aspects of my article are problematic!

From my perspective, many of the claims that I made seem very reasonable. This is because I researched all these issues well and I know a lot about Latin America and Its people. I lived all my life here, after all.

The problem is that I tried to do a very brief summary here, so I didn’t offer all the evidence to back up my claims. I merely talked about what I think based on my knowledge so far.

If there is enough interest on this topic, I would be willing to write a “full report”, including most of my arguments and evidence for my claims.

So the author tries for a mere five months to convey something and change the world, and concludes s/he has seen enough to title an introspective article as "Why EA won’t succeed in Spanish-speaking countries yet"

In fact, five months of work is a decent time frame to evaluate what is the future of the project and how the public responds.

The title also doesn’t seem as extreme when you consider that sadly I'm the only EA writer in the entire continent of Latin America. If I stop writing and working on this, then the movement can’t succeed in Latin America yet. It’s literally impossible for it to succeed because it depends on me for now. A new writer may show up but it seems very unlikely to happen in the next few months.

The title is true, but I shouldn’t have done it. You are right when you say that it may be problematic.

Why would I take a cause seriously if its advocates are so unrealistic as to expect society to show visible change so easily?

I didn’t expect society to show visible change easily. I’ve been keeping a very close eye on how the public responded to each of our texts about EA and I concluded that it was going to be very tough and that I could do better things for now.

Incidentally, while I didn’t expect animal activists to change easily with the work of a mere five months, they really changed a lot. It was a huge change in the education and ideas of animal activists of Chile and Argentina. Those fast changes really surprised me. We hit a nerve there. With EA, however, we didn’t. The difference between the public’s response towards effective animal activism and EA focused on global poverty was like night and day.

I understand very well what failed, why it failed and how to present the case for EA in Spanish-speaking countries in a better way. I talk a bit about this in some other comments on this article, and I will talk about it in more detail in other texts.

I truly hope that you join effective altruism. You seem like a very smart person, and your comment was useful. If you don't like the thoughts on this article and my comments, please remember that I don't represent the whole movement :)

Hi Tom! :) I will reply each question briefly, as I'm a bit busy.

What knowledge and/or messages did you try to spread? Effective charity, or GiveWell, or effective animal activism, or broad EA under that name, or x-risk, or anything else?

We wrote about Effective Charity, Earning to Give, Deworming, Rationality and Effective animal activism in general. We also translated some popular EA texts from GiveWell, Yudkowsky and Scott.

In what combinations did you spread them? Did you try spreading knowledge of GiveWell without packaging it with e.g. x-risk?

We talked little about x-risk. That topic was on a separate introductory essay that I wrote. We tried to avoid mixing x-risk with other topics for strategic reasons.

We always had tact with inferential distances, so we didn't combine incompatible or controversial topics. We tried to separate things and to make everything accessible.

How did you try to spread this, any were any particular methods notably promising or unpromising?

My most successful texts always had at least a few of these:

Good images of animals Humor and silly stories or jokes Strong encouraging messages for activists Controversial points that also automatically felt correct

I wrote a text called "Introduction to the science of rationality" and It's by far the less successful one in the whole site. It didn't have a single one of those elements. Many texts about effective animal activism which did have those elements had much more success.

My advice is that telling stories and willing to make jokes is really important. It may make us feel uncomfortable or unprofessional, but It's generally worth it. At the very least, everybody should seriously consider it.

What concrete actions do you expect the people you spread effective animal activism to take take? Which ones do you have relatively robust evidence that they'll take?

As a result of my texts about effective animal activism, many organizations improved their leaflets and started following many of Animal Charity Evaluators recommendations. Many activists recommend my texts and they are now a required reading in some activist groups. They once even asked me for permission to print the text and give them in Vegan Festivals.

The texts will keep spreading and every activist shall be filled with evidence and effectiveness ;) I'm happy with this victory.

Regarding your two last questions, I don't have enough knowledge about those topics to tell you, but I want to say that the title of my text might be a bit misleading because we do have good reasons to believe that an EA movement in Spain would be worth it.

Thanks :)

But Effective altruism means different things in different countries. If the 'give to developing countries charities' EA meme just doesn't work in one country and some other does, 'give to the most effective charity working within the country' for example, then that's the most effective thing you can do there.

This is a very good idea and I was already planning on moving on that direction with EA in Spanish. I researched many charities and giving opportunities in Latin America. Unfortunately, I didn’t find many exceptional ones, though there are some organizations that are decent enough.

I was about to start talking about charities in Latin America when I decided to stop the project for the moment. This had to do with the fact that I considered that the project was not very worthwhile, as I mentioned on the text, but also because I lacked a full dedicated team to work with me. We were a few people working on our spare time on this, and most of us were busy with other EA activities.

If I start the project again sometime (with a larger team, more time and funding), I will definitely start promoting the best local charities of each country, among many other things.

Yes, totally. The next post was going to consist of some ideas about the critics true rejections and how to deal with it.

The question about what would be a healthy EA ecosystem is really interesting and worth exploring. Somebody should write more about it. I may eventually do it.

My current intuition is that we need more people from diverse fields of knowledge and with diverse skills, since they can contribute to EA in unique ways, apart from donating. To gain this benefit, I think that it's worth losing a bit in other regards if we have to. I will think more about it though.

This comment is very smart and important. You made me think a lot.

In the case of science, I think the example isn’t good for your point, but your point is perfect nonetheless. I will simplify, but the reason that I think that the example doesn’t work is because science has lost its battle with religion (warm language) for centuries, and only started gaining ground because it started producing really useful things. Religion produces very little and it still manages to put up a fight against Science. Science is successful despite the fact that it’s ''cold'' and counterintuitive, simply because it’s so useful. (In fact, science becomes more "persuasive" for the general public when popular intellectuals like Dawkins, Tyson or Feynman add a warm poetic spin to it).

“An analysis that argues for using more warm words needs to make a more precise claim about why we should use warmth, in particular if warmth is often hard to combine with authority, ambitiousness and objectivity (as other commenters have noticed).”

The reason that I argue in favor of using a warmer language, without giving up on rationality, is because some of our ideas can make us seem cold, while usually the opposite is true. I think that seeming heartless is a specific weakness of the EA movement, for some of the reasons that I elaborated on the article. There are a lot of critiques of effective altruism that constantly imply that effective altruists are cold.

We can cover this weakness by putting a greater effort in communicating our feelings and showing our enthusiasm. I don’t think we lose anything important by doing this, but I’m really open about it. It would be problematic if it draws undesirable people, but by retaining our emphasis in rationality that problem would be mostly solved.

All your concerns are very interesting and important, and I would definitely like to see more discussion about this topic. We are in a stage in which It’s really important to get these things right.

Edit: Thanks to this comment, I’ve been thinking more and more about the importance of showing strength, consistency and determination to achieve our goals. This was something that I really liked about Yudkowsky’s texts: He makes a great effort to transmit how important his goal is to him and why we should keep pushing forward and improving.

Thanks :)

I’m still thinking about what is the best public for effective altruism, what should be the size of the movement and so on. But the first thing that comes to mind based on many recent discussions is that we need more people doing Earning to Give and doing good Outreach. People that aren’t like us can also do those things really well, so It’s seems good to reach out to them using a language that is slightly different than the one we normally use.

We should never stop talking about rationality. It’s a really important component of effective altruism.

“Combining empathy and rationality to have a greater positive impact” seems like a decent slogan for effective altruism. I think It's desirable for EA to be automatically associate with both “empathy” and “rationality”. I think there aren’t many drawbacks to this, but I’m really open about it.

:) I agree with this.

I was drawn to EA because of people that combine compassion and rationality. Brian Tomasik and David Pearce come to mind. They often speak warmly. Even when they don't, it’s easy to tell that they are moved by strong feelings of empathy.

We should keep talking about evidence and rationality with all the audiences, but I think that making an effort to transmit our feelings to the general public is important and useful. A lot of the things that we promote are unusual and counter-intuitive, so we can easily be misunderstood.

I think that sometimes smart people avoid saying warm words because they don’t want to be underestimated. They want to signal that they are intelligent, so they limit themselves to a very formal language.

Formal language is perfect when we are doing theory, but when we want to communicate with a general audience, I think we should transmit our arguments carefully and rationally while connecting with the audience from the heart. For example, I wrote a text in Spanish that started by talking about the lives of the extreme poor. I wanted to make it real. I wanted to make people feel why solving this matters. Once they feel it, It's much easier to explain that rationality is necessary to solve important problems.

Most of us cried while thinking about all the suffering in the world. I’m not ashamed of it, and I think people will understand me more if I express it. I like talking openly about the enthusiasm that I feel for all that we can accomplish to improve the world.

Of course, each person has It's own style. Some aren't comfortable with talking about their feelings too much, and that is perfect.

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