Matthew Yglesias

1022Joined May 2022

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Obviously the motivation for community-building is not that the community is an end in itself, but instrumental: more people "joining EA", taking the GWWC pledge and/or going into directly high-impact work, means indirectly causing more good for all the other EA causes that we ultimately care about.

 

I took OP's point here to be that this logic looks suspiciously like the kind of rationalizations EA got its start criticizing in other areas. 

"Why do they throw these fancy gala fundraising dinners instead of being more frugal and giving more money to the cause?" seems like a classic EA critique of conventional philanthropy. But once EA becomes not just an idea but an identity, then it's understood that building the community is per se good, so suddenly sponsoring a fellowship slash vacation in the Bahamas becomes virtuous community building. To anyone outside the bubble, this looks like just recapitulating problems from elsewhere. 

I understand the various reasons why people can't speak in detail about certain things would I would love to see the issues discussed in "EA and the current funding situation" get revisited in light of the fact that the funding situation has changed a lot. It seems to me that when money became more abundant that didn't just make it easier for certain grant proposals to get approved, but was seen as having big-picture strategic implications. When I go back and read the post, the arguments seem sound to me. But beyond not reflecting knowledge of wrongdoing at FTX (hard to find blame here) they seem to not reflect awareness of Bankman-Fried's overall attitude toward risk which I think should have been knowable. 

A lot of liar’s paradox issues with this interview.

I think a very relevant question is to ask is how come none of the showy self-criticism contests and red-teaming exercises came up with this? A good amount of time and money and energy were put into such things and if the exercises are not in fact uncovering the big problems lurking in the movement then that suggests some issues

To me the big problem with the Open Phil document is that it’s from 2013 which was a long time ago both in terms of the evolution of EA and in terms of climate policy. Given the volume of public interest in the topic, it’s probably worth investing in an up to date treatment (and one that is kept up to date) that serves as a primer on neglectedness, true existential risk, and other key considerations without coming across as totally oblivious

That's coherent; I guess I just disagree with the calculus. 

After going through my first EAG this past weekend, I am left pretty confused about the rationale for the competitive application process.

I know of two main categories of people who seem to have applied and gotten rejected — people very personally invested in EA as a cause but deemed unworthy of networking opportunities, and semi-important DC types who are maybe EA-curious but were deemed insufficiently committed to EA. But I don’t know that I really understand why the event would have been worse if it had featured more people from both of those categories. To CEA’s enormous credit they have a really good system in place of one-on-one meetings, formal office hours, and informal hangouts and there was plenty of stuff happening both formally and informally on the fringes of the event. It all seemed really thoughtful and well-designed. So thoughtful and well-designed that it wouldn’t have in any way been undermined by having more merely curious or somehow low powered people around.

I sort of get the idea of doing a light basic screening before you let people in — make sure they’re not scammers or wreckers or what have you. But rejecting people who are totally sincere in their desire to attend an EA conference seems potentially very costly. Is it just a question of money? The food was maybe nicer and more plentiful than it needed to be. In the limit, people needing to buy their own lunch seems like a much less damaging possibility than making people feel rejected.

I just want to emphasize this point: "Non-EAs living in DC tend to be pretty impact-oriented and ambitious"

One of the main reasons that DC has a reputation as a bad place to live is that most people find this aspect of DC culture to be annoying and off-putting. And while I disagree with those people, I agree with their judgment that it is a distinctive feature of life here. DC people talk a lot about their jobs. They very sincerely believe their work is important. People who would never in a million years identify as EAs would still tell you (and genuinely believe) that they are dedicating their lives to doing good in the world. They network quite aggressively on behalf of those goals. Lots of people really hate this and spread anti-DC rhetoric around the country. But it's important to tune out the normative judgment and focus on the object-level take. DC is full of people who care a lot about the impact they are having on the world and who will not think you are crazy if this is something you want to talk about. If that sounds attractive to you, you will like it here.

Here's an argument for an EA billionaire advantage. 

Suppose you have a $500 million fortune and an opportunity presents itself for a gamble where you have a 1% chance of taking that to $60 billion but a 99% chance of ending up with nothing. Just in dollars this is positive expected value because $600 million > $500 million. But I think most people would  reject that bet due to risk aversion and the declining marginal utility of money. 

To a highly motivated EA, though, it looks like a better deal so you're more likely to go for it. 

A related issue: Nobody is going to make this an official criticism of longtermism, but I have heard a nonzero amount of backchannel grousing among people who've published books about how well-funded the WWOTF rollout is which I think may generate some resentment/backlash among jealous writers. 

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