None of them along the line Know what any of it is worth

107 karmaJoined Feb 2023


There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief,
There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.


I'm worried and skeptical about negative views toward the community health team and Julia Wise.

My view is informed by the absence of clear objective mistakes described by anyone. It also seems very easy and rewarding to criticize them[1].

I'm increasingly concerned about the dynamic over the last few months where CEA and the Community Health team constantly acts as a lightning rod for problems they have little control over. This dynamic has always existed, but it has become more severe post-SBF. 

This seems dysfunctional and costly to good talent at CEA. It is an even deeper issue because these seem to be one of the few people trying to take ownership and help EA publicly right now. 

I'm not sure what happens if Julia Wise and co. stop. 

  1. ^

    The Guzey incident is one example where a detractor seems excessive toward Wise. I share Will Bradshaw's view that this is both minor and harmless, although I respect and would be interested in Nuno's dissenting view. 

    (Alexey Guzey wrote a book chapter, that he would be releasing publicly, that was critical of MacAskill's content in DGB, to Julia Wise. Wise sent the chapter to MacAskill, which Guzey asked her not to do. It's unclear to me why this chapter was sensitive, what Wise was supposed to do with the chapter. I read the chapter, and think there is a large supply of content on the internet and social media similar in quality. I can see how Wise just forwarded it absent-mindedly).

This subthread here, with heavy involvement by Kelsey Piper, exemplifies a lot of things wrong with the forum in one place. It is a good note that is relevant for this post.

Kelsey Piper is making a valid point that it's wrong, evil and bad to try to police individual conduct and impugn her valid choices, but everything else about the thread is cursed:

  • It's a high temperature digression ("poly bad/good") that isn't substantive to the main point, and people are talking past eachother
    • E.g., the relevant point would be poly producing a vehicle for predators or not, and how we can solve this
  • It's probably only because of Jeff K's involvement that the thread ends up balanced, Piper's gravitas and her (justifiably strong) emotional appeal would otherwise carry the thread
  • Few people in the post show depth about how to solve the root issue or even steer discussion to it: that one community in EA dominates and produces absurd norms:
    • It's ridiculous that in this community, it is normal to have sexual relationships between people of different power in EA (much less "senior people pressuring newcomers into poly relationships" !)
  • There's a deeper comment here about "rationalism": 
    • Piper's appeal is emotional, pulls the discussion into a perceived threat to her values and lifestyle, and uses rationalist jargon ("frame"). As the subsequent comments point out, this isn't that substantive or helpful. 
    • As a statement calibrated to the baseline/counterfactual of what talented HYPS grad like Piper could think and communicate, I argue that "rationalist" ideas and discussion were bad here—I believe this culture and norms produce long, surface level writing that seems good, but that ultimately fails larger goals and has negative effect in communication and reasoning (sometimes blatantly obvious to everyone outside the forum). This is one example of it (though not particularly severe).

Ozden comment contains great (but predictable) points. 

He also packs in his self-interested argument, into this extremely important/sensitive heated discussion:

I think our experiences differ on animal issues as when groups /movements professionalise, as has been happening over the past decade for animal welfare, the likelihood that men will abuse their positions of power increases dramatically. At the more grassroots level, power imbalances often aren't stark enough to lead the types of issues that came out in the animal movement a few years back. EA has also been undergoing this professionalisation and consolidation of power, and seems like the article above highlights the negative consequences of that. 

Don't have a lot of time to explain, but this isn't true, it's almost the opposite.

The power structures in distributed movements exist and are controlled in different ways, sometimes producing pretty bad behavior but with more dubious leadership/management.

DxE, for example, had an almost existential problem with sexual misconduct/abuse. This was probably connected to second-tier leaders and the distributed, chapter-like system, as opposed to Wayne actively courting it. 

When I spoke to Wayne (and the subsequent leadership), they pointed to reforms such as central sexual harassment policies and enforcing a better culture. While I don't know how substantive these reforms were, something like this would be probably involved in a true solution. Being "top down" helps a lot, as well as having a professionalized staff/leadership to execute this. 


Don't have time to put in an essay, but there's a much longer thread here about distributed movement and power, and also a separate thread here about sexual harassment and animal advocacy. On the latter point, we got multiple layers of a nightmarish "motte and bailey" that is ongoing—we're approaching the point of non-viability in attaching EA to us.

Incredibly, these articles aren't in the top 5 things I would need to communicate to EAs right now.

On the plus side, Ozden's comment did produce a great thread by Lauren Maria, who is a thoughtful and brilliant leader.