I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “high-level institutions having a pattern of low-key misbehavior”—are you talking about things like dishonesty and poor treatment of community members, or about endorsing ideas that violate most ethical frameworks?
The list of scenarios I originally brainstormed for this post did include some sudden catastrophes, but I ultimately decided to focus on these four. Here are the sudden ones anyway, in short form:
Economic recession: see this post. I think a recession could pose a real risk to the movement’s survival, since people who would have to drastically cut donations for multiple years might undergo value drift and be unlikely to re-prioritize giving in the future. Unfortunately, I’m definitely not qualified to give advice on economics or personal finance.
Scandal: I think EA is multipolar enough that a scandal involving a single org or prominent individual wouldn’t be enough to dissolve the movement, though it could definitely reduce trust, kill off that org, and cause some people to leave the community. We’ve certainly had, and survived, controversies in the past. However, I hadn’t thought about a scandal involving multiple orgs—that sounds much more dangerous, and it might be possible given how much they share information and personnel. I suppose the way to avoid this is for orgs to be as transparent as possible, which fortunately at least some of them are pretty good at.
Viral bad publicity: Of course, only a tiny percentage of content goes viral, so I think it’s very unlikely that a malicious hit piece or an incident with bad optics would become well-known enough to really hurt us. However, it’s much more possible that this could happen in a narrow domain such as a sector of academia. I’m pretty horrified at the thought of what would happen to us if it ever became embarrassing and career-thwarting to admit to being an EA.
Finally, the movement could collapse suddenly because its members all get paperclipped, but I figured I didn’t need to remind anyone of that :(