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I can follow that reasoning.

I think what you get with fewer dedicated people is people with the opportunity for a build-up of deep moderation philosophy and also experience handling tricky cases. (Even after moderating for a really long time, I still find myself building those and benefitting from stronger investment.)


Quick thought after skimming, so forgive me if was already addressed. Why is the moderator position for ~3 hours? Why not get full-time people (or at least half-time), or go for 3 hours minimum. Mostly I expect fewer people spending more time doing the task will be better than more people doing it less.


I think this post falls short of arguing compellingly for the conclusion.

  • It brings 1 positive example of a successful movement that didn't schism early one, and 2 examples of large movements that did schism and then had trouble.
    • I don't think it's illegitimate to bring suggestive examples vs a system review of movement trajectories, but I think it should be admitted that cherry-picking isn't hard for three examples.
  • There's no effort expended to establish equivalence between EA and its goals and Christianity, Islam, or Atheism at the gears level of what they're trying to do. I could argue that they're pretty different.
  • I seriously do not expect that an EA schism would result in bloodshed for centuries. Instead, it might save thousands of hours spent debating online.
  • The argument that "EA is too important" proves too much. I could just as easily say that because the stakes are so high, we can't afford to have a movement containing people with harmful beliefs, and therefore it's crucial that we schism and focus fresh with people who have True Spirit of EA or whatever. 

This is not something I fault this post for not arguing about , but I'm personally inclined to think that "longtermist" EA should not have tried to become a mass movement (which is what the examples described are), and instead should have stayed relatively small and grown extremely slowly. I suspect many people are starting to wonder whether that's true, and if so, people who want a smaller, more focused, weirder, "extreme" group of people collaborating should withdraw from the people who aspire for a welcoming, broadly palatable mass-movement, and each group will get out each other's way. 

There are historical reasons for why things developed the way that did, but I think it is clear there are some distinct cultural/wordlview clusters in EA that have different models and values, and aren't united by enough to overcome that. I think that splitting might allow both groups to continue rather than what would likely happen is one group just dissolving, or both groups dissolving except for a core of people who want to argue indefinitely.

What would convince me against splitting is if no, really, everyone here is united very strongly by some underlying core values and world beliefs, and we can make enough progress on the differences en masse. I'm skeptical, but it's good to say what might convince you.



When I think about being part of the movement or not, I'm not asking whether I feel welcomed, valued, or respected. I want to feel confident that it's a group of people who have the values, culture, models, beliefs, epistemics, etc that means being part of the group will help me accomplish more of my values than if I didn't join the group.

Or in other words, I'd rather push uphill to join an unwelcoming group (perhaps very insular) that I have confidence in their ability to do good, than join a group that is all open arms and validation, but I don't think will get anything done (or get negative things done).

And to be more bold, I think if a group is trying to be very  welcoming, they will end up with a lot of members that I am doubtful share my particular nuanced approach to doing good, and with whom I'm skeptical I can build trust and collaborate because our worldviews and assumptions are just too different.


I think I agree with your clarification and was in fact conflating the mere act of speaking with strong emotion with speaking in a way that felt more like a display. Yeah, I do think it's a departure from naive truth-seeking.

In practice, I think it is hard, though I do think it is hard for the second order reasons you give and others. Perhaps an ideal is people share strong emotion when they feel it, but in some kind of format/container/manner that doesn't shut down discussion or get things heated. "NVC" style, perhaps, as you suggest.


Hey Shakeel,

Thank you for making the apology, you have my approval for that! I also like your apology on the other thread – your words are hopeful for CEA going in a good direction.

Some feedback/reaction from me that I hope is helpful. In describing your motivation for the FLI comment, you say that it was not to throw FLI under the bus, but because of your fear that some people would think EA is racist, and you wanted to correct that. To me, that is a political motivation, not much different from a PR motivation.

To gesture at the difference (in my ontology) between PR/political motivations and truth-seeking motivations:


  • you want people to believe a certain thing (even if it's something you yourself sincerely believe), in this case, that EA is not racist
  • it's about managing impressions and reputations (e.g. EA's reputation as not racist)

Your initial comment (and also the Bostrom email statement) both struck me as "performative" in how they demonstrated really harsh and absolute condemnation ("absolutely horrifying", "[no] place in this community", "recklessly flawed and reprehensible" – granted that you said "if true", but the tone and other comments seemed to suggest you did think it was true). That tone and manner of speaking as the first thing you say on a topic[1]  feels pretty out of place to me within EA, and certainly isn't what I want in the EA I would design.

Extreme condemnation pattern matches to someone signaling that they too punish the taboo thing (to be clear, I agree that racism should not be tolerated at all), as is seen on the lot of the Internet, and it feels pretty toxic. It feels like it's coming from a place of needing to demonstrate "I/we are not the bad thing".

So even if your motivation was "do your bit to make it clear that EA isn't racist", that does strike me as still political/PR (even if you sincerely believe it).

(And I don't mean to doubt your upsetness! It is very reasonable to be upset if you think something will cause harm to others, and harm to the cause you are dedicating yourself to, and harm to your own reputation through association. Upsetness is real and caring about reputation can come from a really good place.)

I could write more on my feelings about PR/political stuff, because my view is not that it's outright "bad/evil" or anything, more that caution is required. 

Truth-seeking / info-propagation
Such comments more focus on sharing the author's beliefs (not performing them)[2] and explaining how they reached them, e.g. "this is what I think happened, this is why I think that" and inferences they're making, and what makes sense. They tally uncertainty, and they leave open room for the chance they're mistaken.

To me, the ideal spirit is "let me add my cognition to the collective so we all arrive at true beliefs" rather than "let me tug the collective beliefs in the direction I believe is correct" or "I need to ensure people believe the correct thing" (and especially not "I need people to believe the correct thing about me").

My ideal CEA comms strategy would conceive of itself as having the goal of causing people to have accurate beliefs foremost, even when that makes EA look bad. That is the job – not to ensure EA looks good, but to ensure EA is perceived accurately, warts and all. 

(And I'm interested in attracting to EA people who can appreciate that large movements have warts and who can tolerate weirdness in beliefs, and gets that movement leaders make mistakes. I want the people who see past that to the ideas and principles that make sense, and the many people (including you, I'd wager) are working very hard to make the world better.)

I don't want to respond to step in the right direction (a good apology) with something that feels negative, but it feels important to me that this distinction is deeply understood by CEA and EA in general, hence me writing it up for good measure. I hope this is helpful.

ETA: Happy to clarify more here or chat sometime.

  1. ^

    I think that after things have been clarified and the picture is looking pretty clear, then indeed, such condemnation might be appropriate.

  2. ^

    The LessWrong frontpage commenting guidelines are "aim to explain, not persuade".


I came to the comments here to also comment quickly on Kathy Forth's unfortunate death and her allegations. I knew her personally (she subletted in my apartment in Australia for 7 months in 2014, but more meaningfully in terms of knowing her, we also we overlapped at Melbourne meetups many times, and knew many mutual people). Like Scott, I believe she was not making true accusations (though I think she genuinely thought they were true). 

I would have said more, but will follow Scott's lead in not sharing more details. Feel free to DM me.


Those accusations seem of a dramatically more minor and unrelated nature and don't update me much at all that allegations of mistreatment of employees are more likely.


The couple arguments against this do not likely hold up against the vast utility discrepancies from resource allocations...

This kind of utilitarian reasoning seems not too different from the kind that would get one to commit fraud to begin within. I don't think whether it's legally required to return or not makes the difference – morality does not depend on laws. If someone else steals money from a bank and gives it to me, I won't feel good about using that money even if I don't have to give it back and will use it much better.


Sounds an awful lot like LessWrong, but competition can be healthy[1] ;) 

  1. ^

    I think this is less likely to be true of things like "places of discussion" because splitting the conversation / eroding common knowledge, but I think it's fine/maybe good to experiment here.

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