Topic Contributions


Considering people’s hidden motives in EA outreach

It seems that we disagree about to what extent people’s motivation to pursue status (well-earned or not) guides our behavior - I don’t think the status raising effects are secondary to real accomplishment, but I think that the status raising effects are an important underlying reason in our pursuit to accomplish anything at all.

I agree that some ways of receiving status are more legitimate than others, that it’s important for EA to focus on legitimate status, and that it’s more important to have a good argument than to wear a suit. But because all humans are also (and maybe even above all) status-climbing apes, I think that EA’s pursuit of achieving legitimate status is affected by content-irrelevant elements. This is why I think it might not be best to view legitimately earned status in isolation from the more irrational parts of status, but to rather see how these two interact.

You mentioned that EA could help people increase their status in a non-cynical way, like helping individual effective altruists make measurable impacts, or creating arguments that other intellectuals agree with and cite, and I agree that these are important ways people could increase their status. However, I think they don’t contradict with the ways of increasing status I mentioned in the post. Different methods might differ in to what extent they rely on content-irrelevant status-increasing elements, but in my opinion, we can never fully disregard these more irrational aspects of why people regard something high-status. In the post I tried to emphasize that EA might consider increasing using the strategies that rely on the content-irrelevant status-increasing elements to a larger extent. That is because I think EA right now is overly cautious about using them and as a result, might miss out on reaching out to people valuable to EA’s cause.

I think that finding the right kind of “packaging” for EA’s content (while not changing the content) is useful when reaching out to all audiences and that this can help make outreach messages more clear and inviting for people without having them feel like they have been tricked into believing something.

Considering people’s hidden motives in EA outreach

I agree with your feedback that discussing the different suggestions of how to implement the status-increasing elements to specific marketing strategies in greater detail would have made the post more practical.

As for your thoughts on whether EA marketing strategies need improvement - I think EA’s lack of consistent viral success is not so random, I think it’s at least partly the result of abstaining from using some of the marketing strategies that have been considered belonging more to the “dark arts” category Halffull mentions. I agree with Halffull here that perhaps EA is being too cautious when trying to not appear negative, so that it might miss out on some good opportunities to appear positive, e.g. via mass media.

The caution of using mass media, for example, seems to stem from EA’s experience where the idea of Earning to Give became simplified and distorted after several articles (e.g. in Washington Post and DailyMail) were written about it. I’m not sure we should draw a conclusion of abstaining from a highly influential channel after one or few bad experience(s). Perhaps mass media was not the perfect channel for spreading the idea of Earning to Give, but it doesn’t mean it applies to all EA ideas alike. Secondly, even though I don’t think we should be spreading inaccurate ideas of EA, I do wonder what the impact of Earning to Give going to mass media really was - perhaps it sparked interest in people who would have otherwise not heard of Effective Altruism. Perhaps this interest led them to 80,000 hours of GiveWell, which gave them a more precise overview of the idea.