Shakeel Hashim

1574Joined Feb 2022


Head of Communications at the Centre for Effective Altruism. Previously: News Editor at The Economist; journalist and growth manager at Protocol; journalist at Finimize.


Sorry for the slow response.

I wanted to clarify and apologise for some things here (not all of these are criticisms you’ve specifically made, but this is the best place I can think of to respond to various criticisms that have been made):

  1. This statement was drafted and originally intended to be a short quote that we could send to journalists if asked for comment. On reflection, I think that posting something written for that purpose on the Forum was the wrong way to communicate with the community and a mistake. I am glad that we posted something, because I think that it’s important for community members to hear that CEA cares about inclusion, and (along with legitimate criticism like yours) I’ve heard from many community members who are glad we said something. But I wish that I had said something on the Forum with more precision and nuance, and will try to be better at this in future.
  2. The first sentence was not meant to imply that we think that Bostrom disagrees with this view, but we can see why people would draw this implication. It’s included because we thought lots of people might get the impression from Bostrom’s email that EA is racist and I don’t want anyone — within or outside the community — to think that. Nevertheless this was sloppy, and is something that we should have caught when drafting it. Sorry.
  3. We also intended the first sentence to have a meaning like Amber’s interpretation above, rather than the interpretation you had, but we agree that this is unclear. We’ve just edited the intro essay to make clearer that this is what we mean, and also to make clear that these principles are mostly more like “core hypotheses, but subject to revision” than “set in stone”.
  4. This statement was intended as a reaction to Bostrom’s initial email (CW that this link includes a racial slur). I agree that if we had linked to that email it would have been clearer, and at the time I posted it I didn’t even consider that this might be ambiguous. Sorry.

More generally, we’re thinking about how we can improve our responses to situations like this in the future. I’m also planning to write up more about our overall approach to comms (TL;DR is that I agree with various concerns that have been raised about CEA and others in the community caring too much about PR concerns; I think truthfully saying what you believe — carefully and with compassion — is almost always more important than anything else), but it might be a little while before I get round to that.

Thanks for writing this up Amber — this is the sense that we intended in our statement and in the intro essay that it refers to (though I didn’t write the intro essay). We have edited the intro essay to make clearer that this is what we mean, and also to make clear that these principles are more like “core hypotheses, but subject to revision” than “set in stone”.

Thanks for calling me out on this — I agree that I was too hasty to call for a response.

I’m glad that FLI has shared more information, and that they are rethinking their procedures as a result of this. This FAQ hasn’t completely alleviated my concerns about what happened here — I think it’s worrying that something like this can get to the stage it did without it being flagged (though again, I'm glad FLI seems to agree with this). And I also think that it would have been better if FLI had shared some more of the FAQ info with Expo too.

I do regret calling for FLI to speak up sooner, and I should have had more empathy for the situation they were in. I posted my comments not because I wanted to throw FLI under the bus for PR reasons, but because I was feeling upset; coming on the heels of the Bostrom situation I was worried that some people in the EA community were racist or at least not very sensitive about how discussions of race-related things can make people feel. At the time, I wanted to do my bit to make it clear — in particular to other non-white people who felt similarly to me — that EA isn’t racist. But I could and should have done that in a much better way. I’m sorry.

Thanks for sharing this. However it doesn't really answer the core question of why FLI ever thought this was okay. "We ultimately decided to reject it because of what our subsequent due diligence uncovered" — given that your brother is a writer there, did you not know beforehand that Nya Dagbladet publishes horrific, racist content? I find it hard to believe this was not known until the due diligence stage.

I'm very sorry for your loss and apologise for jumping to conclusions about why there wasn't an immediate statement.

Hi Jack — reasonable question! When I wrote this post I just didn't see what the legal problems might be for FLI. With FTX, there are a ton of complications, most notably with regards to bankruptcy/clawbacks, and the fact that actual crimes were (seemingly) committed. This FLI situation, on face value, didn't seem to have any similar complications — it seemed that something deeply immoral was done, but nothing more than that. Jason's comment has made me realise there might be something else going on here, though;  if that is the case then that would make the silence make more sense. I do still think it's very weird that FLI hasn't condemned Nya Dagbladet though — CEA did, after all, make it very clear very quickly what our stance on SBF was.

The following is my personal opinion, not CEA's.

If this is true it's absolutely horrifying.  FLI needs to give a full explanation of what exactly happened here and I don't understand why they haven't. If FLI did knowingly agree to give money to a neo-Nazi group, that’s despicable.  I don't think people who would do something like that ought to have any place in this community.

I resonated with this post a lot. Thank you for writing it.

Want to note on this thread that CEA has published a statement on this: "Effective altruism is based on the core belief that all people count equally. We unequivocally condemn Nick Bostrom’s recklessly flawed and reprehensible words. We reject this unacceptable racist language, and the callous discussion of ideas that can and have harmed Black people. It is fundamentally inconsistent with our mission of building an inclusive and welcoming community."

Hi — this was removed accidentally while updating other text on the page. We'll put it back ASAP (might take a few days though because of timezones/people being on holiday, and I don't have access to edit that page).

Thanks for drawing our attention to this and calling us out for it — we definitely appreciate it (and, at the meta-level, I'm very glad we have a community that pushes us on things like this).

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