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AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

This is a question for primarily for Nicole but open to all: what does CEA do to improve the community's epistemics? 

EA is a Career Endpoint

I think to found something, you need significant savings and a clear sense of what to do if it fails, such that you can afford to take years of your life, potentially, without a real income.

I don't think this is true, at least not as a general rule. I think you can do both (have a safe career and pursue something entrepreneurial) if you make small, focused bets  to begin with and build from there. Related discussion here.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Cullen asked a similar question here recently. Progressives and social justice movement are definitely not the same, but there's some overlap. 

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

I agree it's good for a community to have an immune system that deters people who would hurt its main goals, EA included. But, and I hear you do care about calibrating on this too, we want to avoid false positives. Irving below seems like an example, and he said it better than I could: we're already leaving lots of value on the table. I expect our disagreement is just empirical and about that, so happy to leave it here as it's only tangentially relevant to the OP.

Aside: I don't know about Will's intentions, I just read his comment and your reply, and don't think 'he could have made a different comment' is good evidence of his intentions. I'm going to assume you know much more about the situation/background than I do, but if not I do think it's important to give people benefit of the doubt on the question of intentions.

[Meta: in case not obvious, I want to round off this thread, happy to chat in private sometime]

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Knowing the basis of ACE's evaluations is of course essential to deciding whether to donate to/through them and I'd be surprised if esantorella disagreed. It's just that this post and discussion is not only or even mostly about that. In my view, it would have been a far more valuable/better post if it were focused more tightly on that serious issue and the evidence for and against it, and left out altogether small issues like publishing and taking down bad blog posts, and the general discourse norms discussion was in a separate post labelled appropriately.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

I appreciate you trying to find our true disagreement here.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Sure, I do appreciate the point that Buck is bringing. I agree with it in fact (as the first part of my first sentence said). I just additionally  found the particular X he substituted not a good one for separate reasons to the main point he was making. I also think the real disagreement with Buck and myself is getting closer to it on a sister branch.

I do think your question is good here, and decomposes the discussion into two disagreements:
1) was this an instance of 'cancel culture', if so how bad is it?
2) what is the risk of writing about this kind of thing (causing splits) vs. the risk of not?

On 1) I feel, like Neel below, that moving charities ratings for an evaluator is a serious thing which requires a high bar of scrutiny, whereas the other two concerns outlined (blogpost and conference) seem far more minor. I think the OP would be far better if only focused on that and evidence for/against.

On 2) I think this is a discussion worth having, and that the answer is not 0 risk for any side.

EDIT to add: sorry I think I didn't respond properly/clearly enough to your main point. I get that Buck is conditioning on 1) above, and saying if we agree it's really bad, then what. I just think that he was not very explicit about that. If Buck had said something like, 'I want to pick up on a minor point, and to do this will need to condition on the world where we come to the conclusion that ACE did something unequivocally bad here...' at the beginning, I don't think the first part of my objections would have applied so much. EDIT to add: Although I still think he should have chosen a different bad thing X.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

I don't disagree with any of that. I acknowledge there is real cost in trying to make people feel welcome on top of the community service of speaking up about bad practice (leaving aside the issue of how bad what happened is exactly).

I just think there is also some cost, that you are undervaluing and not acknowledging here, in the other side of that trade-off. Maybe we disagree on the exchange rate between these (welcomingness and unfiltered/candid communication)?

I think that becoming more skillful at doing both well is an important skill for a community like ours to have more of. That's ok if it's not your personal priority right now, but I would like community norms to reward learning that skill more. My view is that Will's comment was doing just that, and I upvoted it as a result. (Not saying you disagree with the content of his comment, you said you agreed with it in fact, but in my view, demonstrated you didn't fully grok it nevertheless).

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

I think the meta-level objection you raised (which I understood as: there may be costs of not criticising bad things because of worry about second-order effects) is totally fair and there is indeed some risk in this pattern (said this in the first line of my comment). This is not what I took issue with in your comment. I see you've responded to our main disagreement though, so I'll respond on that branch.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Whilst I agree with you that there is some risk in the pattern of not criticising bad thing X because of concerns about second-order effects, I think you chose a really bad substitution for 'X' here, and as a result can totally understand where Khorton's response is coming from (although I think 'campaigning against racism' is also a mischaracterisation of X here).

Where X is the bad thing ACE did, the situation is clearly far more nuanced as to how bad it is than something like sexual misconduct, which, by the time we have decided something deserves that label, is unequivocally bad.

Why is it important to not throw out nuance here? Because of Will's original comment: there are downsides to being very critical, especially publicly, where we might cause more split or  be unwelcoming. I agree with you that we shouldn't be trying to appeal to everyone or take a balanced position on every issue, but I don't think we should ignore the importance of creating a culture that is welcoming to all either. These things do not in principle need to be traded-off against each other, we can have both (if we are skillful).

Despite you saying that you agree with the content of Will's comment, I think you didn't fully grok Will's initial concern, because when you say:

"if a group of people are sad that their views aren't sufficiently represented on the EA forum, they should consider making better arguments for them"

you are doing the thing (being unwelcoming)

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