Tom Gardiner

Tom is a junior officer in the UK's Royal Navy. He was on the committee for the EA society at the University of St Andrews, is helping to re-establish EA Southampton and has been interested in EA and Rationality since 2017.

Note: Evidence suggests there is another Tom Gardiner in the EA community which may lead to reputational confusion.

Topic Contributions


Bad Omens in Current Community Building

I'm definitely going to change my attitude to community building, to the extent I am involved with it, as a result of reading this. Making sure that criticisms are addressed to the satisfaction of the critic seems hugely important and I don't think I had grasped that before.

Bad Omens in Current Community Building

My first thought on reading this suggestion for working groups was "That's a great idea, I'd really support someone trying to set that up!"

My second thought was "I would absolutely not have wanted to do that as a student. Where would I even begin?"

My third thought was that even if you did organise a group of people to try implementing the frameworks of EA to build some recommendations from scratch, this will never compare to the research done by long-standing organisations that dedicate many experienced people's working lives to finding the answers. The conclusion of the project would surely be a sort of verbal participation medal, but you're best off looking at GiveWell's charities anyway. 

Maybe I'm being overly cynical here. It seems a good way to engage people who could later develop into strong priorities/charity evaluation researchers. I suspect it's best that any such initiative be administered by people already working to a high standard in those fields for that benefit to be properly reaped, however.

How do we create a culture of ambition without deteriorating the community’s mental health?

Really glad that you brought up this topic Dedicating one's career (or an appreciable fraction of time or happiness) to a project that will likely fail is a huge deal for someone's personal narrative, and we're hoping that swathes of people will be committed enough to do this. I don't have any answers that aren't mere applause lights, but hope this remains a prevalent discussion.

My GWWC donations: Switching from long- to near-termist opportunities?

To clarify, my position could be condensed to "I'm not convinced small scale longtermist donations are presently more impactful than neartermist ones, nor am I convinced of the reverse. Given this uncertainty, I am tempted to opt for neartermist donations to achieve better optics."

The point you make seems very sensible. If I update strongly back towards longtermist giving I will likely do as you suggest.

My GWWC donations: Switching from long- to near-termist opportunities?

That seems like a very robust approach if one had a clear threshold in mind for how many qualified AI alignment researchers is enough. Sadly, I have no intuition or information for this, nor a finger on the pulse of that research community.

What I learnt from attending EAGx Oxford (as someone who's new to EA)

Hi Olivia, really good of you to share these experiences. A few points I think might be helpful for your next conference:

-The social norms in EA are probably the most open and accepting of any group I've seen in my life. Provided two people aren't engaged in a focused one-on-one, walking up to a group and saying "Hi, can I join this conversation?" seems universally allowed with no sense of alienation or awkwardness at all. People would always catch me up on the conversation topic and include me fully. 
- It was my first conference too and I also hadn't registered that one-on-ones seem to be at least as much the point of the event as the talks - you're not alone in that. Fortunately, my career planning is fairly late-stage and there were only 2 or 3 talks I found relevant enough to attend so I had a lot of time to plan last-minute meetings with people.  I can't make judgements on how to prioritise your time on your behalf, but it might be worth applying a stricter filter on which talks get added to your schedule to leave a bit more breathing space to meet lovely EA people. 
-If you go to another conference with very few or no other people that you know there, I'd strongly recommend joining the volunteer team. In return for moving some chairs around or helping people register at the help desk, you've got, like, 10 instant friends. 


Hope this seems useful!

Save the Date: EAGxMars

Will we need to email Clare whenever some new oxygen needs producing?

Unsurprising things about the EA movement that surprised me

I was going to suggest the last point, but you're way ahead of me! In the next couple of years, the first batch of St Andrews EAs will have fully entered the world of work/advanced study, and keeping some record of what the alumni are doing would be meaningful. 
[As highlighted in the thread post, we are two EAs who know each other outside the forum.]

Nuclear attack risk? Implications for personal decision-making

I think some form of this could be valuable, noting Sebastian's point that decreasing risk should be the main priority. It struck me reading the main article that the tendency for EAs to congregate to some extent geographically poses a challenge from a long-term perspective. Oxford, the community's beating heart, is uncomfortably close to London (the obvious civilian target) and Portsmouth (home of the Royal Navy, probably second-top priority military target), meaning a large fraction of the community would be wiped out in a nuclear war. It might be prudent for EAs who can work remotely to set up 'colonies' in places unlikely to be devastated by a nuclear exchange, to provide resilience. 

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