Physics Student with a wide range of interest.
Co-organizer of EA Tübingen.
This is a piece that stayed in my drafts for almost a year and I just decided to publish it now, since I don't plan to work further on this issue. If I had written it more recently I would have made sure to include your work.
Thanks for the point. I do very much share that worry.
Some points I think need mentioning:
(1) Everything we read here needs to be adjusted for hindsight bias. I have no idea what the baserate for messy breakups among early-stage start-ups are, but I assume it's significant. So "had a messy start-up breakup" is not a super reliable signal of a future scammer.
(2) We have only heard one sight of the story. We don't know the reasons given by the people that didn't quit. We don't know how SBF explained the story at the time to Will. I think it's likely that those details will make some of the EA Leader's behaviour sound a bit more understandable.
That being said, some of the details reported in the article certainly sound concerning and gives us significant reasons to believe in serious wrongdoing. All of this should be seriously be investigated and we need to think carefully about how we can avoid things like that in the future.
I agree with other commenters that a CEA response is long overdue. I understand that they are involved in a trial and have they reasons, but they should try to say as much as they can, since the downsides of remaining silent are significant.
Congratulations to the team that did the media outreach work for the book - looks like you guys did an incredible job!
Another thing that came to my mind recently. In Germany many EA meetups are still held in english. Maybe there are some people who would be open to EA ideas, but having to listen and more importantly speak english before people they don't know comes with extra effort. So at the beginning the hurdle for joining may be a just a bit higher.
From my limited experience with Fachschaften, they don't seem like they are being overrun with new members. Maybe there are some where it's different.
I meant it more in the sense that students might either not even attend university on a regular basis or not be at a point where they don't really value intellectual pursuits that much. Or they might just be registered at the university for some legal and administrative privileges.
But your right, in one sense it also can be an advantage.
I have thought about this topic a lot, so I am always excited what other people think about the question. I basically agree with all the explanations you came up with and I think they explain most of the difference.
There is another points I think might be part of the explanation: Many highly engaged EAs are very ambitious and often highly intelligent. Those are the kinds of people that would be much more likely to attend highly competitive universities like Oxford or Cambridge. So if you just look at the EA-potential of the set of students at one of those Unis, I just think it's a lot higher than at the average University in Germany where no such selection effect exists and students don't differ that strongly between cities.
Additionally, due to the absence of tuition in Germany a lot of german students seem to not take their studies very seriously, so the percentage of students registered at the university that would invest significant time in a local group is reduced before even looking at things like value alignment and stuff.
From my experience small EA groups are often stuck in a bad equilibrium. Without many members it becomes challenging to do many events. A lot of the responsibility will rest on the shoulders of the organizer(s), but those are often less motivated if only a few people attend the events. This might even lead to them investing less time in the future. The exact opposite happens if a group is on an upward trajectory in membership.
Overall I fully share your opinion that we need much more ambition and a spirit of optimism and I am excited for the future of the Göttingen local group!
I am personally also very unsure of how to feel about european federalism. At this present moment it seems to me there is neither a strong political majority for further political integration, nor is there one for a significant roll-back. I expect the next years to be about management of the status-quo.
While I think that a federal EU would be desirable in principle, at the present moment the risk of backlash seems high enough to me that I don't think EAs should invest resources into pushing for it. Although if such a push were to happen, there seem to be many opportunities in the steering of this process, as I expect it to be in large part elite-driven.
I agree in general that depending on Russia for your energy is concerning. However, two points:
(1) Given that it is possible to import LNG from the US (although more expensive), energy dependence on Russia is always in a sense chosen and needs itself to be explained.
(2) This is just one data point, but at least in 2017 german dependence on gas was not higher than neighbouring countries. https://imgur.com/a/UhHaZ3B