EA Virtual Programs Associate
Conducting community building work in Malaysia
most prominently transforming LessWrong into something that looks a lot more respectable in a way that I am worried might have shrunk the overton window of what can be discussed there by a lot, and having generally contributed to a bunch of these dynamics
Would you mind sharing a bit more of what you mean here?
I'm not sure I understand how an increase in respectability in LessWrong equates to a shrinking overton window. I would have guessed the opposite -- an increase in respectability would have shifted or expanded the overton window in ways that are more epistemically desirable. But I feel like I'm missing something here.
Also, I feel appreciative that you've shared a bunch of concerns and learnings with us.
Thanks for writing this up! Some rough thoughts about the LMIC category:
1. I think the LMIC is a pretty useful category insofar as it's used as "non-high-income-countries".
2. Otherwise, I worry that folks might conflate with LMICs as just "low income countries", when most countries in the LMIC category are lower to upper middle income (or developing).
3. I have a light preference for separating LMICs into two categories: "least developed countries" and "middle income countries".
A few people have mentioned about buckets (1, 2) as a way to segment different parts of your life. Each bucket has a corresponding goal or set of goals that you spend resources on. Since we all have many different goals, it's a useful exercise to distribute resources between them accordingly, so one bucket doesn't "eat" into another bucket's resources. For example, you might have a bucket for your close friends, in which you spend a few hours a week of your time to cultivate genuine and happy friendships but not more, since you have other important buckets (e.g. career, health, family, etc).
However, if buckets are not mutually exclusive, collective exhaustible enough, you might encounter issues where you might label activities for the wrong buckets -- creating more tension between your different goals.
A corollary to this is my claim that EAs should try to have "serious EA" bucket or "fun EA" bucket.
For example, I have a local EA event that I'd like to help out with and spend time with EAs. Sometimes, I accidentally mistake this activity as something from my "serious EA" bucket, and not from my "fun EA" bucket or my general "volunteer for fun" bucket.
How did this happen? Maybe because it's so easy to default any kind of EA activity as always maximising impact (e.g. I have went all out in EAGs when I should have taken them slightly more casually). Or maybe I want to signal to others that I care about effectiveness (e.g. being a community builder means modelling good applications of EA principles). Or maybe I'm unconsciously working to build status, differentiate the in-group vs out-group, or all of the above.
This can come out in ways that worked against me.
Hence, keeping these two buckets separate seem more conducive to having a more productive and happy life. However, I also feel uncertain how useful or true my claim is.
"Buckets" are just another reframed term that has been used similarly in many other contexts. I've first learned about "life areas" from Alex Vermeer.
Hi Benjamin, I run EA Virtual Programs. Thanks for sharing about your project! I don't have a lot of time to think too deeply about your project, but here are my quick impressions (caveat: this is my personal opinion and not of my employer):
1. I worry about fidelity. I know you're hoping to certification for your university, but the four courses you listed don't seem relevant.
2. I worry that the "creating more EAs" goal you have might be goodharted.
3. I worry that you're not tracking risks to the wider movement well. You didn't mention how your project might impact the EA movement negatively.
Otherwise, it seems like you have some strengths and a good track record in pedagogy and training. This seems like an important skillset to have.
I echo Alex Mallen's suggestion to talk to more community builders to get a sense of risks and the needs of the wider movement. And I do appreciate that you took time to write down your thoughts!
(Weakly held personal opinion) I would go further and say that you attract people like you.If what you or your core group is signalling most to outsiders are your community building (or marketing) qualities, you're likely to attract folks who are also keen on community building (and put off folks who are likely keen on the object level work you're recruiting for).
Here's an intuition pump I have. Imagine two EA uni group websites that are exactly the same except for one difference in their profile page:
I feel pretty confident that A will attract the right kinds of people into EA.
I also feel somewhat confident that B will be a net negative. I could imagine that each cohort of students coming into B gets worse in quality each year, until it becomes "ponzi scheme'ish" entity.
Got it, this was helpful. Thanks!