weeatquince comments on Why not to rush to translate effective altruism into other languages - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 05 March 2018 07:32:32PM *  8 points [-]

Good article Ben!


I think similar risks arise with translating effective altruism to new domains or new audiances with particular expertise.

I've felt this when interacting with people looking to apply effective altruism ideas in policy. Such exercises should be approached with caution: you cannot just tell policy makers to use evidence (they've already heard about evidence) or to put all their resources to whatever looks most effective (wouldn't work) etc.

Similarly I suspect there is something to the fact that I find EA materials have had limited acceptance among experts in international development.


I would go a step further and say that the aim should not solely be one of translating EA ideas but also of improving EA ideas. Currently EA is fairly un-diverse in terms of cultures, plurality of ethical views, academic background, etc. I think we can learn a lot from those we are trying to reach out to.


(Minor aside I think mass outreach efforts done well have been are still are valuable and this article underplays that)

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 06 March 2018 05:19:59PM 3 points [-]

It's my impression most policy efforts coming out of EA in most countries are from experienced, professional organizations which work with or hire policy experts. The Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) has worked with university institutes at Cambridge and Oxford to produce policy reports of global catastrophic risks for European governments. The Effective Altruism Foundation (EAF) has in Germany and Switzerland done policy advocacy, initiated by philosophy post-docs and the like. Before involvement in EA, they weren't particularly experienced in philosophy, but their efforts haven't backfired in any sense. I haven't tracked what portion of their campaigns succeeded at the ballot box, but being able to start things like referendums on animal rights/welfare without opposition and backlash from the public could be considered successes in themselves.

There isn't centralization across the EA community worldwide for work in the policy sector, so technically a group some country could start doing policy work in the name of EA without any kind of external assessment. So a culture of pursuing policy work much more cautiously can definitely still be worth promoting within EA. I notice the examples I gave were about causes like animal advocacy and global catastrophic risks, compared to your example of international development. My examples are of sectors which aren't already as common in academia and policy. So the EA community has been able to effectively break a lot of new ground in policy research and advocacy regarding these causes. Fields like international development and others with a history of more extensive institutional support are more complicated. They require more specialization and expertise to do effective work upon.

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 09 March 2018 03:24:45PM 2 points [-]

My point was not trying to pick up policy interventions specifically. I think more broadly there is too often an attitude of arrogance among EAs who think that because they can do cause prioritisation better than their peers they can also solve difficult problems better than experts in those fields. (I know I have been guilty of this at points).


In policy, I agree with you that EA policy projects fall across a large spectrum from highly professional to poorly thought-out.

That said I think that even at the better end of the spectrum there is a lack of professional lobbyists being employed by EA organisations and more of a do-it-ourselves attitude. EA orgs often prefer to hire enthusiastic EAs rather than expensive experts (which maybe a totally legitimate approach, I have no strong view on the matter).

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 10 March 2018 12:01:44AM 1 point [-]

What fields come to mind specifically as ones EAs arrogantly think they can solve problems better than experts can? EA is diverse, so we could be talking about a lot of different things. Re: policy, I think a large part of it is EA is still too small a movement to afford expensive experts or otherwise have a high degree of influence. I consider policy efforts in EA successes as a young movement it's been able to get tabled initiatives in a few countries. These don't often result in much happening, so these are relatively modest outcomes. Certainly there is greater opportunity in the future for EA to influence policy, hopefully by working more with experts in the future.