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

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Comment author: Ben_Todd 07 March 2018 10:36:12PM 2 points [-]

Hey David,

I'm not able to fully respond, but a few quick comments which might help to clarify:

I agree I'm combining mass media and translation somewhat. In principle, someone could propose spending translating lots of materials but not sharing them widely, but in practice people don't. Rather, the options are more like (i) translate existing materials into the new language and share widely, or (ii) speak to people in small groups.

I'm arguing in favour of (ii) initially. But then like I say near the end of the post, you'd then start to work on translating materials on the side. The aim is that we'll end up with much better translations if we do lots of in-person outreach first, work on the translations iteratively, and first build up a base of people who really understand both EA and the local language and culture.

(Whereas instead people often move directly to ideas like translating DGB and releasing, or creating an EA website in the local country with lots of content on it).

I think "lock in" might also be pretty significant. DGB creates less problems in English since we've already been locked into those misconceptions about EA. But in countries where there are no existing materials, we want to avoid those mistakes and get a fresh start.

(I also think we should prioritise having a new DGB or alternative intro resource in English, but it will take some time - this might be the best we have right now: https://www.effectivealtruism.org/resources/)

Comment author: DavidMoss 08 March 2018 06:34:33PM 5 points [-]

Thanks for the reply Ben.

In principle, someone could propose spending translating lots of materials but not sharing them widely, but in practice people don't. Rather, the options are more like (i) translate existing materials into the new language and share widely, or (ii) speak to people in small groups.

We may be speaking to different people. I know a number of small group leaders who want materials in their native language to share with their (small) groups, rather than to broadcast a translation on a mass scale.

I suspect that if the alternative is groups struggling through English-language materials or not using written EA materials in their groups at all (and just going it alone), then it's probably better that they have some basic translated materials (one can always advise them not to try to broadcast them widely). I agree groups can develop without mass media outreach, but I'm not sure how well they can develop (e.g. up to the 100 members you suggest in the OP) without EA materials in their language.

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I think the question of 'lock-in' is trickier, though am not sure how far it applies to small groups rather than the mass media outreach. I agree that in the English speaking world memes like 'EA = effective charity' and 'EA careers = ETG' are prevalent and perhaps impossible to reverse en mass. But how 'locked in' are individual EAs and small EA groups who have, for example, read Doing Good Better? i.e. how intractable is changing their view from the Doing Good Better view to the updated view (and how far would it have been better to delay publication of Doing Good Better a few years until the ideas were more developed)? If we're dealing with translations for small groups, the situation looks more similar to small groups of EAs who have read Doing Good Better, than to mass-media broadcasting of EAish memes to the general populace. Since it's not clear how far small groups of English speaking EAs are locked in or that it would have been better to delay EA messaging in English speaking areas a few years, it's not clear to me that we should be trying to avoid/delay 'lock in' wherever else we can e.g. in the non-English speaking world.

I think this is especially so if we think less in terms of the possibility of avoiding irreversible lock-in and more in terms of a trade-off between incrementally improving EA messaging and delaying EA messaging several years (assuming that we don't think that the next iteration of EA ideas will be final, but will themselves need to be updated a handful of years later).