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Dunja comments on Optimal level of hierarchy for effective altruism - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Dunja 28 March 2018 05:25:50PM *  5 points [-]

I think that EA as a movement is much less similar to multinational corporations than, say, to an academic field. In contrast to a corporation with a clear set of goals and a hierarchical decision-making procedures for how to achieve them, EA is neither likely to settle on the ultimate preference order on goals, nor on the optimal ways to achieve them. This is largely due to the fact that how to effectively help others is an empirical question, for which we don't have clear answers, and which is so complex that it may easily lead to peer disagreements (where different "schools of thought" become convinced of different methodologies, etc.). So I'd say, just like with academic research, what matters here is encouraging discussion and critical exchange within EA community, where EA-related institutions can strive to provide space for such interaction.

Comment author: Jan_Kulveit 28 March 2018 09:15:10PM 2 points [-]

Good point, I think the "effective altruism as an academic field" metaphor is useful - but possibly having too much influence.

Effective altruism should be not only about finding answers to the central question but also about acting on them, at some point. The action part is IMO what makes it different from academia, may be brings it closer to "technology" than "science" and may benefit from a different structure or tighter coordination. Or maybe not, that's part of the question.

Comment author: Dunja 28 March 2018 09:50:51PM *  0 points [-]

Right, I agree, EA has both the research component (establishing what "effective" is supposed to mean) and then the practical component (application of effective policies). So maybe you primarily target the latter when you suggest the structure isn't optimal? Would be interesting to hear which suggestions you'd have in mind even as a brainstorming :)

Comment author: Jan_Kulveit 28 March 2018 10:14:20PM 2 points [-]

To me the basic variance seems to be in the level of centralization (hierarchy with a centre vs. loose cluster), hierarchicality, type of connections between organizations (formal vs. informal).

Possibly closer example than academia or corporations may be "environmental movement" ... where you have research, action, and policy components, and I would guess there may be things to learn from.

Comment author: Dunja 29 March 2018 03:41:53PM 1 point [-]

Yes, environmental movement is a good comparison. I'm still not sure what exactly can be translated from that movement to EA at this point, mainly because the involved group is much smaller... but would be definitely interesting to hear your ideas on this.

Comment author: impala 01 April 2018 10:43:31PM 1 point [-]

The environmental movement seems to be the closest analogy. It would be strange to find this movement having even the levels of (implicit, claimed) hierarchy that EA does. This should be cause for concern.