Denise_Melchin comments on The Importance of EA Dedication and Why it Should Be Encouraged - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Denise_Melchin 06 May 2018 09:15:30AM *  16 points [-]

I’m curious what kind of experiences people in the dedicated group actually had that put them off if you could elaborate on that.

I share the impression that dedication is less encouraged in EA these days than five years ago. I’m also personally very disappointed by that since high dedication felt like a major asset I could bring to EA. Now I feel more like it doesn’t matter which is discouraging.

My guess is that this is because high dedication is a trait of youth movements and the age of the median and perhaps more importantly the most influential EAs has gone up in the mean time. EA has lost its youth movement-y vibe.

I’m also interested whether the other movements you’re comparing EA to are youth movements?

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 06 May 2018 09:26:06AM *  9 points [-]

Another factor leading to dedication being emphasized less might be that people are less motivated to be dedicated these days. The growth of the movement and the funding available have resulted in an individual’s EA contributions mattering far less than they used to.

The increased concern about downside risk has also made it much harder to ‘use up’ your dedication. A few years ago you could at least always do some outreach - now it’s commonly considered far less clear the sign on that is positive.

Comment author: cafelow  (EA Profile) 06 May 2018 10:36:49AM 8 points [-]

The increased concern about downside risk has also made it much harder to ‘use up’ your dedication.

Thanks for articulating that - it was a undefined sense of ill-ease, that I now have words for. When I joined EA initially I naively thought everything I did (donating, outreach) was certainly net positive, and I could boldly dedicate away! The uncertainty I now feel about everything makes motivation harder and deprives me of the satisfaction I used to get (especially as my brain prefers to fixate on the possible negatives, rather than the expected value).

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 10 May 2018 02:54:51AM *  1 point [-]

A possible solution to this problem is to 'use up' your dedication in systematic research working to resolve important uncertainties.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 06 May 2018 07:33:16PM 1 point [-]

As I stated in this comment, it's far from a consensus actions like donating or outreach are of an ambiguous sign.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 06 May 2018 07:31:56PM 1 point [-]

It's my impression it's a handful of coordinator organizations in EA who think it's not clear the sign of outreach is positive. It's my impression from most individual effective altruists I talk to, and I expect this would extend to their opinion as a bloc, the sign of outreach, even after taking into account the possibility of rogue/unilateral actors, is moderately positive.

Comment author: Alex_Barry 08 May 2018 09:10:38AM 1 point [-]

But should we not expect coordinator organizations to be the ones best placed to have considered the issue?

My impression is that they have developed their view over a fairly long time period after a lot of thought and experience.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 08 May 2018 10:28:54AM 2 points [-]

Yes, but I think the current process isn't inclusive of input from as many EA organizations as it could or should be. It appears it might be as simple as the CEA having offices in Berkeley and Oxford meaning they receive a disproportionate amount of input on EA from those organizations, as opposed to EA organizations whose staff are geographically distributed and/or don't have an office presence near the CEA. I think the CEA should still be at the centre of making these decisions, and after recent feedback from Max Dalton from the CEA on the EA Handbook 2.0, I expect they will make a more inclusive process for feedback on outreach materials.

Comment author: Alex_Barry 08 May 2018 01:11:40PM *  2 points [-]

I'm not quite sure what argument you are trying to make with this comment.

I interpreted your original comment as arguing for something like: "Although most of the relevant employees at central coordinator organisations are not sure about the sign of outreach, most EAs think it is likely to be positive, thus it is likely to in fact be positive".

Where I agree with first two points but not the conclusion, as I think we should consider the staff at the 'coordinator organizations' to be the relevant expert class and mostly defer to their judgement.

Its possible you were instead arguing "The increased concern about downside risk has also made it much harder to ‘use up’ your dedication" is not in fact a concern faced by most EAs, since they still think outreach is clearly positive, so this is not a discouraging factor.

I somewhat agree with this point, but based on your response to cafelow I do not think it is very likely to be the point you were trying to make.

Comment author: Yannick_Muehlhaeuser 06 May 2018 06:14:33PM 6 points [-]

I share the impression that dedication is less encouraged in EA these days than five years ago

Not sure i agree with this. Certainly there is less focus on donating hug sums of money, but that may also be explained by the shift to EA Orgs now often recommending direct work. But i think the EA community as a hole now focusses less on attracting huge ammounts of people and more on keeping the existing members engaged and dedicated and influencing their career choice (if i remember correctly the strategic write-ups from both CEA and EAF seem to reflect this).

For instance, the recent strategy write-up by CEA mentions dedication as an important factor:

We can think of the amount of good someone can be expected to do as being the product of three factors (in a mathematical sense): 1. Resources: The extent of the resources (money, useful labor, etc.) they have to offer; 2. Dedication: The proportion of these resources that are devoted to helping; 3. Realization: How efficiently the resources devoted to helping are used

But i agree that there is a lot of focus on 'talent' and dedication seems to take a second role behind it. This may be defensable but i think that we could probably stress dedication a bit more, because talking about 'dedication' may turn less people of than talk about 'talent'. To me talent seems more like something you have while dedication seems like something that 'merely' requires willpower. I would generaly be more worried about 'lacking talent' than 'lacking dedication', but I don't really know how many people share that intuition.

Comment author: Joey 06 May 2018 06:11:33PM 2 points [-]

"I’m also personally very disappointed by that since high dedication felt like a major asset I could bring to EA. Now I feel more like it doesn’t matter which is discouraging." It’s still very helpful to other dedicated people to know people like you :)

The main movement I am comparing EA to is its younger self, but I think the AR movement also came to mind a lot while writing this post.

I agree that age seems to play a pretty noticeable role, with older movements being wiser but less energetic. I think there might just be some biological mechanism at play, but I also think that in many movements people do "what they can get away with". If I can work 30 hours and my organization is still successful, it’s less motivating to work 60 than if that 30 extra hours will be the make more break. Wisdom gives me more ability to slack on energeticness.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 06 May 2018 07:36:28PM -1 points [-]

See this comment I made about why an increase in the median age of effective altruists might not play as much a role as one would expect at first glance.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 06 May 2018 07:29:11PM 1 point [-]

I think an increase in median age would have less to do with the shift than emphasizing dedication less. One of the primary drivers of growth for EA is outreach to undergraduate students at universities around the world, and constantly bringing in 18-22 year-olds into the movement should exert a statistical pressure that would keep the median age down. On the other hand, if messaging was emphasizing less the importance of dedication to EA, I'd naively expect the younger and fresher individuals movement organizations are bringing into the movement are being less selected for dedication than a few years ago.