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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 09 May 2018 09:18:25PM *  9 points [-]

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

(top level comment to not make the thread even more messy)

When we talk about dedication and what that looks like in people, I think we can have very different images in mind. We could think of a 'dedicated EA' and think of two different archetypes (of course, reality is more messy than that and people might actually be both):

Person A talks about dedicating their life to having a high impact, about the willingness for self-sacrifice, about optimising everything for this one goal. They're very enthusiastic, think about all their options to do good and talk about nothing but EA.

Person B is careful and measured. They think about how they can use their career and other resources to have a very high impact and about the long road to being in highly impactful position in a later point in their career. They want to make sure they get there by having a proper work-life balance in the process.

When I say (and I think this is true for Joey as well) that EA emphasises dedication much less, I think about dedication in the way that person A embodies. I think CEA in their material think about dedication more in the way of Person B.

EA was much smaller and less professional in the past. That also meant that the 'highest status' positions were much more easily accessible. When I met Joey in 2013, he was interning at 80,000hours and then started his own project with Charity Science and people thought highly of him for that. Now it is not possible anymore to easily intern or volunteer at high profile EA orgs ('management capacity constraints'). Easily accessible positions still exist, but due to the professionalisation and growth of the EA movement, they're less 'high status' and therefore less appealing.

The type of people like Joey who just went out and started their own projects they were enthusiastic about are also relatively speaking (compared to the now 'high status' EA endeavours) less likely to get funding today. I think this might actually be where some part of the conflict about funding constraints and whether small student-y projects are worth funding or not is actually coming from - do we want to support an EA culture where we encourage young people to do random EA projects? Or do we want to foster a professional environment?

I think the move towards professionalising EA has been correct, but we should be aware of the costs it has imposed on people who liked the young people dedicated person A vibe of EA in the past. One alternative name proposal for EA was 'super hardcore do-gooder' - unthinkable today.