6 common mistakes in the effective altruism community

Over the last year, I've written six posts about mistakes in the effective altruism community. I thought it would be helpful to collect them all here:



I think if you put all of these together, the message is that:

  • Probably more people should be aiming to do direct work. In particular, at startups and in less explored cause areas.
  • Probably fewer people should be aiming to earn to give.
  • When donating, we should be doing more to quickly fund startups.

I'm unsure how large the shift from earning to give to direct work should be, but if you're undecided between the two, then (1) find out your specific options and reassess (i.e. compare specific job offers rather than broad classes) (2) ask where you have the greatest comparative advantage compared to the community, then if still undecided (3) consider leaning towards direct work.


Comments (9)

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 04 June 2016 11:19:10PM 3 points [-]

The list of 6 mistakes suggests there are reasons why people might incorrectly lean towards earning to give. However I do not think that the conclusion that "probably fewer people should be aiming to earn to give" follows directly from this.

I suspect the factors that effect whether earning to give should be more or less prevalent depends a lot whether we think wealth, and the kinds of influence it can buy, will be useful tools to wield in the mid to long run (as today's young professionals reach the peaks of their careers) as well as empirical questions on what proportion of EAs are actually earning to give etc.

(On the other-hand these issues maybe so hard to predict that you think just looking at where we will be bias as a community and then trying to lean the other way is a better metric to use)

Comment author: Ben_Todd 06 June 2016 04:42:27PM 1 point [-]

Of course - the argument is more that if these are considerations that people are not already taking into account, and they push against etg, then probably the balance should move away from etg.

If they had already taken these considerations into account, then no adjustment needed. Or if these considerations turn out to be unimportant compared to others, then no adjustment needed. Or if people were incorrectly unfair on etg before, these considerations would just push them to the correct level.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 05 June 2016 05:59:52AM 5 points [-]

"Six Mistakes You've Probably Been Making About Effective Altruism (The Last One Will Shock You)"

Comment author: Lila 04 June 2016 08:47:04PM 3 points [-]

When considering the career capital of an EA organization, it's probably best to take outside view. Imagine working for a small nonprofit outside EA - what does long-term career capital look like? It can be good or bad, depending on what you want for the long term. Remember, outsiders don't necessarily think that "effective altruism has stumbled across a group of neglected but highly important ideas."

Comment author: Ben_Todd 06 June 2016 04:43:26PM 2 points [-]

I agree - I cover some of the arguments against working at EA orgs in the article. My point was just that the benefits seem neglected, so they're better than people normally think.

Comment author: vipulnaik 05 June 2016 03:06:08PM 0 points [-]

I count seven bullet points, not six.

Comment author: vipulnaik 05 June 2016 05:20:52PM 3 points [-]

Oh, I guess the seventh link isn't you. That probably explains it :).

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 03 June 2016 06:12:48PM 0 points [-]

I think the third link is incorrect?

Comment author: Ben_Todd 03 June 2016 10:42:08PM 0 points [-]

Sorry, fixed.