Comment author: Jan_Kulveit 16 March 2018 12:39:43AM *  1 point [-]

Hi Ben,

1) I understand your concerns.

On the other hand I'm not sure if you take into account the difficuties

  • e.g. going to EAG could require something like "heroic effort". If my academic job was my only source of income, going to EAGxOxford would have meant spending more than my monthly disposable income on it (even if EAGxOxford organizers were great in offering me big reduction in fees)

  • I'm not sure if you are modelling correctly barriers in building connections to the core of the community(*). Here is my guess at some problems people from different countries ol cultures may run into when trying to make connections, e.g. by applying for internships, help, conferences, etc.

1) People unconsciously take language sophistication as a proxy for inteligence. By not being proficient in English you loose points.

2) People are evaluated on proxies like "attending prestigeous university". Universities outside of US or UK are generally discounted as regional

3) People are often in fact evaluated based on social network distance; this leads to "rich gets richer" dynamics

4) People are evaluated based on previous "EA achievements" which are easier to achieve in places where EA is allready present.

(*) you may object e.g. Ales Flidr is a good counterexample, but Harvard alumni are typically relatively "delocalized", in demand everywhere, and may percieve greater value in working in the core than spreading ideas from core to emerging local groups. (Prestige and other incentives also point that way)

one risk I see in your article is it may influence the people who would be best at mitigating risks of "wrong local EA movements" being founded to not work on it at all.

I dont think "the barriers" should be zero, as such barriers in a way help the selection of motivated people. Just in my impression they may be higher than they appear from inside. Asking people to first build conections, while building such connections is not systematically supported, may make the barriers higher than optimal.

Btw yes the core of the group can read English materials. Also it could do research in machine learning, found a startup, work in quantitive finance, in part get elected to the parliament, move out of the country, and more. What I want to point at, if you imagine members of a group of people working on "translation" of EA into new culture you would like, they are likely paying huge opportunity costs in doing so. It may be hard to keep them at some state of waiting and building connections.

In our case, counterfactually it seems plausible "waiting even more" could have also led to the group not working, or worse organization beeing created, as the core people would loose motivation / pursue other opportunities.

2) In counting long-term impact and the lock-in effect you should consider the chance movements in new languages and cultures develop in some respects better versions of effective altruism, and beneficial mutations can than spread, even back to the core. More countries may mean more experiments running and faster evolution of better versions of EA. It's unclear to me how these terms (lock in, more optimization power) add up but both should be counted. One possible resolution may be to prioritize founding movements in smaller countries where you create experience, but the damage is limited.

To your questions

i] with one exception, reasonably well taken from the viewpoint of strategic communication (communicating easily communicable concepts, eg impact and effectivity). I don't think the damage is great, and part of misconceptions is unavoidable givent the name "effective altruism".

ii] it has a distribution... IMO the understanding at the moment is highly correlated with the enagagement in the group. Which may be more important than criteria like "average understanding" or "public understanding"

iii] yes, it's complicated, depends on some misalignments, and I dont want to disscuss it publicly.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 17 March 2018 11:11:54PM 0 points [-]

Quick addition that I realise the lack of support for local groups is not ideal, but this capacity constraint is another reason to go slow. I'd favour a more "all or nothing" approach, where we select a small number of countries / languages / locations and then make a major attempt to get them going (e.g. ideally supplying enough money so that 1-2 people can go full-time, pay for trips to visit other groups etc., plus provide in-depth mentoring from CEA), while in other locations we minimise outward facing activities. The middle ground of lots of small groups with few resources doesn't seem ideal. I'm optimistic we're moving in this direction with things like the EA Grants and

Comment author: Jan_Kulveit 13 March 2018 08:15:29AM *  4 points [-]

I just published a short history of creating effective altruism movement in the Czech Republic and I think it is highly relevant to this discussion

Compared to Ben's conclusions I would use it as a data-point showing

  • it can be done

  • it may not be worth delaying

  • there are intermediate forms of communication in between "mass outreach" and "person-to-person outreach"

  • you should consider more complex model of communication than just (personal vs. mass media): specifically, a viable model in new country could be something like "very short message in mass media, few articles translated in national language to lower the bareer and point in the right direction, much larger amount transmitted via conferences & similar

Putting too much weight into "person to person" interaction runs into the problem you are less likely to find the right persons (consider how such connections may be created)

Btw it seems to me the way e.g. 80k hours and CEA works are inadeqate in creating the required personal connections in new countries, so it's questionable if it makes sense to focus on it

(I completely agree China is extremely difficult, but I don't think China should be considered a typical example - considering mentality it's possibly one of the most remote countries from from Eurpoean POV)

Comment author: Ben_Todd 14 March 2018 09:07:09PM 1 point [-]

Hi Jan,

It's a useful case study, however, two quick responses:

1) To some extent you were following the suggested approach, because you only pushed ahead having already built a core of native speakers who had been involved in the past with English language materials (e.g. Ales Flidr was head of EA Harvard; core of LW people helped to start it).

You also mention how doing things like meeting CFAR and attending EAGxOxford were very useful in building the group. This suggests to me that doing even more to build expertise and connections with the core English-speaking EA community before pushing ahead with Czech outreach might have led to even better results.

I also guess that most of the group can read English language materials? If so, that makes the situation much easier. As I say, the less the distance, the weaker the arguments for waiting.

2) You don't directly address my main concern. I'm suggesting that if we try to spread EA in new languages and cultures without laying out groundwork could lead to a suboptimal version of EA being locked into the new audience. However, in your report, you don't directly respond to this concern.

You do give some evidence of short-term impact, which is evidence that benefits outweighed the opportunity costs. But I'd also want to look at questions like: (i) how accurately was EA portrayed in your press coverage? (ii) how well do people getting involved in the group understand EA? (iii) might you have put off important groups in ways that could have been avoided?

Comment author: Ben_Todd 07 March 2018 10:40:45PM 0 points [-]

Another consideration I'm not sure of is that a mainly English speaking community will be easier to coordinate than one of the same size split across many languages and cultures, so this might be reason to focus initially on one language (to the extent that efforts across different languages funge with each other).

Comment author: Ben_Todd 07 March 2018 10:39:30PM 3 points [-]

Some concerning data in this recent post about local groups:

One other striking feature of this category is that all of the top groups [in terms of new event attendees] were from non-Anglo-American countries. While this is purely speculative, an explanation for this pattern might be that these groups are aggressively reaching out to people unfamiliar with EA in their areas, getting them to attend events, but largely not seeing success in transferring this into increased group membership.

Comment author: Tuukka_Sarvi 06 March 2018 03:08:10PM *  1 point [-]

Great points!

I like the book Doing Good Better a lot: it is the single most important source that introduced me to EA and convinced me that it is a remarkable and very exciting idea and movement.

Does having "doing good better" available at stores do more good than bad? -- In my estimation it does more good. It is one of the vehicles of spreading the word about EA.

How much less viable vehicle of spreading word a translation of the book would be given that the translation is distributed in a similar cultural environment as the original book (eg. parts of Europe - Sweden, Norway, Finland, France etc) ? -- If additionally given that translation is done professionally by or commissioned by EA-minded locals, in my estimation he difference to the effect of the original language book would be small. Thus, this option is worth considering in my opinion.

I think a translation of short career guide (a book) summarizing the key content in 80kh could be even more interesting to people. 80kh does a superb job of examining at careers from the perspective of having as much impact as possible. I am not aware of any other career guide that take this perspective rigorously.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 07 March 2018 10:37:57PM 1 point [-]

I agree it's a great book, and it has net positive value. My concern is that we might be able to get something even better.

Also I don't think professional translators are in a good position to do this work, since they don't understand the nuance and aims of EA well enough to decide what the terms should be in the local language. We already find it really hard to pick the right terms in English. You'd need someone who really understands EA marketing and a professional translator working together.

Comment author: DavidMoss 06 March 2018 12:31:41AM 11 points [-]

Most of the arguments here seem to be more about not rushing into conducting mass (media) outreach in foreign cultures, rather than about not rushing to translate materials.

Regarding the arguments which do concern translation:

Argument #3 (existing English materials are out of date) concerns translation, but doesn't seem an argument against translation tout court, but only against translating Doing Good Better (if we suppose this is dangerously out-dated). From #3 we might instead conclude that we need to hurry to produce new English materials, since DGB is still influencing English-speakers, and then ensure these new materials are translated for foreign readers, lest they too be corrupted by the impression given by DGB. Alternatively we might think that we should generally hold off on any kind of popularisation, in order that we can wait to popularise a superior later version of EA (but then this is just another argument against mass outreach in general).

Argument #2 (translation is very difficult) seems strong when applied to China but, as you acknowledge, less compelling when applied to closer languages/cultures like French/German. This is an important qualification, since it seems plausible that most (or almost all) active non-English-speaking EA groups fall a lot closer to France/Germany than they do to China, and EAs may reasonably disagree about whether on balance producing translations in the contexts.

The end of your post proposes an alternative to mass media outreach, the alternative 'small group, close connections' model seems very compatible with using/needing translation work, of at least a few up to date texts.

You do state in that section that you favour EA-inspired new texts being created in those new contexts, rather than translations, it seems like fidelity considerations may push in the opposite direction. If you are concerned with the fidelity of EA ideas (so much so that you think Doing Good Better, translated, might be too off-message), then it might be better to ensure that some translated EA materials are accessible to new groups rather than having people around the world try to create EA-inspired approaches.

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:

Comment author: SiebeRozendal 05 March 2018 04:41:10PM 2 points [-]

Regarding Doing Good Better, is there any follow-up in the pipeline that is more up-to-date?

I find the book a great introduction into EA, but I have had multiple instances where I needed to point out to new members who'd just read the book that for some points "that's not actually what's thought anymore".

Comment author: Ben_Todd 05 March 2018 10:53:04PM 5 points [-]

Hopefully, but it may take a few years.

In the meantime, this is good:

And we're working on an advanced series of articles at 80k.


Why not to rush to translate effective altruism into other languages

Over the last year, I’ve been doing research into the intersection between effective altruism in China (see our recent article on the topic). I participated in a retreat in Hong Kong on this topic, and oversaw the funding and mentoring of someone to work full-time on research and advising to... Read More

New recommended career path for effective altruists: China specialists

This is the first new career path we've promoted since AI policy and strategy 8 months ago. See the full write up on the 80,000 Hours site . What follows is the introduction to the full article. * * * Last summer, China unveiled a plan to become the world... Read More
Comment author: RomeoStevens 29 January 2018 08:55:44PM *  6 points [-]

This is a big part of why I find the 'EA is talent constrained not funding constrained' meme to be a bit silly. The obvious counter is to spend money learning how to convert money into talent. I haven't heard of anyone focusing on this problem as a core area, but if it's an ongoing bottleneck then it 'should' be scoring high on effective actions.

There is a lot of outside view research on this that could be collected and analyzed.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 10 February 2018 08:29:16AM 2 points [-]

The obvious counter is to spend money learning how to convert money into talent. I haven't heard of anyone focusing on this problem as a core area, but if it's an ongoing bottleneck then it 'should' be scoring high on effective actions.

This is what many of the core organisations are focused on :) You could see it as 80k's whole purpose. It's also why CEA is doing things like EA Grants, and Open Phil is doing the AI Fellowship.

It's also a central internal challenge for any org that has funding and is trying to scale. But it's not easy to solve:

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