Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 15 August 2018 11:50:28PM *  26 points [-]

We would like to hear suggestions from forum users about what else they might like to see from CEA in this area.

Here is my two cents. I hope it is constructive:


The policy is excellent but the challenge lies in implementation.

Firstly I want to say that this post is fantastic. I think you have got the policy correct: that CEA should be cause-impartial, but not cause-agnostic and CEA’s work should be cause-general.

However I do not think it looks, from the outside, like CEA is following this policy. Some examples:

  • EA London staff had concerns that they would need to be more focused on the far future in order to receive funding from CEA.

  • You explicitly say on your website: "We put most of our credence in a worldview that says what happens in the long-term future is most of what matters. We are therefore more optimistic about others who roughly share this worldview."[1]

  • The example you give of the new EA handbook

  • There is a close association with 80000 Hours who are explicitly focusing much of their effort on the far future.

These are all quite subtle things, but collectively they give an impression that CEA is not cause impartial (that it is x-risk focused). Of course this is a difficult thing to get correct. It is difficult to draw the line between saying: 'our staff members believe cause_ is important' (a useful factoid that should definitely be said), whilst also putting across a strong front of cause impartiality.


Suggestion: CEA should actively champion cause impartiality

If you genuinely want to be cause impartial I think most of the solutions to this are around being super vigilant about how CEA comes across. Eg:

  • Have a clear internal style guide that sets out to staff good and bad ways to talk about causes

  • Have 'cause impartiality' as a staff value

  • If you do an action that does not look cause impartial (say EA Grants mostly grants money to far future causes) then just acknowledge this and say that you have noted it and explain why it happened.

  • Public posts like this one setting out what CEA believes

  • If you want to do lots of "prescriptive" actions split them off into a sub project or a separate institution.

  • Apply the above retroactively (remove lines from your website that make it look like you are only future focused)

Beyond that, if you really want to champion cause impartiality you may also consider extra things like:

  • More focus on cause prioritisation research.

  • Hiring people who value cause impartiality / cause prioritisation research / community building, above people who have strong views on what causes are important.


Being representative is about making people feel listened too.

Your section on representatives feels like you are trying to pin down a way of finding an exact number so you can say we have this many articles on topic x and this many on topic y and so on. I am not sure this is quite the correct framing.

Things like the EA handbook should (as a lower bound) have enough of a diversity of causes mentioned that the broader EA community does not feel misrepresented but (as an upper bound) not so much that CEA staff [2] feel like it is misrepresenting them. Anything within this range seems fine to me. (Eg. with the EA handbook both groups should feel comfortable handing this book to a friend.) Although I do feel a bit like I have just typed 'just do the thing that makes everyone happy' which is easier said than done.

I also think that "representativeness" is not quite the right issue any way. The important thing is that people in the EA community feel listened too and feel like what CEA is doing represents them. The % of content on different topics is only part of that. The other parts of the solution are:

  • Coming across like you listen: see the aforementioned points on championing cause impartiality. Also expressing uncertainty, mentioning that there are opposing views, giving two sides to a debate, etc.

  • Listening -- ie. consulting publicly (or with trusted parties) wherever possible.

If anything getting these two things correct is more important than getting the exact percentage of your work to be representative.

Sam :-)


[2] Unless you have reason to think that there is a systematic bias in staff, eg if you actively hired people because of the cause they cared about.

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 16 August 2018 02:23:56PM 10 points [-]

Just wanted to say I loved how specific and detailed the feedback is here - thank you!

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 10 August 2018 01:00:56PM 14 points [-]

After years of speculation on where in the pipeline the difference is appearing, I'm so happy to see numbers that let us have a more concrete idea of what's going on, at least in this group!

Comment author: LKor 09 August 2018 01:00:32PM *  2 points [-]

Ugg.. something smells fishy here.. : ) The numbers seem completely outlandish.. 1 - 10 billion for recreational fishing in the US? There are, what.. 300 - 500 million total population in the US, I believe? Even assuming 10% are into fishing, would they consume 1 billion bait fish?

I'm extremely skeptical of this and strongly inclined to make a bet against this info being accurate. Currently considering what exactly I'd be willing to put money down against. My intuition is that these figures might be off by a factor of ten or more.

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 09 August 2018 01:49:45PM 2 points [-]

I was wondering if it's a difference between number hatched and number that make it to the one-year mark at which they're sold?

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 03 August 2018 09:19:32PM 17 points [-]

[I'm a CEA staff member, but writing as an individual and a local group founder/organizer]

"EA chapter building is currently fairly tightly controlled" - what aspect of this do you see as tightly controlled? Funding? Advising?

As someone who helped start a local group before there were funds, written resources, or other advising for starting or running an EA group, I see how those things would be helpful, but don't see them as essential. The only request I can remember to focus on a particular cause area was back when GWWC was solely focused on global poverty and invited the Boston group to affiliate, which we decided not to do.

I'm all for EA movement-building orgs doing a better job at supporting local groups and people who are thinking of starting one. But I wouldn't want people to come away from this post with the understanding that they're somehow restricted from starting a group, or that they'll only be able to do so if they support the right cause. My guess is that most EA groups were founded by people who saw a gap and decided to start something, not people who were tapped on the shoulder by a movement-building organization.

Comment author: anonymous 03 August 2018 06:12:31PM 14 points [-]

CEA appears as a "participating organisation" of the EA Summit. What does this mean? Does CEA endorse paradigm academy?

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 03 August 2018 08:39:20PM *  29 points [-]

CEA is not involved in the organizing of the conference, but we support efforts to build the EA community. One of our staff will be speaking at the event.

Comment author: obtainer_of_goods 20 July 2018 02:29:59PM 1 point [-]

This is my first comment, but I'm currently writing and hoping to post some detailed reports later. Are there any restrictions on new users posting? I haven't tried posting yet, so I'm not aware if there are currently any restrictions in place but will there be new restrictions on new users in the future other than the karma system?

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 20 July 2018 03:16:16PM 2 points [-]

Currently I believe we have a threshold of 14 karma to post. If you have a post you'd like to submit before you've reached that level, you can write to the moderators at and we'll review the post and give you posting ability if approved.

Good question about whether this will be the same in the new system - we'll make a decision about that, but the default is to keep the threshold similar.

In response to Open Thread #40
Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 08 July 2018 08:24:24PM *  18 points [-]

The EA Forum Needs More Sub-Forums

EDIT: please go to the recent announcement post on the new EA Forum to comment

The traditional discussion forum has sub-forums and sub-sub-forums where people in communities can discuss areas that they’re particularly interested in. The EA Forum doesn’t have these and this make it hard to filter for what you’re looking for.

On Facebook on the other hand, there are hundreds of groups based around different cause areas, local groups and organisations, and subpopulations. Here it’s also hard to start rigorous discussions around certain topics because many groups are inactive and moderated poorly.

Then there are lots of other small communication platforms launched by organisations that range in their accessibility, quality standards, and moderation. It all kind of works but it’s messy and hard to sort through.

It’s hard to start productive conversations on specialised niche topics with international people because

  • 1) Relevant people won’t find you easily within the mass of posts

  • 2) You’ll contribute to that mass and thus distract everyone else.

Perhaps this a reason why some posts on specific topics only get a few comments even though the quality of the insights and writing seems high.

Examples of posts that we’re missing out on now:

  • Local group organiser Kate tried X career workshop format X times and found that it underperformed other formats

  • Private donor Bob dug into the documents of start-up vaccination charity X and wants to share preliminary findings with other donors in the global poverty space

  • Machine learning student Jenna would like to ask some specific questions on how the deep reinforcement learning algorithm of AlphaGo functions

  • The leader of animal welfare advocacy org X would like to share some local engagement statistics on vegan flyering, 3D headset demos, before sending them off in a more polished form to ACE.

Interested in any other examples you have. :-)

What to do about it?

I don’t have any clear solutions in mind for this (perhaps this could be made a key focus in the transition to using the forum architecture of LessWrong 2.0). Just want to plant a flag here that given how much the community has grown vs. 3 years ago, people should start specialising more in the work they do, and that our current platforms are woefully behind for facilitating discussions around that.

It would be impossible for one forum to handle all this adequately and it seems useful for people to experiment with different interfaces, communication processes and guidelines. Nevertheless, our current state seems far from optimal. I think some people should consider tracking down and paying for additional thoughtful, capable web developers to adjust the forum to our changing needs.

UPDATE: After reading @John Maxwell IV's comments below, I've changed my mind from a naive 'we should overhaul the entire system' view to 'we should tinker with it in ways we expect would facilitate better interactions, and then see if they actually do' view.

In response to comment by remmelt  (EA Profile) on Open Thread #40
Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 10 July 2018 03:34:40PM 4 points [-]

CEA is thinking along these same lines for the new version of the Forum! The project manager is planning to reply with more detail in the next day or so.

Comment author: Jamie_Harris 01 July 2018 09:14:02AM 0 points [-]

Minor question, but when I tried downloading something from my internet browser blocked it and didn't give me any obvious options for allowing the download. I'm not exactly techy and so this sort of thing scares me - how confident are you that I can download things off the site without giving my laptop viruses etc?

If people use other sites to access free books I'd also be keen to know!

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 05 July 2018 02:16:11PM 0 points [-]

I get ebooks and audiobooks through my library's online system. is the one our library uses, but check your library's site for which one is local to you.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 13 April 2018 11:04:39PM 1 point [-]

The economic impact of vegetarianism or veganism is only one factor in the decision of whether one should become a vegetarian or vegan, but an important one

I'm confused by this. If you genuinely think your purchase decisions will make no difference to what happens to animals, then you might as well go ahead and order the big bucket at KFC with a guiltless conscience.

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 14 April 2018 11:43:52AM 8 points [-]

I took this to mean "even if you don't expect your choice to have economic impact, like your friend ordered the KFC bucket but doesn't want to finish it and asks if you'd like some, there are still other factors to consider like norm-setting and your own cognitive dissonance."

Comment author: RandomEA 04 April 2018 12:50:05PM *  0 points [-]

Whether this discount rate is accurate is another question – given the relative abundance of cash available to EA orgs (through OpenPhil and Good Ventures), a rate as high as this is surprising.

It's worth noting that Open Phil does not currently fund EA movement building organizations, so not all EA organizations have access to a large amount of money.

Edit: It turns out I'm wrong. See the reply to this comment.

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 04 April 2018 01:15:30PM 10 points [-]

That post is from 2015 and I don't think it's currently accurate. For example, Open Phil has granted to CEA and CFAR since that time.

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