Intentional Insights and the EA Movement – Q & A

post by Gleb_T · 2016-01-02T16:53:21.860Z · EA · GW · Legacy · 12 comments

Introduction

Based on the advice of some long-time members of the EA Forum, I as the President of Intentional Insights wanted to share InIn’s background and goals and where we see ourselves as fitting within the EA movement. I also wanted to allow all of you a chance to share your opinions about the benefits and drawbacks of what InIn is doing, put forth any reservations, concerns, and risks, and provide suggestions for optimization.

 

Background

InIn began in January 2014, when my wife and I decided to create an organization dedicated to marketing rational, evidence-based thinking in all areas of our lives, especially charitable giving, to a broad audience. We decided to do so because we looked around for organizations that would provide marketing resources for our own local activism in Columbus, OH, trying to convey these ideas to a broad public and found no such organizations. So we decided – if not us, then who? If not now, then when? My wife would use her experience in nonprofits to run the organisation, while I would use my experience as a professor to work on content and research.

 

We gathered together a group of local aspiring rationalists and Effective Altruists interested in the project, and launched the organization publicly in 9/2014. We got our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, began running various content marketing experiments, and established the internal infrastructure. We also built up a solid audience in the secular and skeptical market, who we saw as the easiest-to-reach audience with promoting effective giving and rational thinking. By the early fall of 2015, we had established some connections and reputation, a solid social media following, and our articles began to be accepted in prominent venues that reach a broad audience, such as The Huffington Post and Lifehack. At that point, we felt comfortable enough to begin our active engagement with the EA movement, as we felt we could provide added value.

 

Fit in EA Movement

As an Effective Altruist, I have long seen opportunities of optimization in the marketing of EA ideas using research-based, modern content marketing strategies. I did not feel comfortable speaking out about that until I had built up InIn enough to be able to speak from a position of some expertise in the early fall of 2015, and to demonstrate right away the benefit we could bring through publishing widely-shared articles that promoted EA messages.

 

Looking back, I wish I had started engaging with the EA Forum sooner. It was a big mistake on my part that caused some EAs to treat InIn as a sudden outsider that burst on the scene. Also, our early posts were perceived as too self-promotional. I guess this is not surprising, looking back – although the goal was simply to demonstrate our value, the content marketing nature of our work does show through. Ah well, lessons learned and something to update on for the future.

 

As InIn has become more engaged in various projects within the EA movement, we have begun to settle on how to add value to the EA community and have formulated our plans for future work.

 

1) We are promoting EA-themed effective giving ideas to a broad audience through publishing shareable articles in prominent venues.

 

1A) Note: we focus on spreading ideas like effective giving without associating them overtly with the movement of Effective Altruism, though leaving buried hooks to EA in the articles. This approach has the benefit minimizing the risk of diluting the movement with less value-aligned members, while leaving opportunities for those who are more value-aligned to find the EA movement. Likewise, we don’t emphasize EA as we believe that overt uses of labels can lead some people to perceive our messages as ideological, which would undermine our ability to build rapport with them.

 

2) We are specifically promoting effective giving to the secular and skeptic community, as we see this audience as more likely to be value aligned, and also have strong existing connections with this audience.

 

3) We are providing content and social media marketing consulting to the EA movement, both EA meta-charities and prominent direct-action charities.

 

4) We are collaborating with EA meta-charities in boosting the marketing capacities of the EA movement as a whole being.

 

5) We are helping build EA capacity around effective decision-making and goal achievement through providing foundational rationality knowledge.

 

6) By using content marketing to promote rationality to a broad audience, we are aiming to help people be more clear-thinking, long-term oriented, empathetic, and utilitarian. This not only increases their own flourishing, but also expands their circles of caring beyond biases based on geographical location (drowning child problem), species (non-human animals), and temporal distance (existential risk).

 

Conclusion

InIn is engaged in both EA capacity-building and movement-building, but movement-building of a new type, not oriented toward directing people into the EA movement, but getting EA habits of thinking into the broader world. I specifically chose not to include our achievements in doing so in this post, as I had previously fallen into the trap of including too much and being perceived as self-promotional as a result. However, if you wish, you can learn more about the organization and its activities at this link.


What are your impressions on the value of this fit of InIn within the EA movement and our plans, including advantages and disadvantages, as well as suggestions for improvement? We are always eager to learn and improve based on feedback from the community.

12 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Elizabeth · 2017-01-16T17:53:14.751Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

A list of ethical and practical concerns the EA movement has with Intentional Insights: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/12z/concerns_with_intentional_insights/ .

Gleb Tsipursky has also repeatedly said he will leave the EA movement.

comment by Gleb_T · 2017-01-17T16:03:52.734Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Gleb Tsipursky has also repeatedly said he will leave the EA movement.

This is simply false. See what I actually said here

comment by Chriswaterguy · 2016-01-03T10:36:46.304Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I like the fact that there's an active, strategic effort to engage in outreach, and I'm impressed with the media reach achieved to date. Also with how accessible it is, and how palatable, bypassing issues of tribal affiliation to get to the core principles and how to implement them.

I plan to get involved myself (both to contribute and to learn).

UPDATE, Oct 2017: I ended up not being involved for long. While I still appreciate InIn's intentions and a number of aspects of their work, I didn't feel completely comfortable and didn't have the personal resources (esp time) to dedicate.

comment by scottweathers · 2016-01-03T23:29:27.129Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

One of the reasons I like Intentional Insights is that it has the potential to spark interest in EA among people who probably wouldn't become interested in EA otherwise - the counterfactual argument here is stronger than for GWWC or other meta-charities because Gleb is reach out to a group that's less close to EA.

I also think that we should really encourage and incentivize projects like this - we need more people doing EA outreach. There is absolutely no guarantee that this project will succeed, but Gleb has shown evidence of success and the expected value seems fairly large.

comment by Gleb_T · 2016-01-03T23:33:37.924Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Scott, indeed, whether we get interest in EA or simply effective giving with more money channeled toward effective charities, the impact could be large, especially from a counterfactual perspective. I'm not necessarily trying to get people to grow into EAs, but simply change their habits of giving somewhat, prioritizing effective charities and expanding their circle of compassion. Getting people to give to effective charities without self-identifying as an EA would be a quite fine outcome :-)

comment by casebash · 2016-01-03T00:26:39.319Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I can see a lot of value of having EA concepts promoted separately from the discussion of Effective Altruism. Not everyone is going to become an EA, in fact, a surprising number of people seem to be turned off by the movement and so EA material is unlikely to reach them effectively. Having non-EA materials promoting the same ideas means that 1) they may still develop the attributes that EA wants to instil 2) some people may become more inclined towards EA after they have accepted some of its values.

comment by Gleb_T · 2016-01-03T01:24:26.652Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yup, there are a lot of people who are turned off the movement itself due to the research-based, data-driven, and philosophically-sophisticated nature of the movement. And I don't think it's a bad thing that they are turned off - we don't want people who are unable to engage well with core concepts of EA to shape the direction of the movement.

However, we can still get them to develop beneficial habits of thought and behavior. In this Huffington Post piece, I encourage specific behaviors that would get people to give effectively, with a clear and pragmatic behavior described in the very end. Imagine the impact if everyone took up that behavior pattern. How much money would go to effective charities?

Regarding some people becoming more inclined towards EA, I think it would be valuable to make sure those people are a good fit for the movement itself. It may be the case that someone who gets into effective giving may eventually come to become value aligned, but it's not necessarily the case, and it's fine if they don't.

comment by casebash · 2016-01-03T08:48:24.483Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I agree that quality is more important than quantity. We need to find people who are dedicated and actually do things.

comment by Chriswaterguy · 2016-01-03T10:38:17.067Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

My impression was that the purpose of InIn was to promote rationality, and that EA was a natural aspect of that. This sounds like EA and the values of EA are much more central than that. Could you clarify this, Gleb?

comment by Gleb_T · 2016-01-03T17:57:48.064Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Sure, happy to clarify, and thanks for asking!

InIn's goal is to advance human flourishing through improving the way we think and make decisions. To do so, we promote rationality with a particularly heavy emphasis on EA, which is essentially rationality as applied to altruism. The reason for the emphasis on EA is goal factoring, namely a bigger opportunity to improve the world through getting people to be more rational about their altruism. If people are more rational in their altruism, then it not only improves their own lives but also the lives of others. This is why it makes sense to emphasize EA-themed content in the work of Intentional Insights.

An additional reason is that many InIn participants, such as myself, identify strongly as Effective Altruists, which makes us more motivated to advance EA content :-)

That being said, we have plenty of content that is not directly EA-related, but advances long-term thinking and rational decision making in other areas of life. Doing so advances human flourishing, and also has positive downstream impacts on issues of importance to EAs, such as existential risk, etc. Likewise, our audience would not be eager to engage with InIn if it was only about effective giving, so we make sure to have a variety of content.

Hope that clarifies things!

comment by kbog · 2016-01-03T08:34:25.723Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm not yet convinced that making people more rational is likely to make them more empathetic towards animals. What reasons are there to believe there is such a connection?

comment by Gleb_T · 2016-01-03T18:01:18.527Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Good question!

One clear reason is that people who are more rational are more likely to be convinced by well-reasoned arguments and update on their beliefs. For example, more rational people are likelier to be convinced by this article.