Posts

Julia_Wise's Shortform 2021-04-29T17:50:37.215Z
Charges against BitMEX and cofounders 2020-10-02T21:05:08.534Z
Introducing Luke Freeman as head of Giving What We Can 2020-07-27T20:35:20.145Z
Finding equilibrium in a difficult time 2020-03-18T02:50:14.119Z
It's OK to feed stray cats 2020-01-28T10:33:37.543Z
More info on EA Global admissions 2019-12-23T20:20:09.969Z
Countering imposter syndrome 2019-08-28T01:55:10.565Z
You have more than one goal, and that's fine 2019-02-20T01:08:48.269Z
Submit questions about Giving What We Can for Q&A session December 30 2018-12-30T00:51:03.555Z
Open beta of the new EA Forum now available 2018-10-18T02:59:49.556Z
Forum moving to open beta this week 2018-10-15T21:24:30.107Z
Additional plans for the new EA Forum 2018-09-07T15:35:47.733Z
Self-care sessions for EA groups 2018-09-06T15:55:12.835Z
EA syllabi and teaching materials 2018-09-05T18:19:10.207Z
How to use the Forum 2018-09-05T17:22:55.831Z
Upcoming AMA with Holden Karnofsky on job openings at the Open Philanthropy Project (Monday March 26, starting 9:30 am Pacific) 2018-03-23T13:57:53.133Z
A contact person for the EA community 2018-01-12T17:04:14.404Z
Changes to the EA Forum 2017-07-02T17:34:18.441Z
Upcoming AMA with Luke Muehlhauser on consciousness and moral patienthood (June 28, starting 9am Pacific) 2017-06-21T21:56:48.696Z
A mental health resource for EA community 2017-05-06T02:07:05.630Z
Advisory panel at CEA 2017-03-07T01:49:08.971Z
Practical political action on global health 2017-02-27T15:01:54.575Z
Clarifying the Giving What We Can pledge 2017-02-06T20:07:29.719Z
EAs write about where they give 2016-12-09T16:00:28.601Z
Running an EA reading group 2016-12-02T16:21:45.435Z
Making EA groups more welcoming 2016-07-29T01:09:18.503Z
Guidelines on depicting poverty 2016-03-28T14:24:32.423Z
Against segregating EAs 2016-01-21T16:15:37.410Z
An embarrassment of riches 2015-11-19T18:23:28.370Z
Burnout and self-care 2015-10-23T13:15:26.672Z
Meetup : Boston dinner/discussion 2015-02-20T02:47:41.839Z
On making spaces friendlier to parents 2015-01-27T22:06:13.728Z
How much does it cost to have a child? 2014-12-24T15:06:18.236Z
Aim high, even if you fall short 2014-10-11T17:26:53.809Z
Where I'm giving and why: Julia Wise 2013-12-27T20:05:48.000Z
Giving now vs. later: a summary 2013-07-23T04:00:39.000Z
Cheerfully 2013-06-21T04:00:03.000Z

Comments

Comment by Julia_Wise on EA syllabi and teaching materials · 2021-07-06T14:20:02.681Z · EA · GW

Thanks, added to the post!

Comment by Julia_Wise on AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism · 2021-05-25T19:15:10.436Z · EA · GW

For me it might be two sides of the same coin (particular to my role on the community health team).

The positive is getting to serve a community I really believe in, and supporting people who feel very much on the same team as me as far as big life goals.

The negative is that there's less separation between work life and community life than there would be in a lot of jobs. I'm not a normal community member in the way I was before I worked here - there are more things I have to try to be neutral on, etc. Facebook is mostly a work space for me.

Comment by Julia_Wise on AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism · 2021-05-25T19:00:30.128Z · EA · GW

I have a similar impression to Amy - when I came on almost 6 years ago and for several years after, things were much looser. There was not a particularly consistent strategy, hiring was sometimes very informal, and we were running a lot of projects without always having adequate staffing to do a good job.

Now things are more settled, more formalized (e.g. annual performance reviews, standard hiring process, clearer communication about who is responsible for what). We're less likely to take on big new projects, and we're focused on better performance on our existing projects.

Comment by Julia_Wise on RyanCarey's Shortform · 2021-05-15T21:06:51.102Z · EA · GW

My favorite example of Slate Star Codex translating into Republican is the passage on climate change starting with "In the 1950s": https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/10/16/five-case-studies-on-politicization/

Comment by Julia_Wise on Small and Vulnerable · 2021-05-12T13:17:24.869Z · EA · GW

I really appreciate both this piece and your drive to leave this world better than you found it!

This made me think about two of my favorite older pieces about EA, which are both about the tie between one's own losses and a drive to do something positive:

Derek Thompson on donating after the death of his mother: "Malaria is not merely the greatest killer of children in the world, but also it is the greatest killer of pregnant women. The disease plunders motherhood from both sides of the equation. The loss of a mother must be quantifiable by some measure of creative accounting, but in my experience it is immeasurable. This much I knew: There is the thing that I want, I cannot have it, but I can give it to somebody else."

Zoe Savitsky on donating in the aftermath of her cancer: "my current restrictions are stark. These twin recognitions – first, that in spite of my health struggles, I remain one of the most privileged people on the planet, and second, that my physical isolation has made me crave engagement with the world – led me to Giving What We Can."

Comment by Julia_Wise on Being Vocal About What Works · 2021-05-12T12:32:50.001Z · EA · GW

You probably wouldn’t consider yourself an EA if it didn’t improve your life.

I don't think EAs should keep doing things that make them miserable (as with the noisy housing example someone gives below), but I don't think personal benefit is or should be the main reason to do EA. I'm not a fan of the obligation/excitement dichotomy because I feel some of both, but the word that fits best to me is "determination."

I get benefits from being part of EA, like friendships with smart and caring people. But there are other smart and caring people I could have met in other communities, and I'd probably be personally a bit happier if I made some other community my main focus, one with less emphasis on animal suffering and existential risk.

To paraphrase a Greg Lewis piece, it would be surprising if the community that's best for improving the world is also best for my personal satisfaction. I've chosen to make this community my main focus because I think it lets me make progress on problems in the world, and it also feels sustainable for me to do so (even though not the most enjoyable thing I could focus on). And part of what makes it sustainable is also having family/parenting as the other major focus in my life, so that EA is not the only thing going on for me.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Julia_Wise's Shortform · 2021-04-29T17:50:37.607Z · EA · GW

Write roundup posts!

The posts I've made that I think yielded the most value for the amount of work I put in were essentially lists of other people's work.

EA Syllabi and teaching materials

Giving now vs. later: a summary

There are other formats that may make sense, like tags for material on this forum, or wikis. But the general principle is that you can do something really useful by making it easy for people to find existing material on a topic.

Comment by Julia_Wise on EA syllabi and teaching materials · 2021-04-29T17:42:41.213Z · EA · GW

Thanks! Added.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior · 2021-04-19T17:35:17.805Z · EA · GW

The community health team at CEA has been following the situation.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Announcing "Naming What We Can"! · 2021-04-01T14:55:02.711Z · EA · GW

My coworkers got me a mug that said "Sorry, I'm not Julia Galef" to save me from having to say it so much at conferences. Maybe I should have just gone this route instead.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Announcing "Naming What We Can"! · 2021-04-01T14:51:33.302Z · EA · GW

Third time's the charm!

Comment by Julia_Wise on Some quick notes on "effective altruism" · 2021-03-25T19:50:32.332Z · EA · GW

I think I'd expect US culture to be most ok with self-congratulation, and basically everywhere else (including UK) to be more allergic to it? But most of the people who voted on the name in the first place were British.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Please stand with the Asian diaspora · 2021-03-23T18:03:15.749Z · EA · GW

I’m so sorry for the pain and fear that many people are experiencing after the Atlanta shootings. And I know this comes on top of subtle disadvantages, misunderstandings, and slights that wear people down even when something like this isn’t in the news.

I can understand the worry about getting sidetracked by current events that are culturally important but not as large-scale/neglected/tractable as other problems EA already focuses on. But I agree with Will’s comment - we can still acknowledge pain that’s happening, especially pain felt by fellow EAs. To me, the reason it's so important to do the math and focus on impact is a sense that the lives involved are precious and irreplaceable. EAs will still be hit hard personally by specific situations, even while knowing other irreplaceable lives are lost all the time.

(I read a good argument that sex workers are another population targeted by the Atlanta attacks, and because of stigma against that work there’s been little acknowledgement that sex workers face a lot of danger in general as well as in this specific case. I also want to acknowledge the unfairness of the stigma and danger that sex workers experience.)

Comment by Julia_Wise on Please stand with the Asian diaspora · 2021-03-23T14:04:49.503Z · EA · GW

I don't see much in that paper, but it's been written about elsewhere, e.g. Harvard's Impossible Personality Test

Comment by Julia_Wise on Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’ · 2021-03-21T23:37:55.533Z · EA · GW

Understood!

Comment by Julia_Wise on Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’ · 2021-03-19T21:19:25.149Z · EA · GW

A little historical background - one of my first introductions to proto-effective altruism was through corresponding with Nick Beckstead while he was a graduate student, around the time he would have been writing this dissertation. He was one of the first American members of Giving What We Can (which at the time was solely focused on global poverty), and at the time donated 10% of his graduate stipend to charities addressing global poverty. When I read this passage from his dissertation, I think of the context provided by his personal actions.

I think that "other things being equal" is doing a lot of work in the passage. I know that he was well aware of how much more cost-effective it is to save lives in poor economies than in rich ones, which is why he personally put his money toward global health.

Comment by Julia_Wise on What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard · 2021-03-15T17:30:44.884Z · EA · GW

I think "The Privilege of Earning to Give" by Jeff Kaufman (who I'm married to) helped bridge a gap between us and our non-EA friends, who tend to have much more standard leftist views than we do.

Comment by Julia_Wise on What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard · 2021-03-15T17:15:04.770Z · EA · GW

Ironically, the situation in which I have most frequently been asked about whether EA is elitist is while giving intro talks about EA at MIT, Yale, etc.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Why do so few EAs and Rationalists have children? · 2021-03-15T15:56:53.647Z · EA · GW

My pet peeve about this argument is that the Shakers lasted from 1770 to the present (although now with just two elderly members). That's nothing to sneeze at for a utopian movement - compare them to the longevity of many 1960s communes that produced plenty of babies.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Why do so few EAs and Rationalists have children? · 2021-03-15T15:53:24.347Z · EA · GW

I've done all these things, and the time still has to come from somewhere. Imagine a normal workday, and then imagine it while also getting snacks, resolving disputes, helping someone find their shoes, etc. Even while living with extended family and friends, we have never lived with someone who wanted to volunteer for this. We are just now getting to the point where it's viable to do for two days a week with a 5- and 6-year-old while both parents work full-time from home. Even that much is pretty suboptimal for both parents and kids.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Why do so few EAs and Rationalists have children? · 2021-03-15T15:47:54.347Z · EA · GW

Childcare in the early years is a major expense. Housing is another major one (and one that doesn't go away once they're old enough to be in school). https://thewholesky.wordpress.com/2018/12/27/how-much-do-kids-cost-the-first-5-years/

Comment by Julia_Wise on Can a Vegan Diet Be Healthy? A Literature Review · 2021-03-13T14:40:42.386Z · EA · GW

I think Greger probably does provide good advice for people who have already decided to be vegan, but at least his website I think is not clear that it starts from a premise of veganism and then addresses health rather than starting with the question of what's best for health. Wikipedia says Greger became a vegan as a college student when he toured a stockyard. I certainly respect that decision as a personal one, but I think his nutrition advice doesn't clearly address his non-health reasons for recommending veganism.

Comment by Julia_Wise on A full syllabus on longtermism · 2021-03-07T03:20:45.907Z · EA · GW

Good to see! I've added this to the list of EA syllabi and teaching materials. Let me know if you want to be credited as something other than jtm.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Resources On Mental Health And Finding A Therapist · 2021-02-25T19:43:51.570Z · EA · GW

Seconding this. My partner was spooked by seeing a family member on heavy-duty medications for a more serious mental health situation, so our vague impression was that antidepressants might really change who I was. I did need to try a couple meds and try different times of day, etc to deal with side effects, but at this point I have a med and dose that makes my life better and has very minor side effects.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Resources On Mental Health And Finding A Therapist · 2021-02-25T19:42:09.132Z · EA · GW

I also like the writeups there. I was hoping I could refer community members to the actual practice, but Scott writes in a recent post: "Stop trying to sign up for my psychiatry practice. It says in three different places there that it's only currently open to patients who are transferring from my previous practice."

Comment by Julia_Wise on Charges against BitMEX and cofounders · 2021-02-25T19:32:53.856Z · EA · GW

Well you did announce the policy change as a comment on an article about Delo!

Sorry, I mean my most recent comment specifically - the reasons we're considering these kinds of changes are not just because of this one situation but also because of others that could arise. I'll edit to clarify.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Charges against BitMEX and cofounders · 2021-02-25T03:12:56.392Z · EA · GW

I don’t want this comment to read as all commentary on Delo or BitMEX specifically; we're also thinking about how to be prepared for other situations that could arise. [Edited for clarity]

A lot of what’s happening here is CEA realizing that there are a lot of potential donors who make money in crypto or other emerging fields where society is still trying to figure out how to apply legal and ethical frameworks. We need better systems for thinking about that. Many of the steps CEA is taking or considering are not strictly legally required, but that’s not our only consideration.

EA has long included the idea that some ways of making money could create net negative impact even if you donate your earnings, for example 80,000 Hours’ post on Why you should avoid harmful jobs even if you’ll do more good.

There are other ways of making money that don’t reach that bar, but that involve enough harm that their overall effect could be really damaging to EA, for example by spreading a norm that it doesn’t really matter whether you make your money in an ethical way as long as you donate it afterwards. 

CEA’s guiding principles include this section on integrity:

Because we believe that trust, cooperation, and accurate information are essential to doing good, we strive to be honest and trustworthy. More broadly, we strive to follow those rules of good conduct that allow communities (and the people within them) to thrive. We also value the reputation of effective altruism, and recognize that our actions reflect on it.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Charges against BitMEX and cofounders · 2021-02-22T20:47:01.159Z · EA · GW

I am checking with operations staff about this.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Charges against BitMEX and cofounders · 2021-02-17T21:21:00.664Z · EA · GW

Here’s an update from CEA's operations team, which has been working on updating our practices for handling donations. This also applies to other organizations that are legally within CEA (80,000 Hours, Giving What We Can, Forethought Foundation, and EA Funds).

  • “We are working with our lawyers to devise and implement an overarching policy for due diligence on all of our donors and donations going forward.
  • We've engaged a third party who now conducts KYC (know your client) due diligence research on all major donors (>$20K a year).
  • We have established a working relationship with TRM labs who conduct compliance and back-tracing for all crypto donations.” 
Comment by Julia_Wise on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-12T15:06:29.607Z · EA · GW

This stood out to me, too. The situation that came to my mind was an extreme one, but maybe it illustrates the importance of having some basic shared beliefs about how to seek truth:

I used to live upstairs from a neighbor who was from a culture that considered witchcraft a real and serious problem. When she heard noises that she considered strange, she came to my door and told me to stop practicing witchcraft against her. She was not interested in hearing my objections that I was not practicing witchcraft, because she was very sure that I was a witch. I was very sure that I was not (but of course that’s what a witch would say!)

Let’s just say the sharing of our different perspectives did not lead to any epistemic breakthroughs.

Comment by Julia_Wise on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-12T15:05:34.117Z · EA · GW

I agree with something in this direction, though not with everything as stated.
Some ways I see research affected by demographics:

  • Research of all kinds has been shaped by the viewpoints of people with more status, money, etc.
  • Sometimes this leads to serious slants in our understanding of the world - for example, the fact that so much psychology research has been done on WEIRD undergraduates means that our understanding of human psychology is badly skewed. Medical research that’s primarily carried out on one demographic group may not be generalizable to other populations, meaning worse health outcomes for less-studied groups.
  • In some other cases, findings are less susceptible to bias coming from the demographics of the researchers or research subjects. I can imagine how some aspects of climate science are swayed by demographics: do we look at how people of different geographies, ages, and genders are affected by food and water shortages, for example? But it's hard for me to see how some other aspects, like how polar ice melts, are all that susceptible to demographic bias.

Aside from what or whom is being studied, there is also the question of who is taken seriously in the research community itself.

  • When there are unnecessary slants in what’s seen as professional or credible, we systematically devalue the contributions of groups who don’t fit that mold. Example: someone with an accent perceived as lower-status may be taken less seriously. Or a workplace may treat straight hairstyles as professional but textured hair as less so.
  • Structural problems. Examples: a lack of all-gender or single-person bathrooms in a workplace or conference venue disproportionately affects trans people who have reason to fear harassment in bathrooms. A bad parental leave policy disproportionately affects staff who give birth.
  • Reducing people to their demographic, even if it feels positive. Example: after my first child was born, I went to an EA talk with my baby. Two male friends of mine were there. One talked excitedly in front of the group about the baby and my new status as a parent. The other didn’t mention the baby and only talked to me about EA-related topics, including asking me about an area and pointing out that I knew more than he did about this topic. (He did come over at the end of the gathering to visit with the baby.) While both friends were completely well-intentioned, the first made me fear “Oh no, am I just going to be a mommy now? Is that how they’ll see me?” The second was intentionally trying to avoid that, and he made me feel I was still valued for intellectual contributions.

When you have slants like these that affect who gets published, who gets funded, who gets hired, who can focus better on their work, etc, you lose good contributions. And that’s a loss to the field as well as to those individuals. (And all of this is aside from any knowing/intentional discrimination.)

I think these are problems we should be on guard against. I’m always happy to see people in EA thinking about how to avoid them in workplaces, funding, local groups, etc.

I do agree with other commenters that different backgrounds and demographics will not by themselves necessarily be good for epistemics or truth-seeking.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Killing the ants · 2021-02-10T19:00:57.446Z · EA · GW

Also, this reminds me of Horton Hears a Who.

Yes! I'm not sure what the book was meant to be an allegory for, if anything, but I think of this kind of thing every time I read it to my kids. It's about a character with hearing so keen he can hear the shout for help from a microscopic town, but no one else can hear them and they think he's crazy. The repeated theme is "A person's a person, no matter how small."

Comment by Julia_Wise on Retention in EA - Part II: Possible Projects · 2021-02-08T23:05:00.685Z · EA · GW

https://www.facebook.com/groups/eaparents

Comment by Julia_Wise on Ranking animal foods based on suffering and GHG emissions · 2021-01-21T15:32:58.447Z · EA · GW

I was about to say the same thing - I skimmed for "eggs" and it took me a bit to figure it out.

Comment by Julia_Wise on New infographic based on "The Precipice". any feedback? · 2021-01-14T18:31:53.263Z · EA · GW

I suggest making clearer that these are one researcher's rough estimates. Otherwise I think it gives a false sense of precision. Maybe by titling the infographic "Rough guess at global catastrophic risks from The Precipice" or similar.

Comment by Julia_Wise on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-05T02:51:25.427Z · EA · GW

Thank you for writing this up! I think it's helpful to see how the different eras of EA advice has played out in people's actual decisions.

Comment by Julia_Wise on What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others? · 2020-11-19T13:51:33.988Z · EA · GW

"One day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I’m sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature’s wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that’s when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.”
Terry Pratchett (character is Lord Vetinari), Unseen Academicals

Comment by Julia_Wise on Problem area report: Pain · 2020-11-18T19:06:19.731Z · EA · GW

To me "Inhaled analgesia appears to be effective in reducing pain intensity and in giving pain relief in labour" sounds like a ringing endorsement from Cochrane given that their usual bottom line seems to be "not enough evidence." Just about anything for childbirth pain seems to be pretty hit-or-miss, so the fact that it's not that effective for some people seems like not that big of a downside compared to other methods or no method.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Problem area report: Pain · 2020-11-17T15:30:04.707Z · EA · GW

I'm pleased to see this work.

Obviously childbirth accounts for relatively few hours of one's life spent in pain, but I wonder if you've looked into it. Nitrous oxide is safe and relatively cheap and does not need an anesthetist because the patient can administer it themselves. It's commonly used in some Western countries but only getting started in the US, and I can't find anything about its use in middle or low income countries.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Should effective altruists have children? · 2020-11-16T15:21:32.073Z · EA · GW

As someone who's spent a lot of time on EA community-building and also on parenting, I'd  caution against any strong weighting on "my children will turn out like me / will be especially altruistic." That seems like a recipe for strained relationships. I think the decision to parent should be made because it's important to you personally, not because you're hoping for impact. You can almost certainly have more impact by talking to existing young people about EA or supporting community-building or field-building in some other way than by breeding more people.

I'd also caution against treating adoption as less intensive in time and effort. The process of adopting internationally or from foster care is intensive and often full of uncertainty and disappointment as placements fall through, policies change, etc. And I think the ongoing task of shoring up attachment with an adopted child is significant.(For example, I have a friend who realized her ten-year-old, adopted before he can remember, had somehow developed the belief that his parents would "give him back" at some point and that he was not actually a permanent member of the family. I think this kind of thing is pretty common.)  I'd be much more reluctant to travel for work as much as I do if I had adopted children. I think adoption can be really good, but I think it's important that parents expect it to be an ongoing factor in their relationship with the child, not a one-and-done thing.

A post I wrote on costs:
How much do kids cost? The first 5 years - this is less complete than the 18-year estimates, obviously, but it includes lost income which none of the other estimates I've seen include.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups · 2020-10-15T17:45:56.914Z · EA · GW

But still relevant for the Munich organizers, since Singer seems to get protested more per event in Germany than in other countries.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups · 2020-10-15T13:37:32.873Z · EA · GW

I got permission to add the full quote, though the meaning is the same. This example was actually in the US.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups · 2020-10-14T21:37:37.855Z · EA · GW

I appreciate that Larks sent a draft of this post to CEA, and that we had the chance to give some feedback and do some fact-checking.

I agree with many of the concerns in this post. I also see some of this differently.

In particular, I agree that a climate of fear — wherever it originates— silences not only people who are directly targeted, but also others who see what happened to someone else. That silencing limits writers/speakers, limits readers/listeners who won’t hear the ideas or information they have to offer, and ultimately limits our ability to find ways to do good in the world.

These are real and serious costs. I’ve been talking with my coworkers about them over the last months and seeking input from other people who are particularly concerned about them. I’ll continue to do that.

But I think there are also real costs to pushing groups to go forward with events they don’t want to hold. I’m still thinking through how I see the tradeoffs between these costs and the costs above, but here’s one I think is relevant:

It makes it more costly to be an organizer. In one discussion amongst group organizers after the Munich situation, one organizer wrote about the Peter Singer talk their group hosted. [I’m waiting to see if I can give a fuller quote, but their summary was about how the Q&A session got conflicted enough that the group was known as “the group that invited Peter Singer” for two years and basically overpowered any other impression students had of what the EA group was about.]

“It seemed like the talk itself went pretty well, but during the Q&A section a few people basically took over the discussion and only asked question about all the previous things he has said about disabled people (and possibly some other things). The Q&A is basically all people remembered from the event. I think it did a lot of reputation damage to our group, which took 2 years to get over (by which point many attendees of the talk graduated). Before that, people basically didn't know what EA was and after it was "the group that invited Peter Singer". "

Hosting Singer and other speakers who have said controversial things has been good for many EA groups. But I also think it’s okay for individual organizers to decide they’re not up for hosting an event that carries some risk of seriously throwing their group off the rails. Being at the center of a controversy, especially for student organizers constantly living in the same environment where the talk is held, can bear a heavy personal cost as well. (Of course, knowing that people will back down if you make it costly enough for them to follow through is exactly what incentivizes you to make it costly.)

On the specifics: I was the main staff member who advised the Munich organizers, and I’d like to add more detail about how this all unfolded. There are a lot of quotes so I’ll italicize them.

The week before Hanson’s scheduled online talk about tort law reform for the Munich group, the organizers contacted CEA to say they were considering canceling the event after learning about some of Hanson’s past writing. From my first message to the Munich organizers:

"I don’t have a clear answer about whether to cancel the event. I could it being reasonable either way. . . . If the discussion goes into areas where you think people may be offended or upset, maybe have an organizer or two stay behind after to have continued discussion after the Q&A with Hanson is done. I looked at what I think is basically the same talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPdHXw05SvU Some parts will probably go over ok with an audience that’s used to thinking about alternate governance systems. But for example he suggests torture as a possible penalty, and as far as I saw from a cursory look through the slides, he doesn’t address objections to that. People seem to find his work very polarizing, so some people find it very refreshing because he says things almost no one else says, and other people hate it. So you may well get some indication from the Q&A about how people are feeling, and you may want to follow up with them if they seem upset."

After that, the Munich organizers discussed the situation internally, held a vote, and wrote to Hanson saying that they had decided to cancel the talk. Hanson tweeted about the cancellation, indicating he didn’t think they had adequately explained their decision.

I wrote to the Munich organizers:

"If you were going to respond, I'd send this both to Hanson and perhaps also reply on the Twitter, with points along these lines:

  • We weren't familiar with all of Hanson's work, but we saw (and still believe) that he has raised some interesting and valuable ideas. We booked him to give a talk about an idea for reforming the legal system. It was not a large event - around 17 people were RSVPd.
  • After booking the talk, we heard about some of his work that we weren't familiar with, specifically his posts on "gentle silent rape" and sex redistribution.
  • We discussed what to do, and found it a difficult decision. The strongest consideration in favor of continuing the event was that we did not want to further "cancel culture" or make it so that only uncontroversial ideas could be shared in EA spaces.
  • However, we're aware that many people, particularly women, have found Hanson's writing on rape and "redistribution" of sex to be offensive and disturbing.
  • We got in touch with CEA, who said they could see either decision about the event being reasonable. We discussed ways to mitigate negative effects if we went ahead with the event.
  • In the end, we decided that Hanson's previous work was not something we were comfortable tying to our group.
  • Instead, we scheduled a discussion about cancel culture, to give our group a chance to discuss how we could handled controversial ideas and speakers in the future.
  • For anyone eager to see the presentation Hanson would have given, we believe this video shares the material he was planning to present"

Using these suggestions, the Munich organizers drafted their statement explaining the situation and their decision, and a coworker and I made some minor suggestions afterwards.

Since they were volunteers writing what was probably their first public statement to be read by the wider internet on a tight timeframe, I do wish I had given them more feedback on the draft. I also wish I had focused my advice not just on the practicalities, but also on the tradeoffs discussed above. Specifically, I should have checked that organizers were tracking some of the things that Larks raises in the conclusion. I also agree that when CEA leaves the final decision to organizers, we aren’t off the hook — we aim to provide the best advice we can to organizers, and to learn from experience.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Evidence on correlation between making less than parents and welfare/happiness? · 2020-10-12T18:26:44.477Z · EA · GW

My personal experience is that my parents spent money on some stuff that didn't match my tastes. I spend less on some things than them (smaller living space, no car partly because I dislike driving) and more on other things (more expensive city).

I guess I think one major task of young adulthood is figuring out which of your formative influences will serve you well, and which you'd rather get rid of. He probably doesn't want to be identical to his parents, so this is just one more thing to re-evaluate.

Another question is if he plans to have children, what does he want them to be accustomed to? Is the plan for every generation to be at least as rich as his parents so no one will experience a spending cut?

Comment by Julia_Wise on Introducing LEEP: Lead Exposure Elimination Project · 2020-10-09T13:58:29.048Z · EA · GW

I've been surprised that this topic hasn't gotten more attention in EA before, and I'm happy to see this work launch!

Comment by Julia_Wise on Deliberate Consumption of Emotional Content to Increase Altruistic Motivation · 2020-09-16T01:55:31.950Z · EA · GW

The novel "A Thousand Splendid Suns" was an example of this for me - depicting how people could have meaningful lives and happiness despite terrible circumstances, which I found really unintuitive beforehand. (I'm wary of generalizing from fictional evidence but it seems not totally crazy to treat this as a window on what other people can at least imagine experiencing.)

Comment by Julia_Wise on How have you become more (or less) engaged with EA in the last year? · 2020-09-10T13:31:23.153Z · EA · GW

An example I remember from a non-EA, mostly male meetup:

Man, striking up conversation with new woman attendee: "So, are you actually interested in [topic of the meetup] or did someone drag you here?" When I objected, he said, "It's just that most of the women who come here are dragged by someone else." That might have been true, but it sure wasn't what I'd want to hear as a new attendee.

It might be a mistake people are more likely to make if they think explicitly about Bayesianism. "I have some data on what people like you are like; let me tell you my prior." But one point of a meetup is to encounter people as individuals. If I understand Bayesian terms right, it's about gathering data to inform your posteriors - what is this specific person actually like?

In some cases it's not a bad idea to let your priors drive conversation - if I meet someone who's a biology student, I might guess they're interested in topic X. But in other cases it's just insulting.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Some extremely rough research on giving and happiness · 2020-09-09T16:59:16.247Z · EA · GW

At first I thought it at least indicates that people got as much satisfaction from donation as from whatever else they might have done with the money (since it's controlled for income but not income minus donations). But the median donation is $150 so not enough to make much difference in a yearly budget.

Comment by Julia_Wise on Some thoughts on the EA Munich // Robin Hanson incident · 2020-09-03T14:59:22.197Z · EA · GW

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that you intended this - just wanted to be sure there wasn't a misunderstanding.

Comment by Julia_Wise on You have more than one goal, and that's fine · 2020-09-02T18:31:41.702Z · EA · GW

The "real communities" I've been part of are mostly longer-established, intergenerational ones. I think starting a community with almost entirely 20-somethings is a hard place to start from. Of course most communities started like that, but not all of them make it to being intergenerational.