- Cross-post. Steemit.
- Epistemic Effort. Much more reasoning behind that post. I'm mostly trying to see if people are interested. If they are, much more writing will ensue.
- Epistemic Status. Field : Development of idea repository for a community. Phase : pre-epistemy.
- Thesis. There should be an EA ideas repository.
- Auxiliary thesis. EA looks more closed than it is.
I came to define myself as a non-standard Effective Altruist. I’ve always been interested in Effective Altruism, way before I’ve even heard of EA. When I was younger, I simply thought I was altruist, and that what people did was … noise at best. Basically, naive ways to relieve one’s conscience and perpetuate one’s culture.
Since primary school I thought about global problems and solutions to these problems. So much so that the word “project” internally connotes “project solving some global problems”. As such, EA should have interested me.
However, it didn’t. The main reason was that I saw EA as some other charitists. I’ve always been skeptical toward charity, the reason being “They think too small” and “There are too much funding in standard solutions rather than in finding new ones”.
I think this exemplifies a problem about EA’s communication.
Most people I know got to know Effective Altruism through EffectiveAltruism.org.
Because of that website, these people see EA as a closed organization that help people to direct funds to better charities and find better careers.
That was my opinion of EA until I saw the grant offer : a closed organization with already defined solutions wouldn’t fund new ideas. As such, I changed my outlook of EA. I researched a bit more about it, and found an open and diverse community.
But I am busy person, therefore I have to use filters before putting more time in researching about something. I made my impression from :
People loosely related to EA. From LessWrong, SlateStarCodex and outside rationalist circles, I asked them (with open-ended questions) about EA, but they confirmed my first impression.
What convinced me of that impression was the website’s content :
The tabs are “About, Blog, Donate, Effectively, Resources, Grants, Get Involved”. This looks like a standard showcase website of a closed organization with a call to donate.
The first four reading suggestions after the introduction are about charity and career choice. This leads people to thinking that EA is solely about that.
In the introduction, the three main questions are “Which cause/career/charity ?”.
I didn’t stop there, and I read more of that website, but it was along those same lines.
Counting me, my friends and people I met on LW and SSC, this directly led to losing 10-15 potential altruists in the community. Given that we were already interested in applying rationality to changing the world and my situation is not isolated (the aforementioned website is the first hit for “Effective Altruism” on Google), I do think that it is an important issue to EA.
Well, about the website :
Adding a tab “Open Ideas”/“Open projects”, “Forum” and/or “Communities”. The “Get Involved” is the only tab that offers (and only implicitly) some interaction. The new Involvement Guide is an action in the right direction.
Putting emphasis on the different communities and approaches. Digging, I’ve seen that there are several communities. However, the most prominent discriminating factor was the location. It would be nice to see a presentation of various approaches of EA, especially in the first resources new members get in touch with.
But more than changing the website, I think that lacking to EA is a platform dedicated to collective thinking about new ideas.
Projects don’t happen magically : people think, come to an idea, think more about that idea, criticize it, and if all goes well, maybe build a plan out of it, gather, and begin a project together. If we truly want new projects to emerge, having such a platform is of utmost importance.
The current forum doesn’t cut it : it isn’t meant to that end. It’s easier to build a forum dedicated to that than try to artificially support a balance between “New Ideas” posts and “Information Sharing” posts so that none of these get overshadowed. The same problem applies to existing reddit boards and facebook groups.
That platform should contain at least the following :
A place where new ideas are posted and criticized. A Reddit board, a Fecebook group, a forum.
A place where ideas are discussed interactively. An IRC channel, a web chat, a Discord server.
A place where ideas/projects are improved collectively and incrementally. A web pad, a Google doc, a Git repository.
A basic method to deal with new ideas / project collaboration. Some formatting, some questions that every idea should answer (What problem does it solve ?, How critical is it ?, What’s the solution variance ?), content deletion policy. A sticky-post on the forum, an other Google Doc.
Do you think such a platform would be useful ? Why ?
Would you be interested in building such a platform ? Either technically (by setting up the required tools), marketing-ly (by gathering people) or content-ly (by posting and criticizing ideas).