The sad state of Rationality Zürich - Effective Altruism Zürich included

by roland 3 min read27th Feb 201851 comments


Epistemic status: Personal experience.

This is another post in the spirit of:

Edit: I know that not everyone in the communities is aware of what is going on or involved with it, this was another reason for me to post this publicly.

I used to be a member of Rationality and EA Zürich before I was excluded by leading figures. Actually I was the organizer of the first Zürich meetup.

I will name people because they are all public figures in the sense that they are leaders and organizers of said events and I think it is time to name people and no longer allow them to hide behind anonymity. As mentioned in the 3rd posting above a major cause of problems in the community is the fear of being confrontational, etc...

The people involved in this are(names obfuscated with ROT-13):

Znexb Guvry, organizer of Rationality Zürich

Zvpuny Cbxbeaý organizer of Rationlity Zürich and EA Zürich, CFAR alumnus

Qnavry Jüaa, organizer of EA Zürich.

There is also a closed facebook group named "Rationality Zürich" of which I was a member.

In Dec 2017 I posted a question in this group asking members for experiences with Circling because I was interested and I heard members talking about it so I thought that maybe someone would share their experiences. To my surprise I didn't get much feedback. Only later I managed to connect the dots with the following events.

A few days later I got a message from Zvpuny Cbxbeaý and Qnavry Jüaa saying that I was no longer welcome in the Rationality/EA Zürich meetups. The provided reason was that people felt uncomfortable about me and one example would be me talking about dating and sex. We had a group discussion about the latter topic in one EA meeting. Several people where engaged in that discussion some very vehemently, so it wasn't as if I was forcing the topic, but anyways I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was surprised and taken aback by this, especially since this happened over fb messages and not in a personal conversation. Nevertheless I said if talking about sex and dating was the problem I wouldn't mind not talking about that. I got the answer "This is not enough and really we don't have any concrete points that you could change, it's just a general feeling on our side so there is nothing you can do other than stay away."(I'm paraphrasing the main points here).

I specifically requested Michal to Double Crux since it is rationality technique to deal with disagreements, but he declined. Also declined where several further attempts to discuss the issue. Michal being a CFAR alumnus should know better how to deal with disagreements, or so I thought.

I tried to talk to Marko who is the owner of the fb group but he was evasive. This was in Dec 2017.

Finally in Feb 4th 2018 I managed to meet Marko in person and talk about the situation. My first surprise was when I learned that contrary to my suspicion it was actually Marko who had the idea of excluding me from Rationaliy Zürich, but as it later turned out not for the originally stated reasons(sex and dating topics). Marko's explanation which he forwarded after much talking and prodding on my side was that he and others felt uncomfortable talking about events they had done outside of Rationality meetups without my presence, e.g. Circling or Newtonmas celebrations to which I wasn't invited. They would rather not have me in the group in order to be able to talk more freely about those events.

I asked Marko if his attitude doesn't contradict the tenets of EA and he replied, "I'm not really an EA".

Don't get me wrong, I don't have any problem with people meeting on their own outside of events, we all have different levels of friends and acquaintances.

But why should this be a reason for excluding me from Rationality meetings?

Also shouldn't the point of events like Newtonmas be to include as many people as possible so as to provide an alternative for Christmas? Especially important for expats like myself for whom Christmas can be a particularly tough time as it is for anyone living away from family.

Another thing that needs emphasizing is that the stated reason, me talking about sex and dating were just an excuse and that explains why my refraining from talking about this topic would not be enough.

Recently I attended an EA meetup here in Zürich(I was still allowed to go to those) and afterwards had a conversation with Daniel. Summarizing what he said:

  • I was still allowed to come but not exactly welcome
  • He mentioned issues regarding my appearance that made people uncomfortable, e.g. I'm a tall guy and sometimes shirts can be a little bit short for me, causing my lower back to be exposed when I sit, not really an issue if you don't stand behind me or besides me. He pointed this out as something that made people feel uncomfortable. I wonder if a woman wearing a crop top would elicit a similar criticism?

Regarding the size of the Rationality Zürich group. In the last events I attended back in 2017 there where always remarkably few people, around 4 or 5 including myself. But apparently the group is still too big for some.

I told the culprits that I was going to post this on LW so after enough delay and since I didn't get any further reaction I'm doing this now. Feel free to comment and criticize.