This post part of an attempt to draft in public works-in-progress. This is a personal post so if you see it, it should be because you chose to.
Who decides how we spend resources
When we talk about EA, it's easy to think about resources. And when we talk about democratisation and decisionmaking, the same questions arise. Notably, who are the best stewards of those resources?
It's too easy to bash elites
Most of us would agree that the median UK voter doesn’t know how to allocate government aid correctly. Were they to be give the chance, the community consensus would:
- Probably cut cut foreign aid
- Spend the money on UK recipients
- Give more than 5% to cats and dogs
UK recipients and dogs are good things. They are not the best on the margin.
Likewise, I sense that if community consensus dictated how EA resources were spent, we’d see a lot less effective spending than we currently do. I would guess that if we were to track a number of mainstream beliefs in EA, elites believed them first, followed by the community. If the community had allocated resources I predict that by our own standard they would have used them worse.
The pragmatic case
Billionaires are not gonna let you vote how to spend their money. Well maybe Vitalik. But noone else.
The power was inside you all along
So far we've focued on financial resources, but we are a significnat chunk of the value of EA. Our labour is tremendously valuable, hence so much money is being spent on it. And if we want, we can leave
I don’t think you should build mechanisms to get feedback you don’t intend to listen to. I do not think EA should build a big voting system to then ignore. But that doesn’t mean that the median EA doesn’t have useful feedback to give.
Instead I think we should think of ourselves as
An error checking community
The EA community, for me, is experts and non-experts. But many people are both at once.
[an image of one big circle with many smaller overlapping circles inside]
[I'll do it at some point]
They are an expert on animal sentience but not AI risk. The question is “how much value can non experts give to experts” I’d argue quite a lot.
As I argue here, there are perhaps millions of dollars of value to be created by making it easier to do error correction for our experts. How much value could be created if we made it 10x easier to write an essay like this. If we made the tools nuno used 10x easier to use and created pathways for us to check each other's work and improved the ranking on the forum to surface and reward such work and rewarded those who summarised it
A community that can scale/ avoid scandal and heartbreak
While I don’t think the community should allocate resources, I do think they have useful correction to offer. And I do think that the people who can hurt you most are the people who understand you best.
It seems likely to me that the worst damage will be either from people who leave hurt or from harassment/bullying that some people knew about
- Educate us
- Build tools for us to criticise
- Forum rankings
- Allow to have disagreement and understand way
- Community surveys
Read democratisation essay