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Bad Things Are Bad: A Short List of Common Views Among EAs

  1. No, we should not sterilize people against their will.
  2. No, we should not murder AI researchers. Murder is generally bad. Martyrs are generally effective. Executing complicated plans is generally more difficult than you think, particularly if failure means getting arrested and massive amounts of bad publicity.
  3. Sex and power are very complicated. If you have a power relationship, consider if you should also have a sexual one. Consider very carefully if you have an power relationship: many forms of power relationship are invisible, or at least transparent, to the person with power. Common forms of power include age, money, social connections, professional connections, and almost anything that correlates with money (race, gender, etc). Some of these will be more important than others. If you're concerned about something, talk to a friend who's on the other side of that from you. If you don't have any, maybe just don't.
  4. And yes, also, don't assault people.
  5. Sometimes deregulation is harmful. "More capitalism" is not the solution to every problem.
  6. Very few people in wild animal suffering  think that we should go and deliberately destroy the biosphere today.
  7. Racism continues to be an incredibly negative force in the world. Anti-black racism seems pretty clearly the most harmful form of racism for the minority of the world that lives outside Asia.[1]
  8. Much of the world is inadequate and in need of fixing. That EAs have not prioritized something does not mean that it is fine: it means we're busy.
  9. The enumeration in the list, of certain bad things, being construed to deny or disparage other things also being bad, would be bad.

Hope that clears everything up. I expect with 90% confidence that over 90% of EAs would agree with every item on this list.

  1. ^

    Inside, I don't know enough to say with confidence. Could be caste discrimination, could be ongoing oppression of non-Han, could be something I'm not thinking of. I'm not making a claim about the globe as a whole because I haven't run the numbers, and different EAs will have different values and approaches to how to weight history, cultures, etc. I just refuse to fall into the standard America/Euro-centric framework.

I might change 2 to:

No, we should not murder AI researchers. Working together requires ability to trust one another. Hurting AI researchers will just damage this trust and likely not slow down the work. Likewise, if you are the sort of person who thinks you should do this, you are likely uniquely unsuited to coming up with drastic solutions. Have you tried a research agenda? If not, why did you start at murder. We are all more likely to survive if we can credibly commit not to defect. Please get help.

I’m concerned that less than 90% of the AI safety community would agree. I have heard some disturbing anecdotes.

Some post-EAG thoughts on journalists

For context, CEA accepted at EAG Bay Area 2023 a journalist who has at times written critically of EA and individual EAs, and who is very much not a community member. I am deliberately not naming the journalist, because they haven't done anything wrong and I'm still trying to work out my own thoughts.

On one hand, "journalists who write nice things get to go to the events, journalists who write mean things get excluded" is at best ethically problematic. It's very very very normal: political campaigns do it, industry events do it, individuals do it. "Access journalism" is the norm more than it is the exception. But that doesn't mean that we should. One solution is to be very very careful about maintaining the differentiation between "community member" and "critical or not". Dylan Matthews is straightforwardly an EA and has reported critically on a past EAG: if he was excluded for this I would be deeply concerned.

On the other hand, I think that, when hosting an EA event, an EA organization has certain obligations to the people at that event. One of them is protecting their safety and privacy. EAs who are journalists can, I think, generally be relied upon to be fair and to respect the privacy of individuals. That is not a trust I extend to journalists who are not community members: the linked example is particularly egregious, but tabloid reporting happens.

EAG is a gathering of community members. People go to advance their goals: see friends, network, be networked at, give advice, get advice, learn interesting things, and more. In a healthy movement, I think that EAGs should be a professional obligation, good for the individual, or fun for the individual. It doesn't have to be all of them, but it shouldn't harm them on any axis.

Someone might be out about being bi at an after-party with friends, but not want to see that detail being confirmed by a fact-checker for a national paper. This doesn't seem particularly unusual. They would be right to trust community members, but might not realize that there could be journalists at the after-party. Non-community journalists will not necessarily share norms about privacy or have particularly strong incentives to follow any norms that do exist.

On the gripping hand, it feels more than a little hypocritical to complain about the low quality of criticism of EA and also complain when a journalist wants to attend an EA event to get to know the movement better.

One thing I'm confident of is that I wish that this had been more clearly disclosed. "This year we are excited to welcome X, who will be providing a critical view on EA" is good enough to at least warn people that someone whose bio says that they are interested in 

how the wealthiest people in society spend their money or live their lives

(emphasis mine)

is attending.

I'm still trying to sort out the rest of my views here. Happy to take feedback. It's very possible that I'm missing some information about this.


I have been told by someone at CEA that all attending journalists have agreed that everything at EAG is off the record by default. I don't consider this to be an adequate mitigating factor for accepting non-community journalists and not mentioning this to attendees or speakers.


And no, I'm not using a pseudonym for this. I think that that is a bad and damaging trend on the Forum, and I don't, actually, believe that anyone at CEA will retaliate against me for posting this.

Hi Keller — appreciate the thoughts here! I wanted to quickly note that we did actually give attendees a heads up about this in our attendee guide, and we've done similarly in most of our other recent conference attendee guides. 

Though I generally don't expect attendees to read this all the way through, we did share it multiple times, and I'm not sure whether it would have made sense to  email attendees about the journalist section specifically (if I was going to reiterate something, it probably wouldn't be this).

If someone attends the event as a journalist, why not have their lanyard show that they are a journalist? This seems like it's a very easy thing to do and something like this is probably pretty standard at large events that are not fully public(?) This would probably solve some of the issues, as people know who they are talking to (and eg organisers of private afterparties could just not let journalists in if they don't want them at their party).

I do agree there's a wide spectrum of what "disclosing this" looks like and I think it's entirely possible that you did disclose it enough or maybe even disclosed it more than enough (for example, if perhaps we conclude it didn't need to be disclosed at all, then you did more than necessary). I think - like Keller - I don't really have a view on this. But I think the level of disclosure you did do is also entirely possible to be pretty inadequate (again I'm genuinely not sure) given that is on page 9 of a guide I imagine most people don't read (I didn't). But I imagine you agree with this.

our attendee guide

I feel like the relevant thing isn't mentioning the possibility a journalist might be there; if I was to read this I think I'd assume this meant EA journalists (or at least EA-adjacent / fellow traveller) and hence largely ignore it. 

I think it was implied by this statement but I think it's a fair point that we could make this more explicit: "In interviews, don’t speak on behalf of the entire EA community, or anyone else in the EA community" (as if you were talking to an EA journalist, I think this wouldn't really apply).

Fair enough, though I didn't pick that up on first read I think you're right it is implied. I think my true rejection here is about invitations not disclosure. 

On the gripping hand, it feels more than a little hypocritical to complain about the low quality of criticism of EA and also complain when a journalist wants to attend an EA event to get to know the movement better.

It seems plausible to me that the presence of hostile journalists might net reduce the quality of criticism by making people feel rationally inhibited from talking frankly.

I appreciate you raising this despite not having an actual view on the topic and I appreciate you being clear that this is a complex topic that's hard to form a view on.

I think I had a lot of freewheeling conversations at EAG and I don't think I thought enough about the fact that journalists I don't trust by default might be able to overhear and comment on those conversations and that thinking through this may have a somewhat chilling effect on how I interact in future EAGs, which I find to be unfortuntate.

That being said, I totally agree with you that excluding these journalists may also be unfair or otherwise based on bad norms, and it's a pretty thorny trade-off. Like you, this is something I don't really fully understand.

Thanks for bringing this to broader attention. I think I am opposed to this (admitting the journalist), mostly for the reasons you state.

It's unfortunate if EA feels they have to block critical journalists from marquee events. Being open and transparent is a hugely valuable part of the EA movement, and even a mixed positive/negative press article is likely to be  net good for the movement - especially at the moment with all the negative press going on.

If a journalist is bent on writing criticism, they may well write criticism regardless of if we let them in to an event or not. The counterfactual of not accepting them could potentially make things worse long term too, if they double down and even use the rejection as a reason to criticise more severely.

One great thing to do could be to spend a lot of time making friends with and understanding journalists at the event.  Make them feel welcome and connected to people who are there, so perhaps they will be more empathetic and fair when they write their piece?

Or am I just being naive about journalists...

Someone might be out about being bi at an after-party with friends, but not want to see that detail being confirmed by a fact-checker for a national paper. This doesn't seem particularly unusual.

This isn't the only thing that could go wrong, but it's a straightforward example. Perhaps they don't want their full name blatantly linked to their online account. There are lots of reasons that people might want privacy. Unless your life is at risk, I would not assume that you have privacy from a journalist who isn't a personal friend unless they have an explicit commitment. I trust journalists who are also community members to not take harmful advantage of access.

Something that is sometimes not obvious to people not used to dealing with journalists is that off-the-record sometimes means "I can't officially tell you this, so please find another source who can corroborate it". It's not remotely the same thing as an expectation of privacy and good sense that one would have with a friend.

Do you mean EAGx Berkeley 2022 or EA Global: Bay Area 2023?

Bay Area 2023. Will edit.

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