Measure is unceasing

Effective Altruism No Longer an Expanding Empire.

In early 2022, the Effective Altruism movement was triumphant. Sam Bankman-Fried was very utilitarian and very cool, and there was such a wealth of funding that the bottleneck was capable people to implement projects. If you had been in the effective altruism community for a while, it was easier to acquire funding. Around me, I saw new organizations pop up like mushrooms.

Now the situation looks different. Samo Burja has this interesting book on Great Founder Theory , from which I’ve gotten the notion of an “expanding empire”. In an expanding empire, like a startup, there are new opportunities and land to conquer, and members can be rewarded with parts of the newly conquered land. The optimal strategy here is unity . EA in 2022 was just that, a united social movement playing together against the cruelty of nature and history.

Imagine the Spanish empire, without the empire.

My sense is that the tendency for EA in 2023 and going forward will be less like that. Funding is now more limited, not only because the FTX empire collapsed, but also because the stock market collapsed, which means that Open Philanthropy—now the main funder once again—also has less money. With funding drying, EA will now have to economize and prioritize between different causes. And with economizing in the background, internecine fights become more worth it, because the EA movement isn’t trying to grow the pie together, but rather each part will be trying to defend its share of the pie. Fewer shared offices will exist all over the place, fewer regrantors to fund moonshots. More frugality. So EA will become more like a bureaucracy and less like a startup. You get the idea.

But note that the EA community is mostly made out of very nice people trying their best to do good, so I expect that the above paragraphs will just describe a directional difference, rather than an absolute level.

Some steps to consider might be:

I’ve been meaning to write something like the above for a bit. At 1AM, although I think it’s an a-ok attempt, I’ve noticed that I do have a negativity bias, so do take everything I say with a grain of salt.

That’s all I have for now,