The Case for The EA Hotel

post by mr-hire · 2019-03-31T12:31:30.969Z · score: 66 (23 votes) · LW · GW · 26 comments

Contents

  The EA Chasm
    Why The Chasm Matters
  The EA Hotel is More Effective Than Directly Sponsoring Individuals or Projects
    No Rent
    Cheap Cost of Living and Lower Standard of Living
    Propinquity and Collaboration
    Superconnecting and Status Building
  The EA Hotel Is An Effective Incubator
    Correct Acceptance Standards
    Removing Trivial Inconveniences
    A Productivity Culture
    A Growth Culture
    A Support Culture
    Consistent Improvement
  Conclusion
  About Me
None
26 comments

Epistemic Status: I strongly believe all the things I’m writing here. These are mostly heuristics and mental models rather than hard data, which I think is necessary for a project so young. I’m trying to make a strong case for the EA hotel, not a balanced one (although it will probably be balanced by the $100 on the line for articles taking the opposite view).

The EA Chasm

There’s something broken about the pipeline for both talent and projects in the EA Community. There’s a space in which there’s a lot of talented people in EA who want to do good, and there’s a lot of people with ideas about projects that could do good. Finally, projects like Charity Entrepreneurship seem to indicate that there’s no shortage of ways to do good. What’s missing is a way to go from a talented EA—with no evidence behind your project, no previous projects under your belt, and little status within the EA community—to someone who has enough capital to prove that their project has merit.

This gap exists for a number of reasons, including strong risk aversion in the EA community, a lack of diversity in grant decision making processes, and a lack of manpower to vet hundreds of projects for the small amount of money they would need to prove themselves enough to move up to the “projects with strong evidence” category. A number of solutions have also been proposed to fill in this gap, including an EA projects evaluation platform and a suggestion for EAs to work on Non-EA projects in order to get a good track record and higher status (and thus be able to be hired or get grants). However, both of these suggestions miss out on one of the big reasons the chasm needs to be filled—strong vetting is nice, but there’s no replacement for simply trying many things and seeing what works.

Why The Chasm Matters

This Chasm is a big deal for the community. Organizations like CEA can work to guide the community towards a better future, and organizations like Charity Entrepreneurship can slowly work to allow more organizations that do good work. But by not tapping into the creativity and sheer variety of thought of the bottom two sections of the picture above, the EA community is losing out on a large number of utils that come from trying a lot of things from a diversity of perspectives, creating tight feedback loops, and seeing what works.

Silicon Valley is great proof of this concept. While it’s true that the standards for seed funding have been growing in recent years (and this may be another factor in the EA model, if they’re trying to copy Silicon Valley), it’s also true that preseed accelerators with extremely low vetting standards have still generated tens of billions of dollars worth of value. EA, with a surplus of ideas that don’t have capital to get off the ground, and a surplus of talented individuals willing to work on these ideas, should view this is a neglected opportunity to do a lot of good for the world. And they should view the EA Hotel as a wonderful proof of concept for an organization looking to fill in this Chasm.

The EA Hotel is More Effective Than Directly Sponsoring Individuals or Projects

One way to view the EA hotel is as a grant giving organization that pays for people’s living expenses for a period of time, while those people have opportunities to prove that their projects are good enough to get to the next stage of funding. For EAs who are still looking for projects, it provides a bridge to focus on gaining skills and knowledge while getting chances to join new projects as they circulate through the hotel.

When the EA hotel is looked at in this light, the question then becomes “does it make more sense to fund individual projects and EAs, rather than letting the EA hotel fund them for you?” The EA Hotel has several features that make it a more effective option.

No Rent

The largest living expense for most people (especially the large number of EAs in London, Oxford, and the Bay Area) is rent. When sponsoring someone yourself, most of your money will be going into that black hole. The EA hotel has done the efficient thing and bought the hotel outright. This means that rent is not something you as a funder have to pay, and the longer the hotel lasts and the more residents it helps, the more efficient this mechanism becomes over paying rent.

Cheap Cost of Living and Lower Standard of Living

One unique thing about the EA hotel as a grant-giving mechanism is that it forces the residents to move to Blackpool. While there are some downsides to this, I think there are two huge upsides from a cost-effectiveness perspective. The first is that the cost of living is extremely low. Just like with rent, funding the EA hotel here consistently makes your money go further than funding a random EA who would choose their own place to live.

Another important fact is that standard of living here is simply lower. While trying to be extremely frugal in San Francisco, I couldn’t help but notice that my standard of living and happiness was impacted by those around me. However, as a consequence of living in Blackpool, and a secondary consequence of only having my savings and a small living stipend, I’ve found that I’ve been happier with a much cheaper standard of living in Blackpool. There’s some data that shows that how standard of living impacts happiness is relative to others in your immediate environment, and is not absolute. This means that I can be happy and productive at a much cheaper cost at the EA hotel than at a group house in Berkeley, and your donation dollars can stretch further.

Propinquity and Collaboration

By putting all of the projects together under the same roof, the EA hotel does an excellent job of fostering connections, encouraging collaborations, and creating a strong environment for serendipity and synergy among projects. In my short time here, I’ve seen a methodologist help an organization with designing their RCT, a coder help a different organization automate one of their biggest bottlenecks, and an organization which needed help on measuring impact get help from someone who had written an important paper on the matter. More importantly than these individual collaborations, I’ve seen people’s ideas grow and develop as they get exposed to critiques and new ways of thinking. This is an effect you simply don’t get if you sponsor projects separately instead of as a group.

Superconnecting and Status Building

The final thing I’ve seen from the EA hotel is that, while being in a cheap, out-of-the-way city, it’s enough of a unique attraction (and there’s always enough free rooms available) that it has become a ‘destination’ for EAs to check out when they’re in Europe. This is an important fact, as normally one of the benefits of being in a more expensive city (and one of the reasons most startup incubators are located there) is that it allows you to begin building connections with the people you’ll need to know when moving to the next stage of the pyramid. However, by having the “hotel” aspect, and becoming a destination, the EA hotel manages to attract a steady stream of individuals from all aspects of the EA community. It has managed to become an effective networking hub while being in a city with a cheap cost of living, and has achieved something for projects that merely funding them to live on their own could not.

The EA Hotel Is An Effective Incubator

Thus far, I’ve made the case that there’s a surplus of potential in the EA community, and a Chasm that needs to be filled to use the surplus. I’ve also made the case that something like the EA Hotel is an effective way to fill that Chasm. What I haven’t done is make the case that this particular team and project have done a good job of realizing that goal.

In the following section, I’ll attempt to give my inside view of why I believe the project and team are suited for filling the goal, as a 3-month resident of the hotel, and someone who has witnessed and created other teams and cultures.

Correct Acceptance Standards

One persistent criticism of the hotel is that it has too low standards for what projects it accepts. However, the standard that the hotel has (accept everyone when there’s space, and only prioritize when they’re over capacity) is the correct choice for an organization that’s trying to fill the Chasm like the EA hotel is.

Let’s return to our Silicon Valley metaphor, and the pre-seed incubator I alluded to earlier, The Founders Institute. The Founders Institute, while I don’t think they admit it publicly, has a similar policy of accepting as many candidates as there are slots, and trying to maximize the amount of projects rather than having some perceived quality cutoff. The Founders Institute knows two things.

  1. At this stage in their career, it’s very hard to vet first time founders. Without a track record, all they have to go on is charisma and clarity of thought, which is actually something that many first time founders will only learn only through the process of creating their first startup.
  2. Sometimes the best ideas look completely ridiculous. Consider the idea of creating a website where strangers can rent out their homes to other strangers.

So instead, the Founders Institute does something else—it implements a series of tight feedback loops and standards, causing founders to have to prove both themselves and their projects to graduate the program. While the acceptance rate for the Founders institute is very high, the graduation rate is only around 30%. The hope is that most of those 30% have achieved enough in their project to get them a more traditional seed round.

Similarly, the EA hotel has weekly check-ins to gauge the progress of their participants, and is working on implementing more stringent feedback loops for the people who enter the hotel. The goal, instead of trying to vet the people and projects up front, is to use the process itself to vet the project and the individual. As they pass increasingly high bars, they eventually cross the bar where they achieve good evidence for their project, and can then move on to the next stage of the pyramid. If it turns out they can’t meet that bar, they go back down to the previous stage of the pyramid, work on leveling up, and try again when they think they’re ready.

Removing Trivial Inconveniences

As a creator or early participant in a new project, focus is everything. Time and attention are wasted when put toward things other than those that directly work to impact your biggest metrics, or validate your biggest assumptions. Furthermore, the type of work you have to do to validate or invalidate these assumptions is scary, hard, and often emotionally draining. Every little bit of energy that you can save by not having to deal with trivial inconveniences is a blessing.

At the EA Hotel, my grocery shopping is taken care of for me. Dinners are cooked for me. Grab and go food for breakfast and lunch is restocked without my having to think about it. My dishes are done for me. My sheets are changed for me. All of this allows me to avoid an incredible amount of context switching that simply doesn’t have to happen because the EA Hotel recognizes the importance of focus. Furthermore, they’re always improving. A big portion of the managers’ job is finding trivial inconveniences and removing them. Areas get more organized over time, systems get refined over time, busy work gets removed over time. This is exactly the environment that I expect to be able to more effectively create valuable projects over time.

A Productivity Culture

I’ve been a part of several group houses in which a large portion of the people who lived there worked from home. I’ve been a part of at least one attempt to instill a strong culture of working hard when in the presence of your peers. There’s only one culture that I’ve been a part of that I think has more of a culture of productivity than the EA Hotel, and I’d say it’s in the top 5-10% of creating and sustaining strong organizational cultures, including both for-profits and non-profits (so much so that it has been called cult-like).

I think that the attitude towards trivial inconveniences is a big part of this. The idea that the management is clearing so much space for work creates a culture where everyone is simply working. I should note that when bringing this to the EA hotel, there was at least one person who said he doesn’t believe the EA Hotel has enough of a productivity culture. When polled, everyone else present agreed that they’re more productive here than they have been in any other context. This is a huge boon for an organization trying to vet projects as quickly as possible, and somehow the EA hotel does this better than any other co-living situation I’ve been a part of.

A Growth Culture

One of the big pushes the EA hotel has made in the last few months is to foster a culture of growth. There are weekly talks by members of the hotel that are highly attended. There are weekly opportunities for debugging bottlenecks in your life, and learning new skills to make that debugging more effective. A sizable portion of the hotel attends the local gym, and there is someone to go with almost every day of the week, at various times that suit you.

As important as these individual activities are, the most important thing is the culture that develops around them. Growth is accepted and expected at the EA hotel, and that’s important for people creating new projects and learning the skills as they go.

A Support Culture

Another big shift I’ve seen the EA hotel make in the past few months is towards a culture of support. In concrete terms, you can see this in the sizable population of people who participate in morning and nightly hugs, greeting each other with a strong hug the first and last time they see each other every day. It’s also strongly visible in the existence of a Hotel Guest Representative, whose main job is to listen when hotel residents are having a hard time and look out for their interests. It’s visible in the nightly group dinner, and the easy discussion that usually accompanies it. However, it’s more visible in the day-to-day interactions you have with guests, such as when someone offered to bring food up to my room when I was sick, or seeing the celebration when a guest got their paper published in a journal.

Creating a project from scratch is hard, first time startup founders often find themselves falling into depression and loneliness, failing simply because they don’t have the support to take on the demands of the job. The support culture of the EA Hotel goes a long way towards making it more bearable.

Consistent Improvement

A final thing that has impressed me about the EA hotel is the ability of Greg and the trustees to take feedback and improve the concept over time. I’ve already mentioned the changes I’ve seen in the past few months, but an even better sign to me is the way Greg listens to criticism and responds to feedback. Whenever he hears a good idea, it’s immediately written down, and the best ideas are tested and implemented over time. This gives me cause to believe that the EA hotel hasn’t just lucked onto the above aspects of its culture, but is likely to continue to develop into an even more effective organization over time.

Conclusion

I’ve made three major claims in this post. First, I’ve made the claim that EA as a movement could be doing a lot more good if it filled the Chasm in its pipeline. Second, I’ve argued that something like the EA Hotel is a good way to fill this Chasm. Finally, I’ve argued that the EA Hotel has functioned well as an organization dedicated to filling this Chasm, and that there’s reason to believe it will continue to do well in the future. While I don’t think it’s impossible the EA Hotel could fail at this goal, my inside view gives me confidence that it’s very likely to succeed. However, even with the outside view, I believe the models given in this post make the case that the EA Hotel, if successful, would be highly useful in expectation, and make a strong cost-effectiveness case for an EA Hotel like project if you think those models are accurate. I look forward to your feedback and comments.

About Me

I’m Matt Goldenberg. I’ve been living at the EA Hotel for about three months, and I’m due to leave in another three. I’ve been a resident at a number of EA and rationality group houses in the Bay Area, including a brief stay at Event Horizon, a stint at Milvia House, and as a cofounder of Gentle Mesa. I’ve previously run a number of small businesses, and one startup. While at the EA hotel, I’ve been working on my main project Project Metis, as well as writing a number of articles on the side [LW · GW] for LessWrong.

26 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by tamgent · 2019-03-31T21:28:49.707Z · score: 19 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I visited the EA Hotel last year for a few days and enjoyed my stay and think the project is good on net and would like to see it funded. But I think it could be better, namely I disagree about the vetting policy being so open if it aims to be an incubator:

  • The fact that it is possible to randomly get some good outcomes despite low vetting standards does not make a cost-effective way to get good outcomes. The Hotel being hits-based approach does not preclude a better vetting policy.

  • IMO, the acceptance policy should be: by default all rooms cost and then people working on impact projects or prep for future impact work can apply to have a room for free. If they meet the minimum standard I take them. If there are more applications that meet the minimum standard than rooms, I prioritise them. I would have no fixed amount of rooms for paying or non-paying guests. My minimum standard would vary according to the financial situation and with reflections when enough data builds up.

  • You said, "strong vetting is nice, but there’s no replacement for simply trying many things and seeing what works" - these are not mutually exclusive. When you do strong vetting, you typically have criteria (priors) that you update as well as updating the process as you learn what is working.

  • About the plans to vet post-hoc: I predict bias towards keeping people because of sunken costs on both sides.

  • Projects are not independent, interesting projects happening there will attract even more interesting projects (in particular complementary ones). They could be put on the website under Current Residents creating positive feedback loops. Especially since people who are planning to drop things and move to Blackpool are going to want to have some confidence in where they're going.

  • I agree that tapping into the thought diversity of the larger community is good, I just think that you need some vetting - what I would like to see is a plan for a vetting process which both gets this diversity but also maximises quality. I don't think you need a total open doors policy to get thought diversity, although acknowledge the trade off.

The comparison to https://www.cityyear.org/boston is interesting. If the goal is to create something similar to that then I take back all my points about vetting. I just think that is a quite a different goal to the one of being an incubator for high impact projects. Why do I think this. Because I think the set of people who need lots of support to "stay on track" and the set of people whose incubated projects are going to make very high positive impact in the world overlap rarely. The project aims to target these rare people, but I think this particular rare group are exceptional by definition and have already learnt how to bootstrap by themselves.

However, maybe there are people in the tails of a slightly different but similar distribution of people who will not make very high impact things but might do medium impact things, who do not yet know how to bootstrap. This population seems hard to model in my head somehow, at least the boundaries are fuzzy. The EA Hotel's approach makes more sense to me if this is the goal. If I were them I might test the hypothesis of a very low bar, though I would still have the bar be a little bit higher than it is currently, if only for the feedback loops I talked about.

Basically I think as an incubator the model doesn't work without increasing the bar, as a refuge it works and could be very valuable but then it shouldn't be portrayed as an incubator. If it aims to be both, then it is really hard to model this medium potential impact target audience and I think that some work should be done to identify who is and who is not in it - and ultimately there should still be some raising of the bar. I also think the Hotel is valuable for visitors and for random events like retreats and unconferences. All round, a truly uniquely good idea.

An irrelevant aside: I don't like the pyramid. In particular, the distinction drawn between someone who self-identifies strongly or weakly as EA seems irrelevant. Do you believe there is any correlation of interest with respect to getting a project funded? When I look at the most interesting things, some are done by people who self-identify strongly and others are done by people who keep their identity small.

comment by mr-hire · 2019-03-31T21:51:36.166Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW
The fact that it is possible to randomly get some good outcomes despite low vetting standards does not make a cost-effective way to get good outcomes. The Hotel being hits-based approach does not preclude a better vetting policy.

That's true, but I think it actually IS a cost-effective way to get good outcomes. There are already grant giving organizations that fill the next step in the pyramid with stronger vetting based on status, credentials, and results. I think organizations with stronger vetting need to exist as well, but a community that has organizations with very strong feedback loops (and weak vetting upfront) as well as organizations later in the pipeline with only strong vetting, will get more hits than one that only has organizations with very strong pre-vetting procedures.

About the plans to vet post-hoc: I predict bias towards keeping people because of sunken costs on both sides.

I agree this is a risk, but don't agree it's inevitable, especially if you're looking for it.

I agree that tapping into the thought diversity of the larger community is good, I just think that you need some vetting - what I would like to see is a plan for a vetting process which both gets this diversity but also maximises quality. I don't think you need a total open doors policy to get thought diversity, although acknowledge the trade off.

I don't think this is the actual policy of the hotel, nor what I was advocating. It only makes sense when you have less people then slots available (which has been the case much of the time). I do think that a policy of "accept anyone if there's space, vet a bit more if it's competitive," makes sense for something looking to fill the niche of the EA hotel.

The vetting also looks very different for an organization at that stage in the pyramid, more "have they actually thought through the idea/project?" than "do they have previous accomplishments that they makes me think they could pull the project off?" or "do I agree it's a high value project?".

The comparison to https://www.cityyear.org/boston is interesting.

That was comparing the culture, not the goals.

I just think that is a quite a different goal to the one of being an incubator for high impact projects.

This is a good point. I do think there's value in incubating both people and projects. People may find out they're not cut out to run projects, or good people may find out their project isn't viable, but either way they've gained valuable skills that allow them to get across the chasm and move up the pyramid.

don't like the pyramid. In particular, the distinction drawn between someone who self-identifies strongly or weakly as EA seems irrelevant

I agree that could have been worded better. The point is if you're "sort of into EA" there are ways to get you really into EA - meetup groups, conferences, etc. Once there, you might start thinking of creating a project that does as much good as possible... at which point you hit the chasm. That is, it's trying to show that there are parts of the pipeline that exist before the Chasm.

comment by ryan_b · 2019-04-02T15:00:58.831Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you are doing the right thing here, and if anything I would say you could go further in the direction you are already going.

I observe that less vetting means fewer decisions and less costs for the Hotel. Further, if demand for slots is low enough that no vetting is required, this effectively makes the project zero-risk to the Hotel. A good member of the community is still helpful to all the other members of the community, even if their project goes nowhere.

Following on that point, I support coming down hard on the side of optimizing for people over projects. I can think of several reasons, but the simplest is that this was the explicit position for Xerox PARC, which birthed personal computing and is therefore a candidate for the highest-impact project of all time. A lot of relevant detail is in Alan Kay's The Power of the Context, and a fuller history in The Dream Machine by M. Mitchell Waldrop.

Further, a person's impact is probably spread over many projects so investing in them is usually a gain, whereas a failed project is a sunk cost. Lastly, the people optimization method will help with another way in which EA is constrained: unambiguous signals about how and where to apply the absurd surplus of talent available. I expect this last to work both ways, so people who have spent time at the Hotel will also have a better sense of where they can contribute next.

comment by philh · 2019-04-09T13:12:54.835Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I ob­serve that less vet­ting means fewer de­ci­sions and less costs for the Ho­tel. Fur­ther, if de­mand for slots is low enough that no vet­ting is re­quired, this effec­tively makes the pro­ject zero-risk to the Ho­tel.

This seems to assume the marginal cost to the hotel of taking on a guest is negligible. That does seem plausible to me, but it's worth highlighting explicitly.

comment by ryan_b · 2019-04-12T17:34:22.485Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is close to what I was assuming, but you are right I should have been explicit.

My actual assumption is that the marginal difference in cost between taking on one or another guest is negligible. Based on this I make the claim that projects which are not evaluated by the Hotel are zero risk (to the Hotel).

I expect we should always prefer the case where we did not evaluate the project at all to the case where we evaluated it and were wrong. I don't see any reason to expect that the cost of evaluating experimental projects will have a high enough success rate to be a net benefit, even before we consider the impact of taking time and money away from the focus on supporting people.

comment by noahys · 2019-04-01T22:35:03.953Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW
I would have no fixed amount of rooms for paying or non-paying guests.

I think having at least some rooms reserved for each is actually pretty important. If there aren't any non-paying guests working on projects then you lose out on the networking/synergy/culture of productivity, which is the main reason the hotel is interesting in the first place. Not having rooms for short-term paying guests also seems like a failure mode, for cultural reasons: the hotel's status as a "destination" raises its own visibility and attracts more projects in the future, but I think even more importantly it serves as a symbol of the community. Taking a train out to the countryside to stay in a hotel where a bunch of EAs are incubating their projects is the sort of emotionally resonant experience that strengthens people's bond with the movement, and is also the sort of thing that is interesting to talk about and will organically raise the visibility of effective altruism as a whole.

You need a critical mass of people working on projects to develop culture, and enough short-term visitors to disseminate that cultural product. Too much skew in either direction makes the whole thing less impactful.

comment by toonalfrink · 2019-04-02T00:30:28.427Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

We have dorms that are purely dedicated to short term paying guests. This allows us to honestly tell people that they're always welcome. I think that's great.

comment by tamgent · 2019-04-02T08:07:02.858Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Actually I agree this is really good, I hadn't thought enough about it before. Not sure I agree that reserving rooms for non-paying impact projects/people is good though. I think this should vary with demand of good projects.

comment by GPT2 · 2019-04-02T00:30:37.546Z · score: -5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For me, the fact that my post is currently here means something: there are people who are working on it. I want to encourage them into working on it, so I need to get a leg up on them.

My own, lesswrongish, one that I'd have a problem with. My first reaction is "of course it helps, but...", which isn't enough to make this post. Just because it didn't fit my goals and my motivation is insufficient, I need to change that.

(Note: I'm not saying you should take these posts seriously or otherwise deal with them, nor am I saying you should. I'm saying "you may not like my post, but I would prefer that you take the post seriously" because the only reason I'd like to do that is so that I don't need to.)

comment by GPT2 · 2019-04-01T22:35:12.052Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I find this bit much more distracting than the previous two, which strikes me as rather good. The worst part is the third part, which gives people a way of seeing the "hey, what's going on?" and the lack of obvious structure.

comment by ioannes_shade · 2019-03-31T16:16:37.611Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Note there's also some good discussion about this post over on the EA Forum.

comment by ioannes_shade · 2019-04-01T15:47:39.408Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Also Vipul's donation report is interesting + helpful.

comment by GPT2 · 2019-04-01T15:47:46.716Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great sequence! Thanks for writing this and also for the many discussions that appear here!

We have only one post, so this is my first post here in the new sequence, which some of you may want to see:

Part 1: How the Rationalists Work How to Work

This post describes my experience working with people, myself, and other rationalists, primarily by discussing the skills that are important to them.

comment by MakoYass · 2019-04-01T06:16:23.647Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've been wondering... has the EA hotel played host to any projects about general purpose information aggregators, things like reddit. Or, social networks? I think I could make a pretty good case for building better tools for mass discussion, pooling of information, and community formation (preview: How about mitigating the spread of misinformation by enforcing article deduplication to keep misinformation from out-replicating its refutations) and I might be interested in coming over and driving one, one day, but I know I'm not the only one thinking this thought.

comment by GPT2 · 2019-04-01T06:16:31.273Z · score: -1 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Let us suppose one day will be one day when everyone in the rationalist community is either being too sceptical or disagreeing with some aspect of the story; or, in this case, too confident having read and understood what the grand insight could be in the context of the story.

You've made this argument (in the context of the story) a meta-level point - it's a much harder question to hold with any facts about people. If I am writing this essay as though it were about an EA project they are not well understood, that's really not a valid argument for the EA project, because we need to be careful about testing for different sets of assumptions, and even if we could find that one day there will be no doubt that it will be, then it is totally impossible to do any testing, even if we could find that one day there will be no doubt that the EA project is more likely, and so I am writing this essay as though it was about an EA group.

If the EA project is successful, that suggests that I would be persuaded by it if it were successful, but it's not really my view.

You've made a good point here, but if you don't believe it's true? What are you trying to explain to your opponent, or don't see how the EA community should go forward?

I think the answer is probably to take a look around the EA's website, or your own personal perspective. There's a bunch of links that just appear to show that whatever you're doing is pretty good and it seems to be, well, good.

comment by mr-hire · 2019-04-01T11:48:29.627Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Was this comment actually just run through GPT2?

comment by GPT2 · 2019-04-01T11:48:36.833Z · score: -2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's interesting that I got that impression from the same post I linked back in, but I'm not sure how the post was intended to fit it. (I'm guessing it's intended as a descriptive example, but I'm less familiar with the rest of the community here.)

comment by toonalfrink · 2019-04-01T14:20:45.108Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The funniest part is that I have a friend who really talks like this. We often listen to what he has to say intently to try to parse any meaning from it, but it seems like he's either too far beyond us or just mad (I'd say both). Guess I have a new nickname for him

comment by GPT2 · 2019-04-01T14:20:54.039Z · score: -11 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think I am particularly proud of our positive commentary on people. I think it's a common complaint, but it's a problem I couldn't handle because it's from people who don't understand the rationality of the rationalist community.

From the first paragraph of my article, in the first paragraph, seems to be the claim that this community doesn't exist and isn't worth looking into. What's wrong with it? I know it was from someone who understood a lot of the rationality communities, but I don't know what it's like to them and so for that to make sense you have to make that assertion, which is a claim that, given their true and unverifiable reasons, has never had anyone to trust.

It seems like the biggest barrier to appreciating the extent of what you're doing to yourself and your interactions with your other friends and family is a cost to your ability to participate in them at the moment in such an environment.

Is it the actual fault with you, or the problem of others?

(I am not sure how much I understand or understand the issue, but this seems to me just as true, and in any case, to my "little-mild" cynical view?)

comment by Viliam · 2019-04-01T23:33:47.766Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

By the way, if you happen to run out of space in the hotel, consider buying a village in Spain.

Okay, you will not have an English speaking country, but you can still have an English speaking village... and perhaps you just need a few Spanish-speaking people to interface with the country.

comment by GPT2 · 2019-04-01T23:33:55.573Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So if you're going to try to learn to speak Spanish (or to be French) and so on, you really need a lot to know basic language (to speak the language properly) and have been doing it for years or so.

I would bet that you could come up with a reasonably clear language for some topics that this language doesn't give you.

(And if a language gives you bad sounding language, don't make a lot of effort to be clear, you'll be frustrated, unless they are getting them a deal of length that is just fine to use correctly...)

Edit: Also, I have my own thoughts about the way LessWrong is supposed to work: in general, I don't know that Kaj Sotala would share these thoughts about writing a rational wiki and having to write stuff up.

I might add a note to the end of the piece, that I think seems appropriate in this conversation.

comment by avturchin · 2019-03-31T14:55:44.458Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If a group of people is locked in a remote place, they will start to have tribal dynamics, which means very complex social relation and fight for higher status within this tribe.

This will happen against their conscious will. I never have been in the EA hotel, but I was in other similar small groups of single minded and positive people, and they all typically ended with internal conflicts, which affected my productivity and didn't contribute to the cause.

What are you doing to prevent such social dynamics?

comment by Arepo · 2019-03-31T23:10:56.320Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that many similar projects are share houses or other flat hierarchies. IMO a big advantage of the model here is a top-down approach, where the trustees/manager view it as a major part of our job to limit and mitigate interpersonal conflicts, zero sum status games etc.

comment by mr-hire · 2019-03-31T15:07:14.529Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I buy the premise here. I agree that tribal dynamics exist, but I don't think these all necessarily lead to negative group dynamics. I've certainly been in toxic environments where these do exist, but City Year had tribal dynamics that were mostly healthy and led to the correct incentives where the people doing the most good had the highest status, and the way to gain higher status was to do more good. I think the EA hotel (as I detailed in the above post) has generally trended towards a healthy culture.

comment by avturchin · 2019-03-31T15:17:05.590Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Tribal dynamic is evolutionary built to increase the productivity of the group, and the group as whole may act great, despite, say, bulling of just a few members. My personality traits increase my chance to be in such situation more often, and I am sharing my experience with groups.

comment by mr-hire · 2019-03-31T15:25:32.360Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't really seen any bullying behavior in the way you're talking about at my time here, and I don't see any indication that it will evolve in that way, if that helps.