Critiques of EA

An interview series exploring criticism of the Effective Altruism movement.

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Tuesday Apr 18, 2023

In this episode I sit down with David Thorstad to delve into three series from his blog, Reflective Altruism, that challenge various aspects of EA. We discuss the unexpected tension between existential risk pessimism and the astronomical value thesis, whether EAs are exaggerating the risk of human extinction, and how both society and the EA movement should think about billionaire philanthropy.
Episode Transcript
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Show Notes:
David's Blog: Reflective Altruism 
The three series's we discuss:
Existential risk pessimism and the time of perils
Exaggerating the risks
Billionaire philanthropy
David's academic website
David's Recommendations:
Amia Srinivasan and her book The Right to Sex
The Good It Promises
Other things mentioned:
Existential risk and growth
Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios
The Musk Foundation's website

Friday Feb 03, 2023

In this episode, Nick and James discuss whether EA is an ideology. James argues that the EA community privileges certain questions, framing of questions, theoretical frameworks over others, in a way that may lead us to overlook alternative cause areas or ways of doing good.
Episode transcript.
Anonymous feedback form.
Other Links:
Effective Altruism is a Question (not an ideology), Helen's original EA Forum post that James wrote a response to.
Effective Altruism is an Ideology, not (just) a Question, James' response
James' personal blog

Thursday Feb 02, 2023

Vaden and Ben, hosts of the podcast Increments, join Nick for a heated debate friendly discussion on the expected value/subjective probability style of reasoning used in the EA community, their alternative approach of critical rationalism, and how this disagreement effects the EA project of trying to do the most good.
Episode transcript.
Anonymous feedback form.
Other Links:
Increments, Vaden and Ben's podcast
The Bayesian Mindset by Holden Karnofsky
Philosophy and the practice of Bayesian statistics by Andrew Gelman and Cosma Shalizi
Data on forecasting accuracy across different time horizons and levels of forecaster experience
Our guests:
Vaden's personal website
Ben's personal website

Thursday Feb 02, 2023

In this episode, Carla and Luke discuss their paper Democratising Risk which lays out their critiques of the field of existential risk. They argue that the field is dominated by a particular paradigm, the Techno-Utopian Approach (TUA), which is unrepresentative of the general public's values, and may even lead to a higher risk of large scale catastrophes.
We also discuss the possible structural reforms that the EA community could make to make decision making more democratic and less centralized.
Full transcript of the episode is here.
Anonymous feedback form for the podcast.
Other Links:
If you have never heard about EA here is a good place to start.
Sam Bankman Fried and the FTX Collapse
Democratising Risk: In Search of a Methodology to Study Existential Risk
Democratising Risk - or how EA deals with critics
EA structural reform ideas
How effective altruists ignored risk
Learn more about our guests:
Carla's Personal Website
Luke's Twitter
The EA community does not own its donors' money - A EA Forum post made after this conversation was recorded arguing against some of Carla's structural reform proposals.
Guest Recommendations: 
Chaos Computer Club
Extinction Rebellion
Hélène Landemore
James C Scott

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