This felt like I was reading my own thoughts (albeit better-articulated, and with lovely diagrams).
For a long time, I’ve been convinced that one of the community’s greatest assets was “a collection of some of the kindest/most moral people in the [local area]”. In my experience, people in the community tend to “walk the walk”: They are kind, cooperative, and truth-seeking even outside their EA work.
All the COVID posts we saw well before the pandemic went mainstream—not just from people trying to show off with good forecasting, but from people who just wanted to hand out lots of practical advice.
The detailed, friendly Intercom messages I get from people who notice errors or typos on the Forum or CEA’s other websites.
The small crowd of people who clustered around me and some other EA Global volunteers when we were hauling heavy items to the conference, everyone clamoring to share a bit of our burden. (Does this sort of thing happen at Comic-Con? Davos?)
The people in our extended Twitter community who poke at each other with routine fact-checks—again, not in a “gotcha!” or insulting way, but matter-of-factly, under the assumption that everyone involved wants to report information as accurately as they can.
The way that lots of our community members take extra effort to write up personal decisions/habits they find useful (e.g. 80,000 Hours employees’ lists of useful things they’ve bought, Max Carpendale’s recommendations for RSI treatment)
I think that one of the best ways an average person can support EA, even if they can’t easily change their career or donate very much, is to be a kind, helpful figure in the lives of those around them:
“You’re so nice, Susan!”
“I just try to help people as much as I can!”
(I plan to publish a post on this cluster of ideas at some point.)
Mostly, I’ve been thinking about the social/movement growth benefits of the community having a ton of nice people, but I agree that such behavior also seems likely to aid in our uncovering good ways to make good decisions and developing good moral systems for long-term impact.
On a related note, I often refer back to these words of Holden Karnofsky:
In general, I try to behave as I would like others to behave: I try to perform very well on “standard” generosity and ethics, and overlay my more personal, debatable, potentially-biased agenda on top of that rather than in replacement of it. I wouldn’t steal money to give it to our top charities; I wouldn’t skip an important family event (even one that had little meaning for me) in order to save time for GiveWell work.