Anecdotally (and also maybe some survey data), there are people that you would consider “top EAs” where it feels like they could have not gotten into EA if things were different, e.g. they were introduced by a friend they respected less or they read the wrong introduction. It seems still quite possible that we aren’t catching all the “top people.”
I agree with all of this. In particular, saying “all the people in EA seem like they’d have ended up here eventually” leaves out all the people who also “seem like they’d have ended up here eventually” but… aren’t here.
I can think of people like this! I had lots of conversations while I was leading the Yale group. Some of them led to people joining; others didn’t; in some cases, people came to a meeting or two and then never showed up again. It’s hard to imagine there’s no set of words I could have said, or actions I could have taken, that wouldn’t have converted some people from “leaving after one meeting” to “sticking around” or “never joining” to “attending a first event out of curiosity”.
The Introductory Fellowship is a thing, created and funded by “meta” people, that I think would have “converted” many of those people — if I’d had access to it back in 2014, I think EA Yale could have been twice the size in its first year, because we lost a bunch of people who didn’t have anything to “do” or who were stuck toiling away on badly-planned projects because I was a mediocre leader.
I also have at least one friend I think would have been a splendid fit, and who was involved with the community early on, but then had a terrible experience with the person who introduced her to EA (they are no longer a member) and has now soured on everything related to the community (while still holding personal beliefs that are basically EA-shaped, AFAICT). That’s the sort of thing that meta/community-building work should clearly prevent if it’s going well.
Had my friend had the bad experience in 2021 rather than nearly a decade earlier, she’d have access to help from CEA, support from several specialized Facebook groups, and a much larger/better-organized community in her area that would [I hope] have helped her resolve things.