A few things this makes me think of:
explore vs. exploit: The first part of your life (the first 37%?), you gather information, then the last part, you use that information, maximizing and optimizing according to it. Humans have definite lifespans, but movements don’t. Perhaps a movement’s life depends somewhat on how much exploration they continue to do.
Christianity: I think maybe the only thing all professed Christians have in common is attraction to Jesus, who is vaguely or definitely understood. You could think of Christianity as a movement of submovements (denominations). The results are these nicely homogenous groups. There’s a Catholic personality or personality-space, a Methodist, Church of Christ, Baptist, etc. Within them are more, or less, autonomous congregations. Congregations die all the time. Denominations wax and wane. Over time, what used to divide people into denominations (doctrinal differences) has become less relevant (people don’t care about doctrine as much anymore), and new classification criteria connect and divide people along new lines (conservative vs. evangelical vs. mainline vs. progressive). An evangelical Christian family who attend a Baptist church might see only a little problem in switching to a Reformed church that was also evangelical. A Church of Christ member, at a church that would have considered all Baptists to not really be Christians 50 or 100 years ago, listens to some generic non-denominational nominally Baptist preacher who says things he likes to hear, while also hearing the more traditional Church of Christ sermons on Sunday morning.
The application of that example to EA could be something like: Altruism with a capital-A is something like Jesus, a resonant image. Any Altruist ought to be on the same side as any other Altruist, just like any Christian ought to be on the same side as any other Christian, because they share Altruism, or Jesus. Just as there is an ecosystem of Christian movements, submovements, and semiautonomous assemblies, there could be an ecosystem of Altruistic movements, submovements, and semiautonomous groups. It could be encouraged or expected of Altruists that they each be part of multiple Altruistic movements, and thus be exposed to all kinds of outside assumptions, all within some umbrella of Altruism. In this way, within each smaller group, there can be homogeneity. The little groups that exploit can run their course and die while being effective tools in the short- or medium-term, but the overall movement or megamovement does not, because overall it keeps exploring. And, as you point out, continuing to explore improves the effectiveness of altruism. Individual movements can be enriched and corrected by their members’ memberships in other movements.
A Christian who no longer likes being Baptist can find a different Christianity. So it could be the same with Altruists. EAs who “value drift” might do better in a different Altruism, and EA could recruit from people in other Altruisms who felt like moving on from those.
Capital-A Altruism should be defined in a minimalist way in order to include many altruistic people from different perspectives. EAs might think of whatever elements of their altruism that are not EA-specific as a first approximation of Altruism. Once Altruism is defined, it may turn out that there are already a number of existing groups that are basically Altruistic, though having different cultures and different perspectives than EA.
Little-a altruism might be too broad for compatibility with EA. I would think that groups involved in politicizing go against EA’s ways. But then, maybe having connection even with them is good for Altruists.
In parallel to Christianity, when Altruism is at least somewhat defined, then people will want to take the name of it, and might not even be really compliant with the N Points of Altruism, whatever value of N one could come up with—this can be a good and a bad thing, better for diversity, worse for brand strength. But also in parallel to Christianity, there is generally a similarity within professed Christians which is at least a little bit meaningful. Experienced Christians have some idea of how to sort each other out, and so it could be with Altruists. Effective Altruism can continue to be as rigorously defined as it might want to be, allowing other Altruisms to be different.
This is an interesting perspective. It makes me wonder if/how there could be decently defined sub-groups that EAs can easily identify, e.g. “long-termists interested in things like AI” vs. “short-termists who place significantly more weight on current living things”—OR—“human-centered” vs. “those who place significant weight on non-human lives.”
Like within Christianity, specific values/interpretations can/should be diverse, which leads to sub-groups. But there is sort of a “meta-value” that all sub-groups hold, which is that we should use our resources to do the most good that we can. It is vague enough to be interpreted in many ways, but specific enough to keep the community organized.
I think the fact that I could come up with (vaguely-defined) examples of sub-groups indicates that, in some way, the EA community already has sub-communities. I agree with the original post that there is risk of too much value-alignment that could lead to stagnation or other negative consequences. However, in my 2 years of reading/learning about EA, I’ve never thought that EAs were unaware or overly-confident in their beliefs, i.e. it seems to me that EAs are self-critical and self-aware enough to consider many viewpoints.
I personally never felt that just because I don’t want (nor can I imagine) an AI singleton that brings stability to humanity meant that I wasn’t an EA.