Thanks Joey, that’s an important subject!
We want to build a culture that fosters dedication without putting off newcomers too much, and right now we are trying to see where to put the cursor between these two positions:
“Even small efforts are good, EA Should stay fun!”
“EA is a moral duty that requires full dedication!”
I think this is the wrong way to look at it. The apparent trade-off between them is based on a false dichotomy, because these two statements don’t talk about the same things: the first is about psychology, while the second is about philosophy. Debates where we discuss different things tend to be less productive. Instead, we could frame the message so that both views are aligned. After all, when the right conditions are met, people can be very dedicated and have a blast, without feeling that they are sacrificing themselves.
We could say “Dedication for a cause and well-being are both very important, and thankfully they tend to go hand in hand. Therefore, find a job that suits you well and has a big impact, and chances are you will be happy.” That way, we could still promote the value of a strong dedication but without putting people off.
In my experience, dedication is like motivation: it’s good to have, but it can only be increased indirectly. Just like it’s not helpful to say “be more motivated!’, it’s probably not very useful to encourage people to “be more dedicated”. But if we see dedication as a consequence, something that happens when specific elements are present, then we can focus on these elements. To find which ones influence dedication the most, we should look at the science of dedication (anyone?), but one simple concept we could use is Ikigai (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikigai). According to the Ikigai concept, doing something for the world is only one piece of the dedication puzzle. Using this example, in order to increase the number of dedicated EAs, we could try to make it easier for us to find people who can fill these 4 circles with EA stuff. Recommendations could include:
“What you love” circle: let’s find more people who love the things that should be done (by doing more/different outreach, and by showing the fun aspects of impactful careers).
“What you are good at” circle: let’s find more people who are good at those things (e.g. headhunting) and let’s provide training for those who need it.
“What the world needs” circle: let’s identify more ways to have positive impact.
“What you can be paid for”: let’s fund more projects.
In summary, by considering dedication as an emergent feature, we could optimize for it by acting on its causes rather than by trying to convince people of its importance (which I think is way harder to do).