Some important questions for the EA Leadership

The recent FTX scandal has, I think, caused a major dent in the confidence many in the EA Community have in our leadership. It seems to me increasingly less obvious that the control of a lot of EA by a narrow group of funders and thought leaders is the best way for this community full of smart and passionate people to do good in the world. The assumption I had is we defer a lot of power, both intellectual, social and financial, to a small group of broadly unaccountable, non-transparent people on the assumption they are uniquely good at making decisions, noticing risks to the EA enterprise and combatting them, and that this unique competence is what justifies the power structures we have in EA. A series of failure by the community this year, including the Carrick Flynn campaign and now the FTX scandal has shattered my confidence in this group. I really think EA is amazing, and I am proud to be on the committee of EA Oxford (this represent my own views), having been a summer research fellow at CERI and having spoken at EAGx Rotterdam; my confidence in the EA leadership, however, is exceptionally low, and I think having an answer to some of these questions would be very useful.

An aside: maybe I’m wrong about power structures in EA being unaccountable, centralised and non-transparent. If so, the fact it feels like that is also a sign something is going wrong.

Thus, I have a number of questions for the “leadership group” about how decisions are made in EA and rationale for these. This list is neither exhaustive nor meant as an attack; there possibly are innocuous answers to many of these questions. Moreover, not all of these are linked to SBF and that scandal, and many of these probably have perfectly rational explanation.

Nonetheless, I think now is the appropriate time to ask difficult questions of the EA leadership, so this is just my list of said questions. I do apologise if people take offence to any of these (I know it is a difficult time for everyone), as we really are I am sure all trying our best, but nonetheless I do think we can only have as positive an impact as possible if we are really willing to examine ourselves and see what we have done wrong.

  1. Who is invited to the coordination forum and who attends? What sort of decisions are made? How does the coordination forum impact the direction the community moves in? Who decides who goes to the coordination forum? How? What’s the rationale for keeping the attendees of the coordination forum secret (or is it not purposeful)?

  2. Which senior decision makers in EA played a part in the decision to make the Carrick Flynn campaign happen? Did any express the desire for it not to? [The following question has been answered]Who signed off on the decision to make the campaign manager someone with no political experience(edit: I have now recieved information that the campaign did their own hiring of a campaign manager and had experienced consultants assist through the campaign. So whether I agree with this or not, it seems the campaign manager is quite different from the issues I raise elsewhere in this post)

  3. Why did Will MacAskill introduce Sam Bankman-Fried to Elon Musk with the intention of getting SBF to help Elon buy twitter? What was the rationale that this would have been a cost effective use of $8-15 Billion? Who else was consulted on this?

  4. Why did Will MacAskill choose not to take on board any of the suggestions of Zoe Cremer that she set out when she met with him?

  5. Will MacAskill has expressed public discomfort with the degree of hero-worship towards him. What steps has he taken to reduce this? What plans have decision makers tried to enact to reduce the amount of hero worship in EA?

  6. The EA community prides itself on being an open forum for discussion without fear of reprisal for disagreement. A very large number of people in the community however do not feel it is, and feel pressure to conform and not to express their disagreement with the community, with senior leaders or even with lower level community builders.Has there been discussions within the community health team with how to deal with this? What approaches are they taking community wide rather than just dealing with ad hoc incidents?

  7. A number of people have expressed suspicion or worry that they have been rejected from grants because of publicly expressing disagreements with EA. Has this ever been part of the rationale for rejecting someone from a grant?

  8. FTX Future Fund decided to fund me on a project working on SRM and GCR, but refused to publicise it on their website. How many other projects were funded but not publicly disclosed? Why did they decide to not disclose such funding?

  9. What sort of coordination, if any, goes on around which EAs talk to the media, write highly publicised books, go in curricula etc? What is the decision making procedure like?

  10. The image, both internally and externally, of SBF was that he lived a frugal lifestyle, which it turns out was completely untrue (and not majorly secret). Was this known when Rob Wiblin interviewed SBF on the 80000 Hours podcast and held up SBF for his frugality?