are values a potential obstacle in scaling the EA movement?

[au­thor note: this is a very brief overview of a pa­per I’m writ­ing and I’m cu­ri­ous about oth­ers’ thoughts on this topic and maybe some feed­back with gaps in my think­ing or al­ter­na­tive per­spec­tives].

EA seems to cater to in­di­vi­d­u­als who already have a stronger dis­po­si­tion to val­ues-based liv­ing and/​or strong sense of char­ac­ter. Altru­ism is con­sid­ered a vir­tu­ous pur­suit and there­fore one can ar­gue peo­ple with a higher sense of moral­ity and val­ues are more in­clined to en­gage with the move­ment. The ques­tion then is how to con­nect with in­di­vi­d­u­als who are less val­ues-driven? [As­sum­ing the goal is to con­tinue grow­ing, which is typ­i­cally the goal of any move­ment. If EA doesn’t aim to ex­tend its reach, then it’s more a com­mu­nity than a move­ment].

It’s in­ter­est­ing to note that EA skews younger which con­tra­dicts the above no­tion—a stronger adop­tion of val­ues and ethics tends to be more com­mon­place among older adults. Older gen­er­a­tions had greater ex­ter­nally-mo­ti­vated/​so­cially-driven in­cen­tives to at least pas­sively en­gage in val­ues-based liv­ing—re­li­gion, ar­guably one of the great­est drivers of val­ues and moral­ity sys­tems, was at the cen­ter of most com­mu­ni­ties and so­cial­iza­tion. Reli­gious af­fili­a­tion has been de­clin­ing for years—not to say younger gen­er­a­tions aren’t spiritual—but it does sug­gest less de­sire to con­nect over shared be­liefs in terms of views on the af­ter­life, cre­ation and value sys­tems. If younger gen­er­a­tions are less con­nected (or in­ter­ested) by val­ues, how can the EA move­ment grow be­yond word of mouth? [It would also be in­ter­est­ing to note how is EA work­ing to con­nect with in­di­vi­d­u­als from older gen­er­a­tions in gen­eral...].

I be­lieve one of the rea­sons EA has so far skewed young is be­cause it was founded in 2011 by a group of young, new grads. In the early stages of any group, the newest mem­bers of­ten closely re­sem­ble the de­mo­graph­ics of the found­ing team given ini­tial growth usu­ally oc­curs through word of mouth and friends. This still seems to be a core method of at­tract­ing new mem­bers but this is limit­ing in the long-run—if you have an in­cli­na­tion to­ward stronger val­ues, than you likely as­so­ci­ate with peo­ple who do as well. So word of mouth doesn’t work as well out­side so­cial cir­cles be­cause the per­son you are talk­ing to about EA may not share the same in­cli­na­tion to­ward val­ues and ethics.

One method is to con­nect to an in­di­vi­d­ual’s in­ter­ests through cause pri­ori­ties. This is ar­guably already in prac­tice—most peo­ple in EA seem to iden­tify with a spe­cific area of per­sonal/​pro­fes­sional fo­cus be it through di­rect work or donat­ing. How­ever, this could still be limit­ing given there are only 3-5 core pri­ori­ties at the cen­ter of con­ver­sa­tions at any given time. If these pri­ori­ties gen­uinely don’t in­ter­est some­one is there still an op­por­tu­nity for them to con­nect with EA?

Another strat­egy is to by­pass the moral/​eth­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions and con­nect peo­ple with in­for­ma­tion they want or need—es­sen­tially get­ting peo­ple to pas­sively en­gage with the move­ment with­out ac­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (i.e. some­one get­ting a job through the 80K Hours Board but doesn’t as­so­ci­ate with EA). Is this a win for EA? Is there some­thing to be gained in main­tain­ing a small com­mu­nity of com­mit­ted mem­bers while ex­pand­ing the reach to en­gage more peo­ple in the goals of EA with­out re­quiring in­ten­tional par­ti­ci­pa­tion? Do peo­ple need to value the philos­o­phy be­hind EA in or­der to par­ti­ci­pate in the pur­suit of the goals of the EA move­ment?