Against status anxiety
I agree with lots of this but my takeaway headline is a bit different - not 'the inner circle of cool EAs doesn't exist' but more, this desire for status doesn't go away, no matter how far up the ladder you climb, so don't delude yourself that 'if I only go to X Cool Party I've Made It' (related twitter thread: https://twitter.com/contemplatonist/status/1647578257762443265)
Like you point out that a person's high-EA-status-y connections seem normal and boring to them... But like, there are probably some committed EAs who not only don't personally know Eliezer Yudkowsky, but also don't personally know *anyone* approaching that level of EA celebrity. I'm close to quite a few people who work for major EA orgs, or who are 1 or 2 removes from very well-known EAs, and like... I think this *does* give me some level of status/inclusion/insideriness that a person doesn't automatically get, just by virtue of being interested in EA and caring about all this. Even though as you say, that doesn't mean I or these other people are "special".
I like the overall sentiment, but the actual claims feel kinda... gaslighty? Or like they're trying to convince people to feel better without much regard for how true they are.
- Listing a bunch of inner circles that most readers aren't in, then saying "But no one gets to participate in all the private conversations and get invited to all the neat parties and go to all the invite-only retreats", seems... obviously not what most people are worried about here.
- In general consoling yourself with the thought that other people are insecure doesn't seem like the best strategy (e.g. "most likely, they have the same boredom and insecurity and relationship stress and loneliness that you do"). Firstly it may not be true; secondly, even if it is true, I'd expect it to be a kinda unhealthy line of thinking, cos now seeing other people happy is an attack on your defenses.
- I expect a wide range of people will read this, but that it's targeted at a much smaller range of people. E.g. mentioning being friends with Scott and Eliezer already puts you in an inner circle by most people's standards. (Also idk how this was intended, but playfully insulting your friends is generally a way of countersignalling closeness, which... is fine, just seems like a weird place for it.)
I prefer focusing on Lewis' take in his original essay, which I read as more like: no amount of status will cure status anxiety, and so if you don't focus on what matters now, then you'll never focus on what matters. (To be fair, you do touch on this at various points, although not quite phrased in a way that resonates with me.)
One time on Twitter in 2022, I was trying to explain that EA has a big spectrum of views, sometimes conflicting, and SBF (!) made it clear I did not have authority to speak of such things, since I was not a "core EA"
I am a Giving What We Can Pledge relative outsider, but I have dated some "higher status EA folks", and yes, this is true. I was surprised at how socially isolated some objectively cool people were in practice. When a lot of the people you are meeting are observing you from a professional context, it is not conducive to intimacy.
I guess I like to try and reframe that there are people only I know well and whether they are powerful is less important than that we spend time together and like each others company. To me, they are the cool secret group chat.
Any theories about what causes this dynamic? Answer now before I give my answer in the next paragraph!
I think its possibly the highly unrigorous nature of grant-making in the community, and lack of ground level feedback loops which result in more or less money being given to you.
> There is no diminishing marginal utility of saved children.
I have to point out that is not an uncontroversial assumption, but alo the argument doesn't actually depend on it as best I can tell...
Of course you'd say that, you're one of them. 🤷