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Why you should attend EA Global and (some) other conferences

19 Habryka 16 July 2015 04:50AM

Many of you know about Effective Altruism and the associated community. It has a very significant overlap with LessWrong, and has been significantly influenced by the culture and ambitions of the community here.

One of the most important things happening in EA over the next few months is going to be EA Global, the so far biggest EA and Rationality community event to date, happening throughout the month of August in three different locations: OxfordMelbourne and San Francisco (which is unfortunately already filled, despite us choosing the largest venue that Google had to offer).

The purpose of this post is to make a case for why it is a good idea for people to attend the event, and to serve as an information hub for information that might be more relevant to the LessWrong community (as well an additional place to ask questions). I am one of the main organizers and very happy to answer any questions that you have. 

Is it a good idea to attend EA Global?

This is a difficult question, that obviously will not have a unique answer, but from the best of what I can tell, and for the majority of people reading this post, the answer seems to be "yes". The EA community has been quite successful at shaping the world to the better, and at building an epistemic community that seems to be effective at changing its mind and updating on evidence.

But there have been other people arguing in favor of supporting the EA movement, and I don't want to repeat everything that they said. Instead I want to focus on a more specific argument: "Given that I belief that EA is overall a promising movement, should I attend EA Global if I want to improve the world (according to my preferences)?"

The key question here is: Does attending the conference help the EA Movement succeed?

How attending EA Global helps the EA Movement succeed

It seems that the success of organizations is highly dependent on the interconnectedness of its members. In general a rule seems to hold: The better connected the social graph of your organization is, the more effective does it work.

In particular, any significant divide in an organization, any clustering of different groups that do not communicate much with each other, seems to significantly reduce the output the organization produces. I wish we had better studies on this, and that I could link to more sources for this, but everything I've found so far points in this direction. The fact that HR departments are willing to spend extremely large sums of money to encourage the employees of organizations to interact socially with each other, is definitely evidence for this being a good rule to follow (though far from conclusive). 

What holds for most organizations should also hold for EA. If this is true, then the success of the EA Movement is significantly dependent on the interconnectedness of its members, both in the volume of its output and the quality of its output.

But EA is not a corporation, and EA does not share a large office together. If you would graph out the social graph of EA, it would very much look clustered. The Bay Area cluster, the Oxford cluster, the Rationality cluster, the East Coast and the West Coast cluster, many small clusters all over Europe with meetups and small social groups in different countries that have never talked to each other. EA is splintered into many groups, and if EA would be a company, the HR department would be very justified in spending a very significant chunk of resources at connecting those clusters as much as possible. 

There are not many opportunities for us to increase the density of the EA social graph. There are other minor conferences, and online interactions do some part of the job, but the past EA summits where the main events at which people from different clusters of EA met each other for the first time. There they built lasting social connections, and actually caused these separate clusters in EA to be connected. This had a massive positive effect on the output of EA. 

Examples: 

 

  • Ben Kuhn put me into contact with Ajeya Cotra, resulting in the two of us running a whole undergraduate class on Effective Altruism, that included Giving Games to various EA charities that was funded with over $10.000. (You can find documentation of the class here).
  • The last EA summit resulted in both Tyler Alterman and Kerry Vaughan being hired by CEA and now being full time employees, who are significantly involved in helping CEA set up a branch in the US.
  • The summit and retreat last year caused significant collaboration between CFAR, Leverage, CEA and FHI, resulting in multiple situations of these organizations helping each other in coordinating their fundraising attempts, hiring processes and navigating logistical difficulties.   

 

This is going to be even more true this year. If we want EA to succeed and continue shaping the world towards the good, we want to have as many people come to the EA Global events as possible, and ideally from as many separate groups as possible. This means that you, especially if you feel somewhat disconnected from EA, seriously want to consider coming. I estimate the benefit of this to be much bigger than the cost of a plane ticket and the entrance ticket (~$500). If you do find yourself significantly constrained by financial resources, consider applying for financial aid, and we will very likely be able to arrange something for you. By coming, you provide a service to the EA community at large. 

How do I attend EA Global? 

As I said above, we are organizing three different events in three different locations: Oxford, Melbourne and San Francisco. We are particularly lacking representation from many different groups in mainland Europe, and it would be great if they could make it to Oxford. Oxford also has the most open spots and is going to be much bigger than the Melbourne event (300 vs. 100).  

If you want to apply for Oxford go to: eaglobal.org/oxford

If you want to apply for Melbourne go to: eaglobal.org/melbourne

If you require financial aid, you will be able to put in a request after we've sent you an invitation. 

HPMOR Wrap Parties: Resources, Information and Discussion

18 Habryka 04 March 2015 07:49PM

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality - Wrap Party Summary Thread

As many of you probably read on the HPMOR author's note last month, I am the coordinator of the HPMOR Wrap parties. Many of you have reached out to me, I put hundreds of you into contact with each other, and over 20 parties on 4 continents are now going to happen. Now it is time to get as much attendance to the events as possible, make sure that we all get the most out of the events and use the momentum that HPMOR has brought this community. This post will serve as a central location for all information and resources available for the parties, as well as a place for discussion in the comments. 

Information

I set up a few different systems to coordinate everyone, and make it easier for everyone interested in the wrap parties to connect. Here they are: 

The Map:

This map can help you get a quick overview of how many people in your area are strongly interested, and who might help you with organizing an event. Remember that not even half of the people currently RSVP'd for Facebook events have added themselves to the map, so this map is the absolute minimum level of engagement in your area. I will be adding all events to the map as they are posted in the Facebook group. Please add yourself to the map if you can! (But please be careful to not destroy the pins of anyone else, to use the correct pin type, and to not create any empty pins.)

The Facebook Group:

This is the main location for discussion of the wrap parties and also the location at which all of the events are conveniently collected. You can find all events under the "Events" tab, and if you add your own event in this group you can conveniently invite everyone who has added themselves to this group. I would still additionally advice you to invite all of your friends who might be interested, since they might not have joined the group. 

The Organizer Mailing List: 

This mailing list is the fastest way for me to reach all of the organizers at the same time, and also the fastest way for all organizers to be kept up to speed with the newest resources available. Use this mailing list to discuss ideas and get help from other organizers. 

Parties [Updated: March 9th, 10:00PM]

To help you quickly get a sense of whether there is a party happening in your area, here is a list of all the parties that I have so far learned about, with links to their respective Facebook events. Currently everything is on Facebook because that is much easier to coordinate, but I will try to add contact information for organizers for all of these parties very soon, so that people without Facebook can easily find the information that they need:

Parties in Asia:

  1. Singapore
  2. Mumbai, India
  3. Colombo, Sri Lanka
  4. Herzelia, Israel
  5. Kharagpur, India
  6. New Delhi, India
  7. Bangalore, India
  8. Bangalore, India Nr. 2

Parties in Australia:

  1. Melbourne
  2. Sydney
  3. Canberra
  4. Christchurch, New Zealand

Parties in Europe:

  1. London, United Kingdom
  2. Sheffield, United Kingdom
  3. Brussels, Belgium
  4. Krakow, Poland
  5. Cambridge, United Kingdom
  6. Belgrade, Serbia
  7. Berlin, Germany
  8. Turku, Finland
  9. Madrid, Spain
  10. Ireland, Dublin
  11. Germany, Cologne [marcel_mueller@mail.de]
  12. Copenhagen, Denmark
  13. St. Petersburg, Russia
  14. Warsaw, Poland
  15. Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

Parties in North America:

  1. Berkeley, California
  2. Mountain View, California
  3. Phoenix, Arizona
  4. Washington DC
  5. Portland, Oregon
  6. New Orleans, Louisiana
  7. Sarasota, Florida
  8. Gainesville, Florida
  9. Denver, Colorado
  10. Fort Collins, Colorado
  11. Lawrence, Kansas
  12. Seattle, Washington
  13. MIT, Massachusetts [14th of March]
  14. Cambridge, Massachusetts [15th of March]
  15. New York, New York
  16. Chicago, Illinois
  17. Middleton, Wisconsin
  18. Charlotte, North Carolina
  19. Ferndale, Michigan
  20. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  21. Mexico City, Mexico
  22. Toronto, Canada
  23. Austin, Texas
  24. Atlanta, Georgia
  25. Salt Lake City, Utah
  26. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  27. Waterloo, Canada

Party Count: 54
Country Count: 19
Continent Count: 4

Please comment on this thread, send me a message, or add an event to the Facebook page (and invite me) to add your own party to this list!

Resources

Handbook:

To help everyone get their party started, Brayden McLean compiled a wonderful handbook for party organizers: 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ya34ACL9J9Amch-4NSDnZ1idmSFNswWk9wjdt5B1098/edit?usp=sharing

Free Books:

We are providing free copies of the first 17 chapters of HPMOR to all parties in the U.S.! Just fill out this form today or tomorrow, and we will try to send you as many copies as you think you will need to hook all of your friends. 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1mM-jgiy9teaINEED0WvXCCEZD12FP1m7Qn6vnYLZ4kM/viewform

The Party Spreadsheet:

I compiled a spreadsheet with all of the parties that I've gotten to know of so far. This will hopefully help people without Facebook get into contact with the organizers of the closest party, and generally make information easier available. Commenting is enabled, so if you are one of the organizers and want any of the information changed, please leave a comment on the spreadsheet and I will change it as quickly as possible. 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12fPKHtZxkK5aWnLQfttZFMrWkGfMGxmperXUxSK0I5w/edit?usp=sharing

Call for Stories:

I want to read a few HPMOR stories at the Berkeley event, and also just generally allow people to share how HPMOR has affected their lives. For that, we have the Call for Stories document, which allows people to write their own HPMOR stories and share them with the world. 

I will continue keeping this post updated with all valuable material that is sent to me.