Women and Effective Altruism

Edit: This was cross posted to EA forum, and is a heavily downvoted post in their community. You can see the discussion here

A lot has been talked about SBF/FTX/EA but this coverage reminds me that is time to talk about the toxicity of the culture within EA communities, especially as it relates to women.

EA circles, much like the group house in Bahamas, are widely incestous where people mix their work life (in EA cause areas), their often polyamorous love life and social life in one amalgomous mix without strict separations. This is the default status quo. This means that if you’re a reasonably attractive woman entering an EA community, you get a ton of sexual requests to join polycules, often from poly and partnered men. Some of these men control funding for projects and enjoy high status in EA communities and that means there are real downsides to refusing their sexual advances and pressure to say yes, especially if your career is in an EA cause area or is funded by them. There are also upsides, as reported by CoinDesk on Caroline Ellison. From experience it appears that, a ‘no’ once said is not enough for many men in EA. Having to keep replenishing that ‘no’ becomes annoying very fast, and becomes harder to give informed consent when socializing in the presence of alcohol/psychedelics. It puts your safety at risk. From experience, EA as a community, has very little respect for monogamy and many men, often competing with each other, will persuade you to join polyamory using LessWrong style jedi mindtricks while they stand to benefit from the erosion of your boundaries. (Edit: I have personally experienced this more than three times in less than one year of attending EA events and that is far too many times. )

So how do these men maintain polycules and find sexual novelty? EA meet ups of course. Several EA communities are grounds for predatory men in search of their nth polycule partner and to fill their “dancecards”. I have seen this in NYC EA circles, I have seen this in SF. I decided to stop socializing in EA circles a couple months ago due to this toxicity, the benefits are not worth the uncovered downside risk. I also am lucky enough to not work for an EA aligned organization / cause area and socially diversified enough to take that hit. The power enjoyed by men who are predatory, the rate of occurrence and a lack of visible push back equals to a tacit and somewhat widespread backing for this behaviour. My experience resonates with a few other women in SF I have spoken to. They have also met red pilled, exploitative men in EA/rationalist circles. EA/rationalism and redpill fit like yin and yang. Akin to how EA is an optimization of altruism with “suboptimal” human tendencies like morality and empathy stripped from it, red pill is an optimized sexual strategy with the humanity of women stripped from it. You’ll also, surprisingly, encounter many women who are redpilled and manifest internalized misogyny in EA. How to check if you’re one: if terms like SMV, hypergamy etc are part of your everyday vocabulary and thought processes, you might be affected. You’ll also encounter many women who are unhappy participants in polygamous relationships; some of them really smart women who agree to be unhappy (dump him, sis).

Despite this culture, EA as a philosophy has a lot of good in it and they should fix this bug with some introspection. Now mind you, this is not a criticism of polyamory itself. If polyamorous love happens between consenting adults without favoritism in professional settings, all is well and good. But EA is an organization and community focused on a mission of altruism, enjoy huge swathes of donor money and exert socio-political influence. There are EA-aligned AI research labs, companies and until recently crypto exchanges and trading firms. Tolerating predatory behaviour makes EA sub optimal in pursuit of their stated mission. Not having stricter boundaries for work/sex/social in mission focused organizations brings about inefficiency and nepotism of the type seen between Alameda/FTX. It puts EA at risk of alienating unwilling women / others due to reasons that have nothing to do with ideological differences. Retaining women is hard enough as is for many objective-oriented but male dominated circles in the Bay and among them intelligent women have the most optionality and a lot of places to be where they’re wanted.

EA is not doing enough to protect women in general and monogamous women in particular and in ensuring that they’ve a pleasant experience when participating at EA events/community.

  1. EA needs to implement a stricter code of conduct, in line with Title IX, and align on this code in EA group houses / social events/ communities.
  2. They also need better processes for resolving and reporting sexual misconduct incidents - Julia Wise’s work is a beginning but is nearly not enough.
  3. Libertarian style community mediation of sexual assault cases common in EA communities need to be dumped in favour of police intervention because it leads to gross mismanagement such as in this anon’s case or in Kathy Ford’s case which ended in her suicide. Arbitration within the community has higher chance of bias and power differentials creeping in.
  4. Conflicts of interest in grant allocation, work place appointments should be examined more closely while adjucating.
  5. People should be made more conscientious about hitting on each other at EA events. This means honoring ‘no’s, avoiding coercion, respecting a person’s choice of poly/mono, etc.
  6. Any EA event organizer using that venue to hit on women should be removed from organizing EA events again, without question.
  7. Retaliation for sexual rejection, both social and professional, needs to be addressed.

Hoping for a correction and better future.

Note: This post is not optimized to win you over with analytical/argumentative quality. It is informed from raw personal experience and my goal is to speak my mind and put it out there that this happened to me and others I know. Your perception of the rate of incidence of sexual misconduct is informed by your availability bias. :)