The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo

Back­ground Con­text, And How to Read This Post

This post is in­spired by and a con­tinu­a­tion of com­ments I made on the post ‘What is the Ra­tion­al­ist Berkeley Com­mu­nity’s Cul­ture?’ by Zvi on his blog Don’t Worry About the Vase. As a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer both on­line and in-per­son in Van­cou­ver, Canada, my goal was to fill in what ap­peared to be some gaps in the con­ver­sa­tion among ra­tio­nal­ists mostly fo­cused on the Berkeley com­mu­nity. Zvi’s post was part of a broader con­ver­sa­tion per­tain­ing to ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity dy­nam­ics within Berkeley.

My com­men­tary per­tains to the dy­nam­ics be­tween the Bay Area and other lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­ni­ties, in­formed by my own ex­pe­rience in Van­cou­ver and those of ra­tio­nal­ists el­se­where. The be­low should not be taken be taken as com­ment on ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity dy­nam­ics within the Bay Area. This post should be con­sid­ered an off-shoot from the origi­nal con­ver­sa­tion Zvi was con­tribut­ing to. For full con­text, please read Zvi’s origi­nal post.

I. The Ra­tion­al­ity Com­mu­nity: Berkeley vs. The World

While I didn’t re­spond to them at the time, sev­eral com­mu­nity mem­bers com­mented on Zvi’s post they had similar ex­pe­riences: that while some lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­ni­ties and their mem­bers per­ceive them­selves in a zero-sum game with Berkeley they didn’t sign up for (and, to be fair, the Berkeley com­mu­nity didn’t con­sciously ini­ti­ate as though it’s a sin­gle agency), and some don’t, a sense of what Zvi was try­ing to point ap­pears ubiquitous. An ex­am­ple:

In my ex­pe­rience, the re­cruit­ment to Berkeley was very ag­gres­sive. Some­times it felt like: “if you don’t want to move to Berkeley as soon as pos­si­ble, you are not *re­ally* ra­tio­nal, and then it is a waste of our time to even talk to you.” I to­tally un­der­stand why hav­ing more ra­tio­nal­ists around you is awe­some, but try­ing to move ev­ery­one into one city feels like an overkill.

Similar anec­data from lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­ni­ties around the world:

Melbourne. When I met sev­eral ra­tio­nal­ists origi­nally from Melbourne in Berkeley a few years ago, the way they talked about the ex­o­dus of the core of the Melbourne ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity to the Bay Area, it was a mixed as­sess­ment. Melbourne is an ex­am­ple of very suc­cess­ful lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity out­side the Bay Area, with the usual mile­stones like suc­cess­ful EA non-prof­its, for-profit start-ups and ra­tio­nal­ist share­houses. So that many ra­tio­nal­ists from Melbourne left for the Bay Area passed a cost-benefit anal­y­sis as high-im­pact in­di­vi­d­u­als it was ob­vi­ous to them they should be re­duc­ing ex­is­ten­tial risks on the other side of the world.

In con­ver­sa­tion, He­len Toner ex­pressed some un­ease that a lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity which had suc­cess­fully be­come a ra­tio­nal­ity hub sec­ond only to the Bay Area had had a whole gen­er­a­tion of ra­tio­nal­ists from Melbourne leave at once. This could have left open the pos­si­bil­ity a sus­tain­able sys­tem for ra­tio­nal­ist de­vel­op­ment for years had been gut­ted. My im­pres­sion since then is around this time the in­de­pen­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion of the Melbourne EA com­mu­nity be­gan to pick up, and be­tween that and the re­main­ing ra­tio­nal­ists, the Melbourne com­mu­nity is do­ing well. If past or pre­sent mem­bers of the Melbourne ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity would like to add their two cents, it would be greatly ap­pre­ci­ated.

The ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity growth strat­egy out of Berkeley by de­fault be­came to re­cruit the best ra­tio­nal­ists from lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties around the world at a rate faster than ra­tio­nal­ist or­ga­niz­ers could re­plen­ish the strength of those lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. Given the sto­ries I’ve heard from out­side Melbourne be­ing more lop­sided, with the or­ga­ni­za­tion of lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­ni­ties ut­terly col­laps­ing, only re­cov­er­ing af­ter mul­ti­ple years if ever, I’d con­sider the case of Melbourne ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity sur­viv­ing the exit of its lead­er­ship for Berkeley to have been a lucky out­lier.

Seat­tle. The Seat­tle ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity has ex­pe­rienced a bad case of ex­o­dus to Berkeley over the last few years. My un­der­stand­ing of this story is as fol­low:

    • Like with ra­tio­nal­ists around the world, effec­tive al­tru­ism came along and said “hey, while our com­mu­ni­ties have sig­nifi­cant differ­ences, we care about ex­is­ten­tial risk re­duc­tion and other com­mon goals; we’ve got sev­eral billion dol­lars; and wor­ld­wide net­work of thou­sands ris­ing through ev­ery kind of in­sti­tu­tion to co­or­di­nate the globe”. At the time, the whole strat­egy for AI al­ign­ment wasn’t much more than “read the Se­quences and then donate to MIRI...?”, so at the time EA’s value propo­si­tion couldn’t be beat. In Seat­tle the or­ga­niz­ers of the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity took off their ra­tio­nal­ist hats and switched it for an effec­tive al­tru­ist one, albeit while promi­nently plac­ing a ra­tio­nal­ist but­ton on it. This is what started hap­pen­ing in Van­cou­ver as well circa 2013. The Seat­tle ra­tio­nal­ists started a suc­cess­ful Ra­tion­al­ity Read­ing Group in 2015 which got through the whole LessWrong Se­quences.

    • Things went swim­m­ingly in Seat­tle un­til AI safety ‘went main­stream’, and as the fi­nan­cial re­sources flowed into the in­sti­tu­tions of the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity, the de­mand and pres­sure to ac­quire the re­sources that were dis­tant ra­tio­nal­ists and their skill-sets in­ten­sified. In a pe­riod of sev­eral months but less than two years, the Seat­tle ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity lost at least a half-dozen mem­bers, in­clud­ing some lo­cal or­ga­niz­ers and other vet­eran com­mu­nity mem­bers. The Ra­tion­al­ity Read­ing Groups ceased as reg­u­lar mee­tups for over a year, and lo­cal com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion was at best in­ter­mit­tent.

    • The ex­cite­ment of EA brought many more Seat­tleites into the world of x-risk re­duc­tion, and the EA and ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­ni­ties of Seat­tle effec­tively merged to sur­vive. Since then, they’re thriv­ing again, but Seat­tle is still grad­u­ally ex­ud­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers to Berkeley. Be­cause of its prox­im­ity to the Bay Area, and the ex­cel­lence of the Seat­tle ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity, I ex­pect it might have ex­pe­rienced more ab­solute loss from leak­ing mem­bers to Berkeley more than any other. Due to its size, the Seat­tle com­mu­nity has sus­tained it­self, so the rel­a­tive loss of lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­ni­ties which to­tally col­lapsed may be greater than has been the case in Seat­tle. As with Melbourne, if any com­mu­nity mem­bers who have lived or are liv­ing in Seat­tle wish to provide feed­back, that is en­couraged.

Van­cou­ver. The ex­pe­rience in Van­cou­ver has in the past cer­tainly felt like ““if you don’t want to move to Berkeley as soon as pos­si­ble, you are not *re­ally* ra­tio­nal”. The biggest rea­son Van­cou­ver may not have ex­uded as many ra­tio­nal­ists to the Bay Area as cities in the United States is the difficulty be­ing Cana­dian poses to gain­ing per­ma­nent res­i­dence in the United States and hence mov­ing to the Bay Area. A cou­ple friends of mine who were early at­ten­dees of a CFAR work­shop lived in the Bay Area for sev­eral months in 2013, and re­turned home with sto­ries of how won­drous the Bay Area was. They con­vinced sev­eral of us to at­tend CFAR work­shops as well, and we too re­turned home with the sense of won­der­ment af­ter our brief im­mer­sion in the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity. But when my friends and I each re­turned, some­how our am­bi­tion trans­formed into de­pres­sion. I tried ral­ly­ing my friends to try car­ry­ing back or reignit­ing the spark that made the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity thrive, to re­ally spread the ra­tio­nal­ist pro­ject be­yond the Bay Area.

But the ap­par­ent con­sen­sus was it just wasn’t pos­si­ble. Maybe the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity a few years ago lacked the lan­guage to talk about it, but ra­tio­nal­ists who’d lived in Berkeley for a time only to re­turn felt the ra­tio­nal­ity-shaped hole in their heart could only be filled in the Berkeley. A malaise had fallen over the Van­cou­ver ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity. All of us were still around, but with a cou­ple lo­cal EA or­ga­ni­za­tions, many of us were drawn to that crowd. Those of us who weren’t were alienated from any per­sonal con­nec­tion to the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity. I saw in my friends a bunch of in­di­vi­d­ual heroes who to­gether were strangely less than and not greater than the sum of their parts.

Things have been bet­ter lately, and a friend re­marked they’re cer­tainly bet­ter than a few years ago, when ev­ery­one was de­pressed about the fact it was too difficult for us to all move to the Bay Area. In the last sev­eral months, the lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity has taken on as our mis­sion our own de­vel­op­ment, and we’ve not re­bounded so much as flour­ished like never be­fore. But it took the sorts of con­ver­sa­tions about the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity last year Zvi and oth­ers had to break the spell we had cast on our­selves, that ap­par­ently Berkeley had run­ning a ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity like a well-oiled ma­chine down to an art and a sci­ence.

II. The Berkeley Com­mu­nity and the Mis­sion of Rationality

Ben­quo com­mented on Zvi’s post:

This is a good de­scrip­tion of why I feel like I need to leave Berkeley whether or not there’s a com­mu­nity some­where else to par­ti­ci­pate in. This thing is scary and I don’t want to be part of it.

I think this is some ev­i­dence that the Ra­tion­al­ist pro­ject was never or only very briefly real and al­most im­me­di­ately over­run by MOPs, and largely func­tions as a way for peo­ple to find mates. Maybe that’s OK in a lot of cases, but when your brand­ing is cen­tered around “no re­ally, we are ac­tu­ally try­ing to do the thing, liter­ally all we are about is not ly­ing to our­selves and in­stead openly talk­ing about the thing we’re try­ing to do, if you take things liter­ally sav­ing the world re­ally liter­ally is the most im­por­tant thing and so of course you do it,” it’s pretty dis­ap­point­ing to find it’s just an­other fla­vor.

Since he wrote this com­ment, Ben­quo has ac­tu­ally con­tinued to par­ti­ci­pate in the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity. This con­ver­sa­tion was mired in ten­sion in the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity it must have been difficult to think about im­per­son­ally, and so a char­i­ta­ble in­ter­pre­ta­tion would be while these prob­lems ex­ist, Ben­quo and oth­ers are gen­er­ally not as fatal­is­tic about the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity as they were the time they wrote the com­ments. While I and oth­ers in thread saw grains of truth in Ben­quo’s state­ment, pre­ci­sion nonethe­less re­mains a virtue of ra­tio­nal­ity, and I felt com­pel­led to clar­ify. I com­mented:

I’d say the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity started when­ever Eliezer forked off LessWrong Over­com­ing Bias, which was around 2008 or 2009. That’s cer­tainly not when it peaked. Even in a way MIRI never was, CFAR started out a pro­ject built by the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity. That was hap­pen­ing in 2012 or 2013. Above Sarah is also quoted as say­ing she thinks the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity hit the right bal­ance of fo­cus­ing on be­ing a wel­com­ing com­mu­nity qua com­mu­nity, and as­piring to the what­ever the core mis­sion(s) of the as­piring ra­tio­nal­ist pro­ject are.

Un­less you’re ar­gu­ing there was a la­tency effect where the MOPs over­ran the com­mu­nity in 2009, but the con­se­quences of such were buried for sev­eral years, the pe­riod be­tween 200809 and 201213 doesn’t con­sti­tute be­ing “im­me­di­ately over­run”.

I get you’re pes­simistic, but I think you’re over­shoot­ing. Match­ing the map to the ter­ri­tory of what went wrong in the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity is key to un­do­ing it, or mak­ing sure similar failures don’t oc­cur in the fu­ture.
FWIW, I’m sorry you’ve had to ex­pe­rience so di­rectly what you feel like is a de­cline in an as­pect of your lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity. As some­one who con­nects with ra­tio­nal­ists pri­mar­ily on­line, I can tell you they’re ev­ery­where, and even if there isn’t a meatspace com­mu­nity as de­vel­oped as the one in Berkeley, there are ra­tio­nal­ists who won’t let the Craft dis­ap­pear ev­ery­where, and they want meatspace com­mu­ni­ties of their own built up out­side of Berkeley as much as any­one.

Other com­ments in-thread from com­mu­nity mem­bers who had been around longer than Ben­quo or I con­firmed my im­pres­sion from their own per­sonal ex­pe­riences, so un­less Ben­quo would fur­ther dis­pute these ac­counts, this thread seems put to rest. How­ever, Zvi then replied to me:

I think we need to re­al­ize the ex­tent to which Berkeley is ac­tively pre­vent­ing the for­ma­tion of, and de­stroy­ing, these other com­mu­ni­ties. The ma­jor­ity of high-level ra­tio­nal­ists who started in the New York com­mu­nity are in the Berkeley com­mu­nity, which caused New York to out­right col­lapse for years be­fore re­cov­er­ing, and they just now once again caused a crisis by tak­ing away a pair of vi­tal com­mu­nity mem­bers and al­most wiping out the only ra­tio­nal­ist group space in the pro­cess. From meet­ing other com­mu­nity lead­ers in other cities, I hear similar sto­ries A LOT.

I do agree that Plan A for most mem­bers can and should be Fix It, not walk­ing away, and that point­ing out it needs fix­ing is the re­quire­ment for per­haps fix­ing it.

To re­spond to Zvi here, in­deed it ap­pears to be an un­can­nily ubiquitous prob­lem. I’ve col­lected a few sto­ries and de­scribed them in some de­tail above. Between that and sev­eral com­ments from in­de­pen­dent ra­tio­nal­ists on Zvi’s origi­nal post giv­ing the im­pres­sion mem­bers of their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties were be­ing sucked to Berkeley as though through a pneu­matic tube and leav­ing a vac­uum of com­mu­nity and or­ga­ni­za­tion in its wake, it ap­pears these many lo­cal sto­ries could be a sin­gle global one.

The origi­nal mis­sion of the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity was to raise the san­ity wa­ter­line to en­sure hu­man val­ues get car­ried to the stars, but we’re still god­shat­ter, so do­ing so can and should take differ­ent forms than just en­sur­ing su­per­in­tel­li­gence is al­igned with hu­man val­ues. If ever the goal was to seed suc­cess­ful, sta­ble ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties out­side Berkeley to co­or­di­nate pro­jects be­yond the Bay Area, it’s been two steps for­ward, one step back, at best. Even if we as­sume for the sake of ar­gu­ment it’s a good idea for ra­tio­nal­ists wor­ld­wide to view Berkeley as a nu­cleus and their own ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties as re­cruit­ment cen­tres to drive promis­ing in­di­vi­d­u­als to Berkeley for the mis­sion of AI al­ign­ment or what­ever, the plan isn’t work­ing su­per well. That’s be­cause the ap­par­ent rate of lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties send­ing their high­est-level ra­tio­nal­ists Berkeley is oc­cur­ring at a much faster rate than those ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties can level up more ra­tio­nal­ists to re­plen­ish their lead­er­ship and sus­tain the lo­cal com­mu­nity at all.

The state of af­fairs could be worse than it is now. But it cre­ates the pos­si­bil­ity that if enough lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties around the world out­side the Bay Area si­mul­ta­neously col­lapsed, the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity (BRC) could lose suffi­cient chan­nels for re­cruit­ment to sus­tain it­self. Given the ten­dency of com­mu­ni­ties like all things to­ward en­tropy, com­mu­ni­ties de­cay over time. The BRC could not be rub­bing any of its mem­bers the wrong way and we would prob­a­bly still ob­serve some nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring at­tri­tion. In a sce­nario where the de­cay rate of the BRC was greater than its rate of re­plen­ish­ment, which has his­tor­i­cally largely de­pended on ra­tio­nal­ists from out­side com­mu­ni­ties, the BRC would start de­cay­ing. If we were to as­sume the BRC acts as a sin­gle agency, it’s in the BRC’s self-in­ter­est as the nu­cleus of the wor­ld­wide ra­tio­nal­ity move­ment to sus­tain com­mu­ni­ties-as-re­cruit­ment cen­tres at least to the ex­tent they can sus­tain­ably drive their high­est-level ra­tio­nal­ists to Berkeley over the long-term.

While this worst-case sce­nario could ap­ply to any large-scale ra­tio­nal­ist pro­ject, with re­gards to AI al­ign­ment, if the lo­cus of con­trol for the field falls out of the hands of the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity, some­one else might no­tice and de­cide to pick up that slack. This could be a suffi­ciently bad out­come ra­tio­nal­ists ev­ery­where should pay more at­ten­tion to de­creas­ing the chances of it hap­pen­ing.

So whether a ra­tio­nal­ist sees the out­come of the pri­mary pur­pose of ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties act­ing as a re­cruit­ment cen­tres for the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity as an ex­cel­lent plan or an awful failure mode, there’s a sig­nifi­cant chance it’s un­sus­tain­able ei­ther way. It ap­pears a high-risk strat­egy that’s far from foolproof, and as far as I know vir­tu­ally no­body is con­sciously mon­i­tor­ing the situ­a­tion to pre­vent fur­ther failure.

III. Effec­tive Altru­ism and the Ra­tion­al­ist Community

In an­other thread, I re­sponded di­rectly to Zvi. I com­mented:

While ra­tio­nal­ists are in­ter­nally try­ing to figure out how there com­mu­nity has changed, and they’re lament­ing how it’s not as fo­cused on world-sav­ing, there’s a gi­ant fac­tor no­body has talked about yet. The only com­mu­nity which is more fo­cused on the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity’s way of world-sav­ing than the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity is effec­tive al­tru­ism. To what ex­tent is the ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity less world-save-y than it used to be be­cause the ra­tio­nal­ists whose pri­mary ra­tio­nal­ist role was “world saver” just switched to EA as their pri­mary world-sav­ing iden­tity. I think as things have got­ten less fo­cused since LessWrong 1.0 died, and the ra­tio­nal­ist di­as­pora made en­try­ism much eas­ier as stan­dards fell, what you’re say­ing is all true. You might be over­es­ti­mat­ing the im­pact of en­try­ism, though, and un­der­es­ti­mat­ing peo­ple who ex­ited not be­cause they had no voice, but for sen­si­ble rea­sons. If at any point a ra­tio­nal­ist felt they could bet­ter save the world within the EA rather than through the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity, it’d in­ter­nally make sense to ded­i­cate one’s time and en­ergy to that com­mu­nity in­stead.

The EA com­mu­nity doesn’t seem able to build bonds as well as the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity. How­ever, the EA com­mu­nity seems bet­ter at mak­ing progress on out­ward-fac­ing goals. In that case, I for one wouldn’t blame any­one who find more at home as a world-saver in EA than they did in the ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity.

Zvi replied:

Definitely an elephant in the room and a rea­son­able sus­pect! Cer­tainly par­tially re­spon­si­ble. I haven’t men­tioned it yet, but that doesn’t mean I’ve missed that it is in the pic­ture. I wanted to get this much out there now, and avoid try­ing to cover as many bases as pos­si­ble all at once.

There have been many (Sarah [Con­stantin] and Ben­quo among them) who have been try­ing to talk for a long time, with many many words, about the prob­lems with EA. I will con­sider that ques­tion be­yond scope here, but rest as­sured I Have Thoughts.

Since then Zvi and oth­ers have made good on their in­ten­tions to point out said prob­lems with effec­tive al­tru­ism. I in­tend to en­gage these thoughts at length in the fu­ture, but suffice to say for now lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties out­side the Bay Area ap­pear to definitely have ex­pe­rienced be­ing ‘eaten’ by EA worse than Berkeley.

I never both­ered to tie up the loose ends I saw in the com­ments on Zvi’s post last year, but some­thing re­cently spurred me to do so. From Ben­quo’s re­cent post ‘Hu­mans need places’:

I am not ar­gu­ing that it would merely be a nice thing for Bay Arean EAs and Ra­tion­al­ists to sup­port pro­jects like this; I am ar­gu­ing that if you have sup­ported re­cruit­ing more peo­ple into your com­mu­nity, it is morally obli­ga­tory to offer a cor­re­spond­ing level of sup­port for tak­ing care of them once you are in com­mu­nity with them. If you can’t af­ford to help take care of peo­ple, you can’t af­ford to re­cruit them.

If you don’t have enough for your­self, take care of that first. But if you have more than enough to take care of your pri­vate needs, and you are think­ing of al­lo­cat­ing your sur­plus to some com­bi­na­tion of (a) peo­ple far away in space or time, and (b) re­cruit­ing oth­ers to do the same, I im­plore you, please first as­sess—even ap­prox­i­mately—the cor­rect share of re­sources de­voted to di­rect im­pact, re­cruit­ing more peo­ple into your com­mu­nity, and tak­ing care of the com­mu­nity’s needs, and give ac­cord­ingly.
The Berkeley EA /​ Ra­tion­al­ist com­mu­nity stands be­tween two al­ter­na­tives:
1.Pull peo­ple in, use them up, and burn them out.
2. Build­ing the lo­cal in­fras­truc­ture to sup­port its global am­bi­tions, en­abling sus­tain­able com­mit­ments that re­plen­ish and im­prove the ca­pac­ity of the peo­ple mak­ing them.

It’s im­por­tant for ra­tio­nal­ists in Berkeley to know that from where they’re stand­ing, to ra­tio­nal­ists around the world, these state­ments could ring hol­low. The per­cep­tion of the Cen­tre for Effec­tive Altru­ism slight­ing the Berkeley REACH is mir­rored many times over in ra­tio­nal­ists feel­ing like Berkeley pul­led in, used up and burned out whole ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties. The cap­i­tal of a na­tion re­ceives re­sources from ev­ery­one across the land. If the cap­i­tal city re­cruits more cit­i­zens to the na­tion, is it not morally obli­ga­tory for the cap­i­tal city offer a cor­re­spond­ing level of sup­port for tak­ing care of them once they joined your na­tion? Is it not the case if the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity can not af­ford to take care of our peo­ple, then we can’t af­ford to re­cruit them?

The wor­ld­wide ra­tio­nal­ist pro­ject stands be­tween two al­ter­na­tives:

  1. Seed new lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, use them up, and burn them out.

  2. Build­ing the global in­fras­truc­ture to sup­port its global am­bi­tions, en­abling sus­tain­able com­mit­ments that re­plen­ish and im­prove the ca­pac­ity of the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties mak­ing them.

This isn’t about the Berkeley ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity, but ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties ev­ery­where. In read­ing about the ex­pe­riences of ra­tio­nal­ists in Berkeley and el­se­where, I’ve learned their in­ter­nal co­or­di­na­tion prob­lems are par­alleled in ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties ev­ery­where. The good news in the bad news is if all ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ties face com­mon prob­lems, we can all benefit from work­ing to­wards com­mon solu­tions. So global co­or­di­na­tion may not be as difficult as one might think. I wrote above the Van­cou­ver ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity has re­cently taken on as our mis­sion our own de­vel­op­ment, and we’re not re­cov­er­ing from years of failures past so much as flour­ish­ing like never be­fore. We haven’t solved all the prob­lems a ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity might face, but we’ve been solv­ing a lot. As a lo­cal com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer, I de­vel­oped tac­tics for do­ing so that if they worked in Van­cou­ver, they should work for any ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity. And they worked in Van­cou­ver. I think they’re some of the pieces of the puz­zle of build­ing global in­fras­truc­ture to match the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity’s global am­bi­tions. To lay that out will be the sub­ject of my next post.

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