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TL; DR

  • I want to read more stories by and about the people of the Effective Altruism movement
    • But like, fun ones, not CVs
  • I’ve added a tag for EA origin stories and tagged a bunch of relevant posts from the forum
  • I think it is important to emphasise the personal in the effective altruism movement - you never know if your story is enough to connect with someone (especially if you don’t fit the stereotypical EA mold)
  • I would also be very interested in reading folks’ answers to the “What is your current plan to improve the world?” question from the EA Global application - it’s really helpful to see other people’s thought processes (you can read mine here)

Why?

At least for me, what grabbed and kept my attention when I first heard about EA were the stories of people on the ground trying to do effective altruism.

The audacity of a group of students looking at the enormity of suffering in the world but then pushing past that overwhelm. Recognising that they could use their privileges to make a dent if they really gave it a go.

The folks behind Charity Entrepreneurship who didn’t stop at one highly effective charity but decided to jump straight into making an non-profit incubator to multiply their impact - building out, in my opinion, some of the coolest projects in the movement.

I love that the 80,000 hours podcast takes the concept behind Big Talk seriously

It’s absurd but amazing!

 

I love the ethos of practicality within the movement. It isn’t about purity, it isn’t about perfection, it’s about actually changing the world.

These are the people I’d back to build a robust Theory of Change that might just move us towards Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism

Maybe that google doc already exists?

 

I have never been the kind of person who had role models. I have always been a bit too cynical to put people on a pedestal. I had respect for successful people and tried to learn what I could from them but I didn’t have heroes.

But my response to finding the EA movement was, “Fuck, these people are cool.”

I think there is a problem with myth making and hero worshipping within EA. I do agree that it is healthier to Live Without Idols. However, I don’t think we should live without stories.

The stories I’m more interested in are the personal ones. Of people actually going out and living their values. Examples of trades offs that real people make that allow them to be ambitiously altruistic in a way that suits them. That show that it is fine to care about lots of things. That it is okay to make changes in your life when you get more or better information.

I think about this post a lot because I agree that if people think that “doing effective altruism” means they have to live like monks and change their whole lives then they’ll just reject it. Making big changes is hard. People aren’t perfect.

I can trace huge number of positive changes in my life to my decision to take EA seriously but realistically it was my personal IRL and parasocial connections to the people of EA that gave me the space and support to make these big changes in my life. In the footnotes and in this post about my EA story, I’ve included a list of podcasts, blog posts and other media by people within EA that were particularly influential and meaningful to me (if you made them then thank you <3)

While I do see as EA as the key source of purpose in my life, it is a core value among many (I like Valuism - doing the intrinsic values test was really helpful for me). Like everyone else in the EA movement, I’m not an impact machine, I’m a person. I love throwing themed costume parties, musicals, crafting and movies about female friendship. In an ideal world, I’d spend my life connecting with loved ones and making art while pursuing my silly little personal projects. But we exist in an imperfect world.

I don’t engage with these fiendishly difficult problems for fun. The world is just a big complex mess and I personally find it less stressful existing in that mess when I can do something practical about making it better.

I think that there’s definitely a selfish case for caring. But, at least in my personal experience, disengagement from the world and apathy were clear signs of my unhappiness. I care about others because it brings me joy and really, what else is even worth doing? *[I’m sorry to my boss if you’re reading this but I don’t intrinsically care about building excellent B2B SaaS supporting the delivery of exceptional client service on tax engagements.]

A few of us want to start a project to collect stories from everyday people in the EA movement. It looks like there was were a couple of projects pre FTX:

But I’m probably more interested in ones written by the people themselves or with a more personal angle. I’m very excited about the stuff EA Lifestyles is putting out and GWWC’s profiles.

Keen to hear what people think!

List of EA media that were personally meaningful to me

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You might enjoy the book Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help. It profiles several people making choices and living lifestyles that are EAish, including Julia Wise.

Oh thanks for the recommendation!

The GWWC podcast includes several ‘member story’ episodes. https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/podcast

The EA UK newsletter often includes stories.

From the May newsletter:

Zeke - Story of a career/mental health failure

Aaron Gertler - Life in a Day: The film that opened my heart to effective altruism

Amber Dawn talking to Daniel Wu on being on the EA fringes, healthcare entrepreneurship and trying out different career paths

@DavidNash can probably send you the back catalogue.

I adore Claire Zabel's impossible EA emotions

That was lovely thank you

Adding the tweet thread from EA Lifestyles: https://twitter.com/EAheadlines/status/1657155360002650113?s=20

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