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One of my friends, who has autism and another developmental disorder (both with high support needs), wants to learn more about EA. He overheard me talking about it with another friend, and he seems really interested in knowing why it’s important to me, and what it’s all about.

I’ve been awkwardly avoiding the topic with him for now, but he seems genuinely interested and I’d like to come back with some actual information for him (instead of the typical “you’re too disabled to understand” that most people give him when he asks about complex topics.

Just for context, he is around my age (early-mid 30s) and can speak, read and write (not perfectly, but legibly), but struggles with understanding very complex subject matter, especially when it comes to mathematics and statistics. He’s very intellectually curious and loves learning about big ideas and talking about scientific, political, and philosophical subjects (even if he can’t understand them on more than a surface level).

My question is — do you think it’s appropriate for me to talk about EA with him, and if so, what resources would be best for someone like him? I don’t just want to refer him to articles written for kids (because he’s an adult, and doesn’t want to be infantilized), but doubt he would understand what’s written on the CEA / EV websites, etc.

What do you all think would be best / most equitable to do in this situation?

Also, if I have said anything ableist or offensive (definitely not my intent!), I sincerely apologize.




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I think the child drowning thought experiment in Peter Singer's Famine, Affluence and Morality is great and compelling entry point for people of all walks of life to understand why many EAs are driven to do what they do.

People have different definitions of EA within the EA community. However the definitions that get more buy-in end up getting simpler. I think the lowest-common-denominator definition of EA is that it is both a set of principles and community centered around the belief that 1) we have a moral obligation to do good in the world and 2) we should be very thoughtful about how we do good so that we can end up doing more good.

Maybe intro EA videos like these would be a good starting point?

Another option could be to just give him a basic pitch for EA and then try to answer his questions:

  1. You want to help others, and you could motivate this with the drowning child thought experiment, like Yelnats suggested, say.
  2. You want to help more people and help others more than less, possibly motivated by excitement or responsibility (e.g. all the extra people you'd let down) or the trolley problem with no default option.
  3. You think some ways help others much more than most ways people help, and give some examples.

If he likes big ideas content, he might also enjoy this longtermism video from Kurzgesagt and rational animations videos in general (which cover various aspects of EA). 

Hayven Frienby
Thank you so much for these resources, they are a big help!

An update: we had a.pretty good conversation last night about EA, and I was able to answer his questions without too much confusion. I also explained the drowning child analogy, but I’ll also look for a video where Singer himself explains it.

My friend expressed some disagreements with EA moral principles (he thinks moral “rules” are purely subjective, made up by those in charge), at least as I explained them. It’s good he seems to be grasping the concepts at least (since I’m not the best at explaining things).

Anyway, thanks so much for your input, all! It was really helpful.

I think the ironic thing is that actually many EAs would say that morality is subjective similar to as your friend claimed it to be. However, the fact that morality is subjective doesn't stop us from adopting EA principles.

And what led us to these principles over all the other ones that we could adopt in a universe of subjective morality? It's because we think they are the ones that make most sense. The child drowning exercise is a powerful example that most people's moral intuitions logically extrapolate to principles at the core of EA. If that is the case, then we are simply asking people to be consistent with the logic of their own morality rather than telling them to accept these principles as objective morality.

Not knowing anything else about your friend, CEA intro resources + saying you’d be excited to discuss it sometime sounds like the best bet.

Cruxes here include:

  • How deeply does your friend want to learn about EA? They might only want to engage with it for a week or sporadically. Or they may want to know that longtermism is a thing but not go through any (or much) of the moral calculus
  • How does their disability manifest? The little bit I know about intellectual disabilities suggests that it’s hard to know in advance how it affects your learning, even for the person who has the disability. Struggling with math and stats is very common so that doesn’t tell me much.

Not knowing either of these makes me suspect you should do the same as usual but mention the community’s not always the best at communicating / makes stuff more complicated than it needs to be

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Random somewhat off topic thought: can large language models help summarize/translate documents for those with intellectual disabilities?

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