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New member--essential reading and unwritten rules?

by Lumpyproletariat1 min read13th Jul 202011 comments


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Salutations, all. I'm new, so I apologize in advance if I'm breaking any forum etiquette. I'd describe myself as being Effective Altruism adjacent--I'm a long-time fan of web logs like Slate Star Codex and 80,000 Hours. Historically, however, such things as planning a career or buying things with money have been painfully theoretic for me; I'm somewhat unlearned on the practical applications of effective altruism. I would love advice from those better learned on what to read, who to talk to, and what to do.

To better describe my background and skills; my username is more or less accurate--I have precious little background, and precious few skills. I didn't always have internet or even clean water growing up, my family belonged to one of those churches where ignorance of the world is the only route to heaven, and my education could be charitably described as sporadic. There are holes in my knowledge of reality that one could drive a motorcade through, if one were so inclined--I've no idea how to do anything that anyone wants done, and I've only gotten that far thanks to charity and the American welfare state. I failed the tenth grade, which I found to be--in the lexicon of Edison--an opportunity wearing work clothes; I dropped out and took the GED, and thus didn't have a high school GPA to be held against my ACT score when I applied for college and loans. I've somehow found myself a nineteen year old undergraduate attending a state university, funding secured thanks to the generous taxpayer, on track to living the good life.

At this point all the problems in my life that aren't solved are at least being solved, provided I put in the time. I've no doubt in my ability to earn a four-year degree, draw an above-average American salary, live on ten thousand dollars of it a year, and then FIRE a decade after I graduate. I'm still shocked by this development--it seems unreal. I barely even had to lift a finger to make it happen--unaware at the time how important it was, I didn't even study for the ACT.

Now that my life is so serendipitously under control, I want to do what I can to help people less fortunate. That means learning more about EA, and planning my career. I would be very grateful for advice on what skills I should learn, what books I should read, and what projects I should undertake. I'm still young, and I want to make the most of my time and neuroplasticity while I still have it.

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Welcome! I like your writing. I found it humorous and moving. As for your question, I think you'll good general advice here: https://www.effectivealtruism.org/get-involved

Welcome to the community! And congratulations on your achievements so far!

It could be worth learning study skills so that you can do better in your degree and/or get your coursework done in less time, freeing up your time to learn other things, explore EA, or just have fun.

I was surprised when coming to university how much people study skills differed, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that you can free up weeks (months?) of your time and save yourself a lot of stress through good study skills.

I’d recommend the cousera course called learning how to learn. https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn

Beyond this, university is a great time to try new things, try out new lifestyles and habits, and do self improvement. Going through the things in this list would get you off to a flying start, I reckon https://80000hours.org/career-guide/how-to-be-successful/ I’d also just recommend trying out new societies and clubs that are available at your university, in case you find something interesting and useful or fun.