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Ineffective Altruism: Are there ideologies which generally cause there adherents to have worse impacts?

by Nathan Young1 min read17th Oct 20196 comments


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Let's imagine that establishment liberals dominated funding councils across the world and time and again made poor decisions in regard to maximising wellbeing. It would then be worth think if there was a specific way to aid them in making better ones. Are there ideologies which time and again cause people to make significantly worse choices than a typical person?

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Many infamous ideologies have impaired decision-making in important positions leading to terrible consequences like wars and harmful revolutions: communism, fascism, ethno-nationalism, racism, etc.

Agreed - in fact, maybe a better question is whether there are any ideologies where strong adherence doesn't lead you to make poor decisions.

8Pablo2yPinker lists ideology as one of his five "inner demons" in The Better Angels of our Nature, together with predatory violence, dominance, sadism and revenge.
3SamuelKnoche2yEffective altruism, I hope. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/uxFvTnzSgw8uakNBp/effective-altruism-is-an-ideology-not-just-a-question [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/uxFvTnzSgw8uakNBp/effective-altruism-is-an-ideology-not-just-a-question]
1anonymous_ea2yWhile I think that was a valuable post, the definition of ideology in it is so broad that even things like science and the study of climate change would be ideologies (as kbog points out in the comments). I'm not sure what system or way of thinking wouldn't qualify as an ideology based on the definition used.

I come from a background of what could be called liberals (in USA, democrats--but these range from establishment types (eg Hilary Clinton) to 'anti-establishment' establishement liberal (Bernie Sanders, Elizabett Warren , and many other democratic presidential candidates) . But my parents also had backgrounds in some of what could be called 'radical ideological views' (war resistors, civil rights protests, small farmers who were anti-big business, etc.). Other relatives had some 'right wing ' views.

I think any ideology can make 'hits and misses' regarding promoting well being. (I sort of include religion and science in the class of ideology, though of a different kind.--both of those also seem to have hits and misses--Catholics introduced the transatlantic slave trade to north america---partly because they wanted to stop the oppression of indigneous americans and thought africans wouldn't suffer so much. The Catholic priest who suggested that later regretted his decision. Scientists invented nerve gas and Xyklon B (for holocaust) Nuclear energy and fossil fuel based economies (eg plastic, climate change ) seem to have some mistakes; as may GMO foods, factory farms, gun rights and weapons industry (eg what is called 'realism' in international politics--or mutually assured destruction. ). Time may tell.

I tend to be anti-religion (i call myself agnostic and just object to religious ritual and its common tendency to claim its truth) and pro-science , but i see many religious people who basically are descent and it works for them, and i also object to a fair amount of modern science (and many scientists share my views --although all scientists basically agree with the 'scientific method', they often come to different conclusions.Condensed matter physics objected to spending all money on particle physics. )

Perhaps ideologies should be viewed as 'algorithms'. Many algorithms generate good results for some cases, but perhaps all of them will repeatably make worse decisions than neccesary. This is one reason i see proposals for algorithms that are to a large part essentially random. They 'typical algiorithm' is as good as experts at times, and other times as bad as any worst performing algorithm, but on average may be 'typical' (be correct 50% of the time---but this is a moving average --humans may make as many mistakes as our evolutionary precursors, but different ones.

I have seen arguments in EA forums that with regarding donating to charities, many of them (large or small) actually may be fairly equally effective though its hard to kow; sometimes you can determine ones which very innefective (ie just squander donations)..